How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. –Annie Dillard
Our lives are comprised of the moments we encounter each and every day. And how we spend them is in effect how we spend our lives. Ultimately who we become, where we go, and what we make of our life, is determined by the little choices we make today.
But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? –St. Paul
The story of Christmas is a story of hope—it’s not an end in itself, but a story that looks forward.
Hope is always focused on the future—once we have what we hope for, there’s no need to hope for it any longer. And this forward-looking hope is what we get with Christmas.
Light came into the darkness, but there’s still darkness all around us. And although peace on earth was the initial proclamation, we all know there’s a long way to go. And so in one way, Christmas reminds us that things are still not the way they should be.
But at the same time, Christmas also reminds us that the way things are now is not the way they will always be. Christmas marks a monumental moment in history that brought hope that one day the brokenness of the world will be restored, and the reign of darkness shattered. And not just a generic hope, grounded in platitudes and wishful thinking. But a hope grounded in the events of real people in a real past, and the birth of a real baby that really did change the course of history.
Christmas is a crucial part of a larger story, but it’s not the last chapter. But it does provide hope for those who continue to long for that day when things will finally be made right.
Have you ever noticed how some projects seem to generate immediate energy, while others do exactly the opposite? The one kind you actually want to work on, and you have no problem staying fully engaged. For the other, though, you have to manufacture energy—you don’t really want to do it, there’s no excitement, and it’s all too easy to get distracted.
Of the two, ideally we would be spending a majority of our time on things that generate energy, not drain it. This doesn’t mean the work that energizes us is necessarily easy, or pain free, but rather that it provokes the passion and energy within us to engage it fully. There’s a huge difference between waking up with energy and excitement to tackle the work of the day, and needing to drag yourself out of bed, simply to go through the motions with no passion, energy, or heart.
Sometimes this difference can be due to the work itself and how it relates to how we’re wired—some kinds of work are just more enjoyable for some kinds of people. There’s also the potential that our attitude, perspective, and expectations are affecting how we interact with our work. Broadening our view of the work we’re doing, and how it fits into the larger picture of where we want to go, and who we want to become, can have a profound impact in how we engage it.
In the end, we all have work to do (whether it’s our job or not), and it’s in our best interest—and in the best interest of those we serve—that we’re engaged in things that we actually care about and are energized to do. Not only will the results be better, but we’ll have the motivation to keep pouring ourselves into the work, even in the times when it’s difficult.
Stress and rest: we need both. Too much stress and too little rest can lead to burn out. Too much rest and too little stress can lead to stagnation.
We see this in sports. Both undertraining and overtraining are problems that athletes want to avoid, because both of them keep them performing at their peak.
The same things is true in other areas of life. Undergoing stress—going beyond our comfort zone—actually creates opportunities for growth. But—and this is crucial—that growth can only be realized if there’s also sufficient time for rest and recuperation. It’s in those down times that the growth actually takes place.
Stress and rest are not enemies. They actually complement each other quite nicely. The key is finding an appropriate rhythm between the two.