Posted on

Free Yourself from all the Christmas Expectations this Year

Do you need to free yourself from all the Christmas expectations this year? Reclaim joy before December rushes by in a miserable haze of disappointment.

Do you need to free yourself from all the Christmas expectations this year? Are you starting to feel like December slides into January in a miserable haze of rushing around and the “not enough” voices echoing in your head?

Where does all this pressure come from?

I know the media does its fair share of applying the pressure to create a magical holiday for our families.

The problem is that even those perfect holiday movies aren’t perfect. Just watch one of the military themed ones with my husband, he’ll tell you all about it!

(Heaven not Harvard is a participant in affiliate programs including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

After the media, the commercialism of the holidays is a major factor.

America starts celebrating Christmas earlier and earlier each fall. At this rate, I’m pretty sure the decorations will hit the shelves the weekend after Labor Day next year. Santa Claus was sitting next to Jack o’Lanterns as it was!


Then, we see the decorations and subconsciously begin to craft the perfect holiday in our hearts and heads. Our imaginations conjure a Christmas that would put June Cleaver to shame.

And we set ourselves up for failure, robbing our family and selves of so much joy.

Too many of my friends and family are feeling the weight of Christmas expectations already. We’re only five days into December, but the pressure is so high to make the entire month spectacular, to fill each day with magic and meaningful moments.

Even amongst Christians, we succumb the idea that we’re supposed to be celebrating advent, volunteering, giving, learning more about Jesus in some super serious, dedicated manner. And we’re heaping tasks on ourselves that Jesus never meant us to have.

Set yourself FREE of those Christmas Expectations right now!

One, manage your own expectations. Be realistic with what you can do while having peace and joy.

I guarantee you that your family will enjoy your peaceful, joyous heart more than a million seasonal activities.

Have a kid fighting cancer? Christmas magic isn’t the priority this year. Give yourself a break.

Even if you are just having a normal year, in 24 hours, you sleep 8 (I’m being optimistic – go with it), meals take about 4-5 hours a day between prep, eating, and clean-up (longer with toddlers or nursing), subtract at least 3 more for hygiene and parenting (double that for each kid under five), which leaves 8 hours or less for work, housework, grocery shopping, bill paying, etc.

That doesn’t leave you much time to make Christmas magic.

Choose your battles!

You can’t do everything. What are the most important parts of the holidays for you that are manageable? Hot chocolate, candy canes, and Christmas movies are pretty magical with very little effort. Add some whipped cream to that cocoa and you are super mom, I promise.

Decorations don’t have to be HGTV worthy the day after Thanksgiving (or ever). We’ve tackled one task a day for the last week. My tree was half-lit for 24 hours. I had a sinus infection and thought I was dying. Trying to stand long enough to decorate the tree wasn’t going well. We finally finished today. And it’s not perfect, but I have my twinkle lights and candles which are my two favorites.

The year my husband was deployed, I was on my own with a colicky infant and working full-time.  I put up a two foot high, slightly tacky Walgreen’s tree from a box. And it was enough. My daughter’s first Christmas was magical because of family, not because my house looked like Martha Stewart was my decorator.

That pesky elf might be really important to your child, but everyday doesn’t have to be a huge deal. Make it harder to find instead of an elaborate production each day. My daughter has the most fun when she can’t find hers and has to really search.

Play your favorite Christmas music as often as possible. Everything is more magical to an amazing sound track. Even if life is hard, Josh Groban singing Ave Maria takes my breath away and reminds me why we celebrate at all.

Manage your expectations for your children.

When you do summon energy to plan and organize something special, the kids will often not cooperate. They’ll be too young for your favorite holiday movie or hate the music you cherish.

They will miss naps and have too much sugar. Company throws everything out the window.

Expect your kids to be the tiny maladjusted tyrants they are when their schedules get disrupted.


It’s okay.

Take time to recognize the magical moments that happen naturally, like laying on the floor coloring our advent color calendar together listening to Christmas music.

Your children didn’t get the memo this is supposed to be fun/amazing/magical.

