Friday, December 9, 2011

Simplifying the Holidays---Not Always Successful

I broke a promise to myself.  I do it EVERY year it seems.  You would think after so many years of failure I would get it right, but apparently not.

I SAY I'm going to simplify Christmas.  I SAY I'm going to start early enough on handmade, heart-felt gifts to not feel the stress. 

Yet, I've failed. 

Here, once again, I find myself overstressed and overcommitted. 

I cleared the calendar this year.  I got that right.  I said "no" to MANY activities.  Tonight, I had planned to attend my FAVORITE one of the entire season in regards to gatherings/activities/parties.  It was stressing me out so much solely due to the fact that it just highlighted in my heart the losses I'm still dealing with.  I couldn't get past those feelings to fully enjoy myself.  I had to say "no".  As hard as it was, I did what I needed to do for myself.  I got that right.

We simplified the decorating and "outward" appearances.   Though our home is decorated for Christmas and it looks beautiful, it is only about half of what we normally do.  Actually, Kevin did all of the decorating himself (with a bit of help from the kids).  It was just too overwhelming for me to handle.  He chose to put out the most important, most cherished items....and the rest went back in the box.  Simplified.  He got it right.

We've worked VERY hard to turn away from the commercialism.  We've done our very best to not treat Christmas like it's OUR birthday.  WE ARE celebrating the birth of Christ, though the world tends to act like it's their own birthday party or that of their kids.  (Granted, some of you DO have birthdays on Christmas.  Kevin's mom happened to be one.  What an amazing thing to share in common with the savior!)  We've got that right, for the most part.

We've taken our focus off of Santa.  I wish we had done it YEARS ago.  The kids aren't running around in constant "want" mode with mile long lists of demands.  Fortunately, we've got that right more than ever.

We set a budget that was workable.  By "workable" I mean one that is pretty frugal/minimal.  Our buying is meager again in comparison to others.  Simplifying our "buy for" list is never an easy task, but it is one that makes tremendous difference in keeping our focus as it should be.  We have not used a credit card in about 4 years for ANY kind of purchase.  We are approximately 12 months from being 100% debt free (our actual goal is the week of Christmas next year).  We kept that goal in mind.  We accept that our gifts will not compare financially to gifts that others may give those we love.  We can't change that.  I guarantee ours come from the depths of our heart even if the price tag is much lower.  We bought very few gifts for our own children, but we did work to find something that they will really enjoy.  It's about finding a balance.  The greatest victory...our that we have no buyer's remorse.  January brings not a single credit card bill.  I still put money in savings.  I still paid above the minimum on our last debts (vehicles). Our gift list might be small, but where are most of the presents you buy in March anyway?  Long forgotten.  I don't think celebrating the birth of our saviour should come with a price tag that costs as the entire next year (or longer!).  It's the world that has sold us on that and many of us have wrongly bought into that hook, line, and sinker.

We've spent a portion of every evening talking about advent.  Admittedly, this is our first time ever doing an advent focus.  We always talked about the real meaning of Christmas, focused on the Bible story, and did activities that centered around the Nativity.  Yet, I had never really done an actual advent focus for 24/25 days.  This year we started following along with an incredible e-book written by a Mom whose blog I follow----Truth in the Tinsel.  It has been an incredible experience for us.  I admit that preparing everything ahead of time and putting everything needed for each day in decorated, labeled paper bags has been my sanity saver.  I know many days we may have missed the activity had I not been prepared ahead of time.  Some nights Kevin has taken over and done the activity with the kids and it has worked well because it has been ready to go.  We hide a "clue" card and then talk about it when the kids find it.  Each clue is a character or symbol in the story of Christ.  We read the corresponding Bible passages and then they make an ornament that depicts the character or symbol.  They also remove a link from an advent countdown that Peyton made at church.  They also add a link to a separate chain that has the clue words written on them.  By the time the chain is complete, Christmas will be here and the words written on the chain remind them of each portion of the story.  Their ornaments are hung across the entry way between our living room and kitchen.  They may not be beautiful so to speak----but they are absolutely priceless treasures! So far, day 9, Bradlee can tell you what each clue means and why it is important.  PRICELESS.  This has been the greatest source of bringing the true meaning of Christ and his birth as the focus of our home.  Another success!

Yet, I've failed. 

I've gotten lost in the hustle and bustle that comes from homemade gifts.  To me, they are essential.  They mean more than a hastily grabbed gift off a shelf in a store.  Giving of the heart is who I am and it's part of what makes!  Yet, I've lost focus.  All I can see is deadlines, how much I have left to go, or what I can't finish.  It's become about rush, rush, rush.  The enjoyment is still here and the thought and love for the recipients has not changed.  However, the stress is here.  The thing I promised I wouldn't do is starring at me in the face like a ticking time bomb.  Though I simplified everything, I still am just as stressed as years before.   I always say I will start in July or August, but yet those months tick by without much effort. 

One of these days I'll get it right.  For now.....I've learned my lesson once again.  Hopefully this time it will sink in.

Fortunately, I did learn something in the process.  If I rush through to get the gifts done because deadlines to ship or the gift giving occasion is looming on the calendar, I lose why I made the gift in the first place.  It's all about focus, or the loss of focus would be the better way to say it.  If I slow down and focus my thoughts on the person I'm making the gift for I've noticed something happen.  Peace fills my heart.  If I pray for the person receiving the gift as I make it, the stress temporarily melts away.  If I think about the things that I love about the person or the hopes I have for their future, the pounding of the clock gets a bit softer.  A new connection is made.  The real reason of why I make things from the heart comes back into focus.  The focus of the season comes back into view. 

Now if only could get those feelings a few weeks or months earlier.......I might avoid so much stress to begin with!  :) 

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