letting some things go

It never fails … every year around this time I have a long list of ‘want to dos’ and very little time left to actually do them.

The list is usually filled with good things: create meaningful gifts for teachers and neighbors, bake favorite christmas treats, wrap presents beautifully, set up the elf in clever ways each night.

You get the idea.

I’m guessing you have a similar list because ’tis the season to go get overwhelmed by our lists of good things.

The truth of it is, as great as the ideas/activities are, some times we just have to let go.

Take, for instance, our family christmas cards.

It was so hard for me to finally come to terms with the fact that in addition to everything else on the list, getting family photos, selecting a design, ordering the cards and then addressing was just not going to happen this year. It actually took me a few days to make the decision to let the cards go. I love having the keepsake each year, I love receiving friends’ cards, for goodness sake JDC started as a custom card company! But allowing myself to let the idea go has really changed my attitude about this holiday season.

Sometimes, no matter how good it may be, you just have to let it go.

My best friend is passionate about healthy eating and gets up early to make a wholesome breakfast for her family. It is something she enjoys and believes in, but sometimes, she says, her life ends up feeling a bit like Groundhog’s day – wake, fix breakfast, do dishes, kids to school, make dinner, do dishes, sleep. Repeat.

Anyone?

She didn’t ask for my opinion but in light of my recent christmas card decision, I gave it anyway: sometimes you just have to let it go. Even though you value healthy eating, it’s okay every now and then to stay in bed and let them grab a bowl of cereal {this coming from the mom who regularly stays in bed while her children make a disaster of the kitchen. What can i say? I value sleep more than a crumb-free floor}.

It may look different for each of us, but I’m guessing we all have a few things to let go.

Holiday cards. Eggs & bacon. Perfectly piped sugar cookies. That last homemade gift on your list.

With only a few days left before Christmas, I’ve made the decision to let go of some things and grab hold of moments with our family that ultimately mean more than darling christmas cards {oh, it still pains me!} and elaborately wrapped gifts.

peace

May you be filled with peace as we move through this most wonderful time of the year.

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59 Responses to letting some things go

  1. Gwendolyn December 19, 2012 at 4:34 am #

    Oh my goodness I’m right there too! I have ALWAYS sent a card out, something clever with my kids, and this year I’m not getting anything out. I have people ask throughout the year about what I’m doing that year and the added pressure to top the prior year is hard sometimes. I had some ideas but not enough time to execute and although it pains me every time we get a card in the mail, I feel good knowing I’ve spent a large amount of time making christmas memories with my kids instead of editing photos, designing cards and addressing envelopes. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Amanda December 19, 2012 at 6:19 am #

    Thanks for sharing Emily. Some years we just send one as a Happy New Years card or some years not at all. A few times we have sent a Happy Thanksgiving/Fall card and those have been my favorites. A friend does a Valentines photo to friends. In fact those ones stand out to me even more it isn’t just thrown in the pile with the rest of them and is an unexpected surprise. I have even considered doing a red, white and blue patriotic card in the summer. It makes for a less hectic and more focused Christmas but still allows you to send out a hello from your family. Thanks for your lovely blog.

    • Suzette December 20, 2012 at 5:49 pm #

      I love the Happy New Years cards, too. I am lucky to ever get Christmas cards out, but New Years cards are great to work on the week after Christmas and something unexpected to receive.

    • Terri December 23, 2012 at 8:04 am #

      The 4th being our family’s most fave holiday of the year….I love your idea of sending cards and even a family letter at that time! None of us live near each other hence the summer holiday is when we tend to gather from our respective four corners of the world and get our visiting in. Your idea has become an official part of my 4th of July festivities henceforth and forever lol. Christmas just became a bit easier!

  3. heather December 19, 2012 at 6:53 am #

    I always do a picture and letter as well. Mainly because it’s my only form of scrap booking our life. But some years it has became too overwhelming to get them out by Christmas so instead I did a Valentines letter. I even did an Easter card one year and I got more response from that card because people had time to actually sit down and read it…. there was no competition with 56 other Christmas cards. Enjoy your Christmas and have fun snuggling those babies instead of stressing out. :)

  4. Debbie December 19, 2012 at 6:54 am #

    Thanks Emily for the gently reminder that it is ok to just let somethings go. I too came to the reality a few days ago that my cards aren’t going to make it out this year either. And it is ok. You have chosen the better things…..Merry Christmas!

