For years, after Christmas had drawn to a close, I would sit by the glow of the tree, exhausted from yet another season of running too hard.
I was the queen of the Try-Hard Christmas.
I tried hard to make and keep family traditions.
I tried hard to bake, despite my ability to ruin even a boxed-brownie recipe.
I tried hard to host the best parties, and I tried hard not to hurt anyone’s feelings by leaving them off the list.
I tried hard to find the perfect gifts, and I tried hard to wrap them the perfect way.
But in the post-Christmas glow of the tree, I knew in my bones that I probably tried a little too hard. My best intentions to keep everyone happy, entertained, and well-fed left me wiped out, weary, and worse for wear.
I would vow not to allow myself to get so carried away the following year. But then, I’d forget. Maybe I was hypnotized by my Elf on the Shelf, because by November, I was back at it, in Try Hard mode, sometimes taking everything to the next level. (I annoy even myself.)
Until, one year, I tried a different method.
Instead of trying harder, I tried slower.
I didn’t want to get to the end of the year weary. I didn’t want Christmas to be a blur. That was the same year I had adopted the word “slow” as my Word of the Year. I had begun to adopt a slower-paced life – eating slower meals, taking slower walks, and generally living a slower-paced life.
This slower way of living happened out of necessity. I’d been experiencing stress-related health symptoms that worried me (and my doctor.) My new approach embraced the pace of grace – instead of a race. By the time Christmas came, the Habit of Slow had been well-established, and so, that was the Christmas I stopped hurrying.
That is the kind of Christmas I’m aiming for again this year — a quieter, slower Christmas, where the simple things are embraced.
If you’re a Try-Hard Christmas girl like me, I invite you to embrace a Try-Slow Christmas this year. It’s not too late!
As our motivation, let’s consider the first Christmas. Think of the slow, humble beginnings in which the Prince of Peace entered the world.
Now, I’m not suggesting that the scene was Hallmark-esque. There had to have been chaos. I mean, farm animals were present in the labor-and-delivery room. And yes, there was likely noise, and not just from the livestock. You’re probably familiar with the line in “Away in a Manger” that goes like this: “The little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.” I’m unconvinced. Ask any mom if this lines up with real-life experience with a newborn.
That first Christmas is proof that your holiday season can be both messy and sacred, noisy and serene, slightly uncivilized and delightfully slow.
Your house can be a boisterous, chaotic, evergreen-needles-in-the-carpet house at Christmas, while you still hold within you the peace of the season, just as Mary did. Picture her, sitting in a barn, as she “treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19 ESV).
You, too, can have the kind of Christmas where you treasure up the best things in your heart.
The kind of Christmas where every person knows they are cherished.
Where peace and joy are contagious.
Where Jesus is the brightest light in the room.
Here are a few soul-keeping habits to try this Christmas, to bring peace amidst the hurry:
+ Spend time each morning from now through Christmas on a few verses from the birth story in Luke. Settle on key words or phrases that you may have never pondered before. Ask questions of the text that you’ve never asked before.
+ Take slow, daily walks in nature, with your eyes up and forward, to absorb God’s natural wonders where you live. Observe the changes that have come slowly around you — and in you.
+ Notice how your soul, like a tree, can be laid bare before God — and be utterly loved. Tell Him how you need His limitless love.
+ Let go of the pressure of making this Christmas special or memorable by recalling the most special, memorable Christmases of your past. Chances are, they had less to do with extravagance and more to do with connection.
+ Remember: you can’t hurry and connect at the same time. Dishes and messes can wait.
+ Light little fires and pretty candles. Sit in the glow.
Try-hard hurry doesn’t have to be your Christmas legacy. Instead, choose this Christmas to let it slow, let it slow, let it slow.
To embrace a slower life, all through the year, check out Jennifer’s book, Growing Slow: Lessons on Un-hurrying Your Heart from an Accidental Farm Girl.