When Better Homes and Gardens Becomes Better Homes and Varmints

In this issue:

Six Christmas personalities: find out which one fits you best. Discover how Christmas perfection took an unexpected turn when a little critter came to visit. Plus, get Michelle's reading recommendation for Christmas and the New Year.





Inspired Life: What's Your Christmas Personality?

I love Christmas. I got married 29 Christmases ago because I wanted the lights and trees and the snow for our wedding. I used to cut pine boughs and put them all over the house, even in the bathroom!

I put lights in every window and swapped out all the décor for a month. Then I would put it all back in the basement again. Sigh. Undecorating was the worst. And over the years, I have realized that I overdid Christmas. It wore me out.

I was proud of the fact that my friends and family once called me “Michelle Stewart” after the famous cooking and decorating guru that now seems SO over the top. I remember when I read an article from Ms. Stewart about prepping for Christmas. She handmade even the candles. She handmade the ornaments, baked the cookies from real butter, and made even the wrapping paper for the gifts. Nuts!

Yes, it was nice when my house smelled like baking, Christmas music filled the air, and I was known to wear an apron for most of December. But I have a better solution. Candles that smell like caramel and cinnamon.

Then there are all of the events we could go to. Parties and concerts and gift exchanges. Does anyone ever sleep in December?

I remember when would go with little people, everyone whining, dragging feet. I said stuff like, "We are going to a party and you are going to like it, darn it. You are going to have fun. Is that clear?"

I am standing up to say no. I have a tree in my house. And a small evergreen on my dining table. That’s it. The undecorating will be done before I finish my last Hallmark Christmas movie. I won’t be spending all of 2019 paying of the Christmas presents either.

At this time of year, we all have different reactions.

Which is your Christmas personality?

Let's look at 6 personality profiles and see if you can identify with any, or several, of them.

Perfect Polly – Wants the Martha Stewart Christmas with everything over the top.

  • She follows Martha's guide to the perfect Christmas
  • The Dollar Store won't do
  • She doesn't just light the candles, she makes them by hand.
  • She hosts the perfect parties and makes it look effortless.
  • Inside, she's exhausted.
  • Polly sends out her handmade Christmas cards on time and writes what my friend calls a "Lake Woebegone Christmas letter"—where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.
  • She decks the halls with real pine boughs, garland, lights, it's a Better Homes and Gardens advertisement.

Bitter Betty – Hates the holidays, but it's understandable.

  • Betty has had a difficult time.
  • She lost her mom this year, and her husband is emotionally disconnected.
  • She has no extra cash for gifts and special foods right now.
  • Betty isn't in the Christmas mood and she's tired of the carols on the radio.
  • She puts up the tree for the sake of the children, but her heart isn't in it.
  • Betty wishes they could skip the family gatherings this year.
  • Her siblings are still arguing about circumstances with her mom's estate.
  • She would rather not have to put on a charade to attend her husband's family Christmas.
  • Perky, happy people just annoy Betty. They don't understand how difficult it is for her.
  • If she has to listen to one more message about the "real meaning of Christmas" she's going to barf.

Determined Donna – Has strong traditions, strong opinions, and she's determined to have Christmas her way.

  • Donna's family always had Christmas on Christmas Eve and she loves tradition. But now, her sister's family has asked to change it to a different date. Donna is determined to keep it how it always is, even if it means having it without her sister.
  • Her determination also makes her the go-to person for party planning and church events, since people know she will get it done.
  • She's involved at school with the kids, directs the Christmas program at church, and she's in charge of decorating the church for the holidays.
  • In Donna's determined mind, she has a positive attitude and welcomes the next project to manage. But, to those around her, she can seem bossy and stubborn sometimes.
  • Donna's determination starts to run a little low come the new year. She burns herself out every Christmas with trying so hard to make everything happen.

Stressed-Out Suzie – Can't find the end of her to-do list, always in a hurry.

  • Suzie loves the holidays and can't wait for Christmas morning, but there's just so much to do.
  • She has gifts to make for the bus driver, the mailman, the kid's teachers, her family, the neighbors,…and while she's at it, she may as well add the gas station worker, the librarian, the lunch ladies, and every family at church…
  • Suzie has a huge to-do list and she knows she can't get it done, but she has to try.
  • She's late for everything and always seems to be running, or talking so fast people can't understand her.
  • Suzie is snappy at home. When one of the kids would like her to read a book, she's too busy. Her husband wonders what happened to his sweet wife.
  • Suzie has all of her nails chewed off to nothing, and now she's considered starting on her toenails.
  • Suzie gets 3 or 4 hours of sleep every night at best, during the pre-Christmas season.
  • She doesn't want to bother her family by asking them to help out, so she stresses while they play and relax.

Exploring Erma – She is seeking and wondering.

