As a Life Coach, one of the most important things I’ve learned is to take a pause halfway through each session. My client and I spend a minute or two at the start of the session saying hello, discussing an obstacle and celebrating a win. Then we quickly discuss what a successful session will look like. Once that’s established, we begin the session in earnest. I ask thought provoking questions and listen for nuances in the client’s voice. I notice shifts in her position. I watch the way she holds her body. I study changes in her facial expressions. Each gives clues about how the session is going. I can assess impact of the questions, but I cannot see and know all. Underlying factors sometimes arise and the client realizes this is the root of what she wants to discuss. This new topic becomes more important than the original we agreed upon. As an experienced coach, I can guess at how to continue, but it is more powerful to give that power to my client. Midway through our session, I stop and ask her how she would like to proceed. That momentary pause is vital in successful coaching relationships. It allows us to get back on track if we had a side discussion. It allows us to take a new track if that’s the new plan. It allows us to confidently continue if all is going well. Advent and knowing how to prepare for Christmas should be approached the same way.
You may not have considered holding an Advent-Christmas preparation check in, but it is important to do so. You are halfway through Advent. It is a good time to pause and assess how you are fulfilling your Advent commitments. There are many ways this assessment can go. If you had big plans and now realize you are not able to carry them out, you may feel like a failure and be ready to give up. On the other hand, you may be you’re doing great in your Christmas preparation! You may be flying through Advent and meeting your physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual goals. No matter whether you are struggling to prepare for Christmas, feel everything is going okay but want a change in direction, or know everything is on track, the midway point is a good time to stop and ask yourself if this is how to prepare for Christmas according to God’s unique, beloved plan for you.
If You Struggle to Prepare for Christmas
First, let me assure you you are not alone! I can’t tell you how many times I have been in your shoes! You have big plans and think you can get so much done. Then life happens! Your kids need something. You have to work late. You forget an item at the store and have to go back. You fall in bed exhausted and forget the Saint Andrew’s prayer. The Christmas cards you bought years ago still sit in their box waiting to be addressed. The Christmas photo you so carefully planned never got sent to the printer.
So many things interfere with our Christmas preparations. This is especially true for single moms. There is a mental and emotional toll that comes with being a single parent and trying to create the “magic” of Christmas so let me dispel a few Advent myths for you.
It is easy to get swept up in the way Advent is “supposed” to be. Social media makes it seem like everyone else is having the picture perfect holiday. The most beautiful family portraits are shared. The photos of homes adorned with twinkling holiday lights are oohed and ahhhed over. There are congratulatory posts of those “caught” under the mistletoe and of the newly engaged. Advertisements make it seem like you need to spend thousands and get your kids everything on their lists to give them a merry Christmas. Company parties, daycare provider gifts, and an extra ten pounds cause stress rivaled only by anticipation of Aunt Kate loudly and incessantly demanding to know the status of your love life over Christmas dinner.
This all plays havoc with your ability to think straight. Planning gets tossed by the wayside. Anxiety sets in. You bark out orders and reprimand kids more harshly than they deserve. You beat yourself up and promise to do better but instead want to hide away in your room and avoid the whole world.
The spiritual side of Christmas preparation can be even more difficult to meet. Cooking, cleaning, and gifting give immediate rewards. You see the effects of spending an hour cleaning the kitchen or baking cookies with your kids. You see the change in lighting as you put up the tree or spread red and green sparkly decorations through the house. You get an emotional life from seeing brightly covered packages placed under the tree or hidden under the bed.
But spiritual preparation seldom leaves a visible trail.
Spiritually preparing for Christmas is done in private or with your children. It is done in silence. It is done in stillness. It is done when there are dishes calling you and laundry piled underneath you. It is done when cards have not been written and when friends and family wait to hear from you. It is done when gifts wait to be wrapped and when there is no money to buy gifts. It is done, yet there is no visible reward to show you have accomplished something. This makes it easy to forget the most important and most necessary Christmas preparation, spiritual preparation.
