Presence is the Best Present

No one prepared me for the anticipation of my adult children coming home. Giddy is the best word to describe how I felt during December.

Giddy that my oldest, newlywed daughter and her husband were headed our way for six whole days! Cell phones and facetime are wonderful, but they can’t compare to real live hugs and laughter.

Giddy that our other two girls would be on break from college. All four of our children nestled under our home’s roof.

Everyone home for Christmas.


All month, I could have jumped up and down like a four year old. I refrained, but I was jumping up and down with giddy delight on the inside.

Christmas has never been so anticipated.

Presence is all I wanted for Christmas. Simply the joy of their presence.  My son and I have adjusted to being the only two at home, but life is better with all of us together.

There is more fun, more life, more joy, more love, more laughter when this house is full.

Full house=full heart.
(well, sometimes…)

Actually, there is a little hitch with presence. For it to be truly wonderful, presence needs to be accompanied by peace.

Because the truth is that sometimes presence is less than wonderful if it brings with it tension or angst or misunderstanding or other confusing emotions.

When that happens, presence isn’t easy or enjoyable. I have had Christmases when presence wasn’t a present. Instead, I felt torn between wanting to be together, even though we felt disconnected, and wanting it to all be over and done with.

But this year, all signs pointed to a forecast of peace in our midst- peace in our relationships together, deeper peace with our story as survivors of great grief.

Peace settled over us, and it was truly wonderful and treasured. I didn’t take it for granted.

Peace and presence are what Christmas is all about: rejoicing in the peace we can have with God because of the presence of Jesus Christ.

Recently, our pastor reminded us that Jesus isn’t just the hero who came to save us from certain doom. The kind we see in movies who swoops in at the last minute to rescue, and then zooms off to his next mission- leaving us alone to pick up the pieces and patch up life.

No, Jesus is the Hero who fully loves us by saving and staying. He saves us from the hopelessness of sin and death, then stays in relationship with us forever. That is why He gave us the Holy Spirit, so He could be with you and with me and with all of those who trust and believe in Him around this world.

He is with us: comforting and counseling and guiding and reminding us of how to live our new identities as children of God. He is with us through His Spirit, even though we can’t see Him.

And He will never, ever leave.
He does messy, even when it happens at holidays.
He does tears and failure and fears.
He lavishes grace when this broken world breaks us too.
He stays through the thick and the thin and the loneliness.
He leads when you don’t know what to do next.
He keeps you going when your strength ebbs.
He isn’t deterred by our lack of peace or patience or obedience.
He keeps mercy and grace and love flowing through our lives.
His peace takes root and starts to grow and overflow.
All the while, He is cultivating beauty that makes it obvious that
He is steadily at work in our heart, mind, and soul.

We aren’t leaving Him behind in a manger as we go into the new year. He goes with you into all the joys, challenges, sorrows, temptations, and successes the new year will hold.

My children will return to the places they now call their own homes- a house in the midwest, a dorm on a campus, an apartment in a city. And my son and I will stay here. But Jesus is with my family in all our places and with you in yours.

The beauty is that He goes AND He stays. He goes with them. He stays with me.

His presence is the best present. Forever and ever. Peace and presence are here to stay.

Happy 2017 my reading friends…

PS more words are coming your way in this new year! : )