Mercy House founder and Texan mother of three children Kristen Welch also maintains a blog entitled We are THAT Family. In a recent entry, she shared the following 10 tips for getting through the holiday season in a less stressful, more God-centered manner. These common sense approaches are geared toward parents modeling a focus on a love for the season of Christ's birth.
"We are just a simple family who said yes when God asked," Welch states about the nonprofit Mercy House she founded in 2010, after visiting Kenya, Africa, with Compassion International, one of the world's largest child sponsorship program, and seeing what was occurring to children and women in Nairobi slums. Her nonprofit work with engaging, empowering and disciplining women around the globe in Jesus' name helps Welch keep rooted in the reason for this season.
1. A Free Pass. It's OK to expect kids to contribute to preparations for Christmas: to help cook and clean, bake and wrap and to work extra jobs around the house or the neighborhood to help buy gifts for family members and friends. If they aren't old enough to rake leaves or babysit, create a job jar with suggested ideas. They will feel good about what "presents" they give if they don't get a free pass.
2. An Elaborate Advent. It's often overwhelming getting a meal on the table, much less planning 24 kid-friendly moments that are worthy of preparing little hearts for the coming of Jesus. Talk about pressure. My Advent Rule: Try something. Anything. Read one Scripture. Light one candle. Pray one prayer. Direct one heart to Him.
3. A Pin-worthy Holiday Season. She suggests not even looking at Pinterest this time of year, so that "all the perfection doesn't make you feel pathetic." Kids don't need perfect cookies; they just need loving adults to bake with them, she said. "They don't need us to make their holidays look like someone else's; they just need us."
4. Everything They Ask For. A couple of years ago, Welch said a friend told her she just didn't know how she was going to get everything on her child's Christmas wish list. "When I said, 'You don't have to,' she looked shocked and little relieved." Kids usually will take everything we give them, but that doesn't mean we should give them everything they want, Welch maintains.
5. Guilt. There's a lot of guilt and depression this time of year. Welch said kids have been fed the lie they can have and deserve everything they ask for, and when adults can't or won't give it, adults might feel guilty. "There's no room for guilt this time of year. Giving your best and doing your best has very little to do with stuff," she said.
6. Stuff They Don't Need. Fun stocking stuffers never hurt anyone; she said, but filling homes with the latest fads and trends only sets a precedence for more fads and trends. "Years ago, we missed the beauty of Christmas Eve trying to hunt down that hard-to-find toy that ended up going unappreciated. It only ends when we let it," said Welch.
7. Stuff Adults Can't Afford. One in three people will go into debt this Christmas. "Paying off presents that have been long discarded months after the holidays isn't fun for anyone. Let's give our kids more than this," she recommends.
8. For Christmas to Be All About Them. There's nothing like the wonder and joy of kids at Christmas, but it shouldn't be made to be all about them. "Some of our favorite memories involve giving Christmas away, sneaking gifts on a single mom's porch, shopping for children who won't have much, giving gifts that cost us something...these are the best moments," she said.
9. A Glossed-Over Christmas Story. The frenzy of December, with the tree and lights and gifts, the parties and food and celebration overshadow the true Christmas story - the one that started in a smelly stable, with an exhausted girl and a dirty birth. One that would change the world and our lives. "This humble, imperfect place is the heart of Christmas, and it's a story our kids need to hear," reminds Welch.
10. Christmas Wrapped Up in a Tidy Bow. Welch suggests embracing the imperfections of the season this year, including unfulfilled wish lists, unwanted gifts, the unhappy moments. "These are the opportunities to point our kids to the truth of the season and to the One who will make all things perfect," she said.