What are you feeling as you anticipate the next few weeks leading up to Christmas? Excitement, dread, panic, fear, joy? We are unique individuals and each of our situations is different. However, I imagine that for most of us, overwhelmed or stressed might be common feelings.
There are gifts to purchase, neighborhood treats, extra cooking, checks to send, children who change their minds about what they want, extended family coming to visit, making our own travel plans, tight budgets, etc. All of which can make us cranky, crabby moms because we just can’t do it all.
Sometimes we might even feel like we just can’t wait until it’s all over. And we don’t want to feel this way.
Four things will help prevent typical holiday stress:
1. Push the delete button. Because we live in a culture of many good options, it’s easy to overbook ourselves and our families during this season. Special concerts, holiday craft parties, a supper club celebration, cookie exchanges, Christmas plays, school concerts, office parties, etc. Our life becomes a merry-go-round, going from one event to the next. And we just want it to stop so we can get off. There is no rule out there that says you have to do the same thing every year or that you should add that special event to an already packed calendar. It is fine to say, “We are going to take a break this year and have a quiet holiday season. We’ll join you next year.”
Ask: What can we delete from our calendars this year? Push that delete button—now.
2. Watch the comparison trap. One of the reasons it’s hard to push the delete button is parental peer pressure. It’s the other mom. She’s crafty and she’s making her gifts by hand. And she wraps them as if they are to be on the cover of Beautiful Home. Yours are sloppily taped in used paper and some of it isn’t even holiday paper. She cooks and is baking for all the neighbors. She’s taking her kids to some beautiful concerts and pageants. She finished her Christmas shopping by Thanksgiving. Her house is already decorated with the most original ideas from Pinterest. And yours … well, the boxes of decorations are still in the attic or basement or you can’t even remember where. As you compare your life to hers you feel like a failure or at least “less than.” Oh my, how sad it must make our heavenly Father to see us stewing over stuff that really does not matter and that actually distracts us from contemplating Him.
Ask: Where am I falling into a comparison trap and what can I do to avoid this pattern of thinking?
3. Keep the main thing the main thing. The main focus of this season is the birth of our Savior. We all know that, but pleasing our kids, making others happy, special events, and long to-do lists can subtly begin to put the birth of Christ on the back burner. It’s not intentional. We are simply distracted. Usually we know this and are frustrated by all the demands and expectations we feel which cause the main thing to become the stage for everything else that is going on rather than the center of attention itself. In our hearts we long to recapture the main event of the birth of Jesus and to have this be the message our kids contemplate rather than events, gifts, and decorations.
Ask: What can we do as a family to keep the main thing—the birth of Jesus—the main thing all throughout this season?
4. Set aside sacred time. If you do not put time for quiet contemplation on your calendar now it will not happen. You will simply find that once again you give in to the urgent requests and family time and sacred quiet time will fall by the wayside. Our kids are overbooked and over stimulated and they too need down time to enable them to soak in the real meaning of Christmas. It helps to determine now (with your husband) several blocks of time in which you will simply be a family—alone together to read aloud, sing, discuss, have a special meal, remember past Christmases, and simply pray together. Be sure you announce this in advance, particularly if you have teens. When one rolls his eyes and responds, “Do we have to do this?” Simply say, “Yes. It’s our family priority.”
We moms also desperately need a block of quiet hours to be alone to rest in the presences of Christ and to contemplate the meaning of His gift in new ways. Set aside three hours on your calendar in which you will take time to do this. Trade kids with a friend so that each of you can have time alone. Get out of your own house to be free of reminders of stuff to do. Go to a quiet church to be alone or to a quiet lobby or curl up out in nature if weather permits. The point is that we will be better moms if we take time to seek Him first.
Ask: What times will I write on our family calendar for us to be alone together and when will I have a date with the Lord all by myself?
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)