By Lauren Douglas
I have a love/hate relationship with planning. I’m a planner by nature, and I thrive on it, but I can also take it to the extreme and become overly concerned with my plans turning out perfectly.
My youngest child was born in September 2013. At the time, my firstborn was only fifteen months old, so Christmas that year passed in a blur. I was thankful both of my children were still a little young for Christmas festivities, because I did nothing, and they didn’t miss it. We celebrated Christmas, but it wasn’t Pinterest worthy by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t blame my postpartum self at all, but I had great aspirations for the following year.
I started planning for Christmas 2014 in the summer—gift ideas, baking lists, and sorting through ideas on Pinterest. I was going to be purposeful.
As soon as Thanksgiving ended, we were ready to hit the ground running. We read a different Christmas story every night. We attempted to read an Advent devotional nightly as well. We attended Christmas parties at school and threw a Happy Birthday Jesus party with MOPS friends. Everything was going as planned. I had cookies baked, presents bought and wrapped. We were ready!
Until my son got sick.
He didn’t have many symptoms at first, just a slight fever. I figured it was simply a cold virus.
It wasn’t until the week before Christmas that panic set in. I was starting to get achy. This was no cold virus. We had the flu!
First my son, then my daughter and I started experiencing symptoms. Just like that, all my plans were in jeopardy. How would we even celebrate Christmas?
I realized we probably wouldn’t be able to go to church, visit family, or celebrate with friends. In that moment, I began to truly value Christmas, not for the plans, the hype, and the presents, but for what Christmas is really about.
I remember telling my husband, “If we just get to go to both our families’ celebrations, I won’t worry about everything else.” I wouldn’t worry about the stress of traveling with kids. I wouldn’t worry about them not napping well on Christmas, or at grandparents’ houses. I wouldn’t worry about everything having to be perfect or about how much sugar we were all eating.
I was determined simply to be happy to celebrate. Happy to be with family. Happy for the great gift God gave us in His son, Jesus Christ—that’s what I would focus on. Not all the other stuff I hype up through my planning.
My daughter and I were able to get prescriptions for Tamiflu, and by Christmas Eve my son and I were feeling better. Our church offers many Christmas Eve services, so my husband and I attended worship separately. I remember sitting by myself and being truly thankful to be there to hear the Christmas message and singing the familiar songs.
When I got home, the four of us ate a special dinner and sang Happy Birthday to Jesus. The kids woke up the next morning excited to open presents, unphased by their illnesses.
We were able to delay plans a day and still celebrate with both of our extended families. The challenges that come with traveling with kids during the holidays didn’t change, but my heart had. I was able to take it all in stride, and we had a great Christmas in spite of all my unfulfilled plans.
Looking back, I think our Christmas pleased God that year. Not that it pleased Him that we were all miserable and sick, but that the distractions of the world were stripped away.
I’m still making plans for Christmas this year. But with the flu fiasco of 2014 in my head, my plans are a little more flexible and a lot less overwhelming. We will have more time to just be, to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas, and to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. And honestly, I can’t think of a better plan.
Lauren Douglas is a wife and mommy to two little ones. She enjoys reading, crafting, and exercise. Most of her days start and end with coffee. She prays that her home and life are led by her faith in Christ. Lauren blogs at faithledhome.com.