About the Author

Kristen Strong, author of Back Roads to Belonging and Girl Meets Change, writes as a friend offering meaningful encouragement for each season of life so you can see it with hope instead of worry. She and her US Air Force veteran husband, David, have three children and live in Colorado...

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& you will too!
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Reader Interactions


  1. Yes. Yes, yes. When we stop “doing” and check our expectations at the door, we leave room for ourselves to watch God working…but even as I write that, I’m newly aware of how difficult it is. I’ve always thought of Christmas as the best time for a *Christian* like me to redeem my relationships and shape them into something Jesus would like to see. But that’s a precarious edge to be teetering over…because once *something* goes the slightest bit awry, it’s a huge disappointment. May we learn to see His gifts instead of striving to give Him perfection.

  2. I’ve learned to work at dropping the expectations over time. My kids thought I hate Christmas I would complain so much. Great post.

  3. Yes, Kristen, I am praying our home will be a peaceful place amidst the hustle and bustle of this season. For the first time we are incorporating the Jesse Tree Advent tradition into our routine (thanks to Ann V). I am hopeful it will still our hearts and help us to rest with purpose. {I will admit, that I have some hidden expectations with this, too. I will need to check those at the door.} But, I am hopeful and, admittedly, the rest may be more for me than anyone else. Thank you for this sweet encouraging reminder. Jana

    • Oh this right here, Jana: ” I am praying our home will be a peaceful place amidst the hustle and bustle of this season.” ~ Is there a better gift to give? I’m praying this for my home, too.

      We love Ann Voskamp’s Jesse Tree advent devo, too. May it bless your family wildly!

  4. Oh Kristen, thank you for this thoughtful post. The question I have asked myself more times than not…. Why Lord?
    Too many memories of outbursts but more memories of shared joy: my son when he was little kneeling before the nativity in His great grandmother’s house…..my daughter’s joy as we trimmed the tree.
    Unrealistic Expectations…the elephant in the room in too many homes on any given day. Thank you for reminding us that we can make memories as we “let go and let God”.
    God bless you.

    • Oh yes, that ugly elephant in the room. The enemy loves to make him 3 times as big during the holidays, huh? I pray Christ moves in all families to multiply the good memories while dividing the hard ones. Thank *you* for your wisdom, Judy. Your words minister to my heart!

  5. I appreciate your writing on this! I’m reading a book with a friend during this Advent season that I strongly recommend. It’s called “The Meaning is in the Waiting” and it’s been very helpful to point out why it is that all the magic that we try to create during the Christmas season inevitably falls flat on Christmas Day. I’m learning that mainly, it’s because all of our lives and especially during this season we are forever yearning for and looking ahead to the future, never living in and learning to be fully present in, well, the present. So when Christmas Day dawns, we miss all the magic of the meaning of the Day because we don’t know how to live in the present. We miss Christ in the manager because we’ve been missing Him all along in subtle ways as we wish away the present.

    Thanks though for writing on this! Definitely a helpful reminder for all of us 🙂

  6. Yes, I most certainly do struggle with this. In fact my message to myself this year, my “mantra” is to create a Christmas of Minimalism. Just enjoy the 5 senses of Christmas. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to buy gifts or bake cookies, but I’m toning down those expectations. Our expectations are our own worst enemy.

  7. This is so good, Kristen. Not every advent season is a Norman Rockwell/Martha Stewart scenario. Sooner or later, we seem to have to adjust our expectations … or the expectations of others.

    I had to do this a few years ago … I had no other choice

    And it not only worked for me, but has taken the pressure to perform off, and to enjoy these fleeting moments in a more relaxed way.

    Christmas blessings!

    • Linda! I love this. Your post is spot on. Keep what you must in order to celebrate Him best. Throughout the Christmas season, may we all be able to say, “It is well with my soul.” Beautiful!

  8. We are taking the family on a trip later in the month and I am already preparing my heart and mind to leave my expectations for a magical trip behind. Even with grown “kids” and their spouses things are not “practically perfect in every way”. BUT, we can have a lovely time and create some awesome memories!

    • ” I am already preparing my heart and mind to leave my expectations for a magical trip behind.” ~Karen, you give us a beautiful reminder perfect for the start of Advent season. Praying and preparing with purpose ahead of time. Thank you!

  9. I have struggled with this for way too many years. I always have such high hopes at Thanksgiving time that this will be the amazing Christmas. I’m usually sick by the big day. Major prayer adjustments are being made for a Christmas filled with the wonder of His birth. Thanks for posting this today-I needed to see that I’m not the only one struggling with this. Blessings~

    • ” I am already preparing my heart and mind to leave my expectations for a magical trip behind.” You and Karen {commenter above} are thinking the same way. Praying with you, sister. May this Christmas be wondrous because of what’s already been accomplished…Emmanuel with us!

  10. Thank you so much for the reality check and the beautiful words. Prayers for you and your family to have a magically beautiful Christmas season!

  11. Thank you for this message. I always tend to get caught up in my own expectations. This year, we are on an extremely tight budget, and I’m really trying to focus”the reason for the season”.

  12. I try very, very hard, cos it is hard during this season, to stick to my quiet time in one way or the other, to not let that drop, because if that is cast aside, it truly becomes difficult to keep focused on Jesus.

  13. Girl I love your honesty on how crazy the holidays can feel and point us to the real meaning of Christmas. I love the line of going to the bathroom to pray over everyone’s mood and asking Jesus for a realignment. Thanks for a great post.

