Letting Go Of Perfectionism At Christmas – 3 Tips

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I learned perfectionism at an early age.  The quest to prove myself worthy of love by doing everything perfectly (or not doing it at all) was learned at my father’s knee.  It has taken a good portion of my adult life for God to break me of it and for me to learn God’s love for me is not performance based. He loves me even when I fail Him, which I do often and in spectacularly public ways.

Christmastime can be hard for frustrated perfectionists, especially if small children are involved.  Years before artificial Christmas trees were invented, my dad would spend hours drilling holes in the trunk of our Christmas tree to “fill in the bald spots” with branches taken from the bottom of the tree.  Once he got the bald spots filled in, he would put the tree in the stand.  However, it never stood perfectly straight, so more time would be spent stringing guy wires from the tree to nails in the wall to keep it perfectly aligned. Only then were his six frustrated little girls allowed to approach the tree.800px-Christmas_tree_with_presents

Years later as my husband and I began our tradition of going to a tree farm with our young children, I frustrated everyone (myself included) by searching for the perfect tree.  Nothing was ever good enough for me.  I could always find some fault with any tree they found: not big enough, bare on one side, too spindly, etc.  It was not a fun excursion.  I finally decided that picking out the tree was better as a tradition the kids shared with just their dad.  They had a great time and no matter what tree they brought home, by the time it was decorated and the lights were on, it looked beautiful.  Here are a few other things I learned through the years.

Tip #1.  If you find yourself stressing about everything being perfect this holiday season, take a deep breath and walk away.  Take a moment to yourself and think, “Is it worth taking the joy out of Christmas because I want everything to be just so?”  Let your children’s memories be of the joy and happiness of the holiday season.  Teach them to embrace the imperfect and to encourage those who are trying, no matter the result of their efforts.xmasdinnertable                                                                                                                  photo by flickr_NC intoruth

Tip #2.  Stop comparing yourself to others!  No offense to those of you who have your house perfectly decorated, your holiday baking all done, and every gift exquisitely wrapped and under the tree, but your super capabilities make us “normal” folk feel inadequate.  I no longer torture myself looking at Pinterest or magazines that give me unrealistic expectations of what the holiday should look like for me, and I am happier because of it.   Looking at pictures of things that are beyond my means makes me discontent.  I choose to be thankful for the life and home that God has provided for our family. Christmas_presents_under_the_tree_(11483648553) Tip #3.  It isn’t about the presents.  Repeat after me, “It isn’t about the presents”.  Children, especially small children, will not know that you did not find the perfect gift.  As the parent, you are responsible for helping them to have realistic expectations.  If you are joyful, no matter how few gifts are under the tree, then your children will be joyful, too.  You set the tone of the day for your children.  Don’t let the lack of money determine your enjoyment of the holiday.  Teach your children the joy of making a gift for those they love.  Teach them to serve others as their gift to Jesus.  There are many free activities to enjoy as a family.  All you have to do is seek them out.  Your children long for your presence and time with you, even more so at the holidays.  Treasure these moments as they are all too quickly gone.FullSizeRender (33)

Tip #4  Learn to love the imperfect gifts in your life.  This is our sad little Christmas tree.  Yes, I know there are all blue lights at the top and multi-colored lights at the bottom.  I know the ornaments are old and tired.  But you see, every year my sweet husband gets out the tree and decorates it for me while I am at work.  It is a gift to me. I have learned with God’s grace to love the perfectly imperfect gifts in my life.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Do yourself and your family a big favor this Christmas.  Let go of your unrealistic expectations.  Give your heart and home over to Jesus as you celebrate his birth.   Your holiday season will be full of joy.

I am linking up this week with Grace & Truth  and Purposeful Faith.

The Cat Who Came For Christmas

When we moved into our home many years ago, one of our cats never adjusted to the move.  Patches refused to stay inside the new house.
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photo by flickr_NC/mao_lini
Terrified by the change, she would come inside only if the door was left open.  The minute we attempted to close the door she would become frantic trying to get out. We decided to allow her to stay outside hoping that her anxiety would decrease and she would once again join the family inside.  In the months and then years that followed, Patches became an outdoor cat. Occasionally we would try to lure her inside, but it never worked for long.  She liked her outdoor life and seemed to thrive in it.
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One winter we had a terrific snow storm and lingering cold spell.  We worried about Patches staying warm, but no amount of coaxing would bring her inside.  We made sure she had lots of food and fresh water available and checked on her frequently.
cat_on_snow photo by Von.grzanka
Then one morning I came downstairs to find Patches sitting outside the patio door. I opened the door to feed her and she walked right in like she owned the place. She headed straight for our Christmas tree, crawled underneath, and commenced to purring. 
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We have been hearing her rumbly purr ever since. I asked her repeatedly what took her so long to come in from the cold, but she just stared right past me like she didn’t even hear me. There is no understanding a cat.

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It didn’t take long before Patches decided she much preferred being indoors rather than out. She would come out from under the tree as needed, linger long enough for lots of petting and brushing, and then disappear under the tree again. I was concerned about what she would do when the Christmas tree came down, and she didn‘t have anything to hide under. However, my concern was for naught, as Patches took over the house. She had a really loud meow, and she would get quite irritated if we didn’t immediately know what she wanted. It sounded like she was chewing us out, in cat language of course. It is probably a good thing we don’t understand her language because I think she has a potty mouth.

