A dog can be trained to be calm. At first I thought this was an impossible notion because of the natural inclination of a puppy. Yet, the more I considered it, the more I found myself believing it. 

If I can train a puppy to look, if I can train a puppy to stop nipping, if I can train a puppy to come, then it is reasonable to believe I can train a puppy to be calm.

It is the thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices are lyrics from the Christmas carol, “O Holy Night.” These lines have been on repeat in my brain this Christmas season. I didn’t recognize it until recently.

It has been like background music in a busy room.

This Christmas season hasn’t went how I wanted it to go. There are some days that the Christmas lights don’t get plugged in and we’ve yet to eat from our red Christmas tree plates. We’ve made lots of Christmas goodies, but only fancied up a few for delivery.

Those are the easy things to admit that they haven’t went the way I wanted them to go. These are the easy things to accept. 

I’ve spent most of the year cultivating rich conditions for goodness and kindness, peace and joy, self-control and patience and faithfulness to grow in my heart and become abundant in my life. Now here we are getting ready to celebrate my favorite season, the best time of the year, and my heart feels heavy.

I am sad.

I don’t say this for sympathy. In fact, I keep deleting the line for fear that it will become the focus of this post. I say it because it is fact. 

My heart is sad. 

And my heart is also a place for goodness and kindness, peace and joy, self-control and patience and faithfulness.

This is a fact, as well.

A dog can be trained to be calm. I can train a dog to be calm. The command: settle.

I received three unexpected and perfect Christmas presents this year. There is a group of women who meet each week and the invitation is always open to me. They believe the best in me. 

They understand that sometimes conditions prevent me from zooming. They encourage me to join while I stir a vat of macaroni and cheese for the football team or while I’m sitting in the car waiting to pick up a kid from practice. They don’t judge me when I miss a meeting and they constantly remind me that the invitation is always open to me.

They mailed me Christmas gifts. I was overwhelmed. They are sitting on my desk, and there is a line of three notecards waiting for my words. I’ve tried writing many times and keep falling short. The gifts remain in my line of sight all day.

I joined the most recent Zoom meeting, feeling disappointed in myself that I have not responded to their thoughtful gifts. Feeling disappointed in myself that I cannot do the things that mean the most to me. Feeling the tears prick at my eyes each time I think about mentioning the gifts.

I just don’t have the words. My heart is sad. I do not want to damper their joy.

Finally, I manage to mention the gifts. Garbled words come out, and I hope they think it is because of the wonky internet connection.

I don’t remember what they tell me, but I know the way they make me feel. They remind me that I’m okay. They remind me that I am enough. They remind me that they like me because of me, not out of obligation.

They gave me permission to settle.

If I can train a puppy to settle, certainly I can be trained to do the same.

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  1. What an open and honest post, Ruth. Thank you. You probably don’t know it – but you make many others feel brave enough to speak their truths – I know you have done that for me and I bless you for it. This Christmas season has been sad for me too – but a strange kind of sad. It’s a content, settled kind of sad. The people I love are the way they are going to be; they are not going to change. I have really, truly, finally accepted that.Though that makes me sad, it is out of my small hands and into God’s capable ones. I’ve trained myself to trust that. It has taken me 15 years – from 50 to almost 65 to do it, but it can be done. I believe you will one day feel settled. I have faith in you!

    • Thank you for the kind words. I agree, trusting is a key component of being settled. I’ve been considering both as my OLW for 2021.

  2. We have so much to learn from our joyful pups. I am happy to hear Luna is training you to settle. If this is a trial run for OLW 2021, I like it. Mine is somewhat similar.

    The invitation is not just always open—it comes with the freedom to be you unapologetically. That is the kind of unabashed love and grace you inspire!

    • Thank you for always being so quick to remind me live unapologetically! I have been toying with the word “settle,” but sometimes it has a negative connotation — to settle for something less — so I’m still thinking and considering. Perhaps my OLW should be unapologetic. (ha!) I can’t wait to hear your OLW for 2021.

  3. :A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices” may be background music in your mind, but the next line reminds us “For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.” There is a new day and we can embrace it and hope for hearts to heal.
    Just know that you cannot dampen our joy with your presence. You are the gift that brought us into each other’s lives. For that we are eternally grateful.
    I agree with wordancer that your truths allow others to speak their truths.
    I hope you find peace and joy in the coming days. Merry Christmas!

    • Oh, elsie, you always are so good at reminding me of the whole story. Yes, yes, those are the lines that come next. Thank you for nudging me to play those lines as the background to Christmas.