One of my favorite things to do during the Christmas season is watch cheesy Christmas movies. Lifetime and the Hallmark channels are gold mines for these, but we don’t have cable. Luckily, Netflix has quite a few of these movies too – and most of them, I haven’t seen before.
Like all cheesy movies, the plot lines for each movie are pretty similar. There’s the guy or girl who has gotten sucked into living for fame, money, or success, and lost sight of what truly matters (friends, family, true love). They end up having an experience that lasts only a few days (whether it’s going to their hometown, seeing an old flame, spending time with someone they wouldn’t normally talk to) and it reminds them of all that they’ve forgotten. They have a change of heart, make things right, and the movie ends. Aw, so happy.
I think the reason why stories like that appeal to me is because at my core, what I really want is to slow down and connect in meaningful ways with those around me.
Instead, I far too often prioritize the things I can check off my to-do list or the things our society says are valuable.
The Christmas season is full of fun activities — baking cookies, mailing and receiving cards, singing in or attending concerts, buying and wrapping presents, decorating the tree and home, and viewing light displays. And there’s this notion that enjoying the season to the full means Doing Stuff.
Doing Stuff at Christmas time is fun, but not when it comes at the price of your sanity, health or relationships. How many years have I let my to-do list and grand plans of festivities set the agenda and stress me out? Too many.
So the past couple of years, I have been earnestly trying to let go of my perfect plans for the holidays — even the spiritual ones like our Jesse Tree — and instead focus on walking in step with God. This means a few things for me practically:
1) I declare that nothing is necessary.
I don’t have to bake cookies. We don’t have to put lights up outside. We don’t have to attend a holiday concert, lights show or go sledding.
If we have the time and desire to bake cookies, great. If we forget the dough has to be refrigerated after being made and then we try to speed things up by freezing it which just makes the cookies impossible to roll out for cookie cutters, we can just bake them normally.
Or if we plan on tromping out into the middle of the woods to cut down our own Christmas tree but everyone gets the flu Thanksgiving weekend so we end up buying one from Menards again, that’s ok.
When inconveniences and setbacks happen, I take them as hints from God to slow down and look around, and to remind myself, “Embrace slowing down. Embrace doing less. Embrace life as it really is.” Christmas festivities are fun, but what really matters is who you do them with.
2) I say no when I need to.
It’s hard for me to say no to fun things. Especially around the holidays. Especially when a bunch of my friends are going. I was invited to a cookie exchange this year but I know that making that many cookies will stress me out. So I declined.
I also have “said no” to social media for the months of November and December this year. I plan to do a separate post on this in January but for now, I will say that it has been so. refreshing. to just BE with my family instead of being distracted by notifications of what others have posted, or by what moments in my day are “worthy” of social media. I am most likely going to return to Facebook and Instagram in January, but my involvement will be very decreased from before.
3) I prioritize the right things.
My three most important roles in this season of life are, in order: follower of Christ, wife, mom. I am a firm believer that when I spend time with God in the morning, play with my girls instead of just moving them from babysitter to babysitter while I get stuff done and connect with my husband at night instead of getting stuff done or going straight to bed, I am a happier person. My to-do list has to include quality time with those I love, not just tasks I accomplish in a flurry of activity.
But this is real life so do I always prioritize quality time like I should? No. I get sucked into what I call “task mode.” I hate quitting a project in the middle so I stay up too late, or let the girls fend for themselves (with supervision). But I don’t beat myself up for failing; I just begin again. Everyday, every moment is a chance to do things right, to live how I really want to live.
Swimming against the tide, of both society and my natural tendencies, will require a concerted effort. But it’s worth it. Because just like those cheesy Christmas movies show, we lose out on life when we lose sight of what’s most important.