When You’re Too Tired for Christmas

Christmas struggle

Christmas is in four days. My house is decorated. My kids are excited. And I am tired.

This year has worn me out. 2015 has been a long, hard slog from January to December. Every time I thought we had conquered the mountain in front of us, we reached the peak to find a taller mountain behind it.

Illness after illness has hit our family hard. Stroke, meningitis, thyroid, liver. You name it. We had a taste of it this year. This year has been so tough that both my daughter and I completely forgot she broke her hand in October. You know it’s been a rough year when broken bones don’t even make the Top 10 Events of the Year list.

And, yet, there have been moments in this year that I wouldn’t trade for the world. The precious perspective that my 14-year-old has gained embodied in the words she said the other day, “Just think, six months ago my biggest worry was staying on my soccer team. That doesn’t even register now.”

The shared moments with my husband where we tried to tackle the mountain together, knowing that when one failed, the other would pick them up.

The intentional moments with my 12-year-old created because she simply needed some time with her mom.

Because in the midst of the trial, in the midst of what seems like never-ending struggle, there is beauty. God is creating a better perspective, a stronger family and a sheer reliance on Him.

So, as I sit here four days before Christmas, I am reminded that the very first Christmas was probably the end of a very long year for Mary and Joseph. Unmarried and pregnant in a culture that had no allowance for that. Miraculously pregnant, but with a story no one would believe. I imagine Mary and Joseph felt very alone and very afraid. They knew God was creating something wonderful, but they were the only ones that knew it.

Two young people, teenagers, really, on the road to Bethlehem. No place for them to stay. A baby on the way.

And, yet, God created beauty out of the struggle. The savior of the world was born. And in the midst of their joy, I’m sure Mary and Joseph struggled to see the plan laid out for them. I’m sure they were scared. I’m sure they were often uncertain about what to do next.

God creates beauty out of chaos. His plan to save the world started with two young people having a baby in a cave in Bethlehem.

And, I’m reminded this Christmas, that if God can do that, He can make something amazing out of the crazy that has been our year.

So, this Christmas, if you’re struggling to just put one foot in front of the other, if the weight of the world is on your shoulders, remember this: God specializes in making great things out of difficult times. Jesus’ birth is proof of that.


Christmas Priorities

Christmas priorities

Our Christmas tree is up and there are lights on the outside of our house. That’s about the extent of the Christmas decorating that has happened here at our house. I’m thinking I might get some more decorations out this afternoon, but I might not get there. And that’s OK.

Usually by Dec. 8, Christmas has exploded in our house. We have decorations everywhere, but this year has been crazy. There’s not been a lot of time to put up decorations.

But while the decorations still sit in their boxes, I’ve baked cookies with my mom and my daughters. My husband, daughters and I went to see the great-great grandson of Charles Dickens perform a one-man show of A Christmas Carol. I took my older daughter to see one of her best friends perform in a version of The Nutcracker last night. We’ve shopped for a foster family. My girls have packed shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. I threw a Christmas party for my older daughter’s soccer team. This Friday evening we’re having a family night of dinner out, looking at Christmas lights and maybe a Christmas movie.

Because this year, I came to the conclusion that our Christmas season would be so much better if we spent it doing things we love with people we love than doing the things we think we have to do to make it Christmas. Because isn’t that what Christmas really is about?

It’s about a God who loved us so much that He sent His Son to be with us, to be one of us. He sent Jesus to spend time with us here on earth so that we could know Him and so, through His sacrifice, He could create a bridge between us and God.

As my kids get older, Christmas becomes less about the toys and the decorations and more about creating memories. It becomes about focusing on the baby in the manger and what that means for how we live our lives. It becomes about drawing together as a family so that we can grow closer to God together.

So, my advent calendar may be eight days behind. My house may be sparsely decorated. But that doesn’t mean there’s any less Christmas spirit. It doesn’t mean there’s any less joy in the season. It just means that the priorities have shifted. And that’s not a bad thing.



I wrestle with little white lights to cover the burnt-out section of a well-loved tree…

And I find fingerprints.

I squeeze underneath the bristly branches as the bell on the skirt sings a jingle jangle…

And I find fingerprints.

I hang each stocking marked with silver, glitter-splotched letters from berries of red…

And I find fingerprints.

I gingerly pull each ornament out as if to gently touch each memory it holds…

And I find fingerprints.

I string the garland, tie the bows and polish the candlesticks…

And I still find fingerprints.

I set the timers and the lights aglow to the sound of little voices in shades of “oohs” and “ahs”…

And once again, I find fingerprints.

Everywhere, there are fingerprints…

My daddy’s fingerprints.

