No More Perfect Holidays

Norman Rockwell images roll through my head over the holidays, particularly the Freedom From Want painting: the perfect table setting, a large extended family gathered as Grandfather watches Grandmother place an enormous turkey on the table.

It’s one of a gallery of images I’ve acquired in my mind over the years along with Southern Living magazine covers, The Joy of Cooking glossies and, in recent years, social media posts. I can’t even get away from the images in traffic with so many digital billboards along the road.

I love a full and festive holiday table as much as the next person. I’m a foodie who’s always looking to improve the culinary experience at Chez Stilwell. What I don’t love is that I file all these images away in my mind, create a magnificent holiday collage, and then try to create it.

Lord knows I’ve had lofty goals in the past. In the present, however, I’ve discovered that Norman Rockwell’s WWII nostalgia doesn’t match up with my 2015 reality.


I love cooking a big traditional Thanksgiving meal but because of our hectic November schedules,

We opted for catering this year.

And the world didn’t come to an end.

Thanksgiving was wonderful! Everyone overate and took naps. We cleared the table and washed the china, and life went on as usual.

thanksgiving leftovers
Why doesn’t anyone show these pictures of Thanksgiving?

As we reminisced this year, we mourned for the family members who are gone, but we celebrated the new additions. As I anticipate Thanksgivings to come, I can’t help but wonder how many other things will change. I know I will grieve losses, including the loss of some traditions, so I’m planning my response now:

I refuse to become a stubborn old woman shackled to her traditions.

Yes, I will plan for our gatherings and do everything I can to create a lovely and loving experience for my family. But I will not insist on having the picture perfect Norman Rockwell holiday setting. I will embrace the changes each year brings and I will adapt.

Better than that, I believe I might dance!

This is the day the LORD has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.

~Psalm 118:24

Photo Credit: Stock Images at

Susan Stilwell

Susan Stilwell consults, writes and speaks on a variety of topics. Her clients appreciate her technical expertise and attention to detail on their websites, projects, and social media strategies. Technical "how-tos" are Susan's favorite articles to write. You can find her working as a blog designer and contributing writer at Fistbump Media. Susan also serves as a hospital chaplain associate and is a voracious scripture memorizer. She's a conference speaker and passionate expositor of God’s Word, and active on Twitter, Facebook, and

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One comment

  1. Susan,
    Thank you for this load lifting article. Thanksgiving through Christmas is a Martha season. This year, I’ve resolved to be the one who brings store bought goodies to the various Christmas gatherings. I’d rather spend more time fussing over Christ, family, and friends, than fussing in the kitchen.

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