As Dana and I were growing our family, we found that season to season, life-stage to life-stage, the new challenges were dynamic and often caught us by surprise. In our young family life, holiday seasons especially stretched us with busyness and activity—so much so that, by the end of December, we were drained and felt that we had missed something critical.
One year we began a practice that changed everything! This little hack transformed our experience of late November and December for every future year.
Sometime in early November we scheduled a date—just the two of us. On this date we brought our calendar. Over dinner, or sitting in a coffee shop with focused hearts, we began to brainstorm about what we wanted the Thanksgiving and Christmas season to be for our family and marriage and ministry. We made a list.
Some of the things on our list were ministry related—like the Christmas concert, age-based celebrations, opportunities to serve and bless, etc. Some things were family related—like ice skating, a day trip, a special night out to look at lights, a trip to the city, visiting family, making Christmas cookies (still my favorite), watching our favorite Christmas movies, game nights, etc.
Some of the things on our list were marriage related—shopping together, date nights, celebrating our December anniversary, or just being sure there was scheduled time for just the two of us.
We didn’t just list these things—we chose dates and times on the calendar, careful not to spread ourselves too thin. By the time our date night was done, we had a balanced, well-thought plan for the season. That plan put Jesus first and included all the things we hoped to do with family and friends.
As November and December came and went over the years, this practice spared us from many conflicts, many regrets, much exhaustion, and provided for many memorable seasons. This practice made us deliberate about these precious but fleeting times.
So, that’s my challenge—make a plan with those you love, approach it with an “if the Lord will” attitude, and seek to follow Jesus into a restful, restorative, worshipful, thankful, expressive, and memorable couple of months with your family and friends.
Decide that you won’t “crash” into January 1st. Strategically move toward it, savoring the season and restfully resetting for another new year.
These next two months, be sure to make quiet time to thank the Lord for the many ways He has walked with you, sustained you, and blessed you through yet another year. Finish out 2023 looking up, reaching out, and resting in Jesus.
By Cary Schmidt, Author of Stop Trying: How to Receive—Not Achieve—Your Real Identity and Steady Strength—Reversing Ministry’s Dangerous Drift Toward Depletion