It’s Christmas Eve and not feeling quite like Christmas.
There’s no snow and it’s a crazy 63 degrees at 9:30 am. There’s something wrong with this picture of December in Upstate New York.
It’s been a different kind of Christmas season this year. Friends that are usually with us are not and traditions have been unscheduled and unsettled.
This was the first year without Samantha for picking out the tree and decorating. Candy canes didn’t make it down the lane and on top of it all, there was no family photo until she came back home this week.
If we had been planning ahead, our photo would have taken place this summer but summer was full and exhausting. Each time the photo idea popped into my head it felt a little overwhelming and a whole lot of work so we pushed it off the schedule.
We talked it over and decided our Christmas cards would be late and the photo would be added after Sam took her long flight and we experienced our exhausting weekend. Smart planning, I know.
If in July and August, the task was daunting… in the craziness of this season, it now hung around our necks like a weight.
I shared with you last week the schedule of our full weekend and by Monday morning we were all exhausted. The house was not at all put together and our bodies needed rest.
The Christmas photo was put off till Tuesday.
With everyone showered, dressed and somewhat ready we headed to the van. I didn’t want a photo in the comfort of our home in front of the tree because that would be too easy and we’ve done that a few times. So instead I was wanting brick or stairs, architecture and natural light. Is that too much to ask?
We headed to the heart of Cornell University where old buildings loom and landscapes abound.
But with all that good stuff, public parking is scarce and restrictions are enforced, even while the students are gone. The rain began to fall and in our hurried exit from the house no one grabbed an umbrella. We walked from building to building finding little natural light and construction was everywhere.
Frustration was running high and annoyance was peeking out behind the clouds. The chill in the air wasn’t the only chill going on and the happy-go-lucky attitude of others was driving this mama a little insane.
I say all of this to remind you that a photo taken with matching outfits and a set location is not the picture perfect state of happiness.
Our hair was wet, the wind was cold and our looming deadline and expectation of “It has to be today” was smacking us in the face.
We laugh because more often than not, the first photo we take is usually the one we go with and this year was no different. Jon always says, “Well, we got ONE. We should be good!” Yet, we keep shooting, posing and snapping photos to get a perfect shot that never quite happens.
The photo chosen is not the perfect photo. Yet I’m reminded by the snapshot that good things can come from not so perfect circumstances.
When we look for the good in what is handed to us, we’ll find it.
In this Christmas season, we can form expectations and have ideals that are sometimes not obtained. Our baking doesn’t turn out, we drop the ham on the floor and our family doesn’t help out how we would like. The gifts might let us down and others might be disappointed in the gifts we give to them.
When our expectations don’t line up with our experiences, frustration sets in.
We imagine one outcome but reality plays out another. We find ourselves disappointed, annoyed and sometimes unseen, unheard and unloved.
Let me encourage you, friend, that even in the cloudy, gloomy moments good can be found.
This Christmas may seem different. Your experiences and expectations may not line up in a nice little pattern of happiness. Schedules and situations may dictate a routine you were not wanting… yet good can still come.
When we look at the first Christmas, I’m thinking it was not how Mary or Joseph planned it. They were in a strange place with no comforts of home. It was messy, full of obstacles and not at all picture perfect. Yet our good, beautiful and perfect Savior came through all that to meet us in our mess of not so pretty, imperfect, pictures of life.
My prayer and wish for you this Christmas season is that you would allow Jesus to step into your mess.
We all have imperfect lives. We’ve all made mistakes and not gotten it quite right.
Yet He still desires to come near and meet us in our imperfection.
This Christmas season, let’s set aside the “ideal” expectations of perfect and instead allow ourselves to experience moments of unexpected grace. Let the kindness of others surprise you and open your eyes to see how His love surrounds you… even in your mess.