I have a confession to make.
This month on Mothers of Daughters we’re supposed to write about holidays and celebrations—thinking ahead, I suppose—but the thought of the upcoming holiday season makes me a little queasy.
For the past few years, I haven’t looked forward to “The Holidays” the way I feel like I should. Late-October/Early-November rolls around, and my stomach starts tying itself up in knots because all I can think about is what’s coming.
It all feels like a bit too much to me.
Add kids coming home from college and a house full of friends and family, throw in a road trip or two, and my introverted emotional capacity has reached its fill.
Last year I tried to analyze my feelings a bit, but to be honest, I didn’t get very far. I taught classes until four days before Christmas, jumped on a plane, and headed out to visit family. By the time I actually got where I was going, I felt strung out and exhausted—there really wasn’t much time for self-reflection.
I spent Christmas break feeling frustrated with myself and pretty much everyone around me.
Isn’t this supposed to be the most joyous time of the year? Christ has come! That’s worth shouting from the rooftops—something to celebrate!—and yet, I felt like hiding under my bed.
And what about Thanksgiving? My favorite holiday simply because it’s just that . . . simple. No bright lights. No expectations. No hoopla or hullabaloo. Just simple reflection. But last year I wasn’t feeling all that thankful, to be perfectly honest.
My heart just wasn’t in it.
I want this year to be different. I want to reflect on my blessings. I want to enjoy every moment with my family. I want to truly focus on Christ’s birth and all that it means to me.
So what can I do? How can I anticipate this upcoming holiday season in a fresh new way so that I actually look forward to these days and not dread them?
I can change my heart.
Ann Voskamp writes,
“Thanksgiving—giving thanks in everything—prepares the way that God might show us His fullest salvation in Christ.”
I want to be prepared. I want the upcoming season of Thanksgiving to be one that fully prepares my weary, worn out heart to receive the Savior. I want this season to be one that heals and restores my heart rather than wears it out.
So where to begin? I’ve jotted down a few ideas to help make my holidays a little more heart-healthy. Maybe they will help you, too.
1. Focus on gratitude. Write down five things each day for which you are thankful.
2. Reflect on the meaning of the season. Spend time in God’s word every day. If you have to read the same passage over and over every day for a week, so be it. Really focus on the meaning. Mary’s song in Luke, chapter 1, might be a good place to start.
3. Pray. Ask God to give you a heart that is ready to receive Him. “Renew a right spirit within me,” David asked in Psalm 51:10. That’s my prayer, too.
4. Slow down. Say no if you have to. You don’t have to be at every party or say yes to every invitation. Especially if you’re an introvert like me, you need time to recharge. Just. Slow. Down.
5. Simplify. A few years ago, the adults in our family decided to draw names for Christmas gifts, cutting down on the number of gifts we’d have to buy. Last year we did away with adult gifts altogether, which freed us to focus on just spending time together in a meaningful way. It was a blessing.
6. Plan ahead. Knowing that these weeks get busy, planning ahead will help cut down on the last-minute stress. Spending a few minutes thinking through a gift list will help cut down on over-spending. Planning out meals and grocery lists helps me tremendously when my girls come home from college. Planning ahead really helps reduce stress and allows me to put my focus where it should be.
And where do I want my focus to be? I want to resonate with Mary who, in her beautiful song, said:
“He who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is His name.” Luke 1:49