If I had this blogging thing figured out, I would have written an Advent planning post months ago and scheduled it to publish the week before the advent of Advent. But – I don’t have this blogging thing figured out. And, alas, I was doing other things when I should have been doing that. If I had done that post (I have several drafts started), then you would have a list of some of our favorite traditions, recipes, and decorations. But, suddenly, it’s the third week of Advent. The last thing you need is some ideas from me! Except maybe this.

From my grey-haired vantage point, with 31 years of mothering past, I know what comes with the 3rd Sunday of Advent. Stress. The envisioned well-planned, organized, creative holiday season of meals, gifts, events, etc., can morph into dashing and hurrying and all manner of frustration. In the back of my mind comes the jangled sense of: “what was I doing in October and November anyway?!”

Perhaps your holiday preparations are going smoothly. Maybe all of your presents are purchased and now you just have some wrapping and baking to enjoy. 

But maybe not. Maybe you’ve tackled some projects that looked easy on Pinterest or have committed to too many social events or have had sick children or snowstorms or car trouble. And your nerves are frayed. You’re impatient with yourself and with others. It’s just not turning out! 

If you find yourself snapping at your dearest ones while you labor on a pretzel Christmas castle with candy cane flying buttresses, snarling when a culprit gobbles up one of the gumdrop people you had created for said castle, or screaming when a waif licks the stained glass castle windows (made out of melted lifesavers) – perhaps you’ve tackled too much. 

So – instead of loading you up with more to do – I’d like to suggest something to NOT do. This: just DON’T! Don’t do the self-imposed, retail-promoted, consumer-driven, seemed-like-a-good-idea bad ideas. Or at least bad ideas for this year.
– Don’t let Pinterest hijack your holidays.
– Don’t believe projects, crafts, and recipes have “easy” in the title.
– Don’t compare what you’re doing to what others are doing.
– Don’t think it all matters more than it does. 

Instead: Narrow down some essentials: things that you might (rightly) regret not doing. 
Do one of some things:
    – one special meal
    – one craft project
    – one cookie session
    – one special outing 

And then – Pause:
    – Pause and have an one evening of old Christmas movies.
    – Pause and pour some tea or cocoa to enjoy with a dear one.
    – Pause and read one of those Christmas books that only come out once a year.
    – Pause and listen to a favorite Christmas CD.
    – Pause and take in those around you: how they look, what they say, how fleeting these days are.
    – Pause to tell them The Story and why it matters.

Give them a glimpse of The Glory that the shepherds saw in that rough manger on that sin-shattering, covenant-bearing night. The Story is simple and glorious. Our preparations should reflect that – not us. Not our ingenuity and creativity but our glimpse of The Glory. 

The days are flying, but there’s still time to do this: Look.
Do what Mary did – she looked at the Babe. And treasured Him in her heart. That’s worship.
Don’t do more than Mary did – look at the Babe. And worship.

 KNOW you have stuff to do – so to sum it up:
    – DON’T. 
    – Do one.
    – Pause.
    – Look. 

My mantra in busy times: “Do few things but do them well, simple joys are holy.” That quote is commonly attributed to St. Francis, but I don’t have time to track the original source down – so don’t quote me, or him! 

What’s on my to do list next week (or the week after?!): I plan to provide you with a downloadable prayer gift card. It’s my favorite Christmas or New Year’s gift for those closest to me – the gift of my personal commitment to pray for them consistently for the next year. Stay tuned to see how my plans go! If you’re optimistic that I’ll achieve what I plan, buy some colored envelopes to enclose your cards in. Size A2 (4 3/8 x 5 3/4 inch) in your favorite color. Mine? Red or kraft brown.

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