Monday, December 23, 2013

for when you just need to let go...

{Joining in with the community of lovely sojourning ladies over at The Grove today… }

Expectations can make or break your Christmas.  In fact, they can make or break just about anything.  No matter how hard I try not to have expectations - to hold everything loosely, to keep my hands open - it’s nearly impossible not to expect something.  

I expect myself to bake all the wanted goodies, without losing my cool or snapping at the kids when they knock milk on the floor or snatch spoons off the table to lick

I expect myself to visit every. single. house on our street, not just some of them: all or nothing, that’s definitely me!

I expect myself to plan even the Christmas season meals creatively.  (Does anyone else find it so much harder to get even a simple a dinner on the table, in the midst of planning Christmas menus and all that extra baking?)

As I linger at naptime in Ann’s devotional each day this Advent, I am struck by these words from her Saturday, December 21 (mine full of rush and bustle):

“We are most prepared for Christ, for Christmas, 
when we confess we are mostly not prepared  
“You are most prepared for Christmas  
when you are done trying to make your performance into the gift 
and instead revel in His presence as the Gift.”   

~Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift 

I confess, I haven’t done much reveling lately.  I’ve been going to bed later and later, waking up later and later, squeezing Jesus out of my morning, trying to find him in the cracks throughout the day, and not succeeding very well.  True, there are those occasional moments to myself in the bathroom (!) when I reach for the Messiah book and see Christ in the curves and caresses of Timothy Bott’s beautiful calligraphy.  There are the moments at the sink when I pause and breathe deep, whisper His name over the soapsuds, remember, He’s here.  But those moments feel like tiny islands in the hectic fabric of my day.

And so I’m finding myself a little nervous.  Nervous that Christmas will come and go and we will be too rushed to settle in, to sink deep and enjoy it.  Nervous that my expectations are flying every which way and I’m losing my Center, forgetting what - Who - it’s all about.  It’s so easy to do.  

Today, I decided to let myself off the hook.  Let's make this last Sabbath before Christmas a day of true rest, I thought.  I put aside the laundry, the baking, the shopping, the desperately needed haircut, the errands and the hustling.  This is a day for family.  We do our fourth Advent candle together with the kids, decide together what we will each give Jesus for His Birthday this year.  We linger long over homemade wrapping paper and Christmas labels: “To Jesus, from Ben”  “To Jesus, from Will”  We smear glitter on paper angels, and Will draws a beautiful picture of Jesus as our King.  In the afternoon, we mix Jesus’ traditional birthday fruitcake with my British mother-in-law’s family recipe, and we remember Who is at the center of Christmas.

And slowly, my expectations melt away.  This moment is what matters.  These scents, these smiles, these giggles, even these fights and tussles and pouts - this is where Christ is.  In the center of all of this.  He lives here, in us, in our home.  

He is Christmas.   

This afternoon, in the midst of our Sabbath, after a long lovely nap with my husband, while the kids are still quiet and the house is hushed, I read today’s devotional, for December 22.  

“The being with is always the gift, 
not merely the doing for 
Because God knows relationship is the only reality; 
there is nothing else.”

My husband stirs beside me, stretches his arms behind his head.  “Now this is what I call a Sunday.”  He sighs deep with contentment.  

I feel warm all over, and I know this is the feeling of Christ already come.    


  1. I think the look on your son's face as he looks at the advent candles about says it all :). I love it!

  2. Carolyn, I read this lovely post a few days ago and tried to comment, but then my VPN went out. So, I'm just now getting back to it. But it was so refreshing to read your words, and such a beautiful nudge to stop in the midst of my long to-do list and revel in his presence. Thank you for sharing!