  5. Tonia December 19, 2012 at 6:55 am #

    Emily, how you always manage to speak to my heart, I just do not know. This morning I was still {more than a bit} sad because I have not sent out any Christmas cards with a cute family picture on them. And like Gwendolyn above, it pains me every time we get a card in the mail. I have several things I still need to do before Monday, but I know realistically that only half of those things will get done. But if my boys and family have a merry Christmas and understand the REAL reason we celebrate, it’s all good.

    Have a wonderful Christmas.

  6. Angie's Boblog December 19, 2012 at 7:08 am #

    Instead of letting it go completely, you can always just lower your standards… I waited until the last minute as usual and decided to just go to walmart photo online, use a template, stick in the best family photo I had, and order just 30 via one hour service for our closest family and friends, and a keepsake for me. Quality isn’t the best, but for a whopping one hour and $13, it’s better than nothing!

  7. Erin December 19, 2012 at 7:10 am #

    Thank you for your insightful article…. it was exactly what I needed to read today, as I am facing a long list of errands and shopping lists. We are somewhat of a no-frills family, but even I get caught up in the searching for the perfect gift and packaging it in a beautiful way. Not that there is anything wrong with those intentions. It is just when my desire to keep up/compare myself to others that the whole experience becomes sour. So, thank you, for writing a great reminder for me today!

  8. Rhea December 19, 2012 at 7:19 am #

    I needed this, I needed this, I needed this. Especially from someone who seems to have infinite energy and creativity!

  9. Jill December 19, 2012 at 7:20 am #

    Thank you for such a wonderful reminder of what is truly important this holiday season, and how it’s okay, and even a bit theraputic, to let some things go :)

  10. Lisa December 19, 2012 at 7:45 am #

    Good morning, Emily, This is so true. Last year was the first time in our 28 years of marriage that I didn’t send cards (hand surgery…) but it was actually like a mini vacation, and the world didn’t end! I always begin the season with grand plans, as you mentioned, and by this point, when I realize how much is still left undone, I get discouraged and disenchanted with Christmas…how awful. It doesn’t need to be this way. This weekend, I plan to gather my children (they are “big” kids) and give them their new Christmas Pjs early and watch Elf as a family. It is decided.

  11. Michelle December 19, 2012 at 7:51 am #

    Thank you for sharing this….I think it’s something so many of us need to hear and know that we’re not the only ones!!! This year I had to “let go” of baking goodies for all our neighbors…instead I took that time and made a gingerbread house (pre-made kit) with my boys! they LOVED it!!!

  12. engquist December 19, 2012 at 8:59 am #

    I was just having this conversation with my dad. On top of family responsibilities this year, I also have a small design business and an inordinate number of church functions begging for my attention. One of the hardest things I had to do this year was realize that not everything would be done to the usual level it is, and that’s okay. We might not have festoons of decorations at the Christmas party, but there will be a feast for those who would not normally have one. The Sunday program may have more congregational singing than soloists this year, but at least we’ll be there. To me, that’s more important than trying to tie more bows or make festive invitations. I want to enjoy this next week, not drown in it.

  13. Nicole December 19, 2012 at 8:59 am #

    our family sends out photo cards each year that i spend hours selecting the right picture and scrolling through all of the fabulous cards to choose from… this year, it just didn’t happen for us. i am sad that we didn’t get it done, but i decided that we will send out a new year’s one instead… if i get time :) merry christmas!

