A simple mantra to make your failed attempts a victory and not a defeat


This was one of those mornings when the beauty of the sunrise, the snowflakes decorating the bare branches in our front yard, and the excitement of a first school delay….none of it seemed quite enough to save us from a mess of ugly words and sharp tones and time outs. None of it seemed to save me from waves of that gut-deep ick of not feeling especially tender or affectionate towards my children. None of it saved me from the sinking shame of not being able to make myself like them as they screamed accusations at me about how I must have moved their boots or forgotten to wash the shirt they put back in the wrong drawer, or how I didn’t pour enough milk, or how it was All My Fault.


God must have sent his angels to my aide because my words caught on my tongue, and there was a spark of grace. In the midst of wanting to make sure everyone knew that I actually was not guilty of the things they accused, a greater truth set in that I am guilty of so much more than not keeping up with laundry. There’s this deeper and more beautiful truth that in our guilt, Jesus took on all of the accusation meant for us, and didn’t fight back. He gets it, and he took it all straight to the cross for us.  Jesus calls me his sister and co-heir, so I don’t have to fight back either.

The flash of grace almost kept me from saying anything snippy…but not quite. And the rest of the story is that Christ covers my present failures, too.

And then…the snow boots and gloves are all located and tightened to an acceptable fit, and these little ones swarm me with hugs and charge out the door to spin with arms spread wide, and tongues held out to catch snow flakes. They yell through the door how they love me and sorry for yelling. And it’s all worth it for ten minutes of magic before school. And I breathe and die to my convenience and comfort and dignity, and realize that this ten minutes is better than nothing.


And most likely all they will remember is the magic.


Is it not such grace that children never seem to remember all the other moments in between the magical ones? They don’t remember the snacks and diapers and potty trips and wrestling in between the magic of seeing animals at the zoo. They don’t remember the waiting and whining in between the moments of magic at Disney World. They don’t remember the bedtime arguments in between the magic of snuggling up to a good book. And they don’t remember the trauma of unmatched boots and gloves, and missing clothing items in between the magic of playing in the snow.

Those in-between moments fade away in light of the moments that are really something.  And this one was.

Would I have preferred to have our stuff together to get out 30 minutes earlier to make it feel more enjoyable and less rushed and more worth it? Absolutely. But their ten minutes of bliss was so much better than nothing.


Better Than Nothing.


So much in this life as a mom of tiny people feels like settling for the real-life, less-than version of what I thought the thing was supposed to look like. When I picture obedient happy children prancing through my tightly controlled plan, the real-life, less-than version always involves far more cost to me and far less ease of enjoyment.

But, I’m trying….Sisters, I am just trying to let “Better than nothing” be ok.

I’m trying to embrace freedom to just do what we can, and accept the limits that God knows about, and that I can’t do anything to change. And truly, every time I take the road of celebrating the moments we get instead of mourning the moments we don’t, this flood of grace follows…


I realize now that I’ve had this constant scale running in my head, weighing the cost and the gain of everything in my day. Is it really worth it to try to get up early to have a quiet time, if I know for almost certain that I will be interrupted? Is it really worth it to go through all the hassle of hats and gloves and coats and shoes and potty breaks and snacks and water bottles and ‘oh, I forgot to feed the baby’ for a little park time? Is the aftermath of never-the-same laundry really worth their joy for splashing in the mud puddles? Is a kitchen covered in flour worth their thrill of their “helping” me make cookies? Is it worth it for me to try to keep a commitment to daily-ish exercise when I’m so dang tired, and can’t seem to ever get more than 20 minutes?

Undoubtedly, yes – with heaps of grace when I can’t – it is worth it. It is worth it to lean in the direction of moments of life-giving joy. I heard this quote from G.K. Chesterton on God Centered Mom (one of my favorite podcasts!)…

“If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.”


Funny as it sounds, I am finding it to be so true. Many of the things in our days that are worth doing, we will never be able to do perfectly, or even well. But our efforts towards life-giving joy are worth it for our sake and for the sake of our children.


