Challenge yourself to focus on the important things.
That’s not to say I don’t love helping others at this time of year — I do. But I could do more. And I could buy less and focus more on being generous with my time and not just my wallet. I could focus more on continuing to make healthy meals for my family instead of surrendering to the rush that this season brings, which often means take-out and cutting corners. So my challenge to all of us this Advent season is to make a daily commitment to focusing on the purpose and reason for all the hustle and bustle.
Last year, I challenged myself to joy. I decided that no matter what, I was going to see joy in all things during Advent. That was before my newborn — as well as my other three daughters — got very sick. It was crazy town. I know that many of you have been in the parenting trenches in one way or another so you can relate. I actually remember sleeping on the toilet seat all night in the steamed bathroom holding my precious seven-week-old, just praying that her cough would subside and we could get back to our plan of joy. It didn’t take me long to realize that my call to joy at that time was through suffering and exhaustion. I remember how precious Christmas morning was to me, just to have a healthy family. That’s all I needed to feel true joy.
So here are some ways I intend to make this Advent a more spiritual and healthy one for my family, and I hope they inspire you, too:
Spend time together
One way we’re going to spend more time together this Advent is by starting our day focusing on the “reason for the season.” We bought the game, The Christmas Star from Afar. It’s similar to the Elf on the Shelf. We hide the star every night and each morning, the children bring the Wisemen to the star that they’re following to get to the manger at Christmas. There is one Bible verse that coincides with each day.
Spend less money
We want to do more things together that are free: church events, tree lightings, and other fun ceremonies that don’t involve spending tons of money. My kids also think that any time we take them somewhere special, they get treats and mommy gets a coffee. We’re cutting that out, too. We also want to focus on gifts that give back this year. Our kids have been asking for music lessons, so they’ll be getting real instruments this year. I like the idea that I’ve seen all over Facebook — the four-gift rule: one thing they want, one thing they need, one thing to wear, one thing to read. It’s honestly harder for me to stick to this than for them as they’re pretty content with anything!
You didn’t think I was going to let you off the hook food-wise, did you? It’s extremely important in many religious traditions to sacrifice things we love. Such as wine. Yes, I said it. Plan to indulge less this Advent instead of more, and give it meaning by offering it up as a prayer for what Advent stands for: peace, joy, love, simplicity, family. Make good, meaningful and healthy choices instead of succumbing to the typical holiday binges. Fewer cookies, candy, cake and alcohol treats; more salad, home-cooked meals, whole foods, and water.
In the spirit of Advent, put a little more pressure on yourself to prepare for the real meaning of the season — the birth of Christ. And spend a little time in prayer and reflection. You have no idea how much prayer can help with emotional or boredom eating. What better time to focus on eating better and purifying your personal temple than waiting for our Savior? Here’s a short prayer I composed that you could use to help you live the spirit of Advent this year and approach Christmas with a more prepared heart (and body!):
Lord, please help me to find comfort and delight in my daily life and in those I love. Help me to stay in the present moment and be aware of my weaknesses. Help me to understand that food should be used for nourishment and give me the discipline to honor my body and mind this Advent. Amen.