  14. Sarah Barksdale Design December 19, 2012 at 9:20 am #

    I absolutely agree with this philosophy of letting things go. It is helpful and good to make lists but at some point you just have to be content with whatever you accomplished and save the rest for next year

  15. Heather December 19, 2012 at 9:30 am #

    Thanks for this post! After last Christmas where I decided to make handmade gifts for everyone, bake extra goodies for all the neighbors, piano students, church people, etc., etc. on top of all the regular pressures {& a 10 month old and 3 year old}, I decided I just didn’t have it in me to do so much stuff this year. I have felt so much more relaxed and less stressed, but there have been a few times where I’ve felt guilt for not doing more, and your post just affirmed what I know and that is: if I’m going to celebrate the real reason for the season, I have to take the time to celebrate the real reason for the season! Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  16. Holly December 19, 2012 at 9:31 am #

    I am right there with you. My husband & I bought our first house in October, a fixer upper that we have been working on non stop, you know, after working 50 hours a week and going to school at nights. I was determined to have a hot chocolate party for my family, and did everything to make it happen. After the party this past Saturday, I was exhausted & looked at my list of all the other holiday things I wanted to get done – realizing I just had to let them go this year. I’ve been working on starting a blog to document the whole remodel process, and have some small items I wanted to sell on etsy for the holidays. But none of it happened because a fire, cup of coffee and snuggling seemed so much more important. And it is.

    And – after all isn’t that where the idea of “happy new years” cards comes from?!

  17. Gretchen December 19, 2012 at 9:32 am #

    Thank you! Thank you for the honesty and the knock over the head. I can’t do it all! I simply can’t. You are exactly right! In my frenzied, stressed, not-happy wife or mom mode trying to get each and every thing done on this carefully, thoughtful, organized list done, I’m making the atmosphere around here not a fun place to be. I can’t do it. The list HAS to be reworked. Thank you again for putting the writing on the wall for e! Now, time to love on my children and actually enjoy this most meaningful time of year.

  18. lei December 19, 2012 at 9:34 am #

    “Letting Go” has been the theme of this week in our household. LOTS of letting go. Big expectations, little plans, vendettas, all good and bad mixed up and making us feel toxic! Yesterday, I had to let go of the idea that only big, giant steps are important achievements. Thank goodness for the gift of new beginnings.

  19. Gretchen December 19, 2012 at 9:45 am #

    A few years ago I stopped sending out Christmas cards- such a relief to not have that burden with (at the time) four small children my primary focus. You might consider Valentine’s Day cards…then you still keep in touch with everyone, and stay on their Christmas card lists (I still enjoy readying everyone else’s cards!) and have your annual card to keep for yourself…it is such a joy to send out cards when there is not the pressure of other expectations. You can still share the love of Jesus, just at a different time of year!

  20. Nora December 19, 2012 at 9:46 am #

    I know what you mean about letting go. It’s usually homemade gifts, or crafts that I so wanted to get done.
    I always stressed about the Christmas cards. I love sending and receiving them. Sometimes it just seemed to take so long. One year I skipped them. It had been an awful year, and my heart just was not in it. My husband was upset with me about the cards, and he had been the reason for my heartache. We’ve since recovered from that. He has retired and has more time to do the cards, and he volunteered to address and send the cards last year. This year I had a week off before Christmas, and devoted one morning just to the cards. I set everything up, and got it done within an hour. ( I only sent 20.) He took them to the post office, so he could get the stamps I wanted.
    Now, if I could only handle my Christmas gift shopping list that easily, and the Christmas grocery shopping that easily. I usually have to make a mad dash to the store for something I have forgotten.

  21. Kathy December 19, 2012 at 9:49 am #

    Here here Emily! Sometimes we get so caught up in trying to be so perfect and making the holidays extra special we forget to enjoy it! Being present in the moment with our families and friends is so important. Let the cards go…I agree with Holly, a New Years note is always an option. Happy Holidays!

  22. Brittney December 19, 2012 at 9:55 am #

    Thank you for this post. I have been struggling so much with letting things go this year, I there are so many good things to be done, but not enough time to do them all and I have been very upset by it, feeling like a failure. I love the line- ” ’tis the season to get overwhelmed by our lists of good things.” Amen! I want my family to focus on the true meaning and spirit of Christmas, but my lists of good things have been taking away from that. You find a way to speak to my soul and soothe it. Thank you.

  23. Christen December 19, 2012 at 10:01 am #

    Amen. I have three boys- 9, 6, and 22 mths. All three had the nastiest stomach bug yesterday!!! After a veryyyyy long day, and a peaceful night- (phew!) I woke up this morning & thought to myself- ‘some things just aren’t going to happen this yr. I just have to let it go. ‘ And after the let down feeling, actually comes a sense of relief & even peace. So that is what I am tuning into from here on out. Less is more….cherishing the small moments & the magic that is already there, no matter what I accomplish. :) peace to all.

