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We weren’t going to get the tree tonight, but at 4:15pm, just 15 minutes before the sun would set, Dutch saw our housemates pull into the driveway with their freshly cut tree in the back of the truck.

“Can WE get our tree?!”

And so the boys climbed into the truck and took off in search of a tree. They came home, all smiles and flushed cheeks, having conquered. While Jeff outside was getting the tree ready for the stand, Dutch came in and quietly and asked if he could have a strand of lights. I said sure, gave him a strand, and he disappeared.

Ten minutes later, Jeff came in, grinning. He slipped off his boots, and said, “Hey, Heidi. I think you better look in your room.”

We looked down the hall and saw that the door was closed. So we crept quietly to the door, and cracked it open. There was her own tiny tree, with a little wooden stand, and all lit up with lights.

Her face lit, her eyes wide. “My own tree!” 

“Merry Christmas!” Dutch jumped up from behind her bed, his face beaming. “I picked it out for you and set it up so you’d be surprised!”

“Oh, I love it! Let’s go get our ornaments!”

And as they turned toward the door, Dutch stopped. His face fell.

“Oh no. I wore my muddy boots in here.”

Well, yes. Brown muddy footprints tracked in on Heidi’s white carpet. *sigh*

Of course he knows better. Of course he knows not to wear his boots in the house. But as I saw him standing there, face fallen, looking at the muddy smears, I saw my own Charlie Brown boy.

I saw how so often, even when he tries to do it right he does it wrong. I saw that how he’d conceived this Christmas-tree idea, a special way to bless his sister. And I saw his face fall at realizing he’d managed to mess it up.

I thought of my own experience polishing the silver. With shoe polish.

I leaned in close, took his hand, kissed his cheek.

“It’s ok, babe. It’s just carpet. We can clean it. I love your heart to bless Heidi. That’s what matters most.”

He smiled.  Soon they were lost in their little world of pretend, decorating, setting up stuffed animals around the tree in their own little Christmas scene.

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My heart was so happy, they could’ve lit the carpet on fire for all I cared.

And I thought back to how many times I wish I would’ve been able to see the heart behind so many actions, that–as my mother-in-law told me this weekend–when people are being difficult, it’s because they’re having difficulty. Sure, we don’t excuse mis-behavior, but if only we could look for the heart.

Sure, the muddy footprint situation was minor, and easy to see the innocence behind it. But can I do this on a larger scale?

Can I do this this Christmas? Can I honor Christ by giving His people the benefit of the doubt? Can I believe the best? Can I pray earnestly to see them as He sees?

When someone tramps into my life with muddy feet, and maybe messes things up a bit, Can I see past this to what good there might be

Can I squint the eyes of my heart to see Jesus in disguise? In them?

That’s my prayer, anyway.

We’re all Charlie Browns, right? We’re all trying to love and serve and lead and give and we wind up making a royal mess out of things more often than not. Yes? I know I do. And so I need to receive grace and give grace to all my fellow Charlie Browns out there.

They say that the Apostle Paul always writes, “Grace and Peace” in that order because you need grace before you can have peace.

So true.

Grace-extenders are peace-receivers. 

…Surely He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace…

Thanks for reading.

  • Rosanna Penner-Sauereisen

    How beautiful! I have a daughter who desires to do nice things for others but so often seems to have them go wrong. I am so impulsive, that I can often hurt her. God help me.