The 12 Days of Real Life

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December is here once again. Yay?  I know, it’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year.  I have to admit, I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with this time of year.  December is my frenemy.  I really want to love December unconditionally.  I love it every other month of the year.  I’ve been known to listen to Christmas music on a sweltering July afternoon.  It’s not uncommon for me to start browsing Pinterest in September for Sunday school holiday ideas.  October finds me making lists of potential gift ideas for the family.  I mistakenly glamourize the holiday season.


I have good intentions.  My desire is for my family to be wrapped in the warmth and love of Christmas. I want them to keep their focus on the reason we celebrate.  Every year I try to prepare ahead of time. I always think that if I can just stay one step ahead of all the work, then peace and joy will blanket my household.  Ha-ha! I know that December is busy.  Scratch that. December can be exhausting.  We have extra school events/concerts, end of semester projects, final exams, family birthdays, and holiday parties. This is all in addition to decking the halls, baking the cookies, planning and preparing the special meals, shopping for gifts, wrapping the gifts, and generally trying to create all of that Christmas magic for the children.  Don’t even get me started on Elf on the Shelf…more about that in my next post.


I have been striving to create the perfect Christmas holiday for my children since I had my first child.  Oh, how that went awry.  My oldest was born on November 17th.  I planned and prepared (a little bit of nesting contributing to that), and guess what happened?  I landed in the hospital just before Christmas and had my gallbladder removed. What?  This was NOT part of the plan.  So, I have been failing at taming December ever since I started trying. I’m apparently a slow learner.


I found an old Facebook post from December 2013.  This was all true, and it gives you an idea of how my 12 days of Christmas were going.


12 batches of cookies

11 loads of laundry

10 gifts to buy

9 bills to pay

8 trips to the grocery store

7 more places to hide the elf

6 stockings hanging

5 relatives coming over

4 class parties

3 slamming headaches

2 strains of flu

and 1 child home with a stomach virus!


It doesn’t matter how much I plan or how much I don’t.  Real life marches on right through every day on the calendar.  I think that the trick is learning how to experience the joy anyway. It’s not easy.  I’ve calmed down this year.  I haven’t even made a list yet!  We decorated this weekend.  I delegated to the middle schoolers.  They got tasked with carrying everything up and down the basement stairs.  I was AMAZED at how much easier it is to decorate when I don’t put the responsibility only on myself.  Many hands make light work.


I’m letting go of the idea that I can, or even should, make “holiday magic” for my family.  The real joy is in celebrating the birth of our Savior. He is the gift we should all be thankful for.  I will still work to keep our traditions alive.  I do want the season to feel special and fun.  But none of us should be burdened under the weight of all the stuff. Don’t let the forgotten secret Santa gift, the broken string of lights, or the long line at Target break you. All of those things are just extras. They aren’t what this is all about. They won’t be what you remember 10 years from now.

Christmas Eves are some of my favorite childhood memories.  We always spent them at my grandparents’ house.  They held an open house type of event on Christmas Eve. And let me tell you something about my grandmother.. she has the most open-door policy of anyone I have ever known. If she finds out you are alone on a holiday you will immediately become an adopted member of her group.  No person will spend a holiday alone on her watch! She is a shining example of someone with the gift of hospitality.  There was always love, laughter, and lots and lots of food.  In hindsight, that was her true gift to me.  As a child, I was excited to tear open the wrapping paper and find out what gifts were under the tree.  As an adult, I can see that her gifts were so much bigger than I understood at the time.  She modeled the love of Christ.  Everyone was welcome.  Anyone who asked for a place at the table received one.


I can only hope and pray that I will be able to model that kind of love for my family.  There is an old Christian hymn that was originally written in the 1960s.


“They’ll Know We are Christians by our Love”



We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand

We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand

And together we’ll spread the news that God is in our land

And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love

They will know we our Christians by our love

By our love, by our love

And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love

They will know we are Christians by our love


My prayer for all of us is that we put our eyes on God.  May we find our rest in Him.  May we find joy even through the chaos and the hard times.  May we receive the peace that is given to us.  May we have love and may we give love abundantly.


“Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.”

Jude 1:2

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  1. Lee Stoumbaugh says:

    Those Christmas Eve memories are a tale as old as time.

  2. MRy Ellen Volansky says:

    Merry Christmas to you and your Family! And, thank you for the gift of your words.

  3. Gigi says:

    Thank you Amy for those beautiful memories and loving words. Sometimes it seems like yesterday and sometimes like a million years ago.

  4. Rochelle says:

    Love it. Sounds awfully familiar

  5. Betty Boop says:

    I was one of those “adopted” family members and it was not just at Christmas.
    Amy your words gave me Christmas Boost! Merry Christmas from Tampa.

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