You all know (and love) my coauthor and friend Cheri Gregory. What I love about Cheri is that while being one of the smartest human beings on the planet, she is always first and foremost concerned about the heart – not the head. In today’s post, she talks about how knowing who we are personality-wise can affect how we combat one of our biggest temptations this season – the need to buy.
Be sure to hop over to her blog for a chance to win our book The Cure for the Perfect Life: 12 Ways to Stop Trying Harder and Start Living Braver.
“…be content with what you have, because God has said,
‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’.”
(Hebrews 13:5b NIV)
Settling into my favorite chair, I smile and sigh.
I love my life.
Outside the window, a slight flutter catches my eye: a hummingbird. Delighted, I watch the little guy test the feeder options and settle on a favorite flower.
I have everything I could possibly need.
I look slowly around the living room, basking in abundant evidence of rich blessings: shelving units overflowing with books, an over-stuffed couch covered with soft blankets and seafoam green pillows, two cats snoozing in sunbeams.
If I didn’t know better, I’d envy myself!
I giggle and, trying not to feel guilty for being so happy, begin sorting the day’s mail.
A catalog catches my eye.
I don’t need anything, but it’ll be fun to browse for just a quick sec.
Ten minutes, one Sharpie, and fifteen Post-It Notes later, I am a woman possessed. I have found, at long last, the exact kitchen gadgets I need in order to …
I’m at it again.
I glance around the room. Sure enough: my contentment has been replaced by a gnawing sense of need.
The bookshelves are cheap and ugly. The couch is old and stained. The cats ruin everything.
In my lap, more catalogs offer instant solutions to my home improvement problems, quick fixes for the many defects in my wardrobe, and …
I’m not going down this road again.
Bankruptcy no longer tarnishes my credit record, but its lessons are etched into my heart.
I’m still vulnerable.
A book I used to read to Annemarie and Jonathon when they were little comes to mind: The Berenstain Bears Get the Gimmies.
I shake my head.
I still go from gratitude to gimmie in a heartbeat.
I get up, toss the catalogs in the recycling bin, and return to my chair.
As I watch the hummingbirds flit to and from the feeder, my contentment gradually makes a comeback.
Preparing Our Hearts for a Contented Christmas
During the holiday season, we are bombarded with a barrage of emails and billboards and sale flyers and TV advertisements that all scream, “You NEED this!”
But what we really need is internal fortitude to resist the external forces ganging up against us.
I’m not suggesting that buying things we need or want is inherently bad. Not by a long shot.
What I am suggesting is that we combat consumerism by intentionally choosing contentment. Here are a few how-to tips, customized for each personality:
An Expressive’s #1 goal is to have fun. We buy a fabulous new outfit or tickets to a big event, thinking, “This is going to be so much fun!” But as the fun fades (as all fun does), we’re tempted to keep spending money to keep the fun coming.
But the key to fun isn’t funding: it’s learning to trade expectation for anticipation. Rather than getting caught up in how much fun an event is supposed to be (followed by disappointment when it isn’t), we can choose to anticipate and then find the fun in each one.
This personality’s life goal is to achieve perfection. It’s so easy for her to get an image of a “picture perfect” holiday in her mind and think, “It isn’t truly Thanksgiving/Christmas unless the ______ (house, meal, tree, etc.) turns out just right!”
When perfection becomes our only conduit for contentment, disappointment is guaranteed: for ourselves and those who feel like they’ve let us down. Instead, we can choose to re-define “perfection” as “good enough” (no matter how much of an oxymoron that may seem to be!) and look for perfect moments to truly enjoy.
For Drivers, whose life goal is control, it’s very easy to treat the entire holiday season as one giant list, moving from one thing to the next: check, check, check. We had that last night, we have this today, and soon it’ll be tomorrow when we will… The danger in this approach is never being present in the moment.
Detaching contentment from achievement may require taking an eraser to the calendar. We may need to say, “No way. I can’t be fully present for every single one of these. I’m just going to be hopping and skipping and jumping but I’m never going to actually be there.” Slowing down and making space for relationships may feel less productive, but it’s what creates true contentment.
