Perfectly Imperfect Christmas
Perfectly decorated homes, Christmas trees looking like they’ve been decorated by Santa’s elves, professional looking homemade cookies, Christmas cards of the perfect family with a perfect marriage, perfect kids, and a perfect dog all are all outward signs that someone really has it all together. The stress competing with this type of perfection around us can sometimes leave us feeling completely overwhelmed and inadequate because we know we can never measure up despite how hard we try.
What is it about our obsession to have everything LOOK so good from the outside? Why do we insist of pretending everything is fine and perfect, if it is not, and then we spend our days, running around like crazy in an endless pursuit of this unattainable goal. We find ourselves tired, worn out, irritated with all we have to do, feeling "less than", short tempered, exhausted and missing all the goodness of the season. We just want to grab a glass of wine, sit on the couch and be DONE with all the “holiday cheer.” Hear me loud and clear, there is nothing wrong with wanting our houses to be full of Christmas cheer, warmth and love, decorations that each hold a story of how they came to be, and having that cinnamon smell wafting through the house welcoming everyone in. But when we use that as a facade to how we really feel and that becomes our identity, we are missing the point of this time of year, which is peace, love, laughter, giving and most importantly, the birth of Jesus.
I love Christmas time. I love the memory making, the decorations, the traditions, the food, the cookies, the parties, the way everything is so festive, but this is certainly not always the happiest time of year. For many of us, this time of year and every holiday is full of great joy, but also great sadness. This is the time of year when that empty seat at the table hurts just a little more, and the disappointment of how life used to be brings a bit more pain. This is the time of year when if family issues are present, they tend to rear their ugly head, and if we are maxed out and overcommitted then the busyness only makes it worse. Financial issues can seem more intense as the gift giving sucks the money right out of the account, and stress can break the already fragile marriage. And yet, so often, we just keep going, without pause,on a deadly mission of creating the perfect Christmas, no matter what the cost.
I can remember my first Christmas after my husband had passed away. I was 35 years old with two 8 year olds and a 9 year old. It was supposed to be the happiest time of the year, and I wasn’t feeling happy. The pressure and expectation to do it all, to honor my deceased husband’s memory, to make the moments special without him, to decorate the tree, keep up the traditions with my kids, make things normal and happy, and do it all without him became so overwhelming. I wrestled with how to make this Christmas special and meaningful so my kids and I wouldn't feel the great loss we were living with. That’s simply impossible, but i was determined to do it at all costs.
Despite being surrounded by family and friends who loved us, the sadness was great and so raw. My husband wouldn’t be there to help me at midnight on Christmas Eve as I put the presents under the tree. His stocking would remain empty while I filled everyone else’s. He wouldn’t read the Christmas story to our kids on Christmas morning like he had done every other year of their life, and like my own dad had done for me my entire childhood. And in this happiest time of year that’s supposed to be filled with joy and laughter, special moments and traditions, and peace on earth, the truth hit me hard that NOTHING was ever going to be the same. And the reality of that, made this merry and bright time full of pain and great darkness.
And if we left it at that, then we would all be having a major pity party right now. Because the truth is, LIFE IS HARD. Cancer SUCKS, losing one you love SUCKS, having pain be a forever part of your who you are SUCKS but that’s not the end of the story. With God it never is. Christmas is about how the birth of Jesus brought hope and healing into our world. And HE and he alone, will be the one that heals your pain and brings your true joy deep in your soul. If you are struggling with grief, loss, problems in your marriage, un-fulfillment in your job, issues with your kids or extended family, a smaller bank account than your hard work reflects, any kind of personal pain, this time of year can be a really difficult. But it has the potential that even in the midst of that to be so amazing and full of joy! But know that no matter how hard we try, we will never be fulfilled by a perfectly decorated home, or perfectly decorated Christmas cookies, or putting on a perfect show for everyone else. The only way we will truly enjoy this season in the midst of pain, is to embrace it, to trust God, and to let go of the expectations to have it all together.
This Christmas, I want to encourage you to try something new. I want to share with you a few little adjustments that can truly change your life, like they did mine.
Start each day with a thankful heart. Choose ONE thing you are thankful for and focus on that. Be in pursuit, all day long, of things that make you smile and feel thankful- a hot cup of coffee, a beautiful sunrise, a song that comes on your radio, a sunset that takes your breath a way, a phone call with a friend, or a walk in the crisp cool air. It can be so much easier to pretend or to be completely ticked off at the unfairness of where your life is, but neither of these things will bring you joy deep in the depths of your soul that you are craving. I know! Unfortunately, after losing my husband, i tried to live this way and learned the hard way. Doing it all “right” for others' approval will never bring you the peace you long for.
So let’s commit together this Christmas season to letting go of the need for the Pinterest perfect holiday season and to finding joy and laughter in the chaos of our messy, painful, wonderful perfectly imperfect lives.