The holiday season is a busy one. Many families spend more money this month than they did all year, shuffle from activity to another, and end up feeling stressed and burned out.
I love Christmas and celebrating Christ's birth, but amidst all the go-go-go of the season I'm already thinking ahead to what I'd like to accomplish in the next year and making mental notes of goals and setting agendas and... Whew.
How do we really have a peaceful Christmas and New Year?
Here are a few routines we've implemented that help us stay sane in the midst of beautiful chaos:
• Wake up before the children, no matter what, even if it's just for a few minutes. This means that if they're in the "wake-up-super-early-in-the-morning" season, I'm still getting up before them. Yes, there was a time when I would wake up at 4:45, just to have an hour to myself before the children (and no, it's not that early anymore!). I absolutely have to spend time with God in the morning, reading my Bible and spending time in worship/devotion. It centers me and anchors my spirit for the day. I'm a mess without that time (and my cup of coffee!).
• Keep hospitality simple. We are to be "given to hospitality" (Romans 12:13) but that doesn't mean it needs to be - or should be - extravagant. If mama is stressed all day preparing for guests, how is that a witness to her children? I've found that if I keep the meal simple, prepare most of it in the morning hours, then set it aside in the fridge until it's time to put it in the oven, things go smoothly. The last hour or so we'll pick up toys, sweep the floor, etc. If a meal is too much, how about pie and coffee?
• It's okay to stay home. You don't have to accept every invitation that crosses your desk. I love this post by Lindsey at Passionate Homemaking, "Enjoying the Simplicity of Staying Home." Read it; it's worth your time!
• Stay on top of the laundry. It's sounds silly, I know, but as the laundry pile grows, so does my stress level. Or maybe it's the other way around Regardless, I make it a goal to run one load of laundry a day, from start to finish.
• Plan to have extra cooked meats and breads in the freezer. It doesn't need to be much, but knowing there's a few cooked, diced chicken breasts in the freezer eliminates the need for last minute outings to McDonalds, which can certainly be a budget-buster this time of year. Keep sliced bread in the freezer, too, so you can make a simple sandwich in a pinch. Just add PB&J and you're set!
• Shop online. Some of you love the crowded stores and Christmas decor in the mall, I know. I prefer to stay home and shop from the comfort of my vintage (read: old) green chenille-padded swivel chair. Amazon.com has been my go-to source for finding great sales, and many items ship free if you spend $25 or more. For example, many Melissa & Doug toys are on sale, which means you can find some quality gifts for about $10-$20 each right now. (I love this latches board; I was thrilled to see Simple Mom share it recently, too.) Why would I want to suit up the kids, pack snacks and drinks, lift my 40 lb toddler into his car seat, and go out in 30 degree weather to shop at a store that will likely sell the same gift for more money? Shopping online works for me.
• Don't overspend. Just don't do it. Deep down, you'll feel awful, you won't be a good steward, and it doesn't make for a peaceful Christmas or New Year. If your budget is limited, make homemade gifts or give the gift of food. My cinnamon raisin walnut bread or maple granola (in a jar tied with Christmas ribbon) would be a nice gift. I just shared my 10 DIY Christmas Gifts on Keeeper of the Home. Brandy at the Prudent Homemaker also shares helpful links for frugal gifts --- especially if you are on a zero spending budget this year. You'll love her ideas, too!
And finally, when you've prepared the best you could, just go with the flow. Things won't run perfectly, plans will change, and you may forget to run a load of laundry. Stay focused on the Reason for the Season, because it's truly all about Him, not our schedules, routines, and convenience. He's the only one that that can truly bring peace to your home and family, regardless of the season!
"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6
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