Found most alive on our mantle where a merry little Santa sits. A little something that was left in my hospital room last year so that when I came back from surgery, I would see it. His way of telling his Christmas-loving girl that even though he wasn’t there to say it, he loved her.

And just like the little ones that fill my windows halfway up, my daddy’s fingerprints are a beautiful and indelible sign of life and love.

As much as it aches, it also reminds me not only of the love he gave me here on earth but also of the love he left behind. And as I trim the tree and bake the cookies and play with the Little People nativity set, I am very aware that I am also leaving fingerprints behind on my four little loves. I am writing, marking and leaving them changed.

So this season, this remarkable life-changing season, I am asking myself what kind of mama-prints will be left in my coming and going–what marks will I use to say I have loved them and will love them even when I am not here to say it…

Will my prints speak of love and mercy? Will they write a story of grace? Will they sound clearly through the noise?

Will they sing of my Jesus? Or will they speak more of me?

Will they write agenda and control in my babies’ hearts? Will they shout frustration and anger as our years are unpacked and counted? Will they hurt or will they salve?

And what will my loves remember when I am gone and they wrestle with the twinkly lights and hang the stockings and string the garland?

Jesus, I want it to be You.

I want it to be You in me, through me and in spite of me.

Mark every print with Your unshakeable peace and every word with Your mercy and every mess-up with Your grace so that when the moment for life without me comes and only memories are left, they still hear with resounding clarity, “I loved you then…I love you now…and I love you for all the years to come.”

Sara Cormany guest posts on the first Friday of each month. Sara is mommy to six-year-old Grace, four-year-old Drew, one-year-old Sophie, and her new little miracle Maddie.  When she is not wiping noses, changing diapers or chasing her kids, she is a sometimes writer and a sometimes teacher to teenagers.  But her most cherished role is that of one who is perfectly held by Jesus. She loves watching Him take the broken, the messy and the seemingly mundane of her everyday and turn it into something beautiful. She recently began her own blog called Where Feet May Fail. Be sure to check it out.




Everyday Christmas

I had a great time today speaking to the ladies at the MOPS group at Lawrence Free Methodist church about how to incorporate Jesus into our existing Christmas traditions.

If you’re looking for a Christmas devotional, check out my e-book Everyday Christmas, which offers food for your soul and some great ideas about how to incorporate Jesus quickly and simply into your Christmas traditions.

New cover

Something Precious


I have a mommy confession.


Scratch that.

It’s more like I have a mommy obsession.

Every fall, I find myself in valiant pursuit of that one precious all-the-children picture.

And every year, there is one backdrop that has never let me down…

The Weston Red Barn Farm.

It’s rustic and charming and surrounded by all things precious.

But this year, as I pulled out my camera, I sensed failure when my husband said, “Honey, do you think we should just go to the grocery store fall thing?  I mean Weston is a hike and…”

To which I interrupted with, “But it’s tradition and lovely and the kids can ride the pony and remember the apple donuts?  DO NOT forget about the apple donuts.  Heaven in a bag, babe.”

(Truth be told, I had him at the word “donut.”)

So we went to the charming farm.

I knew we were toast the second we got out of the van and Drew said, “Mom, I am SOOOOOOO hot.  I think I might die.” But I still shot him my “Suck it up, kid.  It may be 80 + degrees and your long-sleeved black Halloween shirt may be an oven but this is for posterity.”


Not two minutes later, I was with him, dying and all.

My sweatshirt was now a sauna. My hormones, a hellish monster. And had another minute passed, I would have wholeheartedly launched into the pig trough for sweet relief but mercifully, I was distracted when I heard the word “pony.”

(Sweet heavens, if I hadn’t promised them all a pony ride.)

The pony was up the hill…the heinous hill of no return.

Combine the not-so-sturdy Snap and Go with pebbled terrain and my not-so-graceful gait and we might as well have been climbing Everest.

Not to mention that I had already said “excuse me” more times in that one hour than I have my entire life.  Every time I tripped and stumbled, I bumped someone. Because to the point, THERE WERE SO MANY BLESSED PEOPLE THERE.

(I swear someone told them about the donuts.)

But for tradition’s sake, we still oomphed and umphed and excused ourselves up the hill. It was only after reaching the top of the precious thing that we came to the tragic realization that THERE WERE NO PONY RIDES.

Bless. My. Sweatshirt.

So we turned around, trod back down the pebbled path and just about the time I convinced myself that the disappointment would build character, my dear eldest pipes in with, “This is boring,” which prompts me to say, “I’ve got nothing, sister…just go jump in the straw.”


(Try not to be intimidated by such mom awesomeness.)

