The Christmas season has often been described as “the most wonderful time of the year”. As a believer in Christ, I would have to agree that the birth of my Savior should certainly be celebrated as most wonderful. Gathering with family and friends to celebrate with food, laughter and gift giving is certainly wonderful. Seeing the eyes of children light up the first time they meet Santa or when they open a gift containing what they’ve wished for all year, definitely wonderful. The beautiful lights, decorations, movies with happy endings, carolers, charitable events and vacation time….wonderful. But if I’m being honest, in the past, this time of year has left me with anxiety, frustration, and sometimes even sadness that I can’t always explain. To many, even suggesting that this season is less than wonderful makes me seem like the Grinch or Ebenezer Scrooge, but I’m wondering if maybe I’m not alone? I want this year to be different. On December 26th I want to be able to look back over the last month and say with conviction, “I’ve enjoyed every minute of the most wonderful time of the year!”
Let’s start with the decorating and huge party hosting. If you love that kind of thing, I am so grateful for you. It’s because of people like you that the rest of us get to enjoy beautiful trees, festive gatherings, perfectly set tables and delicious holiday foods. But I’m going to argue that in the age of Pinterest, HGTV, and Instagram stories, the bar that has been set is simply too high for many of us. There was a time in my life when I aspired to decorating with the latest trends and I spent days on the details that the magazines recommended for the perfect Christmas look, only to usually be disappointed by the outcome. (I was the epitome of “Pinterest fail” before Pinterest was ever even imagined). I have been guilty of coveting the talent that it takes to make a home beautiful and wishing I had been given the desire to put themed trees in every room or to build table scapes out of fruit and cheese. Because I felt somewhat inferior to my friends with much cleaner, much newer, perfectly decorated homes, I would shy away from opening mine even though I love to host. What I am realizing as I’ve gotten older, is that although they do not create the type of “aesthetic” that will adorn a magazine cover, I am blessed by my old Christmas decorations (or shall I say “vintage”…lol!). Perhaps my favorite display this time of year is a collection of Santas mostly given to me as a young wife and mother by my grandmother who is now 97. My Christmas tree ornaments are eclectic, some slightly broken and most faded from years of use, but each attached to a memory that goes as far back as our first Christmas as newlyweds over a quarter of a century ago. This year, to counteract that inferior feeling I’ve allowed to occur in the past, I’m committing to loving my collection of Christmas decorations that are so very meaningful to me and to displaying them in my home if for no other reason than because they bring our family joy. The tradition associated with them is far more important to me than whether or not they are considered beautiful in the world of decorating. I will stop to reflect on the memories attached to each ornament I own as I place it on the tree that will likely be less than Rockefeller Plaza worthy. I will vow to invite my friends and family to my home as it is…with the hopes that they will leave with a feeling that was full of love and warmth because I was much less worried about how things appeared than about how I made them feel.
Secondly, the going and going and going some more. When I look at my calendar over the next thirty days, I don’t find more than one night a week that we will be at home. Please don’t misunderstand. I am so appreciative of friends, activities, and invites to Christmas events. You all already know that relationships are the most important thing in my life. But moving at that pace for an entire month just feels daunting and fills me with dread to some degree, which is nothing but a bad attitude if I really get down to it. So, this year, I am going to approach each Christmas event as an opportunity to be with those people who bring fullness and joy to my life. I am going to make every effort to be fully present in each moment, not looking ahead or behind. I want to savor the opportunity to love and be loved and to celebrate knowing that I am unconditionally loved by the One whom we celebrate this season. I will rest in knowing that all of the blessings in my life come from Him. I also realize that I may have to choose to say “no” to some very good things so that I can experience the GREAT things God has for me during this season, and I’m going to choose to be okay with that. I will also strive to include those who may feel incredibly lonely this year for whatever reason and won’t take for granted that I am not alone.
Finally, the gift giving. This is by far the most stressful part for me, which makes me so sad; because honestly, I am always much more excited about giving than getting on Christmas morning. I struggle with waiting to let my loved ones open presents until the appointed time because as soon as I purchase something I know they will love, I can’t wait to give it to them. But, it’s the magnitude of gift giving at Christmas and the stress of staying within a budget that makes it so hard. I have the somewhat self-inflicted expectation of making sure each child gets an equal number of gifts for an equal amount of money and shopping in such a way that I make the most of the money we have allotted for gifts. I want them to love what I get them, but I also want to know that I got the best deal possible because I want the money to go as far as it can at this time of year…and there are very few inexpensive things anymore. It feels like a constant season of making lists, setting budgets, checking lists and shopping incessantly. My need for control is set at the highest level this time of year because one wrong purchase can have a domino effect on the whole process and throw the numbers way off. It’s exhausting….and clearly not at all for the reasons I should be giving gifts. So this year, I am committing to bringing back the joy of gift giving by not allowing myself to be overwhelmed by the advertising e-mails, mailers, commercials, and social media ads. I’m going to devote small windows of time to shopping and am going to focus on the reason we give gifts during this season (or any other time for that matter). I will not be robbed of the joy I get from blessing others by making gift giving a chore rather than an opportunity. And lastly, I am going to be totally fine if my loved ones take back everything I give them to get exactly what they want without feeling like I have failed them in some way.
When I reflect on the things that make this season most stressful for me, it’s obvious that my attitude and the pressure I place on myself are at the center of all of it. No one else has ever made me feel this way and in fact, when I attempt to discuss it with my husband and kids they are often at a loss as to how to understand what I’m trying to say. But I am convinced that some of you “get it”…at least to some degree. Let’s commit this year to cut ourselves some slack and to let go of some of the pressure we unnecessarily bring into the holiday season. I may not have touched on the thing that is most difficult for you. I realize some of you are grieving the loss of loved ones or your life circumstances have you in a place where you simply cannot find the joy of Christmas. My heart hurts for you. I pray that the Prince of Peace makes His presence known in a very real way in your life through the love of others. For those of you who thrive during this season and cannot relate to any of the points I’ve made, I love you all the more. Don’t you feel at all guilty because you relish every single minute of it. Post those pictures of your beautiful home, perfect meals, amazing gifts and festive parties without hesitation. This is your time to shine and you bring incredible joy to all of us. My favorite thing about the human race is that we are all uniquely and wonderfully made and just because you “win” doesn’t mean I “lose”. As always, thank you for letting me share my heart with you. Here’s to all of us enjoying “the most wonderful time of the year!”