Santa Claus. Black Friday. Family gatherings. Stress. What do these words have to do with Christmas past? They are some of my biggest regrets, and they are things I wish I could go back and change. But since I can’t, I will endeavor, hopefully, to help others by sharing with you what I am doing today. Here are a few notes to my 20-something-year-old self.
You are not Martha Stewart, Joanna Gaines or your girlfriend on Instagram who seems to have it all together.
Perfectionism is a joy killer, and it is straight up pride. Who are you trying to impress? Do you purchase stuff to make your home more beautiful, only to put more of a strain on your finances? Don’t get me wrong, having beauty in my home is important to me, especially at Christmas, but I need to work with what God has given me today, in my current circumstances, in my current budget. A verse that jumped off the page during a sermon from my pastor, “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out. If we have food and clothing, we will be content with these.” (1 Timothy 6:6-8, emphasis mine). Meaning “food and clothing”, keep it simple. What I have is enough, because that is what God has given me. Do I trust Him in this? Again, Who am I trying to impress?
You can’t please everyone.
Extended family can be a blessing (for some ;), but trying to make every stop within a span of two days robs my peace, and thus my husband’s and children’s peace. Looking back, I have great memories with my parents, siblings and in-laws. However, I was also very stressed out. I yelled at my kids more and treated my husband disrespectfully because of all the shopping, preparing and traveling. Now that I have multiple sclerosis, I have learned to place some boundaries – for the sake of my health. So, what can I do differently to guard what is most precious to me?
- Get the calendar out and see what demands there are for my time. I know that there is a Christmas party for my husband’s work and for my lifegroup at church. I know that my church is also having a Christmas concert and a Christmas Eve service. I also know that my extended families are having gatherings on Christmas Eve and Christmas day. I want dedicated time to spend Christmas with my husband and my now grown kids (we have a daughter-in-law now, so I want to be mindful of her time with her family as well).
- Prioritize. Some things are good things, but they are not what’s best. For instance, the Christmas concert is a no go. It will be one more thing on the calendar, and the timing does not fit with what’s best. It’s a good thing, but it’s not what’s best.
- Rethink time with extended family. I am blessed with a wonderful, loving extended family (this includes my husband’s family). I truly enjoy spending time with them. This is another good thing, but I need to put this into perspective. We just spent Thanksgiving with them, which required us to travel. In the past, we have traveled for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. With two small children, this was a major source of stress for me. Often we would return home and then become physically sick. I was trying so hard to please everyone else. I should have put my foot down. There were a couple of instances where we couldn’t make it to those family gatherings at Christmas, and it was the best time. I had time to enjoy my boys, and they could wake up in their own homes on Christmas morning. Now my boys are grown and out of the home. I can’t get those years back. Learn from my mistakes.
Remember what Christmas is not.
Christmas is not about spending on gifts to the point of debt, stress and excess. Christmas is actually not about giving gifts how we as Americans give gifts. Christmas shopping stresses me out. Christmas is not stress. Christmas is about hope, faith, joy and peace.
Christmas is not about Santa Claus. This would have been a major game changer for me. I wish that when my boys were babies, we never introduced them to Santa. The focus would have been on Jesus. I would have created more Jesus memories, not Santa ones. I admire my brother and his family who take a trip for Christmas together as a family instead of giving gifts. They spend time together, and then on Christmas day they bake a cake and sing happy birthday to Jesus. They keep the focus on what matters and on Who it is all about. Consider giving gifts only on your children’s birthdays or keep gift giving to a minimum on Christmas, and keep Christmas solely about Christ. Instead or in addition, find ways to give to those in your community who have little to nothing, and involve your children. Put your faith in action.
Start this year.
If you have children in your home, it’s not too late. Begin to prioritize now how you want to remember holidays and traditions, and how you want your kids to remember them. Pray asking God to help you gain an eternal perspective of Christmas and family and time. I want the traditions I keep for my family to foster a love for God, to worship Him for who He is and what He has done for us.
Guard your calendar and don’t succumb to FOMO, or else you truly will miss out on what’s best. Have the courage and faith to make changes, even if it means you may disappoint someone. In the long run, you won’t regret it. If something doesn’t work, get rid of it and try something else (if it causes you stress, that’s a sign you may need to rethink it). Find traditions that work best for your family. Keep it simple. Less is more. Keep Jesus the main thing. He is worth it, and the reason for it all.
If you are older, it’s still not too late. Be mindful of your children and their young families. Respect them and their boundaries. Create new traditions with you and your spouse. Things are different and are changing for us, and that’s okay. It’s just a new adventure!
Comment on this post and share what traditions are meaningful to you and your family. We all could use some good ideas!
See how I am keeping it simple by following my Instagram account @sharon_sose_bee, and here on my blog as I journey through the meaning of Advent and Christmas for me and my family.