I shoved the last of the boxes into the closet and crossed my fingers as I closed the door. Glancing at my watch I made a quick scan to ensure it was presentable, shouted one more “clean your rooms” and “would someone PLEASE come get these shoes!” Party 4 of 8 would begin in T-minus 5 minutes. Just enough time to put the dishes away. And then the doorbell rang.
I audibly sighed in frustration.
And that’s when it hit me. I was turning green. A Grinchy kind of green.
Christmas seems to get more complicated as the years go on. Expectations pile up with bills and family dynamics shift and quake. Christmas seems to hit at the height of it all, or it all comes to a head at Christmas – whichever comes first the chicken or the egg.
I can feel the Grinch peering in my windows, every year, trying to steal my Christmas. But not this year. This year, I am leaving him in the cold.
Making a plan, I armed myself with my one guaranteed weapon. My attitude.
If the Grinch can steal your attitude, then he’s already in your front door. So I took a long hard look at what Christmas meant to me. (not my kids, not my in-laws, ME). It took some soul searching and wading through some tangled lights, mangled wrapping paper, and a few play rehearsals to find it.
It was in a song. Of course, ALL Christmas music moves me. But this one brought me to my knees.
O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
The thought of Abba God, Mighty God, the King of Kings coming to earth, just to be with me quieted my frustrated and exhausted soul. He came to be with Me. Me in the middle of tangled Christmas lights. Me in the awkward place of feuding family dinners. Christ came to earth to be with me. After that, nothing else really matters.
When the anxieties of this season start encroaching I remind myself with this song, even just this phrase. Having the presence of God with Me is all that really matters, an irreplaceable gift. It’s the perfect attitude adjuster, a mighty weapon against that stealthy Grinch.
My attitude becomes my fortitude.
The thing that seems to trip me up as we sled along in the holidays is all the expectations. I think that’s the Grinch’s greatest weapon. If it’s not the neighbor’s earth shattering light display, it’s my kiddo’s best friend’s ice-skating-cookie-decorating extravaganza. These comparisons snag my soul and zap me with impossibility.
I know this. And prepare for it by filtering all new ideas, and old pressure cooked “must do’s” through a God-with-me attitude. Asking one simple question: What keeps me with God?
The small things do. The Christmas music, the glittery Christmas tree, my daughter’s holiday recital, and their faces. Maybe I can’t get the lights on the roof before the first snow, or shoot. Maybe I can’t even convince my husband to do them at all. But I can put the lit wreath up outside our front door. And I can definitely plan a Polar Express Night with all the lights off except the tree, snuggly blankets and hot kettle corn. I can read an Advent book with my wiggly kids every night. It gets messy, there might be some misbehavior or too-tired-to-try kind of nights, but it keeps my attitude front and center (and accountable to my munchkins).
These little things aren’t much but their ours. I’m learning to say no to the wild and crazy expectations and hold on to the God-with-me attitude. I may not be winning the award for Best Better Homes and Garden Christmas Display and I’m pretty sure they won’t ask me to bake cookies for the cookie exchange. But at least Grinch isn’t staying at our house this Christmas.