How I Learned to Surrender My Idea of the Perfect Holiday

Holidays can be tough.

As a kid, my mom tried her best to make sure every holiday was perfect. She wanted to give her family a good Christmas so she would buy lots of presents, and she was careful to make sure both my sister and I received the same number of presents. She would wrap them in pretty paper and display them nicely under the tree. She also made Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners so we could be together as a family. 

As an adult, I wanted to do the same thing she did. I wanted to make sure both my kids received every gift they asked for in the prettiest paper and ensure we had a bountiful holiday dinner. However, as life sometimes goes, less-than-perfect things happen on holidays. I remember a few Christmases where I got sick on Christmas Eve and was not able to enjoy Christmas. Once I married my husband, holidays became chaotic. He comes from a large family of three other brothers and sisters, who are all married and have children. Having more than twenty people in a tiny house can make for a lot of stress! Additionally, five years ago we lost my father-in-law three days before Christmas. The first couple of years celebrating Christmas without him were difficult. 

After years of coming home tired and frustrated from visiting family on holidays, I had to surrender my idea of a perfect holiday. Although it was difficult, I have come to understand that sometimes bad things happen during the holiday season. These mishaps can make it hard for people to celebrate special days. 

Here are some ways I have surrendered the idea of a perfect holiday: 

1. I Abandoned Perfectionism

Growing up, I always struggled with perfectionism. In general, I was a good kid, got into very little trouble, and got good grades. When I worked hard and did the right thing I was rewarded. However, when I became a Christian at the age of eighteen, I learned that bad things happen even to good people. As I've grown in spiritual maturity and have encountered deeper intimacy with God, I have learned that perfectionism in and of itself is imperfect. No one person can be perfect all the time. As much as I strived to be perfect and do all the right things, that was not what God required for me. God uses flawed people with imperfections to carry out his work. Once I learned this lesson, I was able to see people from a more gracious status. Just as I am imperfect, so is everyone else. Therefore, I can't expect to have a perfect holiday because we are all imperfect, and when we spend time in fellowship, our imperfections come to the surface. 

2. I Gave Up Traditions

My husband and I both come from families who practiced different traditions in our homes. In the first few years of our marriage, we thought a lot about which traditions we would take from which family. We both held to our traditions and believed if we didn't practice those traditions, it wasn't a good holiday. One year we decided to forsake both of our traditions. We have now made new traditions that we carry out as a special part of our family. Now, when we approach the holidays, they feel just as much like a good holiday as it was when we were children. Additionally, now that we've passed on traditions that are unique to us, we've been able to model them for our children. Although both our children will have to decide if they get married to carry out our traditions or not, it is nice to know that we, along with our children, had traditions unique to us. 

3. I Embraced the Chaos

As I mentioned, my husband comes from a larger family. When we all get together to celebrate a holiday with everyone, we have more than twenty-five people. Packing more than twenty people in a house that originally only housed six is daunting. This is especially true at Christmas. Every person had a present they wanted to give to us or our children. People fought and yelled over who gave what present to whom and who should open which present first. When my children were young, they would get overwhelmed and overly tired due to the stress. This normally led to crying and fighting because of sensory overload. As much as we must endure that, it is nice to know that we have family that we can turn to for the holidays, even in the chaos. 

4. I Enjoyed the Simple Things

At the beginning of our marriage, we often emphasized the many details that go into creating a perfect holiday. Having the perfect tablecloth or napkins or fine China on the table all became a part of the perfect holiday. Now that my kids are older, however, we see them less often. Therefore, we need to treasure the time we have together. Instead of focusing on napkins or China, I need to focus on the conversation and the fellowship. I need to savor every laugh and deep conversation we have because it will be a long time before we have another one. It's the conversations and bonding that take place that are truly at the heart of a good holiday. When I stopped focusing on the minuscule details and focused more on being surrounded by my loved ones, I learned that the simple things in life are truly the ingredients to make the best holiday ever. 

5. I Counted My Blessings

Thanksgiving is for giving thanks for all the ways God has blessed us. Although I take things for granted, I have learned to use the month of November as a time for reflection on all the ways God has been good to me. I have a journal and I write down all the ways God has blessed me. This changed my attitude from one of dissatisfaction to one of contentment and gratitude. Holidays can be particularly stressful due to all that needs to be done. But when I focus my mind on my blessings rather than my losses and hurts, it helps me to enjoy the holiday even more. Being with loved ones helps me cherish the holiday and understand the deeper meaning behind it. 

No holiday is perfect because no person is perfect. The best holiday is one in which we are as emotionally healthy as possible. That includes ridding my heart of perfectionism and focusing on the grace and mercy of Jesus. Setting an expectation that everything must be perfect to be enjoyable takes the fun and meaning out of the holiday. Thanksgiving should be a time of blessing and reflection on the abundance God has provided for us over the past year. We should continue that attitude into Christmas when we focus on the real reason for this season. Christmas should reflect the hope and joy of Jesus' birth and his humble commitment to be the Savior of the world. When I place my focus on the right thing, I no longer need a perfect holiday because the best gift I've ever received (or ever will receive) is Jesus Christ.

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Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Artsyslik

Writer Michelle LazurekMichelle S. Lazurek is a multi-genre award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife, and mother. She is a literary agent for Wordwise Media Services and a certified writing coach. Her new children’s book Who God Wants Me to Be encourages girls to discover God’s plan for their careers. When not working, she enjoys sipping a Starbucks latte, collecting 80s memorabilia, and spending time with her family and her crazy dog. For more info, please visit her website



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