The television newscasters warned this morning, “Don’t go out unless you absolutely have to, the roads are treacherous.” Freezing rain had turned interstate highways into ice rinks, closing many of them.

            After sitting inside drinking coffee for too long, I bundled up and took the dog for a long walk. The rain had stopped. I skidded along icy sidewalks to the park, where the dog and I were alone under a grey sky. The snow on the unplowed path had been tramped down by other hikers, making it easier to navigate than the deep snow or the slick sidewalks.

            I love Christmas, and gatherings of friends and family that go with it. People talk about “love languages,” and I don’t know if mine is on the list: I show love by cooking—not just at Christmas. But the past week included three large rather elaborate dinners, and the planning, shopping and preparation that entails. I enjoyed giving to family and friends in this way, but I’m ready for a break.

            I cook to show love to others, but when I need to show love to myself, I get alone, preferably outside. Last week, we had temperatures in the single digits, and even the dog didn’t really want to go out. I spent several days in my pajamas. So this morning’s 34 degrees felt very comfortable, especially as I jogged along the snowy path. After several days of cooking (and eating), I was glad to get some exercise. But mostly I simply basked in the quiet. I stood and enjoyed beauty of the snow covered lake. I talked to Jesus, thanked him for the blessings of our simple Christmas. I brought some concerns to him, tried to leave them in his hands. I found myself settling down. As often happens when I spend time in solitude, I felt simultaneously calmed and energized.

            For many of us, Christmas is a time when we give to others, do for others. It can be stressful. This next week often provides a lull in our schedules. Take advantage of that—and take some time for yourself. What feeds your soul? Do you even know? Try taking some time for solitude, for settling down. Take some time to be quiet, to pray. It’s a gift you can only receive if you are brave enough to give it.