Today I have a little treat for you! The lovely Mary Beth is popping in to answer some questions on how she keeps the focus on the things that matter most during this holiday season. Mary Beth blogs at Annapolis & Co., where she gives glimpses into her life with three littles and inspires readers to find creativity in the everyday. I can’t remember how I first discovered her charming blog, but it’s one of my daily reads. She has a special knack for elevating the common into something of beauty! Take a moment to hop over to her site; you’ll be delighted with her little space. She also has a lovely Instagram feed where she also hosts the ongoing Everyday Project, which I adore! So now, without further adieu, welcome Mary Beth! And thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to share some thoughts with us!
Q: Christmas means many things to different people. There are different emotional attachments, varied memories. What does Christmas mean to you?
A: Christmas means quiet and still. Birth and death. Redemption and mercy. Twinkling lights and popcorn bowls. Movies and play. Cinnamon rolls and cranberry bread. Giving and receiving.
Q: You come from a large family (one of 14, right?). How did your family celebrate the holidays with that many children, and how did they manage to keep the focus on Christ?
A: Yes! I’m the second oldest of fourteen children and our Christmases were very simple. When I was really young and times were hard, I remember getting those dollar store puzzles and play dough on Christmas morning and that was pretty much it. As the years went on, we would get a few nicer things, but it was still never extravagant, even though we had the money. Looking back at photos, you would see the biggest grins and faces full of joy as we held our little gifts. I really don’t think it takes much to please children.
My parents never, ever put the focus on things at Christmas. Or Santa. Or the elf on the shelf. (I don’t think he was around then!) We never did elaborate Advent calendars or even read the Christmas story faithfully every year, the focus was more in our daily conversations. My mom would weave in the birth and death of Jesus in our everyday and I grew up knowing that we were celebrating Jesus, not presents.
I’m really, really grateful for that.
Q: How has your upbringing influenced the way you celebrate Christmas with your family?
A: A lot! Our first Christmas together as new parents, Steven and I decided that we wanted to start out simple. We bought a few little things and spent maybe $75 total on gifts that year. When the season was all over, we looked back and really felt grateful that we hadn’t gotten caught up in a whirlwind of shopping or “keeping up”. We weren’t broke and our families and friends felt liberated.
Q: I’m trying to be more intentional about slowing down during this holiday season; taking time to savor the things that matter most. You are a champion of that lifestyle on Annapolis & Co. In what ways are you intentional about slowing down and not letting the holiday rush overtake you and your family?
A: I wish I had that figured out! Every single day is a work in progress. The biggest thing I’ve learned in the last few years is to not say “yes” right away to anything. I gradually began weeding out commitments the more kids I had, simply because I saw that it was wearing me down, not filling me up. I don’t go to every thing I’m invited to, or sign the kids up for every holiday event. We stay home a lot and keep ourselves busy with projects, cooking, reading, and playing. The pace is much more controllable when you are at home, versus out in public at the mercy of other people’s timetables. As the kids grow older, I’m sure this will change some, but I would like to keep our activities centered around the home as long as I can.
Q: It’s easy to get caught-up in the non-essentials during this time … the perfectly appointed mantle, the Pinterest-worthy Christmas cookies, the impeccable gift presentation, the play-list, the tree, the parties. How do strike a balance? And how do you resist the pressure to create a “perfect” holiday?
A: I realized that my impeccable tree was never going to happen with three little kiddos, and I gave up pretty easily after that. My schooners love to “dress” up our tree with their scarves and their paper creations, and I would rather my tree look like that than a spread in a Real Simple magazine any day of the week. If you allow yourself to see the bigger picture, you begin to realize that all the pomp and circumstance is overrated.
Q: In my previous post, I wrote that “the older I get, the more my heart is burdened by the over-commercialization of the holiday.” How are you teaching your littles that Christmas isn’t about material gifts, but about the incredible love story of God sending His son to be born in a manger so that He might be grace and redemption for us all?
A: We keep it all about Jesus’ birthday. And that’s what we hype up…not presents. We plan a cake every year for baby Jesus and read passages from our Jesus Storybook Bible. We rarely ever talk about presents.
Q: What tangible things or activities have you implemented into your holiday celebrations that return the focus to Christ?
A: We hang an advent calendar and the girls get so excited about the countdown and the little crafts we do along with it. I downloaded this ebook and while we aren’t super faithful about doing it every day, it has really helped in training them and preparing them for Christmas day.
Q: When your children are grown, what do you want them to recall when they reflect upon their childhood Christmases?
A: I hope they remember simple love. It’s so easy to get caught up in traditions, acts of service, shopping and baking, that we so often forget to sit and savor the ultimate Love that was manifested at Christmas. There’s a verse I find myself coming back to time, and time again….
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.”
I hope my kids feel love in our home…not just at Christmastime, but all year long.
Thank you so much for having me! I feel so honored to share bits and pieces of my heart with you and your readers. Merry Christmas to you all!!!!