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

In case you didn't read the previous post and are about to report me to the Christmas police elves, please STOP and check it out here

And now, let's talk about what we do to S-T-O-P Christmas........

"S" is for SIMPLIFY.

Before you quit reading and say you already know that, let's think about what you can really do to simplify the season.  To make it more enjoyable.  More meaningful.  BETTER.

"Simplify" can apply to all areas:

1.  Food
If you spell "LOVE" like my family does (F-O-O-D) then this is hard.  But it's possible.  You really don't have to serve prime rib, 8 side dishes, homemade rolls, and 6 hour prep desserts for Christmas dinner.  You really don't. Even if the spread makes a great instagram post.......  Sometimes we assume everybody wants all this stuff and we feel obligated to make it so they will all be happy when, in reality, that's just not the case.  We are feeding their gluttony if it is!  I have a friend who says her grandma stresses herself out every Christmas making a huge spread for all 30 family members and then is so worn out she can't even enjoy having everyone there.  And they eat it just to keep from hurting her feelings.  Not good.  For anyone. 

Simplify your food plans.  When my fourth child was born, I scratched the crown pork roast dinner I was used to preparing and served lasagna instead.  Since then, I've stuck with simple meals and lately we've decided to go to Steak n Shake or Waffle House!  On Christmas morning, I serve overnight coffee cake (which is a cinch to prepare the night before ) and a couple of casseroles that I've stashed in the freezer. 

If you can't give yourself permission to simplify food, then I'm giving it to you.  Cut it out!!!

2.  Gifts
This area might be harder than food.  Gift-giving.  But we make things harder for ourselves (not to mention our finances and the hearts of our kids.....) when we are excessive in this area.  It takes a lot of courage to make a change here but it's worth it. 

When it comes to extended family, consider drawing names or doing a family gift or limiting gifts to those under 18 only.  (If this is something you'd like to implement, I suggest you broach the subject in, say, July - not during the holiday season.  Emotions are usually more objective a few months away from the Black Friday fever!)

For your immediate family, you do not have to foster greed by piling up a mountain of gifts in an attempt to create a happy holiday.  You need to muster up enough self-control to limit the presents.  You set the example!! I borrowed an idea from my friend Kimberly a few years ago - "something to wear, something to read, something you want, and something you need".  I'll admit it was difficult to limit myself but it wound up being very freeing once I committed myself to it.  Other folks do three gifts, like the wise men brought to Jesus, even letting them symbolize the gold (something valuable), frankincense (something spiritual - like a worship CD or a book or a journal) and myrrh (something practical such as clothes, etc)  What a great opportunity to teach great truths!

Consider receiving no gifts for yourself at all - instead ask that donations be made in your honor to a charity of your choice.  This has been something that our family has treasured.  I cannot tell you how exciting it is to see your children gladly choose to give to others instead of receiving something themselves.  Now that's a gift I want to get!

3.  Activities
You just plain do NOT have to do every activity that is available.  You just DO NOT.  It is better for your healthy, your spirit, and everyone in your world for you to ensure that your calendar is NOT FULL.  Even with good things!  Honestly, church can be the chief culprit when it comes to over-activity.  Just don't let yourself participate in every activity offered - the same goes for your kids.  And don't let yourself believe you have to provide "meaningful" activities at home for every moment you are there.  Kids and parents alike benefit greatly from "down time", especially during a season that is so stimulating.  Be intentional about making that happen.

So that you can authentically enjoy the things that you do participate in!

If you are serious about wanting to "S-T-O-P" Christmas so you won't have to dread its coming, the best place to begin is to simplify.  But most of us are afraid to do so.  We fear that we will somehow cut out the enjoyment if we dare to cut back.  And since we women seem to universally feel responsible for everyone's holiday happiness, we keep piling on the food, the gifts, and the activities.  As though we think there's some magical amount that will ensure satisfaction for our people.  When actually, it's the converse that is true.

 Some years you might have the time (and the desire and the wherewithal) to adorn every surface in your home with festive lovelies.  But that doesn't mean you should every year.  And you get to make that call!  Last year, when little Mary Alice was due to make her debut at Christmas, I knew I'd want to be in Albany then and for days after.  Which meant I would need to relegate the task of taking down and putting away decorations to other family members.  (While I got to stay with Katie and read books to Jonathan and snuggle Mary Alice :)  Well, somebody has to sacrifice!!!) I knew that simpler would be easier/better.  So our Christmas décor last year consisted of a tree, stockings, and outside garland/bows. Takedown was a breeze for my capable peeps.  (And the fact that all boxes were already labeled with what went where helped immensely.  Just sayin....)

Simplifying the season means that we can focus and relax and engage.

And that's what makes for happy people.

Let's "S" together, shall we?