Sydney Avey

Dynamic Woman — Changing Times

The Less Than Perfect Christmas

Dec 12, 2013 | Family, The Sheep Walker's Daughter | 13 comments


Copyright All rights reserved by Miehana

Writers asked to do novel excerpts on Christmas themes might assume readers expect perfect Christmas scenes with the family gathered around the tree celebrating the joy of Christ’s birth. But this Hallmark Christmas moment is not what many families experience.

The Sheep Walker’s Daughter 


I’m ready to go. Yesterday I finished my packing and picked up my airline tickets from the travel agency for my trip to Barcelona. I leave today. Mother and I managed to make it through Christmas—she by working a lot and me by reading a lot. On Christmas Eve, she dragged me to Saint Matthew’s and on Christmas Day we saw Roman Holiday. After the holiday Mom and I had, I’m ready for a holiday of my own. 

Thanksgiving and Christmas are always awkward because none of the women in our family cooks. Now that we are a family of two, it’s easier. My grandmother always wanted to go out to eat, but Mom and I didn’t have the heart for it this year. I’m not sentimental about holiday traditions, but I wonder where I’m headed when I spend Christmas with my mother in a movie theater filling up on popcorn and Coke instead of Christmas dinner. Perish that thought. I know where I’m headed. Barcelona!

 The Lyre and the Lambs 


Christmas comes and goes. The young people go to mass at Saint Nicholas. Andy is a lapsed Catholic and Valerie is just confused. That’s my fault. I didn’t raise her in any faith. I am still working out my own faith, under Father Mike’s direction. Roger believes that all good people go to Heaven. That he is one of the good guys I am sure. That his theology holds water I am no longer so sure. 

For a family that has spent money in such a hedonistic way furnishing this house, we are surprisingly frugal with gift-giving. Our joy is in being together. On Christmas night, I have one too many glasses of champagne. After Roger walks Lucy, he comes into the bedroom and finds me sitting in my white leather chair, sobbing into my owl pillow for my sister. Here I sit, safe and warm, enjoying the company of my beautiful daughter and Alaya’s precious son. A world away Alaya and Elazar sit alone in their ancient farmhouse kitchen. One son is in jail. The other, I truly believe, will not be going home any time soon, if ever.

The Perfect Christmas

© Johanna Goodyear | Dreamstime

© Johanna Goodyear | Dreamstime

Christians set the bar high for the holidays. We decorate our homes as if they were department store windows, shop for collectibles and prepare delectables, all in service to an image of perfect love and harmony. But Christ shows up in the less than perfect moments also.

My Christmas Memory

My most precious Christmas memory was the year I tried to stuff my feelings over the chaos in my kid’s lives by preparing the perfect experience. Christmas morning, I poured a Mimosa and sank into the couch to watch the gift exchange. At some point I relaxed too much and emotion flooded my soul. I went into the bedroom to lay down.

When I woke up, my father was sitting next to my bed. I sobbed my heart out about what was happening in my family. He held my hand and listened. This man I would lead to Christ a few years later led me to the foot of my Lord without knowing it. I had to forgive myself for trying too hard to make everything perfect.

Through the different configurations of their family, Dee and Valerie will share many Christmases. Some will be lean; some will be full. They will learn that where the Lord is, there is love.

May the Lord of love be in your midst this Christmas, wherever or however you celebrate.


The Hallmark Christmas moment is not what many families experience.

Some holidays will be lean; some will be full; but where the Lord is, there is love.


  1. Litany L

    Omg I love what you said in the Perfect Christmas section. We do go all out not just for God but for others and self as well but Christ shows up even when things are nto perfect or going according to our own plans. My favorite christmas memory was waking up and it was snowing and we sang songs from the hymnal in Honor of Jesus’ birthday.

    thank you.

    • yosemitesyd

      Hi Litany, it’s the simple things we remember most, isn’t it. Thanks for your comment. Sydney

  2. Roxanne Thompson

    We all look forward to the family hallmark Christmas which never is… We should focus on the love of Christ and his many blessings…

    • yosemitesyd

      Roxanne, Amen and amen.

  3. vic

    thanks for sharing your vulnerable memory. i’d like to hear the whole story. blessings upon you!

    • yosemitesyd

      Vic, remind me at Christmas and I will tell you the story.

  4. frank henson

    Christmas is my favorite time of year. We celebrate the birth of God’s Son. I remember as a child being very poor. But I wasn’t poor, in my thoughts and Training from my Parents. I was raised in a Southern Baptist Church. I was Baptised there. I love the giving aspect of Christmas. GodAloveit !

    • yosemitesyd

      Frank, one of my resolutions for 2014 is to be a more spontaneous giver of my time in little things, like looking at and speaking to the store clerk who helps me. I get so rushed I forget to do that. Thanks for the reminder.

  5. Kelly Liberto

    Sydney, your words brought tears to my eyes
    I’m grateful to know the only perfection in Christmas

    • yosemitesyd

      Hi Kelly, Yes, God’s perfect gift never disappoints.

  6. Delores Liesner

    I often overstressed trying to create idyllic Christmas celebrations, but my kids brought me back to earth saying forget buying expensive dishes, we want paper plates and just to spend more time with each other. I wanted to buy them everything I never had and they decided to draw names and replace memories of mountains of gift wrap and credit debt all year with music, skits, and games. I thank God for my kids focus on celebrating what we have. Perhaps that is the idyllic Christmas after all.

    • yosemitesyd

      Delores, my kids say the same thing! I love your idea to celebrate what we have.

  7. Lisa

    “Christ shows up in the less than perfect moments also.” Beautiful, Sydney.
    Stuffing feelings is never a good thing, but it’s really in God’s time what comes out. I’m finding the truth in that.
    What we want for our children is not necessarily what they need. I’m finding this year that all of my children just want to be together as a family, (not always doable in a motorhome) and for their children to know what “family” is. That is certainly my goal for next year.
    Here’s to the New Year!



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