1) The family picture.
If you didn’t hire a professional photographer to take those amazing pictures of your family, it's OK. One year some friends of ours sent a recipe in their Christmas card, saying they didn’t have time for a picture that year. We received that nearly 10 years ago and I still remember that particular card.
2) ALL that baking.
Several years ago it seemed very stressful to me that we were icing sugar cookies on Christmas Eve. I kept thinking it was ridiculous that I hadn’t made sure we had gotten to it sooner. But when I stepped back to see what was going on, it was really nice. The kids were all sitting together with stacks of cookies, a serious variety of frosting colors and tools, talking, sharing, and creating masterpieces on these cookies that we would be eating within hours. Frosting sugar cookies has since become a Christmas Eve tradition.
3) The Christmas debt.
There was a time when all of Christmas went on credit cards. It was so much fun to buy wonderful gifts for our kids and extended family and not worry about the cost. (Thankfully, I've matured since then!) It was virtual money, no dollar bills leaving my wallet and so it was easier to let it go. Then January came and the stress of all that debt didn’t seem so fun. What our kids crave most from us is our presenCe, not our presenTs … and it’s really fun to be creative, thinking of ways to give that most valued gift.
4) Unrealistic expectations with family.
Sometimes we go into a family gathering either expecting the best of others (and are then let down), or brace ourselves for the worst (showing up with invisible walls surrounding us). What if we went with the idea that our gift is to show up with grace? What if we used the day as an opportunity to let go of what we want, wish for, and expect, and replaced it with a humble spirit with no expectations, except for the one of ourselves — which would be to pour into others for that one day. We just might find at the end of the day we feel pretty full and content.
When my youngest was 3 years old, I told her to go get dressed for dinner. She did; she came down from her room in a clean pair of sweatpants and a clean pajama top. Before I could tell her to go change into CLOTHES, I saw her sweet, sweet face, and I remembered how she had worked in the kitchen and then helped her sister set the table. In that moment I became keenly aware it was what she had brought to the table that day — not what she wore to the table that mattered. Twelve years later, I still remember that moment.
It's Christmas — may we all let go of a few things. In doing so, may we each have room in our hearts and our minds for what which really matters.