Stressful or Peaceful Holidays?
by Shauna Wallace
As I ramp up for Thanksgiving, my absolute favorite holiday of all, the menu is taking shape and a stack of crafting items awaits the perfect moment of creativity and availability when I’ll turn them into chalk-painted water glasses and salad plates with a golden message of thanks for each place setting. My already full schedule dares me to find time to do the brilliant Pinterest ideas that inspired me to purchase the supplies in the first place! Will they become what I envision, or will they be another failed intention and wasteful purchase? At this point, I’m not even sure I can find the time to grocery shop!
My last few years have seen insanely stressful holidays and purposefully peaceful ones, so I find myself introspective and focused on making this holiday season special without spinning out of control. The danger for me is in haphazardly doing without determining which activities and ideas are the ones God wants for us; the result is always a miserable Christmas for us all.
The key is…
my state of mind and heart going into the season. Am I stressed and over-scheduled? Or am I taking time to align my heart with the heart of God and seek Him for what He wants of me and our family? Am I trying to be in the right place wearing the right outfit and carrying the right gifts? Or am I letting the Lord direct my time in serving Him and those He knows need His touch this time of year (including my own family)? Am I trying to impress others from a place of insecurity and discontentment? Or am I resting in His sufficiency and yielding to Him as a vessel for His glory, use, and ministry?
After many years of over-committing, over-doing, and over-extending myself and family physically, emotionally, and financially, I’ve finally begun to evaluate and stick to what’s most important to us and to anticipate and have a plan to avoid the things that sabotage what I call “the special” of this time of year. Taking time to look back and forward to consider what’s worth our involvement helps me create boundaries and traditions that make our holidays meaningful, manageable, and memorable.
I am asking myself the questions below in the hope of deliberately ensuring our activities line up with what God wants us to do and who He wants us to be, not just at this time of year but year-round. Perhaps they will be helpful to you as you gear up for what can be such a crazy time of year.
The 3 M’s of a Merry Christmas
What is the most important? While my answer might seem trite, it’s the truth: Jesus. Not just the Jesus of the holidays, but the Jesus of the other 364 days of the year. What blesses Him? What pleases Him? What is dear to His heart? These are the things I want to give the highest priority, not just during the holidays but always! That doesn’t mean I won’t still plan spectacular meals, decorate my home, plan special activities, and shop for great gifts. But it does mean evaluating EVERYTHING according to what most pleases Him and keeps us on a mission for Him, both with our time and finances.
I also want to ask myself if what I’m considering lines up with my values. I say my because as far as the earthly realm goes, I’m the heartbeat of our holiday experience. If my heart is aligned with Jesus, His will be the heartbeat of our holidays. If not, watch out!
Finally, what do I really want from the holidays, and does what I’m considering line up? I love to go all out! It’s how I’m wired. But my all-out can go overboard FAST if I’m not careful. Is what I’m contemplating a good thing or a God thing for me? The same consideration might be a yes for me and a no for you, so it’s all about staying in touch with the Lord, asking Him, and hearing His answers, which leads to our next M, manageable.
This is a time and money thing, too.
Before I commit to anything, what does my calendar say I/we have time for? What lines up with the values we’re trying to live year-round? Whatever gets a yes, even if it’s my own idea (can anyone relate to that?!?!), needs to be in line with what keeps me available to God for His purposes, to my husband for his needs, to my children, our friends and those in need around us. That doesn’t mean we won’t find ourselves busier this time of year; it means we don’t HAVE TO. Do you see the difference?
The most critical consideration when evaluating a commitment is this: will saying yes mean I’ll in some way end up saying no to Jesus, most especially in the time I make sure to spend with Him on a daily basis? Will my commitments foster my intimate relationship with Jesus or interrupt it? Will I end up too distracted to hear the Lord or sense His gentle nudge when what I’m considering or doing isn’t lining up with what He wants? If so, I need to say “No!”
With regard to money, what can we afford? Will the request or expense stretch us beyond our budget? Have I taken time to ask God if it’s where He’d have us direct His resources? What can we afford for gifts and activities this year? Are we guarding our tithe dollars as sacred and leaving room to bless others? Is there anything we can cut in blessing ourselves in order to be a blessing to others? Know this ahead of time to avoid major pitfalls of overspending and the stress it creates in you and your marriage!
What means the most to my husband and kids? What’s most memorable for them? Remember, things can be memorable for how terrible they are, and that’s NOT what we’re going for, right? What’s worked in the past and what hasn’t? What traditions do we need to keep and which ones need to be retired? What ideas do I love but need to let go because my family doesn’t?
Our greatest memories tend to be the ones that brought us joy. That’s another good filter: will what I am considering bring joy?
I also need to continually ask myself, “Who am trying to impress?” I have bought gifts and overdone commitments to be impressive, even if only to my family or myself! Does that sound crazy? I have stressed myself to awe, my husband and kids, with extravagant meals and experiences and gifts. Same for entertaining. I have labored to outdo myself so others will see how awesome I am! While I still tend to overdo, it’s with a different motive: making it special for the purpose of drawing us nearer to Jesus and to one another. Sometimes I’ll attempt the spectacular and sometimes the simple, but always it’s special, something that shows I thought of what means something to Jesus and/or them. Sometimes simple is the most spectacular.
The difference is in doing what I’m doing as an expression of love verses an obsession to impress. It also helps me to remember no isn’t necessarily never; it may just be a no for one time or one year.
The “3 M’s” are a framework, not a formula. It’s like all of life: a walk by the Spirit. And I don’t know about you, but in order to walk by the Spirit, I must consistently carve out intentional time with the Lord, to read His word, pray and remain quiet long enough to know when He’s answering and directing me. Which brings me back to the “3 M’s.”
Together, let’s have a merry-not-miserable Christmas!
Much love and many blessings,
Women are drawn to Shauna’s teaching and Bible studies because of her in-depth yet conversational and practical approach to scripture’s truths as they apply to the nitty-gritty of daily life. The more she studies the Bible, the greater her grasp of God’s grace and love and the deeper her passion to see others experience the power and freedom of surrendering entirely to Him. She is a wife, mother and working woman who gladly and transparently connects with women wherever they are by sharing the good, bad and challenging of her life story, past, and present. Learn more at www.shaunawallace.com.