So lately, “Better than nothing” has become a bit of a mantra for me.

I finish a 15-minute workout in our basement gym with the sound of baby cries through a monitor, and I say to myself “Well…that was better than nothing.”

I give the floor a quick once-over before running out the door for carpool, and I think “Better than nothing!”

Their daddy and I lead 47 seconds of an intentional conversation with our children at the breakfast table…Better than nothing!

A friend and I each squeeze in a few broken sentences at a park play date, and part ways with a hug and a look that says “Just being together in our mess… it’s so much better than nothing.”

My husband and I grab a quick chat in front of the fireplace between the last child getting to bed and our faces flopping into pillows…As far as a date is concerned, it’s better than nothing.


Some days “Better than nothing” seems to be my anthem. And you know what? On all accounts, it actually is Better. Than. Nothing. A ten-minute workout or an attempt to connect with my husband, or a moment to listen for the voice of God in the quiet of the morning…

these are a victory, not a defeat.


I believe God blesses and multiples these choices we make…not just our success to do them well every time.  I believe God sees the inclination of our heart, and the direction we are leaning, not just how effective we are at changing course.


There was a time, not so long ago, when I wasted sweet moments beating myself up over each and every one of these things. I wondered why I couldn’t get my children to sit still to finish a devotional. Or why I couldn’t get up early enough to have a good workout or quiet time. I was burdened by the steady decline of the cleanliness of my house. I would beat myself for not being a better friend, or wife, or church member. But I’m beginning to realize that the decreasing size of my offering due to the increasing amount of capacity taken by life’s necessities…it actually does not decrease the worth.


My Better Than Nothing is the two copper coins from the poor widow, worth far more than what I brought from my excess of time and energy when I was younger.


My Better Than Nothing is the five loaves and two fish from a little boy with faith to give it away and see what Jesus would do to feed the 5,000.


Without our measly offering, we don’t get to see the miracle.


So, sisters, when we’re tired, and it all seems like too much of a hassle, let’s bring our Better than Nothing to the feet of Jesus and watch him do the miracle of joy, the miracle of peace, the miracle of moments of magic multiplying in the lives of our children.


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How to find your pace, when you’re an Oh-So-Tired Mama


On Saturday mornings, I like to take my two eldest daughters for a short run. Typically, the outing transforms into some sort of game or adventure, as it never occurs to them that the magic of moving their bodies should feel like work. They run hard, with reckless abandon.


And so, I breathe and soak up their joy. I breathe and allow my bent view of exercise to be straightened and redeemed by the light of God in these tiny faces.


Almost without fail, at some point, my four-year-old will ask if I will carry her. This comes without warning, as she never slows down, but simply runs her heart out until she can no longer. And when her legs give way, she innocently and joyfully lifts her arms to me. She collapses into the rest of my arms, as if to recharge in my strength, as if to relearn her identity as my daughter, as if to reclaim the security of not being alone.


Then back to a sprint. There is no fear of tiring, because she has the assurance that I will not. Her hope is in my presence.


Though I attempt to explain that finding a steady pace will help my girls to run farther, they prefer their way. After all, their reckless abandon is what makes their youth so beautiful, so free. And for these sweet minutes, my spirit rejoices to join them in their freedom.


But I also know the truth that, perhaps unlike a small child, I need to bring a different wisdom and regulation to my running…knowing that my own legs will need to carry me home. And to some extent the same seems true in life, as we grow up and responsibilities pile…


Something in my spirit wrestles with wanting to run each day with reckless abandon, but knowing that I cannot exhaust myself, that I will need to keep going, that my children could wake in the night, that the alarm clock will buzz in the morning, that the work of the day will be repeated, that I will need rejuvenation to be a gracious mama. Truths about how God never tires, and can renew our strength beat against truths that Jesus himself drew away to be alone with the Father, and that God grants rest to those He loves. I find myself unsure about whether I should be forcing more rest into my days, or pushing harder to collapse at the end of every day, having given it all.


