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?
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
I struggle with being in the here and now. Especially at Christmas my mind churns ahead of me on my “to do” list to make Christmas happen. Tonight I need to prep the French toast casserole for tomorrow’s Christmas brunch and then….tomorrow I need to…little notes scribbled on my calendar so I don’t forget anything for the perfect Christmas. By jumping ahead, I lose the here and now. I think God would say, “Will you stop already?” The truth is I don’t need to pull off Christmas. It will come on its own. I also need the reminder to take time to encourage those around me and let them know just what makes them so special. The long and the short is – I needed this! Thank you and ((hugs)) back to you. May you have a blessed and joyous Christmas and thank you for this gift!
Renee Swope says
Me too, Bev. God knew just what I would need today when He had me write this post. 🙂 Here’s to slowing and being… right where we are, savoring the moments we’re in and the people we’re with. Merry Christmas!
Kathy Cheek @ In Quiet Places says
I nailed the imperfect Christmas making shortbread cookies last night, the recipe called for only the egg yolk, no egg white, and when I separated them, I put in the egg white and by the time I realized my mistake, it was too late, so goodbye cookie dough, ugh!
I wrote a little poem to my family yesterday afternoon after wrapping presents and making a different batch of cookies that succeeded.
Twas the Rush Before Christmas
The presents are piling up under the tree
There is nothing in your stockings
But soon there will be
I’m trying to bake cookies
The kitchen’s a mess
I hope I get it all done
Since it’s almost Christmas!
Our most enjoyable time this Christmas week was going to see the new Star Wars Movie, my husband and I went on our first date to see The Return of the Jedi in July, 1983.
But my favorite is going to the Christmas Eve service at church later this afternoon. I love it when everyone is forced to slow down and take that needed pause and focus on Jesus together as a church family.
Renee Swope says
Love the poem!! What a great way to respond to the cookie dough debacle. 🙂 Merry Christmas. May it be merry and bright and filled with lots more laughs and loads of great memories with your family!
Kim S says
Beautiful reminders, Renee! Can’t wait to give my family time, laughter & encouragement this season! Merry Christmas, Kim Stewart
Renee Swope says
Merry Christmas Kim!! Your life is such a beautiful gift as you give your time and encouragement to me and so many others!! xoxo
LaToya Brown says
Renee, thank you for the reminder to be “in” on this Christmas. Yesterday my imperfect pecan praline candies turned out to be perfect pecan caramels that I dared to share with family and friends. They were a hit! Funny how things work out in spite of our “perfect” expectations. Merry Christmas!
Renee Swope says
Oooh I wish I could have some of those pecan caramel candies!! I dont think imperfect is possible with butter, caramel, sugar and pecans! Yum! I love when the things we do don’t go perfectly but end up turning out even better than we planned. Merry Christmas!
Merry Christmas Renee and thank you for this! I know that I spend much of my time with friends and family not fully present because my mind is elsewhere, usually on my seemingly endless to do list. Thank you for the reminder that memories are created when we are present. Blessings to you and your family.
Renee Swope says
Thanks Sheryl for sharing. It’s so easy to be distracted by our to-dos and miss the sweet blessings of what we have right in front of us. Praying we are all able to be more full “present” this Christmas than ever before. Merry Christmas!
Keeping you and your family in prayers as you mourn your brother, and thank you for your very real outlook on this. Blessings to you this Christmas.
Renee Swope says
So sorry for your loss Theresa and so appreciate your sharing because it’s times like these that really do help us let go of the little things and focus on what matters most. I’m praying for you and your family today. May the gift of Immanuel – full of comfort and peace be so near to each of you.
Trudy Den Hoed says
I’m so, so sorry, Theresa. May God give you all special strength and peace this Christmas and in coming days/years!
Trudy Den Hoed says
These three things are so much more important than our material gifts. Thank you, Renee. Also for all your encouraging posts this past year. May God fill your heart with His love, peace, and joy this Christmas and in the New Year!
Susan G. says
Thanks Renee! These are such good reminders for Christmas and every Holiday or get-together. Just being together with family is “perfect” enough.
Have a wonderful Christmas!
I too, strive for what I think would be a perfect Christmas, and I end up sad and disappointed when things don’t work out. So, thanks to your encouraging post, tomorrow I will try and spend more time with the people around me rather than running around trying to clean up after them all day.
Beth Williams says
It is so hard to slow down during advent/Christmas season. We want to do everything, be everywhere, etc. The only gift our family needs is us–being there in the moment. This is a somewhat somber Christmas for me. Got news my aging dad’s mental status is changing and he needs to move from assisted living. Also dealing with his financial information and paperwork! Will try to enjoy my hubby’s family and rest some!
Have a blessed Christmas!
I should have cancelled my need for a perfect Christmas this year! I was left feeling let down and more like I’d catered a dinner than actually enjoyed a holiday with family and friends. But when I look at it not in that moment, it WAS good, it was blessed, it blessed others. That makes me glad. btw, Renee, I love your son’s sweet comment about your laughter.