(Editor’s Note: Meet one of our MomLife Today international contributors, Conny Gramsch. We ask that you would lift up a prayer for Conny, and her family. Read her words below.)

How to survive our children’s Christmas expectations?

“Oh, Ma, I can hardly wait the time of Advent to come. The time of cookies, baking, decoration, candles, music, and cozy family gatherings,” said my 12-year-old daughter yesterday with a very emotional expression.

Within me I cannot find any thrill of anticipation; at least, I don’t feel it! Within me I realize more of a panic, and with some sort of pressure, I think, “How in the world will this again all fit in my overloaded schedule?”

But yet somehow we have every December managed to bake cookies, although not without stress, tears, or fights. We also manage to decorate our house and transform it with a flavor of a special time of the year — four weeks of giving the birth of Jesus and incarnation of God a very special place in our daily routine.

We originally lived in Germany. However, for 18 years already, we have lived in Russia, a country where Christmas many years ago was replaced with the “Yolka,” a new year’s celebration. Instead of Jesus, the center became a green tree (Yolka). At school, at work — just everwhere — life revolves around New Year, Santa Claus, presents, and the magic of fairytales.

In the midst of this and the loudness and craziness of this 12-million city, Moscow, we experience our home as a kind of island and oasis, a special place where we can celebrate special moments of silence and worship. Here we not only cherish our private and individual family traditions, but each member of the family feels that he or she is a very important part of the whole and identifies himself or herself: “Here I belong. This is us. Here I am secure, loved, and acccepted. I am grateful to be a part of this family. It gives me support and hope.”

And probably just because of that, our four girls are so excited about Christmas time. It strengthens their sense of trust and belonging and their self-esteem. Now I realize how worth all the work and sacrifice I have to make with my schedule is. Worth the effort to put in all the preparation and cultivation of Christmas tradition. Worth the effort of baking together, and worth the frustration of cleaning up afterward. Worth the effort of hard practice of Christmas songs.

And it is more than worth it to stop in my hurries and light candles, make punch, put out cookies, sit down together, chat and chill, read a story, and sing some songs.

It is all worth the effort if the result of it is our children’s realization that because of Jesus, my family is special, loving, and caring, and I can be grateful to belong to it!