I’m Dreaming Of A Stretched Christmas — Guest Post By Jon Stolpe
Jon Stolpe has become a great friend to me and the Deucology blog. He is a great brother in the faith. He is a Christ-follower, husband, dad, son, uncle, engineer, runner, chicken farmer, gardener, saxophone player, operations manager, adventurer, and the list goes on. He also grew from 5’6″ to 6’6″ following his junior year of high school. He felt a bit stretched during that time of his life, so he views life from a stretched perspective. He blogs over at Jon Stolpe Stretched and you should visit him there often. It’s my pleasure to have Jon Stolpe guest post for me today. Take it away, Jon……
I’m Dreaming Of A Stretched Christmas
When Larry and I were talking about guest posting on his blog, he mentioned the idea of tying Christmas and stretching together. The more that I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve come to realize that stretching is actually very appropriate to where I need to be with Christmas this year.
In the hustle and bustle of life, the normal approach to Christmas can simply mean a crazy time of gift giving, holiday parties, shopping, Christmas concerts, and more running from here to there. With two kids in middle school, we have certainly fallen into many of these traps. It seems like we’re always on the go, and Christmas can just become a time for more busyness.
Honestly, I’m tired of it!
I want Christmas to be a time to re-center my focus on what matters – Christ, family, and people. So how can I do this? That’s a great question! I think it starts by being intentional throughout the holiday season. Here are some of my ideas:
- Celebrate Advent. I grew up celebrating advent with my family. Each week, we sat together at the table. We lit the advent candles. We read some scripture that talked about the coming of our Savior. We also used an Advent Calendar. I still remember opening each window and reading a verse or two each day that heightened our anticipation of celebrating Christ’s birth.
- Keep up with family traditions. For me, the traditions that come with the Christmas season are part of what prepares me for celebrating the birth of the King. Our family has a big tradition that comes with setting up the Christmas tree and hanging the ornaments. Every year, it’s the same. We sit around the tree together, we listen to our kids explain the reason for their ornaments (we give the kids one ornament each year that represents a key moment or event from the past year). Baking cookies and making Swedish food is another part of the tradition that knits our family together.
- Find a way to give to others. Whether it’s bringing a plate of cookies over to the neighbors, serving at a local soup kitchen, or giving to the Salvation Army, I believe it’s important to teach our families that Christ came for people. When we give to others, we help point them to Christ.
- Be reasonable in your family gift giving. Let’s be honest, your kids don’t need every last toy, gadget, and clothing fad that is advertised on TV or is in the front display at every store at the mall. Set a dollar amount that you are going to spend on your kids, and stick to it. We have tried to follow another principle in giving gifts to our kids. We get them four things: something they WANT, something they NEED, something to WEAR, and something to READ. Don’t go overboard! When we go overboard, we take the focus right off of Christ and right onto the gifts.
- Learn to say no. This one is the toughest for our family. We have to learn that we can’t do everything. We can’t go to every single holiday party. We can’t buy every single game or gadget that calls out to us as we walk through the stores. Set a budget on your time and money. This is so critical if you are going to feel refreshed and refocused at the end of the Christmas season.
And so, this is where I start with my Christmas stretching experience. I don’t have it all together. And I need to make sure my focus is in the right spot. It’s so easy for me to go through this season on cruise control. I don’t want to do that. I want this season to stretch me, to grow me, and to spur me on towards Christ. And I want the same for you!
How are you feeling stretched this Christmas season? What else would you add to the list above?