The calendar’s just over 2 weeks before Christmas, and I’m standing at the kitchen table, giving my baby girl her daily beta blocker meds to slow down the racing pace of her broken heart.
We do this every single morning, afternoon and evening, her and I, three times a day of her heart-slowing meds.
But this morning — I kinda wonder, in the final holiday crush of things, if there’s anything to slow down my own heart pounding with all the holiday things that need to still happen, that still need to get done.
The light catches on the Advent candle and something catches in me:
The things you can bake, make, or fake for Christmas — can’t fix the things that aren’t things.
The things that you can buy and wrap for under the tree can’t wrap your life up with a neat bow.
There are relationships that are still cracked and bruised. There is still brokenness and dysfunction in places you hoped had healed. There are still failures and loss that are tender to the touch, and there are hearts that are racing with overwhelm … and breaking achingly slow.
And there is snow melting slowly out in the orchard… and a story I once heard seeps into the edges of my heart-racing thoughts, a story of a girl named Taylor Storch who had headed with her family to Colorado for a little skiing.
Thirteen year old Taylor had laughed loud as she skiied down the mountain before she had fallen — crashed — down a straight rocky slant of the earth. By nightfall, she was gone, slipped off this earth and Home, and her parents, Tara and Todd, were signing papers to give away Taylor’s still-warm heart.
They ended up giving Taylor’s heart to a woman in Arizona whose heart was failing so weary that she couldn’t get off the couch anymore — a woman named Patricia Winters.
Taylor’s mama had only one request. Taylor’s mama had called Patricia Winters and asked her if she could come hear Taylor’s heart beating inside of Patricia Winter’s chest.
Taylor’s mama flew from Dallas to Phoenix and knocked on Patricia Winters’ door, and Patricia Winters opened the door and she opened her arms and she welcomed them in. And Taylor’s mama fell into her arms and the two mothers just held each other, Taylor’s heart beating right there next to her weeping Mama’s.
And then Patricia Winters reached over and handed Taylor’s Mama a stethoscope.
Taylor’s mama could hear it loud and long, right there in her ears….
Like a thunder vibrating right through her —
Her daughter’s still-beating heart.
What Taylor’s Mama really hearing — was the heart of her girl in a different body.
And I pick up my own little girl’s daily heart medicine.
And I stop, my own heart slowing, profoundly moved.
The turkey won’t make the holidays, and the lack of cookies won’t break them, and what you didn’t get done or made or bought or cleaned can’t wreck the holidays. You don’t need the perfect gift, the perfect table, the perfect traditions, the perfect capture with the perfect filter for the instagram — to make all the broken things perfect.
All the hurting places this holiday that I am trying to fix with all the things, with gifts and baking and decking and making — all the things I desperately wish I could fix in a heart beat?
God comes to change in a heart beat.
I can hear my own heart:
Thrum. Thrum. Thrum.
My own heart’s racing, aching, and failing to make the perfect holiday …
But that’s the point in the middle of the holidays:
Your heart can’t make all the broken things right with all the right gifts, your heart can’t fix all the things by making all the Christmas fixings, your heart can’t forgive all people that get under your skin.
Your heart can’t do it all. That’s why He gave you His.
When God leans in close to all our hurting places here, what He actually hears — is the still-beating heart of His own Son.
You don’t need any thing to make a holiday.
Things don’t make a holiday — only a heart can.
Only the set-apart holiness of a heart can make holy-days.
Only a heart that is holy enough to make holy-days.
Things don’t make the holidays — only His holy heart can make these days holy-days.
When you don’t think you can forgive what’s happened, when it’s His heart beating in you — you can forgive in a heart beat.
For unto us a son is given — so we are forgiven and we can forgive.
These days are holidays not because of all we’ve bought and done but because we’ve been bought with His Love and He’s finished it all.
These days are holidays because these are days set apart to simply see the grace that is present in all of our days, to see the blessings we already have, the great grace gifts He’s already bestowed.
These days are holidays because these are the days we slow down and see what we too often miss: When we count all the ways He loves us — we realize we have all the grace we need for the holidays right here.
You don’t need all the things for the holidays, you simply need one thing — a heart willing to see it: There is still love and grace beating at the heart of the universe.
After I put away her heart meds, I turn there in the kitchen and see the Christmas tree is right here by the fireplace — and it’s right there, what we all need most at Christmas:
The Tree is where God’s grace does heart transplants: God takes broken hearts —- and gives us His.
Every Christmas Tree testifies to the hope of heart transplants: Christ goes to Calvary’s Tree to give us His own heart.
Jesus minus all the things from the holidays — equals the perfect holidays.
You don’t need all the things, all the list of to-buy things, to-bake things, to-make things — because you’ve been given the heart of Christ and that is what you need more than anything, because it changes everything.
His heart is at the heart of what makes the perfect holy-days.
And two weeks before Christmas, I breathe calm. If we’ve been given Christ’s heart, is there anything else we need? (Romans 8:32) All the overwhelm I feel — is overwhelming gratefulness. That’s all I need: a heart full of thankfulness. Thankfulness unwraps joyfulness here.
Thankfulness makes what’s little into love, what’s hard into holy, what’s now into the present.
And I scoop up our baby girl, both of our hearts slowed and steadied and sure, and we pause to gaze, not at the things under the tree… but to wonder simply at the grace of the lit Tree and hearts can burn within us.
It’s true, even now: Miracles can happen in a heart beat.
What’s at the heart of Christmas — are not things — but the heart of Christ
And from our family here on the farm to yours, wherever you are, can we slip these two free gifts under your door with all our love?
Gift Tags For Intentional Act of Givenness
for treats to give out down your street, gift-blitzing your whole community!
(The Voskamps are headed right now into our own little country town with these tags and bags full of treats to surprisingly GIFT-BLITZ all the people in the stores and streets: Love came down — and you are seen and loved! #BeTheGift! #LiveCruciform #TheBrokenWay)
Print out this free printable card, write your own letter to the recipient, a Celebration of Words of Affirmation, tuck in an envelope with the accompanying tag (with a little gift card, if you’d like) — and let them know you cherish them as The Most Amazing Gift. (Or print out enough copies of the card for several people to give one recipient a stack of several cards and GIFT-BLITZ them with love!)
The most priceless gifts — don’t have to cost anything.
Love came down and gave you His heart — so go and freely share His love everywhere. It’s all that we all need. Minus all the distracting things — and just let His heart of love & grace be everything.
Jesus came down — and a bit of heaven can begin now, even here. With every step, we are walking into our forever now.
Come let Jesus touch your wounds & heal your hurt with His HOPE.
This Advent, Stay in the Story that the rest of your year, your family, will need.
The Greatest Gift (adult edition): Best Devotional of the Year, ECPA, 2014
Unwrapping the Greatest Gift (Family Edition): Best Inspirational Book of the Year, CBA, 2016
The Wonder of the Greatest Gift: Best Devotional & Gift Book of the Year, CBA, 2019