An Action Plan for Christmas (Part 2)
Aren't the holidays supposed to bring joy? Why are they stealing mine?!
Do you wish holidays didn’t steal the joy and peace in your life?
Do you become a frustrated, frazzled, frenzied, financially stressed, grump that just tries to survive the horrid holidays with a shred of dignity- and maybe some joy- intact?
Do you want to be less culturally driven by the holidays and desire to be used more fully for the Lord’s purposes?
Do you want to make more margin for what really matters in life?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, keep reading.
That all sounds nice, but let’s get practical.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I read or listen to something and think, that sounds awesome! Theoretically, it makes sense. But what does it look like practically-speaking?
If you read last week’s post, downloaded the free resource, and did your homework, all that’s left to do is practically (and prayerfully) put your plan into action.
In this post, we’ll first take a more in-depth look at the to-do list you’ve created, comb through the tasks, and look practically at what lies ahead. If we are being Spirit-led, our lists will look different- BUT- together we will evaluate the most common categories that cause burden and stress, and put into action a plan that brings us closer to the Lord (and to those He’s called us to love) this holiday season.
Let’s get started.
First, be sure to download this week’s free resource to help you stay Spirit-led and simplify your to-do list.
Now, read on…
Ah yes, gifts. There are SO MANY perspectives on gift-giving, especially around Christmastime. Just a few examples include:
The 4-gift rule
Buy for everyone in the extended family
Secret Santa/White Elephant gift exchange
Draw names and do a gift exchange
Forgo gift-giving and pool your money to give to those less fortunate
The options are endless. How do we know what’s best?! Where do we begin?
Start with your BUDGET.
Don’t break the bank. It is not God-honoring to give with the right motivation and go into debt at the same time.
Have an honest conversation with your spouse about holiday money, taking into consideration the following:
Pray: Dear Lord, we want to honor You with our resources. Please help us to be good stewards of the money we spend this holiday season, using it to glorify You and further Your kingdom. Please show us what adjustments need to be made in our budget. Help us be responsible and God-honoring with what we have. Amen.
Next, with your spouse, prayerfully consider to WHOM you’re giving gifts and WHY.
Honestly answer the following. Are you giving to…
Out of obligation?
Provide opportunity to share the gospel?
It really is important to address the motivation for giving more than the gifts themselves.
After you’ve set a budget and decided for whom you are buying, it’s time to determine what kinds of gifts to buy…
When it comes to gift-giving, get creative and think outside the box.
Here are some ideas of gifts that help make room for what really matters:
Give a one-time monetary gift (in your loved one’s name) for Operation Christmas Child boxes, a local food pantry, a charity of your choice (one that’s near and dear to their heart)
Give your children the option of taking a portion of the money normally spent on them and giving it to help someone in need. It will bless them AND the people in need.
Give non-material gifts. Does anyone really need more toys (especially kids)? Remember, relationships aren’t built on loud plastic things with flashy lights, they’re built on quality time and love. Make lasting memories with the ones you love, not meaningless material messes.
For your spouse: Make something heartfelt and full of love. OR go all out- plan a surprise trip or date. (For date ideas click HERE.) Make ALL the arrangements so they don’t have to, then get away together and connect.
For your family: Take all the money you would’ve spent on presents and go on a family trip! Rent a cabin. Turn off the cell phones. Don’t bring video games. Make it a goal to spend time together, investing in one another in ways material gifts could never satisfy.
For your friends: give money for an outing you will do together- coffee date, concert tickets, something that will make memories.
For teachers, neighbors, community workers: Make a sweet (or salty) treat and write a short but SINCERE thank you note. No time to make the treat? Write the note anyway- it’ll probably be more memorable than the treat anyway.
In receiving gifts, do not demand a certain gift. Be easy to please and receive with a grateful heart. Be easy to please, who is NOT after material possessions. In all your actions, show that you care more about people than you do about things.
That brings us to…
Guess what? Shopping does NOT have to be as complicated OR time-consuming as we assume it does.
Remember this week’s free resource? Did you download it yet? Have you made your list of to whom you’re giving and why? Have you prayed over it?
