(This was written December 2013 on the first year of me as a single mom over Christmas…)
Sometimes it’s hard to go on Facebook.
I will read the status updates, look at cute family pics, will watch adorable and very perfect videos, and I’ll look at my life and think that I simply do not measure up. I’ll look at how I just got a tree or that we put our ornaments up yesterday or that I never put lights outside this year or that not one cookie has yet been made or that I have not yet bought one gift. I’ll see all the things that are the farthest thing from perfect in my life and I’ll feel the tears well in my eyes and I’ll feel like muttering the words I kind of wish it was January 1.
I know I’m not the only one.
I know there are moms and dads out there with lives much more messier and painful and challenging than mine. I know there are those of you dealing with death, loss, divorce, angst, anxiety, run-away children, sick children, and an entire collection of hard things that makes Christmas and the holidays just one of those times in life when you’re waiting to for the permission to breathe again. I know how easy it is to try to compare your life to the highlights shown constantly this time of year. I know how songs about White Christmas’s and Winter Wonderland and Joy sometimes sting more than they bring happiness.
I just want you to know that you are not alone.
You are not the only mom sitting in her home with her head in her hands wondering how she’s going to afford gifts for her children. You are not the only one walking through Target with tears stinging the corner of your eyes. You are not the only one wishing for the calendar days to speed up just a bit. You’re not the only one who has to work hard and late and cannot even imagine time making cookies and are just grateful that there is a cookie platter at the grocery store. You are not the only one with a messy life and no Christmas cards sent out. You are not alone.
There is no shame in not having the perfect life.
There is only real.
I know it can be easy to wonder about your story and life and hope that you’re doing everything your kids need for Christmas. But, you see, Christmas, in some ways, while amazingly nostalgic and perfect and such a celebration of family, has morphed into a season of unstated expectations. There’s the list of all the things that we think will make the perfect Christmas or we think are required as part of the holiday season. The truth? As beautiful as the cookie making, card writing, snowflake cutting, tree trimming, hall decking, crazy shopping, bow topped wrapping, carol singing, and all of that is — that stuff does not define Christmas. That’s not the joy part, honestly.
It’s family. It’s remembering the real important. It’s being grateful for the little things. And in my home celebrating the birth of Jesus.
It’s not about perfect.
It’s about being real. And being okay with letting the tears fall in Target. Or admitting you don’t have it all together. And really giving yourself grace. It’s grace, my friends. Grace for some of you to just get through this time. Grace for others of you to try again. Grace, grace, and grace.
I guess I really don’t have brilliant words of wisdom for those of you during this season. I wish I had this ten step program to surviving the holidays and finding the joy that the whole world seems to be celebrating. But here’s the deal. Most everybody’s life isn’t perfect. Most of us have had our fair share of hardships and moments where we step back and wonder how in the world did this become my story? Well, whether it is your story or not, it still is your story. And I believe that each of our stories matter and that tucked within can be moments of joy and beauty. These stories are what create a life – they are the things that define us, mold, strengthen us, demonstrate bravery, and oftentimes press into being women of deep beauty in our hearts because we realize just how important relationships and family are in one’s life.
It’s just harder to see those things when the world is doused in perpetual tidings of good.
A dear friend told me yesterday don’t dwell on all the big things just choose one thing to do and find joy in that. So, yesterday I took my boys out for a bit – just because – and that was a moment that mattered. We talked about presents, family, and how much I loved them in all things. We didn’t do anything crazy. In fact, I spent $9 at Starbucks, wandered the toy aisles, and their highlight was the whole clementine orange sample at Target. It was time given. Not stuff, not presents, not perfect trees, not twinkling lights, not gluten free cookies with royal icing, not any of that – it was me and them doing life together. You know what? While we drove home through the snow they told me they had a great day. And my Elijah throughout the day kept saying best mom ever even though earlier in the day I was feeling like the worst. He didn’t see the undone stuff, the imperfect stuff, the stuff I wish was different. He saw his mom.
Little things matter.
So to you, the one with an imperfect Christmas that doesn’t seem to match what you thought Christmas would be, I wish the deepest of joy to be found in the midst of these days. To you I wish for just a bit of hope and peace. And to you I wish the sweetest of moments tucked within these days and that your heart remembers how valued you are.
Merry Christmas, friends.
Oh yes, one last thing, I’ve learned to love and to celebrate those facebook updates and videos and cards and all of that. Do you know why? It’s a celebration of good. Of joy. Of happiness. I want my friends to celebrate those awesome moments in life with me. So now, now I look at all of that and I don’t compare my life to that – instead – I just live with a heart grateful for my friends and the blessings in their lives.
Perspective. That’s what it is.
Life isn’t about perfection.
Sweet Christmas JOY to all of you from me.
