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. Ah Mary, I can relate to so much of this. I was so excited to find my dining room table for our Thanksgiving and having about two days where everything looked homey and put together. Then came out the Christmas tubs and the intention of getting it all decorated early. That was four days ago,..dining room table has the last of the decorations that I don’t know what to with…a tree with lights and no decorations… A schedule that doesn’t have much room to finish it all before a couple of gatherings planned here in my home within the week. I don’t want to stress over the stuff but enjoy the celebration if the greatest Gift ever given. I want to be with the people God has placed in my life- family, friends, students. And MOST OF ALL- anticipate and be ready for the arrival of my first grandchild due in just two weeks. I deeply desire for my heart to be wrapped up in the beauty of my Savior this Christmas and letting go of my list of expectations of what it all should look like. Thank you for the encouragement today. Hoping to take a deep breath soon and let it all go.

    • Was it here on Incourage that I read a post once upon a time about someone whose house wasn’t near ready for her party, but in the end, she and her friends had a blast decorating it together AT the party. Maybe that could be an idea! 😉

    • Melanie, it sounds like you have a full plate this season! Honestly, I’d say if you don’t know what to do with those decorations, stick them back in the box or room they came from and forget about them for now. 🙂 (And congratulations on that upcoming grandbaby!!)

  2. Mary,
    “Just Jesus…is enough” I love this! Thanks to a wonderful Secret Santa who sent me Ann Voskamp’s book “The Greatest Gift” and beautiful Jesse tree ornaments, I am carving out time each day (even if I have to make an appointment with myself) to spend time with just Jesus. The decorating hasn’t even begun, but this appointment with my Savior is so much more important. It carries more life change than whether my banisters have garland on them this year. Thank you for a great reminder to recapture our childlike amazement of Christmas by looking at this season through the fresh eyes of a child.

  3. Completely along the lines of what is going on in my heart this morning. I just started reading Liz Curtis Higgs book, the Women of Christmas and wrote “Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room” in my journal and wrote thoughts about it. I need to have room for Jesus or there’s no point in any of it. Thanks for this!

  4. Everyday Faith ~ Holidays

    Well I feel so much better Mary, thank you. Letting me read your post, hit home. The lack here of spirit is lurking on my dining room table too. Although, I must say… I would have had Thanksgiving dinner BUT, I couldn’t find my table then! Why? ~ why do we do these grandeur plans. We do know the reason it IS for Jesus. In advent days my readiness becomes WATCHFUL. I get SO watchful…I seem to get sidetracked. My focus wanders reminisces in mindful precious joy. Quiet prayerful hours on… through late night. Before I note, gee..”It, (the table clutter) really doesn’t look, any different from the previous hours. Oh well. So…now I changed direction. I found you Mary, your delightful perspective, ‘Clearing some space’ ~ for Christmas. Wouldn’t yah know ….HERE IS CHRIST right next to me. Thank you Mary for your site and comments.

    I’m thinking of a small simple place, an inn in Bethlehem. There was no room for HIM ~But ~ in stable in a manger. There~ Jesus Christ was born.
    God grant me, assist me today make ready the path.

    This clutter on my dining room table… is insignificant now. JOY! Praise Be to God ~
    Merry Christmas ~

    Always love One,

  5. I am going into this holiday season a little nervous. Last year was very overwhelming for me. I basically shut down after Christmas. I had no energy, felt completely drained, and the things I did enjoy – blogging, was something I couldn’t even consider doing. I am stepping into this season being a little more reserved. I already bought some Christmas presents, which should help. On the whole though, I am trying to keep it simple without taking on more than necessary.

    Thank you for your great post!

  6. Thank you so much for this post. I was thinking I was alone in not feeling the Holiday spirit.. wonderful suggestions and affirmation too. I’m looking forward to this week end, I think 🙂 to dragging out my decorations but keeping it simple this year and that’s ok! Jesus IS enough.

  7. I can so relate, our tree is not up yet, and everything is just blah. I am hoping to put it up this weekend and praying that the sight of it knocks the Christmas blues out of me.
    It has been a rough year both emotionally and financially, and it is all hitting now it seems. But I am refusing to let it get me down and keep me down. Fighting back, listening to the carols we sang in church when I was a child, bringing back the memories of the living Christmas tree our church choir used to have every year. Teaching the songs to my children so that they may lift their voices about the real reason we have a Christmas. And knock the blues away.

    • I think even if your tree and the songs don’t completely knock your blues away, it’s okay. Do what you can, enjoy what you can, but remember that the Lord came for both our best days, our worst days and the blah ones in between.

  8. So beautiful!! And I am thrilled someone else still remembers the Claymation Christmas!!! LOL! My dad was in the choir for years and we loved the one with the choir of bells…”I lost mine…!” Too funny!
    I love your idea of keeping it simple too– just pick one thing! What great advice– sometimes that’s all it takes to get the ball rolling. Thanks so much for the inspiration today Mary!