  24. Anna December 19, 2012 at 10:02 am #

    Amen & Amen. May grace and peace abound!

  25. Jacquelyn December 19, 2012 at 10:10 am #

    Thank you for writing this today. I feel so “Bah Humbug,” but I just couldn’t do it this year. I usually spend a week decorating the house, hours making cookies and homemade gifts and perfectly wrapping gifts. I just let it go. It has been a struggle, so it is encouraging to hear that I’m not alone.

  26. April December 19, 2012 at 10:13 am #

    I love this! I too really could let a few things go– and for some reason, this gave me the shove I needed to do just that! Thank you :)

  27. Beth December 19, 2012 at 10:19 am #

    Kudos to you for letting the cards go! I considered it this year and since I STILL haven’t addressed them, I have already decided to let them go for next year. ;-) Sometimes, we as moms have the hardest time giving ourselves grace in these things. Thanks for sharing! And, thanks for your beautiful posts!

  28. Janna December 19, 2012 at 10:40 am #

    We just decided this week, that the card wasn’t going to happen. With a schedule too busy to even get a family picture, it would just be rushed and forced. Instead we plan on sending out something in the new year, or in a few months when the new baby comes along.
    I’m glad to see you have the perspective you do-to cherish the important moments instead!

  29. Shanon December 19, 2012 at 10:52 am #

    How timely is this post! Money is always tight this time of year for my husband and I, and this year seems worse than usual. We LOVE Christmas, and we become big kids around the tree every Chrismas morning. This year though, we were not able to afford gifts for each other and our family, so we decided not to get each other anything and just get some really small stuff for our family (mostly handmade things). It was so hard and so sad at first, because I love giving gifts, but when I decided to let go, it was surprising freeing – a great feeling! We were just blessed a couple of days ago with some Christmas money and a gift card, so we can get each other gifts after all – and it’s much more fun not worring about it!! :0)

  30. Anna December 19, 2012 at 10:53 am #

    Thank you for sharing this Emily. I too am feeling the pressures of the season and you have just inspired me to let a few things go. I adore your blog so much and seeing someone that I hold highly makes me feel a little bit better about letting go myself.
    Blessings,
    Anna

  31. May December 19, 2012 at 11:05 am #

    Thank you, Emily! I was going to scramble to get cards mailed today, but they are still in their boxes unwritten and unaddressed. Now I think I will just stick with mailing 1 box to my dad and 1 card to my grandmother.

    Thank you for simplifying and letting others know it’s ok. :)
    -May

  32. Mindy December 19, 2012 at 11:31 am #

    A great reminder that it is okay…we are having a more simplified Christmas season at our house this year. And I have to say, it’s also more meaningful. Peace to you and yours also!

  33. Rachel December 19, 2012 at 12:21 pm #

    This is why I follow your site. You are so honest. And with so many blogs out there (and everything looking so perfect and put together) I think we often forget that those people are human too. we may not see their bad days.

    We didnt decorate our tree this year. And i actually like the simplicity of just the lights on it.

    Merry Christmas! Thank you for sharing all your wonderful tutorials and decorating ideas.

  34. Heather December 19, 2012 at 12:54 pm #

    Preach it. I had to let go of our cards this year, too. And it was hard! There are so many things we could do at this time of year…all good things. But I’m learning that sometimes the simple things are what makes celebrating Christ’s birth so special.

  35. jami nato December 19, 2012 at 12:57 pm #

    me too. me too. the stress isn’t worth it and it takes the focus away from Jesus.

  36. Megan December 19, 2012 at 12:57 pm #

    Thank you so much for posting this. This is exactly what I needed to be reminded of today.

  37. Katie (Katie's creative) December 19, 2012 at 1:04 pm #

    Thanks Emily, I needed to read that!! Just coming to terms with the fact I have missed the Christmas card making & sending time frame. There are a few homemade gifts I still want to make, or people I need to buy presents for and post. But I’m starting to accept that some I them may have to get their presents at a later date. X

  38. Michelle Webster December 19, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

    I gave up sending Christmas cards. Now we send out New Year’s Cards. That way I don’t have to stress about getting them in the mail on time, I can just take my time getting them out and as long as they are out by the end of January, I am good.

