It’s Christmas Day, and my extended family is cozied up in a lodge nestled in the rolling hills of Ohio, spending time together before my youngest brother’s wedding to his long-loved girl.
I’ve just had a fifth cup of hot tea, coffee, or chai for the day, and am settled at the table writing while my sisters paint—because water colors drive me crazy while weaving words delights me to the core.
Dad and I just had a chat on the couch. He’s sixty years old, and life has traveled at a breathtaking pace while he’s done his best with it all. I look at the faces of each family member as we play ice-breaker.
The game is fun and has us rolling in laughter. I get to choose the questions, and I pose personal ones to that brother in law who is quiet and composed. We shake with laughter when he smirks an uncomfortable grin before he answers.
I also pose more thoughtful, difficult questions. “What was the hardest day of your life, and why?” I read the question aloud to my father.
Even as I asked, I knew what he’d say.
“The day Peter died,” he said.
Ah, yes. Of course. That day was a living nightmare, and it didn’t stop for awhile, not until his body finally appeared on the water’s surface three days later.
It didn’t even stop then. His refrigerator still had his butter dish to be emptied, his phone still rang, and we were just flat out heart broken.
This Christmas, we’re smiling again. Life has been unexpectedly difficult in some aspects, but here we are on Christmas Day, deeply in love with Bethlehem’s Babe in the God-form of Jesus Christ.
Because when we pause enough to rest on the Father’s chest, we get to feel the rise and fall of His heart. His heart.
Our own hearts may tell us otherwise, that God doesn’t see and doesn’t love and doesn’t care—and we won’t be okay because some aspects of life aren’t okay, and we don’t know how to fix them.
My sister leans in as she tells me how raising teens takes every ounce of her energy and she’s just a little drained. The other sister’s heart is in Greece with her loved refugee women, the ones she’s keeping safe from sex traffickers.
I got to voice chat with the girl who was taken into prostitution at an early age. She’s smiling, and safe. No matter that life robbed her of goodness—she’s fallen in love with the Ultimate Gift, and she’s smiling.
She’s smiling more than some women I know who have it all, but aren’t grateful and alive with purpose. Because some of us hide behind dishes and laundry while we allow our minds to be dull and void of vision—all in the name of Godly womanhood.
And sometimes, we refuse to rest until we’re stripped bare and forced to reach inward to the Spirit of Christ and the strength He offers. We know true rest when we cease trying on our own.
More than circumstantial change, we get to be changed by a loving God.
We get to hear God’s whisper more than the roar of our circumstance. And the gift of Christmas is that we don’t have to do things we can’t do. We get to rest, to end the struggle, to simply do what He prompts us to do and leave the load for Him to carry.
Even if the load is raising kids and we fear making mistakes. Even that load, we get to cast aside while we choose peace.
We let go of our idea of perfection in order to be perfected in love. When we do so, Perfect Love begins to shape our lives, our mothering, and all we do.
We get to shatter our past and burn our reasons not to live fully in grace, today.
We don’t have to—we get to. When our flesh isn’t coddled temporarily, we still get to be embraced eternally.
I’m tucking my boy into bed, wishing just a tad that all of life, for everyone, could be as warm, safe, and cozy as this lodge on Christmas Day. But we can’t avoid the duties of life. And when we can’t keep life out, we get to bring Love into that life.
Bethlehem’s Babe is the Ultimate Gift, and He will go with us, everywhere, while we follow Him, anywhere.