various miniature winter trees

This Christmas is Different

I am happy to link this post with many others at Five Minute Friday, and today’s prompt is, different.

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various miniature winter trees

This Christmas is a little different.

It’s been an interesting year. I started the year sensing the word, “cherish”. In the spring, I accidentally cut my finger while slicing watermelon and severed the tendon, which resulted in surgery and a surprisingly long recovery time. Loss of the use of my finger set me back in many household responsibilities, but in the end, I am mostly healed (still needing to do a bit more strengthening as of yet!).

In October, after feeling signs of something being not quite right in his chest, my husband was scheduled to have stints put it to open blocked arteries, but was kept in for bypass surgery instead. Thankfully, things went extremely well, and he is well on the road to recovery.

While I am so thankful that things didn’t turn out worse (believe me, it could have been much worse!), I also have had to grieve the loss of time and order in my home and life that just hasn’t been the same. I have felt overwhelmed and behind in so many areas for most of the year, although we have survived quite well.

So I come at this Christmas from a slightly different perspective.

I love all things Christmas, so giving up some of my long-held, much-loved traditions to care for myself, my home and my family has been a sacrifice. It doesn’t feel quite the same.

But of course, it has been feeling different all along, as time and age and memories rush past in what seems like ever-increasing speed.

For those of us who cherished the childish sensations of the holidays, it’s a bit difficult to grow up, be responsible, and enjoy the holiday without all of the same feelings.

And this Christmas has come all too fast for my liking (although a touch of snow on the ground doesn’t hurt), but has it really?

I’ve read and heard it said that if the  meaning of Christmas doesn’t affect us all year long, then it isn’t the real thing. I’ve heard of more than one friend who actually decided to leave up their nativity sets all year to be mindful of this fact.

I will probably always love the sights, sounds, emotions, traditions and memories of this special time of year. As long as we keep these good things in perspective, I’m sure God doesn’t mind our celebrating his birthday too much.

But let us remember that Christmas really doesn’t come just once a year. And it comes and is here with us always in the form of God’s son, Jesus and the Holy Spirit whom he left to stay with us.

His presence is ever real, and if I can really begin to understand this timeless truth, then Christmas really isn’t that different this year after all. Some things never change.

I have and will celebrate the important things in life: my faith and God’s special gift to the world, my family and loved ones (whether near or far), our health and strength, a warm, happy home and so much to be thankful for, the countless blessings that grace my life each day even when they go unnoticed, the festivities and fun that the holidays bring, and yes, even the hard stuff that causes us to stretch and grow.

So eat a cookie, listen to some holiday tunes, enjoy those you find around you, sit in the stillness, ponder the gift, enjoy the candles and Christmas lights, but most of all, be thankful.

This Christmas may be different, but the gift is the same.

And if we choose to embrace Christmas in whatever form it appears, perhaps we will look a little different, too.

*****

Japanese kintsugi art

Make Something Beautiful Of Your Brokenness in 2017

 

 

Japanese kintsugi art

Happy New Year, friends!

I don’t know about you, but I feel somewhat behind the eight ball in this new year.

While I keep reading online blog and social media posts about folks who have all their goals mapped out for 2017, I am still trying to adjust to “non-holiday” status and schedule, clean up the pine needles under the tree, and begin to remove our Christmas decorations.

I am only beginning to think, pray and plan for this new year.

Not that I’m behind with my Christmas stuff still out, because I have always really loved Christmas , and in my family we would never even dream of removing our tree or decorations before several days past the new year!

And since my mom’s mother was born in the Ukraine, we have always had Ukrainian Christmas as an excuse to enjoy our things right into the beginning of January. Even though we technically don’t hold to the traditions of this celebration, it was always something we were aware of, and just feels right to keep the holidays going a little bit longer.

This year, I think my celebration on January 7th (the date for Ukrainian Christmas) will be while taking down the tree and lovingly sorting and storing our decorations.

So I think that today’s post is somewhat appropriate.

Although it seems that I do not have my act together (at least according to the timeline and suggestions of others), I can not only enjoy celebrating an imperfect Christmas, but I can celebrate the fact that I am an imperfect human being.

pine needles under Christmas tree

Recently I learned that there is an ancient Japanese art form which repairs broken pottery in a unique way.

