You may have noticed that I haven’t written a new post in a while. I decided to take this holiday season as a Sabbath from blogging, and the benefits to myself and my family have been significant. But I wanted to pop in and give you a quick word of encouragement for the holiday season, and to share with you some things we need to remember this December.
December is probably the busiest time of the year for most of us, and it’s easy to get caught up in the doing and forget about being. There is so much pressure, internal and external, to DO ALL THE THINGS. Every event, every gift, every craft, every lesson in the lesson plan, and every activity. And if we don’t do it all, as mothers, we get tangled up with anxiety and guilt and it zaps us of every bit of peace and joy we have.
As an example, there’s a big push right now to put out drinks and treats for the delivery people who stop by your house. Don’t get me wrong, if you’re able to bless people in this way and it’s something you really want to do, then by all means do it! But if you’re struggling to take care of your own self and your own family, feeding delivery people is not a pressure you need right now. You have my permission to let it go. As my mother would say, I absolve you of guilt! You’re welcome.
What we really need in December is not a longer list of things to do, or more guilt about the things we don’t do. What we need is to remember what’s truly important, and to give of ourselves from a place of peace and rest. Last year I wrote a note to remind myself of what’s really important to me during the holiday season, and I want to share that with you today in case you need to be reminded, too.
These are the things we need to remember this December:
1. Take the time to enjoy your children.
This is the ONLY Christmas you will have with your kids at this particular age. Your 12 year old will never be a preteen at Christmas again. This may be the last Christmas your 9 year old believes in Santa. Your 5 year old may not want to read the “baby” board books next year. Take the time. Read to them, build snowmen with them, bake, and let them do crafts that make it look like a glitter bomb went off. Someday you’re going to want nothing more than that popsicle ornament on your tree. Sit back and really look at your kids, and soak up what they’re like this year.
2. Perfect doesn’t exist.
Perfect doesn’t exist – not for houses, food, parties, decorations, activities, or presents. As a perfectionist I really struggle with this. I can let myself get hung up on the silliest of things – like not writing Christmas cards because I’m embarrassed by my handwriting. Let it go. Only one Person was ever perfect, and if we were then we wouldn’t need Him. Good enough is more than good enough, because your family is going to love whatever you do. Don’t let the need for perfection steal the joy that this season has to offer.
3. You don’t have to do everything.
In fact, you shouldn’t. If you really think about it, I bet you’ll realize that you don’t even WANT to do everything! What are the three things you’re dreading most this year? Maybe it’s a party, activity, or even a gift. If they’re not absolutely mandatory, cross them off your list! (Everyone hates giving gift cards, but everyone also loves getting them.) Embrace the traditions that your family loves, and give yourself the grace to say no to things that don’t bring you peace or joy.
Can I make a confession here? We didn’t do Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes this year. We’ve enjoyed it the past several years, and I’ve even been the one to organize our homeschool shoebox filling parties. But this year when I thought about it, I just grumbled to myself and dreaded the whole thing. Finally I realized that that was not the right attitude to have about giving. God wants us to give with a cheerful heart, and my heart certainly wasn’t cheerful about it this year! So we skipped it. And I definitely felt guilty, but also so relieved. We took the money we usually spend on shoebox gifts and shipping, and were able to give it to local charities and needs instead. And that made my heart cheerful.
4. Put God and Jesus first. Nurture your prayer time, Bible time, and devotional time.
If you haven’t guessed it by now, my main goal every Christmas is to experience true peace and joy throughout the season. After all, isn’t that what we’re celebrating? The peace, joy, and hope that Christ brought with Him into the world on that dark Bethlehem night? Immanuel, God With Us. And God In Us does not bring stress, crabbiness, frustration, overwhelm, or tears. The only way to have God In Us is to invite Him in, through prayer and quiet time and soaking up His words. Start your day with God, and I promise the rest of it will fall into place.
There are many great devotionals for the holiday season, and I usually begin choosing early on what I’ll use each year. Some that I have personally used and recommend are: Because of Bethlehem and In The Manger by Max Lucado; Christmas Peace for Busy Moms by Sarah Geringer; Unwrapping The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp; and All Is Bright: A Coloring Devotional. The Time Warp Wife has free (and beautiful) printables and a Bible study on her site, and an accompanying prayer journal on Amazon. Last but certainly not least, I use the YouVersion Bible app on my phone every day. They have dozens of free Advent Bible reading and devotional plans available every year.
5. Spending more and buying more will not make Christmas more peaceful or joyful.
While we’re on the topic of peace and joy, remember that you cannot buy it. Spending more to get the “perfect” gift (which does not exist!) may make you or your kids happy for a short while. But 6 months from now when you find the toy abandoned under the bed, or a month from now when the bills come in, you may very well regret that purchase. Set a Christmas budget early on and stick to it. When you finish your shopping at or under budget, I promise THAT will truly bring you peace.
6. Don’t try to maintain your normal schedule.
If there was a ever a time to lower our expectations, it’s December. With so many extra things on the to do list, we’ve got to let go of others to make room. If you’re a homeschooler this is especially true. This next bit may be shocking, so prepare yourself: We always take a full week off of regular school before Christmas – often two! Our Jesse Tree serves as our Bible curriculum every December, and I print tons of Christmas worksheets and units from CurrClick. Most are very inexpensive or even free, and you can save the files to use with your younger kids later on. We have studied Christmas Around the World, Reasons for the Season, the Nativity story, Winter Science, and Christmas Past. We do lapbooks, crafts, Christmas-themed math problems, baking, tons of reading, and history lessons. If you want the truth we probably do more school in these weeks than usual – but don’t tell my kids that!
7. Nurture yourself.
Whether you’re like me and you LOVE Christmas, or you’re more of a Grinch this time of year, it’s important to take care of yourself. Your physical and emotional health depend on it. Relax. Take a bath, read a book, watch a Christmas movie. Don’t get so caught up in the To Do list that you end the year feeling stressed out, run ragged, or sick. Jamie at Simple Homeschool has offered a free introverted mom’s advent calendar this year, and let me tell you… this thing has the potential to be a total game-changer in December. When I finally took the time to print mine out, I literally cried reading through the suggestions. Most of them take 15 minutes or less, but will give you the peace and time you need to nurture yourself when everything is at it’s busiest.
My prayer for you and for myself this month is that we don’t lose sight of what the season is really about. That we can go through the activities of the season with a sense of peace, joy, and wonder at the Gift we’ve been given. That we are able to give of ourselves from a place of rest and love, and that we finish the month with more joy and energy than when we started. I wish you the merriest of Christmases, and a truly blessed new year.