Today’s post is brought to you by Charity from Clarity with Charity. I’m very pleased to share Charity’s story of expectations around the holidays as it resonates deeply with those of us (like me!) who set unrealistic expectations, especially surrounding events or times of the year that tend to be idealized. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
We sat around my pastor and his wife’s table for a pre-marital counseling session.
“Have you talked about where you will spend your Holidays? (Thanksgiving, Christmas ect..), my pastor’s asked. My then fiancée looked at me and I looked at him and we both shook our heads, “No, we haven’t really talked about that.”
They asked us to describe our expectations for Christmas.
My fiancée’s answer was reasonable. “I know Charity’s family lives far away so I imagine sometimes we will travel, maybe sometimes we will be in Texas and spend it with our immediate family or see my extended family who lives in the area.”
My answer was not so reasonable.
Being a verbal processor sometimes I don’t realize what I really think about an issue until I start talking (please tell me I am not alone!) I surprised even myself by the passionate description that flew out of my mouth.
“I want our holidays to be really peaceful. I always imagined myself hosting gatherings at our house, welcoming people into our 2 story white house with a wraparound porch and fresh evergreen wreaths hanging from each window. We’ll welcome guests into our home with a fire place blazing and offer a mug of hot cider while the guests shake snow from their boots. And oh, yeah, it would be a perfect day and no one would argue, fight or get their feelings hurt. I want the day to feel like walking into Disneyland, where everyone greets you with an over-sized smile and the air smells like fresh waffle cones. I want it to always be happy…the perfect day!”
Shock and Awe marked the expressions on my pastor, his wife and my then fiancée’s face. Shock that someone near the age of 30 could be expecting a Christmas as perfect as the ending of a Hallmark Christmas special and awe that I would be
dumb bold enough to admit it.
“Charity, how do you think you are going to react if Christmas doesn’t go the way you have described?” my Pastor’s asked.
And then it happened…the Niagara Falls moment of our pre-marital counseling sessions…
I cried because I realized how ludicrous my description of a perfect Christmas sounded .
We weren’t even going to be living in a 2 story house, have a front porch and in the entire lifetime my husband has lived in south Texas he has seen it snow once.
Aside from environmental factors there was the reality that celebrating Christmas with 1 other person, 3 other people or 50 other people means that we would be inviting the most unpredictable variable on the planet in the middle of my quest for Christmas perfection.
My pastors (the parents of and infant and a toddler) also reminded me that we will have children. Children who may get sick on Christmas, puke on my brand new blouse, and keep me up for the entire night.
They reminded me that someone could be grumpy on Christmas day and it may be our children and it may…gulp….be ME. Needing to travel to see my family meant we also could be stuck in a stinky airport on Christmas Eve with a screaming baby in our arms waiting for our connection.
“Charity,” my sweet pastors calmly stated “we don’t celebrate Christmas on December 25th with our children. Yes, we are with extended family on that day. But our immediate family Christmas is celebrated on a different day before all the traveling and chaos begins. We’ve chosen to do this to also be able to invest in our extended families and create our own family traditions.”
More Niagara falls tears…”BUT I JUST WANT TO CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS ON DECEMBER 25th and I WANT IT TO BE A PERFECT DAY!”
“Hey Charity, we think you may have a bit of an unhealthy attachment to the day December 25th and also an unrealistic expectation of the holidays,” my pastors suggested.
I nodded my head, of course they were right and I wanted to be able to truthfully say, it was ok to not have a perfect Christmas. But I wasn’t there yet.
My pastors encouraged me to pray about it over the next week and I did.
As I prayed I released every expectation and dream about Christmas and the holidays and what I wanted them to look like and asked God to give me His dreams instead. I repented to the Lord for wanting control, instead of trusting Him with the holiday season. I repented for my own selfishness in wanting to spend a season satisfying my desires, instead of seeking to fulfill God’s desire for the season.
I repented for making the holidays about my expectations instead of letting Him fill me with a Holy expectation for what His presence and power can do.
When I gave the Date of December 25th to the Lord, and my Normal Rockwell sized dreams of Christmas bliss, my heart was free and prepared to navigate the uncertainty of what our first Christmas as a married couple would look like.
Last year was our first married Christmas.
My husband and I had planned to celebrate Christmas on the Saturday, a week before Christmas, because we would be flying to see my extended family.
On the Friday before “our Christmas” we found out I was miscarrying our first child – Not an ideal set up for Christmas cheer.
Although our hearts were aching with sadness we decided to celebrate Christmas the next day.
We decided to celebrate…
un-prepared, exhausted, and grieving…
because Christmas isn’t about perfection – its about our imperfection – our desperate need for a Savior.
We raced around our house cleaning, and then we then made a spontaneous midnight Wal – Mart run to buy each other’s stocking stuffers.
The next morning we slept in, made a yummy breakfast, opened our stockings and attended the Nutcracker. After the ballet we went to Macaroni Grill and had a delicious dinner together. We ended the night by opening our Christmas presents together and then playing games with friends.
Our “Christmas” was one of my favorite days from the past year.
All my plans to clean our house and make a huge gourmet dinner had been pulverized by the grief and physical fatigue of the miscarriage.
Yet in the midst of the chaos and grief – joy came.
We tasted the real essence of Christmas: hope in darkness, joy after pain, relief from our grieving.
I thanked God for Christmas in a way I had never done before.
The other day I found myself flirting with old Christmas fantasies….
This weekend my husband and I will celebrate Christmas together. We’ll celebrate on a Sunday, after church on a morning where I am working with the toddlers in Sunday School.
That doesn’t ‘feel’ like the start of Christmas to me and honestly I want to sleep in and make breakfast like last year. But I am not bound to my December 25th illusions anymore.
This Christmas may start with animal crackers smeared in my hair but we are going to have Christmas!
It won’t be perfect, but it will be just what we need –I can trust my sweet Savior for that.
I would love to hear from you! Are there any holiday expectations you have had to let go of? How has getting married changed your holiday experience? How have you created new traditions with your family while still staying connected to your extended family?
Charity is a newlywed, new 30-year-old, and life long curly-haired girl who loves Jesus, spontaneous laughter, coffee and genuine conversations. Originally from Seattle she now lives in Texas, where you can find her navigating the adventure of being a woman longing for more of Jesus at www.claritywithcharity.com. Find her on Twitter at @claritywcharity.