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Present Over Perfect

According to Shauna Niequist, a bride and groom who are a week away from their wedding should refrain from starting more projects or last-minute additions to their nuptial to-do list. Rest, she says, is what they need in order to be present and joyful for their vows – even everything isn’t quite as “picture-perfect” as they’d hoped.

That same mindset is crucial to surviving the Christmas season; Shauna urges us to be Present Over Perfect.

“You can show up with your perfectly wrapped grab bag gift & your perfectly baked cookies…and your perfectly resentful and frazzled self, ready to snap at the first family member you see.

Or you can choose to rest your body & nourish your spirit, knowing that bringing a grounded, present self to each holiday gathering is more important than the gifts you bring.”

Shauna reminds us that sometimes It’s ok to say “no” to that party, to let go of a yearly tradition that’s causing too much stress, to bring frozen meatballs instead of made-from-scratch.

“You’ve been entrusted with one life, made up of days and hours and minutes. You are spending them according to your values, whether you admit it or not.

Let’s be courageous in these days.

Let’s choose love and rest and grace.

Let’s use our minutes and hours to create memories with the people we love, instead of dragging them on one more errand or shushing them while we accomplish one more seemingly necessary thing.” Managing Editor Shawn McEvoy’s list on 25 Rules of Christmas makes a few similar suggestions. Take time out of your hectic schedule to just love and enjoy the outside (“brisk, cold, invigorating…smiling at neighbors, throwing snowballs”) and the inside (”Fires, blankets, movies, Charlie Brown, hot cocoa, and remembering that Christ came to make his home inside each of us, and give us peace.”). Be a kid at some point, he suggests, and slow down for long enough to let a Christmas song bring you to tears. And don’t forget to prepare your heart, just like you prepare all those picturesque holiday treats.

“Some of us don’t like how early the Christmas decorations come out in stores, or how soon the Lite or Kiss station changes over to all-Christmas tunes. But really, this holiday season isn’t long enough. There’s only a good 3-4 weekends if we’re lucky. Most of those get booked in September with parties, travel, and other requirements. So if you don’t wake up each morning with at least some sense of optimism or reflection, you’re going to miss it. My own strategy at this stage of life is to be the kids’ alarm clock. Every day at 6:30 I wake them with hugs and kisses and encouragement and some sense of what it means to celebrate Christmas and know Christ. I think I get more out of it than they do.”

Crosswalk author Sarah Hamaker in her piece “Great (Christmas) Expectations” recommends a few tips for managing those high (too often impossible) Holiday expectations.

“Know our wiring. God created us as women to have a great capacity to love and be loved. Sometimes, we can overextend ourselves in the quest to serve others because of that God-given desire. ‘We need to have the freedom to be who God created us to be,’ says [blogger Susan] DiMickele. But who God created me to be isn’t necessarily the same as who our neighbors, our moms or other friends are.”

And finally, Jessica Bufkin recommends taking quick breathers from the holiday madness in order to preserve sanity, especially for those who are single or unused to managing crowds of people in the same small space.

“If you find yourself blowing up (or simmering beneath the surface), it might be time to take a step back. I’m an extrovert, but I still live a fairly quiet life. When my entire family is under one roof, I realize how much I am recharged in my moments at home alone. Sometimes, over the holidays, I’ll escape for a little while. It might be to read at a coffee shop, to watch tv in an empty bedroom, or to volunteer to run an errand. It’s amazing what a few minutes to regroup can do for my attitude.”

What do your holidays look like? Are you tempted to be perfect over present? What tips do you have for staying in the moment and loving those around you?

Debbie Holloway is the Family Life Editor for

Publication date: December 11, 2013