If so, go ahead and make 3 lists:
Online: Make a master list and carve out time for an afternoon/evening of shopping. Click “purchase” when the total falls within the boundaries of your goals and budget.
In-person: Make a master list and carve out time for shopping. A few suggestions:
Shop early to avoid the stress of Christmas rush
Go without kids
Plan an entire day or…
One day for local businesses, another for commercial shopping
Stocking-Stuffers: Plan a day for these OR keep a running list and purchase a few items on each trip to the grocery
**A piece of advice: Make sure whatever gift you give your children (especially if it’s something culturally relevant), is spiritually relevant for them and they are mature enough to be in possession of it.
While having a tablet/phone to divert and pacify your children may make road-trips more tolerable for you, what effects are prolonged exposures to screen time having on your child? What priceless opportunities for meaningful conversation and interaction are being usurped by cheap entertainment?
Hey, speaking of road trips…
Travel always causes an instant battle between flesh and spirit. Everything is upended: routines, comforts, expectations. Use what could be considered inconveniences as opportunities for giving generously (honoring others above yourself).
Traveling is the perfect time to put into practice Romans 10:12 which says: Honor one another above yourselves.
You may not prefer to travel long distances OR host visiting family. It is okay (and necessary) to present your requests to God and let the PEACE of God guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7-8). He listens to our concerns. He cares.
Before traveling, memorize (as a family) Philippians 2:14- Do everything without complaining or arguing so that we may become blameless and pure children of God. (Do you have young kids? Play this song for them; they’ll have it memorized in no time!)
On the road trip, read Philippians 4 aloud and discuss how God calls us to act as His children. This discussion may prove especially beneficial when we’re tempted to complain or give into resentment toward our family.
When you are out of your comfort zone in any way this season (staying at your in-laws, at your spouse’s company Christmas party, etc.), remember how Christ lived His life. He was a humble, joyful, willing servant and friend.
Dear Lord, help us reflect You even when we are out of our element or don’t get our preferences.
Speaking of out of our element…
One of my dear friends is a phenomenal host. She knows how to throw a party and make everyone feel welcome and loved. I love her for it!
I, on the other hand, am more of the “come-as-you-are, excuse-the-mess, make-yourself-at-home, and help-yourself” type host. Hospitality is not my strong-suit (though I’m working on it!).
Remember: Your goal in hosting should be less about your home/food served, and more about the condition of your guests’ hearts.
What does this person need?
In what way(s) does God want to use me to help meet that need?
Here are a few tips to help keep things simple:
Make a cleaning list (does the house just need a once-over or a thorough cleaning for overnight guests?)
Make a timeline
Well in advance, make a menu
Summon the help of other family members
DO NOT STRESS about what your guests will think of you or your home. It will tarnish your attitude and not make for the warmest welcome when your guests arrive.
Remember that menu I mentioned? Let’s dig in more (metaphorically-speaking)…
If you are responsible for preparing Thanksgiving and Christmas meals:
In early November, plan your menus
Make a few of the same things for both meals (no one will mind… some won’t even notice!)
Make a list: what will you need for breakfasts, lunches, dinners while guests are in town? What will you make with the leftovers?
Add non-perishables to this week’s grocery list and spread the cost out over time
Set aside a day to cook whatever you can in advance
Ask your guests to do potluck-style
If you’re bored with the traditional meal, try something new! Check out these traditional Christmas recipes from around the world and don't be afraid to get adventurous
Go out to eat! Remember, it’s not about the food, it’s about sharing a meal with the ones you love.
C is for cookie, dat’s good enough for me!
Have you ever tried a cookie swap? This year, contact 5-10 friends and invite them to be in a cookie exchange with you. (The more participants, the larger the variety.)
Why limit it to just cookies? Fudge, biscotti, brownies, chex mix, fancy nuts, etc. all make for an exciting smorgasbord of goodies!
**Just a tip: buy ingredients in September/October that may be hard to find in November/December.
Gifts, shopping, travel, hosting, food…hmmmm… what am I forgetting?