  39. {darlene} @ fieldstonehilldesign December 19, 2012 at 1:27 pm #

    Merry Christmas my sweet friend! Thank you SO much for this post. It completely resonated with me. For some reason, the “don’t do too much” over the holidays does not click for me as much as “letting go.” It is my OWN expectations that wear me out. Your reminder comes at the perfect time.

    I have tried, year after year, not to do cards. What is it with those Christmas cards? It is like each time I got one in the mail, instead of enjoying them, I felt guilty that I had chosen not to do them…. so by Dec. 20th I would frantically throw something together. What a way to spoil Christmas, addressing 100 self-made cards. To this day, I will always treasure the one Christmas where we were unemployed and “down and out.” Our best Christmas EVER.

  40. Wendy December 19, 2012 at 1:42 pm #

    Emily, you are so right. Every year I have a big list of things I want to accomplish and every year I feel disappointed in myself that I cannot complete many of these things. It is hard to give up some things, but the stress is not worth it. I tell myself it is better to do a few things well done and be proud of them.

    Your heart is definitely in the right place. Merry Christmas to you and your beautiful family!

  41. Stephanie December 19, 2012 at 1:59 pm #

    I, like all these others, have felt overwhelmed as the holidays approach. Christmas cards are so tricky – you feel like you need perfect pictures of the family dressed in new outfits, etc, etc. but that’s time consuming, expensive and just not what my family is like. So for the past two years we’ve just used pictures we’ve taken ourselves and thrown in some funny ones of the kids. This year I even used grainy ipad pictures. Some other people who have commented have said it so well, we just need to give ourselves a break and not feel such guilt when we can’t accomplish it all. Being together and appreciating the true meaning of this season is what is truly special.

  42. Cathy December 19, 2012 at 5:16 pm #

    Once again, you speak to me!! Even though I gave up sending cards a couple of years ago, I’m still riddled with guilt about it, so I love hearing that others had to let them go, too. It was just a couple of years ago, that I was sitting in the parking lot of the post office on the 22nd or 23rd frantically scribbling out Christmas cards. Let me tell you, I was not thinking joyful thoughts with every Christmas card I wrote! That’s when I decided that only activities that added to the true meaning of Christmas would be our family’s focus. I think I’m going to send Thanksgiving cards next year because it seems more appropriate to reach out to friends when we’re counting our blessings.

  43. Danielle December 19, 2012 at 7:36 pm #

    I had already decided to let the Christmas cards go this year too. It makes me sad and GUILTY, yes guilty, when I get others’ cards knowing they won’t get anything from me. Kinda ridiculous, really, to feel that way. There’s always next year! :)

  44. Leslie December 19, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

    So needed to read this…had (just today!) decided that the cards are not going to get done this year…my sanity is more important at this time :)

  45. kc December 19, 2012 at 10:57 pm #

    Your are right, I didn’t ask for your opinion but I was glad you gave it. It was good. True. Insightful. And I’m glad you are my best friend.

  46. Hillary December 19, 2012 at 11:42 pm #

    Thank you for being so honest and real! I had a talk with my sister today and we are feeling the exact same way! Neither of us are getting Christmas cards out either!:(. But you are right, we have to let some things go! It’s nice to know I’m not alone! I’m a mom of 4, and its easy to loose perspective of the things that truely matter! They are what matter! Thank you! Merry Christmas!

  47. Nicole December 20, 2012 at 4:17 am #

    I read your post to my mother and she asked me if I had written the piece myself. This will be the first year I have not sent a card. And it is killing me. But I keep reading your post to help assuage me.

  48. Chelsea Jackson December 20, 2012 at 11:29 am #

    These words are so encouraging to me today, between schooling, basketball schedule, sick kids & sick mama, and tight budget…I just CAN’T do it all. I have to be okay with that, “tis the season to be jolly right”? Yes, there are other things that matter more than having the to-do list complete, even though I’m appalled and annoyed that there are still Christmas totes from the attic strewn about, and Fall decor not even packed up – I need to remember “the reason for the season”. Thank you for sharing honestly…sometimes I just need to hear from someone else the same things I already feel…I feel let off the hook. Merry Christmas JDC!!!

