It happens about this time each year...I begin the slow transformation into Frantic-Crazy-Christmas Mom. Armed with my long list of must-do, have-to-do, and want-to-do items, I hit the ground running on December 1. My transformation escalates as Christmas parties, obligations, shopping excursions, baking, wrapping, and travel fill the calendar. By the time December 25 rolls around, I've gone from Buddy the Elf to Mrs. Scrooge in a mere 3 1/2 weeks.
Last year was the first time in a long time that didn't happen. I was finishing up six rounds of chemotherapy, so I determined to focus on my health and my family and not worry about the rest of it. It was one of the most relaxed, enjoyable Christmases I can remember.
Even though I am recovering from two surgeries this year, every fiber of my hard-core, overachieving self wanted to jump back into the frenzy. I wanted to try every holiday recipe on Pinterest and every DIY wreath project on my FB feed! (Never mind the fact that I have been banned from using a glue gun on more than one occasion!)
But if there's one thing I've learned in our journey over the last 14 months, it's to focus on the truly important things. There's nothing wrong with Christmas parties and homemade gifts, but when my time and energy are consumed with accomplishing my to-do list, there's no time or energy left for what really matters...people. That's when it's time to kick the crazy to the curb!
1. Make a plan. We sat down as a family a few weeks ago and made a plan for our holiday season. We asked the kids their favorite traditions--foods, activities, events, etc. Then we scheduled those on the calendar; the rest are optional. We even gained an entire evening in December when we discovered an event we were all OK skipping!
2. Create time for family. We just completed a marathon trip for Thanksgiving--3 destinations and 19 hours in the van over 5 days. Why? Because we saw more family in those five days than we've seen all year. Yes, it was exhausting, but we'd do it all again in a heartbeat. If we wait to find time for family, we never will; we have to be intentional to create time for them.
3. Focus on giving, not getting. We asked our kids, "If you got only one gift from Mom & Dad this year, what would you want it to be?" Don't worry, our kids will not be deprived of Christmas gifts this year, but that question accomplished a couple of things: 1. It helped us hone in on the one thing they really want (as opposed to the 1,463 items they circle in the toy catalog!), and 2. It tapered their expectations (because they will never get all 1,463 things they circle in that catalog!)
I'm confident our kids understand Christmas is about Jesus, not about gifts and stockings. But this year, we wanted to be intentional about giving to and doing for others. We found opportunities through organizations like Operation Christmas Child as well as making special gifts for individuals in our lives.
4. Find silence. My favorite spot in the month of December is in front of the fire place with the Christmas lights on. I'll wake up early and curl up on the couch with a blanket and a cup of coffee. Then I simply sit and bask in the silence. Sometimes it's only 10 minutes before all my creatures start stirring, but those 10 minutes of calm will give me enough sanity to make it through the day!
5. Remember Jesus. That seems so simple, really--almost trite. Of course, we know Christmas is about Baby Jesus in the manger, but too often we stop there. We forget that Baby grew up--then gave up His life for us. Too many times we forget that part until Easter.
But that's what Christmas is really about...it's more than the fact that Jesus came, it's why He came. He came because God loves us so much that He could not leave us where we were. He loves us so much He wants a relationship with us, and that could only happen through Jesus.
This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. (John 3:16, The Message)
You don't need more things to do this Christmas. But if you'll take a few minutes each day to focus on God and thank Him for Christmas, it will go a long way in keeping the crazy out!
How do you stay focused and keep the crazy out during the holiday season?
It's not too late to start an Advent reading to help you keep your focus. Here are some great resources to get you started:
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Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.