IMG_2170I blinked and suddenly I’m wearing fuzzy boots with my fingers wrapped around a warm mug of steaming apple cider, the spicy scent of cinnamon and cloves filling my home. I know the holidays are near because Germantown Parkway has suddenly become a parking lot and our Netflix queue is filled with Polar Express and Mickey’s Christmas Carol. Every year around this time I make new resolutions, resolving to give love instead of desperate gifts from the end caps at Target, determined to remember the needy in my own community and around the world instead of filling toy baskets with more pink plastic, intent on celebrating that holy night when a brilliant star pierced the velvety sky illuminating a tattered stable, the night Love was born and Hope entered the world.

But while I start out with the best of intentions, my people-pleasing tendencies catch up with me, and I want to be everywhere and do everything. A couple years ago my favorite author, Shauna Niequist, wrote about this time of year inviting us to choose present over perfect. Those words reverberate in my soul throughout the year, but never more so than this time of year. Present over perfect.

I just got Ann Voskamp’s new book The Greatest Gift, unwrapping the full love story of Christmas. On the back cover, Ann writes, “I don’t want a Christmas you can buy. I don’t want a Christmas you can make. What I want is a Christmas you can hold. A Christmas that holds me, remakes me, revives me. I want a Christmas that whispers, Jesus.” Yes, yes, yes. The book walks you through the Advent tradition of the Jesse tree. Ann’s son Caleb carves these exquisite oak advent wreaths, and last year we used some of the girls’ Christmas money to purchase one. My heart is warmed just anticipating the memories we will make circled around our little kitchen table our faces aglow with the countdown of candles. I know in reality someone will probably burn a finger or singe an eyebrow or something else fun like that, but nevertheless we will gather together to remember how God used an imperfect lineage to show a world His perfect love.

I’ll never forget the Christmas after Lydia was born, my first Christmas as a mom. On a frigid night in December I held this child I’d longed for, ached for, waited for. I cradled her in my arms while staring at our nativity. Salty tears fell down my cheeks, and I was overcome with this gift unfathomable. My heart now knew what it meant to love a child, so great a love that I would give my own life to save hers. Most of the time when I look at a nativity, I want to see how the artist represented the Baby, but this time I could only see Mary. I imagined myriad of emotions she must have felt as she waited and wondered and watched her womb swell with her Son and her Savior.

I want to abide in the wait, to treasure, to ponder. I don’t want to be so busy with cookie swaps and Christmas parties that I miss out on these moments, these times to reflect and remember, to celebrate and stand in awe of that Holy Night. The night pain and darkness were shattered. The night Love was born.