Do you remember when you were a kid? It seemed as if every single day of December crept by in slow motion. One Christmas when I was ten, I had made a huge Advent calendar out of two sheets of poster board and decorated it with Peanuts characters. My mama proudly hung it up in the hallway, right beside our bathroom (the only bathroom in a house with seven people, but that’s an entirely different article). I could have sworn that calendar contained two hundred doors. December just lasted so… dang… long!
Now fast forward to those grown-up years. Have things changed just a bit? Does it feel like you’ve switched from slow-mo to fast forward? This year, why don’t we all slow down a bit? Let’s give ourselves room to breathe and experience the wonder of this very special season, instead of just rushing to get things done.
And here’s how my five-step plan to do it works.
1. Cross some stuff off before you put it on your list.
We all hear about crossing things off your list. But what if we never even put them there in the first place? This year, instead of bulking up with your to-do’s, make a conscious decision to don’t. Go ahead and write down everything you want to get done during the holidays and then go back over it and ask yourself two questions: Does this add to my life? and Can I do it easier and cheaper? If you find that you’re just doing stuff to do stuff, then get rid of it. So what if the homemade cookies came from the refrigerated section at the grocery store, and your handmade teacher gifts turned into gift cards? Ego makes us take on way too much for our own good. This year, let go of the ego and shorten the list.
2. Turn off the TV.
The trick to slowing down time is to create more of it. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could wave a wand and miraculously create more time? Well, we can. We can wave that remote control, push the off button and give ourselves about four extra hours in a day (for the average person). Sure, we all have our favorite seasonal movies and shows. It wouldn’t be the holidays without our annual family viewing of Elf topped off with our dinner of spaghetti and maple syrup. But, this year, be picky! Save the television for special events, and not the everyday time-sucker it has become.
3. Teach giving, not getting.
Parents tend to get a little panicked when the kids start making out the foot-long Christmas list. This year, set a limit—and stick to it! Allow your kids to ask for a set number of gifts, and keep it small (maybe just two or three). And focus on the giving instead. Let each child make a give list instead of a gift list. If your child has a hard time thinking of ways to give, maybe you can offer up some suggestions. Can you make gifts for family members? Can you offer to do some work for an elderly person? Can you collect some clothes, shoes, or canned goods in the neighborhood? There are so many wonderful ways to get involved this year. And it’s true: It is more blessed to give than to receive.
4. Do assembly lines.
It never fails. You start making out your Christmas give list and realize you just don’t have the time, energy, or money to get presents for every single person on the list. My sneaky little trick? Make one present, lots of times! Hey, if it was good enough for Henry Ford, it’s good enough for me. As a family, we decide what would be a great present to give family and friends, and then we just multiply them. One year, we made little rag dolls out of cotton gloves for each person in the family, and then personalized them. It was the highlight of the gift giving! Another year we made a collection of favorite family tunes and gave each person a CD with a personalized cover and a write-up of each song’s memory. Another year, we made jewelry for all the women and tie-dyed shirts for all the guys. It’s not the present itself that people enjoy getting, but the love and care that went into it. Assembly lines save a lot of time when it comes to gift giving, and you can also turn it into a fun family party.
5. Remember what matters.
Don’t get so caught up in the tinsel and trimmings that you forget about the true meaning of the holidays. As a family, we spend time in the evenings reading the Bible together and on Christmas Eve, rabid grizzlies couldn’t keep us out of church. It’s a tradition we hold dear, and it is the heart and soul of our family. There was one Christmas Eve that my son and I were unable to go to church. It was when we spent the night in the hospital years ago. Me, lying in the hospital bed, and his tiny fevered body lying on mine as he struggled with pneumonia. As Christmas morning dawned, a light snow began to fall outside of the hospital window and I was filled with gratitude
No, there were no stockings hung by the IV unit, and no cookies and milk had been nibbled on by Santa. But I had my child in my arms and he was healing. The sun was shining. A new day lay before me. And just like every moment in every day, God’s love poured down. It was Christmas. Don’t rush around so much that you miss the miracle that lies waiting every single day. Make it real this holiday. No matter where you are or what your circumstances. Love still pours down. Slow down and remember.