A Holiday Pep Talk For You

Hey you.

I know you’re out there, bustling with everyday stuff on top of non-everyday stuff. Maybe you’ve just shut down your computer and you’re heading out the lobby for the last time in ’17. Maybe you’re headed out the door to drop the kids off at school or daycare, or maybe not at all and you’re sweating as you weave a bulky car seat through the market to pick up the 5 ounces of cinnamon you forgot last night. Maybe you’re visiting your mother at the nursing home, or have a dentist appointment, or just picked the dogs up from the groomers when you spot your reflection in the car window and the exhaustion of it all finally sinks in.

Making Christmas magic is so, so tiring.

Historically, the job falls on the women, yes? Each December, the daily inner-workings of the home multiply into every area possible: more groceries to buy (can you bring that cheeseball again?), more lists to make (move card table to basement), more reminders to set (don’t forget to pick up uncle adam from airport), more questions to answer (henry’s a size 4 in pjs – thank you for thinking of him!). There are messes to clean and projects to manage and the little ones are tugging at your pants in need of scissors to wrap their sweet, beloved (messy/oversized/sticky/oddly-shaped and completely impractical) sculpture concocted out of of Elmer’s and cotton balls. Did I mention the messes to clean?

It’s a lot, sure, even when your approach is ever-simple.

Last week, a girlfriend sits at my kitchen counter and we laugh at how crazed the season can get. At how much more invisible the work is, at how much work it takes to make it all look invisible. Seamless, simple, stockings filled with the snap of a finger. Gifts wrapped, cards sent, neighbors thanked, workers tipped, kids excited, house decorated, families welcomed, fridge filled, recipes found, menus planned, seating moved, music played, candles lit, stories read, traditions kept.

Year after year, like magic.

You always know which stocking is Mom’s because it’s emptiest, we laugh.

I have, in the past, been grinchy about this thankless job. Tricked myself into thinking the work offered little reward, that Christmas had become too intertwined with consumerism and busyness, that we were all the worse for bending to its whims.

But yesterday, I am wrapping a set of measuring cups for Scout in butcher paper, and I tie them carefully with a quiet burlap bow, knowing full well it will be ripped to shreds, paper discarded, ribbon saved for one of Bee’s monumental craft sculptures come Jan 1.

And it feels like the treasured kind of labor.

Like a swaddled secret.

This morning, I sit by the tree with lights I strung, greenery I procured, lights I re-strung after burnt bulbs left the top-third gray and dark,  the whole thing of it towered high over the short stack of gifts I pondered, purchased, wrapped.

I read a few simple words in Luke.

Just one line. Just a small part of a bigger birth story, a simple pause that follows a long and grueling labor of love and light, of hope and humanity:

“Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself.

And I realized there’s nothing thankless about this job, unless of course, we’re the ones offering less thanks.

And so, today, before the craziness of the weekend hits: let’s pause. Let’s make room for pondering and treasuring and holding this all dear. Let’s call it a joy to carry such gifts, to bear them and bring them, to swing the door wide and greet crazy cousin Rita with a smile, to feel a bit swollen and weary and burdened but to make the trek anyway – perhaps not to Bethlehem but at least to the grocery (again).

Mary had Elizabeth to confide in, to share labor pains with, to celebrate alongside. Likewise, we have each other. There is a sisterhood in this all. May we approach it with great joy and great purpose and great, great thanks.

Here’s to filling up those empty stockings – each others, and our own.

Merry Christmas to you, Marys.


p.s. If you need a bit of something for the Mary or Elizabeth in your life, might I suggest the $6 planner I love and rely on daily?

  • Oh my goodness, girl. How I needed this today. These words. Oh my. That line from Luke has been rattling around in my head this week. As always, you seem to hit the nail on the head, and I thank you. Christmas blessings to you and yours this week, from a reader who is very thankful to have found your cozy corner of the Internet.

  • Precious words. Thank you for the sisterhood. Wishing you and your sweet family the joy that only CHRISTmas brings. God bless you.

