Christmas Eve – Accepting the Imperfection

Five years ago in the dead of winter, Doug and I boarded an Eastern European train traveling overnight. I was pregnant. Snow had blown in from Russia and dropped the temperature within a matter of minutes. The train had no heat, and we shivered under our coats and a light blanket. There was nothing we could do but joke about it. It could only have been worse if I was holding a chicken.

I remembered that last night when I considered Mary giving birth in a barn. I would have probably said something like, “You have got to be kidding me.” I’m sure she was more spiritual than that.

The beauty of a “Come as You Are” Christmas means you can let go of what you haven’t done yet and let the imperfection be the backdrop for Christ coming into the world, just like it was.

I let several things go undone this year, things I didn’t have time for. I abandoned the ideas for handmade gifts in favor of not working on them at the last minute. I lost the stocking that my mom made and that Lane had claimed as her own. I know I put it aside in a special place so that I wouldn’t lose it, and we’ve looked everywhere. We don’t have any other stockings because I sold the rest on Ebay thinking I would make new ones, but that’s a story for a different time.

We decided that our dinner tonight would be takeout from our favorite Mexican restaurant before we go to church.

Now we’re heading out as a family for some morning coffee and people watching. People watching is best in December, don’t you think? The hats, scarves, sweaters, and the other day I even saw a guy wearing pantaloons. It made my day.

I hope you have a Merry Christmas. Thank you for your gift of reading here. I’ll be here next week, but we’ll keep it low-key for the holidays before we start organizing and cleaning things out in January because we’ve been quite busy enough as it is.
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. Merry Christmas Rachel. Thank you for introducing me to a new word: pantaloons. Love it. ;)

  2. I, too, have embraced the Christmas imperfections. No cards this year. Oh well. It will entice me to make a few more phone calls. Store-bought raisin bread toast instead of struggling with more baking. A pair of wreaths on our front door and a beautiful tree. Time slipped away and the village never got set up yet we are all content and feeling blessed. And I absolutely love your relating our imperfections to Mary and Christ’s birth. Thanks for the insight and a merry Christmas to you and yours.

  3. I’m looking forward to years of imperfect Christmases. I like to think that people admire imperfection. When you go to large, grand parties where the hosts spend exorbitant amounts of money, you’re too intimidated to really have fun. It’s the smaller, imperfect parties where you can be yourself. Also, Mary was just a person too. I’m sure she was thinking, “Really? This is what you had in mind?” But she made the best of it, and that’s definitely something we can all learn to do better.
    Jennie´s last post…Using the Quiet You Have

  4. Merriest of Christmases!
    I Live in an Antbed´s last post…Reflecting on The Gift

  5. Old Doug in BC says:

    May you, Doug, and the children have a wonderful Christmas! Marie and I have been invited out for dinner, we are taking cranberry relish and a bottle of wine! First time in many years that we did not have to cook Christmas dinner! It will be fun!
    May your lives in this coming 2011 be all that you wish for!

    Cheers, from a very mild and wet(pouring rain) British Columbia

  6. Thanks for this reminder. The whole family has been down with terrible colds for the last few weeks, so it’s kind of a small miracle that anything at all got done. Christmas cards did not get mailed. One hand-made gift was finished, but talk about imperfect – it looks like the sewing machine and I got into a tussle. Some cookies were made, but not very many. BUT, I am strangely at peace this morning and looking forward to a quiet and reflective celebration of Christ’s birth with my family.

    My son did request that I make a pink dinosaur birthday cake for Jesus – that did not happen, so we are sticking candles in the free pecan pie that my husband got from a client at work and it will be just fine. :)

  7. I recalled this story you shared a year ago and it hit home because we ended up spending Christmas Eve at children’s healthcare with my infant son’s ear infection last year. Turns out that infection was truly a blessing in disguise because the antibiotics they put him on that night cleared up another condition that we was scheduled to have surgery for in January. God really does know what he’s doing, even if we find them “imperfect” at the moment.
    Bless your family and enjoy a most wonderful Christmas together.
    Coffee Break Mama´s last post…Santa 2010

  8. Exactly! I can so relate, Rachel.

    1. We did not invite soldiers over despite my heartfelt desire to open our home to people who might be alone. My husband (who knows me best) thought we should do it at a more relaxed time. And I’m now at peace with that–having honored his wisdom rather than fight about the selfishness of doing our own thing when there are lonely people out there.

    2. I only made 3 gifts and I was really, truly inspired to make them. And I didn’t spend more than $13 on the 3 combined.

    3. Can’t find our stockings anywhere and it’s Christmas Eve. I’m not panicked. If I have to, I’ll use …something else. Can you tell I’m not worried? First year I can say that.
    Zoanna´s last post…Sew Much Fun- Dala-la-la-la

  9. Cindi Ellison says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I have been sick,had to have a tooth pulled, school didn’t get out until Tuesday of this week and money has been so tight. But then, I remember, I have my family who love my imperfections and they don’t mind that I didn’t get it all done this year.

    I needed to remember the true reason for this season and just to “be still and know HE is there”…thank you again for your post and Merry Christmas!

  10. Oh, and one more imperfection. My “perfect” plan was to make enough cookies to take to family gathering on Monday (8 dozen) plus 2 dozen to give to our new neighbors up the street.

    Well, my daughter and I made 5 different kinds last night, 135 total cookies. We arranged them, photographed them, and admired our hard work. But one “little” mistake? We didn’t cover them NOR put them in the center of the table. This morning we woke to find about
    30 of them GONE! GONE! and one very stuffed, very guilty-looking Golden Retriever laying on the floor under the table.