The Amiable’s life goal is peace. Always. Between all people. This can be tough at the holidays. Put a bunch of people with different personalities together, add some travel, throw in gifts, mix with fatigue, and Peace on Earth is not an easy goal to achieve.
It helps to remind ourselves that sometimes the messiness, chaos, and even conflicts of life are normal. We can focus on being grateful for those who have gathered together, even when they aren’t getting along perfectly. Even when the people around us aren’t exactly peaceful, we can still choose contentment.
Looking for encouragement to help you recover from that pesky problem of perfectionism? Today’s featured book is The Cure for the Perfect Life.
You can enter to win a signed copy by leaving a comment directly on Cheri’s blog.
PLUS, you’ll also be entered into the grand prize drawing for the Wrapped In Grace gift package: signed copies of all five of our books, a $100 Visa gift card, and a bunch of other fun goodies. All winners will be announced Saturday, October 24th, at http://www.WrappedInGrace.info.
Cheri Gregory is a teacher, speaker, author, and Certified Personality Trainer. She is a frequent presenter at women’s retreats, parent groups, and educational conferences. She has contributed to or coauthored a dozen books, most with Kathi Lipp, including The Cure for the “Perfect” Life: 12 Ways to Stop Trying Harder and Start Living Braver and Clutter Free.
Cheri has been “wife of my youth” to Daniel, her opposite personality, for twenty-seven years. She is “Mom” to Annemarie (24) and Jonathon (22), who are also opposite personalities. The Gregory family lives on the central California coast.
Cheri’s passion is helping women break free from destructive expectations. She writes from the conviction that “how to” works best in partnership with “heart, too.” You can visit Cheri’s website and connect with her on Facebook.
Carey Scott, is a new friend, but boy – when you read just what her mother-in-law did to sabotage her Christmas – you will instantly bond with her, just like I did.
Be sure to head over to Carey’s blog to enter to win her latest book Untangled.
She left out one of the main ingredients.
As my mother-in-law was writing down the recipe for her crowd-pleasing breakfast casserole – the one my husband really wanted me to make for Christmas morning – no one realized she was angry.
Even though we had spent Thanksgiving with them and planned on Christmas Eve too, the fact that we’d wake up at my parent’s house on the 25th made her spittin’-mad.
And as my husband stood over her shoulder, he noticed she not only skipped a flavor-delivering ingredient, but also tweaked the measurements of the others.
I was being set-up for failure – a label I already wore when it came to all-things hospitality. A label she wanted me to continue wearing.
Truth is I’m not a confident cook or baker, so I’d have followed the recipe to a tee. The result would have been one nasty casserole. And ruining the Christmas morning meal would have heaped guilt and shame on me for not being better equipped in the kitchen — tightening the tangle that said “I’m a culinary catastrophe.”
There’s something about the holidays that brings out the nasty in family and the insecurity in us.
… Maybe we step back into dysfunctional family patterns, the ones we’ve paid big bucks in counseling to overcome.
… Maybe we feel like mom is judging the way we celebrate the holidays today because it’s different than how she did it when we were kids.
… Maybe old tapes replay in our minds, and we hear the tangling messages from childhood of “You’ll never be good enough” all over again.
… Or maybe growing up in our home was so painful that spending time there causes us to feel oppression all over again.
In a season where we’re supposed to step out of hectic schedules, set aside disagreements, and gather together to celebrate the important things in life… we find ourselves tangled in the messy-ness of family.
And instead of looking forward to the holidays, we dread them.
So what can you do to make family-time be tangle-free during the holidays?
Be prayed up
If you don’t ask God to prepare your heart in advance of these self-esteem-draining situations (and people), you’ll find your tinsel tangled. Start now praying for grace … for peace… for perspective… and for God to tender your heart while He strengthens your spirit. Ask Him to remind you of all the ways He delights in who you are. It will make a difference.
Plan to step out
Instead of maxing out your time with family that maxes out your confidence, be clever. Find opportunities to regroup. Make a run to the store. Take an extra long shower. Take the dog for a walk. Find ways to step out of the insanity so God can replace those age-old lies of worthlessness with His truth.
