This post is sponsored by FLYJOY, all opinions are my own.
Sometimes it takes a race to force you to slow down. Last year will always go down in the books as one of the more difficult years of my life, a year that I found myself frantically running here and there, trying to put out fires, keep other fires burning and generally survive from one trial to the next. But this year, the year of "faithful," I've finally learned how to slow down. Part of it is just having space, room to just "be," but part of it is finally understanding that the frantic life is the exhausting life. The crazy-busy and just simply, crazy.
I didn't grow up with many traditions, the only constant really being a tree at Christmas and my family gathered around it at some point in late December. So when I became a mom, I wanted to go all out with traditions, I wanted to knock my eight month old's Christmas outta the park. (Because you know, he'll definitely remember it.) So I hopped on Pinterest and saved every pin that looked applicable. I asked friend's what they were doing and took notes, I participated in a Jesse Tree exchange, I bought 50 feet of fresh garland and threw it on every surface in the house. I went in like a hurricane and when Christmas was done, I felt like I had been hit by one.
But thankfully, through the crazy of last year, I'm learning the beauty of slow traditions, of choosing one thing and doing it well. Of letting go of doing it all and making every! single! moment! special! but instead finding something that sounds both easy and meaningful (and it must be BOTH) and implementing one thing, one year at a time.
One tradition my husband and I have been doing long before we even had kids is Operation Christmas Child. A program of Samatarian's Purse, OCC provides Christmas gifts to children in need, many of them have never even received a gift before in their lives. While I felt like it was a "nice" thing to do pre-kids, these days, we've been able to turn it not only into a fun tradition for our children, but also into a valuable learning tool. Because by slowing down with traditions and focusing on only adding one each year and building our repertoire slowly over time, I actually have time to think through why we're doing what we're doing, and how to implement it for maximum impact.
For example with the boxes, we make a special trip to Target with dad (Dad NEVER comes to Target.) and the only thing we purchase that day is gifts for our shoeboxes. We talk about it on the car ride there, and through the complaints, whining, "why, why, whys," we have a perfect opportunity to talk about God's goodness and character traits of gratitude, kindness, selflessness, loving our neighbors – and how the world is so. much. bigger. than what we see around us.
We pray together over the boxes before we drop them off and watch where they go online through the tracking program, looking at a globe, watching videos and continuing to pray for the children who will receive the boxes periodically during bedtime prayers. It's funny, because it used to take my husband and I about a half hour do to the boxes when we were child-free, but now our family spends days putting the boxes together, talking about why we're doing them, and watching the boxes online until they reach their destination. It's really special, and exactly what a tradition should be. (And no, we didn't include the FLYJOY bars in the boxes, food isn't allowed. But they were the perfect healthy snack to tide us over while we did the final packing of the boxes, and we love that FLYJOY shares in a similar mission, donating 10 percent of their profits to HOPE International and supporting many poverty-stricken countries.)
Slow traditions have completely changed holidays for me. While we've been doing OCC like this for three years now, this year I finally had head space to implement a Thankful Tree, something I'd been wanting to do since I first became a mom, but only knew I could do well starting this year. Of course, I wanted to do a few other things to anticipate Thanksgiving, but instead, I did what I so rarely do: I practiced self-control and decided doing things slow and small, yet well, is enough.
If you want to participate in OCC, there's still time! They are collecting them through 11/21. Visit the website for instructions and drop-off locations.