Christmas is my most favorite time of the year.
The excited expectation of children.
The beautiful Christmas lights.
Lots of parties, and I love parties.
Everyone seems a bit kinder and more generous.
Even so, there is great pressure around Christmas.
I've come to expect the pressure to find the perfect gift, elude debt, decorate a Pinterest worthy tree, bake beautiful cookies....all of which I've learned to navigate within my own abilities and budget. Which are both extremely limited.
This year, though, I've noticed that there is an equal but opposite pressure.
A pressure to use Christmas to teach my kids every possible character trait.
They must be grateful.
They must serve others.
They must only receive a set number of gifts.
Because if they get too much, they will be entitled.
And they must not feel entitled (and if they do, show them who's boss).
Maybe this pressure has always been there, and I've just succumbed to it year after year without noticing. Gratefulness, servitude, thoughtfulness, kindness: those are all traits I want my kids to possess. And Christmas is a great opportunity to teach those.
But this year, I am a bit weary.
It's been a long year.
We are growing a small business, which has been awesome, but also a lot of work.
Two sweet friends lost their battle to cancer this year.
Close friends have moved away.
Some days (a lot of days) with four kids have been long.
There have many great days. And many awesome moments. For sure.
So it's not that life is bad. It's just been long.
I feel more like I am surviving, rather than thriving, at the moment.
I know seasons change, and this won't last forever. But it is my current reality.
So I am giving myself grace this year. Which would definitely explain why we have no tree yet.
Gratefulness can be taught over a lifetime. My kids don't have to learn it in the next 25 days.
We can serve a friend in need on an ordinary day in February.
Entitlement runs so deep in our culture that it's going to take a lot more effort than limiting gifts on Christmas. And I am not so sure it's escapable without drastic measures.
Hear my heart: none of these things are wrong. They're actually very right.
And so important for kids to learn.
My kids just probably won't be learning them in the next 25 days.
And that's ok. They have a lifetime to grow and change and become great contributors to society. It doesn't have to happen this month.
What will happen this month is that they will experience grace.
They will have a mom who isn't frazzled from the well-intentioned effort of over character training.
They will bake and decorate cookies. That will be imperfectly perfect.
They will still do Advent. But it will literally be a piece of chocolate.
They will get to be a part of the Christmas party we throw for our gym clients.
They will reap the rewards of Santa spending time and energy finding quality gifts they'll love and enjoy. Yes, they're undeserved and probably excessive. But isn't God's grace?
This may not be the season of life you find yourself in. That's also ok. You do you.
But for those who've had a long year....who are road weary....give yourself grace this holiday season. This maybe just isn't the year for a well thought-out, well executed Christmas. There are many, many Christmases yet to be lived. You have a lot of time to do all of the awesome things you dream of doing....which will be a joy in a different season of life.
As you consider what your holiday season will look like, take heart in my favorite quote by the late Maya Angelou:
"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah, sweet friends.