All this month, I’ve been inviting some special friends to share their favorite Christmas memories, traditions, or reflections to help us make this a December to Remember. A few weeks ago I had the privilege of attending The High Calling retreat at Laity Lodge in Texas. My roomie and dear friend Jennifer Dukes Lee and I started talking about Christmas and the sometimes unrealistic expectations we’ve had in seasons past. Today she shares this story:
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. The Christmas season always starts this way—with my ridiculously 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 venturing into one of our farm fields so I could retrieve hay from our bales. I’d read online how a mom could promote Christmas 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 that this 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, a few 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 hay 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.
Jennifer Dukes Lee is a storyteller and a grace dweller, blogging about faith at JenniferDukesLee.com. She is a writer for Dayspring’s incourage.me. Jennifer is author of the book Love Idol: Letting Go of Your Need for Approval—and Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes. Love Idol is for anyone who needs to know that she has nothing to prove, that she is “preapproved” in Christ.