as i sit down to compose this year’s Christmas letter i am not sure we will have a picture to include. WHAT? is that possible? is that even permissible? at this point in early december one hasn’t been taken and i can’t see one being orchestrated in the near future. mind you, i had plans. my photo genius brother-in-law was coming to georgia for thanksgiving last week and i had pictured all seven of us in coordinated outfits with a backdrop of gorgeous fall leaves. except, we got the flu. and then it rained. even if i could have propped us all up indoors, bella was so sick she had wiped a patch raw from her nose to cheek. i couldn’t very well include our newest family member with a red nose and a redder slash across her face. so i set my sights on this next weekend. but alas, that is now out of the question as well. last night after climbing into my bed in the wee hours of morning, bella promptly fell right back out, smacking the nightstand on her way down. she woke with an impressive shiner. nope, can’t photograph that one either! oh good grief! i spent this morning sad about bella's eye and arguing a bit with God. “but this is a BIG year God. this is the year we adopted. this is the year of bringing home bella. this is the year we went from six to seven. i was planning on the perfect photo declaring all of this to our friends and family. i had a vision. i had a dream. i had outfits already selected!” perhaps you are not quite so extreme. i, however, have come to terms with the fact that i am a complete sucker for those norman-rockwellian-scenes. i will go to great lengths for the Picture Perfect...great lengths to recreate charming vignettes of idealism. but, let’s face it, this is not life. none of us live this way. even those of us who might pretend, we still get the flu, have runny noses, and wake up on rainy days with shiners. there is something about Christmas though which evokes in us a stronger than normal desire to capture beauty and comfort and joy. i have always loved the song Silent Night. i used it over and over again as a lullaby for my children. and when i nursed newborn babies at 3am it was silent and it certainly seemed at times even holy. but now with five children running amuck there is absolutely nothing silent about our home….and it goes without saying, we are quite far from holy. i head to bed most nights stepping over someone’s dirty underwear or for that matter, clean, makes no difference. from my own bed, i often find it necessary to scrape off a few crumbs from the children and a lot of laundry - dumped there in hopes it would magically make it to drawers. i grew up on daily doses of The Brady Bunch and always liked the part at the end of the show when Carol and Mike would sit in bed – he always in a clean robe and she in a lovely blue gown – and they would lightly discuss the day’s events and their silly, six children. now i realize rick and i have one less child, but regardless, this is just not Reality TV my friends. i don't believe i ever saw a pile of mismatched socks on the corner of their well appointed bedding. i believe that even back at the age of nine, i was set up for grave disappointment. we know this isn’t how it really works. i don’t wear lovely gowns and we are often too tired to prattle on about our five darling mischief makers. our pillows are not plumped and pristine…they are often, in fact, missing – absconded and used somewhere in the house for a fort or something. our sheets are not smooth or heavily starched and folded. oftentimes i find buried in them some little person’s random sock or a candy wrapper. (just for the record, we don’t actually allow our children to climb in our bed and eat candy - i have no idea how this all happens). anyway, i know you get what i am saying. our lives are messy and full of all sorts of unholy things. we can’t always capture The Perfect because the truth is we are living knee deep in The Imperfect. I have right now on my refrigerator door the verse, "every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." (~ james 1:17). i am not, for one minute, going to suggest altering any of God’s wording in the Bible. i am only saying i believe we might need to rethink the word “perfect.” i am the one who messes up this verse. my version of perfect often gets in the way of the truly good gifts. the noses which run and the sheets with the crumbs….well THESE are good and perfect gifts. They Are! i don’t always see them as such. but that’s my issue. well, actually, i’d still like to blame it on the Brady Family. i know, however, it is my imperfect and unholy heart which isn’t always able to grasp the goodness of the mess around me. as a mother and as a wife and and as a woman i have hopes to improve on my own heart’s imperfections. and trust me, my hope has little to do with myself. i, alone, am utterly hopeless. i know it is a process. there is a refinement needed…which is sometimes painful and hot, but all the time necessary. and so today i look ahead to this season of beauty and though we have no beautiful photo and no card ordered and no immediate plans of accomplishing this task….we have hope. we have Great Hope that in all our imperfections we have a God who loves us enough to give us Great Gifts. gifts which might not make it to the glossy pages of House Beautiful, but which He brings to the tables and hallways and bedrooms of our own dirty homes. and so tonight, though i will not climb into bed wearing a lovely blue gown, i will climb into it wearing a heart closer to Him and holding a hope which is beautiful because of Him. the mcnatt family may or may not be photographed this year. but Christmas has nothing to do with our family photo. the only picture needed is of that perfect babe in bethlehem lying in an imperfect manger.