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Tom and Jerry ornamentWednesday morning I sat at the kitchen table on the brink of tears. I was looking at the ornaments on our tree that I’d bought the kids over the years. Ornaments that reflect a milestone or something special they did each year: the swimming reindeer, Santa riding a bike, Tom reading a book to Jerry.

This year, the day we got our Christmas tree was the same day we needed to celebrate Christmas with my mom, who was heading out of town for Christmas. After tromping through the tree farm, setting up the tree, and struggling with multiple strands of tree lights that had large sections that wouldn’t light up, I ran out of steam.

I knew I needed to lie down in order to have the energy for the Christmas celebration that was starting in an hour and a half. So I decided to take a nap with Andy while the kids put up their special ornaments without us.

As I sat at my kitchen table looking at the tree I thought, Did I totally blow that Christmas tradition? What kind of parents take a nap while their kids decorate the tree by themselves? Note to self: In the future, don’t get a tree on the same day as an early Christmas celebration. 

This is what I do. I make mental notes, trying to learn from mistakes and circumstances in order to make it better next time. I’ve been doing this with Christmas for years, and it has helped. Our family does experience more peaceful, meaningful Christmases because of these tweaks and adjustments.

But there’s a flip side to this coin. My desire to make things better can lead me to believe that one day I’ll get it all right. That one day, I’ll get through the Christmas season without stress or tears. That one day I’ll think up creative gift ideas with joy and ease, and never second guess them. That one day I’ll find the perfect Advent readings and music that will usher our family into the full meaning and wonder of Christmas.

That day will never come.

And that’s okay. I’m getting more and more comfortable at Christmastime, and life in general, with releasing the outcome and learning to embrace the process. I’m always going to be in process and so are my kids.

They’re not supposed to grasp the full wonder and mystery of Christmas in one season, or even in their 18 years in my care. They get to continue pondering and opening themselves up to more and more of God’s beauty, mystery, and love for the rest of their lives. This is good.

As I embrace this on-going, formative journey I can be more gentle with myself. I can see myself more often as God’s child. Learning and growing, making mistakes along the way. And all the while, deeply loved.

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