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Delightful But Exhausting

Homeschool mom and daughter reading at ChristmasAm I the only one whose mind is working in constant addendum mode during this season of the year? You know what I mean by “addendum mode,” don’t you? It’s that state of mind in which your brain adds to each statement you hear or idea you read about.

Over the past weeks there have been many good Christmas-related opportunities, but it seems that each one holds extra responsibility for the mother. So when I hear about a great activity that is being scheduled, my mind adds the corresponding extra responsibility. The mental conversation goes something like this:

  • Caroling party with a potluck. (Okay, I need to figure out another meal that can sit in the crockpot, but be sure to factor in the extra cooking time it will get when we’re out caroling. How long will we be gone? What time in the afternoon will I need to put the ingredients in? Do I have anything else scheduled during that afternoon that might need to be shuffled around? Maybe soup will work best. Be sure it’s gluten-free and dairy-free so there will be at least one thing there that the kids can eat. What will the weather be like? Do I need to make sure the kids have hats and mittens?)
  • Concert. (What’s the starting time? I might need to move up supper to make sure we leave in time to get a parking place and a good seat. I wonder how long it will last. What’s scheduled for schoolwork the next day? I might need to make adjustments to accommodate sleepy brains.)
  • Holiday meal at our house. (Who all is coming? How much food will we need? What are we going to eat? Others might bring some dishes. Let’s see, which ones could they bring? I wonder how much this will cost. Better check the grocery budget.)

Well did Charlotte Mason recognize the strain that this season can bring when she explained, “There is a shade of anxiety in the mother’s face as she plans for the holidays. The brunt of domestic difficulties falls, necessarily, upon her” (Vol. 5, p. 109).

But in typical Charlotte fashion, she went on to give a suggestion that can restore balance and refresh our spirits so we can once again see the delightful aspects of the holidays. She urged mothers to try to arrange for some quiet time of “rest for body and mind, and for such spiritual refreshment as may be, to prepare them for the exhausting (however delightful) strain of the holidays” (Vol. 5, p. 110).

Now before you brush off her suggestion, citing the excuse that you don’t have time to rest, let’s remind ourselves that we make time for those things that are important. This is important. We all know that awful feeling of “I’m a bad mommy” when the stress builds and we find ourselves short on temper and long on criticism with our family. If there is a way to prevent that from happening, I want to grab it with both hands.

Ideas for Holiday Rest and Refreshment

So here is a beginning list of ideas to help us stop for a few moments, recharge our batteries, and remember the delights of the season.

  • Eat supper by candlelight with Christmas music playing.
  • Practice saying, “Thank you, I won’t be able to this year.”
  • Select a special family read-aloud to enjoy together and choose the best place and time of day to read it—whether at the table after lunch, in the living room during the evenings, sitting in the hallway between bedrooms during naps, or gathered on the sofa before bed.
  • Listen to Handel’s Messiah one evening after the kids are in bed. Use headphones.
  • Turn off the cell phones and gather them into a basket out of reach. Pop popcorn and watch a favorite Christmas movie together.
  • Download these old Nativity hymns by John Wesley. Take ten minutes each day to read one and meditate on any descriptions that jump out at you, like these from Hymn VI: “Those infant hands, Shall burst our bands, And work out our salvation.”

Now you finish the list. What have you found to refresh you—body, mind, and spirit—during the holidays? How have you tweaked things to secure some much-needed rest? Share your ideas and let’s help each other once again focus on the delightful part of the holidays, rather than the exhausting part.

9 Responses to “Delightful But Exhausting”

  1. flora December 14, 2011 at 7:12 pm #

    We are Jewish and so the whole thing is inherently a bit more low key. Not a lot of decorations. And you can always pick up that last gift on any of the eight days. And most of the celebrating happens in the home.
    But still, what happens to me is I end up being what I have come to call “the Hanukah Lady.” I end up inviting over people who have never tried hanukah. Or I show up at various school classrooms and end up “being the hanukah lady.” Last year I learned to orally tell the chanukah story for one such classroom. And I made more that 80 latkes for them to eat, as well as produce a big set of directions for the dreidle game.
    This year, I learned to say no to being the hanukah lady. And I am even going to spend the holiday at my parents house, the entire holiday, and let my mom be the hanukah lady this year. I have to say I am loving it and feeling such a deep, quiet capacity to enjoy this time of year.
    Maybe this respite will provide that quiet and joy in it all such that next year I will be back in the saddle again…

  2. Kisha Blair Phifer December 14, 2011 at 7:17 pm #

    Smile at those special people….and
    Make sure your constants are planned and completed as early as possible.
    Your people will need to eat and wear clothes EVERY day.
    Load the dishwasher at night and unload in the am. Before breakfast dishes, have a dinner plan… Even if it’s knowing what you will prepare or knowing which restaurant u will stop at and number three – load one load of laundry – wash – dry – fold and put away….. Sometime during the day…enjoy your time… Look at those special ones and smile!

  3. kathy schild December 14, 2011 at 8:28 pm #

    Love this article, and love the empathy Charlotte has for mothers during the Christmas season!

