great expectations – and the picture that lies

I read this quote last week, as I scrolled through Pinterest, and it stuck:

“What screws us up most in life is the picture in our head of how it’s supposed to be” 

This Christmas didn’t look how it was supposed to.
Christmas Eve found us (the husband and I) hi-fiving each other for our well-organised-low-stress night, when we turned in at 10:30. We’d been organised and wrapped ahead of time, and got stockings filled and the twinkling tree laden beneath with gifts, and I even baked the last of the gingerbread while I replayed The Holiday. 
The house smelled of pine and gingerbread. A Christmas Eve couldn’t actually get more perfect.
Contented sigh, and early bedtime. 
Half an hour later we were joined by a fidgeting five year old.
Three hours of said five year old fidgeting and complaining of a sore tummy or being thirsty or being hot, or cold and I wasn’t feeling so festive anymore. 
And then her 2am vomiting began.
Which took us through till 6am.
I was mostly feeling sad and sorry for her, and sad and sorry for myself, anticipating my phone call to my parents to tell them we wouldn’t be making the two hour drive for Christmas dinner, or to stay the night – which meant we’d be missing out on food and family and too much fun that could bear thinking about.

I could have stopped there and wallowed in my misery.
Except I didn’t.
I let my heart explode with pride when Joel tiptoed to our bedroom door excitedly, and saw his face drop with concern, “Aww Amie, are you sick on Christmas Day” They still shared sad little Merry Christmases and he ran to get her stocking to help cheer her up.
I let myself see the good.
It’s okay, I told myself, It’s a day with no rushing. 
We can hang out as a family.
Amie can sleep.
They have presents to open, that will keep the big two occupied.
It’s a beautiful fresh, cool day, I can open the windows and air the house.
We can eat the gingerbread house.
McDonalds will be open.
These four are the ones I want to spend my Christmas day with anyway.

When I let go of my great expectations of what Christmas day should look like, I found laying there, glittering, the gold. 
Big siblings doing whatever they could to make their sister’s morning less miserable.
A bleary-eyed husband offering not only the coffee, with freshly ground beans and frothy warm milk, but solidarity: we’re in this together, the parenting trenches, brought closer in the discomfort of tiredness.
For two back-to-back movies on Netflix after presents were exchanged, as we chilled together.
Grace for my snappiness when my nap was interrupted.
For the afternoon sleep that did eventuate after said interruptions.
The gold of Amie’s health, for the colour that came back into her cheeks by lunchtime, for the toast she kept down, and the dinner she was able to eat, and the day that was saved by her being able to unwrap and enjoy her Christmas.

And really? The gold is knowing how rich we really are. 
How I have not one complaint about my very different Christmas.
That I know there are others having very different Christmasses too. 
My amazing pastors flew to Cambodia on Christmas Day.
My beautiful friend braved her first solo Christmas with her kids since her husband walked out.
Another gorgeous family I know held off their own exchanging of gifts and left the house early to go and serve breakfast to strangers in their community.
Another brave mama held down the fort as her husband worked his shift over Christmas Day.

The secret is knowing where to find the glittering stuff, hidden in gratitude amidst all those unmet expectations. The picture screws us up because we believe that life needs to match it, and to be perfect to have any value.
Lets not let that picture in our heads tell us lies. 
Life isn’t perfect. Often things don’t work out the way that we plan them.
But there is good to be found in it all. And actually, my Christmas was one of the best yet.



1 thought on “great expectations – and the picture that lies”

  1. Beautifully written Em. I cherished your change of perspective when things don’t go as we plan them…and we plan these end of year festivities a while in advance!Good on you for making the unplanned scenarios, perfect in your heart.


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