The other day I caught myself whispering an unrealistic secret to my heart:
“Maybe this will be the year everything goes as planned and we’ll have the perfect Christmas.”
Perfect is what I’ve always wanted for Christmas, but in all my years of living I’ve never been able to pull it off.
For me, perfect looks like peace on earth and in my home for 24 hours. A Christmas where everyone is happy and peaceful, loving and kind. No disappointments. No arguments. No debates. It’s all about Jesus and loving each other — for a whole day.
Sounds a little like heaven on earth doesn’t it?
Maybe like me, you’ve longed for the perfect Christmas too. Maybe you’ve shopped for perfect gifts. Or planned a perfect menu with everyone’s favorites. Perhaps you’ve worn yourself out creating the perfect setting, where your people will gather and you’ll hold your breath hoping nothing goes wrong.
Or maybe you’re not a recovering perfectionist and wonder if I need counseling. I do. And prayer. May I come to your house for Christmas?
Honestly, sometimes I can get so focused on wanting everything to go well that I miss what is right in front of me, and forget just how beautiful imperfect can be.
Jesus was the most perfect Gift ever given, yet He was given to us under the most imperfect conditions, just as God had planned.
This Christmas, I’ve decided to cancel my request for perfect.
I’m actually anticipating an imperfect, messy, slightly chaotic and perfectly imperfect Christmas just like the one in Bethlehem. Because PERFECT is not what my family and friends need most. What they need is for me to be “in” each moment, making memories with them.
So, instead of trying to create the perfect Christmas and give perfect gifts, I’m giving more of me.
Because I’m realizing that the best Christmases are created by memories and moments that don’t come with price tags. They can’t be bought, baked, wrapped, or put under a tree. But with a simple shift in perspective, we can create an (in)perfect Christmas by being fully present in each moment — as we look for ways to give these three gifts to the ones we’re with:
We’ve shopped and gotten gifts on all their lists. But slowing down to look them in the eyes; playing with toys they just opened; sitting together and watching that movie, football or video game we have no interest in; listening to stories we’ve already heard. These are the best gifts of all!
Time is a priceless gift we don’t give enough of these days. But there is no better way to let someone know they’re important to us than by giving our time to them.
Things may go absolutely wrong this Christmas, but the most imperfect moments can make the best memories!
Our family still talks about the Christmas of 2010 when I set my napkin on fire while trying to light a candle during our “giving gifts to Jesus” tradition. Then a few minutes later, after the flames were contained, I knocked over my glass of water and flooded the town of Bethlehem! (And here I thought it was such a creative idea to have a nativity as the centerpiece on our dining room table that year.)
My kids held their breath to see if I was going to cry or scream. Instead, I died laughing and they did too. Later that week, I asked one of my sons what he liked most about that Christmas, and he said, “Hearing you laugh so much. Mom, I love the sound of your laughter.”
We all long to be noticed and appreciated. Christmas is the perfect time to let someone else know they are.
I was cleaning house the other day and found hand-written notes on my son’s desk that classmates sent years ago when he broke his collar bone. He’d pulled them out to read during a week when he felt discouraged.
Words are a treasured gift that only take a few minutes to give — in person or in a simple note. When we give encouragement through written or spoken words, it becomes a gift that will keep on giving long after Christmas.
I don’t know what a perfect Christmas looks like for you, or if you even hope for one like I have. But I do know we tend to put pressure on ourselves to be more, give more, and do more for Christmas than almost any other time of the year. So I’m praying for you and me today, that in the midst of this beautifully imperfect holiday season we’re likely to have, we will be able to exchange the beautifully (in)perfect gifts of our time, laughter, and encouragement with the ones we love.
Christmas hugs and prayers from all of us at (in)courage,
~ Renee Swope
Who will you see over the holidays that could use the gifts of your time,
your laughter and your encouragement this Christmas?