Help with holiday planning

Whitney Hopler
What is it with holidays anyway? Somewhere, we got the idea that on holidays our usual overextended, overcommitted, maxed-out selves should be stretched just a little bit further.

Not only must our homes be decorated in a tasteful and coordinated holiday theme, but our meals must be augmented with traditional favorites and seasonal delicacies - all from scratch.

What's the solution? We must learn:

  1. Perfect holidays are an illusion perpetrated through the advertising and entertainment industries. Fun to watch, useless to strive for.

  2. Put every ought to, need to, and should message to this test: Is it true? For example, is it true that you must decorate your home or lawn in a coordinated theme for the holidays? No! That is not true. Decorations are optional. Repeat all this aloud 10 times daily if needed. It is possible to observe holidays in meaningful ways without a single ornament, candle, centerpiece, or lighted lawn display. If your family protests that It's just not Christmas, then begin a re-education program on what it really is. Somebody has to break the cycle of unrealistic expectations for the sake of future generations. Remember that truth sets you free while lies weigh you down.

  3. Perfection is self-imposed. It's interesting that an infinite, holy God has lower expectations than you do. For His own Son's birth, God thought a small, dusty stable would be just fine. God doesn't want to evaluate you, but to enjoy you. Would you enjoy a relationship with a frenzied, preoccupied person, or with one who thought just being in your presence was the best thing in life?

  4. You will be asked to do more. Prayerfully plan your holidays in advance with your family. When offers for parties, pageants, and special events come in, you'll be prepared to say, I can help with costumes for the next two weeks, but after that I'm booked, or We won't be going this year, or even the daring I won't be able to help at all this year but thanks for asking. Say yes when it's right to do so, but always draw a boundary around it.

  5. What is the one needful thing of whatever particular holiday you're facing? If it's To make everyone happy, then you really need to re-evaluate. For Christians the one needful thing of the major holidays is to acknowledge God. Do your holiday preparations acknowledge God or credit card companies? God or keepsake ornament manufacturers? God or the rivalry between you and your brother over which one has the most lights in the front lawn? God or the biggest pile of toys for your kids?

  6. Keep your focus. Just one thing is needful: Remembering this will stretch the holiday meaning beyond mere Kodak moments into eternity.

From Martha to the Max by Debi Stack, copyright (c) 2000. Used by permission of Moody Press, Chicago, Ill., 1-800-678-6928.

Debi Stack has been an editor, teacher, and ghostwriter, and her humorous essays have appeared in magazines such as Writer's Digest, Moody, Kansas City Family, and The Kansas City Star Magazine. Debi, her husband, Neal, and their two children live in Missouri.