Connection with my spouse
We CANNOT forget to invest in our spouse. It’s easy- amidst all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season- to push our spouse to the backburner.
Fight against forgetfulness.
If we’re trying to put together a perfect Christmas and it’s coming at the expense of our marriage, it’s not worth it. Don't chase the dream of your ideal Christmas so much that it becomes an idol.
Unity with your spouse starts with the condition of your heart.
What is your motivation for gift-giving, shopping, travel, hosting, food prep., etc.? If it isn’t to glorify the Lord and share His love and blessings with others, ask Him to change your heart and perspective.
Unity, connection and even passion for your spouse will naturally flow from a heart whose number one desire is to serve the Lord.
We can’t just hope that our relationship will naturally become something better than it is right now. We are always either growing closer together or further apart; there is no neutral.
So, we must be proactive.
Practically speaking, we must be intentional.
Plan to date at least once a month
Mark your calendar and PROTECT that time
Plan something you know your spouse will enjoy
Give without complaint
If possible, plan an overnight getaway (schedule it for January at the very latest)
To Christmas card or not to Christmas card?
That is the question.
Ask yourself: Why do I want to do this?
We can make our family look wonderful. (I’m sure yours is!) But should these cards be all about us?
Would that bring glory to God?
Make your Christmas card:
A testimony of what God is doing in your family
A connection- let friends and family know you’ll display their picture as a reminder to pray for them throughout the year
An extension of your love for the Lord. Matching outfits make no difference in how you love someone. Loving others as He has loved you overshadows the cutest of coordinating colors.
**Another option: Who says they need to be Christmas cards? One year I sent out Valentines in Christmas-card style and people loved receiving something out of the ordinary. (Bonus: it was also a lot less stressful than trying to get cards delivered in time for Christmas!)
Put the non-negotiables on your calendar NOW so they don’t creep up at the last minute.
Dates with your spouse/kids
Be willing to hold these commitments loosely. Seek to keep in step with the Spirit (read Galatians 5 for guidance).
Discuss the schedule with your spouse. Be unified in your yeses and nos.
If you’re anything like me, it’s tempting to *sigh* and feel the weight of every. single. event. piling on an already stressful season. When you hear yourself sigh, treat it as an alarm reminding you to check your heart.
Something like this:
Am I looking at this as just another thing to check off the list?
Dear Lord, change my heart. Help me see this as another opportunity to love and serve You and others.
It is NOT about accomplishing more during the holidays; it is about where the Spirit is leading you to serve and love others.
Last, but should be FIRST:
Time with Jesus
My sweet, sweet Savior. NONE OF THE ABOVE MATTERS WITHOUT YOU!
Even the most organized, prayed-over schedule cannot replace time with Jesus. So if anything on your list is overtaking your personal one-on-one time with God, it must go or get re-prioritized.
Because everything we do is an overflow of our heart!
Proverbs 4:23 says, Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. You cannot be at peace in your heart if you are not giving your relationship with God the attention it needs.
When you start to feel the burden of stress, call to mind the promise of Isaiah 26:3- You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You; all whose thoughts are fixed on You.
Vow to change: an encouraging call to action
Write down this prayer (feel free to tweak it to suit your style). Pray it daily through this holiday season. In every season, prioritize your relationship with the Lord ABOVE ALL ELSE.
My Dear Lord,
You are Almighty God and deserving of all my time and attention. THANK YOU for loving me, and for being patient with me as You teach, and I learn. This holiday season, let whatever I do or say be glorifying to You (1 Corinthians 10:31). Help me to see the commitments You lay before me as opportunities to be a representative of You (Colossians 3:17).
Lord, renew my mind and help me understand Your will for me during this time. Keep me from the drama and busyness while reminding me of what’s most important: loving You and loving Your people.
When I get overwhelmed, help me be still and know YOU ARE GOD. Call to my mind the Gospel that all started on that most special Christmas day.
Make me rest and trust in Your provisions. Align my expectations with YOUR good and perfect will. Give me a thankful and obedient heart.
I love You. I trust You.
In Jesus’ precious Name I pray, Amen.
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