This time of year makes me so happy in so many ways, but it can also be really hard. I think a big part of the problem for me is the expectation I set for myself around the holidays… For example, last weekend I spent all day Friday and Saturday cleaning and decorating my house for Christmas. The plan was to finish everything by Saturday night so that Sunday could be spend relaxing together and on Monday, the house would be spotless and twinkling with lights, the laundry would all be put away, and – after work and school – we would kick off Advent with a big dinner, decorate the Christmas tree together, and go to bed early with visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads. 😉 Here’s how it really went down — I had a total breakdown on Saturday night because the house was still a disaster (albeit a lot more glittery), I hadn’t touched the papers I needed to grade, and we didn’t have clean clothes to wear to church the next morning. Sunday was nice, but by Monday evening you would never have known I’d spent two days cleaning, several strands of lights had gone out on our Christmas tree, and – after a trip to Lowes and hand-replacing more than 50 bulbs to no avail – we still hadn’t hung the first ornament. (Actually, as I write this on Thursday night, the tree is still sitting undecorated.) Sam was wild, the “nice dinner” I prepared left the kitchen a total disaster, and I literally ended the night in tears on the living room floor (here’s where I blame pregnancy hormones a bit – but you get the idea). It was the ultimate #Christmasfail.
The truth is, I set myself up. Instead of focusing on the fact that we’d had a great day Sunday, Sam ate all of his dinner Monday night, and we were all in the living room together with a fire, Christmas carols, and a (semi-lit) tree – I zoomed in on the little things that weren’t meeting the vision I’d had in mind for how the night would go. Maybe we were replacing tiny light bulbs and picking dog hair off the tree instead of gleefully hanging ornaments and reminiscing of holiday’s passed – but that day would come. And, besides, even if the tree never gets decorated (because, for whatever reason that feels like a very overwhelming task to me right now) and the bins holding my “regular season” decor never get taken to the basement – will it really matter in the long run? Is that really what this season is about?
I actually learned a pretty important lesson from one of Sam’s little books* earlier this week… In it, the main character – a little old lady named Babushka who is so busy cleaning and polishing and making everything in her tiny home “just so” that she almost misses the miracle of Jesus’ birth…
How easy it is for me to do the same thing if I’m not careful… To spend all my time picking out the perfect gift for the people on my list, wrapping them just so with Pinterest-worthy care, picking up every last (fake) pine needle that falls, and stressing over the dusting of glitter now covering any flat surface. These things aren’t BAD in themselves; but, it’s easy to let them get out of control and to lose sight of what really matters this time of year – like spending time with my family, being grateful for exactly what God has given me, and – most importantly – preparing my heart for the coming of Jesus.
SO, with all that in mind, I hereby declare my goal for this season… To have a perfectly-imperfect Christmas.
Here are five things I’m giving myself permission NOT to do this holiday season:
1. Have the perfect Christmas tree. We couldn’t fix the lights, so we ran a cheap strand across the bottom and called it a day. There are still patches with no lights, but I’m probably the only one that would notice. We will decorate on Sunday.
2. Take Christmas Card photos. More on this later; but, for a variety of reasons, we just never could get it together to dress in coordinated outfits and pose for a professional photographer this year. I really do care about our Christmas cards; but, this year, we took a different approach – something much easier than family photos – and I’m really happy with the result. Plus, as a bonus, they are printed and ready to be stuffed and stamped this weekend – a Chapman Christmas card mailing record.
3. Move that darn elf every night. I have nothing against the Elf on the Shelf, and I rather enjoy seeing all the creative things you all are doing with him (or her?) every night on social media; BUT, it isn’t for me. It’s all I can do to get my child bathed and put to bed every night at a reasonable hour – ain’t nobody got time for moving a plastic elf around and creating elaborate scenes of mischief for him. Sorry. Sam doesn’t know any different; so, for now, our elf will happily sit atop of our lopsided Christmas tree in the sunroom, and I will breathe a sign of relief every time I see him and think of all the time I’m saving. 😉
4. Formally entertain. No Christmas parties or fancy meals at my house this year. We’ve even opted to have Christmas breakfast at my parents’ house instead of here like we’ve done for the last few years.
5. Travel. At 28 weeks pregnant (which is how far I’ll be at Christmas) and our “weekends before baby” limited; we’ve cancelled our normal holiday travel this year in hopes of seeing out-of-town relatives etc. this summer when things are a bit more settled instead.
And, just for kicks, here are five things I AM making time to do:
1. Read books & our Jesus Storybook Bible Advent reading by the tree with Sam every night.
2. Play board games & watch Christmas movies as a family. This year we started a little tradition of buying a new board game on Black Friday to play together throughout the holidays – and beyond. This year we bought this one and – though it isn’t really my style, it seems to be a hit with Sam & Jeff.
3. Clean out some clutter in our house and give it away.
4. Invite people over for hot chocolate or soup and grilled cheese. I want our house to be open and this season to be a time of hospitality and community; BUT, not at the expense of driving myself crazy. So, we will eat simple food, on our every day dishes, and play games or catch up amidst the mess of our every day life.
These are the things that really matter – the things I want Sam to remember when he looks back at his Christmases growing up…
What things are you NOT doing this year and choosing to do instead?
