So, we’re in New York.  Christmas has come and gone.  We had a great couple of days.  Christmas Eve was ridiculous.  You really can’t get a bunch of Puerto Ricans together (my wife’s family) without a lot of food.  My unbelievably talented and gorgeous cousin Esther made me a meal centered around Dominican Salami (YUM!), and my equally talented and gorgeous cousin Christina made me this apple Brown Betty type of dish that was so good… I don’t even have words.

Christmas day was a very cool event.  Very traditional in a lot of ways, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

Christmas night we had a large dinner at my in-laws house.  There were so many people there and so much food… Ugh! I get full just thinking about it.  We played games (my wife won a race to tie a tie around my neck with nothing but verbal assistance from me.  Of course she did.  She’s awesome).  We ate.  We Skyped and FaceTimed family far away.  And, of course, there was dancing.  So much dancing.

That brings me to the one stressful factor of going to visit my family at Christmas. In my family, our Christmas mornings and even evenings were quiet affairs.  Each person took a turn opening presents while others expressed appreciation for that.  Soft carols played on the stereo, the lights were relatively low, that kind of thing.  Now, I’m not saying that this is how Christmas is supposed to be.  I’m just saying that, for the better part of three decades, that’s how my Christmases functioned.

Christmas morning at the Salva house is very different from that.  I was a little surprised this year when we woke and went into the large living room.  Carols were playing on the stereo.  I was shocked.  However, once everyone settled in, the salsa music was turned on… loud!  People attacked the presents.  Only a very few special gifts received any kind of special attention. (The look on brother-in-law’s face when he opened up the iPad 2 that he thought was just some DVD’s was PRICELESS and so worth the trip right by itself.)  Then, before you knew it, it was all over.

Then preparations for the evening dinner began.  (SIDENOTE: If you haven’t seen a group of Puerto Ricans prep for a giant meal, then you are missing something!)  Salsa music continued.  That night, during the dancing, I got out my iPhone and opened my metronome app (yeah, I’m a music geek, so what?) and, I swear to you, the slowest song of the night was 160 beats per minute.

I, of course, was stressed at this point.  Heart rate: up.  BP: up.  Enjoying myself, but still.  And I really have no explanation, EXCEPT for the fact that it is SO very differnt from what I grew up with.  This has been the case every Christmas we have spent with them (Four in our ten years of marriage).  And I’ve never tried to defend my reactions.  I know they’re silly.  But this year, something was different.

That night as I lay in bed, I felt a kind of conviction.  I say a “kind of conviction” because it was so soft and gentle.  I felt God saying to me, “James, why are you stressed?  It’s not the music or the lights… it’s Me.”

And then I realized, that my real problem was I looking to find peace in my surroundings when I was supposed to be looking for peace in God.  He is my peace, my shalom, my Sabbath rest.

Are you tired?  Stressed?  Worn out?  Take it from someone who finally gets it. Don’t go looking for the right mattress, or the proper scrip, or the newest relaxation techniques.  Turn your eyes to God and say “You are my hiding place! You protect me from trouble, and you put songs in my heart because you have saved me.”  Then sleep in Heavenly peace.

Merry Christmas!

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