Consider their attention span, energy level, and interests in your planning. My daughter REALLY wants to see the Nutcracker but the production at our local theater is three hours plus an intermission. There is no way I’m spending $100 to take her to that for her to spend three hours fidgeting in her best dress and trying to jump out of her seat. But her friend is in a shorter dance company version, and we can still enjoy the holiday classic and support her sweet friend.

Embrace JOY

Celebrating this season means recognizing the grace that heaven sent to walk among us. Grace that we lose touch with when we heap faulty and impractical expectations on ourselves, our family, and on the holiday.

At the end of the day, Christmas wasn’t the day Jesus was born, not really, and the hype is over in less than an hour of torn paper, gleeful screeches, and disappointed “socks” groans.

Having joy in Christ should last all year long. Do the things this Christmas that leads your heart closer to His.

You don’t have to spend an hour a day journaling or mapping each verse to have quiet time that counts. Even if your Bible time is listening to the audio version on your phone, having the right heart is all that matters.

We are reading a Character-Filled Christmas by Megan Ann Scheibner together, learning about having a heart for giving, service. We’re learning that giving matters most when it costs us a little something. (Check back later this week for our next post!) We add to our list of Christlike character each day after reading a Christmas themed book and opening the door on our advent calendar.

Release yourself from the trap of Christmas expectations this year. Let yourself embrace the joy in this messy, beautiful life without worrying about the perfect tree, daily magical excursions, or any of the craziness we are led to believe everyone else is doing. 

The only expectation that really matters is the expectation of Christ’s coming and just resting in His love is always exactly enough.

Posted on

Expectations Ruin Reality

Do we let unreasonable expectations get in the way of enjoying our real life? Heaven Not Harvard

Expectations are sneaky buggers. They are formed by Hallmark cards and romantic movies, but rarely are they realistic. Those champagne and caviar expectations often ruin the best parts of reality.

It has been a week since Mother’s Day, and I have seen so many people struggling with their relationships over a holiday that is supposed to be about honor and love.

How do we take a day of feeling celebrated and turn it into a burr between us and our families?

Our expectations ruin reality because we build up inflated expectations and life can’t measure up. Instead of offering grace, love, and gentleness, we hurt each other.

I sadly remember all the Valentine’s Days, birthdays, and anniversaries that turned into balls of hurt in my house because of my expectations that didn’t offer any grace to the love of my life.How many holidays have been ruined by expectations? Do we let unreasonable expectations get in the way of enjoying our real life?

A few years ago, my birthday had been pretty low-key, a fine day, but I couldn’t get over my disappointment at not receiving any kind of gift. After debating with myself about telling him how I felt, I decided not to say anything and be grateful for all the blessings I had.

Five minutes later, he came out from the bedroom with a jewelry set he had purchased months earlier. It was special hypoallergenic gold due to my bizarre metal allergy. I felt like such a jerk. I almost let my unmet expectations ruin his surprise. I almost missed a real expression of his love for me because I wanted to dictate what it should look like.

This Mother’s Day, I didn’t wake up to a perfect bouquet or breakfast in bed. But my day was just right. Why? What changed? Me. I did. I stopped placing my value and worth as a mother in the hands of my husband. I would love a moment of recognition from him, but I don’t need it.

Ephesians 3:17-19 ESV “So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith . . . and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

I have learned to let God’s love fill me so that I overflow with His fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

So I set my expectations this year on what I wanted for myself on this day. I wanted a day of being the mom I really want to be everyday: fun, patient, kind.

I wanted to not use this holiday as a weapon against my exhausted husband, measuring my worth or value by how much of a fuss he made over me. It doesn’t feel like a gift if he feels unloved and obligated.

I don't want to use this holiday as a weapon. Expectations ruin reality. Click To Tweet

Does it really measure my worth or his love if he doesn’t roll out the red carpet and ticker tape parade on this one calendar day?

I didn’t want to feel disappointed and resentful, so I stopped having expectations. BEING a mother was the one thing I wanted for decades. Spending the day enjoying being a mother was the perfect way to remind myself how much I love these people!

When I quit having expectations, I got to see more fully who my husband is, appreciating and loving him, and letting us both live in the joy of the moment.

