We had an interesting year.

About this time in 2009, Robert and I were still reeling from the realization that we had indeed managed to add another kid to our little family, so we knew at the time, that event alone would make it a big year. What we did not know was that we would  be permanently moving our family back to Alabama too.

So here we are just a few days away from another new year. With the promise of a new family chiropractic practice around the corner for Robert, and Ruthie starting public school after a year and a half of home school, it looks to be another interesting year.

With all this craziness going on, one of the themes that has been pressed upon my conscience this year has been simplification, and understanding that I have enough. In some ways, moving right before Christmas made this easy to do. We had fewer “obligations” and “commitments” here than we would have tangled ourselves into there.  It is so easy to get caught up in stuff and in schedules. Especially for someone like me, I often get caught up in the excitement of change, but I also get worn out and exhausted, and short tempered too.

When we first moved here, we had a huge yard sale so we could unload some of the “stuff” weighing us down.  (turns out I may need to weed through the stuff again and get rid of even more!) Robert’s mom and brother’s families joined us in the venture and it was a big success. Betty (from here on out to be referred to as “mom” not to be confused with “mama” who is my mother)  has been going through a phase of change herself lately. She has been updating her house and decided to sell her Christmas decorations in the yard sale. She figured she would take her time and find a “new look” to go with her new decor in the house.

We. sold. them. all.

Even the tree.

The next day her sister called and asked if she would host the family Christmas party three weeks later.

Oh, the irony.

At first, we felt a little panicked, but my husband stepped in and suggested an alternative idea to running out and buying a whole bunch of replacement stuff on short notice. We decided that for this year, since the kids and I were staying at home more and had some time, that we would make our own decorations. We would go for a more “homespun” look.

Now, I know what you are thinking. “That doesn’t sound simple! That sounds like MORE pressure!”  I assure you it was not. Ruthie and I did most of the projects and it truly gave us some fun times together. We paced ourselves doing a little at a time, and Ruthie got to have a lot more “art time” with her home school lessons, something I often fail to set time aside for.  Because of this idea, our Christmas decor slowly evolved and changed as the season of Advent progressed.

I thought I would share some of our festive creations.

First of all, make note that we have a toddler, and he has toddler cousins that often join us. This results in a very distinct tree decorating style.

We refer to it as the “toddler tree top” style of decorating. I am not certain if we chose this style, or if this style chose us. You see, because of the toddlers, anything “fragile” only hung on the top half portion of the tree.

But then…there is also this…

Poor, poor, little half eaten gingerbread man. He ran as fat as he could.

These are my nieces. Notice how the younger one watches the older one. This is how they learn. This is how gingerbread men get maimed.

She is very satisfied with the part she played in the creation of “toddler tree top style”.

I think that was half the fun of letting go of the “perfect tree”. Happy faces.

I must admit. I too aided in the consumption of gingerbread men. (I felt the tree needed balance. Truly, it was for the sake of symmetry.)

“Mom, seriously. Quit decapitating the gingerbread men!”

But there were other great ornamentations as well.

The paper chain that Ruthie decorated and assembled herself.

These paper ornaments to which you can find the instructions for here.

And our favorite, finger nail polish filled, glass balls.

We started a string of popcorn. It sounded very “Little House on the Prarie”.

Stringing popcorn is hard. We abandoned the effort after spending an hour trying to get the needle and thread through the popcorn and only having a foot of decoration. It was not simple enough.

And that was kind of the cool thing about it. No stress. If it didn’t work, we didn’t do it.

We simplified in other areas too.  There were fewer gifts. For the last 3 years, the kids have only gotten three gifts under the tree from Santa, and one from mom and dad, along with a stocking with a few small things like underwear, Martinelli apple juices, and gloves. We talked with other factions of the family and jointly agreed that we would not trade gifts among ourselves either.  We all agreed that we all had plenty of what we needed. (We did join in one family gift swap earlier in the month, but that was it. ) The  time we spent with Robert’s brothers and their wives was one of the most fun, low pressure Christmases I have had in a LONG time.

These smiling faces were so much more in focus for me this year. We spent more time talking about what Christmas was about, and who we could help, and how God became a little baby, and why that was important. Things I want them to think about all year, and not JUST in the month of December.

Christmas itself is a simple concept. I heard a preacher last year point out that  Jesus made US the reason for the season. He didn’t come just because He could. He came because we needed Him to come (whether we acknowledge that or not).  If He didn’t, there would be no point. You see, we are the ones that make simple complicated.

This year, not just at Christmas, I challenge you to see where you can simplify. How can you shift your focus to the things and people that really matter? Where can you show love that you haven’t or have held back before? What can you let go of and in turn gain so much more peace by doing so?