Well, here I am. This weekend was completely crazy, and my body is exhausted. We are small business owners and I work outside the home two days a week as well. There are still three weeks to Christmas but I’m already feeling behind! Our two little boys’ attitudes are proving that they aren’t entirely understanding the true reason for the season and it’s so frustrating. But wait – am I remembering the true reason? Or am I myself having some troubles in this area as well?

Can I really blame my kids for not focusing on Christ and family rather than presents and parties? Nope.
Because I’m doing the same thing.

So I’m sitting on my couch this morning grading paragraphs from my students and I have my favorite holiday movie on repeat. “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” is one I can’t go without watching multiple times every December and July. I caught myself smiling and giggling at the one-liners I’ve heard thousands of times. I don’t even have to watch the movie or pay attention in the slightest to laugh. But this time, I really let those words sink in. I know the movie is hilarious to me, but today it changed my attitude. I stopped grading every time I heard myself laugh and I wrote the words down. I reflected on my laughter partly wallowing in the fact that it took Clark Griswold to pull me out of my pity party. But I needed it.

And I’m willing to bet there are others who need reminded of what’s really important this time of year. To-do lists and shopping budgets can easily get the best of all of us.

So here’s a nice little list for you from me, inspired by the Griswold family Christmas. Let’s break it down:

1. “Clark, Audrey’s frozen from the waist down.”
“It’s all part of the experience honey.”

Oh so true. How many of us so look forward to the holidays year after year? But in the midst of them, our eyes freeze open. Yes, we are there, but we can’t really take in all the details because we don’t let ourselves. We only see the miles we have to walk in knee-high snow surrounded by people who are annoying us with their chipper outlooks. After we warm up and start setting up the tree, we can see the people who were there with us the whole time. They walked beside us. It’s all part of the experience.

2. “Are you surprised, Clark?”
“Surprised, Eddie? If I woke up tomorrow morning with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn’t be more surprised than I am right now.”

How well do you handle surprises around the holidays? Not in the plan = panic. Sure, we make it work in the end. But when it happens, we feel like someone is sewing our heads to the carpet. Here’s my advice to myself and to you this season – pretend it’s Velcro. Maybe that will lessen the pressure and pain. Maybe we’ll be able to enjoy the surprises.

3. “Can I refill your eggnog for you? Get you something to eat? Drive you out in the middle of nowhere and leave you for dead?
“Naww. I’m doin’ just fine, Clark.”

Ah. Blissful ignorance. Who’s better off here, really? Clark – who is focusing on his perfect idea of Christmas going quickly down the toilet. Or Eddie – who is so blissfully ignorant that he’s just thrilled to be in Clark’s company surrounded by family even though he has very little to his name.

4. “I love it here. You don’t have to put on your coat to go to the bathroom, and your house is always parked in the same place.”

Talk about focusing on the big picture. Thanks, Ruby Sue.

5. “If you don’t mind, Clark. I’d like to see if I can fumigate this here chair. It’s a good quality item.”
“Do you smell something?”
“Fried pussy cat.”

It’s amazing to me how God provides for us just what we need. All too often, we focus on what we want. I think it has been my biggest challenge my entire life. Can Eddie and his family get by with a fumigated “quality” chair? Yep. Can I get by without that extra chair I just have to have? Yep. At least I’m not the fried pussy cat.

6. “Lewis, my tree. Look what you’ve done to my tree!”
“It was an ugly tree anyway.”
“At least it’s out of its misery.”
“Dad’s gonna flip out.”
“Nobody’s gonna flip out.”

That Christmas tree is such a symbol of our Christmas traditions, it’s like Rusty knew the flaming tree would be the last straw for his dad. After everything else that had happened over the last couple of weeks, the tree was it for Clark; and Rusty knew it. He knew what his dad held important. Aren’t we all like that at some point? One thing starts to send us over the edge and then we just don’t handle life at all for a while after that.

I think the key here is to not focus on the tree, focus on the cross. Focus on the birth, on the true reason. I know I handle life a heck of a lot better when I remember to give it to God – when I remember to listen to my heart and spread His good rather than focusing on my own human definitions of good.

7. “If any of you are looking for any last minute gift ideas for me. I have one. I’d like Frank Shirley, my boss, right here, tonight. I want him brought from his happy holiday slumber over there on Melody Lane with all the other rich people. And I want him brought right here…with a big ribbon on his head. And I want to look him straight in the eye, and I want to tell him what a cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, four-flushing, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless…he is.”

Okay. Now I’m pretty sure we would all be completely lying to ourselves if we haven’t been to this point (or close) of frustration with someone in our lives. But it only takes a second thought to realize we have no idea what somebody else is going through. We have no idea because all we see is social media or the occasional phone call. Do they have it all figured out? Nope. Do you have it all figured out? Nope. We all have our stuff. Don’t get me wrong, it’s okay to lose it every now and then. But be careful with your words and actions. It’s pretty easy to overreact this time of year when we are completely overwhelmed. Take a step back. Have some eggnog. Have some wine. Watch “Christmas Vacation” and have a laugh. Your outlook will change and you’ll realize you can’t change everyone else, but you can change your own attitude.

