Welcome back for day three of our “Home for the Holidays” series.
Do you struggle to give up your picture of the perfect Christmas? I sure do!
Magazine pictures. Pinterest boards. Department store displays. They all look so pretty. But the truth is, I fall victim to them by thinking I can recreate their beauty. When in reality, I end up feeling less than because my tree was crooked or I didn’t have the perfect strand of garland hanging somewhere in the house. If you’re at all like me and ever longed for perfect at Christmas, Amy Carroll from Proverbs 31 Ministries is going to tickle your funny bone with her story about creating the perfect Christmas tree and how she brought her family together in an unexpected way.
Take it away, Amy!
The further I read into the editorial the shorter my breath grew, and I felt the heat of stress radiating from my constricted heart. “At my house, the bustle stops when we gather with our daughters to trim the tree,” Gayle Butler, editor of Better Homes and Gardens, gushed.
Then she went on to describe her family’s lovely evening complete with traditional music, story-telling, and eggnog. She ended by saying, “By the time our quiet evening concludes, we’re energized and ready to try something new.”
Wow. That sounds just like my family. (Insert sarcastic tone here.)
My case of hives from the article came from memories of the previous year’s tree trimming at my house.
We all started well–hubs, the boys and me–matching up with the perfect pictures of Christmas preparations in my mind. It was just like BH & G. Amy Grant crooned Christmas carols in the background. Egg nog was poured into the red glass tea cups I had snagged at a tag sale, and boxes of decorations from the attic lined the walls.
However, it all started downhill over the lights for the tree.
Squabbles erupted over tangled strings of bulbs. Somebody turned on the football game, and the sound of the TV clashed with the music from the stereo. Instead of telling lovely stories of the ornaments’ histories as we hung each one, my boys began to make fun of the 70s-style bobbles from my childhood. It all fell apart faster than you can say, “Mama’s in a snit.”
Maybe they just got distracted, or maybe it was the maternal growls and snarls that drove them away, but suddenly I found myself sitting alone on the floor in front of the tree. The rest of my family had abandoned the traditional decorating of the tree.
I furiously gave the tree a yank to position it for another ornament, and… TIMBER! It fell on me, driving the metal rod of one of the artificial branches into my arm.
That’s when it happened. Out of my mouth popped some of the overflow of a disgruntled perfectionist’s heart—a big, fat, four-letter word.
That brought the family back into the room.
“Mom! Did you just say #*!@?!”
To this day, there is one favorite Christmas story at my house. It’s not The Gift of the Magi or The Polar Express. Not even How the Grinch Stole Christmas makes the cut. Our family’s favorite story is The Day Mom Cussed When the Christmas Tree Fell on Her.
So much for the perfect family Christmas. Ours might be rated R.
It’s hard to give up the pictures of perfection in our heads–especially during the holidays. It seems to be the time that Perfect takes a strangle hold with visions of the perfect pumpkin pie, the perfectly peaceful Thanksgiving dinner, and the perfect gift.
But surely there’s a better way to do the holidays. Surely there’s more joy to be had.
I’ve spent about a decade now breaking up with Perfect, and I’ve learned a few things we can all do as the holidays approach that will usher in the elements we all want this time of year—joy, peace, and a Jesus-focused heart. They’re all centered on relationships—with yourself, God, and others.
Surrender to Your Truest Self.
God created you, and there is no other that can take your place. In a world that’s dying to see real women living a real faith, God created you uniquely, so be unique!
Anna Quindlen says it this way, “Perfection is static, even boring. Imitations are redundant. Your true unvarnished self is what is wanted.” Love that.
I’d go a step further, though, and say that your true unvarnished self is what God wants and what most glorifies Him. When you take off the façade of perfection, Jesus’ light shines brightly through you and draws others to Himself!
So what does that look like in the holidays? If deep in your heart you have a passion for pink flamingoes, then go crazy with pink feathers instead of red and green plaid ribbon! If you’d love to have quinoa and kale instead of turkey and dressing, make it! Create new traditions around the things you love instead of just comparing and imitating. You’ll find fresh delight as you do, and others will be attracted to your joy.
Savor each person, each moment, and most importantly, savor time each day with God. Linger in the candlelight of early morning. Let music of praise wash over you. Center your mind and heart on Him.
For me, it’s particularly hard to savor my relationship with Jesus from November through December. I know that’s horrible to confess, but it’s true. My lists lengthen in my mind in any quiet moment, so this is the season when I need some great devotional books to keep my thoughts focused. Here are a couple I’ve got close at hand for this season:
- The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp
- The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs
Keep It Simple
Don’t drive yourself this season, and for heaven’s sake, don’t drive others either (a lesson I’ve learned the hard way). Keep a family calendar and preserve some white space. For each opportunity, ask yourself what should NOT go on your calendar.
Leave some of the decorations in the attic. Pick up cookies for the holiday party at the local bakery. Give a gift card to your cranky cousin that’s never pleased with his gift.
Have a discussion with friends and family about what is important to each person, and then let the rest go. I shake my head in sadness when I think of all the years I drove myself and everyone else crazy with all the things I thought had to be done… that nobody enjoyed anyway.
I’m looking forward to a simpler, more authentic, happier Christmas with my family in 2016. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that letting go of unrealistic expectations—those pictures of the perfect Christmas that only live in my head—is the key to creating a Christmas that’s perfect for us. Hopefully, minus any four-letter words this year!
Amy Carroll is a speaker and writer for Proverbs 31 Ministries. She’s the author of Breaking Up with Perfect as well as the director and coach of Next Step Speaker Services. Amy and her husband live in lovely Holly Springs, NC with a bossy miniature dachshund. You can find her on any given day texting her two sons at college, typing at her computer, reading a book, or trying to figure out one more alternative to cooking dinner. Share life with Amy at www.amycarroll.org and find out more about her speaker coaching services at www.nextstepspeakerservices.org.