Kintsugi (“golden joinery”) or kintsukuroi (“golden repair”) is the centuries-old Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with a special lacquer dusted with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. Beautiful seams of gold glint in the cracks of ceramic ware, giving a unique appearance to the piece. This repair method celebrates the artifact’s unique history by emphasizing the fractures and breaks instead of hiding or disguising them. Kintsugi often makes the repaired piece even more beautiful than the original, revitalizing the artifact with new life.”

You can read a little more about that in this article, and there is even a link provided to order a kit to try it yourself, if you’re so inclined.

The idea is that instead of attempting to hide the imperfections of a broken bowl, vase, or dish, the cracks and crevices are actually emphasized, but also beautified, by being repaired with an adhesive containing particles of gold (or another precious metal).

The result is a beautifully unique vessel. This process is contrary to our way of thinking, but I think we can learn a lot from this Japanese art form and the healthy thought and attitude around it.

Our imperfections are not to be hidden, avoided or loathed, but rather embraced, learned from and celebrated (when we allow ourselves to grow and use our weakness to empathize with others).

kintsukuroi repaired flower plate

This pretty plate has been repaired at the top with gold, making it a completely unique vessel.

Am I suggesting that we forget about goal-setting, don’t attempt to do anything differently or better for the future, or just be satisfied meeting the status quo? Of course not!

But if we accept our lives with our unique limitations, extend a little more grace to ourselves and those around us, learn from and grow in the areas we are weak, share our feelings and understanding with others, and realize that we cannot do it alone, we will be stronger and more happy for it.

We can humbly accept help and support from those around us and ask for guidance, wisdom and strength from the God who created us.

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

 If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” – James 1:2-5 NLT

***

“…My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.  That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:9,10 NLT

 

So as we move forward into 2017 with hope and expectation, let’s let go of the fear, embrace where we are in life, and hold on to those we hold most dear.

Let’s make the most of our brokenness, offering our lives as a vessel made more beautiful to bless others.

*****

 

 

Mason Christmas gift jars

Simple Gifts in Mason Jars – great last-minute Christmas gift idea

Mason Christmas gift jars

Today I’m wondering…..do you have any last-minute gifts to give?

Perhaps you’re going to someone’s home for the holidays and need a small token of your appreciation. Maybe you are looking for just the right “something” for your child’s teacher. Or do you have some close friends or church small group members to whom you’d like to present with a little gift of love and appreciation?

Well, you’re in luck, even at the last minute, especially if you have a supply of mason or other decorative jars at your disposal. While last-minute Christmas shopping is less than appealing to most people, and DIY gifts are too time consuming at this point in the season, this simple make-it-yourself gift is an exception.

By the way, if you like jars like some of us do, I highly recommend stocking up on them when you see a good price or sale, find a great deal on Amazon (like these colored mason jars or these fun, whimsical jars), or come across nice jars from products you use and yard or other sales.

I have purchased several different colors of mason jars (mostly pints), from stores like Target and Christmas Tree Shops. I keep nice-looking jelly-jars and other interesting jars from products I buy or receive. Even dollar stores offer either mason or other interesting jars. And if your family and friends know you love and use jars, they may even offer you some they have hanging around.

If this is truly last minute and you don’t have any appropriate jars, head on over to your nearest supermarket or other local store and I’m willing to bet they will carry an assortment of canning jars for you to purchase.

In a pinch, you can also adapt some of these ideas to other cute or pretty containers you may have or find. (For example, here are some colorful, practical, plastic containers and these organza bags are nice too (and not just for a wedding, as suggested).

empty colored mason and other jars

Once you’ve assembled your gift-giving jars or containers, next you need the gift contents.

In this post, I am presenting any and all ideas I can think of that would make a nice and/or useful gift. I would choose items that you love, especially that you know would suit the one to whom you’re giving the gift, and/or items that you have purchased, received or collected for this purpose.

(I will provide several links to ideas on Amazon, but you may find suitable gift items from just about anywhere: dollar stores, online stores, supermarkets, gift stores, drug stores, big chain stores, warehouse/club stores. Ideally, you may wish to be collecting these items as you go along as well; you never know when you will see a great sale or clearance price on items that can become part of a lovely gift. You’ll stretch your precious dollars most when you can prepare in advance.)

The ideas I’m including here are simple, quick and economical. (Yes, you could fill a jar with precious jewels, money and/or a collection of gift cards if that works for you, but most of us need more affordable ideas.)