Breathe grace in
Experts agree a fail-safe way to keep from unleashing your anger on someone is to take a deep breath in. I don’t know the physiology of it, but I know how many times this simple idea has saved the life of the person standing in front of me (#justsayin). When your self-worth gets dinged and your hurt turns to anger, take a God-sized dose of grace into your lungs so you can exhale kindness and mercy. You don’t want to be a tangle-maker.
My mother-in-law and I never saw eye-to-eye. In all fairness, I wasn’t always easy to love. But neither was she. And while we made peace before she passed a few years ago, she was a tangle-maker through and through. Each time we got together, I asked God for help, I found pockets of time to regroup, and I inhaled grace. Lots of it.
The holidays can get us all wrapped up in the wrong things because we’re around the people who know what buttons to push, and have often been the ones to hurt us the most. But this year can be different.
Remember friend: Be prayed up. Plan to step out. Breathe grace in.
And never forget that the Creator of the world – the one whose virgin birth we’re about to celebrate – delights in you… stumbles, fumbles and all.
He created you to be a gift to the world… and you are.
Looking for encouragement to help you recover from that pesky problem of perfectionism? Today’s featured book is Untangled.
You can enter to win a signed copy by leaving a comment directly on Carey’s blog.
PLUS, you’ll also be entered into the grand prize drawing for the Wrapped In Grace gift package: signed copies of all five of our books, a $100 Visa gift card, and a bunch of other fun goodies. All winners will be announced Saturday, October 24th at http://www.WrappedInGrace.info.
Carey Scott is an author, speaker, and life coach, honest about her walk with the Lord… stumbles, fumbles and all. Her passion is reminding women of their immeasurable worth, something the world is quick to discount. She speaks to women’s groups and writes about the issues that matter most to the heart of a woman.
Carey lives in Northern Colorado with her husband and two kids where she tries to be domestic, and appreciates the grace when she’s not. You can learn more by visiting her website and blog at www.CareyScottTalks.com, or by tracking her down at the closest Starbucks.
It was the year that I decided that I was going to be absolutely intentional about keeping it a sacred Christmas. I had my Bible readings focused on the Christ story, I bought an Advent devotional, and I carefully selected a play list that was filled with songs that kept my heart focused on our Savior.
I was doing great.
Until I realized I was all out of Scotch tape.
The night before our Bible Study Christmas ornament exchange.
And that’s when I lost my Jesus.
You are going to get a lot of great advice about keeping your heart in the right place when it comes to preparing for Christmas. Which is great.
But I’ve come to find if I also keep my head in the right space, and make some smart decisions as early as possible, that goes a long way to giving my heart some protection. So here are a few practical things to think through now before Christmas hits you in the face.
- Talk to friends and family early.
The earlier you make plans, the easier it is to see potential problems and family conflicts. (This is especially important with in-laws and step-families.)
Set up and send out the dates and times of when you will be celebrating early so everyone has the information. You may even consider sending a “Save the Date” if you have a larger family (or a forgetful family.)
- Let other people help – no really – let them help.
There are no awards for people who pull off a holiday with no help (only sore feet and bitter attitudes.) If you are the one who is hosting the holiday, let others help (and if you are shy on offers, feel free to ask!) Here are a couple of ways to make it a family – and friends – affair.
Use www.signupgenius.com to create a list of all the dishes you need that others can bring. Be specific. (You don’t want to say “Salad” and have three people bring chicken salad.) Think of it this way – when people choose what they can bring, they will bring their “specialty”. Having a table of everyone’s best foods is a GREAT way have the best meal of the year.
For years, I would have people show up at my house for a holiday, and the first question they would ask is “How can I help?” The problem? All the things that could have been done with little prep were already done.
Now, I think backwards.
When I create the holiday to do list, I purposely think of tasks that guests who are just showing up can do. As I’m listing all the things that need to get accomplished, I put the word “Help” next to anything that is easy for someone else to do. Here are some examples:
- Set up cheese and cracker plate (cheese is in the fridge and crackers are on the red hutch. Feel free to slice the cheese or leave it in blocks with a cheese knife.)