    This year has been a special one. Even before Thanksgiving, my pastor began combatting the materialism of the season, and his sermons have gone beyond obligatory “Jesus is the reason for the season”, focusing on the truths of God’s Word. He recounted the situation of the ten lepers in Luke 17, and emphasized that the one who returned to Christ to thank Him for the miracle of his healing had his thoughts in the right place: Christ Himself. My pastor encouraged us, like the leper, to fill our minds with Christ and nothing else. So yes, it’s easy to say no thank you to energy draining, money draining, time draining superfluousness during the holiday season when your mind is filled only with thoughts of the Savior Himself.

    Some activities I have enjoyed this season with my 2 youngest boys, ages 8 and 12, are: advent scripture reading and discussion (sure, we miss some days, but we get back on track and double up!), baking together(something we usually don’t take much time for during busy school weeks), knitting and crocheting together as we create gifts for family, and my absolute favorite, which is our deliberate focus on gratitude for what we ALREADY have and especially what has already been accomplished on the Cross.

    JOY TO THE WORLD :)

  4. Susan McCurdy December 14, 2011 at 10:59 pm #

    I am reading the book “The Christmas Doll” to my children. It is a lovely story of hardship and triumph for two orphaned sisters. I also want to read the little book “Esther’s Gift” to them and together make the Orange Marmalade cake mentioned in all the Mitford Series books by Jan Karon. Jan Karon’s book “Shepherd’s Abiding” is also a great relaxing Christmas read.

  5. Leigh Ann McLellan December 15, 2011 at 9:17 am #

    I have changed our school year from August – June to Jan – October. We take off November and do a unit study on Thanksgiving, then in December we do a unit study associated with Christmas. This year we are doing the symbols of Christmas, a free download from Karen Caroe. http://www.easyfunschool.com/article1654.html

    We read a daily study of the symbol, such as candy canes, read a library book such as The Legend of the Candy Cane, make cookies associated with the symbol ( we cook 1/2 a batch to set out, and freeze the other half to make closer to Christmas as gifts) and we make a craft such as a card with the story about the candy cane. The kids love it and it brings us closer as a family so we can truely bask in the season.

    We also break up our holiday shopping. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. We divide our list and shop for 2 people each day. Then my husband and I make a date out of shopping for the kids with a stop for ourselves at a coffe shop or bakery for a romantic quiet time.

    We make a date with the kids for one day each week to do something special like ice skating, a nativity play or out to the movies.
    We bring a meal to the foster kids in our church and get them gifts.

    I make out the menues by the month and keep lots of frozen, ready to reheat meals ( most of them from leftover turkey) and only cook 2-3 times each week but double the sizes so we eat leftovers or soup and sandwiches frozen lasagne, or pizza.

    We have rearranged our lives to ensure the season is not a source of grief, but a time of recharging our spiritual battery. Then we start our homeschool year off in January on the right foot- remembering why we homeschool in the first place, to put Christ first in our lives and our childrens lives.

    Next year we will study the different ways Christmas is celebrated across the globe.
    Wishing you all a re-charging holiday season.

  6. Tracey December 16, 2011 at 8:57 am #

    I Like to take a little time in the afternoon on Christmas Eve to take hot bubble bath with some soothing Christmas music before going to evening mass and then Christmas eve family gathering.

  7. Nanci December 16, 2011 at 9:51 am #

    I didn’t know there was a name for the mode my brain was in, LOL! Addendum mode! How funny to give it a name that is so appropriate.

    I started a habit in June after reading George Mueller’s autobiography in which he said (my paraphrase) that one must nourish themselves first thing in the morning with the Word to feed one’s faith, just as our bodies need food daily with consecutive reading through the Bible. Some days it’s more of a challenge than others when the baby gets up early and it won’t get done until later. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, my whole day is so much better. I have not missed a day in 6 months. I am only in Mark now after 6 months, to show how slow I go, but I feel like I’ve gotten more out of the Word than I have in years!

    I also have been consistent with exercise which helps me deal with stress. I do a wonderful program called TTapp. http://www.TTapp.com It takes a minimal amount of time for maximum results…no jumping around, no music. As I have become physically stronger, I have found that I am more able to say “no” cheerfully but firmly without feeling guilty.

    Having laid these foundations in the past few months has helped me to sail smoothly into the Christmas season without even stressing at all!

    I think a HUGE stress reliever was a positive step I took a few years ago. With the amount of cousins multiplying, I asked each extended family if they’d mind if we didn’t exchange gifts anymore for Christmas (and birthdays). Most families were relieved because it was becoming a burden for everyone! A few family members were angry, but oh well! This has eliminated so much stress! Now I just concentrate on our own special traditions and enjoy my own family instead of stressing about all that buying and spending.

    • Nanci December 16, 2011 at 11:02 am #

      I found a link if anyone wants to read George Mueller’s original explanation of his morning devotions

      http://www.foundationsforfreedom.net/Topics/Devotions/Devotions020.html

      He was a contemporary of Charlotte’s, and you can hear it in his words…the common sense that seems to have been lost in much of our generation.

      And I wanted to add that I started with the NT for my daily readings. :)

      Blessings to all and thanks again Sonya!

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