Holiday plans

The ants are not a strong people, But they prepare their food in the summer;  Proverbs 30:25

I love Christmas.  I should say I love SOME things about Christmas!  I love what we celebrate, I love expressions of affection towards friends and family, I love being purposeful about spending time with family, I love the halo effect of cheer and kindness that often prevails, I love the spirit of generosity that permeates the atmosphere.  I think that's what Christmas is all about.

But there are some other things that I don't love about Christmas.  It can feel like a program, even a "Christmas machine" that looms ready to roll right over me and smash me flatter than a pancake.  Do you know what I mean?  Presents to buy, interminable to-do lists, decorating, children's performances, office parties, memories to make.  All fun things....until I cave to what I perceive are the expectations of others.  (Note that I deliberately say "perceive" -- often these expectations are in MY head, not the minds of others).  I can stress that someone will be disappointed (in me), something important will be forgotten, or an opportunity will be missed.  If I'm not mindful of my propensity to operate under the burden of perceived expectations rather than the Spirit of Christmas, I find myself longing for Dec 26.  Guilty that I spent too much money.  Sad that I didn't achieve the magic desired.  Irritated that I had so much to do.  Exhausted because I tried to do so much.  Defeated.  I don't think this is what Christmas is all about.

 Maybe you experience some of those same things.  If so, I can share with you some things that help me.  Now, mind you, I still feel some pressure.  I still wish I could unplug this machine and replace it with simplicity.  Alas, I cannot.  But I do have some tips that I've found helpful.  Today I'll share my main one.

Remember the ant.  Yep, planning.  A former boss of mine used to say "Prior planning prevents poor performance".  Not a revolutionary idea, I know.  But, if implemented, it produces revolutionary results.  Like the ant, I begin Christmas planning in the summer.  I mean, it always comes on the same day every year, right?  So we can plan for it.  Actually, I begin planning 364 days ahead - when I pack up the decorations and organize them so they are easy to locate, identify, and use the following year.  Makes it easier for my "helpers", too......  And after Christmas sales are great for discounted wrapping paper, napkins & other paper goods, even generic gifts that can be used for teachers, etc the next year.  Store Christmas items with the decorations and the gifts in the gift corner (which for me is under my bed!)

But here it is December.  If you didn't begin 6 months ago, all isn't lost.  But you need to begin planning now.  MAKE THE TIME.  Get off the computer.  Get up 30 minutes earlier tomorrow.  MAKE A PLAN.  List all gifts that need to be given (and budget.....but that's another post), write down all events (children's performances, parties, neighborhood caroling, church stuff - everything) and then post it on the calendar.  (You DO have a master calendar where all family things are posted, right?) Then - and this is major- make notes of the requirements of each event.  For instance - if your child has a school party and you need to send a snack and a wrapped gift, make note of that.

Once all info is listed and events placed on the calendar, then schedule times for the requirements.  As in - if the choir party is Wednesday night and you are supposed to bring divinity, put "candy making" on the calendar for Sunday.  I like building in margin so as to accommodate unplanned opportunities and emergencies.  But the key is to commit to those planned requirements faithfully.  If the calendar says to get the teacher gifts today, GET THE TEACHER GIFTS TODAY.

Pretty simple to suggest.  Easy to fail in execution.  Powerful results possible.  Be the ant.  Plan.

More tips later.