The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

brown pinecone on white rectangular board

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Christmas. Oh, how I love Christmas! It’s so magical, and fun, and amazing. And honestly, I just love it so crazy much. Most people are in an extra cheerful mood, and are more inclined to give, society, as a whole, kind of steps outside of itself a little bit. Not only that, but let’s talk about all the fun traditions. Candy canes, hot cocoa, decorating the tree, singing carols, the presents, the parties. All of it. I love every, stinking bit of it. Sure, it’s a little stressful at times, but to me, it’s all worth it.

Warning: the words I’m about to speak will probably offend, or at least, maybe, tick some people off. Or maybe not. Maybe I’ve lived in a certain bubble of a world where I let things affect me too much, and it took me too long to settle everything in my own heart. Maybe you’ll laugh and think, “The things this poor girl put herself through.” But either way, here it is I am done with the Christmas guilt. Phew, there. I said it. Do you know what I mean? Do you know “the guilt” that I’m talking about? It’s that church-y voice telling me for as long as I can remember, “Yeah, sure, Christmas is great and all, but it’s far too commercial, and don’t forget about Jesus.” By the way, let me be clear, this “voice” I’m talking about isn’t some metaphorical voice. It’s been people saying it every Christmas season since forever.

Now, hear me out. I’m not saying that those people are wrong. I don’t, personally have anything against them. And I don’t even have any specific person in mind. It’s just the cacophony of voices passed down through the years. I know that almost all of them are coming from a good place. I know people are speaking their own convictions, and that’s ok. But for too long, I personally, let the convictions of others affect the joy in my own heart during this season.

It was a few of years ago, after hearing somebody talk about how they’re so disappointed in how Christmas looks, and doesn’t anybody even remember that Christmas is about Jesus anymore? I honestly don’t even remember who was saying these things. I only remember that it wasn’t a personal conversation, it was a meeting, or a message, or something of the sort. It may have even been something I saw on youtube. I don’t remember. I just remember that the whole time they were talking, I felt sad inside. I felt sad that I just love Christmas so much. And I felt like this person was telling me that I should feel guilty about that. That I should cut it out on the “non-holy” traditions, and only fully embrace the ones that have to do with Jesus. The whole time I thought, “not this again. It happens every year. Somebody feels like they have to advocate to the church to chill out on the commercialized Christmas on account of looking too ‘worldly’. I wish I could just enjoy it.” When all of a sudden it was like a voice (an entirely different voice, mind you) said to me, “stop feeling guilty. Just enjoy this gift.”

There it was. Plain and simple. Just. Enjoy. Christmas. Stop feeling guilty that you love to give, and yes, *gasp* to get, gifts. Stop feeling guilty when you want to listen to only Christmas music all day every day (and not just Silent Night). Don’t feel guilty when you get super excited about all the cute Christmas decor they have out at Target. Don’t feel guilty when you get all caught up in the hubabaloo of the holiday. Because that’s exactly what it is. A holiday. And it’s meant to be enjoyed. Once I realized that, I felt free. I enjoyed that year’s Christmas like nobody’s business. And it’s a good thing, because the following year, hell came crashing down around me. Right at my favorite time of year. Right at Christmas. And it was honestly what kept grounded, and hopeful, and going. I have no idea what darkness would have enveloped me had it not been for Christmas. Had it not been for all the Christmas cheer that surrounded me. Black Friday, ugly sweater parties, cookies, and lights, and the whole nine yards.  It kept my head above water. I am beyond grateful that the year before, I had let go of all of that useless guilt that I let crowd my heart.

Now, please. Don’t misread me. We celebrate Jesus in this household 100%. Our kids know that we celebrate Christmas because of Jesus and the ultimate gift that He gave. They know that He came and lived, and served, and died, and rose again. In fact, they love Easter more than anybody else I know specifically because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We don’t downplay that part of it. We know that there are some seriously holy aspects of Christmas. But we also know that we live in a day and age when there are other parts of Christmas too, and those things are crazy fun! And there’s nothing wrong with them! I honestly feel so much more worshipful during the Christmas season when I don’t listen to the voices that are saying it’s strayed from the main point. I feel so grateful that we have an entire holiday that most people choose to participate in regardless of if they are “church goers” or not. In fact, what an awesome way to relate to people and share the love of Jesus. By enjoying the traditions with them instead of enjoying them a little bit but also feeling a little bit guilty about it, because “it’s not what Jesus would want.” Christmas is an awesome time to unite people of different opinions, and to celebrate the things we have in common. I think we, as a church, are missing it just a little bit when we frown upon the commercialized version of Christmas. I think there’s a way where we can enjoy both aspects of this amazing holiday.