He didn’t make me breakfast in bed, so he could ask me what I would like. He didn’t buy me a gift, but researched a special place for me to choose exactly what I wanted. He spent his afternoon cleaning out the pool so I could have the first swim of the year. His quiet thoughtfulness was more precious to me than any gift.

I almost missed the real gifts because of my expectations.

Sometimes we feel invisible and ignored. No one sees us up at midnight, straightening the living room or washing dishes. Laundry magically folds itself and finds its way back into drawers, or maybe you magically earn the paycheck that keeps your house from belonging to the bank.

One or two days a year doesn’t change who you are and won’t heal days you were taken for granted or ignored. But rest assured . . .

Matthew 5:14 ESV “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.”

Don’t let the darkness of envy and materialism steal true joy from your grasp. Even on this side of heaven, jewelry and flowers pale in comparison to help with the dishes.

2 Corinthians 4:18 ESV “As we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

Focus on the eternal blessings, and you might realize you had the wrong expectations in the first place.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to get more of this encouraging content!

Posted on

Bad Mommy?

Are you a bad mommy?

Are you a bad mommy?

We’ve all had those moments; the week of crabby behavior gets explained by an ear infection we didn’t know the baby had. We feel terrible. How didn’t I know? We spent the entire week being frustrated, and we wonder if CPS is coming to take our children away because we stink at this mommy business.

Are you a bad mommy? Somehow that one moment confirms what we’ve secretly felt all along, “I’m a bad mommy.” We hold up Facebook posts, Parents articles and measure ourselves, falling woefully short.

Yep, not perfect, not even close. We don’t measure up to the slew of moms in our circles. What about that mom whose children are so casually chic when mine is wearing her too small glitter boots with velour faux-corduroy track pants? Or that mom whose children are fed organic produce they farmed, and I just let my child eat off-brand red velvet donuts? The mom who is juggling three home business and serves at church every time the doors are open, while I’m crying in the laundry room because I’m so overwhelmed that I didn’t check the pockets of my jeans, ruining an entire load of laundry, including my favorite jacket. Continue reading Bad Mommy?

Posted on

It isn’t the rule that matters

Today, my daughter needed to tell me something while I was in the bathroom. We’ve instituted a rule that if the door to the bathroom is closed, she is to knock before entering and/or wait, unless she has an emergency or something is really important. She’s four, so we give her some latitude with what she considers important (i.e. her brother holding a toad in the living room), but today she by-passed three closed doors to get to me. Opening all of them without knocking. So far she has only done this with me, but the rule is partially in place to avoid her walking in on her father or nearly adult brothers, or heaven forbid, a guest.

She stood at the bathroom door, peeking in at me. “I need to tell you sunthing.” I sat there, trying to decide what to do. Her little voice  was so quiet and sweet.

Was it life or death to make her follow this rule? Part of me said, just listen to her, what will it hurt? It will be faster just to hear her out.

But then I realized, that it wasn’t important to make her follow this specific rule because it was that important of a rule, but because if she doesn’t learn to follow the little rules, she won’t learn to follow any of them.

1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

Despite being a rule follower myself, I realized I’ve been letting a lot of little ones slip around here. Instead of holding her to the rules, I try to be nice, taking circumstances into consideration. However, she doesn’t understand the complicated mental processes I’m going through when I decide to let a rule slide for a single circumstance, all she sees is that she can’t count on the rules, that I’m not consistent.

Instead of being nice, I’m really being incredibly unfair. She doesn’t know how to behave because there is no consistency. The result is a lot of discord and disobedience, frustration and anger. I decided that making her follow every single rule every single time might not be right, but I need to be way more consistent. Teaching her what to expect from me every time will help her feel safe and secure in a home that has structure with logical consequences. If we are our children’s first Bibles, first glimpses of God in how we reflect Him, I need to be as Christlike as I know how to be each day, and part of learning to be Christlike is to be consistent.

