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Surviving or Celebrating?

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By Tammy M. Cardwell

By November 1st we are already deep into plans for Christmas. In fact, with our churchís choir beginning rehearsals by early September at the latest, we have already been thinking about Christmas for quite some time. Considering November and Decemberís schedules, it would be all too easy for me to fall into the category of those who merely survive the season instead of celebrating it. That I do not is a combination of the grace of God and a handful of hard-learned organizational skills.

Keeping God involved is of paramount importance. I continually remind myself to spend time with Him and I actively seek His guidance in all matters of life. And yes, I mean all matters from determining which commitments to make and which to avoid to what to purchase for that one last person on my gift list. Too many times, in years past, I have been so busy during the holiday season that I forgot to celebrate the One for whom the season was set apart. In those years, I always seemed to reach the first of January feeling empty, as if I had missed something vital along the way. Now I know I had, and I work to avoid making the same mistake again.

Prioritizing is the next most important step and, again, I go to God when setting priorities. In my case, because our family sees the annual Christmas production as the ideal opportunity to reach out to the lost world around us, the production becomes one of the highest priorities on the list. Knowing this, I look at the commitment it will require and adjust most of my other priorities accordingly. Practically speaking, this means I make NO other commitments during the holiday season. We attend family gatherings, obviously, but anything else, be it a trip to the theater or a friendís Christmas party, is weighed against my three highest prioritiesómy relationship with God, my relationship with my family, and my production commitments. If the event conflicts with any of the three, the answer is no.

Planning Ahead is obviously one of the tools in my box, too. If I am to be free to celebrate the season rather than merely survive it, certain things must be taken care of early. The Christmas decorations, for instance, must be up by Thanksgiving or theyíll get tossed up willy nilly in some spare moment of time if they get put up at all. Formal homeschooling also stops in early November while we spend our time learning and polishing music, memorizing lines, working on stage sets, designing posters...whatever is needed at the time.

And...you knew I had to Ďgo thereí. I do everything in my power to have all of my gifts purchased, wrapped and mailed absolutely no later than November 30th. I donít always accomplish this, and I pay for it when I donít. There was a time when I would have considered such a suggestion almost sacrilegious. Christmas shopping was, in my mind, part of what made Christmas Christmas. I finally admitted, however, that typical, last-minute Christmas shopping was also one of the things that made Christmas so stressful. It only took a couple of years of early shopping to make me realize the value of the difference. There is great freedom in knowing I donít HAVE to find a particular last-minute gift, even though I do still have the option of buying something special if I see it. I was also quick to realize the financial freedom such early shopping provides. We stopped using credit cards years ago, so you wonít find us charging our Christmas gifts anyway, but you also find us less likely to be flat broke. With gift expenses out of the way, Decemberís expensesófast food meals, special clothing and other production related expenses arenít nearly as likely to put a cramp in the family pocketbook.

Finally, to ensure my freedom to truly celebrate the season, I take care of my body. I make myself get sufficient rest. I also, because of the amount of time I spend singing, drink gallons of water and go through bottles of vitamin C. Considering all of the fast food we eat during the six weeks preceding the production, a good multivitamin is essential as well.

I realize not everyone has the type of holiday schedule I have, but most of us, if weíre honest, will confess to being too darned busy during November and December, so I thought sharing from my own experiences might help. This being the November/December issue, you donít have the option of beginning your shopping in June like I did, but still... Hereís hoping you, too, are able to celebrate the season this year. Just remember....

Keep God first...Prioritize...Plan Ahead...and Take CARE of Yourself.

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