Now is not the time to give up your Advent goals. Instead, it is the perfect time to examine what has held you back from meeting your Advent goals and begin again!
Start with considering what a “magical” Christmas looks like and where “magic” comes from. As Catholics we cannot be involved in magic. Our sparkle, which is what many mean when they talk of Christmas “magic” comes from Christ. As a mother knows, there is a unique sparkle that comes from welcoming in a newborn babe. Take time each day to focus on this being the “magic” of your Advent season and then continue.
Before jumping in with a new list of things to cross off in the remaining two weeks of Advent, make a list of things you would like to do before Christmas. Then cut that list in half! Be brutal if you must. With only two weeks to go, the sooner you humbly admit you cannot do everything the sooner you will find peace. This will help your family enjoy Christmas preparations with you more.
I once heard a priest’s advice on what must be done during Advent. He said there were just three things:
Phew! With all the things that “need” to be done during Advent, how many single moms would consider these vital? What importance do you place on these?
Imagine a season with no social media posts of cherubic kids, no boastful photos of perfectly decorated homes or scrumptious desserts, and no expensive gifts wrapped in shiny bows. Imagine a season with a peaceful, joyful mama and kids who are gifted with time and who know they are Loved. Imagine a family joyfully celebrating the magic of birth and holiness and eternal, powerful Love!
Taking time each day to rest, pray, and repent brings much more to your Christmas preparation than anything you can buy. Focusing on rest, prayer, and repentance for the remainder of your Advent reminds you and your children of the true meaning of Christmas. They help limit or even eliminate materialism the holy day has become infamous for. They offer value that cannot be found in an online store or a dying shopping mall.
To have a successful Advent, do what others forget to do in their running around: prepare your soul while there is time! The best gift you can give your children and family, is also the best gift you can give yourself and the tiny Baby born in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago. It is the gift of rest, prayer, and repentance. Forget the hustle and bustle. Focus on these three simple things the last two weeks of Advent and you will be more successful than the socialites who pretend to have it all.
If You Need to Change Direction to Prepare for Christmas
Maybe you’ve jumped into Advent preparations, but something isn’t quite right. You are two weeks into Advent and you realize you went a little crazy on Black Friday, you’ve gotten carried away with holiday baking and already feel the holiday brain fog that comes with over eating and lack of movement, or it’s possible to have gotten so caught up in spiritual preparation that you slacked on temporal duties of motherhood.
Whatever the case, you’re noticing it is time to make changes. That’s fabulous!
They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I believe the definition of stagnation is doing the same thing over and over and not looking to do anything differently.
Your challenge at this point is to assess what is working well and what is not. There may be temptation to not change anything or to change everything. Do neither. Do not stay comfortable by not changing. Do not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Tossing aside what works and starting all over again is not recommended. You’ve made it this far and have made obvious progress. Keep doing what you’re happy with. Visualize goals you want to achieve and the inner peace you and your children need. Detach from your expectations to discern how best to proceed. Combine visualized goals with your family’s need for peace to help you make decisions on how to proceed. You can always reassess again to be sure your Advent journey heads in the right direction.
One tool that may be helpful is the Advent wheel of life. The wheel of life is a tool I use in my life and financial coaching. I ask my clients questions to help us evaluate their level of happiness in different domains. Their answers are rated on a scale of one to five where one is completely unsatisfied and five is totally satisfied. Corresponding arcs are then colored in on the wheel of life. A person may have a five in parenting but only a three in social connections. This makes her overall life a bit of a bumpy ride. Consistent, smooth arks mean fast progress. Big discrepancies from one. area to the next mean life has lots of ups and downs. Ups and downs make holidays more stressful.
The Advent Wheel of Life gives you an excellent visualization of your strong and weak areas. Shading each arc helps you see what areas you need to work on and what areas bring you joy. Making changes in weak areas while maintaining strong areas, is key and doesn’t have to be a big production. Simply making small changes can help bring about a fulfilling Advent.
You can download the free Advent Wheel of Life here.