- Set the table (everything is on there!)
- Set up the kids table
- Walk the dog (yes – I put this on the list. We’ve had several more introverted guests volunteer. And Jake our puggle? Loves it!)
- Fill the cooler with drinks and ice (can you tell we’re pretty informal around here)
- Be in charge of the group photo
- Mash the potatoes
- Take the trash out
- Take the recycling out
- Find Christmas music on Pandora
- Cut up veggies for the veggie tray
- Build Limits
Talk to your family early about limits. Do you want to put a limit on the number of gifts? The amount of the gifts? Do a gift exchange? Maybe not exchanging at all?
We have a lot of young adults in the family and they can’t all afford gifts for everyone, so we use www.elfster.com (a virtual way of choosing names from a hat), and keep it affordable for everyone.
- Don’t go to the Store (unless you really love to!)
My anxiety level goes up several notches whenever I need to go to the mall between October 15th and December 31st. I know that I’ll probably have to make one trip there (holding my breath until I can get away from the crowds –I don’t like crowds..) but for everything else, I’ve found ways around it.
- Amazon – Nuff’ said. I have Amazon Prime (one of the best investments I’ve made,) that I use to purchase many of our gifts, and use Prime Pantry to get non-perishables for cooking delivered right to my door.
- Google Express – this is how I order all my perishables for the big day. (Who are we kidding? We end up celebrating for three days…)
- Etsy – I have bought the best, thoughtful, gifts here. If your child (or parent) is into it, someone on Etsy is into it. A couple of years ago, I bought my mom a rock that was shaped and painted like a VW Bug. (OK – it sounds weird, but my mom had a Bug for thirty years, and the rock was super cute.) My mom loved it. Just loved it. That is not something that you could pick up on Amazon… Plus, supporting artists. Double win in my book.
Looking for encouragement to help you recover from that pesky problem of perfectionism? Today’s featured book is Get Yourself Organized for Christmas. You can enter to win a signed copy by leaving a comment directly on Kathi’s blog. PLUS, you’ll also be entered into the grand prize drawing for the Wrapped In Grace gift package: signed copies of all five of our books, a $100 Visa gift card, and a bunch of other fun goodies. All winners will be announced Saturday, October 24th at http://www.WrappedInGrace.info.
Kathi Lipp is a national speaker and the author of fifteen books including Clutter Free, Hot Mama:12 Secrets to a Sizzling Hot Marriage, The Get Yourself Organized Project, The Husband Project and The Cure for the Perfect Life. She is a frequent guest on radio and TV and has been named Focus on the Family radio’s “Best of Broadcast”. She is the host of the popular podcast You’ve Got This with Kathi Lipp.
She and her husband Roger are the parents of young adults in San Jose, CA. Kathi speaks at conference across the country.
Friends – this is Kathi, and I’m so thrilled that we are getting a head start on the holidays this year. No – I’m not asking you to push up your Black Friday shopping by a month – I want us all to have an opportunity to prepare our hearts – not just our homes. So I’ve joined forces this week with several of my friends who have similar hearts – Let the holidays come! – but let our hearts be in a place where we can truly experience the best that the season has to give us! My first friend who is sharing is Amy Carroll.
I have long admired Amy from a far, but today we get to hang out with her up-close-and-personal. Amy is the author of Breaking Up with Perfect, and I know that most of us are going to need a lot of that as the holiday’s approach.
Be sure to head over to her blog to win a copy of her book!
The further I read into the editorial the shorter my breath grew, and I felt the heat of stress radiating from my constricted heart. “At my house, the bustle stops when we gather with our daughters to trim the tree,” Gayle Butler, editor of Better Homes and Gardens, gushed.
Then she went on to describe her family’s lovely evening complete with traditional music, story-telling, and eggnog. She ended by saying, “By the time our quiet evening concludes, we’re energized and ready to try something new.”
Wow. That sounds just like my family. (Insert sarcastic tone here.)
My case of hives from the article came from memories of the previous year’s tree trimming at my house.