He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” – Isaiah 40:11


When I first read this verse, I saw myself in the lamb, and the thought of being carried close to the heart of God was salve to my soul. Since becoming a mama, this verse has changed for me, and I have been washed in the pleasantness of God’s gentle heart towards mamas.


But today, an interesting distinction jumps from the page and impresses on my heart. Those who have young, the mamas, are no longer carried, but led… The Shepherd leads, and we follow with our little lambs in our care.


And so, I wonder if wisdom would lead us to a change the way we run our race in such a season.


One thing I know we mamas have in common is that we are so unavoidably tired. The constant demands on a parent are unrelenting. And yet, the more I examine my days, the more I see how very many opportunities there are for me to choose the pace I’m running. I choose whether or not to mop the floor, to answer the phone, to say “yes” to host the thing, or join the committee. I choose whether to scramble or to let the toys remain in disarray when leaving the house in the morning. I choose to make the sauce from scratch, or find a jar with decent ingredients. I choose to promise homemade cupcakes for the preschool class. I choose to set the pace on responding to texts and emails. The work is never done, and so each time I stop to read a book with my child, or build the Legos, or sit still while a couple children nap, is simply a choice. Though there is much out of my control, I am responsible for the pace I run.


There is much to make us tired, but I believe we find hope, and the strength to keep taking the next step when we choose to keep pace with the Shepherd – to be led in his grace and wisdom. Perhaps the goal is no longer to live in a carefree sprint until we wear out and need to be carried. Perhaps the goal is simply to keep pace with the Shepherd. We look for where He’s moving, and allow ourselves to be interrupted. And our confidence, our hope, as we run, must be in His infinite wisdom and absolute goodness.


If God leads at a pace that feels too fast, we must hope in his provision of strength in the midst, and of rest in the miles ahead. If He leads us at a pace that feels too slow, we must trust that the slow miles are a gift to recover and prepare for the hills ahead that we cannot see.


In these days with tiny ones, I am keenly aware of the Biblical charge to run our race to win (1 Cor 9:24). I often wonder if that’s what I’m doing when I feel completely emptied out at the end of the day, as if life is made up of a few tens of thousands of sprints. But it doesn’t feel so.


My children can sprint in reckless abandon, if they choose. And they go straight from running, spinning, wrestling craziness to snoring in about 8 seconds. By grace, their bodies and souls recover quickly, and by grace, they have their parents to help when their joyful unrestraint leaves them exhausted.


But for me, running a day at sprinting pace sometimes feels in vain. It feels like I have something to prove. It feels like I get ahead of the Shepherd and look around and wonder where He is. I am beginning to find freedom in running my days more like a small part of a long, long race.


I sometimes flip-flop between sprinting and feeling like I deserve to be carried. I feel a pressure that if wear out, than everything will crumble. So I react with a creeping sense of entitlement that says…. I deserve a break, deserve another coffee, deserve a night out, deserve a Netflix binge, deserve for my children to leave me alone while I finish my quiet time.


Hope is not found in grasping for these things to numb us or treat us or make up for a lack. Hope is not found in running every day at a sprint pace. I believe hope is found in keeping pace with the Shepherd. I try to create quiet moments to listen to His voice. I make space for gratitude in the real life moments. I look for the things that make my spirit come alive, even if they are not on my To Do list. I look for opportunities to connect with my children, and sometimes choose to walk away from unfinished work. I try to give myself permission to take two hours to fold the laundry with my preschoolers, instead of trying to get them to leave me alone so I can do it in twenty minutes.


And I try to remember to choose rest…


Not as a reaction to exhaustion because I sprinted too hard, but as an intentional part of keeping pace with the Shepherd. I can take the “flat road” to grab a quick nap, a babysitter, 10 extra minutes before my children rise in the morning – as a crucial part of the race. Settling my pace to recover and prepare for the hills ahead is not giving up or failing; it’s a part of the plan.


