When Christmas Takes a Belly-Flop


I’m a victim of a major Pinterest fail: my entire holiday season. It’s a mangled heap of good intentions, entirely too little sleep, failed caramel batches, utter calamity, to-do lists undone, many a chicken without a head, and it’s topped with a waving white flag. I’m sure I’m not alone. But you won’t see things like this posted in newsfeeds, because we are the highlight-posting society. Nothing to boast about here.

Let’s get the run-down.

“Normal” Christmases look like this: I either bake hundreds of cookies or make hundreds of caramels to package up and mail out to all of our family and friends. We peruse Pinterest for an annual crafty keepsake from the kids to all the grands. We sucker some good friends into taking our annual photo. I send out written cards with the photo slipped inside because I’m too old-school for photo cards. We look at lights, we cut down our own tree, we do a very modified version of the Elf on the Shelf, I bake and bake and bake and bake, we blast TSO, we focus on the true meaning of Christmas and I usually do an advent study – even if it’s just me and my bible. This isn’t everything, but it’s the bigs.

This year, I was on top of things! I finished the crafts, the photos, the cards were written, and I had plans to do all the caramel-cooking and wrapping way ahead of time so that I could hand-deliver cheer (I was going to see most of my family for a wedding in early December) rather than having to mail everything. Then the rest of December could be set on cruise control. Or so I planned.

We had a major family catastrophe right before Thanksgiving. It changed our Thanksgiving travel plans to brokenness and staying put and picking up the pieces.

We trusted God with the rest and learned to let go. Even if sometimes that means lifting our hands and saying the words that our hearts are having trouble believing.

The weekend right after our somber feast we travelled to Ft. Lauderdale for my sister’s wedding. The caramels I was preparing ahead of time? Flop. Flop. Two ginormous failed batches (temp too high = toffee instead of caramel = not what I planned) meant that our babysitter was sent home with large sheets of crack, which I believe she sold in the streets. I went empty-handed with plans to mail out the round 3 batches when I returned home. While it was beautiful and fun (and warm!) there was entirely too little time to spend with all of the loved ones who were there. Blast this public school attendance thing. Three quick days, scores of long-missed family, parties, hair, makeup, laughter, a dive trip squeezed in there, and of course the actual wedding!

I arrived home on less than 9 hours of cumulative vacation sleep only to roll out of bed and start in with over-volunteering myself at my son’s school. I have this really good friend who has way too many kids to be as efficient and crafty and serving-of-others as she is – and this saint needed my help with the school’s Holiday Store.

I came in half-alive, unshowered, partially drooling, and wearing a santa hat that proclaimed Bah Humbug.

I quickly realized that my friend and I are not made of the same glittery stuff. After two full days, my littlest was zombified via 16 hours of Thomas the Train on my iPhone, my suitcases were still in a heap on my living room floor, and I was scheduled to have a minor surgery the next day. Time to go.

Caramels and Christmas would have to wait until after my surgery.

And they did. Except that 24 hours after the procedure, on a beautiful Friday morning, my littles and I contracted the flu.

So here we are, three booger-heads in bed with fevers, chills, vomiting, and body-aches. Dog-hair tumbleweeds billow down the halls, our beautiful tree hasn’t been watered in a week, the elves haven’t been moved in at least that, no lights are twinkling outside, we haven’t visited Santa (and probably won’t), and family members are set to fly in tomorrow to stay through Christmas – except making one’s way to the guest bedroom is a life-threatening enterprise. I was in charge of my son’s class holiday party, that neither he nor I will be attending, in two days and I have honestly no clue what surprises await those little children. I think there will be cookies. Kids like cookies.

The only person with vitals in this household is my husband and he has disgustingly found the energy to make new caramels, wrap nearly 450 of them, package them, mail them, nurse our drooling-feverish-selves, and work a job from home.

So, I’ve spent more time on the internet than I am normally capable of. This morning I came across a news story about a Fedex truck that spilled Christmas presents all over the highway. People have lost their packages and their crap, folks. It’s armageddon.

And I find myself thinking… Maybe this is God’s way of getting our attention, helping us to focus on what really matters.

And then…

Ok, God. I see what you did there. Way to use a mallet.

There may not be funny little elves with a new message for my children each morning, but there is still very apparent love. There may not be warm twinkling lights outside, but there is warmth in our human pile.

From this immobility, I can focus on the downright important stuff. The storytelling, the back rubbing, the cuddling, the music. From this messy house, I’m not hosting – I’m communing. From this position of inefficiency, I can much more efficiently surrender.

Would I have this story differently? You bet. But I’m still thankful. We have each other, we have love, we have a Savior to quietly and simply celebrate.

And quietly celebrate we will.


  1. Mom says:

    Awesome :-). I remember a young girl who wrote a story about making lemons out of lemonade – stay true to your word. Love you!

  2. Mom says:

    Lemonade out of lemons – LOL ahhh the sweet chaos of just slowing down.

  3. Christine McEwen says:

    My dearest friend, Jackie-Lynn, you have a way with words and I am so jealous! I wish I could tell a story like you do. I miss you very much! Hope yall feel better soon, and I truly hope yall have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! xoxoxoxox

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