We came home from Haiti last week, wrecked.
While we were gone, our country had been strung in blinking lights and decked with signs screaming "50 percent off!" Our feet were still dirty, covered in the dust of third-world Haiti. And all the consumerism choked us for days.
We vowed to do Christmas differently. Like you, I wanted a manger Christmas, not Big Box Christmas. Like you, I didn’t want more tinsel.
I wanted more Jesus.
We have been wrestling with how to make that happen in our home, and we've made some changes here this year, just as we've done in years past.
But this week, I felt a sense of guilt fall upon me. I felt it deep: I was certain that I wasn't doing enough. But then, I remembered the truth about guilt: Guilt is never from God, but from the enemy alone.
Friend, you might be looking around today, thinking that you're doing it all wrong ... that if you were a "better" Christian, you'd do Christmas better. Know this right now--
Guilt is the weapon of the enemy, who wants to sabotage your manger Christmas, by stealing your manger joy.
You're doing it, friend! You're doing Christmas right. You, right there -- decorating sugar cookies for your daughter's third-grade Christmas party. You, wrapping a present that you know will make sparks fly Christmas morning. You, putting together "blessing baskets" for your neighbors. You, setting the manger scene -- just so -- on the mantle. You, lighting candles, and whispering prayers, and humming carols as the moon rises over your roof.
Don't let Satan rob your joy by scissoring through your Christmas with the sharp edges of guilt.
I'm sharing a fun story today from Christmas 2010, when I tried hard to make the best Christmas ever, only to turn around to find that it was happening on its own ... in the smallest, most beautiful ways.
My #TellHisStory ...
Season of Good Intentions
It always starts this way.
This was my thought as I lay flat on my back in two feet of snow. I was caked in white, 100 yards from the house. I heard my girls yelling across the field: “Mommy, are you all right?”
I was stuck.
Yes. It always starts this way—with good intentions.
I wiped the hair out of my eyes with a snow-covered glove, and let all my breath out in one huge sigh, fogging up my glasses.
I was so, so stuck. And now I couldn’t see.
I had come out here on a mission: to make Christmas more meaningful. I wanted to uncover, as they say, the “Reason for the Season.”
My mission involved crossing farm fields so I could retrieve cornstalks from our bales. I’d read online how a mom could promote kindness in her home with a project involving hay. When her children committed acts of kindness through Advent, they could take a piece of hay and put it inside the Nativity scene. On Christmas Day, Jesus’ manger would be lined with kindness.
I loved the idea.
I had visions of me gliding gracefully across bucolic farm fields, like Dorothy Hamill on skates. I forgot that I was a farmer’s wife in heavy snow boots.
The girls, giggling hysterically by then, came to my aid.
This took approximately forever.
Their slow rescue gave me plenty of time to remember how I’d found myself there in the first place. It started around Thanksgiving, when we began decorating. I made hot cocoa, popped in my Osmond Family Christmas CD and flipped the fireplace switch on the wall. Thwock! Instant flames.
But in our home, the season doesn’t really begin until I make my annual proclamation, ensuring thatthis Christmas will capture the true meaning of the holiday.
It’s been that way as long as I can remember.
Before a single stocking was hung, I prayed that God would help me focus. I read how other moms celebrated. I bought an Advent wreath. I hid the two-inch resin Jesus, because I read somewhere that He shouldn’t appear until Christmas Day. I told the girls about our big plans.
They stood gape-mouthed.
"Isn’t this what you said last year?” the youngest asked.
I watched as the color drained from my oldest girl’s cheeks. “Does this mean we won’t be getting presents?”
I reassured the girls they’d still get presents, but that we’d redouble our efforts to focus on Christ.
A few days later, I accidentally flushed my MasterCard down the toilet. I wondered: Is this God’s strange way of answering prayer?
And then, of course, I found myself in the spot you see me now—bespectacled and sprawled in snow.
The girls—a few dozen pounds each—tugged and tugged. They were no help. I rolled across the snowbank until I found firm ground.
And now, here I am, three days before Christmas, reflecting on all that has transpired. I look back and wonder: Did I find the true meaning of Christmas?
I wasn’t exactly sure, until the other night, when one of the girls tugged my sleeve before bedtime.
“Mommy?” she said. “I think you should put some hay in the manger.”
“Because of the cookies?” I asked, pleased that she’d noticed my "kindness."
“No Mommy,” she said. “Because you love us, and you help us know about Jesus.”
I tucked her into bed, turned out the lights, and put a piece of cornstalk in the manger scene. It felt right this time.
But before I went to bed, I made two more vows:
To never play outside during a blizzard, and to keep my credit card in my purse instead of my back pocket.
So, what's your Story? A #TellHisStory is any story that connects your story into the story of God.
You're invited to tell that story right here, in community with us.
Share your narratives, your poems, your Instagrams tagged with #TellHisStory, ... your beautiful hearts. You are the chroniclers, the people who help others make sense of the world with your words and your art.
Story is how we know that, no matter what happens, we can get back up again.
Visit someone (or two) in the link-up to encourage with a comment. Then, Tweet about your posts, and the posts you visit, with the #TellHisStory hashtag. Come back on Friday to visit our Featured #TellHisStory, in the sidebar.
A final note: This is a safe place to tell your stories. You don’t have to be a professional writer or a grammarian to join us. Story is built into every single one of us. Your story matters, because it’s part of God’s story down through history, not because you punctuated everything correctly. Deal?
For more details on the #TellHisStory linkup, click here.
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