  • Yes please. And thank you. Merry Christmas to you and your lovely family, Erin. xoxoxo

  • Yes. So much, yes. So beautifully stated… and I feel less alone and less crabby about the extra work. Thank you for these restorative words today. <3 Merry Christmas.

  • Thank you for allowing God to inspire your words … for the reminder to be still … to treasure these things in my heart. Thank you for gently pointing us to the “thrill of hope” in which “the weary world rejoices.” May you also find rest and rejuvenation in His peaceful and joyful embrace this season.

  • Thank you for reminding me to enjoy the process for what it does , brings joy to others. Merry Christmas Mary

  • Thank you for this. I just made my 114th grocery store shopping list and was feeling very, very weary. This offered much needed perspective. Merry Christmas to you and yours. 💕

  • Merry Christmas, Erin! ❤️ To remember we have each other, That is a gift! And these words are so good for us all!

  • This inspires me to put a few “I love you, too’s” in my stocking from Jesus.

  • This inspires me to add a few “I love you, too”s in my stocking from Jesus.

  • Love it Erin! Thank you as always for bring out the Joy in what we perceive as thankless efforts. This makes me think of your “throw more confetti” which I often remind myself of ;) XOXO

  • Every time I see an email in my inbox, I get excited! I grab a cup of coffee and read your blog. Thanks Erin for sharing your thoughts so beautifully!
    It’s a hard season for my family. But am reminded of so many blessings and great memories. And I know there’s a joyful season ahead.
    Merry Christmas to you and your sweet family. Looking forward to your blogs in 2018.

    • oh this is so kind of you to say, lori – thank you! here’s to another joyful season ahead!

  • and it doesn’t change even as you grow older…my grown kids come home and bring their kids and it is still chaotic and merry! and I get tired quicker now than when in my 30’s. but can’t imagine it any other way, at least for now….thanks for sharing your lovely thoughts and have a very Happy Christmas!

  • Once again Erin, you have put what so many of us feel but find hard to express, into words so beautifully put. Your writing exudes calmness and has made me sit and ponder the real meaning of Christmas. For me it is all about my family, friends and love. Merry Christmas to you and your family. I shall look forward to following you in the new year. Much love xx

  • Just beautiful….Thank you for sharing your gift with us! Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  • BEAUTIFUL, and I’m sharing it with my friends! I’m a 77 year old mother of two and I still love filling those stockings. Fortunately, for me it’s not as harrowing as it used to be but I remember those times. Enjoy every minute because sooner than you can believe your life will change. Christmas blessings to all!

  • Hey you, dear one. <3 From a far-away Friend you may not have known you had, please accept this Thank You for writing your book. I’m on page 127 as of this afternoon… admittedly, I delayed reading it this season once I had an inkling of some uncanny parallels within its contents… something to keep an eye on in my husband’s gray matter… the dust finally settling after bankruptcy… our story has many layers as well, but to keep it shorter, this has been a tough, skin-shedding year for us. I did not know about you until reading an article on No Sidebar earlier this year (we just celebrated being cable-free for 4 years, one of the ways we’ve been pursuing less); the more I read, the more I realize what a positive effect you’ve had on so many lives simply in telling your story. As I find myself finding myself for the first time approaching 40, and actually having the space and freedom to do so, I am so grateful for your sharing as I have felt alone for much of this process. By Grace, the love my hubs and I have for each other, No Matter What, and through the gift of Community, we will keep on, and make our way, and enjoy each day, and I can be better satisfied that it is all Enough. Today, I am thankful for You, Erin. Best to you, and many more years of enjoying Slow. Peace, Lesley

    • I enjoyed this message and yes, we all have struggles with stress, illness and financial burdens. But then there is family to help us thru. It is challenging to keep things simple esp. at this time of year. We must make an effort to cut back on activities, other’s expectations and put family first. But the very first and foremost thing we must do is to keep the reason for the season as the most important activity of all. Thanks Erin for your timely post .

    • oh goodness, lesley – this was such a kind, kind note to receive. thank you for your encouragement.

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