This time of year is so full. Full of laughter, love, and memories. Full of traditions and parties and performances. All good and beautiful things that top off the year like a cherry on an ice cream sundae.
It can be full of other things too, though, can’t it? Things like pressure, and stress, and to-do lists a mile long. We have the gifts to buy and the meals to cook and the cards to send out. We have the people to see and the decorations to hang and presents to wrap and it all piles on a little bit.
For some reason, we create this pressure for ourselves and we convince ourselves that the holidays won’t be as magical if everything isn’t perfectly made from scratch, planned to a T, and wrapped with big, pretty bows. We see all of the ideas for creative Christmas decorations and healthy, ornate holiday meals on Pinterest and think that if we can achieve that, our Christmas will be better somehow. So, we spin our wheels, striving for the picture-perfect, elaborate holiday season.
I can get caught up in this. The lists and the crafts and the commitments all pile up like presents under the tree, but this year I’ve been trying to slow down a little bit and to not worry so much about it. I’ve been trying to take the pressure off and just enjoy.
That’s why I was so excited when my friend pulled out a bag of Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie mix the other day.
This friend of mine has two kids that are the same age as my little ones and we all just happen to adore each other. We decided to plan a play date where we could all get together and make Christmas cookies. We got to her house and there it was, right next to the sprinkles and can of icing; the pre-made cookie mix. I was thrilled. I loved that she had decided to embrace the simplicity, the ease that is offered. I loved that she didn’t put pressure on the day to make everything from scratch and to just, “get to the fun part” as she said in reference to the icing and sprinkles.
I cheered her on from the edge of her kitchen, our boys in between us because, really, the memories were being made. It didn’t matter that the cookies weren’t made from scratch, our kids got to decorate cookies with their buddies and we all spent a great day together. We made it easy for ourselves and our little ones by realizing that easier is better when there are kids involved and by curbing the extra steps, we avoided the extra stress and frustration and simply enjoyed ourselves, letting our kids just have fun without any pressure.
You see, there is freedom in simplicity. There is peace in simplicity. Instead of getting frazzled this holiday season, instead of putting pressure on yourself to make everything perfect and to do every single Christmas-y activity you can find online, embrace the beauty and freedom found in keeping it simple sometimes. Be present in the moment instead of in your list. Enjoy the Christmas carols instead of rushing past their sweet sounds. Find joy in the moments instead of blazing through them and on to the next activity.
There’s a place for the complex and ornate and you don’t have to get rid of all of the fancy, but if you find yourself feeling stressed out and overwhelmed, know that even if you add all of the extra stuff to your Christmas Season, it’s not going to make it more memorable or more beautiful. It’s not going to add adornment. It will add stress and noise and pressure to your heart and to the hearts of your family and that’s not helpful at all. Really, the stuff surrounding our Christmas season shouldn’t add adornment to our lives anyway — our Spirit does.
“But let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” 1 Peter 3:4 ESV
It’s not too late to step back and re-evaluate your Holiday experience this year. Is your spirit gentle and quiet, the physical equivalent to “Silent Night” where everything is calm and bright and full of the joy that comes from the presence of our Savior at Christmas? Or is it harried and stressed and feeling the pressure that comes from trying to make everything picture perfect?
If it’s the latter, then think about pairing down a bit. Use that bag of pre-made cookie mix or decide to say “no” to a few holiday commitments. Enjoy down time with family and take the pressure off of yourself. Remember that the magic of Christmas began with the coming of our King and the fact that He stayed awhile and made an impact on our world through His presence. That’s what we can do, too. Allow your heart to enter in to the magic of the season and allow yourself to slow down enough to stay awhile in the moments as they come. The memories will be made. The experiences will happen and the adornment of it all will be a gentle and quiet spirit that is calm enough to hear the voice of our Savior calling you to Him and to the people that both of you love.
There is freedom and peace and power in simplicity. Simply enjoy.