As we flip our calendar from October to November we enter… (cue ominous music – dun, dun, DUN!) The Holiday Zone! The two months that lie ahead of us are not only the most wonderful time of the year, they are also the two craziest months of the year. November and December remind me of the opening lines of Dicken’s, A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

Over the years, Christmas has morphed into an over committed, over stressed season filled with unrealistic expectations from others and ourselves. It begins as early as July when craft stores offer Christmas in July so that you can begin your Pinterest worthy decorations early.

Thanksgiving and Christmas should be delightful holidays that bring us joy, family fellowship and spiritual awareness, yet there are those of us that look upon the coming season with dread. We face the coming season as a looming war and we are not ready for battle.

“The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable.” Sun Tzu

It is time to create a Holiday Battleplan. The reality is that the number of days ahead of us are not enough to hold the events and activities we desire to accomplish. Creating a plan will help alleviate falling victim to the enemy—the overcommitted calendar.

“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” Alan Lakein

I greatly desire a peaceful, Hallmark card Christmas. I long for uninterrupted hours sitting by the fire with my family while gazing at the Christmas tree. I yearn for tasks to take a back seat to quality time with those I love. I ache for the traditional attitudes of peace and joy, and simplicity to be present in my life.

How about you? Have the holidays become a looming battle in your life? Do you desire to have such a peaceful presence in your life that you easily recognize the simple pleasure opportunities that surround you?

If so, begin with a plan.

  1. Start with listing what you want your holidays to look like. List feelings you desire to have during the holidays. This list is your holiday goals. Once you complete this list you may observe that it does not look so much as a to-do list as it does feelings you desire to have.


  1. Next write your holiday list. This is not what you want from Santa, this is a list of everything that you can think of related to the holidays. EXAMPLES: Christmas programs and practice dates, presents you need to purchase, time for wrapping presents, parties you would like to throw and those you need to attend. You will find a sample list at the end of this blog.


  1. Now go through the list and highlight each item. Divide the items into those items that you MUST do and items you WANT to do. Use a different color highlighter for each category.


  1. Transfer all of the items on the “MUST do” list to its own list.


  1. Now look at this list and decide if there is anything that you can eliminate. If you find items on this list that you don’t want to do but feel obligated to do, write WHY you feel obligated. Ask yourself, do you actually have to do this or do others expect you to do it. You also need to ask yourself if others expect you to do this item or is it you. Is there guilt or self-expectations that you need to overcome and then remove the item from the list?


“Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me.” Carol Burnett


  1. We often participate in activities each holiday season just because we have done it in the past. Don’t get caught in the trap of obligation due to repetition. Decide if any of these items are meaningless traditions that can be eliminated. Sometimes it is easier to look at our lives when they are listed in black and white before us. Reduce the items on this to-do list and create time for the items on the next list—your WANT list.


  1. Just like a child sitting with the Sears and Roebuck catalogue spread upon your lap circling every possible dream item, create your WANT list. This is what you truly want for Christmas. Examples: I want weekends free, I want time to play board games with my family, I want time to bake or I want time to just sit. It’s your dream list. What do you really want?


  1. Now it is time to put the absolutely necessary “to-do” items on the calendar, but be sure they are ABSOLUTELY necessary. Not every holiday bazar is necessary. Not every holiday play, concert or church program is necessary. (Oh dear, did she just suggest we don’t have to participate in the church program?) When we participate in any activity we must consider the cost, the cost in time, the cost to our family time and the cost to our peaceful Christmas goals.


  1. Just as important and maybe even more so are the WANT items. Schedule these in also. If you want time to sit with nothing to do, SCHEDULE IT! If you want time to construct a gingerbread house with your kids, write it in. Our lives are too busy to believe that these moments will magically appear. We need to schedule time for these events to happen. If you choose to not make a gingerbread house, you just found some free time to just sit.


I truly hope that as you look at your newly made holiday calendar that you see plenty of blank spaces. Every space does not need to be filled in. We must leave time for life. It is essential that we have time to just “be.”

For the next two months leading up to Christmas, I’m excited to share some holiday simple pleasures with you. Simple pleasures are the events that happen in the moments when we’re not paying attention. They are the little treasures hiding in the midst of our busyness. They are the unassuming moments that often hold more joy than grand events.

If we have a plan for the holidays we might just have more time for simple pleasures.

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” Sun Tzu


Autumn is still in full swing. Don’t rush through this glorious season in your attempt to overcome the holidays. Get my 75Seasonal Pleasures – Autumn, and enjoy every moment of this golden season.             


This is an example of the “brainstorming” list that you make to get started.


Go to a production of “A Christmas Carol”

Go to a church Christmas program

Put Christmas lights on the outside of the house

Cutdown a Christmas tree

Send out Christmas cars

Go Christmas present shopping

Grocery shopping

Have a Christmas party

Decorate the house

Teach your kids about the Pilgrims

Read Christmas stories aloud to your family

Make gift baskets for friends and neighbors

Fill “Operation Blessing” shoebox

Watch our favorite Christmas movies

Wrap presents

Make Christmas gifts

Go Christmas caroling



All photos by: Anna Spence




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