The house sits quiet and still. The presents lay in the corner, waiting to be set in their places and hung on their hangers. The tree stands dim, hoping to be lit a few more times before it’s placed back into its box.

There’s something about the pregnant pause between opening Christmas presents and ringing in the New Year that beckons us to slow down. There are no more gifts to purchase. There are no more hams to glaze or pies to bake. There’s no rush to pull down the tinsel or rearrange the house.

This last week of December calls us to reflect on the way we lived in 2013. It invites us to let go of our hectic schedules and look forward to what lies ahead in the next year. This week summons to unhurried meals and unhindered rest.

Earlier this month a snow storm hit our North Texas home. Since Texans don’t normally brave the winter elements, our towns often shut down until the wintery mix subsides. The four-to-five inches of ice left us indoors for three days.

After about two days, I started feeling antsy. I reviewed my holiday shopping list. I rescheduled my errands and activities. And I longed to return to my regular routine.

Then I stumbled into Elizabeth’s story. Luke tells us that she hid herself for five months while a baby boy grew within her aged womb (Luke 1:24-25). I can’t help but wonder—why did Elizabeth hide herself? What did she do for five months while she kept herself concealed from curious eyes?

Luke gives us little information about this time, but her proclamation of praise gives us some clues. Her response informs our own quiet spells and invites us to follow her example.

Ponder – Elizabeth’s declaration indicates a deep understanding of God and his goodness. She proclaims his praise for removing her reproach. Her succinct statement shows the significance of all God had done for her. 

Elizabeth’s insight reveals a heart that spent months pondering God’s work. Maybe she wrestled with questions. Maybe she wondered if the story unfolding around her was real. As she sorted and studied her situation, she settled on a simple utterance of praise. God had removed her reproach and replaced it with abundant joy.

Pray and prepare – Elizabeth faced all the uncertainties new mothers often feel. She also knew the prophecies concerning the child growing within her womb. She recognized the weighty responsibility of parenting Israel’s next great prophet.

Perhaps her quiet months provided time to pray and prepare for the blessings and burdens of parenting Messiah’s forerunner. Perhaps they readied her for the rearrangements her son would inevitably bring. And maybe they even increased her realization that history was unfolding as her son would soon announce Israel’s anticipated King.

Praise – Elizabeth hid herself away from curious onlookers and well-intentioned remarks and set aside time to praise the Lord. Each day provided a new reason for worship. Her body changed. Tiny feet kicked within her aged frame. A thousand prayers met their fulfillment with every tender motherly experience.  

She emerged from her solitude with a bold proclamation. This is what God had done for her. These were the days when God attended to and answered her prayers. This was the time when God would redeem her from barrenness and restore her joy.

As I learn from Elizabeth example, I’m reminded of my own thirst for unhurried time and unhindered rest. Sometimes God gives us seasons to ponder, pray, and praise. Sometimes he allows situations—even snowstorms—to call us into the quiet.

With December drawing to a close, it seems like the perfect time to settle in and set aside some time. Schedule a day—or even half a day—when you can separate yourself and enjoy some space.

Let’s look over the goodness God gave us this past year. Let’s pray inviting him to prepare us for a new season and year. Then let’s praise the God who removes our wounds and restores our joy.

Amanda DeWitt is a freelance writer, coach's wife, and mom. She completed her bachelor’s at Dallas Baptist University and holds a M.A. in media and communication from Dallas Theological Seminary. When she's not typing away at her computer, she's chasing her two little boys or watching her husband coach high school football.