    I’m sick to think how much sugar she ingested, plus I don’t DARE chance giving cookies to the new neighbors. Peanut Blossoms With Hair might not quite say “Welcome and Merry Christmas”.
    Zoanna´s last post…Sew Much Fun- Dala-la-la-la

    • My family has a golden retriever too, & she did the same thing one year. Though I had the cookies loosely covered with foil (I thought I was “protecting” the cookies), she helped herself to a nice bunch of them. Ah dogs. :)

    • Our dog once ate our just-out-of-the-oven turkey while we were out on a snowy walk before Christmas dinner. He ate it ALL, including most of the bones. We ended up having barbecue sandwiches from the local convenience store (the only thing open that day) while we took turns taking the dog out to be sick. It wasn’t very funny at the time, but it’s a hilarious family memory now. :)
      Morgan´s last post…Christmas in Taiwan

  11. You are absolutely right. Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas.
    Mary @ A Simple Twist of Faith´s last post…Merry Christmas to All

  12. I have been on trains in Eastern Europe and nothing will ever compare to the overnight train I took in Ukraine. It was an experience I will never forget.

    I have faith that you will find your stocking. It may not be this year, but you will find it. I found the nativity set that a family friend made and have not been able to locate for the past two Christmases.

    Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  13. Those lines “let the imperfection be the backdrop for Christ coming into the world, just like it was” gave me goosebumps.

    Of course, why didn’t I think of that?

  14. Thank you – needed to hear it!

  15. Great reminder, Rachel.

    I’m giving myself a Christmas present this year…am downloading your e-book. Can’t wait to read it this weekend!

    Oh, and people watching is the best in December. My little family went out this morning as well. And I love how kind and happy everyone is around the holidays. If only it could be that way the whole year through.
    Nicole´s last post…let it snow!

  16. Merry Christmas Rachel!
    We have done the present thing here already and are now about to have ham and eggs on toast for breakfast.
    Last night we had takeaway Indian food down by the harbour after church as it will be our last Christmas Eve in our home city. Next year we will be heading to a city 5 hours away and hubby will be in fulltime ministry so no more Christmases off!
    Will be waiting to see what January has in store from you as I will be working alongside you. I’m planning on packing the house mostly before I head off to my new job at the end of January, leaving DH here with the kids – who will start the new school year – till the house sells.
    No stockings here – I’ve always been worried that I wouldn’t be able to fill them. Since this year has been the year of the DSi (great for when we are travelling – our boys are 5 and 7) that would have been the case.

  17. Happy Christmas, Rachel. Look forward to “joining” all of you as you move next year.
    Prerna´s last post…Mom’s Lounge- The Perfect Place for New and Expecting Mothers to Unwind- Relax and Learn

  18. Have a onwderful Christmas Rachel and a wonderful and exciting 2011 :)

  19. Rachel, I love your blog. You are so right, the first Christmas was imperfect by worldy standards, but perfect in His eyes. Simplifying is a gift and I look forward to reading more of your posts and exploring your blog.

  20. Every year I worry about checking off my to-do list. This year, a lot of things didn’t get done including some things that I consider to be an integral part of our family tradition. I ended up just letting some thing go. Know what? It was no big deal. The world didn’t end and I wasn’t left running around like a crazy person trying to finish it all. Lesson learned.
    Megan @ Faith Like Mustard´s last post…I’m Dreaming of a QUIET Christmas…

  21. I think you are right…Christmas is about making it right for you. I have surprised myself at how much I have been able to let go of my desire to have a Martha Stewart Christmas (decoration wise). I also feel really grateful that the kids have really seemed to have grasped the concept of the Spirit of Giving this year. They made homemade presents for the family, and it seemed to really help them focus on the giving rather than the receiving. I was a happy mum this year as I watched the kids give and receive gratefully this year.
    Meeks @ Juggling Motherhood´s last post…Christmas 2010 Highlights

  22. PS I just wanted to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog throughout the year. Thanks for all your effort you make to put up fun and informative posts! All the best for the next journey in your families life! Thank you so much for taking us along ;)
    Meeks @ Juggling Motherhood´s last post…Christmas 2010 Highlights

  23. Good for you!

    On Christmas Eve, sitting in the church singing Silent Night, I thought, I love this song, so calm such a nice view of Christmas.

    And then I thought, Now really – who has been around a woman in labor and found it to be a silent, peaceful occurrence? And in a barn no less! Maybe Mary was more holy than some, but my guess is, being human, she was seriously concerned about giving birth in a barn, likely in a great deal of pain and screaming, possibly things she should not have been at Joseph, yelling, walking around, grunting etc. And I would imagine that the animals had a few things to say too. Plus, giving birth is hardly a clean process. It’s very messy. That beautiful blue tunic was probably not so very blue anymore. She probably wasn’t wearing much by the end of everything, nor did she care. Etc. Etc. And then, you have a screaming baby. Not that Jesus would have ever done that, or had colic, or anything so unholy as the rest of us deal with.

    Silent night? No. Holy night? Yes. The two are by no means the same in their lives or ours.

  24. Thanks. I consider your post a gift. Accepting the Imperfection.

  25. Rachel,
    I think learning to accept the imperfection is a great gift to give yourself!
    My latest post talks about looking at what worked for this Christmas and what didn’t. Not about making it perfect, but about making it just right for our individual families.
    I am excited about your new adventure coming up!
    Living the Balanced Life´s last post…Christmas 2010- What worked- what didn’t

  26. If you don’t embrace those imperfections…I don’t know how you can enjoy most things…b/c nothing is really perfect or ideal!

    sandy toe

  27. I love this post, thank you! I couldn’t agree more. It’s not about us being perfect and having everything perfect. It’s about us being available and present and celebrating the birth of the perfect One. Happy Holidays!

  28. I’m catching up on your blog & really am enjoying reading about simplying Christmas. I’m already using several of your tips and am in full throttle simplyfying!