Sometimes this time of year comes with a few unwanted gifts…

It’s a so-called “helpful” email offering solutions for all the things you’re doing wrong and leaving you with a stomachache (and confusion about whether you should feel angry or guilty).

It’s a project that starts with smiles and warmth when you can do it all but turns into a flat, “It’s fine. Don’t worry about it,” when you realize doing it all is way too much this time.

It’s a look, it’s a remark, it’s an article, it’s a photo blasted on social media. It’s anything that makes us feel less-than, lacking, lazy, or like we will never measure up.

I shared with a couple friends yesterday that this isn’t the first December I’ve felt overwhelmed. As a matter of fact, my memory — which has been faulty for the same approximate number of years I’ve been a mother, but it’s the only one I’ve got, so we’re relying on it anyway — tells me that every December of my adult life has been a frantic race to the very end of the year. December has meant year-end reports, projected budgets, papers and finals, a big pitch to a client, and book proposals finished and shipped off before everyone disappears for two weeks of holiday.

And that’s on top of regular life — groceries and carpool and work and math tests and snack days and wonky apps that won’t work on a new phone and light bulbs that go out all at the same time. NOT TO MENTION what the holidays, GOD BLESS THEM, add to our days — shopping and wrapping and cooking and cleaning and decorating and dance recital-ing and card-sending and party-hosting and preschool program-watching.

Friends, we are ALL underwater this time of year. Not a single one of us is lounging around every day, scrolling through Facebook, shopping leisurely on Amazon, sipping hot chocolate and watching Hallmark movies. I mean, sure, maybe for a minute. But the rest of our hours, our days, our season? They are JAM PACKED with the stuff of life — the blessings, the burdens, the burdens that are actually blessings when we stop to be grateful, and the blessings that are really kind of a burden when we stop to be honest.

No matter what our to-do lists look like or what kind of families or jobs or lives we have, this season is one that gets to all of us at some point. We all have instances where, despite our very best efforts and desire to be peaceful as we anticipate the celebration of Christ’s birth, we are overwhelmed. And when that happens? When that happens, THE VERY LAST THING WE NEED is judgment from somebody else.

And yet, it seems like the holidays are a time when not only do we serve up heaping portions of carbs and carols, we also throw around expectations and standards and guilt trips like we’re at an Old Navy graphic tee sale on Black Friday.

Friends…this year? Could we not do that? Could we not criticize and doubt and hold each other to outrageous standards? Can we resist the urge to point out failings and heave sighs of disappointment?

Let’s not give guilt this year — and for heaven’s sake, let’s not accept it either. Instead, let’s give each other grace. Let’s remember the times we were the ones dropping balls and missing deadlines and messing up. Let’s give each other understanding…and acceptance..and solidarity.

Now those are some gifts I can get excited about!

P.S. If you haven’t watched Miranda, the HILARIOUS BBC sitcom, do it now. Of course, I can’t find it streaming anywhere. And the BBC website has the nerve to tell me the show isn’t available in my non-BBC location. You can get it on Amazon, though (affiliate link) – or maybe your library has it? You can also watch it, with Spanish subtitles, on YouTube, so there’s always that option. It’s worth the work to track it down, friends. Trust me on this one.

What should you watch next?


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