Patches lived the rest of her life indoors, with an occasional foray out into the wilds of the backyard.  I always think of her as the cat who came for Christmas.

The Power of a Handwritten Letter or Card

Life is busy and there are so many ways to communicate with family and friends.  We are blessed to live in an age when we can communicate with just about anyone at any time: phone, texting, and email are so quick and easy.  I enjoy those forms of communication, too.  But, there is tremendous power to be found in your handwritten letter or card.  Your written words of encouragement and love will ripple through a person’s life and make a lasting impression.

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This time of year, I receive lovely, hand-crafted cards from family and friends.  Who can throw away these beautiful works of art after someone put such love into making it?

It may be because I felt forgotten and overlooked as a child, but as an adult, I have always enjoyed sending notes and cards of encouragement, especially to children.  I know how much they love to receive something in the mail.  Don’t we all?

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I never received a card or letter from my dad.  After he passed away in 2012, I received a gift I treasure from my mom.  You see, my dad was not very good at communicating his feelings and was uncomfortable talking about personal issues.  When I accepted Christ at the age of seventeen, God put it on my heart to being writing to my dad to express my love for him and encourage him.  Through the years, I sent many letters and cards.  He never spoke of them or acknowledged them to me, but after he passed away, many of my letters were found in his dresser drawer.  My words meant something to him!  He saved them!  It brings tears to my eyes just to think of it.  I wonder, did he take them out and reread them every once in awhile?  I hope so.

 Your words don’t have to be on expensive stationary or cards.  

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A 1978 letter from my high-school sweetheart, who I have been married to now for 37 years.

FullSizeRender (26)       A 1993 note of encouragement from my sweet daughter, read and re-read many times.

These cards and letters become family treasures through the years.  They are worth more than any gift my family could give me.  Do you keep a box of cards and letters that minister to your heart?

FullSizeRender (25) Here are just a few of the special ones I treasure from my husband, son, and daughter.

Proverbs 25:11 says “Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.”

Your words have the power of life and death.  Choose to speak love and encouragement into the lives around you.

Who needs to hear from you today?  Who can you reach out to and bless with just a few moments of your time with a handwritten note or card?  You may never get an acknowledgement from them, but I guarantee that your words will have an impact in their life.

A Favorite Christmas Movie For Children

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One of the memories I cherish of when my children were young is of them watching a charming film by Disney called “The Small One”.  You may have never heard of it, but it is worth watching on YouTube or even searching out a copy to buy.

It is an animated movie about a young boy and his donkey named Small One.  The boy is forced to sell the donkey who is old and weak.  He searches for a buyer but is unable to find one except for the tanner who wants him for his hide.

When all seems hopeless, a kind man comes along who is looking for a gentle donkey to carry his pregnant wife…to Bethlehem.

Do you or your children have a favorite Christmas movie?  Let me know if you enjoy, “The Small One”.

 

When Caregivers Age – Making Tough Decisions

I have shared often about my superhero mom who has been caretaker and advocate for my developmentally disabled sister for almost 54 years now.

Jean Evanger and Janice Evanger

My mother did an amazing job of helping my sister Janice reach her full potential, fighting for every step along the way.  My sister was born in 1961, so the fight for education, treatment, acceptance, and meaningful work was arduous but taken on with a vengeance by my tiny mom.  She devoted herself to this task and kept tight control over every aspect of my sister’s life.

Oct 1963   Janice school 1965     Janice and Mom

Many of the resources available to parents of special needs children today were nonexistent in the 1960’s.  We all owe a debt of gratitude to the many parents like my mom who fought to open doors of education, inclusion, and opportunity for children with disabilities.

My mom is now 92 years old and Janice will celebrate her 54th birthday next week.  While Janice has not lived at home in many years, she still comes home to visit and stay a night or two with mom every few weeks.  This has been the routine for years with my mother meeting Janice’s every need while she is at home.   Mom has trained Janice to depend on her for everything and sometimes she has difficulty accepting help from one of her sisters.

While my mom is still mentally sharp, she is frail and has struggled with illness this last year.  She has had several falls since August.  Janice also has had a decline in health and is unsteady on her feet.  She is now larger and heavier than my mom.

Trying to convince my mother that it is no longer safe for her to have Janice home alone with her was a months-long battle.  At times, she still tries to press the point that she could be home alone with Janice when she visits.  My sisters and I have to gently remind her that, “No, it is not safe for you or for Janice.”  Even though another sister is set up as co-guardian for my sister, in the case of mom’s eventual death, it is hard for mom to give up the tiniest bit of control.

Recently a friend recommended I watch a video on PBS Independent Lens called, “Mimi and Dona”.  This video is well worth watching and has so many lessons for us as parents.  The love and devotion between this mother and daughter is a beautiful thing.  But, parents, even parents of special needs children would be wise to train their children to be as independent as possible.  To do otherwise is a disservice to your child.  I encourage you to watch this video.

I am interested in hearing your thoughts about the video or your concerns as you face decisions regarding the care of your loved one.