by Ron Brooks
Summer came and went for another year. It wasn’t easy, but you survived the back to school kick-off season. Then came the Halloween costumes. You were either sewing ears to hoodies and finding the perfect color face paint, or running store-to-store hoping to find that last pair of Yoda ears or light saber to make “Luke Skywalker” the true Jedi that he is.
No sooner had Halloween passed, and the store shelves were quickly filled with turkey window clings and fall-colored decorations. Yes, Thanksgiving came quickly. But this time it felt different than before. There was nothing else going on when summer ended, and you could focus on getting the kids ready for school. Once they settled in, Halloween rolled around. Again, not too big of a deal because there was time in between.
But this time it is different.
Thanksgiving means getting the house cleaned up for guests. It means a week of preparation for a single meal. In our house, in addition to family time, it means finding Black Friday sale papers posted early.
A quick trip to the store for the matching fall paper plates, forks and spoons for that great feast makes you realize that Christmas is now just around the corner. Yes, Christmas is coming, followed by New Years Eve. And your free time is quickly slipping away.
This time of year is different than other times of the year. There is a lot of expectation put on us by friends and family to share quality time, to eat, and to celebrate.
There is the work Christmas party, your Sunday school Christmas party, as well as two different sides of the family to fit in so both grandmas can pass out presents. And don’t forget the soccer team wanted to have a ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas” sleep over the night after the school Christmas concert.
We haven’t even mentioned all the holiday gift shopping and cookie baking!
Sound familiar? It is pretty overwhelming just thinking about it, but this is not far from the reality of a lot of people I know. It’s no wonder the end of each year brings with it a great time of celebrating Jesus’ birthday, but it also brings a time when a lot of people worry over how to pay for all the parties and presents. And one of the biggest questions, “How will I have enough time?”
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. Things can get complicated when dealing with people, personalities, and expectations (no matter how unrealistic they may be).
I have found a few things that have helped me. I have to do what is best for me and my family, regardless of what others may think or expect. Sometimes that means saying no to invitations, being flexible with traditions, or being intentional with my time.
Here are a few tips that might help keep you from being overwhelmed this year.
Christmas may be the time of tree trimming and Santa, but long before mistletoe and reindeer there was a little baby Jesus. When your schedule starts filling up, take a little time to refocus, and spend some time reflecting on Jesus and what He has done for you. Putting your attention on Jesus as the real reason for the season will help keep things in perspective.
Be strategic with your time
Don’t let the business of the season come before your family. You can still do the things you want to and need to do and not sacrifice your family time. Maybe your family time needs to look different for a little while. Plan a shopping day and take time to have a family lunch or dinner out together. Do your baking and allow everyone to help make their favorite baked goods. If things get too busy, make sure to schedule some family time, maybe on the weekend, where you do a favorite family activity together (movie, bowling, game night). You may not be able to add more hours to your day, but being strategic means your family time does not have to suffer through the holidays.
Realize it is okay to change traditions
When I got married, holiday time became tricky. Lots of family members wanted us to spend the day with them, but we would have driven ourselves crazy if we tried to do that. We decided that our family (me, my wife and daughter) would have our own family time on any given holiday. We then choose if, when and where to spend time with other family members. This often means that we spend holiday time with family the weekend before or after the actual holiday. With my side of the family, we choose a time we can all make it, and that way none of us feel like we have to rush around on the actual holiday just to make an appearance so someone isn’t offended. You may find adapting some traditions could take some pressure off you around the holidays.
No is an answer too
Is it really best for you to reply “Yes” to every party invitation you get? Probably not. Keep in mind that when you are strategic with your time you don’t need to do everything. Do what is best for you and your family. Choose to attend or participate in activities you want to, and politely decline the others. Remember, the holidays are not about doing what others expect of you, but rather doing what is best for you and your family.
The Christmas season is in full swing, and hopefully you aren’t overwhelmed. If you do find yourself double booked or running in circles, take a few minutes to pause and reflect. Maybe it is time to say no, refocus, make some changes, or be strategic. Hopefully, these four tips will help you through and allow you to have a very merry Christmas and happy New Year!