This is the gift.

The stories I tell begin and end in the same place. Call me circular, but I can't help spinning, revolving every last particle around my nuclear family. Today I've been married for exactly 16 years, and on Sunday, she'll have lived exactly five. *

Next week we'll sit by the fire and the tree and around the table, and the boy who is seven will probably get icing on his Christmas sweater. And the girl who is five will probably throw a fit over whose turn it is to open the new door in the Advent book. And the mom and the dad who have long ago given up on perfection and settled for grace, we will probably struggle to keep eyes from rolling and voices from rising.

But we won't beat ourselves up for not appearing at all times like a perfectly quaffed family in a sample Christmas card. Life in all its mess and we in all our shortcomings, this is what's real.

And this is what's beautiful--to love each other anyway. Not to airbrush the ugliness, but to forgive it. Not to hide behind a mask of perfection, but to show messy selves to each other, to be known as we are and loved anyway.  

This is when love is most like a miracle--when it's so clear how little I deserve it, and yet, there it is, relentless and unrationed. When I say I believe in the miracle of Christmas, this is what I mean. That Love came down. That He loved us first, always, and anyway. And that He showed us how, enabled us to do the same for those around us. This is the gift. This is the miracle.


*I began writing this last week, and in a shocking twist, was interrupted. I came back to it today to "Just Write" the rest. Thank you, Heather, for hosting today.

I'm also linking this up to Emily for her last installment of Tuesdays Unwrapped, which shall remain one of my all time favorites.


**I believe it's against the law to get the entire family dressed to the nines and not take a family photo. So even though I've clearly admitted to being a mess of a family, here's our perfectly quaffed family photo. The people who did Dani's flower girl hair also did my make-up, so I'm wearing a year's supply of make-up in one evening. When my son first saw me, he asked "What happened to your face!?" And when my husband saw me, he just said "Oh. Wow." Not wow as in you look amazing, but wow as in yikes, and this was you telling them you wanted a natural look? Also? It's all fun and games until you try to get the eye make-up off. As in anyone have any paint thinner I can borrow? :-)

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