I’m writing this on the 10th anniversary of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary which claimed the lives of 26 people, twenty of them, children between the ages of seven and eight. To a parent who has lost a child, 10 years feels like a blink of an eye. Imagine losing a son or a daughter so close to Christmas.

Philippine Christmas by Victoria Lakes

Loss teaches you so clearly what is important in life. It’s a lesson that begins at the moment of loss, and one that you carry with you forever. One of my all-time favorite Christmas songs has always been “My Grown-up Christmas List.” I love the meaning and the poignancy that the song brings to me every time Christmas is here. Today, I decided to draw up my own grown up Christmas list made up of reminders and practices to keep this holiday season. 

1. Keep Christmas simple. Remember the true reason for the season. 

The holiday season is really all about family, and thankfulness, and faith and love and peace. I use this time to do a lot of reflection of the year that is about to pass, and look forward to the year about to begin. For many years now, December for me, is really about slowing down so that I can remember and appreciate the things that matter most.

When we learn to slow down, we begin to take notice of our blessings and realize that we already have everything we need – Jesus in our hearts, and the presence and love of everyone we hold dear.

2. No need to continue holiday traditions that leave you overwhelmed.

Life is in constant change, like the seasons. When my children were much younger, I would shop with a frenzy, making sure that I would tick off everything on Santa’s list before Christmas Eve. Often I would find myself exhausted on Christmas Day. I’m in a much different season now and so it has been much quieter and slower now that both my children are adults. Still very meaningful, only quieter.

3. Look for people who are hurting.  Christmascan be a difficult season for many—especially those in our circle who suffered a significant loss during the past year.

Take time this season to reach out to someone who is going through their first Christmas without a loved one. It takes so little to bring joy and comfort. 

4. Presence is the greatest present 

Time and undivided attention are the best gifts we can give one another this holiday season. It’s been said time and again that you can make more money, but you can’t make more time. You can buy a present, but you can’t buy more time. I’m looking forward to catching up with dear friends and family members who have been so busy during the year. The gift of undivided attention is one of the most precious things you can give a loved one. 

5. Give clutter-free gifts as much as possible

The holidays do not need to result in extra clutter in your home or your friend’s home. Food is always a gift that is appreciated, practical, and can be shared. The gifts of experience – dinner out, spa time, theater tickets, or an annual subscription to a streaming service, or an online magazine do not create additional clutter at all.

What’s on your grown-up Christmas list this year?

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