  9. Perfect, perfect, perfect for me today. My stress level this December is way worse than in previous years, and the month has barely begun. And, I have not a lot on my plate and loads to be thankful for. But it’s the constant pressure (via FB, mostly) to decorate, trim, light, frost, wrap, shop…because everyone else is, has, or did already. I’ve never seen so many Christmas decorations up BEFORE Thanksgiving as I did this year, and to me, that only adds to the pressure. Let’s take this season one holiday at a time, shall we?

    Thank you for this. I’m definitely in a quiet Christmas mode and mood this year, and I’m learning that that’s okay. Jesus is, has been, and always will be more than enough.

    • Yes! SO many people are decorating early this year. It’s crazy to me!! I say log off Facebook and Pinterest (or at least hide the people stressing you out for now), and enjoy the season at your own pace!!

  10. Mary, I needed this. In the midst of a difficult season with the kids, terminally ill family and friends, dealing with my own health issues and keeping up with lots of to-do’s on my list, I’m not in the holiday spirit. But I want to be. Maybe I’ll put n, It’s a Wonderful Life while I fold our Christmas letters today, and remember Who we’re celebrating. And choose thankfulness in the middle of it all.

    I need this post today. Thank you.

  11. Thank you for this wonderful reminder of what Christmas is really about…. Jesus… This will be a difficult Christmas as we are all feeling quite broken. Thank goodness Jesus Christ came to put the broken pieces back together…. we are hoping and praying for a miracle this Christmas….
    Oh…btw, one thing I REALLY LOVE on (in)Courage is everyone’s comments… They always bless me!

  12. I’m so happy you posted this. Last Christmas, I had an absolute mental breakdown complete with tears and a horrific fight with my husband in front of the kids. I seriously did not get over it until mid-January. My side of the family celebrates Christmas on Christmas Day about 2 hours from our house. When we had kids, we both decided that we didn’t want our kids’ memories of Christmas Day to be spending 4 hours in the car, so we decided then that we would stay home for Christmas. Well, that meant that, by default, we spent Christmas with my in-laws, since they live in the area. My in-laws are extremely difficult even on their best days, and that left me with the most sorrowful feeling, knowing my family was getting together and having fun, while I was stuck with my in-laws. This feeling had been festering for a while, and then last Christmas, while I was knocking myself out getting the house cleaned and food cooked for his family, my husband decided to go BACK TO BED because “he wasn’t feeling well.” That’s when I completely snapped.

    This year, we decided to make some major changes and we are celebrating with just the kids this year. We have simplified our decorations and gifts and are careful to not over-schedule ourselves. I hope that the slower pace means more time to focus on the real meaning of the season.

  13. Mary,

    These holidays are super merry for me this year. I have been and am dealing with my aging dad & his health issues. Add to that my job has changed and I am not liking my work environment any more. I just had a friend’s smother die on Thanksgiving. So much “blah” out there this year.

    The other day God must have felt my blah and out of the blue I got a fed-ex package wth Ann Voskamp’s The Greatest Gift and the Jesse Tree ornaments. It perked up right up. I put all the ornaments on our little “Charlie Brown” tree. My hubby came and hugged me and said we could get a little bigger tree. Made me smile and happy!

    I agree with doing just one thing and making Christ the center of the celebration. One thing I don’t like about holidays is all the selling and commercialism. I buy a few gifts for the people I love and that is it. God is super more important than any gift we could ever receive!

  14. Oh how I needed to hear this. My adult children live in chaos and the holidays are NOT fun because of the craziness they bring. My mother (who was my rock and able to keep me sane around the chaos of the kids) died a year ago. It complicates things when both her birthday and mine follow Christmas in short order. Add to that the strain of trying to sell a house, paying two mortgages and remodeling a house, it’s easy to take my eyes of the Christmas child just when I need him the most.

    Thank you

  15. these words echo my very thoughts – I almost wondered if you’ve been following me…so glad I am not alone through this, and thank you for these wonderful suggestions!

  16. Ahhhh, a kindred spirit. We also watch A Claymation Christmas every year, and the kids are out of the home now but still have to come over to watch it.
    I totally relate to the rest of your thoughts, but that’s what caught my attention – I don’t think most people know of that little treasure :o)

  17. I really needed this..I will try to do just one thing, recall a special Christmas memory.I will give thanks and count my blessings. I will encourage myself and give thanks for the birth of Jesus Christ. Thankfully.

  18. I just can’t get into the Christmas spirit this year. Our son in law was killed in a car accident in October and my daughter is so sad as we are too. Then shortly after Jeff’s death, my English bulldog of which Jeff had given me died. And on top of all this, I have had a double knee replacement and just basically feel like yuck.

    I need a good spiritual boost. Got any ideas or comments for me?


    • Linda, I’m so sorry for your loss. I wish I knew just the right words to make this season hurt a little bit less, but I’m afraid that, though I’ve faced hard holidays after loss more than once, I don’t know what will make a difference for you and your family. I do know that the Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He is. He is with you. And I know that scaling back on how you celebrate this year is okay. Actually, no matter what you and your daughter and your family choose to do in order to make it through the holidays, it’s okay. There’s no road map for grief, unfortunately, but I pray that those in your life do offer you lots of grace and comfort as you walk through this. Praying comfort and peace even in the midst of your great sadness this year…