About the Author

Renee Swope is a Word-lover, heart-encourager and grace-needer. She's also best-selling author of "A Confident Heart" and the familiar voice of a friend to women around the world as the former Proverbs 31 Ministries' radio co-host for ten years. Renee is a mom of three Joshua (25), Andrew (22) and...

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  1. I too was completely overwhelmed with the “tasks” of Christmas, will working full time and raising a busy family of 4 sons. That ended when I asked my family to respond to the following. It wouldn’t be Christmas without 1, 2, 3. What an eye opener! It wasn’t the perfectly wrapped gifts, the days of baking cookies and candies. No, it was spending time with family, church on Christmas Eve and a one special treat like Grandma Dot’s fudge. What I thought was important and necessary wasn’t important at all. This changed everything!

  2. Renee,
    Oh the dreaded eye twitch. It’s a tangible reminder that we are on stress overload – kind of like a warning light on your car’s dashboard. I’ve been adopting the “do less and experience more” approach for awhile now and I have to say that I am better able to enjoy the Christmas season. Granted my kids are grown and I don’t have the pressure of wrapping gifts from Santa in secret, in only “Santa paper”. I’ve traded in traditions. Now, instead of doing holiday baking (none of us really needs an overload of cookies), I now make it a priority to Ann Voskamp’s book, “The Greatest Gift” each advent season. My husband now joins me and each day we hang an ornament, together, on our Jesse tree. I find this prepares my heart and helps to keep it focused when the Christmas madness bangs on the door. I don’t decorate every inch of my house in Christmas, but have taken it from Christmas on steroids, to a gentle reminder of Christmas spirit. Jesus certainly didn’t say to do all this trimming, decorating, shopping, baking, for Him. He simply said to come and open our heart to receive Him. Doing less of what the world calls me to do and more of what Jesus calls me to has certainly reduced the eye twitching. Love the remembrance stories of your dad. Great call to encourage us to be fully present in the fewer things we do.
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

    • Love what you shared Bev, and I especially love the tradition you and your husband have of hanging an ornament together on your Jesse Tree each day! Amen to less stress, less stuff and no more eye twitches. 🙂

  3. Renee, Your post is a breath of grace to me and, I’m certain, to many others. Thank you for the reminder that doing less often allows us to experience more. I’m going to remember that as I move through November and December.

    • Oh Beth, I’m so glad it encouraged you. It was good for my heart, too, to reflect back on last year and remember all that God did, (again) to help me slow down and savor more of Him and all He had for me!! 🙂 Praying that same peace and enjoyment for you too this Christmas!

  4. Yesssssss! I have also been loosening the reigns on holiday “traditions”. Everything changes around us: family dynamics, time demands, resources and income etc etc, – so why NOT change some of the traditions, too?! Maybe it has something to do with getting older and getting wiser, and realizing that these things don’t matter as much to those were doing them for as they once did. Being together is the ultimate gift, even if it means rearranging the days (which we’ve done several times to accommodate jobs and traveling schedules). I’m also trying out the 4 gifts rule – something you want, something you need, something for fun and something to read (which I’ve changed to “eat” for the non-readers!). Some things I do just for me, and I’ll relax and enjoy them even more!!

    Great post!

    • I’ve never heard of the 4-gifts rule but that sounds like a great guide! Maybe I’ll try that this year 🙂 Thanks for your encouragement and reminders that seasons change and it makes sense that we do too.

  5. Yes! I’m a do-it-all girl too. My wake-up call came last November when I literally made three birthday cakes each for both my boys whose birthdays are 4 days apart (family party, school party and actual birthday party cakes). Totally insane! By the time it got to their birthdays neither of them even took a bite of their birthday cake. Not. One. Bite. They were over it!

    So in December I made up my mind I wouldn’t repeat the craziness at Christmas time. I asked each of them what was the most important, special tradition for them at the holidays. It was a real eye-opener. They didn’t choose what I expected them to. We made those special traditions happen (including the most special to me – easy to forget ourselves as moms!) and let the rest go unless we felt like doing it and had the time and energy. It was one of the most relaxing, prayerful holiday seasons I’ve had in a long time! Definitely worth trying if you are a do-it-all sisters like me! ; )

    • Jenni, I loved reading about your decision to not-do-it-all and how much more you enjoyed it!! It’s so easy to assume all the things we put so much effort into are what matter to our kids — but they prefer the simple, memory-making, being together most! I love that you had such a relaxing, prayerful holiday too!

