Psalm 105:1 – Go ahead and give God thanks for all the glorious things he has done! Go ahead and worship him! Tell everyone about his wonders!
Anyone else look at the calendar this week and realize Thanksgiving is next week??!!
How did this happen?
Before you begin to think of what you think needs to happen before Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year’s, can I give you one little piece of advice?
Breath. Seriously. Take a deep breath.
We put so much pressure and expectations on ourselves and our families to have “the perfect” holidays. I’m not sure what “perfect” looks like in your world and your holidays, but I know it does not really exist in my world.
And this is OK.
Rather than set ourselves up for too much to do and an overwhelming amount of things we think should happen in the next few weeks, can I encourage us (and by “us,” I mean myself as well) to rethink this time of the year?
Rather than surviving this holiday, how about we thrive?
Enjoy the upcoming days and the preparations.
Allow ourselves to laugh and have fun and create memories that will last far longer than beautifully wrapped gifts on Christmas morning.
Together, can we create space and meaning and excitement for all the good things that can fill our lives during the next few weeks?
Oh, good. I’m glad you feel this way as well.
Most people would agree that the holidays are about family, people we love, our homes and remembering this IS Jesus’ birthday party and not our own. If these things are most important for the holidays, then let’s make sure the things we focus on in the next few weeks keep these as priority. When we do this, then we will thrive this holiday season.
Let’s figure it out together so we can have a joy-filled and precious holiday season. Here are a few tips to help us thrive and truly enjoy this most special time of the year.
Write down 20 things that you are thankful for.
Seriously. Grab a piece of paper and a pen. Number to 20 and fill every line.
Keep the items simple and easy. Nothing too fancy. Just the first things you think of.
Write them down.
Now, post this piece of paper someplace where you will see it daily. Every. Single. Morning. Someplace where you will see it as one of the first things you do. In the bathroom. Next to the coffee pot, where you can read it while the coffee brews. Next to your bed. Right by where you house your phone for the night.
Find a special place for it. Then, promise yourself that you will read this list at the beginning of every day. Really read it. Remind yourself all the wonderful things you have to be thankful for, no matter what happens the rest of the day. Hold those things close to your heart throughout the day.
When our days begin with gratitude, then everything else just makes a lot more sense; especially during the holidays.
Make a list of three things you absolutely want to do during the holidays. Grab your calendar and plan what day you will do them. Write them in ink.
What do you really look forward to each Christmas? Baking cookies? Putting up the Christmas tree? Driving around and looking at lights? Visiting someone you only see once a year? Sending Christmas cards? Taking a family Christmas photo? Watching your favorite Christmas movie?
While there maybe many things you like to do, challenge yourself to pick your top three and make sure these are a part of your holiday. If nothing else happens, you will be able to look back and KNOW the most important things did happen. Now, simply follow through with your dates to make these special things part of your holidays.
Pick one thing you (and hopefully your family) will do this holiday season that incorporates the real reason for the season: the birth of Jesus.
Do you love lighting an Advent wreath on the Sundays of Advent? Have an Advent calendar that you use? Attend Christmas Eve worship? Read the Christmas story together as a family? Put together a box of food and deliver to a family in need as a special Christmas present? Make Jesus a birthday cake or cupcakes, light candles and sing “Happy Birthday?”
What tradition is centered on Jesus’ birth that you love to do every year? Again, make a date with yourself for this special time and keep it. No questions asked.
Rather than purchasing gifts for loved ones, hang out together.
Recently, we celebrated a grandson’s birthday. He really wanted to go to an indoor adventure park. Hubby Rick and I agreed to do this. We treated this like a significant portion of his birthday gift. He loved spending this time together at a place he picked out.
Creating memories is so important to Hubby Rick and I; especially with the people who mean the most to us. Incorporate this as part of your gift giving this year. Pick something that will put a huge smile on your loved one’s face. And do it. For more ideas about this, check out last week’s post about giving Christmas gifts.
Change your perspective on gift-giving in general.
Is there really a “just right” gift for loved ones? Or is this just something we set ourselves up for?
We put so much pressure and expectation with gift giving. Rather than making this the major focus of your holiday celebrations, limit your shopping and say “enough” to overspending and over shopping. Yes, I will do some shopping this year. I already have. But I do not want what gifts we give to become a frantic rush for the next few weeks. Less is more. Seriously.
Lower your expectations.
The holidays are not joy-filled for everyone. Sometimes they are a difficult reminder that a loved one is no longer present. Or we do not get along with someone that we care for. Or we are not always able to physically be with someone right on Christmas Eve or Day or at all.
We have had disappointment with plenty of holidays. Each time this happens, I try to remind myself that there are things out of my control. The best I can do is be grateful for what celebrations we have and remember WHY we celebrate Christmas and Thanksgiving. Let this bring joy to our celebrations rather than feeling heart-broken because of something we cannot change.
Some night, turn all the lights off but the Christmas tree. Sit and look at the lights. No background noise. Just look at the lights and be thankful.
I remember years when I thought I did not have time to do this and almost skipped it.
The first year we were in our current home, getting ready for the holidays had been a huge push. Half of our house was a hot mess, and we were trying to get the other half presentable. We were still remodeling the kitchen the day before we had a Christmas open house where over 100 guests came. I was serving two churches and working another part-time job. I was planning and prepping worship services last minute and trying to get work for my marketing job done. Rick stayed with his Dad several days a week as part of how we helped care for our two living parents which means the remodeling work was limited to a couple days a week.
It was nuts.
We hosted Rick’s family on Christmas Day. Rick went to work that night. There were dirty dishes in the sink and wrapping paper scattered around. I was exhausted. But then, I made a cup of tea and sat in our parlor where I could see the two Christmas trees we had decorated.
And I just sat. I realized this was the first time I had ever just sat in our house and did nothing else. We had lived in this house for several months. A flurry of busyness and trying to get things done “just right” had come with a price. I hadn’t thrived that holiday season. I had barely survived.
Friends – we put so much expectation and pressure on ourselves to get things “right” during the holidays. Can we agree to dial it down a notch and remember WHY we celebrate Christmas? Thanksgiving?
Can we honor the One who came into this world and made all the difference because he was God’s Son? Can we worship with wonder this holiday season and expect something special and wonderful to happen … and actually see it because we gave ourselves permission to thrive this holiday season?
This is a special time of the year. Almost magical. I pray we choose to THRIVE this holiday.
For rethinking the holidays and giving myself to remember what IS most important, I am grateful.
Dear God – Please forgive me for the ways I have turned this time of year into so many things that do not focus on the reason for the season. Encourage me and challenge me to restore the true reason for the season. May I choose to thrive this holiday season; not because of all that I have done but because I have carefully chosen to do the very best things that praise and worship you. Amen.