My daughter and I ventured to the mall on Wednesday to check out a “today only” sale on luggage. I try very hard to steer clear of the mall (and any place within a 1 mile radius) starting the Wednesday before Thanksgiving through January 2. The crowds, the “Today Only” sales that aren’t really today only, and the traffic headaches that come with venturing to the mall during the holidays just isn’t my thing. (I promise I’m not a grinch!)
But… the hustle and bustle that comes with rushing around and purchasing last-minute gifts, getting work done so that you can enjoy a few days off with family, and making that huge to-do list before family arrives serves a purpose.
I think that all that craziness leading up to the holidays helps us appreciate when the silent night finally arrives. I mean, that’s what all that pre-holiday anxiety and fretting is all about, right? Getting everything just so just in time to relax and be still.
For me, still on my to-do list are the following items: baking sugar cookies with the kids, planning the Christmas Eve meal, the Christmas Day meal, Christmas morning breakfast/brunch, shopping for all of those items, purchasing new lights for the tree on my front porch that decided to stop working, restringing that same tree, polishing a couple of silver ornaments that I never got around to polishing when the tree went up, wrapping the rest of the gifts,
sending out Christmas cards (not going to happen), and many other things I’m sure I’m forgetting at the time I’m writing this.
With all those items still to be done, I’m thinking the craziness and never-ending to-do list not only helps us appreciate the silent night when it finally arrives, but it also serves to help us to be extra thankful during the season. At least it has helped me to take a step back and be extra thankful for of the thoughtful people in my life.
Will all of the things on my to-do list get done? Maybe. Maybe not. I’m pretty sure I’m letting the tree on the front porch go. I’ll worry about that next Christmas. And the meals? I promise, we’ll eat, but I’m not striving for perfection at this point. And I don’t think my family is expecting perfection.
There is a certain beauty and peace in imperfection, after all.
While my daughter and I were in the mall on Wednesday, a young woman walked into the Teavana store where we were sniffing and analyzing teas (that were on sale today only). The sales person asked, “Is there anything I can help you with today?” And the girl proclaimed on a heavy sigh, “I’m supposed to buy a gift for my boyfriend to give his mother. I don’t even know her or what she likes, but here I am.”
My daughter shot me a look, her eyebrows lifting. We were both wondering the same thing: Why was this poor girl responsible for her boyfriend’s mother’s Christmas gift? She was obviously not happy about the fact that the task of shopping for a woman she barely knew had fallen on her. But, and I’m guessing here, she loved/liked her boyfriend a lot and was trying to do a favor for him, even if that favor was causing her a small amount of grief.
I found myself wanting to grab her hand and offer her some encouragement. In the wise words of my late mother: “This too shall pass.”
And as I sit here this morning, December 22, I’m struck with all sorts of thoughts of my mother and the things she did for her family when I was young. While I rush around for the holidays and often feel that I am the only one in the family who is worried about ALL THE THINGS coming together for the actual holiday, I remember how she did the same thing with what appeared to be such ease and grace when I was young. And I’m struck by a single bible verse in the middle of the story of the birth of Jesus:
“Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself.“
Though my mother probably complained a bit more than Mary, I know that she did all the things many of us are trying to do this holiday season – the shopping, the meal planning, the decorating, the wrapping, the baking, etc. And I know that like us, my mom didn’t do everything perfectly. But that’s not what I choose to remember. I choose to remember the grace, the beauty, and the smiles of Christmases past.
So, when I read that small verse inserted in the middle of a perfectly imperfect story of the birth of Jesus Christ, I’m reminded that Mary didn’t have everything perfectly planned out for the birth of her son. Yet, I believe she was thankful for the shelter, the swaddling cloths, and for everyone who visited and brought gifts.
I, too, am thankful this Christmas season. And I’ve reached the point of the season that I don’t want to worry about all the things that won’t get done. I want to take a step back and be thankful for what has gotten done and for all the people in my life who will celebrate the glorious beauty in the imperfection of life.
And right now, as I sit in a mostly silent house, I think I will go and hang those silver ornaments that are not polished on my tree. And I will take a step back and admire their imperfection.
I hope you have a very Merry Christmas. Here’s to all of us celebrating imperfection and giving thanks for the people in our lives who are willing to take on the burdens of providing even a piece of what will make our holidays nearly perfect.