It wasn’t shaping up to be the picture-perfect Christmas this year. And I was, well, trying to “hold it all together.”

We were in the midst of another chemotherapy week, and as I had shared with a friend, I felt like a spider with eight arms and legs, trying to keep that many plates spinning between my husband’s medical care, my children’s school, extracurricular activities, and emotional needs, work, and ministry endeavors, and it was all I could do to not let any of the plates drop.

A friend texted me after the most recent chemotherapy treatment and asked how things were going, and I gave a brief update. She asked how the boys were holding up. The boys were great—school had just let out for Christmas break, so as far as they were concerned, their world was just about to get much better for two weeks. She then asked how I was doing, and unsure of the degree to which she really wanted the truth, I briefly replied, “I’m hanging in there.” That’s always the safe answer, right?

Then as I checked out of the line at the grocery store, the clerk carried on with the obligatory chit-chat, that though I attempted to keep to a minimum, I just couldn’t avoid. “Are you ready for Christmas?” was the question that splintered my heart. She didn’t know our situation, and my answer wouldn’t ultimately matter to her two minutes after I left, so I quickly joked about there always being more to do than there is time. Yet no sooner did I get into my car, and the tears streamed down my face.

No, I wasn’t ready for Christmas, and I wouldn’t be. In my mind, it wasn’t a week before Christmas…it was still the first of November. But since then we’d endured several rounds of chemotherapy, one hospitalization for pulmonary embolisms, and multiple doctors’ visits. His body was being poisoned and my emotional and mental energy was beyond gone. I might be ready for Christmas by St. Patrick’s Day.

We had a few decorations up, but that was only because a friend has visited during one of his rounds of chemotherapy in October and helped me put them up then, because I knew if we didn’t get them up then, it wouldn’t happen. And I was right.

The annual Christmas picture, Christmas letter, and Christmas cards never happened and wouldn’t this year. While we had looked forward to sharing the birth of a new book, no one wants to share a diagnosis of cancer in a Christmas letter.

Christmas thank you gifts to referral sources for the office just didn’t happen this year, and may have to become Happy New Years packages.

Many Christmas gifts for friends and family members didn’t make the cut this year because of financial and time constraints. There was only so much of each.

If truth be told, it was all I could do to keep my family fed, in clean clothes, and to make it to doctors’ appointments on time right now. The extra activities of the Christmas season was just too much additional pressure.

I drove home, tears flowing, the whole time thinking back to Christmas’s past and comparing them to this year’s somewhat of a hodge-podge Christmas. I berated myself as a mother and a wife, for all the ways I wasn’t making Christmas merry and bright for my family.

-They had only their absolute favorite Christmas cookies this year instead of an endless assortment.

– A Christmas tree is lit with lights but it remains void of any decorations except two that were given by a friend this year. We just ran out of energy in between the more important activities like doctor’s appointments and chemotherapy.

-Some gifts were wrapped, some were not, but for some strange reason, I seemed to lose my wrapping flair this year and almost every gift had a portion that was not covered in paper.

-Christmas dinner had yet to be planned, but was likely not going to be the typical elaborate fare, but instead a simple fuss-free dinner.

By the time I arrived home, the Christmas decorated lawns in our neighborhood were almost too much to bear as I glimpsed our still wreath-free front door. I pulled into the garage, turned off the engine, and just sat for a few quiet moments, willing myself to face our current reality.

“Lord, how do I make this up to them? This is not what they are used to, and it’s not their fault.”

I sat still as tears flowed.

“It’s not your fault either. Instead, consider it’s to your credit.”

“To my credit?” I echoed.

As I sat, He explained.

“In all the busyness, you made sure that their favorite cookies were baked—the ones they had to have or it wouldn’t have seemed like Christmas. The others didn’t matter.”

“They wanted the tree up to put presents under. You gave them that. The ornaments didn’t matter.”

“You shopped and have chosen gifts from your heart. The wrapping or lack thereof doesn’t matter.”

“Dinner may not be elaborate, but they are never impressed by elaborate. They just want to be fed and be together. Elaborate doesn’t matter.”

“This year, you are giving them the very best you have to offer. You are being intentional with your time, with your money, and with your presence. That’s the best gift you can give them and that’s to your credit.”

It’s what my heart needed to hear. Perhaps you do too. Perhaps you are struggling to create the picture-perfect Christmas and feeling woefully inadequate. It’s okay. It’s all about relationship—ours with Him and with each other.

Jesus wasn’t born into a picture-perfect palace. Jesus didn’t come for picture-perfect-it doesn’t matter. He was born for our inadequacies, to heal our pain, and to meet our needs. Picture perfect doesn’t matter but a perfect savior does. He makes all the difference whatever we’re going through.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

Because of Him, #HopePrevails!

Are you struggling to create the picture perfect Christmas and feeling woefully inadequate? It’s okay. It’s all about relationship. Ours with the Father and with each other. Picture perfect doesn't matter.