I recently made a comment to a dear lady who has been such an example to me in my life – she has known me since I was born and I admire her immensely. She is one of the most gracious, giving women I know. The comment I made was that she and my Mother “made Christmas seem so effortless” and magical when I was growing up. I think we can all relate on some level to her first reply to me:
Your comment “You and Mother made Christmas look so effortless.” needs a response! I laugh, but Christmas has brought more stress into my life than I want to admit. An effortless Christmas is an illusion caused by the absence of reality!
For weeks each year we are forced to do more of everything – plus more – and all the while keep in mind the reason for the season with a pure heart. We’re not only taking care of big families (and they get bigger the older we get!) who sometimes want more expensive gifts than we can afford or, maybe they don’t tell us what they want or, we don’t know how to ask so gifting is pure puzzlement. We feel like a failure when it isn’t the right size, color or style. And when we see the gift in their July garage sale we face our failure again.
But back to Christmas… there are the neighbors – we want to remember them with some little something and what about the “shut-ins”? Beyond that, there are the “have-nots” as well as “those that have” and won’t be happy unless we come to their dinner party or go to some special December gathering with them.
All the while ministry continues which means presence and sometimes much more!
Furthermore, the once-a-year, 22-pound turkey with sausage stuffing brings consternation as we pull out the innards for giblet gravy wondering what time of the night we have to get out of bed to stuff the beast and put it in the oven.
Then, there is the stress of what to wear. What to wear is a question of mine right now and, I want to decline the invitations just to get rid of the stress. I dislike shopping for myself – always have disliked it. I’ve got several fancy gatherings coming up and I haven’t a thing appropriately Christmasy to wear!
It is easy to be squeezed “in” this world and not be “of” it – especially at Christmas! I am so grateful for I John 1:9… true confessions of one needing more sanctification!
I smile as I think of your remark and remember a Christmas or two in Montreat and your Mother was running with her tongue out, but she indeed could do it with grace. She called my husband and me up on the mountain and asked us to go shopping for her. I think it was Christmas Eve – could have been a day or so before. She confessed that she did not have Christmas together for you children and she needed help. She had no desire to shop – didn’t have time so she asked us to go to Sears and purchase electric blankets, gowns or pajamas and flashlights and a hammer. I can’t remember what else was on the list! I don’t think your Dad was even in the country.
Love you dearly but the effortless impression was no doubt pretense on my part! Christmas and taking care of the world is difficult – and one thing for sure God didn’t intend for us to do, but the world squeezes us to think we have to and far too, often I’ve allowed it.
Her second reply reveals her sweet spirit:
“I laugh for I had to go back and re-read what I had written and realize that only a part of the story has been told. Decorating is fun. Creativity stimulates. Praise exhilarates. Laughter reinforces well-being and happy eyes, smiles and especially a hug from those we love is good payment. We Mothers work for that payment. It seems that making memories is part of a mother’s mission.
I realize that a lot of the burden has always come from my own personal need for significance, security and love. Those needs go with us until the last breath and … we know that God is the dependable giver of those gifts!
The secret is to make time to focus on the REAL REASON!
All is well.
You can see that her struggle for authenticity is what speaks to me. She has been an example for me and I am blessed to have her in my life. She will see this blog on Facebook and I want her to know how much she means to me – I love her dearly – more than she knows.
The insight into my Mother’s efforts makes me sad in some ways. She tried so hard and gave so much…so little energy, so little money but always wanting to give what she had and meet our childish expectations. Her mother did that for her in China as she grew up…
I am afraid I have followed their example in this matter…wearing myself out to keep traditions that may or may not mean anything. By the time Christmas arrives I am exhausted and wonder why I try to do it all. I am a slave to tradition.
Please don’t respond with lectures…
I well know, like at Bethlehem, God speaks into the noise and busyness to touch our hearts with His kindness, mercy and love. The message of the angels is still SO real – even in the 21st Century.