When Christmas Isn't All You Had Planned

Christmas this year was different. It wasn’t all I had cracked it up to be. We had planned to take the month off of school, keeping up with a few book studies, some Christmas reading and math – but I got us so busy we didn’t have time for that anyway. My lists kept growing and growing, and it wasn’t long before we got side-tracked from our original goals.

Happy 1st birthday Miss E

Miss E turned 1 at the beginning of the month, so we had a family party for her with nearly 30 loved ones in our home. Chaotic, but definitely fun. However, I got so wound up in preparing for it and trying to make it “picture-perfect”, that we spent a lot of the time I had wanted to be home instead gathering things for the party.

I had planned to spend each morning before the kids got up reading a couple Advent studies, digging deeper  into my heart and relationship with Christ. But the busier I got, the more late nights that happened, the more tired I became, the more I slept in, the less time I made for Him.

For our Advent focus, I had hoped to spend time each day reading through Matthew, doing a Jesse tree activity and book reading, and focusing on some advent activities. I bit off more than I could chew, and instead, I got us so busy doing STUFF and preparing STUFF that we didn’t even finish ONE of those ideas. God was not the focus. I was the focus.

Make way for the king of kings

When my ideals take center stage instead of God, things never happen as I had planned.

I had been so looking forward to centering our hearts and our minds on CHRIST, so wound up in preparations, planning and DOING, that I forgot the most important part – the BEING.

Cassandra writes “through all the preparation and stress, I found myself further from God, with less time to reflect, less time to pray, less time to focus on what matters to Him.”

While reading Ann Voskamp’s The Greatest Gift through the month of December, my thoughts, plans, desires and expectations came to a screeching halt, not three days before Christmas Day. And the reality of where I was landed with its full weight upon my heart. It panged sharp as I saw in clear light what I had forgotten.

“The being with is always the gift, not merely the doing for.”

THE single most important gift of the season of Christmas is the making room in our hearts for, the being with and experiencing the awe of the presence of Christ.

Yet we get so wrapped up in shopping, preparing, baking, cleaning, visiting, delivering, presenting, and yes, even blessing, that we forget. We get so involved in ourselves, our ideals, our wants and desires, that we let slide more and more the importance of God on the throne.

“It cost him everything to be with you. Who will spend a fraction of time just to be with Him? Who wants the gift of his presence?” (Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift).

The days of Advent waiting are hard, filled with messes, fights, unmet expectations, busyness and comparison. But there’s a message to be ingrained on our hearts, I hope every day. My friend Kris says it beautifully:

Advent is never what I imagine, because my imagination is never realistic. I wonder what Mary imagined, bulging with a God-baby that had no earthly Father. I wonder how many years I will stockpile expectations only to be jarred by the reality that Advent is simply not an easy season–and maybe that’s okay. Maybe Advent is meant to teach us about expectations and clinging to hope in the dark, long hours of uncertainty.

darkness into light

Now that isn’t to say that we didn’t do ANYTHING well – for God is always gracious, ever-loving, and can redeem any situation. We did spend great times together as a family, reading, playing games, visiting, and we did have many opportunities to pour out blessing and love on others in the process.

ice storm 2013

The Sunday before Christmas we got hammered with a massive ice storm. It turned the world outside into a dangerously beautiful ice realm. It was almost as if God was saying to me “These are my only expectations of you – come to me.”

When your plans don’t align with God’s, you can hope and pray he brings them to a stop, so he can take you where he wants you to go.

Commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him and He will act. (Psalm 37:5)

This goes for anything and everything. Every thought, desire, wish, plan and purpose is for nought without the Lord. I pray we can fully grasp this truth more and more!

I’d love to say that from my realization things went perfectly. But they didn’t. We’re all human, and we are all sinners, that’s not going to change! I still got side-tracked, lost my temper, didn’t finish my devotions, and yes, focused too much time on shopping. But I know there is no condemnation from God, only the continual pulling on my heart, and my response to the depth of my wanting to be with Him.

Mary's song of praise

I spent a couple of days studying Mary’s Magnificat.  The depth of the knowledge of scripture that this young woman possessed is so deeply inspiring –  a girl who probably had no written copy of God’s word, let alone 5 or more sitting on her book shelf.  My prayer for me, my family, for you, is that God would give each of us more of a heart for more of his word.

So as we go headlong into the New Year, if you make no other resolutions, resolve to do this – to stop comparing with others and seek what God would have you to do; to BE with him more, to deepen your desire for him; to pursue truth, to slow and savour. I pray that you can look back on 2013 and see where God has taken you and be excited for what is to come.

We’ll see you in 2014! Happy New Year!