An Intentional Christmas

December 23, 2021 · by Katherine Grote

Not gonna lie. I used to be a self-degrading holiday psychopath. Spurred on to madness by my homeschool mom friends' lies posts on social media that highlighted their creative, handmade, home baked, traditional, Elf on the Shelf, Magnolia-farm-house Christmas celebrations, I would devise all the ways to torment my family and give myself a nervous breakdown while still providing the PERFECT holiday experience.

The torture would start right around Thanksgiving when I would dress my tribe up in matching fall attire in 88 degree weather and drag them through Texas bur infested grass to take family photos for a custom Christmas card. Once or twice I even hauled the dog along to intensify all of our misery. I would then work myself into a frenzy in a completely futile attempt to get said photo cards mailed out. They eventually made it out alright.

Out into the recycle bin on January 1st.

By December 1st I would have made a list that included all of the baking, crafting, nativity building, scripture reading and experiences I was determined to give my children. It was an incredibly detailed plan that never ended well. Like the year that I almost set the house on fire with my paper advent chain hung over the fireplace. By the time we had gotten to week three I was behind five days thus providing ample tinder for the smoldering, sparking yule log I’d placed in there in a pathetic attempt to teach my family about other Christmas cultures. Speaking of burning things, I’ve lost count of how many cookies I’ve turned into hardened bricks suitable maybe only to be used as a type of building material. Perhaps I should have used those on the gingerbread houses I insisted we make that always ended up condemned by the city.

Yup, I’ve attempted it all. Jesse trees, advent wreaths, tree lighting, Christmas music, hot chocolate….and by Christmas day I would be exhausted with glitter stuck to my forehead, a sugar high, burnt fingers, and overstimulated kids.

Thankfully, over the years I wisened up. I stopped trying to keep up with all of the other overzealous homeschool moms who were determined to implement every other country's holiday traditions into their December lesson plans. I took a breath and started saying “No”.

No to all of the pressure. The pressure that seems to fall on parents to make this time of year special, full of magic and traditions, because, if we don’t, then our children will need years of therapy to undo the trauma. Pressure to do all the crafty-makey, Pintrest-y things complete with wrapping paper, holiday fairy dust, and an inane elf on that shelf that hasn't been dusted in months and who moves around the house at night….wait for it….Making. More. Messes.

See, I finally figured out if I can say NO to what the world tries to pressure me to believe, that it’s up to me to make the holidays special, and that Christmas trees and candy canes are what my children need, then I can say yes to what really matters.

A straw filled manger.

A God who loved so much He robed Himself in injured flesh, and entered the world in the lowliest of places. A dirty stable filled with the simplest of beasts and people. Not a palace filled with gold and guards, with demands to bow and grovel, yet instead to a place where anyone could enter but would have to kneel down to come near His precious face.

So I’ve let my detailed holiday plans go for the most part. Instead we have purposed in our hearts to just be intentional in whatever it is we do. I think that’s why there is one tradition that has stuck with us every year and encompasses both Christmas and New Years. Every year on New Year's day, while every other southerner is eating their black eyed peas, we’re writing our Letters to Jesus. On January 1st we write a letter with prayers, goals, and dreams that only Jesus can fulfill. We seal them up and drop them into our Christmas stockings to be opened and read on the following Christmas Eve. Sometimes it's sobering, other times funny, yet it's always faith building to look back and see how Jesus answered prayers or changed our direction. 

Most of all it’s been a precious reminder that the greatest gift ever given was not one wrapped in bright holiday paper with beautiful bows and ribbon. Instead, that gift was brought forth in labor and pain and laid, not under a brightly lit Christmas tree, with Christmas music and hot chocolate, but in a dirty manger filled with the smells and sounds of animals. It was given 2000 years ago when a baby’s cry pierced the darkness of our world and a journey began that would end at a rugged cross. It was the gift of love made manifest.

Now I’ve got to go see to some Christmas cookies that are probably burning in my oven.

Wishing you and yours an intentional and joy filled Christmas!

From our very non-Pinterest family.

Katherine Grote

About Katherine Grote

Katherine Grote makes her home in south Austin with her incredibly patient Hubby of 18 years, their 4 (slightly) feral children, who they affectionately call their Coconuts, and a neurotic dog named Asa. Their house is always full of stray kids and animals, laundry piles, copious amounts of coffee, and laughter. In addition to homeschooling and writing about lessons learned through life with the Coconuts, Katherine spends her time laughing at completely inappropriate moments, and engaging in random conversations with herself. She and her family are also children's evangelists and enjoy ministering together through children's services. Currently, she serves as the Austin Metro Section Children's Sectional Director and both her and her husband, Jason, are working towards becoming licensed ministers with the UPCI. They are passionate about their faith, their family, and their community. And drinking lots of really good coffee. Follow her on Facebook (Katherine Wolff Grote) and visit her blog at conversationswithcoconuts.com.