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The Ugly Side of Christmas

Sigh of relief. It’s finally over.

The pendulum swung quite a bit this year and landed somewhere in the middle. This holiday season wasn’t as awful as two years ago, but it wasn’t nearly as idyllic as last year. It was…tolerable. We had fun. It’s over. And we are SO thankful to be home and have some down-time with the fam.

Now I’m going to get really vulnerable here and expose Ugly Jennifer in hopes for some empathy and knowledge that I’m not alone in this. Don’t you hate it when your deep down, ugly, selfish self rears its horrendous head?

Let’s talk gifts.

I really, truly was sincere when I told my family that there was nothing that I needed or wanted for Christmas. Or at least I thought I was. Both of our brothers and SILs made charitable donations in our name, which was wonderful and very appreciated and exactly what we wanted them to do. But for everyone else, I did have a small list of items that – let’s face it – I really hoped for and, being as it was a very short list, kind of expected to receive.

Ah, expectations. They’ll blast you every time.

So I was disappointed when my short little list went completely unfilled. The more I thought about how disappointed I was, the angrier I became. Then I was angry and disappointed with myself for being so angry and disappointed.

I told you it was ugly. Wretched woman that I am.

Michael and I had a very long discussion about expectations and contentment last night as we drove through The Middle of Nowhere on our way back home. (Let me just say for the record that I am extremely thankful to have a husband who can engage in such a conversation with such a stupid woman and still love me and think I’m All That and a Bag of Chips. He is amazing.) I told him that if we removed the entire gift-giving factor, I would have been as happy and content on December 24 as I was on December 26, but because there were those blasted expectations, I came out disappointed. As we talked, we reached a few conclusions:

  1. Low expectations save you from disappointment.
  2. Don’t ask for “nothing” unless you are honestly willing to receive it.
  3. Canceling all gift-giving to save you from disappointment and discontentment is unrealistic.
  4. Make a VERY SPECIFIC Christmas list, communicate it clearly, and make sure your spouse divvies up the list appropriately – including what you wish for him to get for you. No more hemming and hawing about how there’s nothing I really want. (though this is tricky because often the best gifts are the surprise gifts.)

Please know that I am fully aware of how ridiculous all this is and how I need a whopping dose of perspective…which makes me all the more deplorable. Confronted with all my wretchedness, I knew that my heart needed some cleaning up. I woke up in the middle of the night with these familiar words singing in my head:

All of You is more than enough for
All of me
For every thirst and every need
You satisfy me with Your love
And all I have in You
Is more than enough.

Oh, if only that were true. I want that to be true. I sing that not as a declaration of truth, but as a prayer that it will be true in my own life. I’m thankful for a morning of broken worship and God’s cleansing mercy and forgiveness. I’m thankful that He continues to chase after me, even with all my selfish, egocentric ugliness. I’m thankful my beloved husband does the same.

So there it is. I’m not as stunningly gorgeous as I appear. Shocking, I know. But I’m working on it.

Merry Christmas, y’all.

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6 thoughts on “The Ugly Side of Christmas

  1. As far as expectations are concerned, it isn’t really the material ones or lack of that really get me, but rather the emotional ones. I feel from Thanksgiving on, there are HEAVY expectations that EVERYONE gets together and EVERYONE is jolly and the old special nostalia is rekindled and all is “Merry and Bright”. No doubt, I think, the major reason so many people are depressed this time of year. Things just aren’t the same and you “Can’t go home again” so to speak. I try VERY hard to keep my expectations realistic, but it’s hard when not everyone does the same. Does that make any kind of crazy sense? I love your post…My husband and I talk a lot about expectations (for holidays, in relationships, etc). Gotta be realistic. With yourself and everyone else. Thanks for keeping it real!

  2. Jen, expectations are such a tricky thing. I try not to expect much so I’m not disappointed in the gift giving arena. But, as a self proclaimed and attempted recovering ‘stuff girl’ I find it hard. I love giving gifts but I’m not that great at recieving them. I want to give everyone the most perfect gift for them. Then I dive into self pity “Why don’t they want to find the most perfect gift for me?” It’s such a hard thing. I love your resolution. I try to repeat to myself…HE is enough, HE is more than enough

  3. Ahhh…I know these feelings soo soo well. I have been married for 6 years – and for 5 of those 6 years I have had NOTHING in my stocking, and either nothing under the tree (unless it was something that I personally purchased, wrapped and pretended was from my husband) or one year, something that was really a gift that HE wanted..not me. sigh. This year, I made a point to say SEVERAL times, that I wanted something under the tree for me. I am tired of watching everyone else open their gifts and me sitting there with the camera with nothing. Selfish…yes, I know. I’m a horrible person…but I fully accept this about myself. For the first time this year I decided to not only say I wanted a gift…but to spell out SPECIFICALLY what it was that I wanted. (now, mind you he only listened close enough to hear the gist of what I wanted and got it a tad off – but it was still great and I was sooo happy to have something from my husband to me). Next year we will have to work more on this…but at least it was a start 😉 I can’t help myself…I know I like being surprised with gifts – funny thing is, I don’t even really care what they are…I just want someone to surprise me with SOMETHING to unwrap. SOMETHING in my stocking. It could be a pair of warm gloves or a $5 trinket…just a token of love (and the thought) means a lot. 🙂

  4. Oh yah, been there. Dashed expectations can reduce us to childlike states once again (speaking about myself, not you) … but I think it’s those things that lead us back to our very HUGE need for a Saviour. You’re still gorgeous … heck, I saw you in the sexy black dress! 🙂

  5. Jennifer:you have said some pretty nasty things about yourself. I noticed it because I do the same thing. I try to remind myself that God created me with every spot and blemish, and made me fully human and fully needy.You can’t just wash/pray need away in my opinion. Do you think of your children as ugly,wretched, selfish, egocentric? of course not. I don’t think God thinks of you or me that way either.We hear that message from somewhere else- not from God, I think. I know where I hear it from, and I try to shut down that voice as much as I can.Perhaps your expectations for ‘yourself’ are a little higher than God expects? just a thought.

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