How to Maintain Balance During the Holidays
I want to love Christmas.
I used to love Christmas.
Just a few years ago when my kids were tiny, creating our little family traditions and watching Christmas unfold through the eyes of my small children, it was all so exciting and magical. I vividly remember one year, taking down the tree and packing up ornaments with a heavy heart and teary eyes. I didn’t want Christmas to end.
Fast forward ten years, and you may still find me heavy-hearted and teary-eyed. But it’s more likely when I’m glaring at the calendar in utter disbelief. I know Jesus is the reason for the season, and all that. I just can’t always see Jesus through all the commercialism, materialism, perfectionism and busy-ism.
Yesterday, while I spent the morning wrapping Christmas presents, I saw an absurd commercial for a pay-day loan company, encouraging me to borrow money at 40% interest to purchase gifts for my loved ones (and also, a new recliner for myself.) The next commercial reminded me to buy something special for the most loyal friends in my life–my pets.
Really? This is the best daytime television has to offer us in December? Gifts for animals on credit? It’s like the Flashy/Raunchy Vegas version of Christmas.
Furthermore, please tell me when it became necessary for EVERY last classroom, church department, office, organization and remote affiliation to host a Christmas party, a gift exchange, a program, a concert and/or a dinner? I have only three children, but I’ve received no less than ten requests from school for contributions for teacher gifts and Christmas parties.
By the time it’s all said and done, my kids will have rehearsed for and performed in three concerts and two musicals—all but one, requiring mandatory attendance for a school grade. I’ve lost count of the number of work-related Christmas parties my husband is expected to attend, bless his heart, but I’m estimating it’s in the general vicinity of eight, or maybe twelve.
Somewhere in there, I’m also supposed to “hurry in for the BEST PRICES OF THE SEASON,” “deck the halls,” and travel several hours across the states so “I’ll be home for (all the) Christmas(es).”
Gosh, you guys. Am I the only one who wants to hide in my bedroom until January?
I don’t want to be Scrooge. I truly want to create special memories with my children. I want to find peace and joy in this season. I want to kick off the New Year with more than a hefty credit card bill, five extra pounds and an eye-twitch. Don’t you?
So, when the scales of life become ridiculously unbalanced, I become ultra-intentional. Here are a few things I’m doing this year to even things out.
1. Keeping Decorations to a Minimum. I love when my home twinkles, inside and out. But, this year, I have four bins of unused garland, bulbs and bows sitting in my storage room. I decorated the areas I love the most, and declared it all “good enough.” Additionally, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas cards will not go out this year. (Again.) (For the third year in a row.) When Pinterest continues to flutter flawless DIY Christmas décor in my face, I retaliate with simplistic imperfection.
2. Fiercely Protecting (what’s left of) The Calendar. Though the pockets of unscheduled time are fleeting and few, I’m guarding them with my life. It’s tempting to see an unscheduled Saturday morning and think, “Hey, we have four hours to run to the mall and get that (insert holiday item) for the (insert holiday event)!” Or, “Sure, I think we can squeeze that party/appointment in between the two other parties/appointments we need to go to that night.” Instead, I’m treating every empty spot on the calendar as a mandatory party/appointment with myself. A gift from God. A chance to regroup and recharge. I have learned that the only way for me to survive the chaos of constant activity is to push back just as hard with blocks of uninterrupted solitude.
3. Eliminating Mind Clutter. Remember my last post about disappearing from the Internets? Well, a few days after I published that post, I deactivated my Facebook account.* I have all manner of things to say about that, and I will in a later post. But for now, I will simply declare, it’s been one of the most mentally clarifying things I’ve done in a very long time. There’s just something so freeing about NOT knowing the details of my 700 Facebook friends, and whether or not they have their Christmas shopping done, that’s lightened my mental load tremendously. I don’t know if the deactivation is permanent, but I know I don’t miss Facebook, not one bit. I’m learning that the best way to balance out the endless stream of information flooding my brain is to build a dam at the source and stop the flow.
4. Looking for Meaningful Ways to Serve. Thanksgiving morning, we bundled up our kids and took them downtown to hand out food, blankets and gloves to the homeless. We’re going back to do it again for Christmas. We helped our kids shop and prepare gift boxes for underprivileged children through Operation Christmas Child. My daughter knows of a friend at school who has significant financial needs, and asked if we could do something anonymously to help him this Christmas. Retailers are trying like crazy to convince us we need to buy more things–because THIS is the true meaning of Christmas. The more Materialism screams this message in the face of my children, the louder we push back with whispers of contentment through sacrificial giving.