  • Erma isn't a regular church-goer, and that has always been okay with her, until now.
  • But now that she's a mom, her thoughts are stirring as Christmas approaches.
  • It isn't that she has anything against people who go to church and believe in Jesus. But she wonders where it all fits in her own life.
  • Is this Jesus real? Or is it just a story?
  • Should I take my kids to church? Or doesn't it really matter?
  • Erma hopes that she can make sense of her questions, but she's afraid to share her thoughts with too many of her friends for fear they will think less of her or judge her.
  • Christmas has always been a holiday with presents, and food, and fun, but Erma wonders if there is something more.

For a long time, I was a blend of Perfect Polly and Stressed-Out Suzie. Need I say more? My family probably didn't love being around me.

Now, let's look at how it might look to find balance and sanity during the Christmas season: 

Realistic Rita – Feels balanced, knows she can't do it all.

  • Rita might start out with ideas of what she's going to do at Christmas, but as time passes along, she isn't ashamed to abandon some of her plans.
  • She takes time for family. If she has to buy the pies from the grocery store so she can spend time with the family, she's okay with that.
  • She delegates to the rest of the family when necessary.
  • Rita knows the value of the word "no." She carefully considers which commitments she can handle and which she must turn down.
  • Realistic Rita isn't perfect. She has occasional meltdowns, but then uses them as an opportunity to refocus.
  • Rita stays centered during the holidays by keeping God in the picture.
  • She works to rebalance each time something knocks her off course. She takes a deep breath and deals with the crisis and accepts that sometimes, she can't be all things to all people.
  • She appreciates the little things. If she doesn't have time to decorate the whole house, she makes one area special.
  • She looks for happy moments in every day.

So, how can we become more like Realistic Rita this holiday?

Focus on what really matters. I’m going to explore how to do that more in the next episode, but for this week. I want to encourage you to slow down and evaluate. Which can you relate to?

  • Perfect Polly
  • Bitter Betty
  • Determined Donna
  • Stressed-Out Suzie
  • Exploring Erma
  • Realistic Rita

Living a repurposed life is all about changing your perspective, rather than your circumstances.

Someone lost his eyes.

Life, Repurposed: Holiday DIY Traditions 

In my book, I have a chapter titled "Better Homes and Varmints," where I talk about my attempts at Better Homes and Gardens Christmas perfection. Check out the book at www.michellerayburn.com if you'd like to get a copy and read the whole chapter.

In my early years of marriage, I had themed Christmas tress. This was before I started the collection of ornaments made by my children in school. You know the ones:

  • Macaroni
  • Toilet paper tubes made into reindeer
  • Ornaments from 15 years ago that are now missing eyeballs
  • Paper chains from construction paper
  • Things with their pictures glued on or their handprints on them.


When I was in my coordinated tree phase, I had color coordinated decorations with fabric bows, wooden cutouts, baby's breath…Each year, I tried to add something. The year my first son was born, I decided to make gingerbread ornaments. I baked them until they were hard enough to break teeth, then poked a hole in and strung them up on the tree. Every morning, I'd find some ornaments on the floor, and I'd hang them back up.

Yes, these are Christmas trees!

I blamed Phil for knocking them off. He denied any involvement.

As I was hanging one back up, I noticed lacy marks around the edge. I didn't remember putting those there. I mentioned it to Phil, who said he may have seen something dark and furry scurry into the register a time or two. He never wants me to know. He covertly sets traps without telling me.


Martha Stewart never mentioned this could happen!

He did eventually catch the varmint in a trap.

I have realized that my attempts at perfection have led to more stress, and "Better Homes and Varmints" instead of Better Homes and Gardens. The ugliest Christmas ornaments in my stash are some of my favorites! Be sure to see some of them on the YouTube video!


Recommended Resources 

For this week’s recommended reading, I have a different suggestion. If I could recommend one book that would change your life more than any other, it would be a Bible. Stay with me. I know It sounds cliché, but it’s true!

Of all of the books, there is none more life-changing for me that the word of God. Sometimes we get truth all blended up and we mix in our own ideas, but for me it all comes down to the Word of God.

I love my coloring Bible. It sit at my desk in the morning and read one chapter and then color the images that are already in the margins. The coloring time gives me an opportunity to slow down and reflect.

There are many different versions of the Bible, but if you’re just starting out, I would begin with a New Living Translation Bible. It puts it in everyday words that make sense. Another easy to understand one is a New International Version. It’s also pretty easy to understand. I love the New Living Bible, but my coloring Bible didn't come in that one.

The Coloring Bible from Zondervan (NIV)

The Inspire Bible from Tyndale (NLT)

If you want to know about the Christmas story, start with Luke 1 and 2 in the New Testament and in Matthew 1 and 2. It's so inspiring to go to the Bible instead of relying on memories of Christmas pageants from the past!

(Please note: books posted here on my blog are purely because I want to share them. Sometimes I receive free copies for review, and other times I purchase the books. Some I get from the library. Either way, any endorsement I offer here on the blog is simply because I want to talk about the book. )

Michelle Rayburn is the author of The Repurposed and Upcycled Life: When God Turns Trash to Treasure,  as well as a small group Bible study to accompany the book. Learn more about these and her other books here.

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Posted in Articles, Podcast Episodes.