By the end of this page, we’ll experience that moment when the man in a tux beams at the veiled woman latched to her once-a-hero. We’ll fill in the right pattern of bubbles, and clank our Blue Moons at the happiest of hours. The glitter will dance out of the ornament and swirl around in a cloud to unwrap the tiny papers of wishes and—with the click of our heels—there will be no place like home.
But, right now, I hold the ornament in my hand and contemplate why the tiny crinkled papers just sat in a bath of glitter for a year. Why do they taste like hard, unripe pears? “Don’t open it until next year,” my best friend instructed. “I wrote prayers inside and you can’t read them until next year.” These pears should taste juicy by now; these pears should run down our cheeks as we slurp up the sweetness. These pears shouldn’t taste like a frozen pizza for one.
Instead of juicy pears, I got pins and needles. I told my parents we watched the ball drop ten times already since the diagnosis, and that when the waitress brought the French press and said to wait for the sand to run out before pressing down, she meant that the sand would eventually run out. “What does that mean?” they asked. The cold pizza formed icicles.
While others get down on one knee and then pose with growing bellies, I mull over where to put my extra baggage. Inked reminders to Believe crusted over already and soaked into my skin. Now smooth and tucked away, I wonder if I should have stamped it across my forehead.
Three hundred and sixty five X marks later, my physical therapist asks if he can examine my pins and needles. “I only look at people with clean feet,” he says. The worn-out sock halfway off, I regret the loss of my nail clippers. He doesn’t know, he must know, this is the first time anyone has seen my chipped over-growns in months. He forgot to ask how many X marks since sharp hazards went flying to the back dusty tile.
I hold the ornament in my hand and I contemplate the thrill of shattering it into a million pieces. Wouldn’t that feel so good?
Honestly, I started writing this post on the first day that I found that ornament and remembered that it was time to find out what the tiny crinkled papers had been saying for the past year. I wanted to write a post where you would hear about the glitter dancing and my heels clicking together to sing there’s no place like home. We are wonderfully made and one day there will be no place like home. Or something along those lines.
But I walked away from the post and left the ornament with all the glitter I couldn’t stand anymore in a basket with a heap of a dozen unfinished projects that haunt me daily. I couldn’t stomach to find out what was on the tiny papers because the voices in my head whispered, “Failure. Rejection. Imperfection.”
Today, I picked up the ornament again. And I didn’t shatter it. I dumped all the glitter on a paper plate and I just stared at the fairy dust that I wanted so badly to blow into a cloud of dreams come true, totally fairy godmother and princess ball gown style. As I shook it harder and harder to try to get the tiny green papers out of the ornament, and finally had to stick my pinky finger inside to wiggle each one out, I smiled…because of course my best friend would know me so perfectly.
I thought the papers would say, “Date…Engagement…Wedding…Husband…Happiness…Perfection…” Why did I think they would say that? Because, as Tim Keller so wisely reminds us in Counterfeit Gods, the true god of your heart is where your mind constantly wanders. “What do you habitually think about to get joy and comfort in the privacy of your heart?” I wanted to shatter the ornament because I thought it would be filled with my hopes for a Prince Charming and a fairytale ending. The glitter was supposed to be magical and the prayers were supposed to bathe in a pool of glitter before one poof and they all came true.
I wonder how many people are just like me and want this sparkly glitter to fix everything instantly, but instead the glitter falls to the ground in a pile of ashes of unmet desires that we drag around with us every day.
But each of these little prayers whispered bigger and bigger hopes for my growing heart…
Less anxious heart.
Trust in God to lead you into the unknown.
Giving over all your plans to Him.
Bravery in witnessing.
Reckless abandon for Jesus.
These tiny unwrapped papers that sit on a paper plate of glitter bring me so much comfort. My best friend didn’t pray that I would meet a timeline of expectations for how my life should be by now. I should have known her prayers would be perfect and they would be prayers that I will continue to pray every day of my life. I feel incredibly comforted that not one of them has come 100% true—I haven’t fully accomplished any of them. And this level of imperfection doesn’t match well with my to-do list and certainly doesn’t fit neatly into my planner. But it is the perfectly imperfect life I am praying to live every day.
I have spent my life in glittery tutus, sparkly lip gloss, and smears of shimmering eye shadow as I earn my gold stars and throw tinsel on Christmas trees. The glitter is everywhere—the mask of perfection is everywhere and for everyone.
Striving to make people proud is exhausting. With every ounce of my being, I pray that this year I will learn to let people down. My life might not measure up to what you thought it would be, and I want that to be okay…so deeply okay deep down in my heart. With every ounce of my being, I pray that this year I will learn that some pears take much longer than a year to ripen. I want to trust that there’s a reason that some pears never ripen and God has a plan for those tiny papers that we will put back in the ornament each and every year.
I promised you by the end of this page that we would experience real moments of joy, like the groom beaming at his bride. The glitter was going to dance out of the ornament and all my prayers were going to come true. But the only thing I can deliver is the click of my heels—there is no place like home with Jesus who doesn’t promise magical glitter, but promises to love you more every day as you walk closer to being home with him for eternity.