I grew up eating the most amazing mint chocolate cookies you’ve ever had each year at Christmas. My mom would fold crushed up Andes mints into the dough before rolling them in sugar and popping them in the oven. They tasted like peppermint magic.
When my parents came to stay with us over the holidays, I envisioned my mom and my daughters making them on Christmas Eve to leave them for Santa and I was proud of myself for being the mom-of-the-year before it even happened.
But then, life.
We got home from the Christmas Eve service around 6:00 with some kids a bit revved up from sitting still for an hour and a half. My awesome in-laws came over to set up their traditional Christmas Eve fondue oil with shrimp, chicken, steak, and cheese followed by exchanging their presents. By 8:00, my six, five, and one-year-olds were on their last rung but, you guys. It was gonna be magic.
“LET’S MAKE COOKIES FOR SANTA!!” I said excitedly.
Of course, we were out of butter and had to run to the store. My kids were cranky messes by the time they came out of the oven and it wasn’t anywhere close to “the moment” I expected.
Why do we do this to ourselves? I’m guessing I’m not alone here on the, “Let’s recreate childhood Christmas!” bus. Or maybe you’re on the, “I’m going to have the prettiest decorations, volunteer at or go to the most parties, or have the coolest family traditions!”. :/
How do we reel in the Christmas crazy? Here’s what’s helping me this year.
Undo the Lie of More
What if you gave away seven things a day between now and Christmas?
I recently read a book by Jen Hatmaker, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, in which she and her family take seven months, identify seven areas of excess, and make seven choices per category each month to curtail their excess of materialism and overindulgence: food, clothes, possessions, media and technology, spending, waste, and stress.
Over the month of spending, they each gave away seven things a day for the entire month. I don’t know about you, but as I look through my closet, the girl’s toy room, or the totes of old clothes I’m still hanging onto, I know this practice would be good for all of us. This time of year, it would also free up space for the presents from us, grandparents, aunts and uncles that tend to invade our house on the 25th.
I started with our closets and took a week in November to toss the ripped/stained items and fill seven bags with clothes we’ve grown out of in good condition that other families can put to use. The next weeks I moved on to the girl’s closets, my desk room, am bringing it to a close with their toy room now.
Over this last week before Christmas or over the break, I would highly recommend this practice for the sanity of all.
The first time I gave up something for Lent I gave up music. I’m a girl who loves to rock out and driving, walking to class, and exercising in silence was tough. But do you know what I found? Ridding myself of the noise, or frankly of the distraction of the noise, freed me to have time to think. To have time to pray.
Rather than drives being a time to scream The Fray at the top of my lungs, I thought about some pretty big things on my heart that year. Instead of bouncing to Justin Timberlake while I walked to class, I struck up a conversation with someone I saw going the same direction.
This was in 2006 pre-smart phones, Netflix, and the way more addictive and incessant distractions that exist today. What would your break look like if you set screen time limits on your phone and actually listened? If you limited TV to when you’re all together as a family?
Cutting out noise in my life freed me to be more present. Whatever your most addictive form of noise is, my guess is if you cut it or limited it this Advent, you wouldn’t regret it.
What If You Didn’t?
A friend recently mentioned she was invited to open presents at her in-laws when their newborn napped and politely said, “No.” The reason? Her and her husband had discussed their family’s limits before the invites came rolling in and knew they needed to protect their little one’s nap time for the sake of their sanity and evenings.
She told them, “Please go ahead and open presents when you planned and we can exchange ours once we get there.” Do you know how the in-laws responded? “Sounds good! We can’t wait to see you!”
What are your family’s limits this year? Protecting the naps, limiting travel, being home for family dinners, three gifts per kid, or staying away from that crazy uncle?
We put so much unnecessary pressure on ourselves to say, “Yes” to all the things. Try discussing your family’s limits beforehand, say, “No” to anything that doesn’t match up and I promise you life will go on.
Personally, I’ve found saying, “No” usually frees up the family for a greater, “Yes” – family board game nights, time to host friends, kids actually enjoying their presents, etc. – you’ll never regret.
What If You Did?
Prep for the Crazy
What is your most stressful part of Christmas – cleaning to host, packing to travel, shopping, wrapping, Christmas cards? What can you do now to eliminate the mayhem later?
For me, I am simply not a baker. My sister-in-law told me she enjoys baking and I think she is an actual alien. Don’t get me wrong, I can make a mean zucchini bread, cobbler, and cookie, but do I enjoy it? Absolutely not. We had a family cookie baking session last week and I’m still a bit scarred.
To minimize the mint cookie mayhem we experienced that year, I am making and freezing the cookies in advance for neighbors, Santa, and alll the holiday cookie exchange parties. One recipe and Ziploc at a time. I am certain come December 24th when I can just thaw them out and throw them in the oven, I won’t regret it.
What can you do to prep for the crazy? If shopping stresses you out, can you Amazon the gifts today instead of taking on mall mayhem? If wrapping ain’t your thing, can you have a friend over and wrap over wine? The more we prep now, the less stress there will be later.
Share the Love
One year my mom’s group all brought essentials to study to Ziplock and hand out to any people we saw asking for help at street corners or downtown. Another year while working at the Newman Center, I grabbed some coffee and hot chocolate with students to hand out to construction workers.
Last week, I spoke to a room of women trying to join me in laying down the crazy of Advent and make it about Christ. There was a donation table at the front of the room to collect money for families in need. As women arrived and left that evening, they dropped their spare dollars.
The day after one of the women who organized the event told me, “Women were soo generous..we collected $1179.00..! The most we’ve ever collected, so we went shopping at Walmart Thursday and got food for 22 families!”
This. These women’s generosity helped provide Christmas meals to twenty-two families. What can your generosity do? Who can you pool together with to help someone lonely or in need?
If you’re looking for ideas, call a women’s shelter or an underprivileged school to see what they need of or go with a group to carol at or visit a nursing home.
Let’s show our families, our kids, the importance of being Christ’s hands and feet to those in need.
As this last week before Christmas begins, these are ways I’m trying to minimize the crazy and remind myself Advent is not about checking off the To-Do lists, but about being present to each other and to Christ.
What other ways have helped you reel in the crazy this time of year?
Wishing you and yours a calm, relaxing season as you celebrate the birth of our Savior.