How to stress less this Christmas

Written by Tama Fortner
Published on December 07, 2021

I heard someone say once that as mamas, we are the keepers of all the things—especially all the appointments and schedules—from our kids, to our husbands, to the dog, and even occasionally ourselves. 

Carefully filed away somewhere in our minds are all those essential little details about favorite socks, hated and tolerated veggies, and that all-important, must-have-it-to-go-to-sleep lovey. 

We know who to call when this breaks and what to grab for this practice and that field trip. All the house stuff. All the kid stuff. All the time. So many details. 

And at Christmas, that just intensifies. Because we’re adding in holiday parties, shopping, baking, decorating, entertaining, and all the things

We want to simplify. We want to scale back. We want peace and calm and maybe even a nap. But where to start? How do we make that happen? 

Ponder your treasures

Let me offer this little bit of advice: take a few minutes—in the carpool line, while littles are napping, or hiding in the tub—and do some pondering. 

Pondering? Yes. It’s a word I’m borrowing from one of my favorite verses—Luke 2:19. It says, “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (NIV). 

It’s such a calm, peaceful image, isn’t it? Mary quietly pondering these treasures that have been gifted to her. 

And yet, do you remember when that moment happens? It’s right on the heels of a whole bunch of chaos. Just think about it. Mary has traveled to Bethlehem, given birth in a stable, and had a flock of shepherds burst into her barn. 

I’m guessing it’s not quite what she envisioned for her firstborn. But there she is, taking time to sort through and lift out the things that mattered most, the things she wanted to remember and treasure. 

So, as we’re poised to dive headlong into the chaos that so often characterizes the holidays, let’s do as Mary did and ponder for a bit. Let’s ask ourselves what treasures we want to be sure we’ve collected when this season screeches and tumbles to an end. What memories do we want to make and store up for ourselves and for those we love? 

3 questions to ask yourself

As you ponder, I invite you to ask yourself the three questions that I find myself asking these days: 

1. What makes me smile? 

Is it the baking, the decorating, the entertaining? Is it the quiet times gathered with family at home? Maybe it’s this gathering, that party, or a highly anticipated event. Perhaps it’s choosing just the right gift and topping it with the perfect bow. Maybe it’s serving here or lending a hand there. 

I’m learning that I need to carve out time for the things that bring my heart joy. I need to plan for them and write them on the calendar—or they don’t happen. And conversely, what are the things that just don’t bring joy? Can some be simplified or simply skipped—making room for more things that do make me smile? 

2. What makes my loved ones smile? 

Sure, it’s important to include some moments for myself, but it’s just as important to include the things that make my loved ones smile. Because, as a mama, one of my greatest joys is putting a smile on the faces of those I love the most. Yes, even when it means doing something I could easily—even happily—skip. 

Sometimes I know what those things are, but as kids grow and our family life changes, it’s good to have a conversation or two. So I find myself asking questions like, What do you remember most from Christmas last year? What are the things you love and want to be sure to do? Is there anything you’d rather skip this year? What is it that makes Christmas special for you? 

The answers are sometimes surprising—and prioritizing these treasured things have made our holiday celebrations so much easier. 

3. What makes God smile?

And isn’t this the most important question of all? Because while the world gets so caught up in all the trappings of the holidays—myself included sometimes—what I truly want is for me and mine to be so caught up in all those things Mary pondered. 

What can I do to show my littles, my bigs, and the world around us just how wonderful and amazing and marvelous our Jesus is? How can we as a family honor this God who loves us so much that he sent his own Son to save us? Who can I gift with the story of God’s greatest gift? 

As I ponder these questions, as I lift them and their answers up to God, he opens my eyes, my mind, and my heart to what really matters. Then my calendar, my to-do list, and even my busiest of busy days begin to reflect him and his ways. 

This year, how will you answer these three questions? What are the things you’ll ponder? And what treasures will you and your loved ones collect?

Consider a few extra resources:

5 things to do now for a less stressful (and more meaningful!) holiday season

Why our family celebrates Advent

Christmas joy

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Tama Fortner

Tama Fortner is an ECPA award-winning and bestselling writer with more than 40 titles to her credit, including Simply Christmas: A Busy Mom’s Guide to Reclaiming the Peace of the Holidays: A Devotional. As a ghostwriter, she has collaborated with some of the biggest names in Christian publishing to create inspirational books for children, teens, and adults. But her greatest accomplishments happen in a happy little home on the outskirts of Nashville, Tennessee, where she lives with her family and an incredibly lazy dog who doubles as a footwarmer. For more information, visit

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