Friday, December 2, 2011

Advent Simplicity

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.


Sara said...

Oh, I love this! I too have been feeling stressed that I can't "do it all" this year (not that I ever really can anyway). I love to craft & bake, I want to keep Jesus at the center, but I also have six children (including 3 month old twins). So, I need to be realistic. It's ok to let go. Praise God for the freedom we have in Christ.
How are you fitting homeschooling into your day? Any helpful ideas?
Thanks for this great post. It was a refreshing read.

Jen said...

Yes, yes, yes! We all need to be reminded that this season should not be about stress, but JOY. Thanks.
Oh, can you post a recipe for the lavendar hand cream, only if it won't add stress :)

Aimee said...

Sara: I decided this summer that we would take the month of December's so much fun having our days free for crafty stuff and games!

Jen: here is the hand cream recipe:

It was super simple. I bought my emulsifying wax through a seller on Etsy. It was a lot cheaper than Mountain Rose Herbs :)

Sarah said...

This is such a good post for me to read today. I needed it. Thank you!

And- your baby is delicious. :)

Clare said...

Wise words! And I was feeling exactly the same way about the Jesse Tree this year. I will probably start, just a little bit late, next week when my mainly music has finished for the year, but I am sure He would rather I spend my time blessing the wonderful families we get the joy of serving every week with beautifully wrapped Christmas gifts telling his story, than me being a big stressed out grump with a perfect Jesse Tree :P Henry is gorgeous :) xx

Betty said...

Henry is ADORABLE!!! I really needed your words today. With my husband's traveling job, my high risk pregnancy (baby is coming this month), and all the other activities (including several birthdays), I am already overwhelmed. I've never been able to do a Jesse Tree devotional, Advent devtional or anything structured this time of year. We have had some type of crisis each year at this time since we've been married! And yet I feel SOOO guilty. I see the spiritually significant things that others are doing, the beautiful crafts, the special devotions and I feel like my children are so deprived. My heart years for traditions, evenings reading stories, us gathered round crafting, candles lit every night, but it has never happened. I really needed to be reminded that all of life is sacred and to do the things that I can fit in without stress. Your words really blessed me...

Missy K said...

Bravo Aimee! It is amazing how we can turn a list of possibilities into "ought to's." I loved your description of reclaiming your freedom for a truly simple Advent.

Pieces of Sunshine said...

So true Aimee. We are bombarded with so many "visions" of should/could/lovely/perfect but we need the wisdom to choose what is simply of value to our families and have a heart of worship.

Jessica said...

Aimee this is such a fantastic reminder. I reposted it for my friends... I'm sure I'm not the only Momma who needs to hear it. I can't believe it's only the 3rd and I've already felt the battle of "saying no". Thanks for the encouragement to keep the peace in my home and we celebrate Peace on Earth. God bless.

Bennett and McConnell Family said...

Oh, when I got to the bottom of the post, I literally laughed out loud with the cuteness of baby Henry. Another handsome, precious K baby!

Also, love your words of wisdom. I so love this season that I want to do everything and for it to be perfect and feel that if it's not, I'm "missing" something..... Here's to truly *being* in each Christmas moment with joy.

Beth said...

Wise words indeed. It so easy to work hard to focus on Jesus this season that we actually end up stressed, grumpy and doing exactly the opposite. I had hoped to add the Jesse tree to our season this year but just didn't get it together. So, I'm embracing our advent calendar activities (a tradition the kids love) and will try the Jesse tree next year. Maybe.

Thanks for the hand cream lotion. That might make a perfect teacher gift.

Blessings to you!

Bonita said...

Well if I had that cute little face looking at me I'd forget all about Christmas! So precious!

A few years ago I made a decision similar to what you're saying here and it was truly one of the wisest decisions of my life. I decided that Christmas would be simple. The year before had been one of those exhausting Decembers when I forgot all about Jesus until Christmas morning. The next year I decided that my Christmases would be simple and Christ-centered from that year forward.

I decided to say "no" more than I said "yes." That means that most years we get invited to a lot more parties than we attend. We usually attend 0-2 and no more. I don't send Christmas cards. I don't even send Christmas letters any more. Most of our friends and family are on facebook and they can see what we're doing throughout the year. The decorating gets done when it gets done and some years it's only a tree and other years it's much more. I don't bake cookies unless it's just something my daughter and I decide to do. We don't have a lot of traditions so I don't feel obligated to do those things.

But I haven't just cut out things, I've also added a few things that have helped simplify Christmas and make it more special.

I created a cookbook in a notebook that has our Thanksgiving recipes on one side and you flip it over and it has our Christmas recipes on the other side. It's a breeze to whip it out for the holiday, choose a few dishes, and be done.

My daughter and I also make it an annual tradition to volunteer at an Operation Christmas Child shoebox processing center several times during the season and to personally make as many shoebox gifts as we can each year. We gather stuff all through the year when it's on clearance or discounted. This helps get us in the right spirit- the spirit of giving.

My son is in his second year of college away from home so it's a big treat when he comes home for the holidays. I clear my calendar and we focus much more on quality family time. We watch cheesy Hallmark movies, put together puzzles, play in snow if we have it, sit by the fire, and just focus on enjoying the time we have together.

Like I said, simplifying Christmas has been one of the greatest gifts I've ever given myself. Glad you're experiencing the freedom too!

Andrea said...

I love that picture of Henry!! Puts it all in perspective, doesn't it?Just let go of a LOT this year. Especially with the new baby. :) (I know you know this but just a friendly reminder, that we all need!) You will be able to have that year where you do everything you want. This year is simply just not it. :)

Old Recipe said...

Wow, I was definitely vibing your wise words here! Wishing you many peaceful, prayerful moments doing what your heart moves you to do.