How to ruin an imperfectly good Christmas

All I want for Christmas is…perfection.

currier and ives 3

Every year about this time the phone rings and I answer it to the dreaded question, “Mom, what do you want for Christmas?” Don’t get me wrong. I could whip out a gimme list as quickly as any human with self-centered tendencies. But underneath my inability to answer is another, more desperate want.

I don’t want much
I don’t want much: just the perfect Christmas. The Currier and Ives type. (Does anyone even know what that is any more? ) The used-to-be-Hallmark one. (Seems maybe that definition has changed, too.) I want the one I experienced before life happened–with the original Chipmunks singing, “…Me I want a huuula hoooop…” When Christmas pageants consisted of live music and everyone got hard ribbon candy, unwrapped and in brown paper bags after the program on Sunday morning. When Mom did all the cooking and I was oblivious to what it took to gather everyone. In other words, the one before I was in charge. THAT perfect one. In fact, I demand it–which is the way to ruin an imperfectly good Christmas.

Just perfection
Somewhere along the line I was supposed to have grown up. Things certainly grew up around me, but the piece of me that demands perfection was slow to catch on. What do I want for Christmas? No conflict. No tension. Zero disappointment. Forget the difficulty of negotiation. I don’t want to wear big girl panties. I want everything that’s hard done for me.

Giving it up
Oh, I don’t mean the meals. I can do that. I don’t even mean the housecleaning, decorating or shopping. I can do that too (though I am accepting my grandson’s offer of help). I mean the hard inner work that no one sees–the letting go of expectations that I may not even know I have. Usually it shows up later if some effort of mine inadvertently goes unrecognized. Or it appears in the disappointment I feel when my limitations are not acknowledged or intentions are misunderstood (my special Achilles heel). You can probably name your own pet vulnerability. In other words, what I’m saying is that in my infantile state, I apparently want nothing to do with real life!  As a grown-up though, I want to be able to love across offenses, to forgive my way–our way–to freedom. I want to embrace our family’s imperfectly good Christmases!

Just go
I know very little of rock climbing except that it requires risk, exertion and lots of practice. I’m told a good partner helps. I think family life is like that. You tie ropes around each other and, try as you might to be prepared, you find your way as you go. You cling to the face of the rock for footholds that move you forward and upward and keep climbing. You just go.

Still standing
I saw a picture on Facebook–yes the accursed Facebook, the bain of we perfectionists’ existence–of a friend whose endearing flaws and that of her sweet spawn have been clearly visible to all for the many years I have known them–addiction, failed marriages, perceived instability of various kinds. But you know what? With a wry smile, I acknowledge that, on this day, they still stand. Smiling. Together. Strong. Facing forward. Fully alive. Finding footholds and climbing. I know. You’re wondering, Is she talking about me? And the answer is, “Probably. And me.” And most of us, if we’re being honest.

Showing up
So we’re doing it again this year. Partly because of your gracious encouragement when I posted about December 1st Dinner last year. “Just showing up is enough,” some of you said. Yeah. Yeah, it is. Just showing up–for reals. There were a few years when I didn’t. Though I attempted preparations to perfection, something was missing: the whole me! This year, some of the preparations may be missing, but I will be there–all of me. We will all be there in some fashion–an almost adult, three teenagers, two tweens, two elementaries, a pre-schooler, a bunch of seasoned grown-ups and a couple of guests: Tied together, holding on, facing forward, fully alive, finding footholds and, by the grace of God, continuing the climb.

And did I mention the rope that holds us? Full confidence in the tested and trustworthy love of God “who works in us to will and do of God’s good pleasure.” May this season of longing and waiting find you also held by the Child of Bethlehem. And if your tendencies run anything like mine, I wish you, too, an imperfectly good Christmas!

Happy December 1st,
Gwen

To consider:
What demands might you be making that you’re not aware of?
What would you like to say to God about them?
What might God like you to know?

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