The kids sit at the table planning Christmas cookies and ignoring Farmer's Boys pleas of help to clean out pig pens.
We wear pajama pants and our hair is tousled.
The smell of bacon is present. Always present.
I look out the window and there is fog, deep fog, deep enough to keep away the view from across the street.
And so it begins, this day before Christmas.
Are you feeling it? Do you feel like Christmas?
Several years ago my dear friend from back home sent me one of my favorite books.
The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp.
Ann lives close to where I grew up. She is a farmer's wife. She saw at a young age what death can do to a family. I feel we have much in common even though we have never met.
This is an Advent book. Starting in December you read a chapter a day until you land on December 25.
I have been faithful this month to read a chapter everyday. Ann's words have brought joy, perspective, and of course questions. I don't know if questions can be considered gifts but it is what I have to share with you.
My words are in red. Ann's words are in green.
Will God truly give good things? What did he mean when he said "I have come that they may have life and have it to the full?"
Never doubt that there are two kinds of doubt; one that fully lives into the questions and one that uses the questions as weapon against fully living.
Am I doing enough? Am I enough?
Your greatest gift is not your gifts, but your surrendered yes to be a space for God.
Do you see me? Do you hear me? Are you with me?
As the cold can move you deeper toward the fire, struggling can move you deeper toward God, who warms you with joy. Struggling can deepen joy.
He did not abandon you in the ultimate storm of your soul. He will not abandon you in the immediate storm of your now. He asks you, calls you, begs you to believe.
My questions. Ann's answers. My only gift to you this Blessed Season.
So tonight when the cookies are baked, and the pig pens are clean, and the smell of bacon is replaced by the fragrance of our Christmas Eve supper enjoyed together as a family, join me.
Stand at your tree and gaze into the lights twinkling. Perhaps you have a nativity set? Make you way over to that long ago scene and find some stillness as you sit and look.
Close your eyes.
Lay it all down. All those things we have been holding too tightly to this season, this year.
Set them down beside the manger with me. Let us kneel down and imagine that baby.
We will stay there and know. We will just know.
We know it may not feel like Christmas, whatever that feels like, but let us know that belief, right there, right then, in this quiet, in this moment, is all we need.
Let us believe.