It happens every December. I make plans and my heart swells with all things Christmas and I think about how lovely life will be.
And then we go off the rails.
It started Sunday evening, a time that was supposed to be a festive family affair of getting the Christmas tree and lighting it up and reminiscing about our favorite ornaments and drinking homemade hot chocolate by the fire.
Instead, only half of the lights decided to glow and the kids fought too much to even finish the tree and I accidentally slung a mug of cold coffee across the kitchen, a casualty of speed-loading the dishwasher. While Andy Williams crooned "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" in the background, I wiped coffee from every imaginable surface and the kids cried because the tree wasn't done and they never got their hot chocolate.
I cried too.
The youngest hates our Advent devotional time and is bent on making his mother lose her religion while we all learn to celebrate Jesus. This kid has single-handedly sabotaged every single day of our Jesse Tree reading and brought the older kids, who should know better, down with him in the process.
Last night I was in tears before we could even begin. I shut the book, walked away from the table, and commenced to cleaning the kitchen. But while I was about the business of wallowing in the annual failure of our personal Advent efforts, my husband spoke to each kid and brought them all back in to apologize.
And then he said, I want you to read. This is why we need it.
This sweet family of mine can be accused of many things but we will never be accused of having our act together. We're a mess. All the time.
Tomorrow evening we're having a Christmas party for our small group. Getting our small and unruly house pretty-ish and ready for grown-ups is no small task and for the second day this week, I am struck with a mysterious bout of extreme dizziness that has me totally in bed and unable to walk without crashing into the walls and knocking down the tree.
It will take a Christmas miracle and possibly a maid to pull things together.
But I'm old enough to realize that stuff like this happens every year as our glittery, nostalgia-laden, perfection-driven expectations are pummeled by real life.
The silver lining here is that interruption and imperfection and inability have a way of taking me down to the bare bones questions.
What's most important?
What am I striving for?
How can I be grateful even though the room is spinning today and my house is still in chaos and I'm having a party tomorrow and my head won't stop hurting?
If all my plans and expectations are dashed for one reason or another, what still remains?
The answers to those questions reveal the state of my heart, a heart too often buried under layers of superficial loveliness that start out fine and good but snowball into something big and ugly.
Trees and traditions, family and friends, presents and parties--they are good gifts from God. There is no guilt in enjoying them well. As my dear friend Cheryl says, Christians should throw the best parties. We have the most to celebrate!
She is so right.
But I have a way of turning these good gifts into ultimate gifts. Good desires into over-desires. I think we all do.
Here's the difficult, beautiful truth. Disappointment brings me to acceptance. Acceptance brings me to humility. Humility brings me to Jesus. And Jesus shows me that I can't save myself or save my crazy days or save my Christmas.
I'm dependent on Him alone. For everything.
Inability becomes a gift that points me to the ultimate Giver.
At this moment, I'm unable to string garland or make my kids love Advent. I'm unable to get anything together really.
But inability and imperfection invite me to look to my Savior, to receive his love and grace and sovereign plans.
And that is a rather needful place to be.
From The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas by Ann Voskamp:
And Jesus claims exactly these who are wandering and wondering and wounded and worn out as His. He grafts you into His line and His story and His heart, and He gives you His name, His lineage, His righteousness. He graces you with plain grace.
Is there a greater Gift you could want or need or have?
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