Hebrews 13:8 ESV “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

He never changes. His ways are all the time, for everyone, even when, in His mercy, He created exceptions to the rules and sent His son to redeem us from the penalty for our sin. All we have to do to know what He expects is to read the instructions ( i.e. the BIBLE). When I finally came out of the bathroom, after ascertaining that her “sunthing” was neither emergent nor important, she happily told me some little adorable animal fact she had seen on Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. I didn’t have to get upset or raise my voice. I just had to be consistent. This is the rule. This is the expectation. I will happily hear you in a moment, please be patient. She walked away knowing I cared, I want to listen to her, and knowing what I wanted her to do. Wow.

Later today, she tried to act up while a friend was over, throwing a fit over the guest child’s toy. I was focused on our conversation, but took the time to put her into time out, to make sure she was sitting quietly, not shouting at me from the step, then to send her to her room when she couldn’t control herself. She started to throw a fit, but when I counted to three, she ran to her room, sat in her rocker and waited for me to come get her. Being consistent, gently firm, and unwavering helped her understand what I expected and how she should behave. Considering that she went from laying on the floor in front of the stairs yelling that she had no toys to play with to sitting quietly in her chair waiting for me to tell her she could come out, I call that a parenting win. I didn’t have to get angry. Her failure to comply was her problem. I just had to be consistent.

Most parenting experts can tell you, all it takes is ONE exception to an expectation, and children understand all bets are off, whether that expectation is giving up a pacifier or sleeping in his/her own bed. If a parent caves once, children know to exploit that weakness. I’m fallible, I’m weak, but I have to be more consistent because I love her, and want her to know what that means. As an educator, I know I know better, but I didn’t realize how much I had been letting slip in the name of “kindness.” How hard would it be to worship and follow a god like I’ve been acting? I’ve been holding her accountable to a rule, except when I don’t feel like it, then getting angry when the rule isn’t followed the next time.

Thank God for GOD. His law is forever. We can understand who God is and who he calls us to be.

Luke 16:17 ESV “But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.”

I’ve read most of the Bible at least once, some bits way more times, and some parts, I’m working my way through. But when you put it all together in context, with understanding of the WHOLE scripture and the Holy Spirit, God becomes very clear. He is who He is, all the time. If he calls us to be transformed from the ways of this world into His ways, isn’t being consistent and faithful part of becoming more Christlike?

Hebrews 10:23 ESV “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”

God is faithful, always. We can know if we confess our sins and believe, that we are forgiven. We are called His sons and daughters. He gives us that to KNOW, not to hope in or assume, but to know because He is faithful. We understand our responsibility and the infinite grace God shares because of who He is.

1 John 5:13 ESV

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

So that we may KNOW that when we believe, when we act in accordance with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ, that we have been redeemed and saved. Shouldn’t my daughter be able to know who I am, what I expect from her, all the time, or at least as much as humanly possible? and to know thy my discipline is guidance and love just as we know to accept God’s discipline (see Hebrews 12) as it brings us closer to sanctification. 

1 Corinthians 1:9 ESV “God is faithful, by Whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

God is our Faithful Father, calling us, guiding us, disciplining us, restoring us in gentleness, being hard when our hearts are hard, but always holding to the same standard, ‘do not sin.’ I have a hard enough time not sinning when I know what the rules are, when the expectations are clear. I feel a bit ridiculous for expecting my daughter to follow fluid guidelines as if she could read my mind, knowing which time I “really meant it.”

Turns out, it isn’t the rule that really matters. It is choosing to have a few fair rules and enforcing them consistently with love, mercy, and compassion hopefully developing a child who knows how to love others as Christ has called us, and yet knows when to question an unrighteous rule because she truly believes something is wrong, not just questioning and rebelling against everything because she doesn’t have a firm foundation.

Matthew 7:24 ESV

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”

Another day of making sure my actions, my prayers, and my words reflect the words of Christ to teach her to build her life on the Rock because He is always faithful.

Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; – See more at:,-Faithfulness-Of#sthash.CQmSqPYz.dpuf
Lamentations 3:22-23

The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.

– See more at:,-Faithfulness-Of#sthash.CQmSqPYz.dpuf

Lamentations 3:22-23

The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.

– See more at:,-Faithfulness-Of#sthash.CQmSqPYz.dpuf