An Out-of-Control ChristmasBy: Karen Ehman
A friend dared me to fast for three weeks from making decisions in my family. No giving opinions on which restaurant to choose or what color paint to use in the living room. Could I do it? I whispered a prayer and jumped in.
There was one slight problem. My fast took place in the yuletide season.
It came time to embellish our house for the holidays. Our young son Spencer, an all-over-the-map creative and artsy sort, loves to help with this. So we grabbed the boxes from storage and headed outside.
First, he wanted to place all colored lights on the bushes … the bushes for which I had carefully purchased the exact number of strands of white ones that were waiting neatly rolled up in the box and fastened shut with zip ties. Not those. He wanted color.
So I smiled (at least outwardly) and said, “Sure!”
He grabbed some strands (some big lights, some tiny, some twinkling, some not) and draped and dropped the lights on the bushes, not being careful to wind them in an upward and logical way while spacing the rows equidistance apart like any good card-carrying member of Control Freaks Anonymous would do. It looked like a huge handful of colored confetti had been tossed helter-skelter on my front bushes, much of it landing in huge, knotted clumps.
Next, he twisted some white lights just halfway up our corner cedar bush. Then he stopped without putting another strand on the top half. Thought it was “different” and would look “super cool.”
What? No sane woman lives in a house with lights donning only the bottom half of a huge cedar bush.
I guess I am now officially declared insane.
I told him we had a small budget to purchase a few new items. While I would have gone downtown to my favorite antique shop to hunt for a retro plastic snowman, he thought we should whip down to the Family Dollar. Once there, he picked out the cheapest, most hideous lighted plastic candy canes I’d ever seen. To add insult to injury, I allowed him to also have his way with the family Christmas tree too.
Yes, I did.
On it went all of the mismatched ornaments and assorted trinkets he could find. They were not spaced out evenly. Several bulbs of one color were clustered too near each other for my taste. There were holes where no ornaments hung. I wanted so badly to correct his placement choice, but I did not. And my mind drifted back to my childhood days when my own mother insisted the silver tinsel strands be hung a certain way—one by one, separated and not clumped. I always hated that and I was glad I remembered how I’d felt and kept my trap shut.
At the end of the day, we plugged it all in. I don’t know which was brighter, the lights or his smile. I fixed my little guy some hot cocoa and me a cup of coffee. As I sat next to him on the couch in the glow of the tree, I’d like to say I willingly accepted this new holiday look. I did not.
Instead, I schemed what I could say that would make him allow me to tweak the decorations just a bit. Then, in between “The Chipmunks Christmas” and “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” (Yes, the kids got to choose the music too. Forgive me, Josh Groban!), all at once, he piped up.
“I love you, Mom. Today was the funnest day ever.”
My heart both melted and sank. It melted at my grateful and content child who in that moment captured the wonder of Christmas. Yet my heart sank when I thought of how decorating had often gone at our house years before.
Bossiness. Sharp words. Rolling eyes. Harsh instructions. All from me.
Hurt feelings. Crushed spirits. Dashed hopes. Shot-down ideas. All from my loved ones.
In the end, I may have gotten a magazine-like display, but there was no beaming clan sitting in the midst of the glowing home. They’d all split the seasonal scene.
At that moment I decided there were benefits to being out of control. Sure, the house may not have looked as I’d liked. But my son looked at me with thankfulness and had a sense of real accomplishment and acceptance in his soul.
The rest of that Christmas season, I stuck to my fast. We rented holiday movies I would not have picked. We baked cookies that were not traditional. They even opened their stockings last on Christmas morn. I’d always before insisted they be opened first, the …. ahem … right way.
It was the most wacky, and yet wonderful, Christmas season ever.
My friend was right. There is something wonderful about learning to live life loosened, to not always get our own way, to defer to others and watch their delight as they get to have some of the say for once.
It yielded several fantastic results for me.
I wasn’t on edge.
I wasn’t so bossy.
My family relationships were calmer.
My kids’ contributions were endearing to me.
It was less work for me, not always having to be in control.
And most of all, I finally felt the thrill of living relinquished instead of living tight-fisted all the time. It required more prayer. And more faith. And a little duct tape for the old mama mouth. But Spencer was right, it was the funnest Christmas ever!
About the Author
Karen Ehman’s passion is to provide women with creative inspiration and doable ideas to help them live their priorities and love their lives. She is the director of the Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker team and the author of five books including her newest: “LET. IT. GO. How to Stop Running the Show & Start Walking in Faith” which includes a curriculum DVD and companion Bible study. Karen is the mother
of three, and she and her college sweetheart Todd just celebrated their silver anniversary. You can find her blogging at <a href="http://www.karenehman.com">http://www.karenehman.com</a>.