Thursday, December 11, 2014

Claiming Calm in the Christmas Chaos

It's that time of year...when tinsel, lights and lists bring out the best and the worst in each of us.

In a time of year where we proclaim peace, joy and love we so often feel the antithesis of those things. Hectic, rushed, frustrated, overextended. This is not the Christmas that honors Christ.

He is for love unearned but freely given by grace, not family drama and grudges.
He came to free us from our debt not lead us into it.
He is NOT the God of unrest & unmet expectations, but the culmination of all peace and hope.

I am committed to fighting to keep his birthday from becoming characterized by those things.

If we can just find time to sit, breathe and refocus on the manger we know these things are true...but how? I think the first key is intentionality. A few years ago a decided I was not going to let the world steal my Christmas, so I decided as a gift to MYSELF to be finished with shopping by December 1st. An excel spreadsheet and an empty closet in my guest room (now dubbed 'the gift closet' by my family) became my partners in slowly building an arsenal of gifts throughout the year. It has made me more thoughtful about the things I choose because I have all year to gather. It has also made budgeting for Christmas much better. A little here and there spread across many months (and close out sales) adds up. The key to not overbuying is keeping a list so you don't forget what you have.

Realistic expectations are also a must. You cannot do ALL the Christmas things. The hard thing about December is that there are so many wonderful ideas and experiences... Homemade granola, advent calendars, service projects, making popcorn garland and handmade ornaments, nightly devotionals, best neighborhood light display, Christmas musical, ladies' luncheons, cookie swaps, adopting a family, Angel tree, Christmas jars, caroling, elves every night, going to that live nativity, a birthday party for Jesus, hand addressing Christmas cards to 200, the perfect pinterest-inspired teacher gifts, parades, gift exchanges, tree lightings, hosting a party in your home AND a peaceful heart...on top of all your regular responsibilities? This is the beginning of a December nervous breakdown. Some things have got to give.

I was thinking about this yesterday and realized that when it all starts to feel out of control we DO still have power to make choices that turn things around. God gave us this really great two letter word: No. It can be said with grace. It doesn't make you a Scrooge, it actually can be an indicator of wisdom, bravery and a harbinger of peace and a restorer of joy.

I want my objective to be meaningful marks on my childrens' hearts rather than simply keeping others' traditions. So, I asked my family what they loved most about Christmas. We made a list. Some really great seasonal events and activities didn't make the cut. But you know what did? Advent and time with family. Cutting out some of the fluff left margin for impromptu cuddles on the sofa and a MUCH more peaceful heart.

I am not advocating irresponsibility and a lack of commitment. I am lobbying for thoughtfulness and boundaries.

I looked at items on my personal list and asked: What's the point? Is this worth the cost (to my budget, my schedule, my spirit)? What brings joy? What expresses love in meaningful ways to the people in my life? What honors God? And then I either let some things go or decided we'd do something comparable at another time of year. Why does December get the lock on all these fun service projects anyway? Why not spread some of them out?

And here's the great thing: My list will not look like yours. This year's list doesn't look like other years/seasons of my family's life. I've let go of some things that would make others shriek in gift wrapping. Mine is truly awful. I've basically given up on bows and often write directly on the package in Sharpie in lieu of cute labels.

I know! I tried for a while, but it was frustrating and expensive for no other reason than what other people would think. It is not my thing. And I am Ok with that. Letting go of package presentation freed up more time for things that bring cards!

This year I switched to postcards because they cost less, didn't take as long and the postage was cheaper. I'm using the savings for gas to drive my big Suburban to Atlanta for our Santa visit because he's the one we've seen every year. That may seem silly to you, but it matters to me and my tribe.

I have declined some invitations to larger events in lieu of smaller ones where real, meaningful conversation and connection can happen. I have accepted invitations that were inconvenient because they would speak love to people I care about.

As I age and grow I am learning the importance of making thoughtful decisions rather than simply trying to drink from a peppermint flavored firehose.

The bottomline is that if we are honest, much of the Christmas chaos in our lives is self generated. There are certainly factors we cannot control, but don't let those deceive you into missing the ones you can.

There are still a couple of weeks. Go reclaim your Christmas with the peace, love and joy we profess! It is worth it.


Love Being A Nonny said...

Absolutely WONDERFUL post!

HW said...

I can think of two changes I've made through the years that have helped me embrace Christmas more peacefully. First, I stopped cooking Christmas dinner. I found I was feeling somewhat lonely as I spent the morning in the kitchen preparing a meal while my husband played with the kids and their new toys. So, I started making a pot of soup two days before Christmas and let it simmer in the crockpot all morning. Sometimes, we even order pizza from the convenience store for Christmas lunch. We enjoy taking goodies into the workers who have to be there on the holiday and pizza goes very well with new toys!
Second, I've started sending New Year's cards instead of Christmas cards. It's a great way for me to unwind in January and has taken a huge thing of my Christmas to-do list.
Oh, I also gave up bows years ago. They're just so hard to keep fluffy and pretty, anyway.
I loved this post.
Enjoy your holiday season!

Denise Ross said...

Such a wonderful post JMom. It's timely for me given I was hitting life meltdown mode earlier this week. It's only through my wonderful husband intervening that I am slowly feeling better and I am regaining control of my lifestyle somewhat. I am learning to delegate and say no. It's only a little word but for a yes person it's a hard word to say sometimes. But in saying that it's very freeing to say it too. I'm praying over most things, decisions, even the small ones and my parenting so that I am making wise choices and God honouring ones too.