Six days left in Advent. Six days left to prepare our hearts, spending time in scripture and prayer. Six days left to relish the beauty of this season, thanking God for the crisp, white snow, the cool, clean air, the blessings of family, and of course, basking in the warmth of the coming of the greatest gift, Jesus Christ.
Or, perhaps, six days left to run around like a crazy women, trying to find the perfect gift for every person on your list, worrying about how you’re going to fit your Christmas budget into the same monthly paycheck, and freaking out over whether the gifts will arrive from Amazon on time. Six days left to stay up till the wee hours of the morning to wrap presents, frantically fill out the last of the Christmas cards, bake a gazillion cookies, and roast chestnuts over an open fire.
Be honest, now. Which one is it for you? Which one has it been for the past three weeks? Which one do you choose for the next six days? Basking in the beauty, or freaking out because everything isn’t quite. beautiful. enough.?
Like most of us, I’ve had a little bit of both, but today I choose to bask, and I would like to choose that for the next six days, not to mention the twelve days of Christmas that will follow these six days, and the many days of ordinary time after that. For now, I’ll take one day, one moment at a time.
So, here are a few tips I’ve learned from the times I’ve gotten it right, and the times I’ve gotten it wrong.
1. Learn from Past Mistakes
Last week, I read last year’s post, Christmas Do-Overs, where I lamented the fact that I lost sight of Christ-mas on Christmas Day. Now, I’m trying to think of ways to ensure this Christmas Day is a major improvement. Thus, in addition to saying our Jesus prayer in the morning, I’ll be sure to play lots of Christian carols throughout the day (gotta make my iTunes playlist!), and I’m hoping to convince the family to take a quick detour to the adoration chapel before heading to my parents’ for Christmas dinner. Learning from last year’s mistakes, I will proactively make changes that will surely heighten our experience of Christ-mas.
Take a moment to reflect on Advents and Christmases past. As we enter into these final days of craziness, what can you do differently to heighten your spirituality and growth in Christ this season?
2. Pray Preemptively
You know the times that are going to stress you out. The times that are likely to lead to your head spinning around as you bark orders at your husband, yell at your kids, and generally pull your hair out trying to keep it together, all the while falling to pieces for God and your entire family to witness.
For me, it’s decorating the Christmas tree. Boxes everywhere, packing paper strewn across every surface of the living room, bulbs dropping like flies, and identical ornaments hanging from adjacent limbs. I mean, come on! How do these kids fail to understand the aesthetics of the Christmas tree???!!!!
While I love the idea of decorating the tree as a family, the reality has, in many Christmases past, been a bit closer to The Exorcist than The Walton Family Christmas.
This year and last, knowing the dangerous territory into which I was headed, I took a moment to pray beforehand. God, this should be a joyful time. Please help me to overlook the mess, to be patient and loving throughout this process. Please let it be joyful for every one of us.
Guess what? No freak outs. In fact, this year came complete with a cup of tea enjoyed while sitting back on the couch as I watched the children hang the bulbs, all the while offering up praise and thanksgiving for these awesome kids, our beautiful tree and warm home, and the many blessings of the season.
Take a moment now to identify those areas that will create stress for you. Pray for those moments now, pray before they begin, and make a point of praying throughout. Pray that you can make it through with the same trust, peace and calm of the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph that first Advent and Christmas, and it will be provided for you. And, of course, be sure to offer up praise and thanksgiving for your answered prayers!
3. Identify areas where you can RELINQUISH CONTROL
Like many moms, I’m a bit of a control freak. I am beginning to realize, though, that my kids are getting old enough that I can let them do things for themselves, if only I am willing to relinquish control over exactly how those things should be done.
The kids desperately wanted to put a second Christmas tree up in the loft this year. Only problem? I did not have the time to do the work myself. So, I decided that I was going to let the kids run with it.
Imagine my surprise when, an hour after they started, I’d managed to vacuum and mop the floors and start dinner, while the kids had gone into the attic to find the tree base, erected the pole, complete with topper, and had a third of the limbs already beautifully fluffed! I assigned The Dude as the “Project Lead,” helped with limb fluffing and placement, as well as stringing the higher lights, but left the rest to the kids. I made suggestions. They didn’t take them. I said, “OK. It’s your tree. Have at it!” The result of the children’s work is a gloriously joyful kids tree, perfect in every way in their eyes, though we grown ups might not consider it so, especially the lights that graduate from colored, to red and green, to white. Nonetheless, it is the tree that makes me smile as I remember my children’s industriousness, ability to work together, and general can-do attitude. In fact, I think it’s my favorite Christmas tree ever.
Take a look at your long list of to-do’s. What can others help you with? Where can you relinquish control? Whether it’s decorating trees, setting tables, or wrapping presents, pick one or two things, let go of your need for perfection, sit back, and enjoy the results. You may be pleasantly surprised.
What are your successes and foibles this Advent, and Advents and Christmases past? Please share in the comments section!