Christmas Priorities

christmas list pic

 

I found this list on Facebook. I’d be happy to give credit if I could find out where it came from (but I can’t). Read this list and then ask yourself: How much of what you are doing this Christmas is really important? How much of it will last?

We spend so many hours each December, finding all the perfect gifts, then wrapping them. We bake beautiful, tasty cookies. We go to parties, we go on lights tours, we search for that perfectly symmetrical tree and decorate it with precision. Let me ask you: How much of the stuff we spend hours and hours doing every December is actually important to what Christmas really means?

Let me put it another way. On December 26th, when the presents are all unwrapped, the cookies sampled, the new dresses worn, and the tree is dying, are you going to feel like everything you are doing now was worth it? Or will you be feeling like you should have spent more time being present, giving hugs, helping others, spreading peace, and being the light?

Don’t live with regret. You can change what you are doing so that you do feel you’ve spent time on the important things when Christmas is over this year.

Some things I will not regret:

1. Cuddling on the couch watching a Christmas movie with my 8 year old.

2. Making special date time with my husband during the busiest time of the year (we saw a play and we went to the local craft fairs together).

3. Participating in Operation Christmas Child events and a Christmas party for low income kids sponsored by my church.

4. Continuing to work on my writing rather than making excuses that “it’s just too busy in December.”

How did I make these things happen?

1. I gave up one of my part time jobs for the month of December. This has helped my stress level so much! Having the luxury of time is worth a lot more than the few hundred dollars I would have earned.

2. I streamlined my Christmas routine by delegating a lot of the shopping to hubby (he likes it), buying fewer gifts on the same budget (less wrapping), and baking a few items as I have time, rather than having a huge baking list that I strive to complete.

3. I decided ahead of time to ask for help if I start to feel stressed and like I’m falling behind.

What can you do this week to ensure that your Christmas priorities are met this year?

Happy Thanksgiving!

its-not-christmas-yet-cartoon

 

Hardly a day goes by in my life now when Christmas isn’t mentioned or represented in some way. The stores are decorating, the road the mall is on is decorated, and one of my students even saw someone bringing home a live Christmas tree on their car the other day. My tree is dry enough by New Years, thanks. I will wait until after Thanksgiving.

My reaction to the people around me who are talking about Christmas and the Facebookers posting about Christmas has been a very firm “It’s too early.” The cartoon above sums up how I feel about it very well. Let me enjoy Thanksgiving and spend some time being thankful before you start bombarding me with Black Friday ads and wrapping paper sales.

It’s very ironic that we spend a day expressing thankfulness for all our blessings, then immediately, sometimes even an hour after eating, go into an intense focus on all the things we don’t yet have. Before the leftovers are even cleared away, family members are rushing out to the Black Friday sales. This will probably happen in my own extended family, and I just think it’s a shame that people consider it so important to get these things that they need to go out on Thanksgiving night. I love my family, that’s just how I feel about that issue. We can love each other and disagree.

I’m thankful for so many things this year. At the top of the list are my husband, who is wonderful to me every day of the year in a thousand ways, and for the way God has allowed my writing to grow this year. This blog and my other one, www.nextlevelfaith.com, as well as my two Kindle book,s 7 Days to a Closer Relationship with God and Taming the Christmas Monster, are a testament to God’s faithfulness in fulfilling my lifelong dream to be a writer. And from what I understand, this is just the beginning.

If you really think about it, you will realize that you are very blessed. If you have access to a computer on which to read this blog, you have so much more than most people in the world do. I hope that in addition to being blessed with material things, you have also been blessed with things you can’t hold in your hand: people to love and who love you in return, joy and an optimistic attitude, fulfilling work, and a personal relationship with your Creator.

God bless you this Thanksgiving. Please enjoy the time with family and friends, and think about what you’re thankful for. Post your comments below!

 

 

 

How to Handle Christmas Parties and Events

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Central Moravian Church at Christmastime

photo source: Flickr

 

My church’s Christmas Boutique was held two Saturdays ago. This is a craft fair the church holds every year to raise money for youth ministries activities, missions trips and such. This is always the first Christmas-themed event on my schedule each year. It is held the first Saturday in November. Kind of early for my taste, but if they waited longer, people get too busy and can’t make the time to come (or to be a crafter, either).

Although this event is a little early, it won’t be long until the deluge of invitations to Christmas parties, church events, plays, shows, and programs begins. Thanksgiving is only 2 weeks away, and if you want to avoid a mad rush of activities, it’s time to make a strategy for just how to handle the next month. Here are some things I’ve done to make better decisions about Christmas-themed events.

