it’s december what? 4th or 5th?

we still have stuffing in the fridge and a sandwich size bag of turkey left over that i dread throwing away.

my friends are days ahead of me in the advent calendar and it turns out that everyone on social media is doing elf on a shelf this year.

our boxes are covered in cobwebs and i really hate most of our Christmas decorations. they are raggedy and breaking and a mesh of a million different colors.

Christmas music is playing, but all i hear is the cha-ching of my credit card maximizing.

do you know why i spend so much money in december? guilt.

 

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i want my kids to feel so special.

like the deep, joyful, glittery Christmas feeling that makes their smiles burst from cheek to cheek. i want them to run out of their rooms Christmas morning and jump up and down. i want presents to overflow from under the tree like the hundreds of legos flooding out from under their bed right now. i want them to love Christmas. i want their hearts to race and eyes to pop open. i want them to feel deep down how exciting it is to celebrate and decorate and do our annual traditions.

i spend money (way too much money) because i started believing that feeling special means i have to do so much. i feel guilty because i haven’t done enough to give them that butterfly in their stomachs experience. i spend so much money because i’d feel guilty if there was only one present under the tree. i feel guilty for not having started advent readings with them. i feel guilty that our tree doesn’t have shimmer and shine on it. i feel guilty for not sending out Christmas cards. so to silence my guilt, i spend.

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i’m trapped in the tension of what commercials and culture tells me and what i believe to be true.

culture says, “do more to make the season special.”

Jesus says, “come to the manger.”

commercials say, “buy more, spend more, and see more to make this season meaningful.”

Jesus says, “come to the manger, just as you are.”

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i want my kids to have the most amazing experience of Christmas. i want them to run from tree to tree trying to find the perfect one. i want them to marvel at city Christmas lights and to sing carols in the car. i want them to feel just how wonderful Christmas is. i want them to look back on their childhood Christmas experience with that sparkle in their eyes.  i am so tempted to spend money.  i have to keep my hands glued to that red target shopping cart or i will be in serious trouble this year.

i am just not convinced that the way to deal with my guilt or to give my kids the joy of the season is by spending more money.

 

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i am convinced that the greatest gift i can give my kids this month is to take them to the manger. i can show them the simple, torn down, tiny manger. i can show them where the Savior of the world was born. i can talk about that baby. i can talk about the temptation to fill our lives with stuff that won’t ever fill our vacant hearts. stuff only makes us grow to grab for more. i can tell them stories about how that baby didn’t enter the world with glitter and pizazz but he came to bring one thing: peace. i can tell them about how the world says in order to be happy you have to perform or achieve or be perfect, but that baby made it possible for our brokenness to be brought into the light.

because more than seeing a sparkle in their eyes Christmas morning, i want their hearts to slowly start seeing the manger scene. i want them to see how we were given the gift of freedom and hope. i want their little hearts to start awakening to the awe that is found in that nativity. i want them to start following the star that leads to Jesus.

 

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we will spend money this month. more than we do any other month of the year. but i’m not going to feed my guilt and need for my kids to feel special with an outrageous amount of stuff under the tree. we will bake and sing and walk through the most decorated streets, but i’m not going to let culture and commercials define our experience.

i’m going to tenderly take my kids to the manger. i’m going to gather them in my arms and have them peek over the wooden slats of that nowhere barn in Bethlehem and tell them stories about how that baby saved me and them and the entire world because He loves.

and love, what other gift could make souls dance, and sing, satisfy and sparkle?

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we got our tree today. manoah was thoroughly unimpressed, samuel was climbing all over of the tangled trees like it was his playground and noelle was spinning in circles, while hannaly sat content in the cart. we got home and the boys fought and noelle spilled hot chocolate down the side of our white kitchen cabinets.

as i wiped up the mess and listened to my boys arguing over whose ornament was highest on the tree, i thought to myself, “this is what Christmas is all about.”

Jesus cleaning up our mess. with Christmas music blaring and kids battling it out, and my mismatched Christmas tree tilting to the right, i exhaled.

being with each other in our mess and letting love meet us in the middle. less stuff, less spending and a lot more manger.

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tonight i watched my older son read to my younger son in the doorway of their bedroom.

he ran his fingers across the words and when he got to a word that the littler one might be able to read, he stopped and let him try to sound it out.

gahhh.

it’s moments like these that i never want to forget.

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i struggle wanting to be perfect: i want life under control. i want parenting to fit into a pretty box with a big bow. i want my life to look as put together as it does on my instagram feed, a perfect collage of colors, people, and order. here are my 5 steps on How-to be the PERFECT parent. if you just follow these steps, i promise you will be like Mary Poppins snapping your life magically into perfection.

