Nine Questions + Three Lists for the Holidays
Teaching myself to be attentive to God, my community and myself amidst the siren call of consumerism and busyness.
As we decorate and celebrate, we do so to mark the memory of your redemptive movement into our broken world, O God.
Our glittering ornaments and Christmas trees, our festive carols, our sumptuous feasts— by these small tokens we affirm that something amazing has happened in time and space—
that God, on a particular night in a particular place so many years ago, was born to us, an infant King, our Prince of Peace.
—Every Moment Holy
Every season, I try to ask myself a few questions to help me plan.
What unique opportunities does this season/holiday offer me (and my household)?
What makes me feel most like myself? In what conditions do I/my family thrive?
What cultural voices and stories are uniquely competing for my attention with the The Good Story right now?
What are my obligations? What are my limits?
What am I already doing that could be “festified”?
Who could I move toward in a posture of service?
What will feed my soul?
I usually just jot down answers to these questions quickly… I don’t overcomplicate it or overthink it or unnecessarily moralize it. You can read some of my reflection on a few of these questions along with last year’s answers here. This year, I simply reviewed last year’s answers for Christmas, edited out what wasn’t relevant and added some updates. Then I made three lists based on my answers: Obligations I’m Embracing, How I’ll Honor the Season and Festifying the Ordinary.
Note: Regarding the specifics of obligations I’m embracing (i.e., gifts for others, holiday events, calendaring, visiting family, etc.), 5 Days to an Organized Christmas hosted by the Minimal Mom was incredibly helpful and clarifying. I’ve also found Myquillyn Smith’s “Welcome Home” immensely helpful in thinking through how to cultivate seasonality and simplicity in my home culture.
I thought I’d share my lists that I formed based on the questions above and the resources recommended in the paragraph above this one.
I offer my answers not as a prescription of what to do, but as a description of how we’re trying to embrace the season, hone in on what matters to us and stewarding our resources (our time, our money, ourselves, our mental energy, etc.)
Obligations I’m Choosing to Embrace
Christmas events at church
Simplified gift-giving for kids and some family
Mail Christmas cards to family and out of town friends
Hosting Christmas Day dinner
How I’ll Honor the Season
Light Advent candles over a few meals each week, recite our Advent poem and do an Advent conversation card or two from this deck.
Spend a day with a college friend
Decorate the Christmas tree as a family while eating a special snack and read a Christmas liturgy from “Every Moment Holy”
Give new pajamas to the kids on the first Sunday of Advent with our Christmas book basket (which includes a collection of library books I ordered + our own collection)
Do The Little Way Chapel’s 12 Days of Christmas and Magi on the Fly for Christmastide.
Festifying the Ordinary
Bedtime routine → Sing Joy to the World, read Christmas books and recite 2 Corinthians 8:9.
Bi-weekly-ish at home date night → Watch “Love Hard” with Mike and get a special treat and good beer.
My weekly-ish afternoon of rest → Choose one afternoon to pickup a holiday drink from a favorite coffee shop and plan to read with the Christmas tree lit and an ASMR room playing during nap time.
My morning and evening routine → Listen to a sacred playlist for the morning and a festive playlist for the evening cleanup. Also, have a few beloved albums favorited on Spotify when I want to simply listen straight through an album.
My daily-ish spiritual habits → Choose a devotional and keep it in reaching distance so I’m inclined to pick it up. Plus, find an early morning to do a spiritual location exercise.
Morning time with kids → Purchase some Christmas craft kits at Dollar Tree to do once a week in place of our usual play-doh.
One of my life mantras is from Dwight Eisenhower: “Plans are nothing. Planning is everything.” This list will likely shift as our actual December unfolds and holding it with an open hand is one of the keys to success. I don’t submit to this list; this list is a tool to help me navigate a season of the year that is fraught with overwhelm and unhelpful noise. Yet, if this list becomes a burden or about performance, it’s time to weigh its utility in my life and consider moving forward without it.
The voices of consumerism and busyness call so loudly this time of year. My hope for these lists is that they’ll come alongside me this Advent and Christmas and support me in responding to God, being attentive to my community and stewarding myself.
“By these small tokens, we affirm that something amazing has happened in time and space— that God, on a particular night in a particular place so many years ago, was born to us, an infant King, our Prince of Peace.” —Every Moment Holy
Something new to share
A tool I’ve found very helpful in our home life is having passages of Scripture or seasonal reminders printed on posters then hanging them in places where we often find ourselves pausing throughout the day (for us, that’s by the kitchen table and the kids’ room).
I’ve been making some of these blueprint sized printables for our family and have created a Gumroad shop to share what I’m making if that’s an interest to you.
I have Psalm 121 and 2 Corinthians 8:9 (our memory work for Advent and Christmastide) blueprint-sized digital downloads available for a small fee to help cover the cost of setting up the shop. I also have a coloring sheet printable of 2 Corinthians 8:9. That said, if the money is a barrier, please reach out to me and I can send you discount code.
Once you get the PDF, you can send the document to your local printer and have them print it as a blueprint in black and white; this costs me about $5 at my local Staples. It’s a great coloring page too if you want to color it (with or without your kids) before hanging it up.
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