"Lord, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us.” Isaiah 26:12 (NIV)
On Tuesday, I shared about the Christmas where I was completely overwhelmed by preparations and tangled up in unrealistic expectations. I prayed that God would help me to never let it happen again and I can honestly say each Christmas gets better and better.
There are two things that have helped me. First, I try to keep Jesus on my mind during December. I know it should be that way all the time, but honestly December is the hardest because we add too much to our already overloaded lives.
So, I listen to Christmas music as much as I can and look for reminders of Christ in the many Christmas symbols. Each time I see one, I pause to ponder their significance. For instance, when I see a Christmas tree, I stop and think about the wooden cradle and Cross that held my Savior. Their evergreen color reminds me of the gift of everlasting Life I have in Christ.
Christmas reds remind me of the lavish love and sacrificial blood that was shed by Him for me. Stars on houses and treetops remind me of the Star of Bethlehem that led the way to Jesus. Wreaths on doors remind me of His unending circle of grace and mercy.
A favorite of mine, the Candy Cane, reminds me that by His stripes we are healed. It's shape is that of a shepherd's crook reminding me that He is my Shepherd. And when I turn it upside down, it's a J to remind me that Christmas is all about Jesus. These and more help me keep Christ in the center of my Christmas.
The other thing that has really helped me is to simplify. This doesn't come easy for me but when it comes to celebrating Jesus' birthday, I've been reminded that the first Christmas was very simple. So, I'm moving mine in that direction.
Instead of just doing things because I've always done them, I've started asking what matters most to my family and me. And I'm letting the rest go. If something is not necessary, I'm cutting it out. I want peace and joy more than decorations, preparations and unnecessary obligations.
Peace comes from margins of time in my day and in my mind. Joy comes from seeing my family
smile. I've shared this desire with my family and asked for their help. I also asked what traditions or decorations matter most to them.
A Christmas tree was at the top of their list. A few decorations in each room downstairs. This year we're putting out our favorite things but not all our things. Andrew loves the Christmas village we found on sale after Christmas one year, so we put it out. But I did away with the white sparkly cotton that went under it because it was messy and drove me crazy. Now our kitchen counters host a cozy Christmas town that warms our imaginations but doesn't make me want to shrink and hide in the steeple of that miniature church.
Here are some other great suggestions some of you shared on Facebook:
- Enjoy one fun activity a week - like going to a Christmas movie or play, staying home drinking hot chocolate and eating cookies, going to a Christmas church activity, or reading a Christmas book, Christmas magazines, enjoying Christmas games and puzzles. ~Joyce Watson
- Find crafts that double as decorations. That way the kids are having fun, and it gives them some pride to see what they did everywhere they look. Bake together and then give the delicious treats out as presents. ~Tricia Preston
- Take pictures of your decorations so that next year it isn't stressful trying to find a perfect place for everything. ~Julie Leary Hull
- Keep decorating efforts simple by doing 4 main areas: door, table, tree, mantle. It "covers" enough to be festive but you don't feel like you have to decorate every inch. ~Linda Elliot Moore
- Let kids help decorate and don't stress if your house doesn't look like Southern Living:-) ~ Kelly Casse Thomas
- Simple sometimes means a smaller tree, or even a little potted tree!~ Karen Paul
- Make bows with wired ribbon to put here and there, to add just a pretty touch. Pick long needle pine branches, put a bunch in a vase with a bow, very Christmassy! ~Sandy Allen
- Ask "Will it still be Christmas if I don't...?" (buy one more gift, make one more batch of cookies, host a Christmas party, etc.) Christmas will come whether we have presents or our room is bare, whether our husband is here or not, whether we have 3 Christmas trees, just one or none. Only ONE thing is needed. ~Deb Galetka Heath
By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures. Proverbs 24:3-4