So people, all signs are pointing to it. Christmas is coming.

Target and Kohl’s and Walmart and all the paper things coming into this house wouldn’t let us miss it.

It’s time to buy the stuff! Glitter it up! Trees! Gifts! Music! Fun! Deals Galore!

And in the meantime, I am already tired.

Every year it seems the temptation to go over the top and forget totally the actual meaning of Christmas is right in front of my face and threatens to steal my joy before it’s even time for the joyful season to begin.

Lucky for me, we are cable free so many of the ads that would otherwise turn my cherubs into greedy little monsters go right over their heads. Instead, I seem to be the problem here.

Yesterday, it was time to finalize Christmas lists. They are due here on Halloween, but since we are all bad at deadlines that actually means now apparently. I have all but one in my stack because even in Lateland there is an outlier. Good grief.

Looking at the lists and talking to the kids as they made them was eye opening, and without thinking I almost ruined the biggest opportunity I have to stay out of the Christmas gift rat race and stay in the lane of Christmas joy.

As we sat down here’s what struck me. My kids want almost nothing. One kid actually said the words, “There’s really nothing I want.”

Now, my first instinct was to get the darn list done, after all we are on a deadline right? I almost said, “Sure you do! Let’s think! Grab a catalog! Go online! Just write something down.”.

Instead, I stopped myself. For the love, what on Earth was I saying?! So I went a different way. I said, “Wow, that really says a lot about how lucky we are here doesn’t it? You want for nothing, my friend. That’s amazing.”

We all talked together about why we even make a Christmas list, we are really doing it to help those who want to get us a gift find something more easily. We aren’t putting in an order, just making a helpful list. This led to some awesome conversation about kids who might want a lot of things this Christmas, basic things, like warm boots and socks and essentials . . . things that just seem to appear in our worlds. And kids who have wishes for new toys because they never get them and how we might help to make those dreams come true.

In the end, we kept our perspective and made our lists, some of them with “surprises” or “something to help other people” written where the wants would normally be.

As I set out to shop from the comfort of my couch, these lists grounded me. But even this didn’t keep me from temptation to do more. As I knocked out a large portion of  my shopping, I found myself also clicking on things like “Best Toys of 2017” on Amazon and thinking, “Wow, this kid would love that,” and almost putting it right in my cart. Or scanning the preview of the Black Friday Target ad and thinking, “That’s an awesome deal, what kid could I buy that for?”

I keep wanting to add MORE.

This makes things quickly balloon out of control. I can go down a rabbit hole with the best of them, and knew soon I would be adding all sorts of things I thought they would like. Then attempting to even it out so every kid got one more thing. Before I know it, I am knee deep in gifts and neck deep in debt. And for what?

So instead, I stuck to their somewhat humble lists. The awesome side effect of this was that I also stuck to my budget. Also shopping took way less time. I’m done and I can move on with my actual life here.

I am not one to offer a lot of advice about how to organize and give tips and tell you all how to make the holiday run smoothly. We live on the edge of chaos here most often.

But I can offer you this: this holiday season, things will be more fun and joyful and sane if you stay intentional. What things are you going all in for this year? Decide now before the world decides for you. Then make yourself stick to it even as the world whispers to you, “More. More is better.”

Because more isn’t better. All this glitter and food and fun and presents have a place in our celebrations. But the humble beginnings of our Lord and Savior coming to us in a stable because there was no room for him anywhere else is the real point behind all this celebrating. It’s the exact opposite of more. It’s actually the biggest symbol for less that I can think of.

And this is where we need to steer our hearts this Christmas. Our job is to live in the less to make room for Him. And I know if I’m obsessed about buying and evening out gifts and planning a Pinterest perfect everything and staying up at night worried about how we are going to pay for it all it leaves room for little else. The more crowds out what is really important.

I don’t want us to be the ones hanging out that “No Room at the Inn” sign in our hearts.

This year, by deciding that we are keeping the gifts in check, my heart feels full of room. Room for enjoying my people, room for finding ways to give to others, room for filling my heart with the joy of our Lord actually sending us his son and the miracle that that really is. And that my dear friends is what Christmas is all about. How lucky are we?

Amy Betters-Midtvedt

Amy Betters-Midtvedt is a writer, educator, mom of 5 crazy kids, wife to a patient husband, and lover of Jesus. She writes along with her friend and former teaching partner Erin over at Hiding in the Closet With Coffee. Our mission is to help parents find sanity and joy, and we know sometimes joy is found hiding out in the closet with coffee, or hiding out on Facebook — come and join us both! You can read more about us here. You can also find us hiding out over at InstagramPinterest, and Twitter.