My fingertips wrinkle in the suds and I’m emptied out. It happens at the kitchen sink, in the slow-slipping light of late afternoon, in the fuss of children. It happens with dinner in the oven — the one I thought for sure would break me. The one that had me daydreaming fried chicken legs in a paper bucket.

Out my spotted window the grass gives up, too, jaundice creeping up its tips in broad day when it should be safely hidden under snow. The Christmas tree is up. It’s cheery. But it doesn’t cheer me tonight. It’s too bright, too distracting. Maybe tomorrow I’ll love it again. But not today.

Today there are people I would fight for trying desperately to piece together a life where loss and redemption can both have a home.

Today I lost a person I was never brave enough to love.
Today I’m a mom too tired for this tough parenting gig.
Today my friend sends tear-stained text messages and I follow suit.
Today my child is sick and no one can help him get better.

I lean one bowl against another, the towel soaked through. I keep washing, my hands going through the motions while my heart exhales, everything is not okay.

It’s one thing to find the silver lining, but some moments were reserved for hard truths, and I know I’m not alone.


It’s Christmas and we were not made for this world. We weren’t made for the lights or the crack bark or the skinny tree. Those things can’t complete us, perfect us, transform us into people with lives that never bend at unnatural angles.

This is why the days feel dark sometimes when the rest of the world says they shouldn’t. We’re homesick. We know a shoddy replacement when we see one.

Here we are, down on uneven dirt, clawing for a glimpse of glory through a broken pane. We look past the cracks and the smudges and see the baby face of freedom. We memorize Him, love Him, pray to want more of Him.

Maybe fudge balls and mistletoe are not high on your priority list and you feel a little lost in the glare. But Christmas is yours, too. Because Emmanuel came. He came to walk in my sorrow and in yours. He came to see it for Himself, to touch it, to redeem it and call it beautiful. He came to be with us and even when it seemed like He left, He didn’t.

Are you lonely today? Missing someone you love? Did you wake up to the throbbing reminder that life is just as messy as it was yesterday?

Emmanuel is coming for us, just as much as the rest of them. He’s coming to our pain. He’s coming in to our captivity. He’s coming as our ransom. He’s all the good news and great joy we’ll ever need.

Lean with me into the weirdness and all the struggle. Celebrate if you want to or wait it out.

Either way, we’re in it together, and that’s a real thing of beauty.

This is the reason for the season.

The rest is just sprinkles.

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  • Kathy

    I could so relate to your blog today. I am in a hard place and desperately clinging to our hope of glory one day. This Christmas my son will not be home for the holidays for the first time ever and my mom passed away this year. I am feeling lost, lonely, vulnerable, tired and unnerved. I have not baked or prepared any of our traditions. The only decorations is my manger, the reason for the season. He is all I need. Not a tree or wreath. My heart is not in it. I am going to visit with my brother, sister and their families but I don’t really want to. I want to stay home curled up on the couch. I will pray for you and please lift me in prayer. I know He is right here with us. I just need to get quiet and spend time with him. Praise takes away panic and worship,takes away worry. God is good all the time and one day we will all be together forever! Can’t wait! Thank you for sharing so honestly.

    • http://www.christanperona.com Christan Perona

      “Praise takes away panic and worship takes away worry.” So true, Kathy. I needed this reminder. Praying for you this Christmas.

    • Flower Patch Farmgirl

      Kathy, I want you to know I read your comment before I even got out of bed. My eyes welled with tears for you, and for all of us. I’m praying that God will just suffer with you today, and that it will feel like the truest kind of love.

    • Stephanie

      Kathy, thank you so much for sharing. Your beautiful words have touched my heart and I thank you. I will be praying for you, and God hears everyone of our prayers! God willing you will come out of this valley even stronger! God bless you and have a very Merry Christmas, celebrating the birth of our savior Jesus who gave up everything to be with us.
      Lots of love,
      Stephanie xoxo

    • Greta

      I don’t know why I’m always stunned when God leads me to the absolute warmth and incouragement I Need so desperately, at times. We ARE homesick…I surly am. Let’s all be in prayer for each other. Thank you for your transparency. You allowed God to speak to my heart through your words and that is something to sing great praise for!
      Have a blessed season amidst the noise and lights. We can smile deeply from our hearts knowing we are His. So very blessed!

    • Beth Williams

      So sorry for the loss of your beloved mother. Praying for you and all of us this Christmas. It can be so hard!!! May God come near and wrap you in the folds of His wings!
      May peace and contentment be with you this year!! I pray you have a good time with family and remember all the good times you had with mom.
      Blessings :)

  • http://www.christanperona.com Christan Perona

    This is absolutely beautiful. I can’t thank you enough for being brave and counter-cultural and so real at this time of year. Bless you!

