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.