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The anticipation. The spirit. The love. But oh, the stress. The expectations. And the disappointment. It’s pretty incredible that one holiday has the ability to capture both ends of the spectrum. I look forward to this time of year. It’s kind of magical. It creates a bliss that just doesn’t make itself very well-known at any other point during the year. It really brings out some of the best. But…it also brings out some of the worst.

Religious or not, Christmas offers a spirit of togetherness. Inspires giving. Embraces cheer. It’s a holiday that celebrates feelings of hope, love and peace. Three of life’s most desired elements, all wrapped up in a few calendar weeks. And somehow, like the flip of a switch at month end it’s as if all of that anticipation and excitement vanishes into thin air. Sure. Some people carry that torch well into the New Year. But for most, it kind of dissolves with the packing up of the lights, the tree, the stockings and other merry décor. Where it sits in air-tight bins until the reveal next season. I’m guilty of it, too. In fact, I can even go to great lengths and admit that sometimes I’m actually relieved when it’s over. {Now if that’s not some amazing cheerful spirit?!} As much as I love this time of year, there are reasons that I ache inside because of it.

Anticipation is fun. But it’s stressful. Because anticipation can so easily ignite disappointment. The expectations around this season seem to increase with each passing year. Said or unsaid, both are equally woeful. Is our house as nicely adorned as our neighbors? Are the decorations inside warm and inviting? Do I even have enough decorations up? Did I prepare the right kind of appetizer for the party? Are my cookies edible? Was our Christmas card pretty? How many presents should I actually get for my kids? Does my husband need an extravagant gift? What will the kids wear to church? What will I wear? Am I making enough food when we host? Is the house pristine? Are the gifts wrapped neatly? Point blank. Is it all enough???

Then I cast my attention on what’s around. Grief. Suffering. Hunger. Rejection. Tragedy. So much pain. I get caught up in the despair this world drops at our feet. And shamefully look down. So I find myself fighting an internal crusade. For what? For all the overwhelming moments that feel like thorns when they should really feel like roses. Because the pressure I’m inflicting upon myself is nothing. BIG PICTURE NOTHING. And then I crumble into a pool of guilt. This isn’t what the spirit should feel like. Or look like. What has gone wrong?!

As my husband likes to remind me, it’s all about perspective. So I sit down and take a deep breath. I look at the faces of my children. I feel the warmth of my husband’s embrace. And I remember that despite how commercialized the holiday has become, it’s never about the gifts, the parties, the food or the decorations. It’s about the celebration. And the reason we even celebrate in the first place. None of these are actually wrong. It doesn’t mean I’ve missed what Christmas is all about. It’s just an askew focus. So I mentally take away all of those things. I disregard the expectations. I abandon all of the misguided thoughts. And I turn my eyes up. This isn’t for us. This isn’t for them. It’s for Him. Then the weight of all the unnecessary pressure and guilt begins to lift.

Pain. Remorse. Stress. Joy. Excitement. Laughter. He sees and hears it all. So I like to think that even though I wrestle with mixed reactions around this time of year, he isn’t faulting me for one or the other. He’s given me a heart to feel it all. And when I let it all go and just turn to him…he knows I’m celebrating for all the right reasons. Even if the path to bring me here seems so wrong. We’re not built to be perfect. But we are built to be led to perfect. And he wants us to rejoice in that. So let yourself be wrapped up in the love and the promise. Because this, my friends; is the greatest reason for the season.


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