The Manger Wasn’t Instagrammable

by Laura on December 19, 2013

The pressure to have the perfect Christmas looms large this time of year. I would assume, for most of us. We want to deliver the pumpkin bread tied in Martha Stewart bows and we want the kids to have matching socks (note the photo below)– at least for the Christmas concert. We want the deep conversation around the table and the chestnuts on the open fire. We want Normal Rockwell. Or the magic of Ralphie with his Red Ryder BB gun. Or, at least, a decent family picture, forcryingoutloud. 


And us? We’re in the midst of a kitchen renovation. At Christmas. Not the brightest timing-plan, I’ll admit. And literally, all the stuff in our cabinets in strewn all over the living room. The pots and pans are on the floor in front of the couch, which is piled high with three loads of laundry. The utensil drawer is near the tree, like the unwrapped present even worse than socks and underwear. The countertops are gone. And so is the sink until tomorrow. It’s a disaster. And the chaos doesn’t stop there.

photo 1


photo 2

The Christmas parties at school are in the morning, and the best I could muster tonight was buying cheap cartons of orange juice that I’ll send in as penance to the room moms who planned the event and asked for  help two weeks ago. I tried to get the kids to lay out their outfits for the Christmas sing-a-long tomorrow, but my youngest is actually demanding to wear two dresses–the one I chose literally underneath the one she wants. It’s her version of compromise, my version of embarrassment. “It’s my body, and I can wear what I want,” she declared. I didn’t push it. I don’t really care that much what she wears– as long as I can get those matching socks on her in the rush of getting the three out the door by 7:30.

Which tomorrow will be 7:20, since today one of the precious teachers let me know that we had already exceeded our tardy limit for the entire year. 

And my in-laws are coming on Sunday and will be staying for the week in my daughter’s room– which has never been fully moved into, even though we’ve now been in the house for about a month now. I hyperventilate a little each time I walk through the door, honestly. Boxes and clothes and shoes and posters and cups and discarded press-on nails.

I looked around tonight and it’s fairly obvious–there’s nothing here I’d want to instagram:

Not my Christmas decorations– the cat has clawed all the lower ornaments off the fake tree, leaving us with an oddly-crowded upper half of greenery. We still can’t get the stupid light timer to work on the outside decorations, so the icicle lights come on 5:45 and then go off automatically about 17 minutes later.

Not my kids– what with the two-dresses and the tardies and the spelling tests tomorrow that we forgot to study for again.

Not my gift-giving–Starbucks cards are all I can manage for the teachers, and the neighbors might only get from us the joy of our Christmas lights for 17 minutes nightly.

And definitely not my house– there are literally piles. everywhere.

photo 3

But  Glenn Packiam said something this last week at church that struck me. He said, “The manger wasn’t instagrammable, you know.”

He was reminding us of the unexpected, quiet joys of the season and the importance of watching for them. He was talking about how the holiest of nights didn’t happen in the Norman Rockwell picture, how when Joy to the World burst in, the scene might not have trended on twitter.

And, so, yes–this Christmas I’m not going to have my act together. My kid will be in all the class pictures with two dresses, and the likelihood of completing our kitchen project and then cleaning up after it, before our family arrives is slim. I probably won’t cook anything worthy of pinterest, and my wrapping job will consist of sticking things in Christmas bags. We might celebrate Christmas morning in some mess. Or a lot of mess.

But maybe that’s really okay. Perhaps, it’s not the setting but my attention to the things which matter that counts. Maybe if I cultivate the wonder of Mary and the awe of the shepherds, maybe I’ll see Joy in the flesh this year.

Even in this house, amid these imperfections.

Some gifts don’t need a filter to be just right, after all. 


Interested in last year’s Christmas post where we threw the tree out into the yard and left it? Read here


  • Wendy Willard

    High five on meeting or exceeding the allowed tardies. We met that goal in early November and we’re so proud. No really, maybe we need to start a support group or something? BLTN (better late than never?) united? Merry Christmas Laura, from my piles to yours :)

  • Lana

    You make me happy. Here five minutes ago I was feeling guilty because I have not started buying gifts because I’ve been too busy.

  • Gary Ware

    Knowing you blog wasn’t intended to be funny but, To Me, it is. AND it is refreshing. about two weeks ago, we had a water heater leak, in our attic, which took out part of one room and affected the base boards and carpet in several rooms. Soooo, we have construction concrete, damaged walls, clothes piled in two back bedrooms, furniture in dining room.
    To emulate Apostle Paul’s testimony, we are healthy, our children, friends and siblings are healthy and the grandchildren are oblivious of any material problems.
    PS: I totally enjoy your pictures. I may hang them in each room as a sign of unity. God bless.

  • Richelle Wright

    personally, i think tardies are unavoidable after having spent time in a culture where “on-time” borders on aggressively early in the mind of everyone else…

    merry Christmas! hope you have a fabulous time with your family!

  • Betty Draper

    What a sense you have of using your words to be real and that is encouraging to the ones who read your blog. Keep pouring thoughts such as this…it’s healthy, its needed and most of all it’s from the Lord.

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