Merry Christmas, ya’ll!!!
(You ready to smack me yet? ;))
I know we JUST hid the candy from our children and haven’t even packed away the super hero costumes and princess dresses yet , but in our family, we are officially getting ready for Christmas!
Before you start leaving turkeys on my doorstep and rioting over yet another attempt to rush the holiday season, hear me out for a hot second.
Two years ago was my baby girl’s first Christmas and the most heartbreaking, stressful, and emotionally trying time of our family’s lives. In the span of 3 short months, we lost my aunt, grandmother, and my husband’s mother.
You can call it coincidence, but I call it a divine gift that God prompted me to prepare for Christmas ahead of time for the first time in my entire life.
Prior to 2014, I was a “Christmas Doesn’t Start Until December” kind of gal. Christmas music? Not until December 1st! Shopping? Only if there’s snow on the ground! Polishing my Elf Hat? As soon as the calendar page turns!
And not a moment before.
But 2014, and every year since, has been different. Now, we practice what we call Thankful Preparation…
That’s right…OCTOBER. This is the month we make the Christmas list and budget. This is a good time of year to casually peruse Amazon (I know I’m not the only Prime addict out there!), have a little fun, and get organized without the pressure of any looming deadlines. We’ve also tried to simplify a lot more in this area. Planning this far in advance helps us stay grounded in celebrating our Savior’s birth and the love He has blessed us with. It allows us to put thought into our gifts and not get swept up in the last-minute and expensive panic purchases. (I had to learn this one the hard way. For years, December 25th would sneak up on me and I would find myself buying the first thing I could get my hands on, often accompanied by a large price tag and minimal pre-thought. I was missing the point completely.)
THIS is the month we buy (or make) our gifts. We prepare Christmas cards, and attempt to wrap and package it all. This process can still be busy, but because it is November, it’s a built-in reminder to be thankful for not only the gifts we are able to purchase, but the amazing people in our lives who we are blessed to give them to. With each dollar we hand over, and every piece of tape we stick, we breathe a prayer of thanks. Thank you, God, for this special person in our life. Be with her and bless her. Thank you, God, that even though it isn’t a 7-day cruise to the Bahamas, we are able to show this person how grateful we are for his friendship.
In the past, November would come and go without so much as a cheesy potato hangover and uneaten leftovers. It contained a DAY to be thankful, but not much more. Now, we have an intentional opportunity to truly stop and be grateful for the amazing gifts in our lives. And with each present that is placed under the tree (which is also put up by the end of this month), we are reminded of our Ultimate Gift.
Joy to the World! The Savior Reigns!
I was missing the magic of this month for so very long. Sure, I would have moments of peace and joy, but it was always mixed in with a shopping list and a distracted heart. I never felt truly present and wasn’t able to fully connect with my Savior and the path that brought Him to the Manger.
Two years ago, that changed, and I will never be the same. If there ever was a year that I needed to be reminded of Jesus and His constant love and presence, that was it. If there ever was a time when my family needed me to be fully present and engaged, that was it. As though by some miraculous postpartum haze, I had gifts purchased and cards sent out, and I was able to hold my husband and baby girl tight as we received phone call after phone call. My 4 month old and I were decorating the tree the night her Mamaw met Jesus face to face.
This moment forever changed the way we prepare for the Christmas season. Now, I understand what a gift it is (to me and the ones I love) to not be running around like a
Frantic Jolly Ol’ Elf that works one day a year.
Now, more than ever, I want to give my heart space to take in the enormity of the Greatest Gift of all. I want to limit the time I spend in the virtual world and connect with the ones I can touch. I ache to breathe in the crisp cool air and embrace the rhythm that begs us to slow down like the falling snowflakes. I want to really hear the lyrics of the Christmas carols and cherish every holly jolly giggle from my precious daughter.
I know now that there isn’t a right or a wrong way to prepare for the holiday season. It isn’t about being organized, shopping lists, or buying gifts at all. For our family, it is about staying focused on the reason we celebrate, and pausing to be grateful for the love and tremendous blessing in our lives. We know ourselves well enough to know that in order to accomplish this, we need an intentional plan.
We may have stumbled upon this tradition in the most bitter-sweet of ways, but it is one that we will forever embrace with Thankful Preparation.