  6. love your write up ! from a top perfectionist who does everything ! I realized years ago those that have to keep so busy literally have no time for real life..tea with a friend in need..etc.
    thank goodness for slowing down.

    • I agree!! Slowing down and doing less has been the best decision in my life – at the holidays and all the weeks in between. I’m done with letting hurry and perfectionism steal my joy. Here’s to the best Christmas ever!

  7. Christmas the real meaning can go out of it. I am the only saved along with my Husband. Some people don’t seem to think about Jesus. Why he come as baby born in a Manager. Who went on die on Calvary for us. Especially if not saved. People are more interested in buying gift for friends and family. Shops about making money. Partying drinking. Not the real meaning of Christmas what it all about. Some people go way to far. Get into money det over it. Stop think of why we have Christmas the real meaning. Why Jesus came as baby. Why God Choose him to be humbly born as baby in manger. If God want he could have had a fancier nicer place for Jesus to born. But he choose a stable with animals. To show us that Jesus is an ordinary but special baby like us he need no fancy place to be born. God didn’t choose a rich person or person with a big Castle to be his Mum. He choose Mary. Someone simple. So we do not need to go big over Christmas or get into money debt. We can do things simply be simply like Jesus was. Plus tell the story of the first Christmas. That is of Jesus Birth and before that of Mary being told she was to become the mother of Jesus. Then about Jesus then being born in that manger in a stable and coming the best present for us. We can tell that wonderful story. To people especially the unsaved if we get a chance and of how Jesus went then on to Calvary for us so we could when leave earth if saved could go Heaven to be with Him. As Jesus is the real reason for the season. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little

  8. Renee,

    I know everyone, especially parents, want to make the “perfect” Christmas for all. What we really do is rush around to events, church socials, buying gifts, etc & wearing ourselves out. I feel we as a society have forgotten the TRUE meaning of Christmas. Each of the wise men brought just 1 gift for Jesus. That’s all that is necessary. For my family we put up a “Charlie Brown” tree. Small, with some ornaments & lights. The first year of marriage we went all out buying gifts for each other. Now we may just get 1 simple item to say I love you. No outside decorations or lights. Only do a few things if time permits. My main focus is to be fully present with him enjoying a nice meal & some alone time. For me it is more about family, devotions & really knowing that it is Jesus Birthday. The Oak Ridge Boys have a song out “Happy Birthday Jesus.” It talks about the ‘Real” gift being Jesus Christ. Big Fish have a song out “It’s Called Christmas with a capital C.” It talks about what society calls this time of year. The point is that we need to say Merry Christmas & deal with it! My favorite thing to do is listen to Christmas music of all types. Get the real meaning into my heart!! It’s time to stop the insanity of rushing around & stop take a breath of grace & mercy. Remind ourselves of the true meaning of Christmas.

    Blessings 🙂

  9. As a child and on into young adulthood, Christmas always meant decorations and looking forward for family gatherings. When I started working as an RN, my holidays included working…and so every other year for nearly 30 years I worked Christmas or Christmas Eve. But in 1996, the holiday became associated with the day they told my dad he had cancer. Mom and I forever after struggled with Christmas. (As Daddy said, “that was a little hard to swallow with my pumpkin pie”. They literally came in with the news while he was eating his lunch in the hospital ON Christmas Day.) Had it not been for my two young daughters, I am not sure we would have continued even celebrating the holiday. Daddy made it a year, and we had a good last Christmas with him ; then he went to his heavenly home on New Year’s Eve morning.
    Last year my mother passed away in September before our oldest daughter got married December 30. And my daughter’s mother in law passed away the day before the wedding. (Yes I know this sounds like an overly dramatic novel. Welcome to my life.)
    All this to say that I refuse to stress over the holidays anymore. Most of the shopping is done online. Work is busy as usual because illness doesn’t care what the day is on the calendar. Through it all I keep praying that somehow the point of the holiday is not lost. Because when you are surrounded by mostly catastrophic events, it’s difficult to know what normal is “supposed” to be.
    Thank you for sharing. This has reminded me to be thankful for the memories and little moments when God is whispering “I love you.”

    • Sweet Shauna, that is A LOT!! Im so sorry you and your family have had to walk through so much loss – and around such special days like Christmas and your daughter’s wedding. Wow, I can’t imagine how hard all that has been – in the midst of life that doesn’t slow down for tragedy. Im praying for you right now, for layers of healing, permission to grieve still, and unexpected gifts of joy and memories of the past to fill in those gaps that ache with love and longing for your parents. I pray this Christmas will be filled with new beauty and hope along with good news and fun times together with your family!!