Assorted goodies to fill gift jars

Ideas for filling your gift jars:

  1. Hot cocoa mix: layered cocoa (I wrote a whole post about this last year), homemade mix (using a recipe such as this), or even store-bought cocoa mix topped with mini-marshmallows and/or crushed candy canes (crush your own or purchase pre-crushed candy canes.)
  2. Assortment of holiday and/or other tea-bags: maybe you have some at your home already or you can buy some to share
  3. Hot chocolate packets: add marshmallows, mini chocolate chips and/or candy canes to mix in
  4. Votive or tealight candles: fill up the jar with different colors and scents and perhaps some match sticks
  5. Small toiletry items, nail polishes, and/or make-up items:you can include such items as small nail files, individual eye-shadows, bath salts/bubbles, travel size shampoo or hand lotions, cute socks (rolled up)
  6. Christmas candy and/or nice chocolates: my absolute favorites are Lindor truffles; any individually wrapped candy or chocolates would be nice
  7. Combination or theme jars: combine some of the above ideas that work together (tealights, bath crystals, and a shower pouf; tea, hot cocoa packs and truffles; Christmas tea, candy and a small ornament)
  8. Homemade trail mix, granola, or snack mix: make up your own mix with dried fruits and nuts or follow a recipe idea (This Pinterest page has many interesting Christmas recipes for both trail and snack mixes, while this looks like a nice recipe for healthy, homemade granola.)
  9. Small arts and craft supplies: beads and jewelry making supplies; stickers or craft supplies for a child; small crayons and/or drawing supplies; assorted mini gel pens, small colored pencils, markers or crayons and tape or glue sticks
  10. Decorative office supplies: colorful and/or decorative paper clips, pens/markers/pencils, mini stapler and staples, small tape dispenser, shaped or designed erasers, sticky notes or flags

Hopefully this list will provide you with a starting point for designing gift jars that are fun, meaningful and low-stress gifts for friends and loved ones.

Now all you need to do is decorate your jars with ribbon, tags or labels (here are some cool chalkboard labels), or simply top with a bow and enjoy giving them away!

mason jars filled with items for quick gifts

layered cocoa gift jars 2

*****

Have you ever given a gift in a jar? Do you have any ideas to add to my list?

 

breakfast, devotions, clutter, hope

Hope and Peace Amidst the Chaos

I sure love Christmas and the holiday season! I keep wanting to write fun posts about “Christmasy” things, but lately I have been drawn to write about the more “serious” side of things, like finding peace in this busy, festive season.

I’ll try to be brief, but in this morning’s quiet time I gleaned some truths I’d love to share. Because I know I’m not the only one who tends towards feelings of overwhelm and stress during this time of year.

breakfast, devotions, clutter, hope

Do these photos look anything like parts of your home this time of year?

It’s hard to keep up, let alone have any sort of balance in our lives. In my first picture, I like how my Bible and “quiet time” materials are in the foreground (as they should be), and if you look carefully, you’ll see that there is “hope” in the background. Putting our focus on what matters will give us a sense of hope.

my cluttered kitchen

I’ve always loved the Christmas holiday and am tempted to “do it all”. (You can read about that here in my very first post ever.)

For today, allow me to just share a little bit of the devotional idea in this morning’s reading.

My husband really knows me, so when I awoke to his “Jesus Calling” devotional lying open on top of my computer, I took the hint that he wanted me to take a look at today’s reading.

I am so glad I did!

Today’s reading began with,

“Do not be weighed down by the clutter in your life”,

which immediately had my full attention in the middle of my holiday “chaos”.

The author then continued with some very practical, yet spiritual advice:

“Instead of trying to do all your chores at once, choose the ones that need to be done today. Let the rest slip into the background of your mind so I can be in the forefront of your awareness.”

(The readings are written from the perspective of God speaking to us.)

What simple, yet profound advice for all!

If you are a Christ-follower this is especially meaningful, but how practical for anyone to focus only on what’s in front of us, giving that our full attention. I need to hear this at Christmas and other times of busyness, but also each day as I endeavor to use my time with intention, and infuse it with meaning.

The author encourages us to keep our focus on Christ, which is always the best advice, but especially meaningful during the season designed to remember his first coming.

If you’ve never read this devotional, I highly recommend it. My husband is enjoying it’s brief, yet meaningful daily readings. Each time I hear it, it has been an encouragement to me as well.