  14. What a great post! this year we’re trying to focus on CHRISTmas, and not all the consumerism of Christmas. We just found out my husband has kidney failure and starts dialysis in a few weeks. Our finances went out the window, but we are counting our blessings. We have a home, our family and doctors to treat his condition, and of course a loving God who is aware of our needs and will take care of us. I refuse to let the lack of money rob me of the joy of Christmas!

    • Lisa, you bless the livin’ daylights out of me. Praying for you husband right now…and for you. Thank you for sharing your glorious perspective here. You are so loved!

    • Lisa,

      Praying for you both right now! May God truly bless you with a joyous Christmas and many many more to come!

  15. When any day around the Christmas season seems to be heading south… I stop whatever it is I am doing (Life is NOT an emergency)… and make my favorite tea or my infamous french vanilla hot chocolate and put on some Christmas music. For awhile I just relax and enjoy my drink and the music and then I get up and make a list of the REAL priorities and just (as Elisabeth Elliot says…) “Do the next thing.” With my favorite Christmas music or any favorite tunes in the background … I find myself singing and dancing and praising my way through whatever it is. Sometimes through tears but with a huge weight off my shoulders. His yoke IS EASY and LIGHT. Candles help me too… or a hot bubble bath !!!!!!!!

  16. I love the part about going into the bathroom if necessary. I can so relate to this whole post…if I need to, I will adopt the bathroom retreat exercise!

    Thank you, Kristen, for such timely and meaningful words!

  17. Thank you so much for the reminder, Kristen! It’s good to be intentional, but grace-filled. I so want my family to connect with Christ, enjoy Christmas and not remember a crazy stressed-out mom!

  18. as simple as possible around here. this is the busiest time of year – we’re in four sports at our house now, i’m a teacher, everyone wants to have a party, family coming to stay in my house for the MONTH of december….so. i don’t do christmas cards. if you want to see me or read me, i have a facebook and blog! and no elaborate decorations – ONE tree (this doesn’t seem to be the norm anymore….) and most importantly? saying no to some things. even if they are good. god didn’t descend so that we could have stress….

  19. I’ve never been one to have really high expectations of Christmas. Or any holiday, for that matter. Growing up, my family always had delightful holidays, but we weren’t into the super detailed traditions. Just hanging out was good enough for us! We’re a rather low-key bunch.

    THEN. I married my husband. His family? Is Christmas-crazy. Totally foreign land to me. It made our first few Christmases together…awkward. I was exhausted by all the pressure he and his mom in particular put on everything to be absolutely perfect and exactly the same as it had always been. I didn’t feel like there was any room for new memories with me in them, just the re-creation of the old memories. It’s been a long road but we’re finally at a balance, discovering our own Christmas rhythm.

    Because you’re right, nothing ruins everything like high expectations!

  20. Made me think of two quotes from Einstein I read the other day…..
    .Live in the Moment “I never think of the future – it comes soon enough.”
    Create Value “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.”

    If we live in the moment and make a choice to enjoy be happy with whatever is going on, then we be creating valuable and pleasantly memorable experiences with our friends and family. What a great thing to model to our children! God wants us to be happy and show love!!!

  21. You are so right about expectations of perfect that ruin many of our Christmas celebrations. I want my daughter-in-law to enjoy Christmas and be able to relax with my son and her children. This year she came up with a great idea: no big Chistmas dinner on the 25th; that day is reserved for family time at home. She has promised that she will not wimp out and change her mind.
    On Saturday night after Christmas, she and my son will host a pot luck for everyone (about 30 people) without a huge sit down dinner on Christmas day. It isn’t the way it was always done but their Christmas will be much more serene. Church and a peaceful Christmas Day is a wonderful way to celebrate the birth of Our Lord.

  22. Of course it is no accident that I had the blessing of reading your message and all the responses today….it is God speaking to me through you and your readers. It is like you are speaking only to me….everything needs to be perfection not just at Christmas but everyday and every special occasion. This creates so much anxiety that the occasion is a stress maker and not the wonderful celebration I so wanted. I am praying now that I not only read the words in your message but that the Lord will give me the strength and the wisdom to relax and make this a Christmas of worship for the “reason for the season’…JESUS!! Thanks so much for turning my thoughts in a different direction. Praying that you and your readers have a Blessed Christmas. God bless all of you. Linda

  23. I read and immediately thought you knew my life so well. So this will be my mantra in 2012. I have shared it and now comes the challenge of living it. Help me Lord, for I cannot do it alone!! Thanks for you words, your work and may you too remember to lower your expectaions and increase you appreciation!!

    Merry Christmas!

  24. Those insidious demons of perfectionism must dance for joy as we buy into the lie that more is better–more decorations, more presents for more people, more programs and parties…you get the idea. Thank you, Kristen, for sharing your wisdom about reasonable expectations, that leads us to pleasant ways and paths of peace (Proverbs 3:17)–most desireable during the Christmas season.

  25. The hoopla of the season and my own tendency to worry a the minor details often leave me frazzled but I like that idea of escaping away to the bathroom to refocus.

  26. I don’t have high expectations for Christmas. We put up a little tree, like Charlie Brown.

    My family is scattered in several states and China, except for dad. He will be coming with us to my in-laws. Hubby’s family is here except for 1 nephew and his family–lives in Nashville area. We will go to in-laws exchange gifts & eat a nice meal and talk a bit. Then we will head home to our place.

    This year we aren’t even buying each other gifts. We will sponsor a salvation army child instead and give extra money to our little girl we sponsor through a mission in Mexico.