It was at this point my hubs felt the need to reiterate, “I think the fall festival two miles away would have been a way better tradition.” I didn’t even protest. “Ugh…you are probably right…why did I think this would be magical?!?!?

The hubs wisely stayed silent.

But as we made our way back to the pumpkins, I barfed the most unholy words,

“Let’s just try for one more picture.”

So we did.

And then it happened…


Children screamed.  Babies were almost dropped.  Sophie bolted through the barbed wire.

And I kept promising donuts to anyone who would listen to me.

Then the picture-taking devolved into pumpkin-picking and to the entire public that visited the farm, I wholeheartedly apologize.

We were yelling.

Not “I’m so mad” yelling.  But the “Lord-please-don’t-let-us-lose-a-child-now” kind. We were just so close, so focused, so intent on getting the hoot out of there that we just had to keep it together.

It was ugly. Full-on. U-G-L-Y.

But remember the donuts? Across the street? The ones I referred to as heaven in a bag?

Well, I ate FIVE…and it helped.

Seriously, y’all.


But even as the cinnamon and sugar dripped most gloriously from my mouth, I came to a conclusion.

Precious pictures are needed.  They remind this memory-challenged mama of how I really feel at the end of day when all the chaos has quieted.  When I can run my hands through their sweaty bedheads and touch their perfect little noses and see the messy beautiful so clearly in each of them.

But I’m finally to a place where I need the 29 ridiculously accurate pictures too.

If only to shout, “WE ARE A REAL FAMILY!!!!”

One that messes up and falters and falls.  One that skins their knees and has to apologize.  One that can plan to have a magical experience and end up with the pumpkin patch on steroids.

One that needs Jesus, people.

Oh, how we need Him.

So as you plan the Thanksgiving dinners and take Christmas card pictures and deck the halls and all that jazz, remember my family and the yelling and the donut therapy and rejoice in this:

Real people have real families that really need Jesus.

And even though we may have more pictures that end up awkward and bizarre and more crazy than cute, in the end, when we’ve tripped and stumbled and fallen all over ourselves, when we’ve tried and failed through all those 29 moments in-between, He surprises us with what we have been looking for all along…

Something precious.


Sara Cormany guest posts on the first Friday of each month. Sara is mommy to six-year-old Grace, four-year-old Drew, one-year-old Sophie, and her new little miracle Maddie.  When she is not wiping noses, changing diapers or chasing her kids, she is a sometimes writer and a sometimes teacher to teenagers.  But her most cherished role is that of one who is perfectly held by Jesus. She loves watching Him take the broken, the messy and the seemingly mundane of her everyday and turn it into something beautiful. She recently began her own blog called Where Feet May Fail. Be sure to check it out.

Christmas Night

After Christmas

The packages had all been opened. The Christmas dinner was history. Presents had been played with and put away. And one tired 10-year-old was headed to bed — in tears.

As she laid her head on the pillow, I heard the words “Christmas is over. I don’t want it to be over.” At first, I thought she was sad because it’s a whole year until she gets more presents, but, oh, how wrong I was.

“For just a day, everyone was so happy. We were all together. No one had anything to do. Tomorrow we go back to our too busy, crazy lives,” she said through her tears.

I stopped. The small smile I had been wearing when I thought those tears were about presents slipped away. Because she was right. Christmas is one of the few days of the year when the world stops. It’s a day where we take the time to enjoy the company of our families. It’s a day when the focus moves from what we have to do next to simply enjoying what we have now.

It’s a day for family — with all its complications and flaws. It’s a day for smiles and laughter. It’s a day when the jokes in the new jokebook your kids got for Christmas are actually funny. It’s a day when we gather with friends and family and we simply let that be the focus.

For us, today is filled with doctor’s appointments and errands. Tomorrow we dive back into a hockey tournament. But Christmas day was a blessed moment of rest. A moment of peace. A moment of love.

The truth is that we can’t recreate Christmas throughout the year. The rest of the world doesn’t stop. But we can create moments with our families that give us those same moments of rest, peace and love. We can make time to play a game, bake cookies, go for a walk, or have our extended family over for dinner. We can choose to create Christmas-style moments throughout the year.

Because Jesus wasn’t born in a stable all those years ago so we could run ourselves ragged and miss having a relationship with Him. Jesus didn’t die on a cross and defeat death so we could become so focused on our own lives that we miss the opportunities to share His love with those around us.

As we head to the new year, take a moment to reflect on your Christmas moments. Think about how you can create those moments of love, rest and peace throughout the year. Then be intentional in making it happen.

Because those blessed moments of love, rest and peace don’t have to be a once-a-year event.