We all started well–hubs, the boys and me–matching up with the perfect pictures of Christmas preparations in my mind. It was just like BH & G. Amy Grant crooned Christmas carols in the background. Egg nog was poured into the red glass tea cups I had snagged at a tag sale, and boxes of decorations from the attic lined the walls.
However, it all started downhill over the lights for the tree.
Squabbles erupted over tangled strings of bulbs. Somebody turned on the football game, and the sound of the TV clashed with the music from the stereo. Instead of telling lovely stories of the ornaments’ histories as we hung each one, my boys began to make fun of the 70s-style bobbles from my childhood. It all fell apart faster than you can say, “Mama’s in a snit.”
Maybe they just got distracted, or maybe it was the maternal growls and snarls that drove them away, but suddenly I found myself sitting alone on the floor in front of the tree. The rest of my family had abandoned the traditional decorating of the tree.
I furiously gave the tree a yank to position it for another ornament, and… TIMBER! It fell on me, driving the metal rod of one of the artificial branches into my arm.
That’s when it happened. Out of my mouth popped some of the overflow of a disgruntled perfectionist’s heart—a big, fat, four-letter word.
That brought the family back into the room.
“Mom! Did you just say #*!@?!”
To this day, there is one favorite Christmas story at my house. It’s not The Gift of the Magi or The Polar Express. Not even How the Grinch Stole Christmas makes the cut. Our family’s favorite story is The Day Mom Cussed When the Christmas Tree Fell on Her.
So much for the perfect family Christmas. Ours might be rated R.
It’s hard to give up the pictures of perfection in our heads–especially during the holidays. It seems to be the time that Perfect takes a strangle hold with visions of the perfect pumpkin pie, the perfectly peaceful Thanksgiving dinner, and the perfect gift.
But surely there’s a better way to do the holidays. Surely there’s more joy to be had.
I’ve spent about a decade now breaking up with Perfect, and I’ve learned a few things we can all do as the holidays approach that will usher in the elements we all want this time of year—joy, peace, and a Jesus-focused heart. They’re all centered on relationships—with yourself, God, and others.
Surrender to Your Truest Self.
God created you, and there is no other that can take your place. In a world that’s dying to see real women living a real faith, God created you uniquely, so be unique!
Anna Quindlen says it this way, “Perfection is static, even boring. Imitations are redundant. Your true unvarnished self is what is wanted.” Love that.
I’d go a step further, though, and say that your true unvarnished self is what God wants and what most glorifies Him. When you take off the façade of perfection, Jesus’ light shines brightly through you and draws others to Himself!
So what does that look like in the holidays? If deep in your heart you have a passion for pink flamingoes, then go crazy with pink feathers instead of red and green plaid ribbon! If you’d love to have quinoa and kale instead of turkey and dressing, make it! Create new traditions around the things you love instead of just comparing and imitating. You’ll find fresh delight as you do, and others will be attracted to your joy.
Savor each person, each moment, and most importantly, savor time each day with God. Linger in the candlelight of early morning. Let music of praise wash over you. Center your mind and heart on Him.
For me, it’s particularly hard to savor my relationship with Jesus from November through December. I know that’s horrible to confess, but it’s true. My lists lengthen in my mind in any quiet moment, so this is the season when I need some great devotional books to keep my thoughts focused. Here are a couple I’ve got close at hand for this season:
- The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp
- The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs
Keep It Simple
Don’t drive yourself this season, and for heaven’s sake, don’t drive others either (a lesson I’ve learned the hard way). Keep a family calendar and preserve some white space. For each opportunity, ask yourself what should NOT go on your calendar.
Have a discussion with friends and family about what is important to each person, and then let the rest go. I shake my head in sadness when I think of all the years I drove myself and everyone else crazy with all the things I thought had to be done… that nobody enjoyed anyway.
One of my least favorite tasks in life is cooking, so I’m ending with a simple recipe from my friend Sharon Sloan, author of SerenDIPity, that even the least domestic of us can make for a holiday party. Let’s all commit to surrender, savor and keep it simple!
