I’ve had a busy day, I’ve got to start dinner in an hour or so, but for now, I sit at the computer to finish this newsletter. I’ve got Michael Buble singing “Let it Snow” on the CD player, and it is, indeed, snowing outside my office window.

I don’t know about you, but I find December wonderful, but challenging. I want to slow down, enjoy the season and its true meaning. But the normal busyness created by our daily obligations (work, family, friends and just managing life) ramps up a notch when you add baking, writing cards, shopping (although greatly reduced this year), wrapping and simply planning.

I want to live a sanely-paced, God-focused life; a Sabbath Simplicity life. It’s never easy, because our culture keeps whispering in our ear (okay, sometimes shouting): “Hurry up!” and the implication, stated or not, is that our value lies in what we accomplish. Something in us wants to protest, but we’re not sure we believe that we could be valued for who we are, instead of for what we do.

This month, don’t let holiday preparations consume you, robbing you of the joy this season is alleged to represent. Take time to connect with those people, to take some time to reflect, to rest.

I believe the holiday season should be a time of gratitude, hope and wonder. Such things can not be experienced in a hurry.

We just returned from a trip to California to visit family for Thanksgiving. One of the things we were most thankful for was the weather out in San Diego—clear, sunny, unseasonably warm. We returned to find that winter had moved into Chicago, coating the trees and ground with several inches of snow.

While enjoying the California sunshine was great—we went hiking, waded in the Pacific, sat out by the pool—it’s good to be back to what feels like a proper December.

In winter, the natural world responds to the shorter, cooler days by resting. Beneath the snow, soil and roots simply receive the slow watering that this frozen layer provides. Animals burrow into their nests, hiding and hibernating. The squirrels who have been busy gathering seeds and food for weeks are now tucked into big leafy nests in the willow tree behind the house. While we cannot sleep the winter away, we can learn from nature, and notice—there is a time for work, and a time for rest.

Advent has begun. The word itself means “coming”—we look forward to Jesus’ arrival. Yet for us, December is often a time of “going”—we have too many places to go, hurrying and scurrying to the point where we are simply tired. We’re too exhausted to be grateful, too busy to wonder.

Our family lights candles at Advent—one each Sunday. We work hard all week—kids at school, Scot and I at our jobs and with all the holiday preparations. But on Sunday, we slow down. We worship at church, we gather at home. We enjoy a meal together. We light a candle, reminding each other of the promises the season represents. We get enough sleep, if only that one night. That alone inspires gratitude.

Sabbath Simplicity taking one day to rest—which means we spend the other six fully engaged in the work we must do, the work we can even enjoy. I find that when I rest on Sunday—setting aside housework, keeping the computer turned off, enjoying my family—I am ready to get things done on Monday, and much more efficient.

Retailers often try to boost holiday sales by telling us, “Don’t just buy things for others, treat yourself as well. Buy something for you, too.” Well, okay, but you still have to pay for whatever you buy. When you treat yourself, you still get the credit card bill in January.

Rather than just buying something for yourself, why not simply receive the gift that God offers this month? In the midst of the busyness, stop. Sabbath. The word means “to cease”—whether our work is done or not. Simply rest for one day, enjoy God and all he’s already given you—family, friends. Once a week, reconnect with the true reason for the season.

Sabbath is not just a good idea, it can improve your health. To learn more, click here to read Keri’s “For Your Soul” column from the Today’s children’s Ministry website.