Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Good I Ought to Do, Part 2

The headline at the top of the page says: Good Things. And there beneath it, photographs of delectable holiday goodies and crafts. Paper snowflake garlands. Monogrammed woolen hats. Chocolate covered apricots dipped in dark chocolate and wrapped in gold paper. Lollipops made from gumdrops in the shape of snowmen and Christmas trees. Year after year, I survey these pages of the Martha Stewart Living December issue and find that they are, indeed, good.

For the woman (me) who wants to do all the good there is to do, rather than the good I ought to do (see part one from November 13), the holiday season is filled with one temptation after another. I'm not particularly prone to buying too much, but I'm very likely to try and make too much. I'm a pretty competent crafter. So if I can, I will, sometimes even when I know I shouldn't.

I'm especially am prone to making things in too great a volume. The set of four quilted coasters is a manageable 30 minute-project hostess gift. Until the year I decided every female related to me should get a set. The graham cracker gingerbread houses were lots of fun, until I decided to host a decorating party and made a dozen; I was up past midnight. Likewise the felt holly corsage ("They're easy enough for a child to make but sophisticated enough for her mom to wear."). They were indeed fun and easy. Until I made them for the entire MOPS leadership team (I think there were 28 of them).

It isn't just at Christmas though. This fall I threw a friend a baby shower, and the day before decided that her ocean-themed nursery really needed a chenille pillow in the shape of an angel fish. When hubby came home that night I told him, "I did something that was outside Jesus's will for me today."

"Uh-oh." Worried expression on Hubby's face. "What was it?"

"I made a chenille fish."

"What does that have to do with Jesus?"

Well, if I'm swearing while sewing it, and my body is aching and I'm super cranky when I pick the kids up from school because of it, then it's not God's will for me to be making it. At least not on such a tight deadline.

Is anyone with me here? You don't have to be a crafter to be tempted to do too much Christmas. The holiday season is filled with good things: parties, sing-alongs, Christmas plays, amusement parks visits, cookie exchanges, even church services. They are all good. Some of them are great. But they will not all fit comfortably into twenty-five days. In the same way that I have to resist committing to all the good ways I could serve my church, my community, my friends and my family, I also have to choose between all the wonderful fun things there are to do and see and make.

I'm not a perfectionist about Christmas; I truly have let the "perfect" picture go. But I still want to make as much magic for my family (and myself!) as I possibly can. But magic doesn't happen at one a.m. behind a sewing machine or swearing over paper cuts at midnight as I fold the 100th Christmas letter.

So here is my three-pronged approach to making Christmas good, in both Martha Stewart's and the spiritual sense.

1. Start pondering these issues in November (which I'm doing now), and start crafting early too. I have already selected my festive gift project for the year (I can't tell you what it is, because you might get one), bought the supplies for it, and started stitching.

2. Limit the volume. Both in projects (this year, half a dozen of my "good thing" of choice is the cut off), and in social commitments. I have already said no to one major Christmas event to make sure I've left a margin of "hanging out" time with my husband and kids.

3. Pray. Ask God's will for the season. Even as I plan all kinds of magical outings and events for my friends and family, I'm asking for His help to cling to these loosely, as any of them could be hindered by illness or other unforeseen circumstances. (My days are only a breath, I don't even know what will happen tomorrow. Again, see Part 1.) And finally, I'm asking Him to give me eyes for the miracles He has in store for me. I don't want all my "good things" to distract me from seeing His great things.