Last week, while driving to work on the morning of October 31st I turned on my radio, and couldn’t believe what was blaring through the speakers.  Jingle Bell Rock was playing. Seriously? Kids hadn’t even donned their costumes yet for trick-or-treating and radio stations were playing Christmas music? I snapped off the radio and glanced over at the passenger seat. There sat the pumpkin shaped sugar cookies I had worked so hard on the night before to share with friends and family. I’ve been robbed, I moaned aloud. I could feel my joy slipping away. Who wants pumpkins when jingle bells is playing? Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Scrooge. Christmas is actually my favorite holiday. But what about the joy that October and November hold? It happens every year. I feel pressure in our culture to skip right over pumpkins, turkey and quiet reflections of gratitude with loved ones, and dive headfirst into the world of tinsel and midnight shopping for the “perfect gift” for my loved ones.

I don’t want to be rushed. I like all of the holidays. Each one holds its own unique element of joy and celebration. If I’m too busy anticipating the one in the future, instead of celebrating the one in the present, I’m missing out on the joy of the moment. Kind of like life.  

I like to celebrate; I guess you could call it a life philosophy of sorts. We all have our own ways of celebrating;  our own traditions and rituals that make each holiday special. One of the simplest joys I get out of just about every holiday is making sugar cookies. My great grandmother’s sugar cookies, that is. The recipe has been in our family for “a long time” I’ve been told, and making them brings up fond memories in the kitchen with many members of my family. My mother taught me to make them when I was growing up, and we spent countless hours in the kitchen up to our elbows in flour, laughing and talking about nothing in particular while we rolled and cut dough. Hearts for Valentine’s Day, bunnies and crosses for Easter, stars for 4th of July, pumpkins for Halloween, and of course Christmas trees, and angels for Christmas. The aroma that fills the house when they are baking is sweetly warm and inviting. I remember teaching my oldest niece to make them one Christmas in my mother’s kitchen. That was 11 years ago and I can still see the bright smile on her face, and the flour smudges on her cheeks. Then there was the process of frosting and decorating – that’s an adventure all its own. Creativity is celebrated, and everyone is encouraged to join in. One of my favorite memories is when my youngest son was four years old, and this time, my mother was in my kitchen at Christmas. She was helping Levi with the sprinkles, and loosened the cap a little too much for him. One shake and the angel cookie he was designing was instantly buried under a pile of red and green sprinkles. We laughed until our sides hurt. Good times! 

I make my great grandmother’s sugar cookies any chance I get. It’s the process of mixing, rolling, cutting, frosting, and decorating that I delight in, as well as the process of spreading some joy by sharing them with others. To rush the process is to miss the joy.

Hope whispers, there’s joy in the process.

We have a saying where I work, “Trust the process.” Healing takes time. For that matter, life takes time. Some things just shouldn’t be rushed. I remember a few holidays I rushed through things, mindlessly going through the motions of the celebration instead of savoring every moment and every person who was a part of the process. I regret those times. Thankfully, they are the exception for me.

Being part of a process allows us to learn. When we are hurried and harried, we generally are not as open and connected to others around us, or to ourselves. Whether it’s learning something new, practicing a skill, nurturing a relationship, or honoring a timeless tradition, it’s the process that holds the joy, and fuels the power of hope. Hurry and hope don’t get along well.  Loving. Learning. Living. Growing. Resting. Playing. Working. Celebrating. Don’t rush it.

What part of the holiday celebration process do you enjoy?