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Twenty-four years of mustering. 

Maybe more. 

Twenty-four years of working hard to craft perfect holiday memories, not for myself, but for my family and others, and I’ve enjoyed far less of it than I care to admit. 

Why?  Because no matter how hard I tried or how carefully I planned, something always went wrong. 

The one-year-old hated organic icing just as much as mom and dad do and wouldn’t touch his birthday cake for pictures. 

The eighteen-month-old had a diaper blow out that ruined her dress on the way to church Easter morning.

Someone got the stomach bug on Christmas Eve. 

The tooth fairy put so much energy into the cute note that she forgot the cash… again.

The best friend couldn’t make it to the birthday party. 

The new sauce pan heated more quickly than the old one, so everyone smelled like scorched corn on Thanksgiving. 

A relative who shall remain nameless thought it would be a great idea to give a taxidermied puppy as a Christmas gift to the child who had been wanting a real one for years. 

You can’t possibly know, control, and/or remember everything and everyone.  Did you know that?  Well, it took me a long time to learn.

The unplanned, unscripted moments, though, now those are another story altogether.  The moments I never expected to be filled with wonderful?  Those have been the absolute best. 

Truth be told, if the images I replay in my head when I’m feeling nostalgic were to be downloaded into a scrapbook for everyone to see, you’d find very few party hats or holiday decorations.

Instead, you’d see my infant daughter sound asleep on my husband’s chest for the hundredth night in a row.   

You’d see my three-year-old son asking Jesus into his heart all by himself, smackdab in the middle of his Hot Wheels, because “you don’t need mommies for that, just God.”

You’d see my kindergarten daughter lagging behind on our walk home from school, her expectant eyes heavenward because “Jesus could come back any minute.”

You’d see the kids playing Legos and Barbies in the hall instead of their rooms just so they could be near each other. 

You’d see my family gathered around our daughter’s bed in the evenings for Junie B. Jones and prayers. 

*Happy sigh*

Listen, friends, holidays and special events are good.  They serve a function and have their place, to be sure, but it’s up to us to make sure they stay in their place and don’t distract us from what’s really important. 

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails” (Prov. 19:21).

Life is not a party.  For the Christian, it’s a mission trip, and we don’t get to set the itinerary.  If we fixate on the photo ops, we might miss out on what’s truly meaningful.

This holiday season, why don’t we all put expectation aside and leave the mustering up to God so we can appreciate and participate in the wonderful He has planned? 

Let’s face it: Nothing was going to go exactly the way we envisioned it anyway.