The second Christmas challenge…
Another big challenge that I have been thinking about, is the expectations that come with this time of year. I think that the expectations look different depending on the person and family. But there are cookie exchanges, gift exchanges, Christmas cards to write and mail. There are family gatherings, and gatherings with friends. And then of course you have to add all of this on top of your normal week/work/school schedule.
How do we do it all?
We can’t. Or at least I can’t!
Something somewhere has to give. And then if you are like me, you feel guilty about it.
I was listening to a woman tell this story on a podcast the other day, about how she grew up in a very unconventional family, she then ended up going to college in a completely different area of the country than what she was used to, and married a nice man from the south. In her early-married years, she signed up for the cookie exchange at church. And on the flier it said to bring your favorite cookie to exchange. So she showed up with her favorite cookie… Oreos. The other women were so confused as to why she would show up with Oreos, a store-bought cookie. She soon realized her mistake as she looked around at all the home made baked goods, and got the “oh honey, that’s ok” from multiple women. She had never really liked baking, and in her previous community of friends this wouldn’t have been a big deal. But obviously that was a different story here. The next few years she continued to sign up for the cookie exchange and this time bake her own cookies. But at some point along the line realized she still did not like baking. It did not bring her any joy. So she made the decision that she was not going to participate in things like cookie exchanges anymore, instead she was going to spend more time at Christmas doing the things she loved.
I really like the concept of spending more time doing what you love at Christmas and letting go of those things that you really don’t enjoy. This idea is really a freeing concept to me. Focusing more on my giftings and less on the checklist.
My mom loves writing Christmas cards. In fact she is just great at remembering and writing cards to people throughout the year. I love that about her. This is a gift that she enjoys, and through it she loves on others. I on the other hand really, really struggle with writing Christmas cards. It is not something that comes naturally to me, I struggle to remember to do it, and I don’t really enjoy the process. My poor mother really worked hard getting me to remember to write cards and thank you cards. But even with the repetition of doing it when I was younger, with her prodding, it is still a huge struggle for me today. So when it comes to the big task of Christmas cards…. Well I have pretty much given up on those.
And in previous years I have felt really guilty about this. But this year I have decided to let it go. I’m figuratively waving goodbye to that guilt! Maybe I will do it someday. But for right now I’m letting it go. I will grab on to some newfound freedom in changing my expectations. I will wish everyone a Merry Christmas from social media. And I will cheer on and be thankful for those that do love to send cards!
It’s usually pretty much impossible to get away from every difficult situation or time at Christmas (or life). But I have realized I can have boundaries and change my own expectations of myself.
This is a great season to love on people or let others love on you! Let your gifts and abilities shine. And don’t get bogged down by unrealistic expectations.
Our traditions and Christmas’ have looked pretty different throughout the years. Some years we have been close to family, and in the more recent years we have been away. But in all that, we have found some traditions that we love to do together as a family. So I will share a few with you!
We love to make “hot”(warm) cocoa, put it in the boys water bottles, load up in the van and drive around and look at (hunt for) Christmas lights.
Another one is making krumkake with Daniel. This is Daniel’s favorite Christmas cookie. It’s a Norwegian cookie that looks a lot like a mini ice cream cone, highlighted with the delicious spice, cardamom. You can fill them with cream, but for the most part, we just eat them plain.
On Christmas Eve we love going to the candlelight service at church. We are still in the process of figuring a favorite main course for Christmas Eve dinner. So if you have any favorites feel free to let me know!
We have been carrying on this tradition from Daniel’s side of the family. On Christmas Eve we eat dinner by candlelight, and then we serve rice pudding with a nut hidden in it, and whoever finds the nut gets a prize. The kids love this. Then we read the Christmas story and Daniel gets out his guitar and we sing a few Christmas carols.
Christmas morning, there is a lot of opening presents, playing, coffee and then cinnamon buns (In fact I will have to share my cinnamon bun recipe, it is so delicious!). Christmas day has been pretty low key for us, just enjoying each other’s company. Until the meltdowns start with the kids. For all the fun extreme highs of the day, it seems that they cannot go without the extreme meltdowns later on! But it’s all worth it!
For now I will stick to what I love and what works for this season of life, baking for others, baking with my kids. Parties, Christmas movies and curling up on the couch with a book while it dumps snow (which is actually what my day looked like today).
And to all of you, I wish you a very Merry Christmas. Filled with hope, and peace in the Lord.
And again, Isaiah says,
“The Root of Jesse will spring up,
one who will arise to rule over the nations;
in him the Gentiles will hope.”
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.