When Christmas Disappoints


We exchanged gifts with my parents last night, and my older daughter was a little disappointed. She’s at that tough age where she’s outgrown toys, but she isn’t yet excited by clothes and she’s not much into video games. She didn’t ask for much, so I kept most of the things she asked for to put under our own tree. There were no big, exciting gifts at my parents’ house.

It’s hard when something you’ve been looking forward to doesn’t live up to your expectations. I’ve had Christmases that didn’t live up to my expectations either. Christmases where it was obvious my husband wasn’t much into the whole gift-giving thing, Christmases where the whole holiday season was more chore than fun.

My older daughter isn’t usually focused on what she gets. She’s actually really good at focusing on others. But as she’s caught in this difficult in-between age, it’s harder and harder to surprise her. It’s harder to find that one thing that she really wants for Christmas. And it’s hard to remember that as grown-up as she sometimes acts, she’s still just a little girl of 12 who wants Christmas to still be magical.

And that’s why it’s so important to keep Christ at the center of our Christmas. Because eventually we all grow up, and the trappings of Christmas begin to lose some of their magic.

But the fact that God sent His Son to die on a cross, defeat death and rise again to save us should never become less than what it is — completely awe-inspiring. When we put Jesus at the center of our Christmas celebrations, then we discover that Christmas never loses its ability to amaze us.

When we’re little, the whole Christmas season seems magical — from the twinkling lights to the presents under the tree. As we get older, though, we tend to see the “man behind the curtain” of the Christmas season. We’re the ones who have to string the lights. We’re the ones who bake the cookies and wrap all the gifts. Some years it becomes more chore than pleasure.

Yet as we close in on the end of this year’s Christmas season, remember this: Nothing can match the gift that God gave us on that first Christmas morning — a tiny baby in a manger who came to save the world. While the “magic” of Christmas may fade, the awesomeness of the very first Christmas gift never will.

So, if you or your kids find yourselves disappointed with Christmas this year, return your focus to the stable, to the baby in the manger. Because there’s nothing more awe-inspiring than the events of that first Christmas morning.


From Party to Serving Others

Cookie party

Today is my favorite day of the Christmas season. It’s cookie party day. The girls have eight friends coming over this morning for our annual cookie party. We’re going to go serve others by sorting books for a local charity followed by a pizza lunch and some cookie decorating.

As my girls have gotten older the look of this party has changed. We started when my older daughter was 2 with just cookie decorating (because when they’re 2, that’s a party in and of itself). As they grew, we added games and crafts to our cookie decorating. We also added a donation component — all their friends would bring something to donate to a local charity. One year we did canned food. One year we collected art supplies, and last year we collected shoes. I wanted all the kids to realize that while we can have fun together, it’s important that we serve others, too.

This year, we’ve decided to take that service component one step further and make it be the vast majority of our party. We’re going to spend most of our party serving others. The kids still get to hang out with their friends, but they get to do it in a way that also helps other kids.

Since my girls were very small, we’ve tried to instill in them a desire to serve others. My parents have always made it a point to take the girls to the grocery to fill a wishlist for Harvesters, our local food pantry. We’ve rung the Salvation Army bell, taken the kids on daylong mission trips, and encouraged them to serve at church. We’ve done all this in the hopes that they will form a habit of service, that they will spend their lives living out the words of Galatians 5:13-14: “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

We are called to serve others. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus to our community. Teaching our kids to serve teaches them to be like Jesus. And this time of the year is a perfect time to start getting your kids focused on serving others. It takes the emphasis off of getting and puts it on giving. Kids don’t usually have a lot of money, so creating opportunities for them to serve others with their gifts and talents and just their manual labor teaches them that they don’t have to be monetarily rich to serve.

More than 2,000 years ago, Jesus came to earth in the ultimate act of service to us. He came so that we could have a relationship with God. He came so that we could have an abundant life because of His sacrifice. His life is an example of how we should serve others.

As we go through this Christmas season, look for ways to teach your kids to serve others. Be deliberate in creating opportunities for them to do so. (If you’re looking for some great ideas for service projects, especially for younger kids, check out Teach Me to Serve by Kristen Summers.) Because every time we serve others, we walk in Jesus’ footsteps. I can’t think of a better gift to give Him this Christmas season.

Find the Manger and Ignore the Mess


My older daughter hurt her shoulder at soccer practice on Tuesday night. We’re no stranger to injury in this house. With two kids playing sports, injuries happen. We own a brace for almost all appendages. But we’ve never injured a shoulder before. I knew we were in trouble when I took her to the doctor yesterday, and she just stared at my daughter with a puzzled look on her face and recommended we go see an orthopedist.

