The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.”
Luke 1:35 (NLT)
A couple years ago, my mother gave me an ornament that read, God rest ye merry gentlemen . . . the women are too busy!
I keep that ornament up all year long by my desk. It makes me laugh because it’s so true!
As women, it seems that the joy of the holidays often falls on us to create. Some of us just got done with holiday merrymaking last week with Thanksgiving, and today we dive headfirst into the Advent season. Women tend to be the glue that holds family together, purchasing the perfect gifts and wrapping them, coordinating everyone’s schedules and activities, remembering church commitments, writing the Christmas cards, lighting the candles, planning the meals . . . and the question is, when do we enjoy our silent nights?
We don’t want to remove anything from our to-do lists, and friends, that is really okay. The items on our lists are there for a reason, and especially after the last few years we’ve had, it’s fine for the tasks to stay. Often, keeping and completing them means that the people we love will have a beautiful holiday season — even if it means we burn our candle at both ends to make it happen.
But sometimes, it’s simply too much.
In addition to the usual holiday festivities, two of my kids have birthdays in November and December. This adds a couple more major events to keep track of during an already full season. One year, my brain and task lists were over full, and it was just too much for me to think about sending Christmas cards.
Before then, I’d never missed a year of sending cards out. I love cards. I have a Christmas card spreadsheet (which, if you know me, is completely unsurprising.) Even when I had each of my holiday season babies — my daughter right before Thanksgiving and my son right before Christmas — I managed to send out Christmas cards. I mean, they doubled as birth announcements and went out after New Years, but technically I got them done!
But that one year, everything just felt like too much. So I didn’t do cards — even though we had great updates for a Christmas letter and we had new family pictures. And you know what? I didn’t even really miss them. I wasn’t upset or disappointed, and neither was anyone else. Taking the cards off my list freed up time, money, and brain space, and it was absolutely the best choice for me. The late nights I would’ve spent addressing, stamping, stuffing, and sealing envelopes, I popped popcorn and watched a cheesy holiday movie in front of the fireplace. I used the time I would’ve spent scrolling card options online to wrap gifts, setting them under the tree nice and early. And the money I would’ve spent on beautiful cards and stamps, I spent instead on a few extra gifts for our church angel tree.
Then the next year when my brain and schedule were clearer, I sent the cards again, and I did so with joy — largely due to the break I’d taken the prior year.
Friends, as we enter the season of Advent today, I ask you: What do we need to take off our plates in order to let our hearts breathe?
When do we pause to enjoy this time of Advent?
What must we loosen from our grasp so that we may instead grasp that which makes Christmas what it is — a birthday celebration of the highest importance for a baby born holy? Is it the cards or the annual open house we host? Is it bringing two dozen homemade cookies to the preschool pageant or traveling out of state for the holidays?
Whatever your “it” is, you can let it go for a season. You have permission to break tradition in order to maintain your focus. Taking a breather doesn’t mean you’ll never do “it” again. Taking a breather simply means you’re making space for what matters most, living into your top priorities, and taking time to breathe. Rest. Enjoy. Remember the reason for the celebration.
Let’s only keep the things that matter most on the list and let go of all the rest.
Lord, above all, we praise You. This is first and the best way to prioritize — to think on what brings You praise and glory. The rest can fall to the wayside. We love You first, Lord. Help us loosen our grip so that we may grasp Your hands. Amen.
A big AMEN!!!
Anna E. Rendell says
Thank you Madeline!
Dear Anna, you are so right! I am already trying to prioritize activities. Today I want to sit and reflect on what’s most important. And I will let the rest go.
Anna E. Rendell says
Good for you, Irene. Enjoy ❤️
Beth Williams says
I believe the most important thing people can do this season is slow down & think about the birth of Jesus. Imagine a stable full of smelly, loud animals. Envision Mary & Joseph far from home worried yet giving birth right there in that stable. See her putting Jesus in a feeding trough & looking up into a bright night sky with 1 extra bright star shining. Take time to listen to Christmas songs & let those words sink in deeply. Stop the insane rushing around long enough to truly enjoy the season. Candace Cameron wrote an article on how to be Merry. One idea was to rest. Simply taking short breaks throughout the day & be still. God is simply asking us to take time for Him & His only son this season. Remember the reason for this season. The birth of Jesus your savior.
Ruth Mills says
Many years ago we instituted the 1 thing a week rule. We only added 1 Christmas related celebration/event/party to each week of December. We were amazed how much more worshipful & restful life was. This year is extremely challenging to follow our rule. Seems like everyone is doubling down trying to catch up from lockdown last year and all before Dec 12th! But Jesus first, no killing ourselves to enjoy everything. Thanks for your beautiful encouragement.
Anna E. Rendell says
Much truth here, Ruth! Thanks for sharing!
I love this so much. My kids are college age which comes with a whole new set of challenges. I have a full time job for the first time in over 22 years. I want to stop. And focus.
Anna E. Rendell says
Oh Kimmie I can relate to part of this — I too recently started a full-time job, my first in thirteen years. It’s been an adjustment for sure. I pray yours is going well, and that you’ll be able to slow down and enjoy the season as you hope to.
Thank you for this reminder! As I start thinking about this coming week my heart started racing and I could feel my ever present anxiety increasing—not because of holiday activities but because of work pressures and money concerns related to how much to reasonably spend on gifts etc. This is an important reminder to keep my focus on God and breathe and it will all work out the way it is meant to be. Thanks so much!
Thanks, Anna, for the encouraging word for busy moms. This is our first Christmas as empty nesters with our daughters too far away for us to get together for Christmas. So I’ve decided to put out a few decorations but not the tree with all that work–and the family ornaments that remind my husband and me of wonderful Christmases past–that at this point, make us sad to think about. Instead, I’m helping my mom decorate her house with everything that she puts out every year, no matter what. And I’m trying to keep my thoughts on what Christmas is really about–the gift of our Messiah.
To all you moms who are in the crazy holiday season, try to enjoy the excitement and love of having your children with you while you can. 🙂
Anna E. Rendell says
Love that switch, Renee, from decorating your house for/with the kids and decorating your moms house as her kid! And thank you for the encouragement!
Nancy Ruegg says
Good for you, Anna! ‘Love your closing prayer also: “Help us loosen our grip so that we may grasp Your hands.” AMEN! Scaling back the trimmings of the season is such a wise idea, so there’s time for quiet meditation, time to enjoy family activities (games and popcorn by the tree anyone?) and/or read together some of the classic Christmas stories. Another strategy: get the family to help. There’s no rule that says Mom has to do it all!
Richard P. Cannady says
I ordered several boxes of cards a couple of months ago, I have not received them, just more advertisements in my emails. It hard to figure out how to get in touch with you.