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Perfectly Imperfect Christmas
by Bekah Holland
MARRIAGE - dec 2022 - in this together.jpg

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! And I say that with as little sarcasm as I can muster.


Now, I don’t want to come off like Mr. Scrooge or any of the many versions of the Grinch. I do love the holidays! I love having family around and the food (especially pie!). I love the smell of a Christmas tree and watching my kids still take turns putting the star on the top. I love Christmas movies and even some Christmas music (although working in retail in my teens made me despise any and all holiday music because I heard it on repeat 8 hours a day for 55 days straight). I even love finding just the right gift for someone I love, despite having to wander through crowded stores with actual people in them.


Growing up, our Christmases were gloriously simple. We didn’t do a tree or even give gifts. We cooked for days and ate and made a birthday cake for Jesus and loved the people around us. We sat around the piano while my mom played “Away in a Manger” and sang like an angel. And while I didn’t see it then, this shaped how I view life and the world. My parents gave us the gift of love, appreciation and a family built around Christ. Eventually, we did do the “normal” holiday things like trees and gifts, but not until I was probably 10 or 11.

So when my husband and I had our first Christmas together, I had already watched enough Hallmark movies to know exactly how our future holidays should go. A perfectly symmetrical, deliciously scented real tree, with matching ornaments, all set up with joy and mistletoe  and magic.   Which  worked for about 5  minutes.  Don’t get  me wrong,  I loved our

first Christmas together and all of the ones after. And we did manage the fancy tree for a year or two. But then kids and jobs and Cheerios that managed to hide under couches for longer than I’m willing to admit to, and a million other things, changed those quiet days into something equally beautiful and exhausting.


Somewhere in there, social media broke onto the scene and I’d start seeing friends and family posting things they were thankful for and sharing pictures that looked like the one I had in my mind early on. The kind that show a perfectly decorated tree and clean floors and smiling children. And before I knew it, discontentment crept in. We had small trees and homemade decorations and probably more Cheerios on the floor. We had gifts and family and food and all the things that matter. But I couldn’t always see that. I only saw that I couldn’t measure up to anyone else’s pretty picture. We carried on the traditions of birthday cake for Jesus and even the little plastic nativity scene that sat on top of it every single year since I can remember and now has more missing than intact pieces. And as our kids grew and jobs got better and we could afford to do more, I thought that our picture would be closer to the ones I couldn’t ever quite manage.


News flash! Bigger does not equal better. Expensive gifts don’t mean more than the drawings my kids gave me when they were little or the homemade presents that were made with more love than I deserve. In fact, the gift my husband and daughter gave me somewhere around 2009 is still the one that I hold most dear.  It was a simple handmade card, with messy handwriting and cut-outs of words and a recording of “I Love You” in more languages than I knew existed. Also, it was for Valentine’s Day and not Christmas, but still, if you were to ask me what my favorite gift was, it wouldn’t be jewelry or anything fancy (Babe, if you’re reading, I still really really love jewelry, so maybe don’t stop that one). It would be the that recording of I love you, and the picture my daughter drew from our wedding photo, and the ornament my son made that no one would guess is a treasure, and the fact that no one in my house can stand to wait to give any gifts because they get too excited, and so many other things that might not matter to anyone else, but that hold a very special place in my heart, and even more importantly, my life story.


When I find myself wandering back in the direction of comparison, I remember those things. I remember making bags of food and gifts and driving around for hours with my children finding people to share them with. I think of the tiny handprints painted and placed on a simple piece of paper, and seeing my family all together, reading the story of the greatest gift of all time, and remembering just how precious each of those moments and memories are. Those are the things that I wouldn’t trade for a thousand picture perfect mornings or social media “worthy” photos. Because they’re real, and messy, and ours. And just like the life we’ve lived and the family we’ve built and every memory we’ve made, ours is my very favorite.


So here’s to your less than perfect holiday season and all the magic that those messy moments bring.  May you see the beauty in the chaos and peace in all you’re creating. Because it’s perfectly imperfect, just like us.


“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.”

Hamilton Wright Mabie

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