I may just go insane. It’s December 6th and I’m already starting to panic.
In a whirlwind, we blew in the door this week after a long Thanksgiving trip with family. Two days of laundry, unpacking, working, meal planning – just trying to catch back up with life. One holiday down, another to go. The clock is ticking and the to-do list is growing a mile long.
It’s December 6th and my house is still full of pumpkins and leaves. No decking the halls, no Christmas tree, no fa-la-la-la-la. The calendar is chock-full of birthday parties to shop for, christmas parties to plan, cookies to bake, cards to order, gifts to wrap, lists to make, stockings to stuff, and friends to see. And what’s that I feel? A little tingling and scratch in the back of my throat? Ok, my stress is official. How will I ever get the lights strung, the carols sung, or my shopping done if I am sick!?
And if I don’t already have enough to worry about, the guy in the checkout line asked me if I was ready for Christmas. Seriously? It’s the sixth day of December for crying out loud! But of course he is ready. Enter feelings of inadequacy and the guilt of comparison. Not all of us can keep up with Pinterest, Pottery Barn, and the Joneses, you know.
I found myself stressing all the way home. The Christmas season seemed so short and the days so few. As I pulled into our neighborhood, I found myself suddenly admiring all the beautiful blues, reds, greens, and whites glistening around me. And just when I started to relax and enjoy the moment, I saw it. My house. Dark amid the Christmas cheer, sticking out like a sore thumb. With pumpkins on the porch. Another reminder and clear giveaway that I was way behind schedule. Bah humbug.
For some, Christmas may not be the most wonderful time of year. Overcrowded schedules, to-do lists, expectations, loss, financial hardship, loneliness, and family drama can make the stress seem insurmountable. But whatever the situation, I believe we can choose rest instead of stress this season.
I recall with fondness past memories of falling snow, of hot cocoa and Christmas movies, of my husband and I making snow angels like kids in the back yard. Moments when time slowed down and I wasn’t so wrapped up in fulfilling the demands of lists and schedules. A time when less was more, when Christmas was my favorite time of year. Four weeks of magic and romance and good cheer towards men. A season of peace on earth and joy to the world simply because of the amazing gift of grace God gave us in Jesus.
So I want rest instead of stress for Christmas this year. And like all things in life, I believe rest is a choice. It’s not something we just stumble upon in the midst of our hustle and bustle. Rest is intentional. So here’s how I plan to have rest this year:
R is for refocus. On what’s important. There are so many things vying for your attention this holiday season. I get bombarded by so many email ads reminding me time is running out. The calendar is full of back to back commitments. Family drama can cause me to wring my hands in woes and worries. If I’m not careful, I’ll get swept up in the stress and forget the reason for the season.
Decide what is important to you. What do you value most? Making memories with family? Blessing your neighbors? The joy of the Savior’s birth? For me, keeping Christ at the center of Christmas is what makes everything else meaningful. That’s where all the joy, peace, and good cheer comes from in the first place. Christmas serves as a reminder of how much God loves us and that Jesus came to “bring good news to the afflicted, to comfort the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and set the oppressed free” (Isaiah 61:1). He gave His life so that through a relationship with Him we can have real hope, peace, and life change regardless of our current situation.
So take time to refocus on what matters and why you’re celebrating in the first place.
E is for evaluate. After refocusing on what’s important, take a look at your to-do list and your calendar. Does it reflect your values and priorities? When the season is all said and done, how will you feel? Joyful? Regretful? Burned out? Every yes is a no to something else. Not everything is important. Not everything is urgent. You may find relief by taking things off your plate that are unnecessary or aren’t in line with your priorities. Maybe presents won’t be extravagant this year because you’d rather make time for family. The house may be a little less decorated this year. Friends might not get Christmas cards. You may choose to go to one party instead of four. Life will go on. People will move on. And your family will experience a happier you.
S is for savor the moment. Don’t let stress and busyness steal your joy. Like me in the car. I spoiled my enjoyment of the neighborhood lights by stressing about my own house. Stop expecting things to be perfect or forcing things to happen because they’re “tradition”. If it doesn’t go as planned this year, relax. Take a breath. Pause and cherish the moments of joy, peace, love, and friendship that do happen. Be all there. Instead of focusing on the past or future, enjoy the present.
T is for time. When I asked my husband what he wanted for Christmas this year, his answer was “time”. The more I thought about it, the more I admired his request. I could either spend time stressing and shopping to lavish him with gifts he doesn’t need, or I could spend that time together. One results in accumulating stuff, the other results in lifelong memories.
So instead of running yourself ragged at the mall, why not give the gift of time to your loved ones this year? When the snow falls, have a snowball fight. Make gingerbread cookies with your kids. Kiss under the mistletoe. Enjoy the lights when you drive home at night. Read the Christmas story. Go ice skating or sled riding. Drink hot cocoa and watch a movie. Dance to the music. Snuggle by the fireplace. Time is short and will pass by, regardless. So spend time on what’s important.
Because honestly, the best gift you can give this Christmas is you.