How to S-T-O-P Christmas - P

No one sets out to be a Grinch about Christmas - not even the Grinch!  But somehow, the pressures and demands and expectations of the season can shrink the  heart of  even Cindy Loo Who into  Grinch-sized proportions.  A heart that views the holiday with dread and angst instead of joy and anticipation.  A heart that secretly wants to "stop Christmas from coming, somehow!".

So we've taken a few days to examine ways to change a Grinch heart into one that spreads Christmas cheer instead.  To one's own self....and to those all around.  We're learning how to S-T-O-P Christmas so that we won't want to stop Christmas :)

S- simplify.  Realize that less really can be more.  That the stress involved in some of the season's expectations simply do not have to rule us.  Simplify.  And enjoy!

T-thankful.  This conscious change on the inside shows up in delightful ways on the outside.  Cultivating a heart of thankfulness requires being intentional about it - indeed it's a choice.  One that must be repeated over and over and over.  But eventually, a Grinch heart gets stretched into a Who-heart by the exercise of thanksgiving.  And the result is the spreading of genuine joy to all those around us.

O- opt out.  Admittedly, this one is hard.  "FOMO" ("fear of missing out") is a very real phenomenon that can paralyze us into overactivity, overcommitment, and an under-sized heart.  If we want to enjoy the holidays, we must choose to limit our choices.  For our kids, for our selves, and for our wallet.   Opting out of even some good things can result in opting in to a season of more significance and value.

What about P?
One of the greatest contributors to a Grinch heart (and the unfortunate spreading of Grinch-ness to all nearby....) is the lack of this factor.  Its absence causes stress and overspending and angst for family and friends.  We need to make P a priority......

P - preparation.  This aspect delivers powerful dividends - it is most certainly worth your investment!

Preparing for the holidays takes many forms.  Material (as in gifts and decorations and food), physical (diet, exercise, and rest) and spiritual (the mental and emotional components of the soul!)

At this point of the season, you may feel that it's too late for preparation.  Not at all.  There are lots of things you can do in order to successfully prepare for Christmas even on December 20.....and you can make it your priority to plan ahead for December 2015 ASAP :):)

Let's start with food since everyone has to eat, even on Christmas morning.  Easy, quick and mildly healthy are my objectives.  (And after one of my kids singlehandedly ate the entire bag of Reeces in her stocking before breakfast one year, I decided minimal sugar was probably a good goal for Christmas morning breakfast!)  So in my freezer already are cheese grits casserole, apple -sausage breakfast bake, and plenty of Suzie's rolls to eat with my annual Chambers Christmas Jam.  And since my children are all old enough now to exercise a bit more discipline in devouring the contents of their stockings, I will also serve an overnight coffee cake which is sort of like monkey bread but easy to prepare the night before. 

You probably already have definite plans of where and with whom your holiday meals will be so you can also decide to do as much in advance as possible.  You can deliberately choose to serve foods that allow prep work to be done early and leave little to be finished at the last minute.  So that you can enjoy the time with your family instead of in the kitchen!

Although you can't do much "preparation" in the realm of gifts and decorations at this date, you can do a whole lot immediately after Christmas that will pay off plenty next year.  Take advantage of the post-holiday sales and get the wrapping paper, paper products, and extra decorations for a great deal.  Then store it all together so that when you pull out the boxes next year, you'll already have your supplies right there!
And for gifts, well, these can be purchased all year long!  This helps spread out not only the time element but especially the money factor.  Although there are some gifts that need to be selected close to December 25, there are lots and lots that can just as easily be bought in July.  Presents for teachers, hostess gifts, stocking stuffers, etc.  I already have a reminder on my June 2015 calendar to get the jars I will need in December for my Christmas Jam!

Next, physical.  Now any of you that know me know that I am the last person on this earth to preach diet and exercise to you. You can see that "diet" is simply "DIE" with a "T" and my personal life verse is 1 Timothy 4:8 ("bodily exercise profits little........) but my dear friend Caroline has obviously infiltrated my brain and I therefore acknowledge the benefits of wise food choices and not being a couch potato.  Be intentional about preparing yourself physically for the demands of the season - it can be as extreme as a weekly fasting day for a few weeks prior or as simple as being sure to fill up on fresh fruits and veggies and down adequate amounts of water.  Even if you have a regular fitness routine, the holiday season can throw schedules to the wind.  But since we know this, we can plan ahead to incorporate short bursts of physical activity into our day.  It might be 15 minutes on the treadmill or a game of bench jumping with your kids.  Don't think you have to have time for a "full" workout - just move!
And, let's talk about rest.  I know how easy it is to shortchange this component of our lives.  There are always more things to do and less time to get it done, especially the closer it gets to Christmas Day.  But it doesn't have to be that way.  If you get up early, you can accomplish more with less stress.  Truly.  But in order to do that, you have to get to bed early.  Seriously.  Now I know some seasons of life make this a challenge.  I know all about newborns and sick kids and hormones.  But you don't have to make that the norm nor use that as an excuse.  Your best morning begins the night before.  And if you make a decent bedtime the priority on a regular basis, then you will be physically prepared for the curveballs that come from time to time.

Material, physical, and now, spiritual preparation.  We need to make spiritual preparedness as much as, if not more than, any other aspect of planning ahead.  Filling up our hearts with Truth and worship will overflow into peace and joy and serenity. But we have to purpose to do that because the demands we feel during this season will threaten to convince us we don't have time for spiritual preparation.  We will be "too tired" to get up early enough for devotional time.  We will be tempted to ignore the nudge to set apart time for reflection, worship, contemplation.   We will instead occupy our minds and hearts with frenzy, busyness, even panic.  When the soul is depleted of spiritual food, it cannot respond to the season's challenges with anything but stress. The heart will shrink to...three sizes too small!  In short, Grinch-ness.
  If we want a season of Christmas cheer, then we must prepare for it with determination.  That's the whole idea of the Advent Season.  Some ideas our family has enjoyed are Advent wreaths, Jesse Trees, and service to others.  And always always always, reading the Christmas story and attending worship services!

And that makes for the greatest Christmas cheer of all.

BTW - I am quite aware that I have included this photo numerous times.  On purpose.  Because Jonathan was my inspiration to not "stop Christmas from coming" but rather to "S-T-O-P" Christmas! 

AND because I think these two are da bomb.  And I think you should, too!