Q4U: Does Christmas seem to be getting more chaotic every year? What are you doing to balance it in your life? Let’s discuss.
*If you are my Facebook friend and you saw this post show up in your newsfeed, you’re probably all like, “Wha??? She’s totally on Facebook, cuz how else would I know about this post?” That is true—I reactivated long enough for this post to go out. I would strongly suggest, if you want to see future blog posts, that you subscribe via e-mail in that little box at the top of my blog. I want you to read my blog. I think you want to read it, too. But I can’t promise future posts will show up in your Facebook newsfeed. Because of the deactivation, and all.
Just yesterday I was thinking someone should invent an Advent candle wreath with electric candles and a timer which lights them on the appropriate week. We light the candles maybe 2-3 days out of the entire season because we are never home together!
I used to feel the way you do…. if I could unload one or two obligations Christmas would be so much better. I got a Christmas makeover when we moved because our new school district doesn’t recognize Christmas – and I’m just fine with that. Also, my kids grew out of church Christmas programs. HUGE difference. Now my family craves all of our own traditions and the church traditions we choose to participate in. Time is flying by so fast with high school kids and soon a college kid. My family has a totally different perspective now which appreciates all we can do together.
Terri, Jon and I were just talking about how much we like Thanksgiving and Easter, because it seems like school and work and all the other organizations haven’t taken them over yet–you know? Like you don’t have to celebrate with 12 Thanksgiving parties and programs and dinners and activities with several different groups of people. It’s just family and maybe close friends. It’s simple and meaningful.
I totally understand why you are okay with your school district not acknowledging Christmas. I would love that, actually.
Like, you, I’m trying to enjoy and relish in these last few Christmases at home with all the kids before the oldest goes to college. It’s such a dichotomy, because I also want it to hurry up and be over.
Since I am recovering from hip replacement surgery this year, I am simply not able to do much of what I typically do this time of year. One party after another, baking from scratch goodies for said parties and for gifts. Putting out every decoration I own, even if it looks like Christmas Vacation!
This year, I had to pare down to what is most important to me. We have three parties we are attending. I got out only my favorite, most meaningful decorations. My husband is helping with the baking. (He’s a little reluctant, but we’ll make it work!) My sister and niece are helping with various other tasks, like shopping and gift wrapping.
I was soaking in the tub the other night feeling blessed to be so calm and peaceful in the midst of the chaos of the season and I realized why. I was not trying to do it all. I, with the help of my family, decided what to do and what not to do. My family is totally fine with my lesser role.
In fact, we’ve all stepped back a bit on the “stuff” of the season. We enjoy being together with each other rather than being together to check it off the list. I think we’ll keep is this way.
Congratulations to you for seeking balance without having it forced upon you.
Lori, I hope your recovery goes well. It’s amazing that you can feel “so calm and peaceful” during a surgery recovery. What a lesson for all of us.
I miss the “little kid” Christmas stage. This year, it doesn’t even seem to be Christmas obligations so much as regular life happening at lightning speed…there just doesn’t seem to be time for the “extras.” Seriously, I miss buckling everyone into car seats, driving around to look at lights, then coming home to eat cookies before bed time at 8 p.m. Now THERE’S some holiday magic I wouldn’t mind having back!
P.S. I’m with you on the daytime TV…yesterday I was at home ALL day, baking and doing Christmas-y stuff, and NOTHING, nothing Christmas-y good to watch!
Mindy, I agree life on TOP of Christmas is insane. I didn’t even get into all that. As you know, we are in the middle of building a house and my oldest is in HS and has final exams this week. Those two things alone will put someone over the edge. It’s multiplied exponentially with Christmas all around and the expectation that we have to do all this extra stuff.
We still go look at Christmas lights on Christmas Eve and then come home for cookies and hot chocolate. 🙂
Not sure how I became “unsubscribed” but just re-subscribed! Glad you’re staying in the driver’s seat during this busy season! Or at least attempting to!
Merry Christmas to you and Jon and your beautiful children! Love you guys!
Unsubscribed????? NOOOOOOOOO! I need to know you are reading. You’re the wind beneath my wings. Have a very Merry Christmas, my dear friend. And big hugs to your sweet husband. Love and miss you.