  49. Terri December 20, 2012 at 11:49 am #

    Learning to let go is difficult but bravo that you did it voluntarily! I went from being a very active mother to 5 boys to being a very ill sick person almost overnight. Smashing into a brick wall would have been less painful. I HAD to let go….of every single thing for almost 6 years. In the meantime my kiddos grew up and left home and some have their own families now too. After all this time I’m finally well enough to make a list and accomplish a few things on it each day. Spending time with your family is important; achieving that balance between 2 loves is very hard but sounds like you are getting there!

  50. Melissa @ HOUSEography December 21, 2012 at 6:44 am #

    Every year I SAY I’m going to let Christmas cards go because it is so time consuming. We send about 140 cards every year which is nuts in itself, but I love receiving the cards in return too! I vote for a New Years or Chinese New Years card so you still have the keepsake. Maybe you’ll get a good picture over the holidays that you can use… I also started making labels for my cards so my husband can take over the stuffing and labeling duty. I have my saved labels ready to go for the next year since I update them along the way. I did give up on sending personalized messages in each which I miss. Something has to give…

  51. crafty grandma December 21, 2012 at 7:14 am #

    My late mother kept telling me to ‘let go’ so yes. Yes, I stopped sending Christmas cards many many years ago. Unfortunately I was too busy to go sledding or ice skating or took the time to watch movies with them to bake them cookies and buy gifts. Then the kids grew up, got married and now I have 3 wonderful grandchildren. Since being forced into retiring, we moved from the city to the country, I took up knitting to combat boredom and yes, made my own cards!! No more pressure, no more running around (except for the gr-kids present) so now I find myself reading blogs of young mothers who don’t find ‘time’ to do the things they want to do. Family is the most important thing, as the children grow up way to fast and leave home. I baked cookies yesterday (way too many!) and just sent some over to the neighbors which she was pleasantly surprised! She is leaving today for a trip to her mothers some 300 miles away by car in the middle of a snowstorm…I pray that they have a safe journey even though she is not my daughter, she is of my son’s age. So to all you mom’s give your kids an extra hug, enjoy the time you spend together and yes, absolutely let some things go for you will have time to do them later in life – when you retire! and they, too will be pleasantly surprised. Happy holidays to all.

  52. Stephanie December 21, 2012 at 3:38 pm #

    AMEN, sister. My friend and I were just talking about how different the holidays are as adults because the memories, the food, the good times, and the gifts, etc. are our responsibilities. The glorious thing about letting go is realizing that it’s ultimately not about the food, the good times, the gifts, etc. – no, it’s not even about the memories – it’s about giving thanks and celebrating all that we have in Christ. It’s about our Jesus, about how God fulfilled ancient prophecy that night when Christ was born, and it’s about what exactly that means for us here and now in almost-2013.
    Everything else most certainly will follow if we make the worship of our Savior primary in our holidays.

  53. Audra December 23, 2012 at 1:20 am #

    Ahhh… I needed this tonight! It is 12:15 am and I am up making a ridiculous amount of head bows for my daughters stocking, stressing about getting all my baking done, and sewing burp cloths.. Now that i think about it….Those shortbread cookies dipped in chocolate from Costco are sounding perfect for my neighbors, my 3 year old has enough bows, and 2 burp clothes will have to do. Goodnight and thank you!

  54. Nicole December 23, 2012 at 9:40 pm #

    Thanks so much. This is making me teary eyed just reading it. I am grateful for your words.

  55. Jennifer Hodge December 26, 2012 at 5:24 pm #

    I have been thinking about your four gift idea and wanted to ask how it went yesterday!??!?!?!?!

  56. Jessica Engel January 2, 2013 at 11:43 am #

    Thank you- I so needed to hear this today. I was beating myself up the past few days about all of the “Christmas misses”… all of those things I had wanted to fit in for memories with the kids, but couldn’t get around to all of them. And guess what- we all had an amazing Christmas anyway. Imagine that ;)

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