We spent five hours yesterday going to the doctor and to get X-rays. We go to a different doctor today. My daughter missed her social studies test, we got stuck in traffic twice, and we couldn’t find the X-ray place because they moved. At the end of the day, I didn’t know much more about my daughter’s injury than I did when we started. It was a long, frustrating day. By the end of the day, my patience, my joy, and my Christmas spirit had gone poof!

I have eight kids coming to my house for a cookie party tomorrow. I’ll be honest. My house is a mess. I have laundry to fold, floors to vacuum, bathrooms to clean and cookies to make. I also have a mountain of work waiting to be done. We’re going to see The Nutcracker tonight because one of my older daughter’s friends is in the production — and we’re supposed to have freezing rain. We’re having Christmas with my parents and brother on Sunday, and I still have presents to buy. I haven’t wrapped a single present for anyone.

I feel like anything Satan can do to remove my focus from Jesus in this season, he’s doing. It’s hard to focus on Christmas when I’m trying to do 14 things I didn’t plan to do along with five things I did plan to do. It’s hard to see the manger for the to-do list. It’s hard to find the joy in the midst of the frustration.

All week I’ve been writing about finding Jesus in the middle of the Christmas trappings, and I sit here on this Thursday morning trying to follow my own advice. So, in the middle of the chaos that this week has become, I’ve decided to be still. I’ve decided to set aside 15 minutes today to simply be focused on the manger. I’m going to read the scriptures about Jesus’ birth. I’m going to let go of my to-do list to find my joy. I’ve decided that the important things will get done, and the unimportant ones didn’t need to be done anyway.

Because this season isn’t about the trappings, the gifts or the cookies. This season is about joy. It’s about Jesus. And if I let the roadblocks of the week steal that away, then I’ve lost out. And my family has lost out. We’ve let the everydayness of life steal a precious moment in time from us. We’ve let Satan’s roadblocks become a barrier between us and the baby in the manger. And I don’t want that.

So, if the eight kids who come to my house to decorate cookies tomorrow have one less cookie apiece to decorate, it’s OK. If my daughter’s injury requires more doctor visits, it’s OK. If presents don’t get bought or wrapped until the night before, it’s OK. I’m still going to try to find joy in the moment. I’m still going to look for Jesus in the manger. I’m still going to find time to spend just being still and focusing on the joy of the season.

Because if I don’t, then Satan wins. If I sit on Christmas morning and shake my head, thinking “I missed it,” then I’ve lost something precious. And I don’t want that.

So, if you’re struggling to find your joy today. If you’re missing the manger in the midst of your mess, just be still. Set aside 15 minutes to simply sit and be. Read the scriptures about Jesus’ birth. Be awestruck by their power and the joy that comes with knowing that Jesus came to earth so that God could have a relationship with you. Don’t lose your joy because of the circumstances. Be joyful despite them. Find the manger and ignore the mess.

Don’t Miss the Wonder


My younger daughter played a hockey game on her rink’s outdoor sheet of ice on Sunday. The weather was gorgeous — 45 degrees with a brilliant sunset for a background. Most of us quit watching the game simply to watch the sunset. The kids were awestruck as well, turning around on the bench to take a look. It was as if God had taken a paintbrush and painted the sky just for us. For a few moments in time, we were all struck by His amazing creation.

When I think about that sunset, I’m reminded that too often, especially at this time of the year, I miss the wonder. I miss the awe in Christmas. I miss the unbelievable fact that God sent His Son to earth to live as a man. I miss the wonder inherent in that act. I miss the jaw-dropping splendor in the idea that the Creator of the universe left His heavenly throne simply so that He could have a relationship with me.

We don’t celebrate Christmas because of a legend about a jolly elf who comes down the chimney. We don’t celebrate Christmas because we like to put trees in our houses. We celebrate Christmas because it commemorates the most awe-inspiring event in history — Jesus coming to earth as a baby so He could grow up and save the world.

But in all the trappings, all the holiday gatherings, all the presents, it’s become so easy to miss the wonder and the awe. It’s become too easy for our kids to miss Jesus.

So, this year, take some time to contemplate the awe and wonder of Christmas. Talk with your kids about how amazing it is that the God of the universe would want anything to do with us. Make sure they understand that Jesus’ birth isn’t the end of the story: It’s simply the beginning of God’s plan to bridge the gap between Him and us. Christmas is the beginning, but the empty tomb is the end.

Enjoy this season with your family. Read the scriptures about Jesus’ birth together. Be awed by them. Don’t let the trappings of the season cause you to miss the wonder of the baby in a manger.