(No wonder it’s rated at about 4.9 on Amazon’s reviews! Click on the image for more information.)

 

I’ll close with the very appropriate scripture passages suggested for today’s reading:

 

“Commit your actions to the Lord,

    and your plans will succeed.” – Proverbs 16:3

***

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously,

and he will give you everything you need.” – Matthew 6:33

***

My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”

    And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” – Psalm 27:8

***

“You will keep in perfect peace
    all who trust in you,
    all whose thoughts are fixed on you!”- Isaiah 26:3

(All scriptures are presented in the New Living Translation.)

 

peace decoration on door

I pray that these thoughts and verses will be an encouragement to you as well. Let’s intentionally use each day and each moment this Christmas to focus on what really matters.

 

Have a wonderful day!

*****

 

close-up of calendar day square

Now

close-up of calendar day square

I’ve always been one to look forward to things.

It’s so easy for me to think, plan, anticipate, and sometimes even worry over the future.

I also think a lot about the past.

I like to remember, even re-live good moments, and sometimes find myself dwelling on hard ones.

But living in the moment??? It’s not my forte.

Especially during this wonderful but busy Christmas season, I find myself striving to make everything work, get everything done, and make at least some of the people happy.

cat sleeping with decorative lights behind

 

I long to have peace and celebrate the true meaning of the season.

So what’s a girl to do?

wreath in front of window

I can’t change the past. It’s good to remember and celebrate those moments in which God was with us, helped us to grow, or when things felt “right”.

cat sitting by Christmas tree

I can’t control the future, although I may plan and do my part to make it good.

 

I can only live in the NOW.

 

I can only decide what is the best next step right NOW.

I can only receive God’s gift of grace and peace RIGHT NOW.

 

I’m so thankful that even though God sent his son to this weary world over two thousand years ago, Jesus came for all of my “nows”.

He came to show us the way not only for eternity, but for today….. in both the “good” and the “bad”.

This Christmas, won’t you join me as we rest in the simplicity of the moment, celebrating and enjoying whatever good gifts God has given us right NOW?

 

my Willow Tree Nativity set

*****

Today’s post is written for the last link-up of 2016 with my friends at Five Minute Friday. Feel free to take a few moments from your busy schedule and ponder the thoughts of other bloggers on the prompt, “now”. Enjoy!

 

willow tree angels and jar candle

Surrender to Christmas

Today’s post is written for the link-up at Five Minute Friday, where you can enjoy a variety of short, mostly unedited writings on the prompt of, “surrender”, by a wonderful group of bloggers.

*****

willow tree angels and jar candle

Today we write on the prompt, “surrender”.

My first thoughts are very serious, deep and even “holy” when I think of the word, “surrender”.

But sometimes it’s best and even right to take a lighter, less pensive approach.

So today I choose to write on surrendering to Christmas.

Some of you may be taken aback or even recoil a bit in distaste. You may judge me for being too frivolous or having my priorities all wrong, but please let me explain.

I have always loved Christmas. It’s been the most special time of year and my favorite holiday for years. I even wrote my very first blog post on my experience with Christmas over the years.

I love it. I love the fun, the lightheartedness, the joy, the candles, the busyness, the baking, the music, wrapping gifts in the wee hours of the morning, the stockings, the decorations, watching my loved ones faces as they open a special gift, the lights, the singing, our Christmas tree and the snow.

putting up our Christmas tree

2015-12-04-00-00-12

colored lights decorating bedroom

Christmas food and hot beverages

 

baking cookies and Christmas decorations

 

Most of all, I love the true message of the real Christmas story.

 

Nativity decorations

As a disclaimer, I am not suggesting we should succumb to stress, greed, or wearing oneself out for the sake of the holiday (been there; done that). I don’t think the celebration was intended to be disliked and even hated, almost, by so many because it has become something negative or surrendering to way too many things we have to do. I don’t think this celebration was meant to be a time when we get so busy and preoccupied that we forget the true meaning and it negatively affects our attitude towards others (I’ve probably done a little too much of that, too), and our health (I used to get a yearly case of laryngitis after Christmas as a rule).

But I do enjoy the holiday. I really enjoy all the festivities and trimmings and activities.

And I intend to surrender, not to the chaos, but to the activities that bring joy to myself and to those around me. I plan to throw myself into this special celebration with all my heart and no guilt.

