At any given time when our children were growing up, we had a menagerie of pets at our house. Throughout the years we had a dog, cat, guinea pig, hamster, goldfish and bird. The only one that we actually purchased was our dearly beloved Golden Retriever, Daisy.  Our children learned about caring for pets – feeding/watering and cleaning cages; I learned a thing or two as well!  You cover the bird cage at night with a light-weight blanket or sheet. At least our Avery (named after Steve Avery) required that.

I remember watching the hamster running inside his little wheel going nowhere fast! As I think back to that time, I find that I am like that hamster: working feverishly, trying to meet demands of others or demands that I place upon myself. In doing this I am a lot like the hamster; trying to be in control, to accomplish, to check all the boxes. Rather than stepping off the wheel and acknowledging that God is in control of every situation and every need, and He is my sustainer and provider, I look like the hamster. The hamster doesn’t know any better.  I do.

I find there are times when we are tempted to run on the hamster wheel a little faster than at other times, and the holidays are one of those times. Have you begun your Christmas checklist yet? Do you get a little pit in your stomach just thinking about it? Well, let’s step off the wheel together. Let’s acknowledge the Lord’s ability to take care of our needs and our everyday activities, and our to-do lists. God knows our needs before we even do, and He knows our hearts desires. (Ps.37:4).

I love 1 Peter 5:7 which says, “Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” Just as you want your little ones to come to you with their fears and worries so you can ease their little hearts and minds; likewise, our heavenly Father wants us to do the same. The word “casting” is related to the Greek verb used in Luke 19:35, referring to Palm Sunday when the people of Jerusalem threw their garments onto a colt for Jesus to ride. It describes the same motion: a deliberate action of setting something down and leaving it there. And here’s the key: don’t pick it back up!

Let’s give our cares and pre-Christmas “to-do lists” to Jesus and leave them with Him, trusting Him to show us how to prioritize. Let’s go to Jesus and ask Him to show us what to cross off the list; to show us how to spend our time and money, and to show us how to keep Immanuel (God with us) in the center of our days leading up to Christmas. Set aside time with your children to make little homemade presents and homemade cookies with sprinkles (and yes, the mess is so worth it!). Bless your neighbors with Christmas carols and cookies! Sing off key – who cares?! These meaningful memories will linger long after the presents have lost their luster, have been discarded or broken.

Institute certain Christmas traditions in your family; be intentional about what matters to you.  I know one family who reads a Christmas picture book every night during December. Another decorates a miniature tree with “Adore”naments (the 12 names for Jesus which are represented by tiny wooden ornaments). Do you trim the tree together and drink hot chocolate and eat some favorite snack food? Do you do an outreach project as a family? No matter what your traditions are, keep them front and center and schedule them on the calendar today! Then, when something tempts you to displace family time, you can respond with a gracious “No,” which is a big “Yes” to your family!  The best gift you can give your family during the Christmas season is a serene home, your time, and your focused presence!

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