by Christine Darragh

It’s Christmas. Already. Want to know how I know? I was in Meijer, and there are Christmas decorations for sale. Sitting there abundantly, along with the Halloween costumes and candy, and the pre-Thanksgiving pumpkins and fall leaves.

Christmas. Every year, it creeps up on me, usually around Thanksgiving. And I realize that, no, I haven’t even begun my Christmas shopping. No, I haven’t cooked even one batch of the 8 different kinds of cookies that I like to make. No, the creative photo books that I bind for my grandmothers, mothers, and one uncle are only just conceived in my mind. No, the present-wrapping, really one of my favorite parts is not yet started.

Christmas shopping 2When, if ever before, was the coming of Christmas first heralded by our consumerist, let’s-get-a-Christmas-sales-jump-just-ahead-of-all-our-competitors marketplace. I will save you a rant about marketing and advertising, but maybe Bronner’s has it right.

But, instead of inspiring warm fuzzy feelings, or nostalgia, or the anticipation of time with family and friends, this advance promotional heraldry simply adds a layer of strain to my already-full life. The aisles of ornaments stare out at me from red, shiny packages, exposing my inadequacy and my own inability to accomplish everything I ever want to do.

And instead of bright expectation, I am filled with stress, because the standard has been set. It is there, right on the shelf next to the new stockings, wreaths and wrapping paper, and it whispers of perfection and an adherence to traditions that I could never hope to live up to.

I don’t have an easy answer to this, except that I prepare. I work hard, sometimes furiously to accomplish what I can, and then when the days and parties come, I just enjoy. Sometimes gifts are not all wrapped. Some years, I didn’t quite get finished with all the deliciousness that I planned to cook.

And, maybe the photo cards go in the mail in January. Whatever it is that isn’t complete is let go, and I get down to the real business of enjoying family, friends, and my favorite part, singing the praises of a newborn King whose birth changed the world and my own life.

If the stress in your life is just as much a tradition as the cookies, and shopping, and carols, then consider this opportunity to lighten your load. Living Water MOPS is hosting a fundraiser at St. Luke Lutheran Church in Ann Arbor. We will be offering childcare for a fee on Saturday, December 7, from 4-9 p.m. so that you can go finish up (or start) your Christmas shopping. And, if you use that time instead to clean your house, steal a much-needed date with a spouse, or anything else, we won’t tell. Check out the event and reserve a spot for your kids online.