When Simple Becomes Stunning

Jenny Howell

A chilly breeze found its way through the cracks of the window, as my toddler son cuddled in close. Christmas was in the air, but everything was strangely out of place.

The rest of the family began to stir, which meant that the motor home started to sway back and forth like being out to sea.

Was it really Christmastime and was this my real life?

Somehow these days of waiting on God during the holidays aren’t full of sparkle like I envisioned they might.

We so badly want to create the scene to celebrate Christmas but sometimes we get overwhelmed with our current circumstances and just can not deal.

Four months ago, when we left all that was home and stepped into the unknown with five kids, I had no clue that this year’s Christmas celebrating would include ALL the hard things.

Missing a home to decorate and grieving a community to love and be loved, was taking its toll on our spirits.

I began the day by pulling on the warmest sweater I had, cranked up the box electric heater, and began to make as much coffee that our little pot would hold. It was a recipe for a really good Monday morning.

The blinds opened up to heavy, wet snow falling down on tall pine trees (favorite) … and you know what? My heart felt the peace of the silent night.

My soul knew that the God who called us out on this journey was near and adding enough hope to see him providing joy in our immediate season.

How on earth does a mom come to peace with feeling so unsettled at what should be the coziest time of the year?

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. 

– Isaiah 26:3

In that morning conversation with Jesus, he was asking me to see him and trust right then – not when everything felt just right.

Honestly, Christmas was coming no matter where we lived and even if we weren’t ready. Doesn’t that sound a little bit like Mary and Joseph in their search for a place to welcome the King of Kings?

I’m sure Mary had hopes of a little nicer vibe for her firstborn. A place that was fit for a holy moment in time and a story that would be told forever and ever.  
This is the brilliant part of the Christmas story that I treasure! God in his mystery and might created the holiest of settings for Mary and Joseph in a not so perfect destination for a celebration.
It wasn’t extravagant or overdone. Instead, he chose the understated, simple version. God was with them and he set the scene – to fulfill his purpose.

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.

– Luke 2:13

In the surrounding bright stars, choirs of angels and the warmth of the welcome, he wanted the glory to be in the arrival.

None of it was planned by Mary, yet it was absolutely stunning.
This December is turning out to be lacking party invitations and the decorations are limited to a strand of lights with a wreath on the front of the RV. Even still … God is looking for calm and bright.

I stepped outside under the awning and listened to the quiet white snowfall and sipped the second cup of coffee.

This Christmas will be one we will never forget.

There will be no tree or stockings or dinner cooked by Nana Bear. There will be new memories that involve cramped quarters and holding onto hope more than ever before.

Maybe your Christmas story isn’t coming together like you wanted it to. There is great news for both of us … the same Jesus who came to earth that starry night is also keeping watch tonight.
He is pleased with our surrender and he has enough light to shine all over our humble celebrations! May his love fill you and yours no matter how you await the arrival of the Prince of Peace.


Jenny Howell is a lover of people and hopeful words. She brings honesty and humor as she speaks to MOPS groups around the Seattle area. She gets to be the crazy, sleep-deprived, coffee-consuming homeschool mom to 5 kids, ages 19 to 4. She and her husband have worked in full-time student and family ministry for the past 16 years and recently relocated to Salt Lake City. Jenny’s writing has been featured at (in)courage, For Every Mom, Today Show Parenting Team and more. You can find her at www.jennyhowell.com and on Instagram @nighthowells.