By Heidi Dunkley
We made it! December 2020.
Have you ever been in a church meeting that’s running 15 minutes over while you try to keep your kid from eating their own shoelaces during a prolonged closing prayer?
That sums up the anxiousness I am feeling about this year and Christmas.
The other day, I stared at my computer screen and began organizing Amazon lists and creating that special hidden note on my phone about gift purchases and noticed the temptation to do more this Christmas. You know, to somehow “make up” for all the craziness, missed opportunities, and strangeness of 2020.
Afterall, we are so masterful at getting all the shopping done, wrapping all the presents, decorating the tree, sending cards, getting family photos, creating holiday traditions, making delicious food, and crafting homemade goodies.
(Did just reading that make you tired?)
I started to think about all the little extra gifts I could add to my children’s stockings, or maybe plan a little surprise get-away in an effort to up the ante this year. Surely, this was the answer for our Christmas experience.
A few days later, I read this line in the Doctrine & Covenants and everything changed for me.
“…Stop, and stand still until I command thee, and I will provide means whereby thou mayest accomplish the thing which I have commanded thee.” (D&C 5:34)
What I felt the Lord offering to me was:
Stand still Heidi…and pause.
I’ll tell you where to go from here and then I will take care of you as you go about doing it.”
Turns out the Lord wanted to collaborate with me about my Christmas plans.
I read the scripture again, and then one more time.
“Stop, and stand still.”
Guess what...I don’t like to be still or stand still very much (unless I am getting a massage, watching my favorite show, or indulging in a Sunday nap, then “stillness” becomes pretty effortless.)
Being intentionally still isn’t comfortable for me, it is painfully hard sometimes.
When is the last time you experienced stillness?
What were you doing?
What were you not doing?
Way back in February, before Covid altered day to day living for many of us, President Nelson asked every one of us this question, “How do you hear Him?”
“Being still” wasn’t on the top of my list.
I hear God when I am driving back and forth, or in my kitchen doing dishes, or in His mountains; usually when I am moving and engaged in something. This has been my experience with feeling and hearing Him...and it has been so perfect for me.
And yet, I have felt drawn to stillness and to the practice of hearing Him in this sacred way as well.
In the scriptures, God seems to prescribe stillness at seemingly inopportune times for us mortals.
For instance, when the storm was raging, and there was water in the boat and the apostles were terrified that they might die, Christ saves them with, “Peace, be still” and calms the storm and their hearts. (Mark 4:39)
Zion’s Camp. A calloused mob of 300 were bent on crossing the Missouri River to seek vengeance and promised that the members of Zion’s Camp would, “see hell before morning.” (History of the Church 2:103) That doesn’t sound like a great time to be still to me.
Nevertheless, the Lord, through His Prophet Joseph Smith, instructed his saints to, “Stand still and see the salvation of God.” The Lord sends a miraculous storm and preserves their lives.
Recall when Moses and the Children of Israel found themselves at the edge of the sea, with the armies of Pharaoh in deadly pursuit. (Again, “stillness” doesn’t come to mind when I put myself in this situation.)
And yet again, through His prophet, God says, “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord.” (Exodus 14:13)
When we might naturally respond with “fight or flight,” God whispers that there is always an option to “Be still in this moment.”
The first draft of this article had a list of ways you might experience stillness…I was going to leave you with a “To Do” list. And it just didn’t feel right.
You do not need another list in your life.
You know what stillness looks like for you.
God has offered and ordained this season to be one of stillness, not hurried movement, rush, and hustle.
Why am I trying to make an already perfect and sacred season “perfect”?
The moment of Christ’s birth was perfect. I do not need to try to recreate any kind of perfection this Christmas because His perfection simply exists.
The angel didn’t instruct the shepherds to get in fancy clothes, bring their favorite potluck dish, and fill a sack with modern Christmas decor and gift cards.
The angel invited the shepherds to go, and to find, and to be with Him.
Will you close your eyes and feel the crisp air on that sacred night a newborn babe came to save you?
The stillness of the star.
Can you hear the sounds of the animals shifting their weight, the creaking of the feeding trough that became a consecrated cradle, and the tender hushed whispers of Mary, a first-time mother, to her baby Son?
Will you go, find, and be with Him this season?