    • Flower Patch Farmgirl

      Thank you for affirming that I’m not the only one. :)

  • http://sunnyand80.org/ Meg Bucher

    The rest is just sprinkles… I love it. Wonderful piece full of heart. Amen, sister. Merry Christmas.

  • Bev @ Walking Well With God

    Yes, there’s always a part of Christmas that is bittersweet…because, like you said, we are not made for this world. God in His mercy gives us Himself with us – Emanuel – a comfort to be with us until we are united in paradise.
    Blessings to you this Christmas,

    • Flower Patch Farmgirl

      I want to keep Emmanuel all year, you know? I need that withness all the time, but I tend to remember it stronger this time of year. Thanks for all your kindness and grace, Bev.

  • http://loriharris.me/ Lori Harris

    This post I know full well. Grateful for the way you render the bitter and point us back to the goodness of Jesus.

  • Karrilee Aggett

    “We know a shoddy replacement when we see one.” <– Just this. Amen, my friend! xoxo

  • Stephanie

    Thank you so much for sharing shannan. God will get you through this. I will say a prayer for you. God hears us always, don’t give up hope, keep praying. Merry Christmas and have a happy and healthy New Year.
    Lots of love,
    Stephanie xoxo

  • karen

    I too have friends who are walking dark roads this season and I weep with and for them. Last night as we were reading Ann’s “Unwrapping the Greatest Gift”, I could barely keep the tears at bay as I read these words…. (Please forgive me if I have totally blown blogging etiquette by posting from someone else’s writing!)….May it bring peace to you as well, FPFG!

    “When you make space in your words, in your wants, in your ways for Jesus, He comes and lives in the most miraculous way in your heart too.

    It’s the strangest, most wondrous thing: when you open up your hands and say yes to whatever God wants to give you, you are really holding on to the hands of God. And no matter what your day looks like, no matter what happens, no matter how bad things get, your very big God can make anything, no matter how bad, in to a gift.

    Right now, God wants to hold your unsure hand.

    Right now, He wants to hold you and all your needs.

    Right now, He wants to hold you and all your fears.

    Right now, He wants to gently whisper, “I’m here — you have nothing to fear and everything to rejoice about. Nothing is impossible for Me! I promise I have good gifts for you — unbeatable love and unstoppable joy and unfailing strength and the most unwrappable gift, Jesus, the Son-King who always rescues you with the strongest arms of love.”

    • Elizabeth Lehman

      i read this last sunday for children’s time and i could barely get through it…. making space and being held… such beautiful imagery.

  • Joanne Peterson

    This is speaking the words I’ve been struggling to say, and the tone truly says what my heart is saying. Tough Christmas this year, sadness, loss, yearning for things to be right, and all of the things that is part of the weirdness, and the cycle of lost relationship even though I did try very hard to love well, the parenting and school situation is too hard today, etc. I know God is with me, but sorrow is still sorrow, and it’s been a long journey already. Knowing things are not right are still knowing things are not right. Thank you for expressing what I’ve been trying to put my finger on.

  • Donna B.

    The very words to my heart that I needed so much, I love your honesty Shannon, so rare today…..I have so much to be thankful for and yet find myself longing for the More – Jesus, Emmanuel….My home is with Him….My soul finds rest in God alone! I, too, am walking through a valley, one of several and this one is the hardest & loneliest & longest valley of my life (69 years), but through it all, day by day, I cling to Him, my Saviour, my God, knowing that He has a purpose and will use all my valleys for good, for me and for others….He will use it all for His glory….and one day we will rejoice together that He, in His infinite wisdom, by His redemptive Hand will bring us to our real home with Him. In the meantime, may our lives shine with His amazing love that never fails….and thereby, win some for Him! And it will ALL be worth it!

  • Elizabeth Lehman

    yes. this was the truth telling i needed… not the instagram perfect pictures, but the messy real, disappointingness of our humanity. we long for his coming, have such a hard time reconciling this world and the next. thank you.

  • Beth Williams

    I’m in a “difficult” place this year. Aging dad is on hospice and now going to memory care side of assisted living. Tough to watch yet another parent go through dementia. I know I should be happy with the tree lights and all, but with all that and the gloomy weather I’m just funky! So glad Jesus is around and we can pray to Him and He will make life better!
    Have a blessed Christmas!