5 Ways to Stay Grounded at Christmas

It is so hard to find a moment to breathe in the middle of this season. Shopping, events, travel all compete with our regularly scheduled calendars. How do we find the center? Where do we draw the energy to make it through the holidays, not just surviving but joyful?

Faith that brings Peace

Faith is a journey that begins for many with a recognition of the beauty of the story. The story that God made humanity in his image. The story that God wants to know and be known by his creation. The story that we can encounter the God of the universe because God keeps reaching out to us. The story of Christmas is that God stepped out of eternity and lived in human flesh.

It is a story of connection and restoration. It is a story of hope in the darkest times. It is a story that is meant to bring peace to our hearts.

Love that brings Equality

Love is the key. Love looks beyond labels and social stigma to see the spark of divine image that burns in each soul. Love unwraps the anxiety, the dark moods, the ill-humor that clothes the wounded heart to see the beauty within. Love nurtures the good, illuminates the positive, and gently clears away the grime so that healing can begin.

This is how I want to be loved, how we all long to be loved. This is the love we must offer at Christmas.

Community that shapes Identity

We are all individuals, but we all need others as well. We find out who we are by what is reflected back to us in the faces of those who love us. In our families, our parents first show us that we are priceless as they gaze at our newborn wrinkly faces with joy. In our friendships, we hear how great we sing, or how fast we run, or how we are good listeners. In our grown-up lives, it can be hard to find good reflectors, but the need is still there. Find your community, or begin to create one by offering your friendship to others.

Joining together with others in shared friendship and love brings support in hard times and people to celebrate in good times.

Contributing in ways that demonstrate Integrity

It is easy to drop a quarter in a red kettle and feel we have done our part. When we take a moment to reflect, we may find that it falls short of what we value and cherish. Ask yourself what it is that you long to see flourish in the world around you. Is it justice, peace, plenty for everyone? Look for a way to contribute that builds those values. Send a letter to a soldier. Spend an hour at a peace vigil. Serve by wrapping toys for kids in need.

Giving in a way that aligns with your heart brings joy and energizes your soul.

Rest that comes from choosing Simplicity

Your life cannot be measured by how busy your schedule is or how full your closet is no matter what our culture of exhaustion may promote. You are more than your overtime, your toys, and your (or your kids) activities. It is great for life to be full in a way that brings richness. If your schedule is sucking the life out of you, it is time to simplify. If your stuff is overwhelming you, it is time to simplify. Create space in your schedule, carve out some empty time and then don’t fill it. Clear out a drawer or shelf or closet in your house, and then don’t fill it. We could all use more empty space, less to worry about or keep track of and maintain.

Trusting, connecting, giving, resting, all ways to stay sane any time of year.

Staying Grounded at Christmas, now that is ReFreshing!

6 Ways I am totally depriving my modern kids…

Image by mzacha

1. No cell phones
My kids go to school 5 blocks from our house. They do not drive. They come right home after school. So even though “All their friends” have cell phones, my kids (11, 7, & 2) do not. I am not against cell phones for kids, especially if there is a reasonable expectation that they will need to contact parents during the day. We have not set an age or year of school when they will get cell phones, instead we will issue them when the time is right.
Pros–Our cell phone bill is under $100 a month.
Cons–Sometimes I think I would feel safer if they had them.
2. No personal computers/tablets
On the heels of their cell phone deprivation, we also force them to share the family computers and tablets. We have two PC’s, mostly because we haven’t totally transitioned to the new one we bought at the beginning of the year. This is convenient because we can allow kid use of one computer while the adults can use the other. We have a Kindle and on Christmas day will add a second tablet into the mix. These all will have to be shared. Pros–We are never all screen-faced at the same time. And it encourages good turn-taking habits, and hopefully the development of patience.
Cons–We are never all screen-faced at the same time. And taking turns is hard. And growing in patience is hard.
3. One activity at a time
Since I am a pastor, our free time schedule can fill up pretty quickly. I limit myself to 3 church activities a week, even then I often feel swamped. When our kids got to the age to start activities outside of school, we decided they would have to choose one at a time. That means our oldest had to say no to orchestra in order to say yes to Emporia Children’s Choir. If our middle child wants to play soccer, she will have to say no to other options.
Pros–A semi-sane schedule. Teaching priorities early.
Cons–Making hard choices.

Image by mzacha

Image by mzacha

4. Making them walk to school, even when it is cold
As mentioned in #1, we onlylive 5 blocks from school. They can walk in 10 minutes or less. When it is really cold, or raining, I will drop them off 2 blocks from school on my way to drop off their dad at work. Hardly anyone walks to school these days no matter how close they live. Therefore, since I have a car and do not drop them off I am the meanest mom ever.
Pros–They get at least 10 minutes of exercise a day. Teaching self-reliance….
Oh, and missing out on the drop off traffic jam that forms around the school.
Cons–Whining.
5. Forcing them to make their own lunches…and other chores
Our kids do chores. I try to make it fun. Check out my Summer Chore System. I do my best to make it fair. I incentivize whenever I can. They are still chores. One they do almost every day is make their own lunches. PB, raisins, carrots, juice, sometimes extras. It isn’t hard, or time-consuming, and they get to make it the way they want. We still get copious requests for school lunch. Oh, the inhumanity.
Pros–I know what is going into their little bodies. At least when they go to college they will have mastered the PB sandwich and how to do dishes/take out the trash/clean their bathroom.
Cons–Sometimes redoing the chores they just did because while 7-year-old clean is good, 35-year-old clean is better.
6. No elf on a shelf or dinos in their drawers or other super-awesome parent-energy-intensive activity.
I.Just.Can’t.Do.It. If other parents can manage the time and energy to do these activities, that is fine. It is all I can do to keep up with my work and their chores, homework, and one activity. I am hoping that they don’t even know what elf on a shelf is, and will keep it that way until they grow up and move out.
Pros–I have less to photograph and post on facebook, twitter, and pinterest. Sanity.
Cons–I am a creative person, and it looks fun, but I know I would lose my mind trying to keep up.

So there you have it. Evidence that I am totally depriving my modern kids.
And I think I am ok with that.

Self-acceptance, now that’s ReFreshing!