Once upon a December afternoon, I decided to bake cookies for a party. I could have skipped it; in fact, I nearly talked myself out of it. Baking is not the most efficient use of my time. Nevertheless, I put aside productivity because it felt like Christmas, like celebration.

Choosing Christmas doesn’t come naturally to me. You see, the church I grew up in didn’t believe in celebrating Christmas, supposedly because it was a pagan holiday and a consumerist frenzy.

Looking back, though, I wonder if perhaps the church leaders weren’t really afraid of materialism or paganism. I wonder if they were afraid of what might happen if we were to be still. If we were to make the subversive decision to put aside striving and behold beauty instead.

Time to Put Aside Productivity

As I made the chocolate chunk mocha cookies (with coffee IN the frosting!), I noticed something. In the past, I’ve rushed through recipes, attempting shortcuts. But watching my husband renovate our home this year has been a study in patience. As I worked, I realized that I’d learned from his example. Finally, I was willing to honor each step.

Bootsie the cat, put aside productivityOnce I returned to the computer, Bootsie jumped into my lap. Though I was tempted to nudge her aside and keep working, I decided to take pause instead.

I still had work to do, but I stroked Bootsie’s fur. She purred, and I felt myself relax. For once, the voice that tells me, You have to be productive or else! was silent. All was calm, all was bright.

The Magical Tree

That night, my husband and I put up our first-ever (secondhand) Christmas tree. When we plugged it in, only half the tree lit up. Jonathan said, “The &*%#$ lights don’t work!”

I said, “Honey, it’s okay. It’s magical to me.” It was.

When I looked at the tree, I thought: You are everything I was taught to turn my back on. You are unnecessary, frivolous. And based on this faded price tag I found in your branches, you were expensive too. 

And in my eyes, you are beautiful.

Unnecessary and Beautiful

Christmas tree, put aside productivityOne of the gifts that my childhood church gave me is the ability to recall myriad Biblical passages. As I gazed at our tree, I remembered the story of a woman pouring expensive perfume on Jesus.
I thought about how those present were angry, how they protested: What decadence! What foolishness! In other words, What a Christmas tree!

There’s a time to save our perfume, yet there’s also a time to pour our treasures out. Sometimes unnecessary and excessive is beautiful and right. Pouring out perfume, putting up a Christmas tree … these acts can be wasteful or wondrous, depending on the state of our hearts.

I smiled then, remembering what Jesus said to the critics: “Back off! You’re so busy judging this woman that you don’t see what really happened: she has given me a beautiful gift from the heart. This act of lavish love will be remembered for centuries to come.”

So here’s what I wish for you in the New Year. More than goals achieved or resolutions kept …

I wish for you open hands to receive the gifts that each day brings.


This post was inspired in part by my friend and fellow writer Rachel Macy Stafford, The Hands Free Mama. Rachel’s work focuses on relationships, and ‘letting go to grasp what really matters.’

To support her in the publication of her new book, I’m hosting a giveaway!

To enter, leave a comment sharing your thoughts on these questions: What keeps you from going hands free and enjoying the present moment? Do you struggle to put aside productivity?

One commenter will be chosen at random to receive a copy of Hands Free Mama. A commenter will be chosen at 12p CST on Thursday, January 16.

Update: The winner (selected via Random.org) is commenter #1, Kelly Tyler! Congratulations, and thank you to all who shared from their hearts this week.

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