8. “Hallelujah. Holy s***. Where’s the Tylenol?”

And he lost it. Now this one really makes me laugh. This is me. There’s my faith, and there’s my sinful human nature. I want to focus on the reason for the season, but it’s so easy to get distracted and trapped in everything else. I have to constantly remind myself of my purpose and work hard to keep my attitude and outlook where they should be. I lose it, then I come back around. And you know what? Every time it happens, I’m reminded of just how amazing my God truly is. He’s so good; He’s so forgiving. He sent His son for me so I can be human, so I can lose it from time to time, and so I can have faith that He is still in my corner. He makes me laugh at myself daily, and He shows His presence to me at just the right moments. Hallelujah. Holy s***.

9. “This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here…and when Santa squeezes his fat white a**  down that chimney tonight, he’s gonna find the jolliest bunch of a**holes this side of the nuthouse. Ha.”
“You’re goofy.”
“Don’t p*** me off, Art.”

Okay. This is what’s gonna happen. I have a PLAN! And the PLAN will NOT go wrong. We really hold ourselves to an unbelievably high standard of living this time of year. One example from my life is my spare bedroom/play room. Our boys rarely use it for a play room, and this is the only time of year we really ever have anyone extra stay in our home. So you can imagine what has happened to that room over the last few months – we realized just how handy it is to have a room of storage for Christmas boxes and everything else we can think of that we can’t find a place for at the present moment. So I started panicking that we may have extra bodies and no extra bedroom; I put pressure on myself to clean up that room. I opened the door and took one look around. With everything else going on this time of year, I was immediately overwhelmed. Then my son walked up behind me. “Mommy! Look! Pictionary is right there! I thought we lost it! Can we play?”

God moment.

Grab Pictionary. Shut door. Play games with child. Place sticky note on the door that says “Under Construction.” If we have extra bodies, we have couches and a giant bean bag. Awesome. All set.

10. “I have never been treated like this in my life.”
“I’m sorry. This is our family’s first kidnapping.”

Well whatever happens in life, at least we know we can use our manners. We can try to see the positive side. Hey, give me a break…I don’t know how to treat my first kidnapping victim. Was I supposed to greet you at the door? I’m still learning.

But the reality is we are all still learning – every day. Give yourself some credit. It’s when we stop learning that we are in trouble.

11. “It’s the Christmas star. And that’s all that matters tonight. You see kids, it means something different to everybody. And now I know what it means to me.”

It does mean something different to everybody. We all have our own family traditions, expectations, triumphs, and fears. But there is one part of Christmas that is the same. Jesus. Focus on Jesus. Focus on what He has done for you in your life. Focus on your family and on the fact that we don’t have to be in control all the time. Why? Because He is.

Oh…and Merry Christmas.


Like Jeremy and Bailey Koch on Facebook. And learn more about the couple’s journey with depression and faith at www.jeremyandbailey.com. “Never Alone: A Husband and Wife’s Journey with Depression and Faith” is also available on Amazon in eBook format.

Bailey Koch

The story of Bailey Koch finding her love for and strength in writing begins with near tragedy. In February of 2012, Bailey's husband was nearly killed in a head-on collision with a semi truck. As a method of getting information to friends and family, Bailey began a Caring Bridge page. Immediately, others began commenting that Bailey should be a writer. "Yeah right!" Bailey thought. "There's no way I could do that!" "Never Alone: A Husband and Wife's Journey with Depression and Faith" was published in March 2015 and is written by Jeremy and Bailey Koch. It details their struggles with severe depression and the journey toward understanding their purpose, accepting help, and finding faith. High school sweethearts, Jeremy and Bailey know their lives were meant for each other and to help others by being honest about their story. They are proud parents of two beautiful, and often rambunctious, boys, Hudson and Asher. You can learn more about their journey and even purchase the eBook or paperback copy of "Never Alone" at www.jeremyandbailey.com. Additionally, a new book written for families to open up a conversation about the reality of Depression is now available. "When the House Feels Sad: Helping You Understand Depression" is available at www.jeremyandbailey.com as well. Jeremy and Bailey found their purpose in helping others find hope when suffering from a disability, especially unseen illnesses like depression. Jeremy, who suffers from suicidal thoughts, continues to learn to live, not simply stay alive, through hope from God and the acceptance of help. Bailey is his biggest supporter and left her teaching job, after being in public education for seven years, to focus on what the two know to be God's plan. Bailey now works as a Lecturer in Teacher Education at the University of Nebraska at Kearney and will graduate with her doctoral degree in Special Education from Walden University sometime in 2019. Jeremy and Bailey co-own and operate Natural Escapes, a landscaping and greenhouse services business that also includes a paint your own pottery and canvas family art studio. The passion to advocate for those who can't easily advocate for themselves is strong. Bailey has a message of hope and acceptance for all; she has plans to completely demolish the societal stigma attached to mental illness.