I am amazed at how easily and quickly I can be overwhelmed and stressed by this season. With all of the wonderful ideas floating around in the blog world and on Pinterest, it's easy to make the mental to-do list way too long and place on myself unrealistic expectations to create deep spiritual moments, make super-cute crafts, have an awesome Christmas music play-list, bake an amazing array of cookies, wrap presents with beauty, and plan for daily moments of Advent fun for all six of my children. Holiday inspiration overload!
It's so important to reign all of that in and say "no" to many fantastic ideas and only say "yes" to a few things...things that are easy, light, meaningful and don't create stress for the mama. I was supposed to bring cookies to a swap this evening, but yesterday I realized that the thought of baking 6 dozen cookies was causing much stress in my heart and probably wasn't even wise because I am battling a cold. So I declined and that was that.
We must feel the freedom to not be enslaved to others' or our own crazy expectations of what it should all be like. We need to be flexible and realize that every tradition we love may not work for our family every year. It's okay to let go and only do the things that bring joy and peace and simplicity to our lives. The thought of doing the Jesse Tree this year was giving me a stomach ache. I am not even kidding. My kids didn't love it the past two years and much of it was going over their heads. Then a friend posted a link to the Advent Event and it immediately seemed like the perfect fit for us.
I was amazed though that I felt like I HAD to do the Jesse Tree, and that if we didn't, I was depriving us of a meaningful tradition that focuses on Jesus. I had to get to the place of realizing (again!) that I have GREAT freedom in Christ and that He wasn't upset if I didn't do Advent devotionals! He is just as "pleased" and accepting of me when I bake cookies as when I sing hymns. I bring Him glory as I sit at my sewing machine making cards just as when I read a devotional. All of life is worship...I had been separating the "spiritual" parts of Advent from the "material" parts and feeling torn between the two.
And so I continue to make things. Simply. We read lots of great holiday books. I have a few favorite cookie recipes that I will bake and not try anything new this year. We'll watch holiday movies and light candles and make our own decorations. Slowly. No stressing that the tree HAS to be up by Saturday. Keeping creating materials at-the-ready for whenever we feel the prompt to make. No daily plan of what we are going to do, but a purposeful vision of the atmosphere I want to create.
And I get to do all of this with this little darling by my side. The sweetest gift of 2011, for sure.