Annual Christmas Nervous Breakdown or Dirty Socks Under the Tree

Jesus loves you, but I’m His favorite. NOT!

I do have stories about making good choices. And I will tell some of them as I blog along. But, it seems more important to share about God staying involved in our lives when we are screwing up; to remind myself and others that God loves us, not because of who we are, but because of who God is.

My mother always made Christmas extraordinary, even when money was in short supply. She polished and decorated every square inch of our apartment. The presents may not have cost a lot, but they were wrapped beautifully. There was a constant flow of guests, often widows without family near-by or young families without parents and grandparents around. There were special treats to eat, but also even the plain old potted meat sandwiches were trimmed and cut into triangles with parsley sprigs around them on silver trays.
So, when she became a widow and passed the Christmas torch to me, I tried to do the same. And I added being active at church in teaching classes, decorating the social hall, and organizing Christmas pageants. My five children and I spent weeks making presents for all their teachers and for all my students. I never thought about the fact that mom had two children and a small apartment and I had five children and a large house, which was a home away from home for a constant flow of college age house guests involved in Christian ministry. Mom set the bar very high, but without realizing it, I had raised it.
Pretty much every year, sometime close to Christmas, I would reach my annual Christmas overload, yell that I hated Christmas, and slam my way into my bedroom to collapse for a day or night. One year after retreating to curl up in a fetal position and figuratively suck my thumb, I awoke in the wee hours of the morning, remembering that I was scheduled in a few hours to give a talk to another denomination’s women’s group on The Spirit of Christmas.
I seriously considered calling and saying I had broken my leg, but decided that might be asking for it literally.                                                                                                                                         As I prayed for help, it seemed like God was telling me that although I was doing many truly good things, I was missing the point of Christmas. Christmas wasn’t about how much we could do or how perfect we could make it. Christmas was about the joy of needing and receiving a Savior, the tangible expression of God’s perfect love for us imperfect human beings. And sharing that joy with others. So, I ended up simply sharing the whole story, my pattern of Christmas breakdowns and my panic the night before. It seemed like everyone there could relate very well to my experience. Then, for reasons unknown to me, I ended by saying, “No matter what it takes, even leaving dirty socks under the Christmas tree, I’m going to keep my focus on the meaning of Christmas.”

Now, really! Dirty socks under the tree?

Of course, mother arrived, guests arrived, children were freed from school, and Christmas Eve arrived with stress building and me once again rushing tensely around. As I was putting laundry away in a bedroom close to the great room, I heard my mother ask, “Eileen, why is there a dirty sock under the Christmas tree?”
I got goose bumps. I could feel Jesus standing there with His hand on my shoulder. I dropped the laundry on the bed and stopped my mother from removing the sock.
“Mom, let’s leave it there and stop right now to have a cup of coffee and read the Christmas scriptures, so we’ll remember what we’re celebrating.”
For several years afterwards, I would put a sock under the tree, whenever I began to forget the meaning of Christmas from the overload of my good intentions.

About Eileen

Mother of five, grandmother of nine, great-grandmother of five. 1955 -1959 Rice University in Houston, TX. Taught primary grades; Was Associate Post Director of Religious Education at Ft. Campbell, KY; Consultant on the Myers/Briggs Type Indicator, Was married for 60 years to an Architect in Middle Tennessee.

Posted on December 7, 2016, in Addictions, Answered Prayer, Christmas, Holiday Decorations, Humor, Love, Spiritual, Teaching/Learning Experiences and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. I love this story.
    You know… have you thought about submitting this to the newspaper?


    • No, but that might be a good idea. They published “Come, Lord Jesus,” several years ago. But does that give them reprint rights and keep me from using it anywhere else? I thought Chris said it did.
      Thanks for reading it. I kind feel like it’s cheating to repost stuff.


      • Not reprint rights exactly how you’re thinking, maybe. My guess (keyword, guess — asking outright is good) would be that they would be able to reprint it if they ever wanted to, but not that you’d need to pull it off the blog at all. If you ever wanted to sell it to a magazine after that, for example, you would need to tell the magazine it was “previously published online and at the Name of Newspaper” or words to that effect.


      • thanks for the info. I edited it some and emailed it to the Herald as A Sock Under the Christmas Tree……..Hope you are well. I’m having HO HO HO’s withdrawal.


  2. Professions for PEACE

    What a beautiful post Eileen. Just lovely. Gave me goosebumps when you wrote about getting goosebumps, like Jesus’ hand on your shoulder, and how you now put a sock under the tree to remember. A wise, wonderful share. Thank you deeply. Gina


  3. Reblogged this on Laughter: Carbonated Grace and commented:

    My annual post before Christmas to remind myself to focus!


  4. I am glad you re-blogged this story as I stumbled across your link at the exact week I usually have my Christmas breakdown! I thought it was just me! Unconsciously, I was also trying to capture all the festive elements remembered from my grandmother’s large gatherings–down to the silver punchbowl–which is a lot of work when you don’t have many adult daughters to put on the show! I grew up in your town and will be a new reader. Thanks for the perspective!



    • You can’t imagine how nice it was to hear that someone was affirmed by a shared struggle.
      The last few days I and my family from various points in and out of the US are preparing to get together this weekend. My one daughter can’t come. My two daughter-in-laws are amazing cooks and usually do the heavy cooking, but one broke various bones in her right hand and the other has come down with the flu in the last few days!! I fell and injured my ribs three days ago and my husband literally worked two days and a night around the clock this weekend trying finish a work project
      that’s way over due. We downsized to a small apartment with a tiny tree outside the French doors on the patio. I was just trying to figure out where I could put the dirty sock so I would see it, as I went on line to find some breakfast casseroles to fix ahead for the out of towners coming. Luckily I sidetracked onto my email. Your comment is a much nicer reminder than a dirty sock! Thanks!!!!! I’m putting on some Christmas music now. God bless.


  5. Yes, a sock, clean or dirty, is a good reminder to come clean about the true meaning of Christmas.


  1. Pingback: Annual Christmas Nervous Breakdown or Dirty Socks Under the Tree « Laughter: Carbonated Grace

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