In physical races that I have run, I have often regretted not collapsing across the finish line, having given it all. I’ve never had the faith in my body and strength to persevere at top speed. I have always been afraid of burning out before the finish line. So I reserve and reserve and reserve.


Those who win…they leave everything on the course. That is how I want to finish my life on earth.


But in the race of our lives, running hard after God, we ought not to collapse across the finish line at the end of each day. We can trust our “pacer,” our Shepherd, to lead us through hard miles, and easy ones, fast minutes, hours, days, years…and slow ones.


As we keep pace with God, our Shepherd, we can trust that he will lead us well, given all our human and earthly limitations. And as we keep pace with Him, he will lead us to collapse across the finish line at the end of our earthly lives, to be greeted with “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”


Rest was God’s idea, as were our fleshy bodies and the cycle of night and day. It was God’s idea that we could not maintain a sprinting pace for all of our days. It was God’s idea that we would have to keep our eyes fixed on Him to know our pace, despite days when fog settles in around us and clouds our vision. It was God’s idea that we would be drawn into deep intimacy with him, and dependence on him, in days with young children.


To run my best race, I must let the wind carry me when it is at my back. I must let a slight downhill in the course – the easier days – gently elevate my pace. The significant declines, when things feel swift and easy, I might be inclined towards self-sufficiency. But these require caution, remembering my frailty and my need for God’s leadership. And when I reach a hill to climb – the hard times – I must tune in, fix my gaze, shorten and quicken my steps, and run with exceptional hope that I will come up and over in the strength of my God.


We mamas must resist the pressure to sprint.


Perhaps when I was young, I could stay up all night, or book my schedule every night, or say “yes” to all the things. When I overdid it, I would be scooped up, carried close to God’s chest (i.e. and sleep until noon on a Saturday). But now, I must keep pace, on my own feet, as God gently leads me with my little flock.


When He quickens his pace, we can as well, in faith. Our Shepherd knows our needs, our strength and limitations. We need not fear that we will become exhausted. Our God can breathe new breath into our lungs, and soften our pounding hearts. He can lift us up to our feet when we fall, and his touch infuses us with new strength. But we are not carried as we once were…we are gently led.

We run hard in response to the love of the One who gave it all for us. But sometimes the seasons shift and, when winter comes, we are running our race with some bruises and stress fractures. Children are a tremendous blessing, and a constant source of laughter and profound joy. But sometimes days with little ones can grow dark and wintry. While we once ran with the winds at our back, making us feel like our feet had wings, we now must tuck our chin and run straight into the wind, face stung by the blustery air.

And in this state, the goal is not record-breaking pace. The goal is to Just. Keep. Going. When we are weary, we just keep making the choice to take the next step…and the next…and the next. We squint to look through the wind and fog to our Shepherd, always just ahead.


If we find we have run ahead of our Shepherd, we must slow our pace and fall behind His leadership. If we find we can’t make our feet to move, we must invite His healing touch to restore us.

Joy comes in staying the course. Joy comes in running in step with the Shepherd. And when we run in step with the Shepherd, we can know confidently that we are set to win.



Biblical references: Isaiah 40: 28-31, Luke 5: 16, Psalm 127: 2, 1 Corinthians 9: 24


How to move your “heart mountains” when unbelief has you stuck


Friends, this motherhood thing…it stretches every part of you. Your very skin stretches over this tiny person growing from within. Your heart stretches to the new heights of love. Your strength stretches when you have to smile through deep pain or worry. Your mind stretches to hold all the things at once, because every mama knows that your people never really leave your mind, you just stretch to fit them all. You stretch with wider boundaries and new trust as your child grows.  And your faith…

Mamas, this thing requires the stretchiest kind of faith.

