About the Author

Mary is a writer and speaker who lives for good books, spicy queso, and television marathons – but lives because of God’s grace. She writes about giving up on perfect and finding truth in unexpected places at MaryCarver.com. Mary and her husband live in Kansas City with their two daughters.

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things we love
& you will too!
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Reader Interactions


  1. Thanks for the encouragement. I have been really trying to fight the idea of planning things to be perfect. I have been trying to let go of expectations and focus on the real meaning of things, but it is a hard habit to break!

  2. Great post!!

    I am the Queen of Over-doing it. Ask my family. I plan these very elaborate birthday parties for my 2 & 3 year old daughters that thus far, they probably won’t remember. All my planning & expectations came into question a week before my oldest daughter’s 3rd birthday party when we attended her best friend’s party . . .at a bounce house.

    It was amazing. The kids had a BLAST! Forget that, I had a blast. It wasn’t the prettiest party we’ve been to. The decorations certainly won’t be featured on any blogs anytime in the near future, but still. It is the party against which we compare all other parties. 🙂

    It was the best party we’ve been to thus far, including the ones held at our house were everything was yellow including the decorations, attire and even the food or the princess party where each little guest left in handmade princess attire (even though I have a fairly demanding full-time job on top of my family obligations).

    My immediate family has come to expect such things from me whereas my extended family sort of just shakes their head at me.

    But that bounce house party made me question why I do it. For the girls? or for me? or more specifically, for the accolades I think I will get from it? Do I stress myself out so much over tulle and color coordinated pom-poms that I don’t enjoy what really does matter: My girls, family & the time we have together?

    Yes, Christmas time is especially susceptible to this sort of thinking. I want to create that magical wonderland I remember as a child. But if I’m honest in my recollection, the magic of the season wasn’t because of any elaborate design on the part of my mother. She did the best a young family can and as with most people, our Christmas collection grew over time to what it is today and was actually pretty scant as a young child.
    The magic was present simply because it was Christmas time AND I was a young child.

    I want to do my part to make Christmas special for my family. BUT I want to be free to enjoy it, not stressed out to the max over what I need/ want to do.

  3. This is so very sweet! And I think you are absolutely right! I should simply refuse to give a gift just to give a gift. I want each of the gifts I give to truly tell people that they are loved. And many times, those gifts don’t cost much at all, because the biggest part of the gift is my heart.

  4. I decided this Christmas that what I wanted was not more stuff (given or received), but more time.

    First, more time with God. Time to read His Word, time to pray, time to listen. Time to just hang out with God.

    Second, more time with family and friends. Peaceful, fun time. Not hectic how-many-holiday-parties-can-I-go-to time.

    Third, more time with myself. Time up at our cabin away from phones, TV, internet. Time to walk in the snow. To sit by the creek.

    So thank you for the reminder and the permission to not try to keep up. As the carol goes “Rejoice.” Not “new toys” which is how my daughter heard the words when she was 5!!

  5. I can so relate! I am preparing for a Christmas party this evening! I have never had people over from this new church we started attending this year, and I am a little stressed about it, howver, I am a whole lot better than I usually am! I am determined to make this a relaxed peaceful gathering! No frills, fo fancy, just fellowhip and fun! And we are all sharing in the food so I don’t have much to do for that part!

  6. Mary, I share your struggle and I absolutely agree with your reflection and reolsution. Simple really IS better.

    One thing that helps me is to ask myself:

    “Will my kids remember that expensive toy or the stressed out mommy it took to buy it?”

    “Will my husband be blessed by a perfectly-decorated house and elaborate Christmas dinner, or will he relish a calm and peaceful wife to enjoy the true meaning of Christmas with?”

    I think we both know the answer.

    Merry Christmas-Gift-Making!

  7. Despite my lack of craftiness, I remember making candles (candles! what was I thinking?) for my friends as a teenager. You’re right–there’s something about using your creative energy that just adds a little extra love. I just made a present on shutterfly and although I hyperventilated (yes, I did) it’s also my favorite present that I’m giving. And, you, Mary–I still have the little box you made and gave to me. I put jewelry in it and think of you with a smile every time! XOXO

  8. Oh, Mary.. I liked the words “Relaxed” and “casual”. That’s a good way to describe my craft-challenged gifts. My preschooler son has really encouraged me here. I really enjoy his imperfectly-perfect gifts so much, I decided to take my own advice. Just have fun and make something personal. It kinda shortens my gift giving list, though, ‘cuz I think only certain friends would enjoy them. 😉