Alright. It’s the second week of advent and I am writing from my usual spot at Starbucks. I’m kind of excited that I accidentally forgot my power cord at home this morning and my laptop only has 12 percent left in the battery. Why? Because I’m dying to go hunting for some more 50% off Christmas garland to make homemade topiaries with tomato plant supports. See the pin on my Christmas board on Pinterest). is this mama’s best friend and worst curse.) Christmas lights and bliss and frosted dogwood branches fill my head with gingerbread dreams, and it is hard–very hard–for me to be disciplined in pretty much any area of my life this time of year.
Okay, so I tend to get a little manic at Christmas time. That’s the clinical viewpoint, anyways. I tend to take on projects that require more hours than there are days in Advent. I tend to think I am suddenly a skilled seamstress and carpenter and . . . and I’m not. My friend, Kate, who ends up usually baling me out of all of my sewing projects gone terribly awry, would attest to the fact that I am not as skilled at crafting as the Christmas Taylor ever believes I am.
I used to feel ashamed of this manic Christmas frenzy I whip into, like it was my fault that Christmas lights brighten up my brain, that my children marching around the house with buckets on their heads singing Frosty the Snowman shouldn’t set my heart on fire.
I used to feel guilty for working on joyful tidbits until late in the night, like somehow I was breaking the bipolar rules. I spend so much time on the depressive side of this illness that the minute I tilt toward joy, I get very nervous.
Nervous? because tilting toward joy means a crash will eventually follow. Take down the Christmas, put Taylor in bed for a week. I hate the crash. My family hates the crash.
So my real Yuletide quandary is how to keep the twinkle while maintaining mental discipline. How do I sparkle, but not fly off into a mistletoe flurry of madness through this season of eggnog? Well, I am figuring that out. Here are my work-in-progress fly-joyfully-through-Christmas-without-crashing rules:
- Save a little bit, every time you get paid, into a bank account that you can only access at the holidays. It’s amazing how even a tiny bit of money, saved over the course of the year, can add up to enough come November. Then, the manic tendency to charge a credit card through the roof is tempered by the knowledge that you have cold, hard cash to spend.
- November? you ask. Christmas is in December! Oh, yes, I know that! But I also know that even the most sane of my loved ones get a little nuts trying to pack all of the gift-buying and gift-wrapping, entertaining, charities, school concerts, parties, and decorating into 24 days. So start early. Our Christmas money gets deposited into our checking account on November 1st. This year, my presents were bought and stowed away, along with gift boxes and wrapping paper, before Thanksgiving. KAZAM. Now, I have a month to wrap presents when I feel up to it, when I can escape up to my room in my comfies and watch a Hallmark Christmas movie. Did you see how I just made wrapping presents an escape instead of a stressful, last minute to-do? do I have to say KAZAM again???
Get your tree early, and enjoy it. We cut our tree down Thanksgiving, and it took us over a week to decorate it. When there’s time, and when I feel up to it, I know we’ll have a great time decorating our evergreen.
Give yourself a week to have a Turkey-meets-Mistletoe explosion all over your house while you put away the cornucopias and string up the Christmas lights. It can’t be done in one day! Why try? And, after a week, put it all away and enjoy what you were able to decorate. (Okay, do take your time to put up the deco, BUT PUT THE HAY AWAY IMMEDIATELY! I packaged all of the harvest hay into ziplock bags, and guess who found them? Guess who thought it would be really fun to jump on them and watch them explode all over the living room, the Christmas tree, the dining room? That would be my children. Mama took a few days to get over that. Not good for stoking the Magic.)
Remember that Magic trumps a clean house, a Martha Stewart tree, or expensive presents. My kids jump out of bed every morning, so excited to dig their tiny “candy cans” out of their Advent stockings. They won’t remember every present they receive during their childhood, and they won’t remember how hard you worked on that dining room centerpiece. They’ll remember rolling out Christmas cookie dough with their Mama; they’ll cherish the memories of bundling up and drinking hot cocoa in the car while you search for the best Christmas light display in your hometown. (Ann Voskamp provides a fun “scavenger hunt” list for your light hunt here: The Greatest Gift Scavenger Hunt ).
They’ll remember the twinkles, and the crackling quiet in front of a Christmas fire. They will remember that you let them decorate the the tree, even if all the ornaments are clumped together on the bottom third of the tree, and they so apologetically inform you that they knocked your handmade garland off in the process.
In those still moments, in the breaths of joy inhaled and lightness exhaled, they’ll feel the magic, they’ll feel the stirring of the Christmas secret you know deep in Your heart:
In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.
So, when I feel like flying off into a snowflake wonderland this Advent season, I’m grabbing my babies and snuggling with them in front of the fire. I’m heading upstairs in my comfies and wrapping up a few presents at a time with ribbons of love and rest and quietness. I’m reading Ann Voskamps’ The Greatest Gift and Brennan Mannings’ The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and, Burnt Out: two books that compliment each other like Prosecco and Brie. You will drink the words from these books and gobble up grace until you’re full to the brim.
I’m resting into the quietness, loving my to-do list slowly into done (or undone).
Fill to the brim, my friend. Open yourself up to a little twinkle.
God bless you. Even if your tree only gets half-decorated and the Christmas cookies burn, you’ve got all the magic you need.
rest in the peace of Christmas, swim in love.