Monday, November 26, 2007

Christmas expectations

I've spent the last few days Christmas decorating. It's not that I have so MUCH (compared to what I used to own) but it is still quite a bit. For the last two years, I've gone through items and only kept my very favorites and I do so enjoy looking at each one as I find the best place to display them. Usually putting up the tree/s would be the first Christmas project I'd finish. This year it is the last as I am still perusing the changes in ornaments.

I'm also a little slow this year, decorating while "life happens". My coffee pot finally gave out on me, after almost six years of steady service (by far the LONGEST I've ever had one last). Since we don't have one of that caliber in the budget right now, we headed to the nearby Wal Mart for a "middle of the line get us by" model. I woke up this morning to English Breakfast tea rather than Seattle's Best coffee. As much as I enjoy a good cup of tea, it just isn't the same... :)

I've been getting a few e-mails and comments about Christmas and I do hope to respond over the next few days. The most important lesson I've learned over the years that brings joy during this season is to manage my expectations! I've found it is an important gift to pass down to the next generation, too.

As much as I adore getting gifts and giving them, I began to move the emphasis off of gifts by the time my son was born. It's probably a good thing since I only have ONE gift under the tree most of the time (that being from my daughter and son-in-law). I always tell my son I'd enjoy just going out to a favorite restaurant with him for breakfast rather than spending much money on me. My husband and I don't give gifts to each other as such, anymore. Instead we will spend money on a necessity (probably replacing the booster for the antennae on our little TV this year). Although this year he is "kind of" giving me a gift by making room for a subscription to Victoria magazine in our budget! Most of my family have passed on, my two remaining sisters and I haven't exchanged gifts since I was a little girl.

I bore you with those details just to say that I can have Christmas joy in spite of few gifts under the tree. Because we have experienced some difficult challenges, I realized long ago that joy is a choice... a gift we give ourselves. Not only at Christmas but let's face it, the Holiday season acts as a magnifying glass to those parts of our life that are less-than-perfect and downright distraught.

We watch movies that portray beautiful scenes of Christmas past, we see how Martha has time to run a corporation... a magazine... a few houses... and still makes her own Christmas ornaments and gourmet dinners, we gaze at the December issues of our favorite decorating magazines and sigh as we pour over the beautifully put together rooms, and perhaps the worst can be those media portrayals of perfect Norman Rockwell families singing carols around the piano as they hold hands.

There are such years. I've had the house perfectly decorated with lots of friends and family sharing blessings. (Okay, so it wasn't perfect but it was pretty!) I've made some great meals through the years and my cookies are famous. There have even been years when the family situation was great. However, there have also been years of unemployment, sickness, moving during Christmas, a brand new baby (twice!), and a few years in a row where someone was missing from the table due to death... divorce... and such happy events as gaining a new son-in-law who took my daughter away to NEW ENGLAND (okay, I've forgiven him but only because he is the world's best son-in-law).

How do we continue to have joy in the challenging years? By taking a good look at our expectations, those we have control over. At the risk of appearing overly spiritual (and if you knew me face-to-face you would laugh at that!)... I have learned to first view Christmas as a time to celebrate the birth of Christ and all that means to the world. For this Baby grew into a Man who went to a Cross... the Cross was before Him throughout his life. He came to conquer death so when there is someone missing at the table, I can celebrate the Season because we will be together again.

I can be content with few gifts because I have been given the Greatest Gift of All by the Baby/Man. What more can I ask? He makes me know I am just passing through and this life will seem as a blink of the eye compared to all that is to come. I must hold on to my expectations for this time with loose fingers.

I know there are aspects of Christmas that are important to me (I'll write about the process soon), those things I've pondered through the years. I need to decorate, I need a tree... even if it is a small one from Goodwill, I need to spend time each year as I remove each item from their red and green Rubbermaid containers... taking time for the memories to come flooding back with each one... memories of good times well spent as well as challenging seasons God when brought us through to the other side... I need to spend time in the kitchen baking as I listen to my favorite Christmas music... I need to once again view some favorite Christmas movies... I need to make certain I have a thankful heart.

If I tell myself I won't have a good Christmas unless everything is perfect, I receive lots of gifts, all my family is here on Christmas Day, there is no such thing as a BUDGET, my life is exactly as I always dreamed it would be... then I won't have a good Christmas. I may as well leave the decorations in the box, curl up on the sofa, and eat chocolate... lots of it. (Believe me, I had a couple of years when I was really, really tempted to do just that.) Fortunately, this year isn't one of them. It's not perfect, oh my friend... it is far from perfect. But it is good... and I've decided to choose joy.


Kristi in the Western Reserve said...

Oh wise Brenda, to choose joy. It is something I will have to work at this year. And this was supposed to be the make up Christmas because the last two years we spent in hospitals, and had trees that were (the first year) put up but not decorated, and (the second year) bought but never put up....This was going to be the beautiful year to make up for two "lost" Christmases. Well, the person I loved to spend Christmas with is no longer here, but you know Brenda, I'm going to follow your lead and choose joy. I have three wonderful children and two beautiful granchildren and two fine fine sons in law. I have a very large extended family because Paul was the youngest of ten. I know he would want me to chose joy, and I thank you for putting this in my mind in just these words.

nanatrish said...

Thank you for your sweet and tender words today. Life is so challenging, but the Lord is why we celebrate this holiday anyway. I believe He wants us to enjoy and have a peace about this time of the year. My mother died in December years ago and it has been so bittersweet. I feel like your words have helped to show me that I need to Choose Joy. I am putting it on my screensaver..just in case, I need to be reminded. Brenda your blog has given me so much. I look forward to it.

Mimi said...

Brenda... it is such a joy to read your blog and know that you have indeed found the true meaning of Christmas... we can all have that Joy if we reach for it... it is very easy to get depressed at this time of year... when we look back it seems that we remember only the good times and we get lonely for those times... when in fact the times we have now can be the "good" times if we allow ourselves to feel the Joy of Christ...
thanks for this post...

DebD said...

He came to conquer death so when there is someone missing at the table, I can celebrate the Season because we will be together again.

Amen! I think the Americanization of Christmas really makes it so difficult to focus on the Incarnation and the miracle that God would humble himself to become man. The Creator became a creature. The World wants us to focus on "stuff". I love your idea of "choosing joy". The work of being a Christian is turning our backs to the world's beck and call.

God bless and may you have a joyful journey to the manger.

Anonymous said...

Brenda, thank you for sharing your heart and life in this post. The concept of Christmas being "a magnifying glass" for what our life really is -- wow -- is true. My current favorite quote is "Contemplate the extent and stability of the heavens, and then at last cease to admire worthless things." - Boethius, 6th Century Christian Philosopher. Your writings prod your readers to consider God and what is truly beautiful about living. Blessings. Desert Lady

Cathy said...

That's a very sweet, wise, post, Brenda, about the true joys of Christmas. You have exactly the right ideas about enjoying Christmas. Thanks for sharing your heart.

Anonymous said...

< We watch movies that portray beautiful scenes of Christmas past >

I'm in need of new Christmas movies to add to our small collection.
What are your favorites?
I was able to purchase 2 new Christmas music cds-one by Steve Tyrell and the other by James Taylor. I'd love to watch some new Christmas movies. We've watched most of ours already, and it isn't even December yet!!
jo :)