1) Think about last year.

 Did you think last year was too busy? What event(s) did you most enjoy last year? What events did you not enjoy or decide afterward were a waste of time? Maybe you can even settle on a number of events per week as a maximum you can handle. I have had weekends in December with multiple events in one day or weekend, which not only left me exhausted, but left me without time to do the other Christmas preparations I had planned. It is okay to set limits, even if that means you can’t do everything you want to do (or other people want you to do). Doing things out of obligation that you really don’t want to do will steal your joy this season. Other than your kids’ Christmas program, don’t feel obligated to attend events you really don’t want to go to.

2) Encourage your circle to spread out or skip events. 

If you are asked for input, let your boss, pastor, scout leader, etc., know that having a Christmas party or event isn’t necessary. If someone seems determined to have a party, suggest holding it after Christmas, even after New Year’s, to lighten the schedule before Christmas. Between my husband and me, we are involved in over a dozen organizations that could have parties. That’s a lot of holiday events. I’ve been able to offer input to several of them, and as a result my workplace and our Bible study group both have their parties after the new year.

3) Make the best of it.

If you are attending an event purely out of obligation, try to find something enjoyable about it. Start a conversation with someone who interests you, try a new food, or suggest a fun party game (Apples to Apples is fun and can be played pretty quickly). If you are allowed, bring someone you care about so you can spend time with him or her while attending. Take time to appreciate the efforts of the event organizers, whether it’s good food, pretty decorations, or festive background music. Avoid thinking about your to-do list; stressing about what you should be doing will not accomplish anything and will prevent you from enjoying yourself.

At worst, attending a Christmas event will fulfill your obligation to someone you consider important. At best, it may be a great opportunity to relax and have some quality time with people you enjoy. Some of my husband’s and my favorite date nights come at Christmas, going to our town’s Christkindlmarkt and (when we get invited) our alma mater’s Vespers service. Don’t let stress rob you of enjoying all the season has to offer.

Attitude is Everything

I was driving through the city where I live the other day with my daughter. “Oh look!” my daughter said happily, looking out the window. “They are starting to put up the trees!” This time  of year, the city is in full swing, putting up live Christmas trees and lights on many of the light poles throughout the city, especially the downtown area, although they don’t begin to light them until after Thanksgiving. Our city’s nickname is “The Christmas City,” and we have tourists come in each year to experience being in “The Christmas City” during the Christmas season. There are lots of poles that get decorated with trees, so the city starts preparing early.

Hill-to-Hill Bridge

The Christmas City, showing one of the trees now being installed on poles all over the city. Photo credit: Flickr

What got me about this exchange with my daughter is the attitude she expressed. She was excited to see those trees going up. She and my husband are already counting down–gleefully–the number of days and weeks left until Christmas. The two of them approach Christmas full of joy and excitement about the many experiences that season brings.

What is your attitude toward Christmas when you think of it? Most recent years, I was downright resentful to see Christmas decorations and other items for sale before Halloween. How could they be thinking of Christmas already? I would grumble to myself. I’m not ready to start with all of that. I had an attitude of dread toward Christmas. I felt rushed into it all, and I didn’t like it.

I looked at those who enjoyed and looked forward to Christmas, like my husband and my daughter, scornfully. They enjoy Christmas because they don’t have to DO everything, I told myself. They can do what they want, what they like. I have to keep up a crazy schedule for two months just to get all the shopping, baking, wrapping, card-writing, and decorating done.

Then I realized the one thing that allowed my attitude toward Christmas to change. I didn’t have to do everything either! At some point, I also realized I was allowing society to rush me into Christmas. I had to make choices about what I did and how I responded to the Christmas cues all around me. My husband has begun to do a lot of the Christmas-related preparations that would stress me out, including gift shopping and even baking cookies. He enjoys doing these things and he does them with a great attitude, feeling the joy of the season AND the joy of taking away my stress.

This year, I have not started to really plan the many aspects of our Christmas holiday. I don’t feel ready yet, but I don’t feel badly for not feeling ready. I am at peace with where I am. I know that when it’s time, I will make plans and carry them out. When I’m ready, I will move forward and experience Christmas with a heart full of joy. I will do the things that add to my enjoyment of Christmas, while limiting and eliminating the things that cause me stress. I will realize that I am one person and get help or let things go when I feel rushed.

Because of these important choices, my attitude toward Christmas is so much better! I encourage you to think about your attitude toward Christmas and how to improve it, even if that means you change long-held traditions. Most of us try to do too much all through the year, and I urge you to make Christmas a time of year when you slow down and savor everything, rather than get even busier.