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Lessons I Learned From Shelly Calcagno

Christmas is around the corner!! But, the craziness of the holiday season is already staring us in the face! I have learned that decorating, school concerts, holiday parties, classroom crafts, cookie exchanges, family dynamics…can all add up to… Christmas insanity!! Some of us enjoy going over the top for Christmas, but for others it creates unneeded stress. There is certainly a way to “do Christmas” in a meaningful and fun way without needing to break the bank or wanting to ahem, break someone’s face in the process. This guest post from children’s pastor, author and blogger, Shelly Calcagno offers some welcomed relief and points us in the right direction this holiday season…


Christmas Doesn’t Own You

There’s always a little bit of anxiety that comes on each year when the Christmas season approaches. I feel it late November as I pull out my holiday ornament boxes, reminding myself that I committed to only add one new decoration each year. I worry a little as I plan my shopping and hope that I can get the perfect item for everyone, because I love giving gifts. I think about all the gatherings and get togethers and I just pray that it all works out.

Can all the expectations placed on me be met? 
Will our budget carry me through the season?
Is it possible to navigate all the complexities of relationship dynamics to make everyone happy?

There have been times when these thoughts have kept me up at night. Perhaps I had the wrong ideas about what mattered. Maybe I just overthink everything. But finally I’ve realized that I can make choices and work hard to make sure that the Christmas season ahead for our family is one that doesn’t get out of hand.
We want to have joy in this season.
We want the true light that brings light to shine through.
Christmas can be simple and meaningful.

Christmas is not in control.
Christmas doesn’t own you.
Christmas is what you decide to make it.  

Here are a few simple thoughts (ones I’m still working on myself) to help make the season more meaningful and to make room for joy and light.

Make Christmas about others. It’s so easy to focus inward at Christmas. Christmas lists, an incredibly decorated home and Pinterest-perfect ideas are not what should measure your Christmas success. Lift up your eyes this season, and take a minute to look around you. How can you show some love and care to those that need it? Share yourself this season. Be a bright light in the life of someone who needs you. There are people alone, hurting and suffering. Be Christmas for them.

Keep things simple. Make your holiday plans easy. Easy doesn’t mean lazy, easy means smart. This year, our extended family has decided to shake things up and do catered Italian for our Christmas Day meal. Different circumstances have made pulling off a turkey dinner really challenging and stressful, so we are making a switch. That simple decision has already taken Christmas stress down a level for everyone, and we are excited to be able to focus on spending time together as family. (I’m also happy I don’t have to have pre-Christmas nightmares about the inevitable lumps in my gravy) Being together is what matters and it’s ok to make that easier.

Create special moments. Moments are what we remember, moments are what make up our life. There are tons of moment-making opportunities all around at Christmas. Often, you don’t even have to think them up because they are already happening. Look for events in your community, special places to visit and choose a couple activities that you know will be significant. Go to a festival, volunteer at Christmas event, take a walk in your neighbourhood and look at Christmas lights. Creating moments doesn’t have to cost any money, and often provide the best parts of our holiday experience.

Take time to reflect. Whether you do advent, or a Christmas countdown – take time to celebrate what Christmas means to you. Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voscamp is my favourite Christmas reading. A chapter each day takes me on a beautiful and significant journey right to the manger on Christmas Day, I seriously can’t hold back my tears when I do the last reading on the morning of the 25th. This part of my Christmas is so meaningful each year, and I can’t wait for it to begin. Whatever makes Christmas special to you, take time for those moments of reflection.

Christmas will never be perfect. Things will not always go as planned. But we do have the opportunity to set our season up and focus on the things that will bring joy into our lives.
This year slow down, look around and remember that joy can be found in the simple.
The memories and moments of Christmas and how you share that joy with others is what will remain in your heart.

Reflect on the light that has come on Christmas.
The true light. 
Christmas doesn’t own you.
You can decide how to make this your most meaningful Christmas yet.  


Shelly Calcagno is a Family Ministry Pastor, author and blogger from Beamsville, ON. She has written a book for children called Tini’s Tangles and is currently working on a devotional for women. Shelly has created several animated series for children, and is a curriculum developer for both faith-based and educational programs in Canada and the US. She previously co-hosted on 100 Huntley Street where she produced lifestyle and faith segments for women and families. Shelly loves sharing about family, creativity and pursuing a legacy-filled life. Shelly loves DIY projects, especially if they involve mason jars and chalkboard paint! You can learn more about her at shellycalcagno.com.

Shelly’s favorite recipe is a delicious looking pumpkin bread. Here is where you can grab it!


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