Advent has arrived with this first of the four Sundays of Advent leading up to Christmas. If you're like me and grew up in a church that didn't observe the liturgical year, here's a beautifully simple explanation of Advent.
As women we can sure get caught up in the busyness of the holiday season. We often take the unrealistic responsibility upon our shoulders of trying to make it a magical and joyous season for all those we love. Meanwhile, we too often lose the joy of it ourselves. Here are a few things that have helped me to thrive instead of just survive the holidays.
Make sure you feed your spirit. Oh, how easy it is to let time in the Word and time worshiping fall by the wayside in all of the hustle and bustle and busyness that this season brings! A strong, well fed spirit is essential to keeping our mind, will and emotions ruled by peace. There are some wonderful Advent devotionals available online or in book form if you'd like to focus your Bible reading on the season. Also, don't forget that worship strengthens your inner man, (woman), as well. Fill your home with beautiful God honoring worship, sing along as you drive to work or carpool the kiddos around. The season can be spiritually draining, so even more than usual, you need a well fed spirit.
Set and keep a budget. The decorations, the extra groceries, the gifts, the Christmas cards, it all adds a lot of extra expenses to the budget. They say if you don't have a plan then you plan to fail, and this certainly holds true when it comes to our finances. Set a spending limit, make a list, and then stick to it.
As our family has grown from just us and three daughters, to us, three daughters, three sons-in-law and five grandchildren, we found ourselves still trying to spend per person what we used to spend when there was just five of us, not thirteen! So this year we decided to cut what we were spending per person by half. It seemed like a great idea until our youngest granddaughter really, really wanted something that cost double our limit. So, I prayed about it! A few days later I walked into a discount store and there on the shelf was just one of the very thing she wanted for 75% off of its retail value, and one cent below the limit we had set per person. God cares about everything that we care about. Don't be afraid to ask Him to help you with your Christmas shopping.
Time is another thing we need to budget. We've only got twenty five days until Christmas, and if you've not made a plan with how you want to spend those days, your calendar will be all filled up and another Christmas will have come and gone with you worn out, weary and frustrated. Think about what events you absolutely do not want to do without. For me it's something simple, the annual tradition of having our grandchildren over to dip pretzels in chocolate. It's a priority to us because its an investment in making memories with them. Other events I don't want to miss are the annual Christmas dinner and gift exchange with the ladies from our church and a Christmas concert date night with my husband. As you can see, all three of these events involve relationships. Thinking about the things you absolutely don't want to cut out shows you where your priorities are, and what things on your holiday calendar that you need to let go of.
Take good care of yourself. Overeating and lack of exercise and inadequate rest make me cranky. I might be able to handle it for a day or two, but when it stretches on from Thanksgiving through New Years it's a recipe for an emotional meltdown. Eat a salad, drink some water, go on a walk or a bike ride, take a nap if you need one. You're going to need energy for the next few weeks.
Advent should be a spiritually strengthening season for us as we reflect on and rejoice in Christ's first coming and anticipate His second coming. How like the enemy, who comes to steal, kill and destroy, to turn it instead into a time when relationships become strained, bodies and spirits become depleted, and finances are drained. I don't believe this is how we have to live. We can thrive this Advent season, and with God's help and grace, we will.