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1. Honesty, like the brutally, painful kind of honesty. Be honest with yourself about what you feel and think. don’t listen to guilt or shame that tells you how horrible  you are. guilt and shame only drive us more into hiding, making those thoughts dig and gnaw away at us. Here is a little secret… lean in real close now… we have all had those dark thoughts. we’ve all had the silent wishes that are too terrible to even admit. instead of being silent, speak. Be honest because honesty is the first step towards freedom. dear friend, don’t be afraid. start with a whisper, invite a friend to come close, and slowly, the louder you speak the quieter those bad thoughts will get. be honest- with yourself, God, and others.

 

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2. Admit. admit you aren’t perfect. i mean admit it like an alcoholic at an AA meeting. “Hello, I’m Anjuli and i’m a recovering perfectionist.” it sounds crazy, but it so liberating. When i meet people i let them know right off that i don’t have it together, but i want you to think i do. My weakness is wanting to put out an image that i have life under control, that i have my kids, house, clothes, you name it – in order. something about having life ‘in order’ – ‘perfect’ keeps me feeling safe, but that security is a lie. a big, mean, nasty looking lie that actually keeps me from experiencing true intimacy and relationship with others. don’t live that lie. don’t let others believe that lie either because that is mean too. it gets real slippery and messy and hard to keep up with the perfect you. you make mistakes, embrace it, live from that place of neediness and your heart for others will grow in great compassion. admit you need help, you don’t have anything together, and you are limping through most days. go to that AA meeting every morning you wake up and look in that mirror. the person you see staring back at you- gooey eyes, hair in a tangled mess of baby spit up and bed feathers- that’s the real you. admit it and move on.

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3. Rhythm. find your rhythm, your pace, your way through the day that makes the most sense to YOU. I am calling it a ‘rhythm’ because a schedule freaks me out. when i hear the word ‘schedule’ i automatically get overwhelmed. following a schedule makes me feel like a failure the same way math made me feel dumb, too many steps to follow.  a rhythm is like flipping to the back of your math book- so much easier. find the outcome you want and find the rhythm in your life that helps you get there. YOU are the parent. YOU have been given this child with his temperament, personality,  and creativity because YOU are enough to shape their little heart into understanding how this whole human works. don’t do it like your neighbor or that blogger in Texas or your cousin. Do it like YOU because YOU have been given this child for a reason. because you are you. and this is coming from a mom who did the home-school thing and dropped out, tried co-sleeping and cry it out. every kid and every family finds it’s on rhythm. find your own pace, speed, and style. finding your rhythm will change through the different seasons, so maybe it’s more like a dance, but regardless- low expectations heed high results- so get your groove on.

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4. be known so you can know. be the telescope of your own heart so you can see the heart of your children. the degree to which you can see yourself (the good, bad, ugly, and beautiful) is the degree which you will be able to really see your children’s heart. don’t let good behavior be enough. understand motive and what moves them to action. the more you sift through your own feelings the less your children’s feeling will trigger you. the more you understand your own anger, the less their tantrums will trigger your rage. the more you understand your anxiety the greater equipped you will be to handle theirs. you are the telescope to your children’s souls. the wound comes through the womb. your un-dealt with pain will become your kids pain, so deal with your issues. it isn’t easy. it is hard work to see yourself as you truly are. it is hard to grieve things you would rather stuff and painful to face your own insecurities and fears. but you are the adult and you hold the telescope- know your heart so you can know the heart of your child. be the telescope- adjust the lens, analyze the darkness, and move in carefully so you can see the stars.

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5. Accept. accept your story. it has been written and it is yours. it is glorious and messy, but it’s yours. walk everyday (or rather- sleep walk with a coffee in hand) with the confidence that you are loved, you are accepted, you are enough. not because i say so, but God so loved the world- sent His only son- and died for you so you can live out a loud, beautiful, story filled with freedom, joy, grace, gratitude, resilience, courage, and creativity. it is a love story made for you. our eyes wander so quickly into wanting another story and we lose sight of the story etched in, behind, and before us. stay the course. step boldly into each new day. to accept your story, your children, your husband, your walls, and all that you might be lacking is to accept what you have been so graciously been given.

 

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i know these 5 steps are for me. this is what i long and hope to be as a mom. i think when i live connected to these truths, i’m actually the closest to who i want to be as a mom, wife and child of God. when i am honest, admit my brokenness, find a rhythm that works for me, know my heart and the heart of my kids, and accept my story for what it is, i think i’m the closest to perfect i can be.

so if i’m saying that perfect parenting is actually being painfully honest, imperfect, vulnerable, and needy- YES, that’s exactly what i’m trying to say.

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(I would add Pray as #6 but truthfully, all of these are a prayer. prayer is the breath of life. )

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