Written by contributor Sandy Coughlin of Reluctant Entertainer.
The families were coming, wagons drying off in the garages, gloves and hats laid out by the front door.
They had all responded to our invitation for our annual night of caroling through the neighborhood. Snow or rain, about 40 people – from big grown-ups down to the wee little babes – would pack into our tiny house for hot chocolate and sweets, and to practice up on our songs. Then out the door to the neighbors we’d go, with our harmonies, kids, and sometimes umbrellas.
But then, what once was a blessing turned into a burden. It wasn’t fun for us anymore. We were trying to pack too much into our schedule, and the stress of entertaining on this night didn’t feel right anymore.
So we stopped. It was a painful decision for me, because I wanted to do it all.
This was years ago, during the week before Christmas, but I can still remember the “rush” of Christmas that was running through my veins:
I need to host this dinner party (because I’m the party-girl), attend these functions (because we always have), get the kids involved in this and that (will they have a normal childhood if they don’t experience it every year?), host the Christmas caroling night at our house (what’s Christmas without caroling?), write out the 100 Christmas cards (with pictures), make the homemade cookie baskets for everyone I know, and still keep a smile on my face.
Looking back, I can now admit:
I was over-commited.
So much about Christmas sounds exciting on December 1: the tree goes up, the Christmas dishes come out of the boxes, Pandora’s playing our favorite tunes – everything is so exciting and fresh for the season.
But by the time the week before Christmas rolls around, life can be pure drudgery.
The Christmas season should be one that we enjoy, not dread – each year, exciting and new. But we have to learn to count the cost and not let our emotions get in the way.
Learning how to avoid over-commitment
1. Journal: write down your hopes, dreams, and desires for you and your family for the holidays. Separate out the pages according to Family, Must-Dos, Dreams, and Invitations, and then prioritize the essentials and non-essentials in each category.
2. Family: be willing to ask your family their opinion regarding whether they want to keep certain traditions going, or it’s time to make a change.
3. Must-Dos: consider stopping or changing the way you’ve always done things in the past. Is there a better way? What would happen if you stopped?
4. Dream: it’s beautiful to dream and come up with new ideas. Write these down and try something new!
5. Invitations: don’t say yes to any invitation until you’ve really counted the cost.
I’ve learned that by not answering an invitation right away, I actually have time to think things through. Just because you’ve always attended “that party” doesn’t mean you have to say yes every year. What if saying no could affect your family in a positive way?
By now, I’ve set realistic expectations for entertaining in my home, choosing a few parties to host (not feeling like I have to do it all), and have given myself permission to back out of commitments, if it’s better for our family.
It’s okay to simplify our lives in the most hectic season of all.
The simplicity of Christ’s birth is the reminder we need to slow down.
This week, don’t miss the message – a message that came to us in the quiet of a barn, with no electric lights or temperature control or fanfare.
What are your tips for not over-commiting during the week before Christmas?