Thursday, December 11, 2014

All of Joy, None of the Stress

I'm just saying, it's that time of year when all of us women folk start getting that feeling - that stressed out, overwhelmed feeling.

Don't let it happen this year!

Make December the best, most special month of the year - not the worst, most exhausting one.  

Ask yourself this question, {that I just asked myself} - Is there room for Christ in your Christmas?  If you aren't celebrating Him, why celebrate at all?  Love, redemption, hope, now that's something to celebrate!  If there isn't room for Jesus in your festivities, make some room starting now.  If you do, it will definitely be the best Christmas ever.

How do you "make room" you do you make room in a month when the calendar is packed full, there's more for mom to do than any other time of the year, and you are already maxed out mentally, physically, and financially?

Here's how...

Look for quiet moments you can make your own.  Perhaps in the morning before everyone else is up, or at night when everyone else is in the bed, or in the afternoon while the little ones nap.  Use these quiet moments for a cup of tea, a bubble bath, some time to read, or to pray.  Make quiet time a priority.  If your days are all work -every single minute, you will find it difficult to remember what all this celebrating is for.  Even with a to-do list many miles long, 20 minutes of quiet will go far in helping your sanity.  Think of it like plugging your cell phone into charge.  If you don't do that once in a while you are going to be out somewhere and your phone battery will be dead right when you need to place a call.  

Take time to smell the Christmas tree - literally.  I'm doing that right now, as I type, and I love it.  Taking a few deep breaths near the Christmas tree is invigorating.  I love the smell of the tree and if I'm too busy rushing around I'm liable to miss it.

Think through your traditions.  Keep only the ones that are very meaningful.  Sometimes we just try to do too much.  This may be the year that you let some of the things you always do go.  Maybe you want to make some Christmas crafts with the kids this year and read them a Christmas book each night before bed.  Or you may want to do some extra baking and take the family to see some Christmas lights.  Pick a couple of things that will be special for your family but don't try to do everything there is to do.  

Have the whole family work together on a project to help someone in need.  Buy presents for needy children, take a poinsettia to a widow, bake cookies and take to the Fire or Police Department, make a meal for a shut-in, find a ministry to join up with, or whatever your family might think up to do.  Just make sure everyone works together on the project.  Be a blessing to someone while teaching your children Christmas is not all about getting presents.  

Don't be afraid to say no.  Oh, this one is so hard for me!  My husband is laying down some rules to help me with that, right now, as we speak as I type.  As hard as it may be to say no sometimes, it's worth it if saying yes is going to push you past your limit and cause you to be a cranky mama to your family.  It's probably most difficult to say no to family.  Our extended family tends to have high expectations of me - especially around the holidays.  My husband says this is the year I start letting people down.  I wouldn't go that far but I may have to say no on a few things.  Last year I spent part of Christmas Day exhausted and another part of it crying.  We're not having that this year!  :)

Practically speaking, there are ways to avoid some of the stress of the season too.  Shop online while in your pajamas sipping hot chocolate and avoid the long lines and crowds.  Buy some gift cards and let go of the quest to find the "perfect gift".  Choose one thing to host and don't feel obligated to host everything.  Divide the to-do list among the family members.  Even young ones can help.  

Lastly, celebrate Christ's birth.  Yes, we're going to shop and cook and bake and decorate and wrap but in every way possible bring Christ into center focus.  Make baby Jesus ornaments with your children and let them hang their special creations on the tree, bake a birthday cake for Jesus and sing to Him, decorate with nativity sets and discuss with the children as you are putting them out (make sure you have some that aren't breakable so the little kids can handle them).  You can find wrapping paper and tableware that honors Christ at Hobby Lobby and Christian bookstores.  I even found gift bags with nativity scenes at the Dollar Tree.  Light candles and read from an Advent book each night.  Our children love this.  We were late getting started this year but we are reading each night now and it really is a special time.  It's so nice when we slow down and are reminded Who we are celebrating.  

I hope I've given you some ideas to increase the joy and reduce the stress this Christmas season.  My prayer for my family and yours this year is that we would grow closer to Christ and each other.  That's what Christmas should be about. 

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