Of all the things I heard this weekend, the most universal was, “I can’t believe that Thanksgiving is just next week! How did that happen? Then, Christmas will be here before you know it and I’m not even close to being ready.” As a general rule, what followed was a listing of all the tasks to be done and a somewhat longer lament over how it didn’t seem possible—that the time was here OR that they’d ever get all of the things on their list completed before it was actually time to celebrate.
I must say it was often entertaining for me to hear these comments given the topic of my posts over the last week…well, that and the knowledge that Thanksgiving has come at the very same time (at least for those of us in the USA) since 1863 when President Lincoln declared it to be a national holiday. If you went simply on what they were saying, it was a bit like it was a brand new thing for some of these folks…like it had just snuck up on them or something. I know, I know…holidays sometimes do that. Life does that. Sometimes it sneaks up on you and catches you a bit off guard. That, however, is one of the things I’m trying to change for myself. I want to live my life in such a way that every single day gets to be its own special day. I want no more wasting of days in the stress and hurry of life and then wondering where the time went. At the very least, I’d like to wake up one morning when I’m really old and not have to wonder if I’d really lived the life I was blessed to receive.
If you’ve been following along with me in trying to reduce some holiday stress, then you may be interested to hear the next step in my process. So far, we’ve been deliberate in our thinking of what we want to include, consulted other immediate family members, combined lists and set specific dates on our calendars to that we can look forward with anticipation to those specific elements of celebration. Over the weekend, I had asked that you think about some of the things you didn’t want to include in this year’s celebration.
I think that may have been the most difficult thing, so far. Some of you were mildly panicked at the idea of even saying out loud that you weren’t especially excited about going to ____’s house, spending hours on the road traveling or even putting up certain decorations. Keep in mind that although these things may have been part of previous celebrations, they are not going to keep the holiday season from happening if you don’t do them. You should also keep in mind that if doing these things is the only way that your family or friends will know that you love them, there are much larger issues at stake.
Don’t get me wrong. You will have to say something. Simply not showing up is unacceptable. Know this before you go: You may get some push-back if you decide to stay home this year, not have the party at your house, go somewhere different, change your décor, choose to give to charities or take a family trip to an exotic location instead of struggling to find that perfect gift for everyone in the extended family. The main thing to remember is that these are your choices to make. These same friends and family members who are mildly alarmed at your choices about doing things differently…they get to make their own choices, too.
One thing you will need to remember while you’re actually saying your choices out loud: Be respectful and don’t talk in circles defending your choices. The choices are yours. State them and let it go. And please, remember to be gracious…there may be someone who wants to change their plans with you, as well. It’s ok. You can make plans together for another time. Grant the same grace to your friends and family that you’d like to receive from them. It will all be ok in the end.
There are just two of us in our household. As I listened to my husband’s list of things that he wanted to include this year, I was first amused—because he decided that SIX things were better than the THREE things I had suggested (perhaps because of my earlier “you snooze, you lose” comment). Then I started thinking about how much work adding his six things might cause for me. I started to get the impression that I might have cleared my calendar just in time for him to fill it again. (smile!) That’s when the beauty of my plan suddenly dawned on me, however. Yes, there are things that I will be happy to do just because I love him and I want him to be able to celebrate just as much as I will this holiday season. However, it is not my job to single-handedly do all of his celebrating for him. There will be things that he will need to do/help with in order for them to happen. Make sure you remember that at your house, too. If it really is important to them, they will want to help.
Reading back over this, I realize that it may seem to some that I’ve been a bit harsh here. That’s not even close to my intention. I’m not saying that you should eliminate all forms of traditional celebrations with your extended families. This might actually be the year when you WANT to have everyone over to your house to celebrate! If so, extend the invitations today! My point is that we should live our lives WITH intention. It is the only one we get…shouldn’t we make it count? If we lose the ability to really participate in the joy of celebrating because we’re so busy fulfilling someone else’s idea of the perfect holiday celebration…well then, what’s the point?
The things on my list won’t match the things on yours. That’s ok. In fact, it’s better than ok! It’s proof that God really did know what He was doing when He was busy creating all of us. Each one of us has the ability to reflect another aspect of God’s own creativity. Since He has no limits, there are endless possibilities for the ways we can choose to celebrate this season. Choosing to deliberately create specific options and opportunities for our own joy as we say “THANK YOU, GOD!” for all that we’ve been blessed to receive is actually a way to celebrate Him! Making this practice a habit for the rest of our lives might just slow us down enough to see Him more clearly and get to know Him better.
I need that. I suspect someone else out there might just need that, too.