With the holidays fast approaching, a dirge of dread seeps into me, though “Jingle Bells” is already haunting my local supermarket. I ask myself questions you probably ask yourself:
- Will I run ragged this holiday season?
- Will I spend too much?
- Will I miss out on important moments with my kids in my busyness?
- Will I battle regret after it’s all said and done?
There’s got to be a better way to shepherd my family through the holidays—to be able to slow down enough to enjoy each other and not get caught up in the rat race of preparation and money-frenzied spending. Here are five easy ways:
Dashing Through the Web
Take advantage of the Internet now while the holidays are still a ways away. Use your breaks strategically to shop for friends, co-workers or family members. Have online stores shipped directly to you, or to your relatives far, far away. Opt for gift-wrapping to save even more time. Worried about your privacy information? Make sure there’s a little lock icon that pops up on the Internet store you’re shopping on. Or become very familiar with one particular store you trust.
Last year, we moved from France to the United States in mid-December. What saved me hours and hours of work and shopping and preparation was ordering presents off the Internet. The kids loved their gifts, and I loved the freedom online shopping allowed me as I busied myself with moving details.
In an Open Minded Way
Simplifying the holidays comes down to our ability to rethink them in an open-minded, level headed way. Ask yourself and your family these questions, and dare to answer them honestly:
- Do we really need to buy a present for each of the people we bought for last year?
- What would happen if we chose to fast media for the month of December?
- Will it be a good use of my time to write all my Christmas cards?
- What would it look like if I limited my cooking and baking?
- What would our holidays feel like if we spent more time at home, less time in programs, pageants or shopping?
- If we could design the perfect day of celebrating the holidays, what would it look like?
- What three activities would we really miss if we didn’t do them? Can we choose to pare down everything in favor of these three activities?
- How can we donate our time, talent or treasures this Christmas in a way that brings our family together?
O’er the Fields We Go
One of the great losses families have experienced over the last several years is a connection with the outdoors. We’ve cocooned ourselves from the natural world. This holiday season, instead of staking claim to a mall or a discount big box store, find adventure outside. Take walks in holiday-themed neighborhoods. Go ice skating. Sing Christmas carols to your neighbors. Hike through a nature trail. Feed the ducks at a local lake. You’ll not only gain much needed, stress-busting exercise, but you’ll also bond as a family as you experience God’s creation together.
Laughing all the Way
The holidays can be a convoluted, painful time, with expectations aplenty and reminders of the past. For the sake of your kids, dare to create new memories on the shoulders of painful ones. Rent funny holiday movies. Play games. Construct a puzzle together. Play charades with another family. Determine to spend less money and more time. Give yourself permission to relax. Choose to see December as a Sabbath month instead of a hectic one, realizing family closeness and laughter often comes in unplanned moments.
Making Spirits Bright
Helping others during the holidays is a great way to simplify and slow down your pace. It helps focus you and your family on the needs of others. A really cool option is to click on http://www.worldvision.org/. Go to their gift catalog page. Here you and your family can mutually decide how you’d love to bless the needy this Christmas. Give a goat to a needy village. Send funds to dig a well for a village with no water source. Supply lunch for school children. This is one way to give a gift that will actually be used, and will help your children see the needs beyond their front door.
Simplifying the holidays is doable. Dare to take back your holidays this year. You’ll gain time, energy, fellowship, and peace—all things a family desperately needs this time of year.
Mary E. DeMuth loves to help folks turn their trials into triumphs. Her books include Ordinary Mom, Extraordinary God (Harvest House, 2005), Building the Christian Family You Never Had (WaterBrook, 2006), Watching the Tree Limbs, Wishing on Dandelions (NavPress, 2006), and Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture (Harvest House 2007). A mother of three, Mary lives with her husband Patrick and their three children in Texas. They recently returned from Southern France where they planted a church.