More on our holiday traditions and decorations to come (maybe)… In the meantime, I hope you and yours have a beautiful perfectly imperfect holiday weekend!
My tree is still not decorated either. The magic of the twinkly white lights and red decor is accompanied by (the same things in your photo) Lysol wipes, a vacuum, and tons of bins. Ah well! It’ll get done…one day! I do not do the Elf of the Shelf. We have an Elf, but he is most likely sitting in the bottom of a bin in the back of the attic. If I do find him, he might make an appearance on a shelf somewhere in the play room and stay there all season. Maybe not. I will not be moving him to a different spot every day. Not interested. And by golly, the Christmas card saga continues. That is such a high stress thing! Don’t be hard on yourself. There will be other Christmases. xo xo
Heather @ Life as we know it... says
You and I? We are so much alike, it’s almost scary. We’d so be BFFs if we lived in the same town. I am right there with you on this (minus the almost 28 weeks pregnant part! Lol). I love your list of things to do and NOT to do this holiday season. I’m taking note!
Erin D says
I am giving myself a lot of grace with Christmas this year. I have a good friend who loves Christmas decorating and her house always looks so beautiful (inside and out) and I always feel the need to compare how I fall short in typical female fashion. It’s not her fault, It’s my fault for comparing. She truly loves Christmas and decorating for it. I don’t. I used to but it just stresses me out too much now being the mom of two boys. My mantle is not fully decorated yet. I have random stuff all over my dining room table and my buffet. I have gone to bed at 9 multiple nights this week and I feel good about it. We get our tree tomorrow and my one year old will be like a bull in a china shop so we’ll see how decorated it gets. I haven’t even done anything advent related with my 3 year old but I am releasing myself from that guilt too. I will spend time with my kids this Christmas season and we will read together from the Jesus Story Book Bible at some point as a family. That is enough. Jesus is enough. Praying the same for you!
I think this is so awesome! I’m giving myself permission not to do the elf on the shelf. I’m giving myself permission not to go into debt buying xmas presents to impress people.
I LOVE this post. I’m giving myself permission to let the house not be picture perfect, to not put away laundry right away, to make gifts or buy homemade where possible and not buy impressive/expensive gifts, to say no to events I don’t want to attend, and to not bake/make complicated foods for parties. I also plan to wrap with gift bags where possible…
Yolo Momma says
We won’t be putting a tree up again this year…
With our small place, and difficulty in not having everything on top of each other as it is, I just can’t see the point in trying to make a tree work. We won’t be home for Christmas either and will spend it with the grandparents where everything is all decorated anyways…
I don’t even put gift tags on the gifts, and instead, assign a certain wrapping paper to each family member.
Family Christmas card? Buhahahahah!
I got that nativity set for my boy this year on a Black Friday sale online. I’m so excited! As a new mama, I’m devastated that my tree isn’t up yet and I’ve no idea when it’ll get there. Thanks for the reminder that it’ll be ok. What matters is that we’re together.
Thank you for this post! I was just beating myself up this morning when I (hurriedly) dropped my son off with my mom. We’re in the midst of buying a house and I haven’t done a blessed thing for Christmas. I’m afraid to spend money until the house is settled. I can’t decorate because I have no idea where we’ll be living come Christmas. And how can I send Christmas cards and then we’ve moved cards 2 weeks later???? It’s enough to make me want to rock myself! I’m going to practice giving myself permission to chill out and find ways to seek out holiday joy around us (like the decorations we drive past)…
I’m giving myself permission to not send out cards or go crazy buying gifts. I’m shooting for quality over quantity. And I give myself permission to not give into the elf. At least not this year. Also, our only outdoor decor is a wreath. I’m working on coming to terms with that.
Love this post!
I love this post :). We did things differently this year too, and it seems to have mirrored some of your experiences too! Instead of getting professional pics taken (which just didn’t seem to come together), we instead brought our camera to my in-laws on Thanksgiving (when we were all dressed a little nicer than usual) and snapped a few pictures there. If they turned out great, if not, oh well. We got a couple good shots, chose one, and thanks to Shutterfly, I actually have holiday cards for the first time in three years printed and ready to be addressed. I’m taking it one step further next year-they have the option of sending your cards for you, totally doing that! I pulled out boxes of Christmas decorations, opened one box and decided, we will only decorate the tree. It’s the most exciting part anyway 🙂 We have a smaller tree this year, and we only hung the ornaments with special meaning. My three year old is in love with his tree and even kisses the ornaments (a little weird, but endearing nonetheless). I love the idea of giving yourself grace this year, especially while growing a little baby! Enjoy the season!!
Our elf is notoriously busy and then some how gets lost on the way to our house EVERY year! It is a good thing too, because I can only remember it for a week. The kids just don’t understand how Santa sees them anyway.
I am giving myself permission not to indulge our two year-old with gifts and instead am spending a little money hosting a craft-making gathering for our friends with kids. This party comes with no formal invitation (just text/email), no fancy food (just pizza and juice boxes), no dressy clothes (we’ll be painting), and no pressure to have a clean house (we’ll be in the basement painting on a drop cloth).
On Christmas day, she’ll only be unwrapping Frozen underwear, a Sophia dress-up dress, and a chocolate cupcake–her only actual request. However, we’ll have the artwork for all the years to come. I’m excited!