Our family calendar for the next few weeks looks basically like a pack of Bic pens blew up. Places we are supposed to be. Practices we are supposed to attend. Parties we are supposed to host. People we are supposed to see.
That’s such a guilt-inducing word, right? Sort of like “should” and “ought.” In my mind, every sentence that includes one of those three words is followed by a sentence beginning with, “But …”
And, honestly, because of the blend of my people-pleasing personality and my husband’s job as a pastor, the “but” is usually rendered irrelevant.
Or at least it was when we were younger. Over the past twenty years of marriage, ministry, and parenthood, we’ve learned how to say no to holiday invitations and opportunities (even those we might enjoy but just can’t manage) without too many guilty feelings on our part and too deeply hurt feelings on the part of others.
I know, it sounds too good to be true, right?
You can turn down that invitation to your second cousin’s cookie baking party, the very one you have been attending (and possibly resenting) for the past fifteen years. You can also stop hosting that ornament exchange with friends you had four jobs ago. And, this one may shock you (especially coming from a pastor’s wife) but you can even step away from decorating the church for the annual Christmas Eve candlelight and communion service.
They key to making this work is simple: Know Your WHY.
I’ve learned we often say yes because we haven’t considered the WHY.
- What is your priority for the holiday season?
- How do you need to edit or eliminate to achieve your priority?
- Your realistic availability.
What is your priority for this holiday season?
By that I simply mean, on January 2nd, what is it that you want to look back and feel about the way you spent your time. This is a simple question but it may not have an easy answer.
We’ll all have different answers and, the truth is, you may have different answers during different seasons of your life. But here is what I know, when we identify what our priority is for the holidays, it is much easier to say no to those events and activities that don’t help us achieve it.
How do you need to edit or eliminate to achieve your priority?
Once you have figured out what matters most to you, the next step is to figure out what you need to eliminate or edit in order to achieve your goal for the holiday season. Look at what you have always done and what’s on the list to be done and evaluate each item to determine if it enhances or detracts from your ideal. Recognize there are some things you may simply have to do, but there are many you don’t.
Sometimes we simply need to edit our calendar. We can combine or reschedule some activities in order to free up more space for the things that matter most to us.
But there are will also be items we need to eliminate. I’m not going to lie, this can be hard to do, especially when it involves family. For example, I have a friend whose family’s celebrations involve multiple sets of grandparents and extended family. As her children got older, she wanted more time at home to enjoy the festivities with her kids. Her solution was to host a big family breakfast on Christmas morning so all the extended family and grandparents, who didn’t have young children at home, could still get together but her little ones could be home and not rushed on Christmas morning.
Yes, fixing the big breakfast takes her more time on Christmas morning—but in the end it enables her to achieve her priority of more time home with her children on Christmas Day.
Take some time to think of ways you can edit or even eliminate things from your schedule—and be willing to be creative!
What is your realistic availability?
This isn’t just about time, though that is a huge factor for most of us. But also consider your emotional, physical, and mental capacity. As you consider what you’ll do and not do this holiday season, you need to think beyond the calendar as well. For example, our family has only does one thing per day in December. That means if we have two parties we’ve been invited to on the same day, we don’t try to get to both, we just attend one.
Or sometimes we divide and conquer. Last year, there was a party at church on the same night my daughter had to cheer at a basketball game. Scott went to the party and I went to the game with Casiday. Sure, we could have figured out a way for me to do both but it would have been rushing around, arranging for someone else to drive Casiday home from the game, and us driving separately to and from the party … you get the picture. So, we followed our one thing per day rule and I went to the game while Scott attended the party on our behalf.
Knowing your limits and what you can realistically do, individually and as a family, through the season is vital to making the best decisions about how to achieve your priorities this Christmas.
As you prepare now for the rest of the holiday season, I invite you to take some time to consider your WHY and make sure the rest of your Christmas season reflects the priorities you desire for you and your family.