I especially love that the message of Christmas still goes out in a variety venues to much of the lost world. I love that no matter how much some try to stop or squelch it, people all over hear of the God who sent his own son Jesus down as a frail human, in order to live among us and show us the way back to him.

They can see and hear it in Christmas displays, Christmas carols and music, in television shows and in church performances. It is sung by innocent children, polished professionals, church congregations and choirs.

Christmas show on television

Christmas music cd

So my plan this year is to embrace all that this time of year has to offer. I aim to keep things in perspective and in some sort of balance, but rather than fret or stress or bog myself down with questions, burdens and regrets, I want to enjoy this special holiday.

I chose to surrender to Christmas, and to the One who started it all.

*****

Do you love Christmas? Do you find it stressful and exhausting, or does it give you joy and gladness to celebrate? What can we do differently in order to prioritize the true meaning of the season?

 

 

 

 

Layered Hot Cocoa Gift Jars

Layered Hot Cocoa Gift Jars

Just in time for (next?) Christmas 😉

Layered Hot Cocoa Gift Jars

Work with me here, folks.

I know it’s a little late to share a Christmas gift jar idea, but I just launched my blog, it’s taking me a little bit to learn the ropes and get into the swing of it, and my head was overflowing with so many Christmas ideas that I could write about them for weeks.

But I won’t do that to you.

So if you’re a Christmas Day purist (in the sense that the day after Christmas you start taking down all the decorations, refuse to listen to one more Christmas carol, and throw out the uneaten holiday cookies)….then you’re NOT going to like this. You can stop reading right now (and whatever you do….do NOT look at all the nice photos below that may contain “Christmasy” stuff), and maybe by next year I’ll catch you again before the holidays.

However, if you’re like me, there’s still just a little bit of Christmas spirit left unexpressed that can’t quite wait for another whole year. I’ve just seen a couple of pictures on Facebook of people with a Christmas tree still up; so I’m not that bad! (OK, now that I’m finally finishing this post mid-January, even I am ready to be done with Christmas…..but bear with me.)

The best thing about this idea is that it’s not just for Christmas!

Sure, my photos will demonstrate mostly “Christmasy” looking jars, but they can be decorated for any other appropriate holiday (Valentine’s Day Hot Cocoa Gift Jars, anyone? In which case, you’re actually EARLY.)

If you need a little housewarming gift or something to take to a hostess this winter, these will fit the bill.

 

So let’s get started.

 

First, you need to assemble a collection of jars. I used pint-sized mason jars, and adjusted the amounts from this recipe

I also used an assortment of colors, including both blue and purple “vintage” colored jars for my gifts. Since the beauty of using jars for gifts is that they are reusable, I thought that some of my friends would love to receive a tinted jar.

tinted mason jars

 

For each pint jar, you will need the following ingredients:

 

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

½ cup powdered milk

¼ tsp salt

¼ cup miniature chocolate chips

¼ cup miniature marshmallows (you could also use a dehydrated marshmallow such as these)

 

Each pint gift jar makes six servings.

 

ingredients for layered cocoa jars

 

Gather up your ingredients, clear a nice, big space on your kitchen counter or table, and get layering! Start with the sugar and end with the marshmallows.

 

layering cocoa gift jars

layering cocoa gift jars 2

layering cocoa gift jars 3

layering cocoa gift jars 4

Here are some notes to make filling your jars a success:

-Use a canning jar funnel to help pour each layer into the jar.

-Be CAREFUL when adding each layer. It’s difficult to make the layers nice and even (even for a recovering perfectionist, like me), so take care and take your time, so as not to mix the layers.

-GENTLY tapping the jar and/or carefully “stirring” or smoothing the top layer with a utensil may help to even the layer you’re working on.

-Add extra marshmallows to the top of the jar to fill it completely. This will look better and more importantly, keep the ingredients from sliding around and mixing when moved.

 

filled cocoa gift jars

 

Next, decorate your jars as you wish, including tying festive ribbons around them, and possibly a doily or sticker to adorn the lid. Attach a pretty tag with these simple instructions (I simplified them from the original recipe, per my husband’s advice): Mix contents. Use ⅓ cup cocoa mix per 1 cup boiling water (or milk). Store airtight.

 

decorating layered cocoa jars

decorating layered cocoa jars 2

Here are some Christmas tags I designed for my jars that I would like to share with you. 🙂

(*stay tuned…download coming soon!)

