How to Have The Best, Least Stressful, Not At All Judgmental Christmas: The Joy Test

Can I tell you a secret? I love Christmas cards. I love receiving them, sure, but mostly I love making them:

I like scribbling the list of people I’ll send them to in my journal; I like writing those names so much that sometimes (okay, lots of times) I cry.

I like picking out a design on Shutterfly. I like planning what I’ll have my kids wear in the picture. And I even like taking the pictures (despite my eldest’s annual protest against Christmas card perfection).

I LOVE the day they arrive on my doorstep. I like putting them in envelopes, addressing them, and affixing stamps. I like the way they look in my mailbox, a pile of packaged love waiting to be sent.

Maybe I’m weird. But I love sending those cards. If I had more money and more time, I’d send them to everyone I know.

Sending Christmas cards represents hours of work for me, and it comes at the busiest time of my year. But I do it anyway.

Because it brings me joy.

Do you know what I don’t do at Christmas?

  • A well-planned, every-day Advent ritual
  • Elf on the Shelf
  • Christmas craft exchanges
  • Hostessing
  • Dinners that take longer than fifteen minutes to cook
  • Christmas cookies

Oh, and one more: making people who do those things feel bad.

You won’t be surprised when I say women often make other women feel guilty about their choices. Facebook’s a hot bed for that kind of thing. But what surprises me is this weird backlash against women who aren’t doing anything we oppose, but rather seem to be excelling in areas we aren’t.

So, we see a friend with a handmade wreath and a gorgeous tree and  instead of thinking, “Wow. She’s so talented at decorating,” we think, “She must be neglecting her children to make crafts.”

Or, we see a friend doing daily Advent devotionals with her kids and (instead of thinking, “That is so great. I love her heart.”) we feel judged and accuse: “She probably won’t let her poor kids believe in Santa.”

Or, we get a beautiful Christmas card in the mail with a beautiful picture of a friend’s kids and we think, “I’m so glad I didn’t waste time on a fake picture of my family.”

You guys. Why are we so eager to turn another person’s joy into judgement?

Probably because we’re overwhelmed and insecure.

This holiday season, instead of trying to do what everybody else is doing and instead of feeling like a loser when the people around you do impressive things, you need to do THIS:

Do what brings you joy.

There are too many things to do. Too many pins on Pinterest. Too many traditions. Too many parties. Too many opportunities to completely stress yourself out.

Don’t try to do everything.

Don’t even try to do most everything.

Do what brings you joy. And only that.

To be clear, Joy is not pleasure. Do NOT:

  • Drink all the wine.
  • Buy all the things.
  • Ignore your relatives, and
  • Hide in your room watching Netflix.

Joy most often comes in and through hard work, work that aligns with our talents and traditions.

I find joy in Christmas cards. I find it in wrapping presents for my kids late at night drinking Chai tea with the lights turned down and candles flickering. I find it on road trips with my husband and from behind the camera at big family functions. I find it in writing, even during the hectic month of December when more practical pursuits jockey for position in my planner.

I don’t find joy in keeping my house spotless for a stream of holiday guests. Or in remembering to plan antics for an elf. Or in thoroughly and thoughtfully decorating my home in red and green. So I don’t do that stuff.

But I suspect you’re different.

You find joy where you find it.

So when I see your Christmas lights extravaganza on your front lawn, I will be excited for you. And when I see you selling purses or nail stuff on Facebook I’ll be impressed with your efforts to help your family. And when every present you wrap looks like a work of art, I will carefully unwrap my present and save the tag and bow, because you made something beautiful and I love that.

I’m going to remember that you and I are wired differently, that you really find joy in the stuff that makes me cringe, and I’m going to appreciate every cool, beautiful, meaningful, amazing, and hilarious thing I see you doing (and posting to Facebook) this Christmas.

I’m going to find joy in your joy.

Scout’s honor.

You with me?