If you’re looking for a gift for a friend or one for yourself I’d be honored if you’d consider my book The Brave Art of Motherhood. No worries, it’s not a guide to perfect, but rather is about fighting fear, finding yourself and living a purpose-filled life. All while in the midst of motherhood. Get yours here -> Autographed (link) or Amazon (link)
Wishing the merriest imperfect Christmas ever… we just managed to get our tree decorated yesterday as well 🙂
And to you as well, Jennifer.
Thank you for sharing Rachel. Love this so much, and such amazing timing as I sat down last night and wrote this post, about how so many of the things I love about Christmas have changed, and continue to change, and I struggle with that place in between. http://awayfromtheoven.com/2013/12/21/special-needs-christmas/ Little moments matter, thank you for that reminder. 🙂
Bless you Christi. I think the older I get the more perspective I have gained about little things. I still have a great deal to learn, but now i’m beginning to understand why my dear grandmother would be content to sit in her room with her family around. It wasn’t stuff. It was the moment.
Hi, Rachel –
I have been reading your blog for a while now but this is the first time I’m posting a comment. Your post really struck home with me. My poor little boy is sick as a dog – fever, upper respiratory infection, terrible cough – and it’s so hard to see him like this. He was so excited for Xmas a day ago, and now I’m wondering if we will be able to enjoy all of our upcoming holiday festivities.
After reading your post, I realized that all of the holiday festivities don’t matter. Just being with our little family is enough and we have so much to be thankful for – even if my son is sick – because it is a sickness he can recover from in time. There are children who are sick with no recovery in sight. There are people who don’t have a family to share Xmas with. There are parents who can’t afford food, let alone toys for their children.
My friend just lost her father-in-law unexpectedly today, and it’s terrible that it takes something like that to remind us of all we have. Your post captures the idea that we need to be reminded of daily – to be thankful and grateful for our lives and not to get consumed by our “consumeristic” society and so-called “perfect” lives that others have.
I have chosen to be thankful. THANK YOU for the reminder.
Blessings to you and your family.
What a pure blessing to read your words. Thank you for sharing.
i am sorry your little one is sick. That is so hard – I remember last year when my entire family had influenza – and thinking about how Christmas really wasn’t what they had planned. You know what? They don’t remember being sick. I asked them about it today and they don’t remember that. They do remember playing with their Grandpa and that Grandma let them have a bunch of olives and all sorts of little things.
I love that you are choosing joy and gratitude. And please extend my sympathies to your friend as well.
With deepest joy.
Thank you for your always encouraging words.. You touch many lives and help us all navigate through the beautiful, wonderful, challenging world of motherhood. Your beautiful words often bring tears to my eyes, but my heart is always filled with gratitude, hope and knowing that I’m not alone…
Wishing you and your beautiful family the Merriest of Christmases and all the very best in the new year,
Peace and love
Thank you, Allyson. You are not alone, my friend.
Wishing you joy and peace and hope as well.
Time spent together is always the best gift. What a beautiful reminder. Merry Christmas!
There is only real. Love that.
So glad I found your blog! Your “Finding Joy” title and your taglines speak to what I hope for our life! 🙂 I tend to just stop posting on my blog when things get overwhelming and life is too much, so I appreciate your honesty so much. It takes gut to be honest online.
Hearing my kids say “Best Mom Ever”… that melts me too. I feel like I’ve won a contest when I hear that.
PS – I also skipped Christmas cards this year (and last…:0 )
Thank you, thank you. Joyful Christmas!
Christmas can be so hard for so very many. I know too many who are spending the first Christmas without a loved one. For others the losses aren’t as new, but can still hurt just as much. This is the first year we can’t afford to give gifts even to the grand kids. But we’ll be together, Lord willing, and there will be food and fun and church Christmas Eve and Christmas Day!
No matter what happens, the Lord is our shield! Praying in Seattle!
Psalms 5:11-12 But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee. For thou, LORD, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield.
As we get older and our families grow and start their own traditions, some of the old memories begin to fade, but I think some of our best Christmases we re when we didn’t have enough money to buy gifts; when all the things didn’t get done; when we had time alone as a family. The precious moments that we give our children will stay with them much longer than an I-pad or lap top. Those things become obsolete in a fraction of time, but the gift of love will last forever.
Thank you so much for these words.
Our family suffered a loss this past week that has left us all reeling. I for one usually have to muster up Christmas spirit but this year it is near impossible to do so.
It is always ‘what it is’ no more no less.
Your words helped.
Merry Christmas from our family to yours.
I just love reading your posts. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and your family!
Thank you for posting this! I found it on a link on a friends facebook page and shared it on mine. You are so right and seeing this was perfect timing for me. I hope you have a Merry Christmas and I thank you for this reminder!
As always, thank you for sharing in your triumphs and struggles. Thank you for sharing real. Many blessings to you and your family and all the moms’ out there. We are all doing out best and that’s what matters – our best.
Your son was right, you are the best mom ever. Thank you for sharing your story–I think many need to hear this. Perfect is something that isn’t real. Merry Christmas to you and your family!
