Messy Christmas {CELEBRATE This Week: 113}

I debated whether to link celebrations during these holiday weekends, but I decided we must claim celebrations on the ordinary days and the holidays. I hope you carve out a few moments to document your celebrations. Merry Christmas & next week we’ll celebrate Happy New Year!

It’s pretty at Christmas time (even without the snow), and I think some of the prettiest decorations are nativity scenes. This season, I’ve been struck how our portrayal of the Christmas story is a prettied-up version of what happened that night. It was not a picture-perfect holiday card.

Mary was a teen mom who just gave birth in a dank barn. Joseph was clueless about how to be a dad. The cows, they stomped. The dirt, it stirred. Mary and Joseph tried to figure out what to do next. There was stress, little rest, and a big mess.

They didn’t try to pretty things up. Rather, they leaned into the mess and chose to believe God to be who He said He would be. For it is written, “And blessed is she who believed in the fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

Mary didn’t need a camera filter to make the moment memorable. She didn’t try to control this story line. Mary didn’t manipulate, didn’t run, didn’t pretty things up. When everything was ugly she chose to believe God in the middle of the mess.

It’s been a reminder for me this Christmas.

I post this family photo on social media and people like it and comment about our beautiful family. And I wonder if I’m a bit of a fraud. 

This picture was taken in the midst of hard. The parents — Andy and me — we were making some tough parenting decisions. And the kids — they were battling grief and anger and selfishness. They were questioning if family is forever and if they really belong in this family. They were reaching out to birthmothers and grieving birthmothers and trying not to despise birthmothers…all while trying to accept unconditional love from a forever momma who doesn’t look one bit like they thought their momma should look. Meanwhile the glue of love was tested with a push and pull that would make concrete crack.

Yet we are a beautiful family — a beautiful mess of a family. We aren’t so different from every family, even the holy family, who started in a dirty stable in the middle of a mess.  If you’re looking for a reason to lean into the ugly this season, then let it be this. That baby, Jesus, He came to live next to the mess. He doesn’t need things prettied up; He wants an act of radical trust.

In this favorite week leading up to Christmas, I could have given up on the hope that we are a beautiful family. Or I could have believed the lie that it’s unfair to be a momma to kids who have experienced the ugliest this world has to offer. Or I could have allowed my joy to be stolen and my peace to perish.

Instead, I stood firmly in my belief that God is good and He works things for the good of those who love him and are working according to his purposes. It isn’t always easy to believe in the goodness of God. The middle of the mess makes it easy to believe the ugly of things.

It’s a battle I’m willing to fight, because ultimately I know, the messier my story, the more I can give God the glory.

This is my celebration — I have a messy story that every now and then lives up to the pretty pictures. Today was one of those days. It was the best day ever for our little forever family. The. Best. Day. Ever. I can think of no better day, than the day we celebrate the Savior who saves us from the ugly, to claim as the best day ever.

Merry Christmas!


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  1. The thing that is most obvious in your family picture is love. It's the glue. You are holding the pieces together. It may be messy, but it's working. I again appreciate your honesty. Especially your perspective about the manger and its messiness. Merry Christmas!

  2. I love it! I've been struck lately with the truth that we are all broken. What a Great, Generous, and Graceful God that takes our brokenness and makes us beautiful. I am finding freedom in the brokenness. What an amazing thing!

  3. I love it! I've been struck lately with the truth that we are all broken. What a Great, Generous, and Graceful God that takes our brokenness and makes us beautiful. I am finding freedom in the brokenness. What an amazing thing!

  4. I suspect all family photos have a slew of stories behind them, a little gritty and a little happy, always messy. It's good to be honest at least with oneself about our real lives, and how tough it can be, not always the smooth path. Happy after Christmas to you Ruth, and to a good start to the new year, too.

  5. When I look back at the picture, I see how tightly you and Andy are holding on to those kids. That is the grip of love and endurance. You are a forever family that will weather all the trials and tribulations that raising children and throw at you because you believe in forever.

  6. I needed your words that perfect is not the answer-that families go through messes-that love is underneath the turmoil. Wishing you all the best that life offers as your forever family moves into another year.