That’s the stretching I never knew to expect. It’s the kind that breaks chains and let’s me run free through these days that press in on me from every side. This stretching of my faith is what is making me nimble…my soul bending with the winds but never breaking, my spirit twisting with the million things but never left in a knot. I feel the heat turning ever hotter in motherhood, but my faith is stretching as armor over the whole of me.  On the good days, anyway…er, the good hours…er, minutes…

On the other days, those in-your-face hard days, I usually find that this one thing keeps me stuck. The thing that makes me believe it’s all on my shoulders. There is this thing that makes me feel like God chose wrong when He made me their mama.  This thing convinces me that if I don’t do it ALL right, my children are doomed.  This thing ties me up in knots about all the decisions – how far to let them explore, how many cookies, which babysitters, whether they need more time with me, need a bottle, need a diaper change, need a doctor, need a counselor, need a vacation, need a tutor, need a nap.

This thing: Unbelief.

As I reflect back on my years being a mama, there have been seasons when I feel like my boots are stuck in the mud. My steps are labored, and no matter how hard I work, at the end of the day, I’m still in the mud puddle. You know the days when you wake up determined to do it differently, but it just feels like the same old battles, the same old things that push your buttons, the same cycles of spewing ugly words or facial expressions at your children when you hit the same old wall you hit yesterday.


A couple years ago, I found myself in one of these stuck places.   I woke up in a cycle of criticizing and lecturing and nagging my eldest daughter.  It’s not that I was criticizing her character or person, but a growing number of my words were corrections…about chewing with her mouth closed and being nicer to her siblings and remembering her homework and wearing clothes that match and acting her age and cleaning up after herself and sitting up straight and holding still while I brush her hair and paying attention when I speak to her and using her table manners and setting a good example for her siblings and doing what she’s supposed to without being asked, and being the BIG KID that I expected her to be.

Meanwhile, I could have burst with pride over her.  I knew how amazing she was – what a blessing she was. I was just so dang stuck in the pattern.

My heart wrenched at the thought that I was overly critical of her – of that ugly spirit shaping our relationship. So every time the words came out, I would beat myself up. The thoughts would roll over and over in my head. I’m too hard on her. What’s wrong with me? And when did this small person stop being allowed to be a child? Where’s the grace for this one? And when did she gain a responsibility for helping me raise my other children and setting our family culture? The more siblings we give her, the faster I expect her to grow up.  She’s going to hate me.  And her story will be one of “I was never good enough for my mom.” And it’s all over.

Then I would remember that she was 6 years old, and Lord-willing, we had some time to work it out.

And then a week would go by without breaking the cycle, and the thoughts would storm, and perpetuate the cycle.

I’d love to tell you that I figured out a way to stop my buttons from being pushed. I’d love to tell you I have a system for changing the feelings that creep up on me, and make me feel the crazies about to spew out of me. I didn’t. But I did uncover a great mystery about where all of this criticism and anxiety was rooted.


That’s right…Unbelief.


Underneath my desperate need to control my daughter was the fear that I was going to fail as a mom by not holding her accountable.  Or a fear that she would be teased at school like I was.  Or that she wouldn’t turn out right. Or that if even my oldest wasn’t “under control,” then my house would spin out of control. And though I needed practical things like learning how to breathe in the moments, the real solution was to let my faith stretch to allow my home to be shared by an independent, unpredictable, mysterious human being – ever changing and never what I plan or expect.

Because it all comes down to this…

If God is who he says he is, I can handle some unpredictability and lack of control since all the days ordained for us were written in his book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139).

If God is who he says he is, we ought to be anxious for nothing (Philippians 4), but bring everything to his feet.

If God is who he says he is, the pressure is off, because He is writing the stories of my children, and he chose me to be their mama.

If He is who he says he is, I didn’t do anything to earn my place in His family, and my children won’t have to either (Ephesians 1).

If God is who He says he is, he made you and me, and called us very good (Genesis 1). He planted us here on earth simply to show the world how awesome He is (Isaiah 61). And when Jesus went to the cross, He said “It is finished,” so all the work I think is so critical, just isn’t (John 19).

If I believe that God is who He says He is, then the earth will keep spinning when I stop scrambling and striving, and there IS time for the one thing that is needed, for sitting at the feet of Jesus. And it will not be taken away from me (Luke 10).