Obviously, if you’re not giving these for Christmas, you’ll need to “de-Christmasify” (that’s a word, right?) your tags.

(*download for winter tags coming soon!)

 

making cocoa gift tags

 

You could cut and paste these paper tags onto card stock or other heavy-weight paper for your tags and hole-punch them, or simply use appropriately sized store-bought gift tags like I did. (Do NOT buy them at full price, though, PLEASE! That’s a post for another day.)

 

layered cocoa gift jars 2

Notice how some are “Christmasy” while others are just “wintry”?

 

You can really use any hot cocoa mix recipe you like or any size jar, but you’ll have to do the calculations to figure out how much of each ingredient to place in each different sized jar. You could also change up the add-ins if you like.

The hot chocolate mix recipe on this page looks like another version I may try next time. The addition of crushed candy canes looks festive and delicious.

I think my gift recipients all really liked their cocoa jars. We tried the cocoa mixture here at home and decided that it is REALLY chocolatey. That’s why I added the idea of using hot milk rather than hot water. I may try to adjust amounts a little differently next time around.

So that’s it, folks! Enjoy making and sharing these heart-warming presents with someone you love.

Have you ever made layered hot cocoa in jars, or do you have another exciting layered-in-a-jar recipe you’d like to share?

*****

 

My Imperfect Christmas

Do you dream of the perfect Christmas?

Yes, the one in which the presents are all bought and wrapped early, hand-made Christmas cards have been sent to loved ones, every cherished family cookie recipe has been lovingly baked to enjoy and share, and holiday meals are picture-perfect and stress-free.  Furthermore, everyone is happy, healthy and relaxed; there are no personal conflicts nor family idiosyncrasies. And there’s even money left in the bank. Everyone is focused on the true meaning of the season, both with appropriate solemness and ecstatic joy.

Me neither.christmas tree

Well, that’s not entirely true.

It all started when I was a youngster, growing up in my middle-class southern Ontario home in the country. My Dad was a teacher and my Mom enjoyed the blessing of being able to mostly stay at home. Christmas was big at our house, though not necessarily expensive. But as a child, it felt almost “perfect”.

Traditionally, on December 1st, my sister Rebecca and I would come home from school to a magically transformed Christmas wonderland. The house would be decorated from top to bottom by our mom with love, care and many hand-made ornaments.

We would go together as a family to pick a tree early in the month, and take time to festively decorate it together.

Mom would bake her traditional fruit-cake (a nice, light, white version), and batches of sugar and shortbread cookies. We would sometimes help her cut out the shapes and always enjoyed decorating them together.

She also shopped early and wrapped early. Christmas cards were sent out to loved ones each year.

We attended church services, Christmas parties, went caroling and enjoyed a lot of good family time together; one of the benefits of the holiday breaks in the teaching profession.

Fast-forward about twenty years to the beginning our our married life. I am working full time in a bank and we do not yet have children (or pets), but our days are full.

I have tried to maintain the standard. I have both feverishly and joyously kept as many Christmas traditions as I could. I have loved most of it, disliked parts of it, but almost always exhausted myself.

I henceforth started another post-holiday tradition of pushing myself to the point of having an almost annual case of laryngitis.

Now just to keep things clear, there was no-one asking me to do all this stuff. I wasn’t even trying to live up to anyone else’s Christmas expectations. I just love everything about the holiday, and wanted to do everything that I had experienced and loved as a child.

And it was all good.

For my parents’ lifestyle, it worked. But for us, it needed a little tweaking.

My husband would often say to me that I should just “let some things go”, but the difficult thing I have always tried to explain is that I don’t want to let any of my beloved Christmas festivities and traditions go. So for more years than I can count……I just kept up as best as I could, enjoying it for the most part, but exhausting myself and losing just a little of the true meaning of Christmas in the process.

Well, times have changed over the years. Eventually we bought a house, adopted a couple of cats, and started our own family.

Now we also wanted to make Christmas special for our children. We, as most parents do, wanted them to experience all the joys that we held as dear memories.

So over the years, I have learned some things.

I have learned that there are some things you just have to let go.

What I didn’t realize by holding on to every last tradition was that I was letting go of something else…..my health, my sanity, my peace, or just a few more moments to sit relaxing, enjoying my family and reflecting just a little longer on what God really meant for Christmas to be.