The Now-Famous Cherry Cheesecake Dip by Lisa Lohwasser – SerenDIPity 2011
1 Box of Jell-O No Bake Cheesecake Mix
1 8-ounce tub of Cool Whip
1 21-ounce can of cherry pie filling
(or use any other canned fruit or fresh fruit you desire)
Prepare Jell-O Cheesecake Mix according to directions on box. Stir in the Cool Whip. Place cheesecake mixture on desired serving tray and pour cherry pie filling on top of cheesecake mixture. Chill until ready to serve. Serve with graham crackers or another dipper of your choice.
Looking for encouragement to help you recover from that pesky problem of perfectionism? Today’s featured book is Breaking Up with Perfect.
You can enter to win a signed copy by leaving a comment directly on Amy’s blog.
PLUS, you’ll also be entered into the grand prize drawing for the Wrapped In Grace gift package: signed copies of all five of our books, a $100 Visa gift card, and a bunch of other fun goodies. All winners will be announced Saturday, October 24th at http://www.WrappedInGrace.info.
Amy Carroll’s passion is leading women to deeper delight through the matchless pleasure of rich relationship with God and others. Amy is a member of the Proverbs 31 Ministries’ speaker team, the author of Breaking Up with Perfect, and the blissful director of Next Step Speaker Services. She lives in NC with her 3 favorite guys and a little, red dachshund. You can find her on any given day typing at her computer, reading a book or trying to figure out one more alternative to cooking dinner. Visit Amy at her blog to join her in a journey toward more joy.
Are there areas in your life where you don’t have the freedom to do what God wants you to do?
Are there things in the past that keep you stuck where you are making it hard to move forward?
In Life Unstuck: Finding Peace with Your Past, Purpose in Your Present, Passion for Your Future, Pat Layton helps you get past stuck and on to the life you were created to live. Listen as Kathi and Erin ask Pat questions on how to get Unstuck.
I’ve seen a huge number of articles on surviving Mother’s Day. All well-intentioned, but they just all came too late- the Friday before Mother’s Day is not enough time to put healthy thinking and guidelines into place.
But a month? A month I can work with.
So I’m putting a note on my calendar for April 10th to remind myself to read this article, and put a plan into place to make sure I’m well-taken care of for Mother’s day. It all some down to having a plan in place. Here are my three steps:
1. Plan Something
If you do not belong to a “planning family” (in other words, your kids are too young, or too unaware to plan anything, and this isn’t your husband’s strong suit,) make sure you plan something
yourself – whether it’s for yourself or your own mom, mother-in-law, or stepmom. There is nothing worse than sitting around on Mother’s Day, scrolling through your Facebook wall, looking at all the posts of well wishes from adoring husbands and cute kids.
Plan something and get off of Facebook. On Mother’s Day, Facebook is not your friend.
Get out of the house. go to the movies. Go on a hike (far enough away that you are out of cell range.) Go out with a friend, go out with your husband.
We celebrated on Friday night – which was great. We had most of our kids there, we had kabobs, it was lovely. But Sunday? Let’s just say I should have planned a hike. Next year – I’ll know better.
2. Order something.
Whether it’s flowers or a great book from Amazon, have a package ready to be ripped into for Mother’s Day, even if it’s for yourself. We ordered Shari’s Berries this year and boy – everyone was glad we did. We had more fun with strawberry pic with everyone (and they were so delish. I may have eaten more than my fair share. But it’s Mother’s Day.) I’m placing an order for next year. These turned our time together into a celebration.
3. Ask Something
Not every gift needs to be a surprise. Ask your kids to do something they are talented at to contribute to your celebration. My boys bought gifts (Jer can always be relied on to bring flowers, and Justen always shows up with a book he knows I’ll love,) but the girls contributed talents – Kimber made the cake, and Amanda did henna tattoos for each of us. Utterly unique, utterly special. Make your special request far in advance. Your child will be flattered you asked, and you’ll get to brag on your kiddos.
Be intentional. No one wants a martyr mom on Mother’s Day. Be sure to celebrate you.
I’ll be posting this again April 11th, 2016. See you then.