The road of letting my eldest daughter be her mysteriously unique self was the far more terrifying than trying to mold her into who I wanted her to be. It was a frightening step of faith – but even from the start, I knew it was also far more joy-filled. Rather than bringing a spirit of “here’s what I need you to be,” I can bring a spirit of “tell me about wonderful you!” I can bring a spirit of joyful exploration and discovery of God’s creativity on her. I can believe that God sees us, and has good plans for us, and will cover us in our mess.

And the strange, beautiful thing is: when I believe God’s goodness over us, the shame and fear dissipate, and the critical spirit goes right along with it.

As I allowed my faith to stretch, my spirit burned with the hope of no longer seeking to mold my daughter into my comfortable liking, and rather starting the scary, exciting journey of figuring out how to love her, with her unique spirit and character.  I didn’t have to be afraid of volatility or unpredictability in my children.  If I could, in faith, remain unshaken as they bounced and stumbled and slopped through these years, our home maintained peace. In faith, I could be, by God’s grace, a boundary line for them and for our home, rather than another pinball. They had a culture to join, rather than a mess to try to sort through, or a moving target to try to hit. I believe we hold this boundary line not by doing it all right, but simply by believing God is who he says he is. We find stability by falling into the arms of God, and letting him hold us.

We move mountains of anger by believing that our children’s behavior and performance does not determine our worth.  We can believe that we are offered grace, so that we have grace to offer to our children.

We move mountains of guilt and shame by believing that God knew we would fail, and Jesus finished the work on the cross.

We move mountains of fear by believing that God holds the future. He’s not blind to all of the things that threaten our children and families. He sees. He knows. He is not afraid.

We move mountains of too-much-ness by believing that God is bigger than our pile of laundry, our ‘to do’ list, our fatigue – by believing that he made us limited beings, on purpose.

Sister, when we feel stuck, let’s work the muscles of our spirits into that deep stretch of faith. We can sit in the discomfort of believing what we cannot see. We can develop an elasticity that allows us to move and flex with the wacky, unpredictability of these days with littles because God is stable, faithful, unchanging.  We can choose to believe God is who he says he is.


And the mountains of our hearts are thrown into the sea…

How to love the Messy and Crazy that crushed your Christmas dreams


This one comes with the sounds of tearing paper and children’s delighted squeals still ringing in my ears. This one comes with sweet flavors of Christmas treats still lingering on my tongue. This one comes with bits of paper and ribbon still on the floor.

This one comes with a heart full of family and laughter and the joy of giving and receiving. This one comes with Christmas carols still hummed under my breath. And children in new clothes. And new treasured toys resting in their new spaces in our home. This one comes with heart still pumping the magic of Christmas through my veins.

This one comes with Christmas lights still twinkling in the corner of my eye, and sparks of anxiety and too-much-ness of the season still trying to make a mess of me. We made it through Christmas day. We made sweet memories and everyone had something to open, and our bodies and home survived the chaos.

But the photos that tell a story of how we lived the idyllic front of a Christmas card – they don’t tell the whole story…

Because Christmas in real life means your Advent devotional comes with potty breaks and baby’s cries.

Christmas in real life means your two-year-old thinks that baby Jesus is just “really cute” and that must be why we can’t stop talking about him.

Christmas in real life means that you spend the morning preparing for the perfect Christmas-y outing only to realize that you drove away from the house with that perfectly packed bag sitting on the counter.

Christmas in real life means that any attempts to simplify or buy less leave us feeling like the salmon swimming upstream, getting bloodied with all the “What is Santa bringing YOU?” and “What’s on your Christmas list?” and “What do you WANT for Christmas?”

And Christmas in real life means wrestling with wanting all the magic for your children but wondering when Christmas became all about ME and all the stuff I want?  Wondering how to teach them to be grateful…to be givers.

Christmas in real life means that all the magic comes alongside head and heart swirling with friends grieving lost ones and a divided nation and Syrian mamas just like me, desperate to cover their precious ones under their wings.

