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A Holiday Perfected

by Heather B. Iseminger, blogger at  |  photography by Sari Underwood Photography

I have a confession to make. But before I share my shadowed secret, I want you to know – I don’t feel any guilt for what I’ve done. Not a shred. Even when my daughter looks at me with her warm chocolate eyes and her turned-down lip. Not even then.

Are you ready?

A Holiday Perfected

The Elf on the Shelf has been refused entry into my home. He has pleaded from the pins of Pinterest. Beckoned from the feeds of Facebook. Implored from the images of Instagram. And still? I’ve refused.

But I have a reason.

I don’t hate that little elf. Nope. Not at all. In fact, he’s endearing. There are more sweet little adventures for him available than I have a mind to create. And that’s just it. For me, he’s one more task I would have to accomplish over the holidays.

I just can’t do it. He would cause anxiety akin to finding out tonight that my daughter has a science project due tomorrow. I would forget about that Elf all the time. I wouldn’t be any good at making sure the little guy was up to no good each evening.

And then? The frantic kid tears the next morning would reveal my inadequacies.

There are momma friends of mine who love his little elf presence. They’re fantastic in the design of his elaborate escapades. More importantly, they love doing it and feel no stress – which is awesome. Yet for me? Pure anxiety is not what I want for this time of year.

All too often I equate the holiday season with the burden to meet lofty expectations. I feel the pressure of perfection. It’s as if Pinterest is looking over my shoulder whispering, “You’ll never get it right.” And the looking-all-together mommas are always 10 steps ahead.

As a newlywed years ago, I purchased my first Martha Stewart December issue. (She did Pinterest perfect during a time when pointed thumbtacks held our favorite torn-from-magazine pins.) With that single purchase I dove into years of striving and straining holiday stress.

Gifts were wrapped in coordinated paper, ribboned with glittering bows and homemade name tags. Elegant deserts traveled to parties and gatherings. Elaborate decorations were festooned throughout my home.

Every single minute wore me out. I may have presented myself with my Martha smile, but behind the scenes? Scary. And altogether Scrooge.

I wish I could say I quickly pared down my too-high holiday expectations. I didn’t. Even with the addition of children in our home, my standards didn’t change. Not only did I mentally compete with other moms around me, it seemed as if I was in a race against myself.

But in the last few years I have felt a shift – a quake in my soul, cracking my perfected shell. I’m not sure when or how, but it’s happened.

I am unfurling my white, tight-knuckled grip on the perfect holiday vision. With each loosened finger, I have embraced more of the unspoiled quietness and hope that this season brings.

My decorations are mismatched. Little hands clump ornaments together helter-skelter on our tree. Homemade baked goods are often replaced with bakery items from the store. And wrapping paper that doesn’t match is used to cover presents, with one roll of red tulle knotting easy-bows.

Momma? Your holiday doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.

When we stop striving. When we slow. When we savor. We find the glorious, and uncover the significant. The pressure of perfection strips our memories of their warm glow. The stress to amaze can reduce our holiday to a frazzled mess we regret.

Stop striving, momma.

A Holiday Perfected

It’s hard. I know. But choose the brilliance of a memory instead of the heaviness of attempted perfection. Our children won’t remember coordinated packages or cupcakes shaped like snowmen. They won’t care if break-and-bake cookies attended their class parties. When they’re our age they won’t think back to pristine houses with elegant themed decorations.

No. The memories our children will cherish are of the nights warmly nestled under blankets watching the candles dance, listening to our voices read their favorite stories. They will treasure the moments we spend – not the money.

This season is an expression of hope. I want to sink into the glittering peace it brings. Its beauty isn’t found in the stress of perfection but in the memories we create.

Drink in the small, tender moments with family. Spend evenings gazing at twinkling lights and flickering candles. Hear music’s lifted notes, breathing in every tune. Slow to embrace this season – its hope, its joy, its peace.

Your holiday may not make the cover of a magazine. But it will be perfect.


  1. Cindy Clark says:

    Amen and Amen!

  2. Mindy mccabe says:

    love this 🙂

  3. I’m learning to slow down and savor the moments, too, and I’m finding that in my heart, this is the best Christmas attitude I’ve had in a long time. It’s like the wonder and the thankfulness, the beauty and the mystery all return when we lay down our perfectionism and let the Lord perfect our days.

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