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Have you ever noticed the irony of this time of year? The season of "peace on earth" ends up being the MOST stressful time of the year. In our family, the first two weeks of December are the most packed with evening activities, the latest bedtimes, the shortest on sleep, and the craziest time of the whole year. But even in the frenzy, you can find peace. Here are five things that have worked for me.
Focusing on the Advent season more than Christmas Day.
We light an Advent wreath every Sunday at the church where my husband pastors. We have Advent devotionals as a family. We have an Advent calendar (that we're behind on) that focuses on the Nativity. I share Advent Sunday devotionals for our Naomi's Circle ministry. We copy Christmas carols and do Advent activities in our home school activities. I very much enjoy the Advent Season that precedes Christmas, and it helps to settle my heart down as a result, especially in moments when I am missing loved ones.
Focusing on experiences more than expectations.
The experience of cutting down our own Christmas tree at the Christmas tree farm. The experience of seeing our favorite living Nativity. The experience of putting up the Christmas lights as a family. The experience of surprising our children by taking them to see "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" at a local church. The experience of seeing the lights in our neighborhood and enjoying being with friends and family. The experience of reading the story of Jesus' birth to my children. In the past, my expectations of myself and of what Christmas "should" be have overshadowed my enjoyment of those moments or even prevented them in favor of getting my list done. Lists have their place, to be certain, but try to see the moments for the treasures that they are.
Focusing on Jesus more than Santa.
This is something that we decided years ago as a family. We don't ignore the jolly old elf entirely, but he is no more a part of our days than our children's other favorite characters, like Tigger or the pups from Paw Patrol. Our focus has been on Jesus...but we try to focus on Him the rest of the year as well. So in some ways, it is not that different from our other days when my children will ask me in the car on the way home from activities, "Mama, tell me a Bible story!"
Focusing on miracles more than magic.
So much is made of the "magic" of Christmas, in the lights and decorations and fantasy and stories. I love that as much as anyone, and to all of my friends who have decorated their homes and allowed me to enjoy that magic - thank you! But this year, I've been less concerned about recreating that magic in our own home and more focused on the miracles of the first Christmas, as well as the miracles that God has done in my own life - salvation, the gift of my husband, the privilege of being a mother to little ones both on earth and in Heaven, and especially the miracle of peace and joy after the losses of our babies so many years ago.
Focusing on God's presence more than presents.
My husband's good habit of buying gifts for family and friends throughout the year has rubbed off on me, so that helps immensely since our "shopping" usually is done well before Thanksgiving. But we are also trying to very much reduce the focus on gifts. We are trying to help our children focus on how to bless others during this time more than making a list of things they want. Sometimes we have opened gifts on Christmas Eve, allowing us to focus Christmas Day fully on worship and celebration. We limit the number of gifts we are buying and the extravagance of them. Instead, we are trying to focus more on the gift of "God with us" that Jesus' birth was, and also how to be God's presence in others' lives, whether that means giving to others or doing something for others that communicates God's love to them.
Welcome! My name is Kristi. I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a teacher, a writer, a musician... but most of all a child and worshiper of God discovering that even in life's messes, God is still good. Learn more about me and my journey here!
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