Seek peace and pursue it. (Psalm 34:14)
A friend came over recently. As we sat, our teacups slowly cooling in our hands and our children ran outside to play, she told me the holidays are by far the most stressful time of the year for her despite being a fellow homeschool mom. The season is magical, sure, but it’s magical only because she works so hard to make it magical for everyone around her – everyone except herself and her own family.
I asked her what she would do if she could choose how she gets to spend the month of December. And here’s what she told me:
She would choose to spend less time in lines at stores and more time sipping tea, taking baths and reading books by the fire.
She would choose to spend less time wrapping gifts for everyone and spend more time enjoying evenings over candlelit dinners wither her family (maybe singing a few hymns together).
She would choose to pull names from a hat for her large family gatherings to help lift the burden of finding, buying and wrapping so many gifts for people she only sees once a year and thus, barely knows at all.
She would then also choose to stay in town instead of travel to another state but she fears she’ll appear Grinch-like if she does this.
She would choose to have the courage to say no to all the invitations she receives and go on more date nights with her husband. (In fact, she said she would choose to cut out almost half of the events she feels her family “has” to attend).
She would choose to read more Christmas books to her children rather than depend on Audiobooks during their errands between shopping, sports and holiday events.
She laughed and said all these things must sound super dreamy and totally unrealistic.
I sat across from her not saying a word… These things do sound dreamy. But they don’t sound unrealistic because she just described a lovely holiday season mimicking the one our family has purposefully crafted over the past 8 years. And we’re not the only ones living this way – thousands of families are tired of a stressful, busy, burdening holiday season being the norm.
A recent article by Joshua Becker, the founder and editor of Becoming Minimalist, highlighted some alarming statistics: They indicate that 75% of parents are too busy to read to their children at night.  A rising number of children are being placed in day cares and after-school activities.  Americans are having a hard time finding opportunity for vacations these days.  About 33% of Americans are living with extreme stress daily, and nearly 50% of people say they regularly lie awake at night because of stress. 
Finally, I ask this dear friend of mine what three things in her life are the most important her. She tells me God, her husband and her children.
We then went on to discuss whether she feels her holidays (which are indeed stressful) are contributing to or taking away from whom she adores most. She agreed the latter statement was most accurate.
Our kids continued played happily outside but it was getting dark. After she gave them the 5 minute warning, I suggested she try to actively choose how she spends her time, energy and money. And maybe not only during the holiday season but all year. Yes, she is a people pleaser by heart but maybe it’s time for a change. Maybe she’ll realize she does indeed have control over her schedule, her bank account and how her household functions. Maybe we could pray for courage to speak her heart?
“Whether you’re a get-it-done kind of person or you’re constantly feeling like you’ve not done enough, the good news is that you get to decide the deity to whom you’ll bow.”*
I plan on checking back in with her after the holidays because only time will tell.
You may notice those of us who’ve intentionally chosen a simpler way of life are rarely stressed during the holidays. While we are not immune to stress (we live in a world with many different personalities), we do value the significance of rest, peace and closeness to those we love during the season. What we don’t enjoy is witnessing others stress out over things they have 100% absolute control over, whether they believe it or not.
It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. (Psalm 127:2)
Maybe she will continue down the path she’s on and end up miss the magic that silently yet patiently awaits her and her family. And before she knows it, it’ll be too late. I pray this is not the case.
One thing’s for sure – we are all actively choosing how we live. It’s easy to tell others what we desire out of life and what we prioritize the most. But it’s another thing to live it out in its entirety.
God did not intend for us to become slaves to stress. He intends for us to simply delight in His saving our souls through this season and the coming of Christ.
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (Jon 16:33)