By Ashley Pooser
It never fails. Every November I find myself imagining a glorious holiday season. I close my eyes and see myself in pearls, a frilly half-apron, and heels, baking incredible pies in a spotless kitchen. I don’t know where this comes from. I don’t even wear heels anymore. They would slow me down while I’m chasing my toddler through Target. Maybe I have seasonal delusions from inhaling too much apple-cinnamon air freshener.
The problem is that I somehow believe the images in imagined scenarios like this are what the holidays should be like, and then I convince myself that’s what they look like at all the other houses on my street. When my reality is more likely to be a charred pan of break-and-bake cookies that were thrown into the oven at the last minute, I imagine all the women in my neighborhood creating a Martha Stewart Christmas.
The bigger the gap between my imagination and my reality, the bigger my perceived failure grows.
Lately I’ve been feeling as though I’m failing in most areas of my life. We’ve started homeschooling this year, and at times it’s overwhelming. I’m perpetually exhausted. The list of undone chores has grown longer and longer, which is impressive because I never leave the house. Half-finished projects and tasks are scattered all over. I feel as though I haven’t been giving one hundred percent to anyone or anything.
Mostly I have felt as though I’m failing as a mom.
Today, during a conversation with the kids about the Christmas story, I found myself fixated on Mary. For just a minute, I tried to imagine what it was like to be responsible for carrying and delivering the Son of God. If I’m feeling all this pressure to be the perfect mom, how much heavier was the weight on Mary’s shoulders as the mother of God incarnate? I wondered what must have been going through her mind when it came time to deliver the baby and all she had was a stable full of barnyard animals.
Even though we usually only read Mary’s story at Christmas, I believe it offers truth and wisdom to carry with us every day of the year.
God makes no mistakes. From the beginning of time, he authored the story of Jesus being born in a barn, surrounded by all the sights and smells that go with a stable, to a couple surrounded by gossip and speculation. This wasn’t Plan B. This was how Messiah was always meant to enter the world.
I always say I just want to do my best, give my best, and be my best. I’m slowly learning to recognize that in my own mind, my “best” means “perfect.” If I’m honest with myself, I have to admit that what I really want is to perform perfectly, give perfection, and be perfect. Maybe you feel like this too?
My best will always fall short of perfect. Your best will always fall short of perfect too. But during this season, especially with the added pressure of creating holiday wonder for our families, we can be grateful for the reminders in Mary’s perfectly imperfect story.
Through the humble, messy, beautifully sovereign story he wrote for his own Son, God gives such grace for our imperfect motherhood moments. Let’s embrace that grace and lay aside our ideals, content to be who and where and how he has called us.
Ashley Doyle Pooser is a wife and a mom of three. She recently moved to Atlanta, where she’s trying her best to be a responsible adult but feels like she’s mostly flying by the seat of her pants. She blogs at ashleydoylepooser.com.