guest post by Katie H. Howard from katiehhoward.com
My dear moms,
Here we are.
We’re chugging through November at the ever-increasing pace that comes with the year’s end. The decorations are going up, the ovens are running hot almost every day churning out sugary goodies, kids are asking endlessly, “how many more days?” and weariness is setting in before we even hit December 1st.
All year long, but especially during the holidays, moms take on the load of the emotions of all those they encounter. We’re the ones people come to for advice or encouragement or help. Naturally, because we love our families and friends, we pile their needs on top of our needs and we are inevitably buried under an emotional burden.
The holidays only exaggerate this.
We see more family, more frequently in the last two months of the year than in the rest of the 304 days combined.
Our desire is to paint the perfect picture of a beautiful family that seamlessly moves from one celebration to another with the grace of a seasoned professional.
When in reality, we excel more in the butt wiping than we do in the tablescaping. Because let’s be honest, who has the time to spend on a beautiful centerpiece that just shouts “RIP ME APART” to your Star Wars obsessed, light saber wielding 4 year old?
So what are we to do in the responsibility filled, emotionally burdensome season that is supposed to be filled with days that are merry and bright?
Just stop. Take off the apron. Put down the tinsel. Force your kids to have quiet time.
Then sit yourself down with a yummy seasonal beverage and enjoy this holiday season.
Do we want our kids to remember a frazzled mom that was elbow deep in cookie dough rather than engaging in a light saber battle against the Sith Lord, Darth Vader? (Otherwise known as your 4 year old because he prefers the bad guys in all cases. I feel like that is a situation that requires much prayer and an entire blog post itself.)
Do we want them to see a stressed out mom who instead of gathering up her kiddos and talking about what we’re thankful for and reading the Christmas story and making plans for how to spend the new year, is constantly worried over the less-than-stellar mantel decorations and the imperfectly carved turkey and the lopsided tree her kids insisted on cutting down at the tree farm?
I really don’t think we do.
We get so caught up in the visual experience of Thanksgiving and Christmas that we miss the whole point. Our kids won’t remember that we nailed this years most popular color scheme or that we were up until 3am so those sugar cookies had perfectly set royal icing in the likeness of that jolly old man in a red suit.
This holiday season, the best gift you can give to your family is yourself.
It sounds so easy, doesn’t it? But to accomplish it we have to die to some of our perfectionism and our comparison and our fantasies of what it means to celebrate this season.
So the next time you have to choose between sitting on the couch sipping hot chocolate with your kiddos or running out really quick for the perfect addition to the garland spanning your doorway, choose to be present. Back away from the pastry bag and step back from the Christmas cards. No one will get hurt.
If the dishes stay in the sink overnight and the dust bunnies grow a little larger, who really cares?
Not me. Not my kids. So I’m going to sit down with some chocolaty goodness (extra marshmallows) and the 10000th repeat of Polar Express and let that vacuum rest in the corner and the dishwasher get good and dry before the next run.
Join me, sister. If we all have dust bunnies and dirty dishes, there is no one left to judge.
The Secret to Fighting Holiday Fatigue
As for the big December celebration, one of the traditions we’ve begun in our family to help with fighting holiday fatigue, being present, and focusing on what Christmas in particular is truly about is the Jesse Tree for Advent.
For those of you who haven’t heard of the Jesse Tree, it is a set of 25 ornaments. Each ornament has a symbol that represents an Old or New Testament scripture. The set that we use comes with a devotional booklet that directs you to the reference coinciding with each ornament. This not only teaches your children scripture, but it offers an opportunity to review some stories they may have learned throughout the year. Most of all, it prepares them for Christmas day by showing them how the strand that connects everything in scripture is Jesus. Its about him every day, not just Christmas day.
The best part of using the Jesse Tree is that not only does it keep your kids’ focus in check; it keeps mom’s focus in check too. We can’t teach our kids what we do not know ourselves. This requires that we read the scripture and understand what we’re telling our little ones. It serves us and our spirits as it serves our babies and their spirits.
And if we give our children nothing else, don’t we want to give them the ultimate gift?
The love and grace of Jesus that entered the world on that night so many years ago.
You can check out the version of the Jesse Tree we use, here:
Katie H. Howard is a pastor’s wife and stay-at-home mom. She loves Jesus, music, and the written word. She enjoys writing about community, spiritual growth, womanhood, and parenting. Her desire is to see women released from the chains of perfectionism and into the Gospel freedom of serving transparently in everyday life. She lives in Seaford, Virginia with her family. Check out Katie’s blog at katiehhoward.com and catch up with her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!