Darkness settles over our home before dinner these days. Yes, winter can be tough with little kids but December is easy. So we rinse our plates, place them in the dishwasher and put up our leftovers before bundling our kids up in Christmas jammies, winter coats, mittens and hats. Time for an evening walk.
The silence on our suburban street tricks us into thinking it is way later than 6pm. So we get to enjoy our neighbors lights as a family, rarely interrupted by other life. Shiloh shouts, “Mickey Mouse, Mickey Mouse!” until you acknowledge what she’s seen. Judah yells, “Wahhh, wahhhhh” to every house that is missing cheery lights. Joey and I catch up on life, while pointing out what we like most about each house. But that turns a simple, festive walk into a “want fest”.
“What should we add to our yard?”
“I love the lighted wreaths.”
“Look at how cute the candy canes and light bulbs leading up the path are.”
“Should we wrap lighted garland around our porch?”
And just like that materialism sweeps us up in a sacred season that is smothered by the worship of stuff.
I had allowed a discontent spirit to creep in about a month prior to this little walk. I knew it was there but I wasn’t fighting the sin like the cancer it is raging through my mind. Jesus, in his infinite love opened my eyes at church the next morning. Here’s a message on the sin of materialism if you need the reminder as much as I do.
Gratitude overwhelms me with this reminder of why simple is, in fact, better even through the month of December. Here’s a list of actions that I plan on taking as the atmosphere setter in my home. This season is joy filled because of the Gospel, not because of what we’ve added. Although, I’ll share the actions, the most important part of slowing down is always our mindset. Contentment and generosity will allow us to overcome materialism and hurry. We can strive for more, more, more in this season or we can soften into the beauty God has set before us.
The Ways I’m Slowing in December
- an emphasis on Advent: Advent is the anticipation of Jesus’ coming to the world and our celebration of his birth. But it is also the anticipation that he promises to come back. “The weary world rejoices,” floods my thoughts as I sit down to linger over my Advent study. I always feel the heaviness of life on earth in some form leading up to Christmas. This year it’s been a deep confrontation with my own sin and the death of someone abundantly loved. So I settle as close to my lit tree as possible, as many times in a day as I can, for any amount of minutes available to soak in the grace of the message of our redemption and reconciliation back to Christ. To put him first, even if we do nothing else, is a win for he is the reason we celebrate at all.
- a “not to do” list: an email landed in my inbox encouraging a “not to do” list in a season of a million options. On November 28th, I texted a friend, “December is going too fast already.” Which really means I was already consumed by thoughts of all of the things to do. I felt behind and like the joy of the month was slipping already. My personal “not to do” list includes worrying about getting my kids outside for a certain amount of time everyday (we are about to fail our first round of 1000 hours outside), not adding more Christmas decor to my home and saying no to gatherings outside of the few we’ve decided to prioritize.
- shopping early, buying thoughtful: I love gift giving at Christmas time. In a world that wants to fight over whether or not Santa is good or evil we choose to embrace the wisdom of generosity in this season. I delight over my kids opening presents, especially that special one from Santa. The gift that they anticipated. My husband and I anonymously sit, seeing the reaction and joy that it brings without the need for credit. However, we do not believe in giving gifts for gift givings sake. Not because it is expected. Not sticking to any rules. Just thinking of the few people in our lives we are shopping for (typically just our kids, parents and this year we have a nephew!) and making sure to get them things that matter to them. Things that will improve their life. Gifts that are thoughtful and meaningful and beautiful and useful. As a minimalist that’s what I aspire to have in my home all year round and giving gifts in this manner to others is important to me. When shopping is done early, wrapping becomes a creative outlet as we watch Christmas movies while the kids are in bed rather than hurried frenzy to be done in time.
- simplifying my wardrobe: This fall I experimented which Project 333 by choosing 33 clothing items to wear for 3 months. I failed. I landed around 45 items and did end up adding a few as the weather became colder. I feel better equipped to pick less and stick to those 33 pieces this December through February. I’ll pull together a round up of my 33 items in another post this week! The idea of simply knowing what I have to wear and not desiring more for three whole months is inspiring and freeing to me. I don’t want to worry about getting dressed this season I just want to fully embrace the occasions set before me.
- winter walks: Although I’ve decided not to stress myself out over finishing our 1000 hours outside strong this year (we have 916 hours but need to get to 1000 in 14 days to “succeed”), I do intend to continue the ritual of daily neighborhoods walks with my kids. Winter has so much beauty to offer. I will be the first to admit that bundling up two toddlers in multiple layers is not my favorite. I also will say that the 10 minute struggle is worth the fresh air and the energy release for us every time. Getting outside in the dark after dinner to look at lights in our neighborhood is definitely my favorite. Trekking through the snow is also just so fun for all of us.
This December I have a desire to delight in all that unfolds in front of me. I’ve found delight is snuffed out by striving. Delight is consumed by hurry and want. This Advent, as we keep it simple, I anticipate the space we create to overflow with the beauty and delight of the Christmas story.