Please also understand, I know that Christmas is an emotionally tough time for a lot of people. None of this is directed at you. Maybe that’s obvious, but in case it isn’t I want to make it obvious. In fact, let me just say that this whole post about letting go of the Christmas guilt is not supposed to make anybody feel bad or guilty. Heaven forbid I do the same thing I’m trying to help people break free of. I’m not pointing fingers, I’m not calling anybody out, and I’m not saying that anybody is wrong verses right. I’m only saying that when I allowed myself to breathe and release all that ugly guilt in my heart, I was able to enjoy and celebrate and be thankful for Christmas on a whole new level.

What about you? What are your thoughts? Am I alone? Because I could be. I could be the only person in the group of people who will read this post that ever felt like I love Christmas but maybe I shouldn’t love it so much. Let me know your thoughts! I would love to hear them! And by the way, Have a very merry Christmas season – happily, and guilt free. 😉🎄

Moving Forward – Recipe Round-up

Well, last month was certainly heavy wasn’t it? I think it was appropriately heavy. A kind of “necessary” heavy. But now I’m exhausted! There is a time and a place for the hard and the heavy, and I want to walk through those places with each one of you, but I also want to walk past that with you. I want you to see the beauty beyond the pain, the light at the end of the tunnel if you will. Because while your grief won’t ever fully “end”, life does pick back up again. Some of you may have a hard time believing me, but life beyond grief is possible. It is possible to live a life fully thriving, even after tragedy and loss.

Have you ever seen the show “Monk”? It’s a comedic murder mystery show about a guy who has serious OCD, among other issues. Early on in the show you learn that his wife had been tragically killed many years ago. He lives in his grief everyday, but not in a healthy kind of a way. In one episode, he goes to visit his wife’s parents. Throughout their home you can see reminders of her: pictures, the outfit they brought her home in framed on the wall, and her room left unchanged. But in spite of those things, her parents are doing really well. Monk asks her mom how she can go on living a normal life and feel happy again. I think about her response all the time. She talks about how she grieved so hard for so long. She didn’t think she could go on living. “And then one day,” she says, “the sun came out, the garden was blooming, and there were some kids riding by the house on their bikes, and I decided to give the world a second chance.” He looks unsure and as she touches his shoulder she tells him, “It’s still a beautiful world.” She realized that life still goes on, the world around her was still going on, and there are good things in it.  I sometimes have to remind myself that life. goes. on. There is still beauty around me. And I can choose how to live the rest of the life I have to live. You can still thrive beyond this grief. If you want to watch that specific episode, it’s Season 3, episode number 8, “Mr. Monk and the Game Show.”

Part of the way that I thrive beyond my grief is making delicious meals for my family.  Somebody gave me the idea to do a monthly round up of my favorite recipes I’ve tried and loved. I love sharing recipes, but not necessarily blogging about them, so sharing someone else’s recipes sounded like and excellent idea. First on the list:

saucy coconut curry with rice noodles and garden vegetables From Half Baked Harvest

overhead photo of Saucy Coconut Curry with Rice Noodles and Garden Vegetables

If you don’t follow Teighan already, you’re missing out. She always posts the best recipes, most of which are simple – and crazy beautiful. This dish was AMAZING! And really, very easy. If you’re a fan of Thai food, give this dish a try. I don’t have her cookbook yet, but it’s at the top of my Christmas wishlist this year.

Next up:

FoolProof Eye of Round Roast from Mrs. Happy Homemaker

Eye of Round Roast

 

 

This one involves a little more effort, but is oh, so worth it! She prefers Eye of Round Roast, but I’ve found that I truly enjoy it with whatever roast is on sale at the moment.

For our third dish, I’ve included a side:

Roasted Broccoli with Smashed Garlic from SkinnyTaste

Here's a great way to make broccoli if you are tired of making it the same old way. Roasting broccoli with garlic creates a sweet, nutty delicious flavor and the aroma that wafts through your kitchen will make everyone asking when's dinner ready.

 

Seriously. This one is life changing. We don’t make our broccoli any other way now – except that when I’m in a hurry, I don’t even smash the garlic. And it’s still good. We even make our cauliflower similar to this. They’re both a hit all around.

Finally, I’m sharing with you an amazing dessert/breakfast/coffee snack we make this time every single year:

Starbucks Double Glazed Pumpkin Scones Copycat Recipe from Momspark.net

Starbucks Double Glazed Pumpkin Scones Copycat Recipe! These would be perfect for breakfast with a cup of coffee during the Christmas and fall season.

These are INCREDIBLE! And so close to the real thing. And honestly, they really aren’t even that difficult to make. At all. Take my word for it and give it a whirl.

That’s all for this month’s round up. What do you think? Do you like the inclusion of a monthly round up? Or would you rather pass? And what are some of your favorite go-to recipes?