Tuesday, 24 November 2015

10 Top Tips for Enjoying a Stress Free Advent

This is the view from one of the prayer rooms in the prayer centre just a few steps from my house.
I'll be spending lots of time in here, cosy by the radiator!

Last Christmas I had such a wonderful chilled Advent period that I wanted to make sure I copied it again for this year. Thus my November has been a time of getting ahead with my blogging commitments, adjusting my pace to slow down and saying no to most of the opportunities that have appeared in my in-box.

I had lots of comments last year about how calm and organised I was and I wanted to share the ways I achieved this. There isn't any secret formula and I can't promise what works for me will work for you but if you fancy a chilled Advent and a better chance of focusing on the real meaning of Christmas then organisation and planning are your friend.

Each year I plan to have most of the commercial Christmassy things done by the end of November and then Advent is all mine to do the activities that I enjoy and to dedicate my time to The Lord.

Here is what I did and will be doing again this year -

Take time for myself each day - For me this is about time with the Lord in prayer and walking, enjoying His amazing creation. or some days it might be lying on the floor doing what us Christians call soaking, which is basically listening to music and enjoying the presence of our Lord. For you this could be a sneaky lie on the bed, a walk in the woods or cherishing a cup of tea. Even 15 minutes is enough, it is all about claiming the time as your own that makes a difference.

I buy a new study aid each year - last year it was Making time for Advent by Liz Babbs in the Cover to Cover series and this year it is Hosea by David Gibb. These are never massive big intense reads, just something that gets me thinking, immersed in the bible and exploring my faith more. I've also just run out of journal pages so was excited to treat myself to a lovely new journal to write and doodle in each day.

Start buying presents early - I keep my eyes open all year for good (bargain priced) presents but I started to actively buy for Christmas in September and it is so much more pleasant doing this as I can't think of anything worse than shopping in December when the whole world goes a little crazy and spends, spends, spends! I am now pretty much finished buying the presents and I also have a couple of generic gifts in the house as there is always someone I think of last minute that it would be good to bless with a gift.

Wrap early - buy your wrap, tags, Sellotape etc early and then last year I wrapped as I bought. This year I haven't done this as I actually don't mind wrapping, so I'll take a couple of afternoons whilst the kids are at school and put on a Christmassy movie and wrap as I watch. I use a different wrap for each child (both stocking and main presents) and that way I don't have to label the kids presents and it also means if they start to look for them, they can't see what they have. The girls love to join in with wrapping the relatives presents, which we then put under the tree and they look good and are ready to go.

Write your cards early - personally I only send cards to relatives and friends who live far away and don't use social media. I prefer to give money to charity than spend it on loads of cardboard and postage. Of course some people really enjoy snail mail (particularly older people I find) and I'll happily send them a card and family newsletter (yes I am one of those women) if it makes a difference for them. Otherwise I do a Facebook/ email greeting for everyone else.

Get the kids involved in giving - during October/November we make up shoe box gifts for Operation Christmas Child and then during advent we make up shoeboxes for local children, which will be given through Surviving Christmas. I tend to get the kids to do a box each for a child their age and sex and they enjoy shopping and imagining what that child might enjoy. I also create a hamper to give to someone through CAP (Christian against poverty) and get the kids involved into choosing which goodies we should select.

Cut back on social media/blogging in December - Last year I just cut back but this year my aim is not to blog at all (there might be the odd scheduled post) and to limit social media to a maximum of one hour a day. I find it extremely freeing to allow myself to stay off my computer. 

Say no - I started to say no to all blogging reviews and events in November as I wanted to ensure I had no reason to feel bogged down. I've also said no to lots of invitations from family and friends so we only have one event/trip out a day to plan and enjoy. Busyness is the killer of joy I find.

Say yes - to my children. When they want to play connect 4 or a game of cards, it will be a yes. When they want to bake gingerbread men, that is a yes too. A walk in the park?  Come on, lets grab our coats. This is the time to be together and really enjoy it, despite the cold. We can always snuggle on the sofa later with a film and a hot chocolate.

Dump the pressure - I rarely do things because I feel I ought to, nor because 'everyone else' (who are these people?) is. Last year I baked a Christmas cake as it was fun and a first for me, this year I won't as it is expensive and we don't really eat it. Basically my message is to do what suits you and your family. Don't be pressured by yourself, your best friend or Pinterest to create a gingerbread house from scratch or have a perfectly co-ordinated Christmas tree. If what you do makes you happy and you feel balanced and in control then go for it, if not ditch it!

The lastly I've found a couple of new initiatives that I've signed up with for this year, first there is the Stewardship Advent Wonder email series. These are the people who run 40acts at Easter and I just know their emails will inspire me to slow down and relish in the time I have.

Then second there is the Bible Society Advent Challenge and I have no idea what challenges they may set me but it is all about spreading a little kindness and doing things to make someone else smile, so I am all up for this.

I hope it has helped to share what I do to have a chilled Advent, do let me know if you have any tips to add,

Be blessed, Mich x
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