(I've interrupted the usual report on our renovation project to bring you this special holiday message!)
Yesterday I was out shopping for some things I needed for the renovation when I fell -- hook, line, and sinker -- into the pre-Thanksgiving commercialized Christmas mania. Okay, I'm admitting it -- even though I usually do put my tree up a couple of days before Thanksgiving because Thanksgiving weekend is busy and may involve some traveling, I have never done it a whole week before Thanksgiving to my recollection. But, what the heck, every small business in my little town where I live have had their decorations up for a week or more now. Who am I to say that the folks driving by shouldn't be able to look up at my apartment window and ooh and ahh over my adorable little tree?! Yesterday as I shopped, the Christmas music playing in the stores evoked many feelings within my heart; some happy, some sad.
As a young mother I tried beyond my own wellbeing sometimes to make the holidays special for my family. I decorated to the hilt, had a small tree in literally almost every room of the house and I hope that my kids would say that their Christmases growing up were close to magical. Not because there were gifts galore (but sometimes there were), not because I had lavish decorations, and not because we ever, EVER spent the money some people do for the holidays. I hope they felt that way because of the love and joy that surrounded them. But one Christmas, as I readied to receive my in-laws (they usually came at Christmas), we received a phone call that my father-in-law was sick and they were not gonna be able to make it. I was crushed! I had planned my whole Christmas around their visit! Now, before you say that I am a total weirdo for looking forward to my in-laws, they were not your typical in-laws. My mother-in-law was a sweet, precious lady who minded her own business and had a quiet strength about her. My father-in-law in his own Santa-Clausy-jolly kind of way was bigger than life and brought another whole dimension to Christmas. When they arrived, my house went from neat and tidy to overflowing with groceries for his special meals, goodies for the kids, and just a little bit of craziness that I have come to cherish as a treasure over the years. He always cooked us an amazing dinner on Christmas Eve and would always bring his guitar and lead the kids in impromptu sing-along's. So when the plans changed, so did my countenance. Christmas just wasn't going to be the same.
Over the years, I've learned to lower my expectations of the holidays. There's a song by Kacey Musgraves called Christmas Makes Me Cry, and this is a song to which I can totally relate. In spite of the joy of the season that surrounds the hope given on that first Christmas, there always seems to be sadness as well. All we have to do around the holidays is take a good look to see the sadness...the sadness that is always there but seems to be magnified by the holidays. Perhaps your neighbor, or even you, have just lost a loved one or a family member has moved far away and you know you'll spend this holiday without them. Perhaps you see the line at the local food shelter is longer than you ever remember it being. Maybe you have a critically ill child or parent. Maybe there just aren't enough funds to do the things that you dream of for your family and friends at this season whose reputation for giving and goodwill are unmatched by any other time of year. But this is what I've learned over the holidays. Christmas is the one time it is okay, and even advisable, to lower your expectations of what the holiday will look like. Because I can guarantee you this, there will inevitably be something in the mix that tries to steal your joy in the season. As much as we wish they would, we all know that problems don't go away at Christmas, and the holidays for some only amplify those hardships by the death of a loved one, sickness, conflicts, and just overall lack. But still somehow, we try to make them the best time of the year.
So yesterday I decorated my tiny white Christmas tree and placed it in my living room window for all to see as they pass. It excited me to flip on the little twinkle lights and imagine some child looking up at it and being filled with wonder. The holidays are fittingly celebrated at the end of the year and it seems appropriate that we go into a new year with the freshness of hope and doing good on our minds and in our hearts. But I pray for you this year that your joy will be full because of the goodness you find around you and the simple pleasures you enjoy and not because of fulfilled fantasies that you have dreamed up in your heart that probably, if truth be known, are not even realistic. I pray that you will focus on the moment you're in and all those little moments that truly are perfect and sprinkled all through this season of celebration. The lingering cup of coffee or cider or cocoa that you're able to enjoy with a family member or friend you haven't seen in awhile...the tears of happiness on a child's face as they open a humble gift and you witness their true gratefulness...the meal you prepare for the ones you love...the moment when they take that first bite and smile the biggest smile and you realize that just being together is the greatest gift of all...the Christmas Eve service at your local church which reminds you that faith is our foundation...the irreplaceable little moments when time truly does stand still. I wish for you not perfection in the holidays, but these moments that will carry you through much longer than the New Year and the years beyond.
May this Thanksgiving truly be a grateful one, and lead you right into the Christmas season with unspeakable joy!
(p.s. That Christmas I was so disappointed? My disappointment pressed my in-laws to come anyway, and it was a disaster! My father-in-law ended up in the hospital and missed the much-anticipated celebration at my parents' house and I realized, after it was all said and done, that my unrealistic expectations caused a hardship on everyone that year. Hard lesson, well learned. My in-laws have both passed on now, and I missed them dearly, especially every year at Christmas.)
"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."
- Prayer of Serenity
Posted by CC
I love to write; you love to read...let's share!