If You Are Rocking Your Christmas Preparation Goals this Advent
There are some fortunate souls who have it all together. Their social media post aren’t just pretending. Their lives are genuinely always glowing. If you are one of those women, please hold on and let me speak to speak to the rest of us first.
Never envy someone who has it all together. Never long for their lives. Never compare what you have or experience to what another has or experiences. That is not good for either of you. Comparison and jealousy limit what you believe God is capable of giving. Comparison measures what God has given to another against what He has given to you and finds one or both of you lacking. Jealousy seems to assume God has a finite amount of Blessing to give out. It seems to assume there is a limited amount of joy or goodness or love to go around. It seems to say if one person has these Blessings there may not be enough for you too.
Your God is not like that though! He is loving and generous and should be honored this way.
It is impossible to feel two emotions at the same time. If you want to have a fruitful Advent let Joy for another win your heart. It would be much better for you, your kids, and countless others if you were to feel joy for all rather than jealousy for any.
Now, for those of you truly living the dream, I am all joyful for you. For some reason, God has chosen to Bless you at this time. I beg of you to take no moment for granted. Enjoy and treasure every second. Be thankful and spread glad tidings of great and humble joy!
Contemplate the fact that blessings of material wealth, do not begin to compare with riches from Heaven! Wealth is nice for the lifestyle that accompanies it. Studies have also disproved the old adage that money doesn’t make you happier. It appears it does to some extent.
If God has chosen to Bless you with great wealth be happy, but if He has blessed you with inner peace, an untouchable joy, and knowledge of the Love He has for you, you possess a wealth that cannot be taken away or taxed. If you are capable of understanding the Almighty and ever living God’s desire to share eternity with you and the fact that He eagerly awaits your prayers, you have an unshakable steadiness that can bring serenity and welcome to those experiencing holiday strife.
It is not enough, however, to keep such goodness to yourself. God has chosen to nourish you and make you strong in this time of year when so many struggle. You were called to bring that peace, joy, and love to others. Live the Beatitudes and commit to doing corporal works at Mercy in the last two weeks. These could mean giving more of yourself within your own home or taking an intern under your wing at work. It could be bringing dinner to an elderly neighbor or to an amazing American veteran and listening to his stories. It could be donating to a domestic violence shelter or collecting goods for a crisis pregnancy center. It could mean praying for our religious brothers and sisters in Christ and for the lonely who have no one especially at this time of the year.
As wonderful as the blessings of Advent are for those who find peace within it, one of the best blessings is taking on the character of Christ and humbly serving those who cannot repay you.
From dance recitals to life coaching sessions to athletic events, taking a break midway through is an important aspect of success. It does not matter whether it is a youth program or a professional event. That halfway point and taking a break from the action to evaluate your approach is vital. Many comebacks have been staged at halftime and many teams have gone under at halftime too.
Now is not the time to give up or coast home. It’s simply time to reevaluate what you’re doing in order to advance in Love. Pause and take a breather. Remove emotion attached to what you’ve been doing and the expectations you have for your end game. Rationally assess what has gone well and what needs work. Redefine goalposts and assess where you are. Check milestones and consider those on your team. Ask if there needs you can help them with and if there are strengths you can utilize. Consider what you need personally need to make this advent all it can be.
Your Advent should not look like anyone else’s. Use the grace God uniquely gives you during the season to humbly and prayerfully do what is best for yourself and your family. If that means simply resting, praying and repenting, rejoice in that resting, praying and repenting. If that means making changes, gladly make changes. Be thankful the Holy Spirit is helping you see wisdom and insight. If you are truly blessed with material or spiritual wealth this season be sure to share it with others. With great blessing comes great responsibility. When you fulfill your responsibility, you will find abundant joy and love and that is the best outcome one can home for this Advent and year round!
It is never too late to start fresh, make changes for the better, or help another. Tomorrow is a new day!
God Bless this Advent…
If you want to share your story with me or if you would like coaching or have questions or topics you’d like me to write about, please reach out. I love hearing from my readers! Kerri