I have a friend who often jokes that he eats – and enjoys – every meal like it might be his last. And my mom ingrained in me throughout my childhood to “just try” – in other words, try to use the bathroom every chance you get.

Now as anyone who’s met any member of my family will tell you, my mom’s advice was based more on the desire to be prepared than to seize the day. And one look at my Weight Watchers record is all the reminder I need to never [again] eat a meal like its my last.

Still, everywhere I turn, the Advice of the Day seems to be “live in the moment” or “the years are short” or “you’re gonna miss this” or “act like tomorrow might never come.” And it’s true. Sometimes tomorrow doesn’t come.

But I’m only human. And my days only have 24 hours in them. And sometimes carping the diem is too much, too hard. When it takes everything I’ve got to make it through the day, seizing it is about the last thing I want to do.

I’ve had a lot of those days lately – and by “lately,” I mean over the past nine months. Going back to work has wrecked any semblance of order my life had . . . and it didn’t have a whole lot to start with!

A question we ask often at my church is, “What are your challenges?” Mine has been, consistently since starting to work for that same church, balance. Time management. Figuring out – and sticking to – my priorities. Dealing with the fact that I’ve taken on too much but am stubbornly unwilling to give up any of it.

This challenge was most apparent over the holidays. Even after taking a three-week break from this blog, I struggled to find time to do the things that were most important to me and to my family, because it seemed every waking moment was filled with the things that were most urgent. Or, if I’m honest about my mediocre-at-best time management skills, avoiding or feeling guilty about the things that were most urgent.

During a season that’s supposed to be filled with family and fun and experience-sharing and memory-making, I felt good when, day after day, I fed my family and moved the laundry and told my kiddo I loved her.

We didn’t bake cookies.
We didn’t drive around to look at Christmas lights.
We didn’t do Truth in the Tinsel, and I ate all the candy I put in our advent boxes.
We didn’t work through a list of random acts of kindness or even fill a shoebox.
We didn’t carve pumpkins or decorate for fall or tear links off a countdown chain.

I know life isn’t about the things we do or parties we throw or the craft projects we complete. It’s not about checking things off a list, and you can’t prove your love with homemade cookies or elegantly wrapped gifts. But sometimes, when I can’t check a single thing off my list or give a single homemade gift all season, it feels bad . . . and makes me want to tell Robin Williams (or the latest unlucky person to offer the advice) where to shove his “carpe diem.”

But even though a rough year and a less-than-festive holiday season brings out my worst perfectionist, pessimistic tendencies, I decided not to lose any more sleep over it this time.

That’s why, over the past few months, I finally had to accept that this year? This year wasn’t going to be the best in terms of projects and parties and field trips and road trips. This year, we were going to be content to be together. Because we’d learned in new, hard ways that tomorrow might not come and things change and sometimes life stinks. And being together is a big deal. And even though we want to live in the moment, I just have to believe that there will be another Christmas.

Wait, what?

I know. It doesn’t make sense. How can I say in one breath that we aren’t promised tomorrow while, in the next, lean on the belief that I’ll get another chance at festive holidays? I’m not sure how it works. Logically, I suppose it doesn’t. But as my family came to the close of a darned difficult year, it was the best I could do.

And you know what? We made it. We made it through the holidays, and on Christmas day, as I lay on the couch and my husband crashed on our bed, both of us sick with an awful sinus infection, my daughter played with her new toys (most of which I’d bought at Walmart on Christmas Eve, no joke) and declared, “Mommy, this is The Best Christmas Ever!”

I couldn’t help it. I asked her why. She informed me it was the best because she’d gotten her very own sleeping bag, and I suspect the mix tape CD I made her with a Justin Bieber song (among others, thankyouverymuch) didn’t hurt.

Yeah, she’s the same kid who, two months later, is reminding me that we never carved a pumpkin. And I’m not sure I’m forgiven yet for the advent box debacle (more the fact that I ate the Hershey’s kisses than the fact that we didn’t make nativity ornaments, but still). But what really matters is what we DID do, not what we didn’t – and doing it together matters most of all.

Have you ever felt like seizing the day was too hard? Have you felt the tension between living in the moment and letting yourself off the hook for a season? Have you struggled with putting the important over the urgent – or vice versa?

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