Claudine Phillips

A new take on a simple Christmas

As a recovering perfectionist, anxiety knocks a little louder as the yule tide season of Christmas descends upon the Phillips home. The knocking is especially loud as things are messier than the normal chaos of life.


We are STILL in temporary housing. I found my heart yearning with my heavenly father yesterday pining, “Really? Don’t you know I want a house more than anything? Don’t you know I want my kids to have their own rooms and spacious places to be creative and play…spread out? Can’t you see how crowded we are, how much longer it takes to do everything? It’s like rearranging deck chairs daily to just move around this place! We long for privacy, each of us. I long to decorate, Christmas or not!” Shallow? Yes. The truth. You bet! UGH!


Shad seems to be the only content one in our circumstances. Is this a guy thing? He could only own a toothbrush, his computer, his beloved and belated “Chesserdog”, a pair of shorts, 3 shirts, and flip flops and feel spoiled and excessive because he has three shirts. Seriously content man over here.

I, on the other hand, am struggling. At times I LOVE the simplicity of 800 square feet. Yet, a loud, a very loud voice, yells, “I want THE house. I want everything in its place. I want room. I want to display my pretties I have collected over, what seems, a lifetime ago. I want space to be creative, to be alone, to think.”

My heart breaks when I see my kids’ desires clash as well. One minute they LOVE rooming together and stay up giggling way past their bedtime sharing forever moments only siblings can recount. Sigh. Those moments pass and other come rushing in like a raging fire seeking destruction. In tears, “Mom, I can’t do this anymore. I need my space. She’s breathing too loud. He won’t stop looking at me. I just need to be alone……”


Today was no different. The excitement of decorating our cabin filled the air as Shad and I announced we were going to the infamous STORAGE UNIT {where our life and memories are held} to retrieve a few Christmas decorations. What my son heard was, “We are redeeming this simple life and going all out and unpacking every single decoration we own into this tiny cabin.” He made us promise we would decorate that day.

After church, Costco, lunch, naps, and sisters performance down the hill, we finally started to trim our home. It lasted 10 minutes. With Christmas music in the background and our giddy 8 and 10 year olds hearts a flutter, one 2-foot pop-up tree, 2 Christmas pillows, paper garland from the year before, our stockings, and our Chirstmas wreaths for the windows proudly displayed outside, Shad and I were ready to call it done.


The second Christmas song was barely finishing up when I noticed his long face, chin quivering.  As Greanly contently rearranged the two Santa pillows for the third time in 10 minutes and humming to the tune of Frosty, reality hit Carson. My GO BIG OR GO HOME kid was, to put it simply, devastated. My BIG FEELER was not happy with our decision to make Christmas simple in our tiny space.

Tears rushed over his flushed cheeks like a raging river, yet so delicate. Each tear triggered voices of my past. “You are not enough, you could do better, you made this mess and look what it is doing to your children.” I wanted to over promise, over function, and spring into action to fix his tears, to make it all better. Instead, I took a deep breath, pulled my baby close and we just stayed in the moment. He cried, told me how he felt like “everyone else” has a big tree, a big house, and …..big presents. A-ha! Big trees, mean big presents.

We affirmed his desires for bigger. We talked about how cool it would be to get presents as big as our trees and even got to a point where he was laughing and cutting up.


Parenting is hard. So hard. We have no idea what we are doing, where we are going, and when it will be easier, if it ever gets easier. But what I DO know, is that we are a team. All of us, our whole family is in this together, including our Father.  The evil one wants us to scatter, divide, blame one another, and doubt when it gets hard, yet The One wants us to pine to Him, cry to him. He wants us to return to Him when we are disappointed, discouraged, mad, and confused. {John 10:10}

Our Lord brings purpose is our messes, brings joy in our circumstances, and unity in our surrender. {James 1:2-3}

With a little rearranging, there is still a spot for that big tree and I just might go down the hill to our storage unit one more time a gather up the remaining decorations and stuff them into our tiny cabin. Mamas know what their babies need. It’s inconvenient and hard. I die to self every day, but it will never compare to the sacrifice He has made for my freedom.


Sure I could say these are first world problems, and they are. I could go into the small meek life of Mary and that their was not a beautifully decorated pine tree affixed in the manger upon the birth of the King. I could discuss how happiness is not in our things, but in Christ alone. Yes, I could say all those things, but I know them. In the deepest crevasses of my heart, I know them.

What I am learning is to pay attention. To see what He is teaching me in this cabin. Teaching me to lean in when I am mad about our situation and sad when my kids are “feeling” it too. One thing I am especially learning is to laugh alot. I mean alot. That’s all we can do sometimes, especially when we find ourselves doing the very things we would “never do” like give the baby Fritos and it actually becomes the norm.

Out of the blue, Shad placed his hand on my knee last night and said, “We will find that house, that perfect house. We are just in the wait.” His heavy hand infused peace over me. It was a reminder that I am not alone in this. I have my heavenly Father on one side and my incredible family on the other.


It is times like this that I KNOW I will miss this simple life. These concentrated moments of leaning in, of lessons learned in the uncomfortable. I KNOW I will yearn for these days again when they are only a distant memory.

The knock knock knocking of old anxiety quietens as I lean into the moment, as I don’t try to escape or blame. I embrace the hard. The happy hard that makes my family stronger, better, and less perfect. Just the way we are meant to be.

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