The table was set. The tree was lit. Dinner was ready.
Twenty of us gathered in our Christmas best at my brother’s house. We drove four hours with three small kids to celebrate with our family of twenty: grandma, grandpa, uncles aunts and cousins. Nat King Cole hummed as we sat around the table laughing and telling stories. We felt like a real-life Norman Rockwell painting.
For about thirty minutes.
My three-year-old son seemed uncharacteristically sleepy as I held him on my lap at the dinner table. Laughter and conversation drowned out my concerns until he suddenly projectiled his stomach’s contents. All over the table, other people’s food, the floor. The festivities came to a screeching halt. I speed-cleaned while apologizing through tears. My husband and I hurriedly packed up our things and burnt rubber, commencing the drive towards home.
Within an hour, another kid went down. I was leaned over from the front seat to the back, catching sickness in gallon Ziplocks.
Forty minutes later, the plague hit me. We were pulled over at a sketchy gas station parking lot where I felt and looked like a carsick deer in headlights.
Every family has a Christmas plague story. Did you even parent small children if you don’t have a Christmas sickness story?
How many times did a holiday turn out to be the opposite of the perfect one you had planned? I know this isn’t unique to me. And you can take comfort in knowing it isn’t unique to you. We plan and prepare and then—BOOM! Reality punches us in the face something altogether different.
I’m thinking of one mom in particular whose vision for Christmas day was probably nothing like her reality. Remember Mary? Can you imagine traveling on a donkey while nine months pregnant, sleeping in a barn and then delivering a child—sans epidural, birthing tub, or even medicine ball? I would guess that when Mary envisioned her ideal delivery, bleating farm animals were not included. But God had a different plan.
He chose to enter the scene this way: smack dab in the muck, mess, and noise. The humblest of beginnings. Not the kind of Christmas I would plan. And yet, it was best. Because God takes the messiest, strangest set of circumstances and He uses them for good. He redeems even the junkiest of scenarios, even pukey Christmases.
This season, like every year, you will shop and wrap and stress and meal prep, hustling to make Christmas wonderful and perfect. Because you are a good mom. But when reality falls short of your “perfect plan,” take a moment to breathe. Remember: the God of the universe came down to earth not in the pomp and circumstance of a regal palace and a birthing room fit for a king. He chose to make His entrance amidst the mess and mire. Just as He is with you today, right now in your own mess and stress.
Immanuel – God WITH us.
In the last minute guests and exhaustion, He’s with you. In your fears about not buying enough for your kids, He’s with you. In the relational drama with your mother-in law, He’s with you. While your kid clogs the toilet at Grandma’s retirement home, He’s with you. And His plan is always better than our visions of yuletide grandeur.
So we can exhale, mamas. Believing Him and following Him is always an adventure. And His way is always, always, always best. We can trust Him this holiday season, as we let go of our own ideals of a “perfect Christmas,” and instead embrace the real life He has for us, that He has with us. Turn to Him in the mess. He loves you, and He is making something beautiful out of even the worst, hardest and yuckiest parts.
Kayse is a wife, mom, and founder of the Anchored Women community. She writes to help women fight busy, find rest, and build a life that’s anchored in Christ. Kayse is also the creator of the S.O.S. Planner, the Anchored Life Kit, and other practical resources that equip women to manage their homes and families in confidence. You can find her writing and her resources at anchored-women.com!