Christmas in real life means that the good news of Christ’s coming hasn’t quite reached the spaces in your soul where there is pain and loss, loneliness, heartbreak, or broken dreams.

This one comes with a heaviness that even the magic of Christmas is hard to embrace as the world spins another day with all it’s heaviness and weariness.  And I sometimes find myself envying the innocence of my children, and the purity of their joy and delight.

This one comes with waves of sinking condemnation wondering if my children missed the point – if we did it all wrong. If we gave too many gifts, or the wrong ones. If we did enough to help the poor. If we spent too much money. If we did too much Santa. If they saw too much of my stress and not enough of my presence through the season of Advent. If they would have been happier just to have me, and not so much of the cookies and the crafts and the gifts and the decorations and the perfect photos.

Christmas in real life means you sometimes question the things you’re teaching your children, about how Jesus came to bring peace and freedom, light and love, grace and truth. And most of the gift of teaching them is in allowing them to teach it back to you.

And the lie of the camera and trying to live out the idyllic, tidied-up front of the Christmas card is not so much that it is too good, it’s that it’s not good enough. That picturesque scene doesn’t reach down to the broken parts of my soul – truthfully, it either makes me feel like a failure or makes me feel like a fraud. The perfect Christmas doesn’t capture the story of our real God who cares about our real lives and came down into the mess to shine light into our darkness and speak life into our dead places.

Jesus didn’t come to speak into the picturesque Christmas. The truth of the nativity is that it was dirty and smelly and uncomfortable. And I think the truth of God’s Christmas story is that that’s the point. He gets it. He sees us. He’s not fooled by our perfect Instagram post. He knows that our hearts need more answers than how many “likes” we get. He knows that being loved for our tidied up best doesn’t heal our wounds of rejection, and questions of our worth.

We need to be known in our mess and loved in our mess to know love at all.

And our God knows that our deepest desire is not for a perfect Christmas tree, but for a perfect Savior…who died messy on a tree so that we could live.  He knows that our heart’s cry is not for a perfect family photo, but for a perfect love that covers over all of our ugliness.

Jesus didn’t come to be born in a stable so that the nativity scene would make the perfect Christmas card, he came small and messy to be the answer to our real, messy, smelly and sometimes tragic lives.

On my real life Christmas morning, there were moments of pure joy and delight. And moments when someone peed on the floor.

On my real life Christmas morning, children squealed and ran to give hugs of gratitude upon opening a gift. And children fought and cried over liking each other’s gifts better than their own.

On my real life Christmas morning, we all got dressed in our best red and green. And the baby spit up all over my first two outfits.

On my real life Christmas morning, the big kids enjoyed a lip-smacking batch of French toast while the toddler got ahold of a pack of gum, from which she ate several pieces with the wrapper on, choked, and threw up all over my purse and a pile of clean laundry. You won’t see that one on a Christmas card…

I could so easily let the messy moments disappoint me or take away from what Christmas is “supposed to be.”  Or I can let the messy moments shift my focus to see that Christmas was never supposed to just be pretty.

Don’t get me wrong…I love the beauty of white lights lining a home, or the gold and red ornaments on a tree.  I love the elegance of a poinsettia, and the way a Christmas carol warms my soul.  These are sweet gifts of beauty that symbolize the true and deep beauty of the season.  But the truth is our lives don’t tidy up for a perfect Christmas Day.  We still get stomach aches, and we grieve lost loved ones, and we change diapers, and kids throw tantrums.  And the real beauty of Christmas is that is the world that Jesus chose to enter into with us.

The sweetness of the messy moments is that God spoke straight to them by leaving his throne to sleep in a manger surrounded by smelly animals.

The magic of Christmas is not that it’s pretty, but that it lets us be ugly. It’s not that it’s tidy, but that it lets us be messy. The magic is that God took on flesh and chose to live our real life alongside of us to become our perfect rescuer, who knows and understands our weakness and our struggle and our mess.  This is the true magic of Christmas.

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4: 16)