This Christmas season hasn’t at all been what I had hoped it would be. It started out well (at least what I typically define as “well”) but for some reason after we returned home from visiting family in Illinois for Thanksgiving I just could not for the life of me get my act together.
I decorated for Christmas before we left for Illinois, because I knew I would be tired when we got home, and I worked on Christmas cards during our drive there, because let’s be honest….what is there really to do when one is stuck in a car driving for 12 hours?
I’ve worked so hard to simplify Christmas from year’s past. To lower expectations. To not overschedule and overcommercialize, and yet this year I realized that despite how little we choose to do every year for Christmas, my expectations of what I thought Christmas should be still weren’t simple at all. They were just that…expectations.
We arrived back home on December 2nd from Illinois, and Dave finally had a chance to put up the Christmas lights on December 14th. I told him to forget it, because it was a lot of work for only a few weeks, but he said “No, I like seeing them when I get home.” So up they went anyway. It took me until the 3rd week of advent to even get our advent wreath lit. We were gone for the first Sunday in advent and the 2nd I was just still too exhausted from travel, so last week we did 3 in 1, and you know what….that’s ok.
Our family advent devotions have been sporadic at best, and I always like to bake Christmas cookies because well….it’s tradition, and it’s something we “should” do right?? Or is it? Traditions are good things, but they shouldn’t turn into expectations or more pressure on ourselves. I couldn’t bring myself to let the kids mix the dough with me for the cookies because honestly….the 3 of them together all at one time is still really really hard. They fight, and bicker, and battle for control, and it rarely ends up “good” so I ended up making the dough myself, and decided we could bake them and decorate them together. I mixed up the dough early Sunday morning thinking I might bake 1 batch with the kids that afternoon…..that’s when child #1 got sick so I let it go….then child #2 was coughing…and I knew that no children would be touching these cookies, but I needed to make them soon or the dough would go bad so finally I just did it myself.
But I realized part of what I love about the tradition of baking cookies is doing it together and now it was just me making cookies and leaving my kids out.
The cookies are all baked now, but I haven’t frosted the cut outs because I can’t bring myself to do without the kids….because in the middle of all of that child #3 got sick and I honestly don’t even know when the coughing will stop to allow them to participate or I may just end up doing it on my own.
I was almost in tears yesterday morning as I took the 2 girls to the doctor and 1 of them was diagnosed with Strep, the other finally had her fever break after being home from school for 3 days, and now just when I thought I could catch a break, another one gets to stay home from school.
I spent the day yesterday deep cleaning, disinfecting, and let’s be honest…lathering myself in a vat of hand sanitizer to hopefully prevent myself from catching whatever the kids had.
Anyway, I digress….I have just been feeling like a failure as a mom this Christmas. The same lie I struggle with all the time…”You’re not enough….”
And I struggle to combat those lies with truth as I compare myself to what everyone else accomplishes at Christmas time….
An HGTV Christmas decorated house…
All the festivals and tree lightings one can fit into their schedule during the month of December….
We don’t have an elf on the shelf or counter or whatever the heck they are called…
No one believes in Santa anymore in our house which quite honestly is a relief. I never really knew how to handle the Santa thing anyway, and honestly, my kids would probably tell you that this Christmas has been just as magical as any other. They don’t place expectations on Christmas like I do….or can I saw “we?” I’m sure I’m not the only one out there that struggles with this…
However when I look around me at what we did get to do I realize we still did a lot, and it’s good, and it’s ok, and it’s just enough….
We did get to decorate the tree
The kids did get to eat some of the cookies.
They got to buy presents for each other wrap and start wrapping them.
They got to play in the snow
We did get to drink hot cocoa and watch a Christmas movie
And light the advent wreath (even if it was starting on week 3).
Every year we place a Giving Manger at the base of the tree that Dave built when Abby was a baby. We then place pieces of straw in the manger when we catch each other doing random acts of kindness, and this year our manager for baby Jesus still sits empty because life has been so full and chaotic that it’s just honestly been really hard to think about one more thing….
But isn’t that the same type of manger that Jesus was born into? An empty one?
And so despite my best efforts in the past few years to simplify our Christmas, this year I was humbled to realize that our Christmas was still way more than God ever meant for it to be.
That Christmas comes despite all the decorations, cards, cookies, and presents….babies come when they are ready, and new life is born into this word simply. Jesus was born into absolute nothingness….a stable where his bed was a manger, and his mother was an engaged young virgin, and his earthly father was a carpenter, and that was good enough for a King.
There are still some things left that I would like to do before Christmas and over the kids break….
- Driving around looking at Christmas lights with hot chocolate and Dunkin Donuts munchkins or Christmas cookies
- Wrapping presents
- Daily advent readings
- A few more presents to buy
- Making a Gingerbread House with the kids
- Time for the kids to get together with friends since it’s so hard to do during the school year.
But I’m choosing to give myself grace. To remind myself that I tried, and it just didn’t all work out this year, and that’s ok. I’m not sure if I am going to get through this whole list….some presents may end up “wrapped” in a grocery bag, but even that’s ok, because God never intended for us to put all these expectations on ourselves when we were in the midst of celebrating his son’s birthday. No, God wanted, and still wants us to just receive this precious gift…to not do anything else in return, other than accept what a beautiful gift of selfless love that Jesus birth was. Quite honestly there is nothing else more beautiful in all the world than the fact that God sent His one and only Son to live a life here, and ultimately sacrifice His life for us, because of how much He loves us.