Sane for the Holidays: Just Say No

I found Jen on Twitter and I find her voice to e consistent and solid. I am sure that if I do actually move into youth ministry she will have a lot of wisdom for me.

November has traditionally been a dangerous month for me.

It’s when people start blogging about their ideas for advent. In a single day, you can see dozens of ideas for advent devotionals and practices designed to help you anticipate Jesus’ birth. You’ll notice picture after picture of people adorning their houses with strings hung with artsy advent calendars. You’ll hear dozens of ideas for celebrating advent with kids.

And they’re all great.

So great, in fact, that I’ve traditionally wanted to do them ALL.

Every year, I’ve ordered the latest greatest advent devotional and started reading it with gusto. But then, life has gotten busy and by day two, I’ve been hopelessly unable to scrape together the 5-minutes needed to read that day’s devotion. So I’ve thrown it on a stack with all the other previously discarded advent devotionals and thought, “Some year”. I’ve allowed my good intentions to be swallowed by guilt – especially as I’ve watched my fellow bloggers and friends continue on their merry way with their advent traditions.

This November, I vowed, “Not again.”

As a new mom who also happens to be a Youth Pastor, my life is crazy enough at Christmas – without the help of the guilt that’s traditionally come from failing to practice advent the way I’d like to. So as soon as those helpful posts about what other people were doing for advent started showing up in my blog reader, I started hitting “Delete”.

Oh I know none of these practices and traditions are bad.

But trying to do them ALL is.

So I’ve stopped.

This year I’ve finally accepted the fact that I’ll probably never be the kind of mom who ties a string across her fireplace mantle and hangs a cutesy advent calendar from it.

I’ll probably never be the kind of wife who agonizes over setting the Christmas table just right.

I’ll probably never be the Youth Pastor who goes to every single Christmas concert and party she’s invited to.

Instead, I’ll be the kind of mom who says yes to building an advent practice that works for her family. To that end, this year, our little family of three is slowing down each night, cranking up the fire, turning on the Christmas tree lights, and reading one Christmasy book a night – some of which are religious and some of which aren’t.

I’ll be the kind of wife who says yes to a day spent with her family – even if it means some of what’s on her work and Christmas to-do lists go undone.

I’ll be the kind of Youth Pastor who unapologetically models the value of slowing down and saying NO to the hundredth commitment in a day to her teens and their families.

And I’ll be the kind of person who says “Enough with the craziness! I’m not just going to enjoy  Christmas day; I’m going to enjoy the entire advent and Christmas seasons.”

To do that, I’m giving myself permission to do what works for my family and I in this particular season of our lives.

I pray you’ll give yourself permission to do the same.


Jen Bradbury serves as the director of youth ministry at Faith Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. Jen is the author of The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe about Jesus and the forthcoming The Real Jesus: A Devotional for Teens. Her writing has also appeared in YouthWorker Journal, Immerse, and The Christian Century. She blogs regularly at

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