Your words are beautiful, and so true. I’ve had a difficult year – financially, emotionally, you name it. I had to deactivate my Facebook account for a few days last week because I just couldn’t deal with it. I am happy for the people who are enjoying this time of year, who have money to do stuff with their family, who are getting to spend all that time with their kids. But, it hurts to know I can’t do any of that for mine. After a few days I was able to go back to the land of social networking and be thoroughly happy for folks again. And I don’t feel quite as sorry for myself as I did before 🙂 I realized, like you said, I have to focus on the smaller things, the things that matter. Merry Christmas to you!
Thank you so much for this beautiful post. Just before reading this, I was on Facebook struggling with feelings of inadequacy. Reading this post and being reminded of Christ and realness and grace brought tears to my eyes and balm to my heart. Thank you and Merry Christmas.
Bless you today, Ariana.
Your blog is very encouraging and real, thank you!
Merry Christimas !
Merry Christmas! Always here praying!
Galatians 4:4-6 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
My email address
It’s like you stepped into my life and wrote down everything you saw and felt in my heart and mind.
Peace to you xo
To you as well. Blessings to you today.
Rachel–what a wonderful article–so endearing and close to my heart! We cause ourselves so much heartache trying to achieve perfection when it’s the small things that really end up creating memories. I am completely guilty of striving for perfection and disappointing myself for falling so short of it so it’s nice to be reminded that there is often more joy in the imperfections themselves!
[…] When Christmas Isn’t Perfect is so true it hit a nerve with me. Sometimes when we are online it seems like we’re the only one with struggles and it’s very disheartening to us “regular folk” when others portray their lives as perfect on Facebook and other places. […]
So sad. The tears fell when I read this post. I bookmarked it and have read it over and over. Thank you for what you share.
This time last year I was in a frenzy of charity work, personal home decorating, planning, card sending and present purchasing. I was determined that Christmas 2013 would be the best Christmas ever for my two year old. Christmas day came and went, uneventfully – not perfect (because no day ever is), but a quiet family Christmas together.
Then, on the 27th Dec at 5am I woke up with a pounding headache, muscle weakness and realised I’d had a stroke. My vertebral artery had ruptured and our world was turned upside down as I was blue lighted to hospital. Laying in the resuscitation unit, with my terrified husband and daughter looking on as my voice disappeared and I lost control of my world, I was suddenly aware of the hugs I hadn’t given, the kisses I would miss, the things I had left unsaid. It was a harsh and terrifying wake up call.
This year, I am simply grateful to be here to celebrate Christmas.
I know that it’s the little things, the smiles, the time, the hugs, the murmurs of approval at small achievements, the kisses, tickles and bedtime stories that are the things that are remembered by children – not the latest toy or tonnes of packages to open on Christmas morning. It’s the small smile, the unexpected kiss, the lunch packed and waiting when he’s running late for work, the time spent listening to problems and allowing him to help me solve mine that matters to my husband, and that I am still here to give and receive those things.
Stuff is just stuff. It took a stroke to remind me of that.
This Christmas period will not be easy, anniversaries never are, but this year it’s about celebrating what we have with each other – not driven by gifting. I am almost fully recovered from the stroke now, but it’s taken a year of hard changes, reflection, vulnerability and pain to get here. One thing that helped me was someone reminding me that ‘You are enough’.
She was right.
Thank you Rachel. I very much needed to read this this year. It has been a hard year for me and I’m so sad that I can’t enjoy the season as much as I would like to. It really meant a lot to read this, so thank you for sharing.
You are so welcome, Jen. blessings to you and I’m so thankful it blessed you.
[…] So today when one of my friends posted on facebook about finding the joy in Christmas, I read it: Christmas isn’t Perfect. And I was at work, and I DIDN’T CRY! But it did get me thinking about how hard I really […]
im so glad i stumbled upon your blog…believe it or not eveytime i read a post i feel like you are personally taking to me like i have friend that really understood deep down..this post about xmas is what i really needed to read, to remind me that my value as a mom is not measured by the amount or how expensive the gifts i give…i’ve been so down these couple if weeks because i really wanted to give gifts to my family and friends especially to my two kids just because i really love wrapping and giving out gifts…but i could not deny the fact that i could not afford it..as a bread winner with a mom and a sister to support and with a toddler and a preschooler i had to work for 12 hours a day and i barely get to make the two ends meet…and at this time of year when everyone seems to be so busy with the merry making, parties and shopping, i have to constantly remind myself that i dont need to keep up with all of that…so thank you Rachel 🙂 for knowing what it’s like to be a mom with all these responsibilities shoved on your face but still always seeing the silver lining…happy holidays from my home to yours 🙂
Thank you, I can truly relate to your post,
It really touched my heart. Keeping my eyes on Jesus has been my wsy through and He has akwsys filled the spaces for my family when I could not 💙