I don’t regret all of those years. And  when I’ve given up “completing” a loved tradition, it’s a sacrifice emotionally, at least. But hopefully it has given back something more meaningful to me and to those I love. I pray that I am caring a little more for myself now, and more importantly, seeking to understand and experience the God of Christmas in a deeper way.

This Christmas, I find myself in a life season of change.

After still being on the recuperating end of several years of upheaval in my husband’s work, and then going through several job changes for myself this past year or two, I am once again between jobs.

When I first heard I might be laid off from my last little part-time, physically demanding yet mentally refreshing job, less than two months before Christmas, I thought that it would be good timing. I figured I could do what I needed to in order to look for work, then enjoy the extra time to really get ready for the holidays.

Well, at times it’s been wonderful, but being in a season of unknown and unexpected transition is not always the most fun nor the most productive time.

So as December days quickly passed and Christmas drew closer, I have surprisingly ended up being more behind than I expected, especially given my less busy schedule. Granted, I am not so exhausted as I have been most years. I have had more quiet moments to reflect, pray and try to discern the next steps in my life. So that’s an improvement.

But many days have brought emotional disappointment this Christmas as well. I have often felt overwhelmed with responsibilities or just discouraged that things haven’t all been done according to my ideal Christmas plan.

I’ve learned to accept my imperfect Christmas.

This year I have sent my Christmas cards late…. but I did enjoy making them from scratch.

I have only baked a couple of little batches of cookies…..but we seem to have plenty of sweets.

We said “no” to some events that may have been fun or meaningful….but we’ve said “yes” to spending time together as a family, not needlessly tiring ourselves, and purposefully celebrating the Advent season.

We have tried to do what is important.

And on this Christmas Day, I can honestly say it’s been good. We have enjoyed each other and remembered the greatest gift of all. I haven’t really missed out on anything of lasting value.

Things have not turned out entirely as expected for me this Christmas, but I’ve been reminded lately that the first Christmas didn’t turn out “perfectly” either.

The people in Jesus day were waiting for a Messiah, a leader who would take over and make things better. They did not expect a helpless baby to save them.

Jesus was a king who should have been born in a large, lavish home, or at least a nice “average” dwelling, but instead he came in a smelly animal shelter and slept in a feeding dish.

His coming should have been announced by important people and to important people. Instead shepherds, the least trustworthy persons in their society, were the first to hear the good news.

The people around him didn’t even notice him enough to provide a suitable place for his birth, but foreigners from a place far away left their homes and devoted their lives to following a star to find him.

So maybe we should spend less time striving for that “perfect Christmas” and more time asking the Perfect One to bless our “imperfect Christmas” with His presence.

Three Ways to Celebrate Christmas Imperfectly

Here are three simple ways to have a meaningful but “imperfect” Christmas:

1. Let go of some things.

You don’t have to do everything.

Prioritize the things that are truly important. This should include some things that are important to you, your family and others (roughly in that order), but not all of them.

Even if it’s a sacrifice because you love to do it all, DON’T! You will pay for it in another way.

One thing I’ve learned is that just because you give something up one year (such as sending out cards or baking that extra recipe…or two or more), that doesn’t mean you can’t include it again next year.

If it really has little or no meaning to you, just cross it off the list for good. Maybe you see most of your friends and family at Christmas or connect with them on social media, so you’ve no desire to send cards.

It’s OK.

2. Do most things imperfectly.

You can do a lot more of your favorite Christmas activities if you learn not to be a perfectionist.

Most jobs or fun things can be done quickly with satisfying results.

If given the choice between the “perfect” outdoor light display (not happening), or throwing a few strings on the bushes when there is a minute (and preferably a warmer day), I’ve learned to accept the second choice. I still enjoy lighting up the darkness of winter and the sparkle and celebration of Christmas lights.

3. Enlist/accept the help of others.

Ask (nicely) for the help of your family and accept help when offered.

Refrain from controlling or “correcting” what your loved ones do for or with you. (Don’t ask me how I know this one; just trust me.) It will take some of the pressure off of you, allow them to feel like an important part of the celebration, and let them know you trust and appreciate their aide.

If your children (or even your husband) don’t decorate the tree exactly the way you’d like it, don’t redecorate it after they go to bed.Just let it go and enjoy their effort and the little bit of free time it creates for you.

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There are many more ideas we could share, but I hope this gives you a start to enjoying your “imperfect” Christmas celebration with a little more freedom and a lot more love.

What things do you do to create balance during the holidays?

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