Just take the picture.

About five years ago, my husband gave me a swanky camera for Christmas. 

After opening my gift, I was speechless.

My mind immediately jumped to worrying over the cost of such a gift – a gift with all of the bells and whistles. I knew that he had spent more on me than he would ever expect anyone to spend on him. Or that he would ever spend on himself.

This is his generous heart.

My new camera opened up the world of photography to me. Photography was a fledgling passion of mine, a part time past time that I was beginning to develop a keener interest in  

He, being the supportive and wonderful husband he is, made it a point to encourage my newfound pursuit. It was as much an investment as it was a gift. He was investing in a happy wife who could pursue creative outlets and build her confidence, while also maybe not go crazy in the meantime.

It was a pivotal moment for me. 

(He gave me a way.)

This past Christmas, I gave him an album full of photos from the year gone by. It was wonderful to give him something tangible that was produced by my hobby five years after he gave me a leg up on a new journey in my life. He encouraged an outlet that wasn’t directly related to chasing small children, even though it at times has been almost exclusively used to record those child-related happenings.

I can look back between when I unwrapped that wildly unexpected present and now, and see a pronounced change in my abilities from that first Christmas to this last one. I have much to learn, but I’m further than I would have been without his generosity.

(I found a will.)

Today, I was scrolling through the photo library on our computer. Recently, the computer decided that its memory was too full (the nerve!), so I’ve slowly been deleting unnecessary photos and files off of my computer in an effort to purge. 

Just this morning, I found dozens of videos, and hundreds of photos from a seemingly bygone era in our home.

A time when we just had one child. When the kitchen was still painted yellow, and we didn’t have the white shoe cabinet in the corner of the dining room that smells like cedar. Our son was a chubby-cheeked, floppy-haired chipmunk who kept two fledgling parents on their toes. 

As I thumbed through these photos and videos, some slightly blurry and a bit fuzzy, I realized that I had no immediate recollection of having even taken them.

The video of my son and me in the cozy green chair in the living room, nestled up with a pile of books stacked high. Him laughing as I playfully squeezed the inside of his thigh just above his knee. Him sitting on the back steps in the kitchen, covered head to toe in Crayola markers – I’m still thankful to this day that they were washable, other wise I’m sure he would still be tattooed in ever color on the spectrum  

Videos of my son, turning on the shower head, and drenching himself while naked in the tub, and the look of amused shock on his face. 

Then there were the photos. Pictures upon pictures of yellow haired, tiny children. Afternoons spent at the park or out in the backyard. Afternoons that now seem like a short lifetime ago. 

I looked at that tired mother in some of the photos, I studied myself with a lot less gray in my air, and I was transported back to feeling every ounce of anxiety over whether or not I was doing a good enough job.

Those days at home with two small children that seemed endless and tedious are now just one footnote in the pages of our family’s story. 

The mother in those photos was so tired, so unsure of herself. Today, I wish I could have given her a hug to say thank you

Thank you for taking those photos.

Thank you for not giving up and putting the camera down even when the kids weren’t being cooperative.

Thank you for not closing the camera on your phone just because someone at the park might have been giving you side-eye.

Thank you for ignoring the thousand and one articles on the internet say that you can’t ever fully experience a moment if you have a lens out. 

Thank you for having enough presence of mind, even though your eyes were so heavy with exhaustion that you thought they might fall out, to think to snap a photo of the things I truly want to remember.

Thank you for clicking away even when everyone in the photo had a bad attitude, because you knew you’d get at least one shot where everyone was looking at the camera. 

Photos tell our stories. Photos let us relive our story. Again and again. 

No, it’s not an exact replica of one moment or another, whether they were good or bad, certain or uncertain. And no, not every photo is of a pivotal, life changing moment. 

But a photo in the hands of the heart that’s looking to remember is like hands holding a hidden jewel.

The things we take photos of are assuredly the things we love. The things we seek. The things we want to think about one day, when we’re older and we have forgotten. Or when we are gray, and crows feet branch out around our eyes.

Our photos will only ever be precious to us, like some distinct, bespoke treasure.

So listen, I get it. 

It’s the holiday season.

And if she hasn’t already, your mom or wife or grandmother or girlfriend will soon want you and everyone else to put on an odd, matching sweater.

She’s going to want you to shave, and wear those pants and that tie you never wear. She’s going to give you several options for the color palette that best highlights everyone’s eyes when you could honestly care less.

She’s going to want you to help her dress the kids in stockings and button down shirts that will definitely get messy if they leave them on for more than three seconds. And she is going to want you to load the kids into the car, and drive to the park or the Christmas tree farm or to some photographer’s studio.

Or maybe she’ll just drag you out to the backyard where she has a tripod set up, and she’ll be hurrying everyone up and yelling something about the lighting being perfect right.now.

She’s going to want you to spend half an hour smiling so hard that your cheeks hurt while you have to pretend that the camera isn’t there. She might even threaten you a tiny bit, heck  she might even want you to fake laugh until your sides hurt. One of the kids might cry. She might tell you where she’ll hide someone’s body if you all don’t smile.

She might turn into some unrecognizable scary person in the pursuit of one Christmas card worth shot.

You must actively fight off the instinct to resist her every step of the way. 

I say this, with an urgency and sincerity: the memories of you, on this day, mean more to your mom/wife/grandmother/girlfriend than literally almost anything. 

These photos will warm the nooks of their coffee stained hearts for years and years to come.

Whether they end up in an album or stuck to the fridge with a magnet, on someone’s desk at work or in a pair of hands weathered by time belonging to someone who loves seeing those family shots. These photos now are the treasures for when these moments are long gone. For people who will one day be long gone. 

These photos show that we were here, even if we might have been pissed off at the time because we didn’t want to wear a bowtie.

Not to be crass, because it IS Christmas and all, but you can surely suck it up for a few minutes, buttercup, and you can take the photo. You can be be one to have a gracious attitude so that your children or your siblings and relatives catch on. 

And one day, when times have changed, and you’ve gone the way that we all eventually do, when you’re old and gray, and you’re holding in your hands the faces that smiled long ago, no mater what’s happened in between now and that day to come – you’ll remember that you were there. They were there.

And that you all lived. 

And it will be your hidden treasure. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

O Christmas Tree

You.

I know that none of this is technically your fault.

But in between children waking up too early, babies that won’t let me put them down for even an instant, and my daughter deciding she *NEEDSMOMMYOMGRIGHTNOW* the moment I sat down with my fresh cup of coffee, I had a heck of a day before it was even 10 a.m.

Then, we went for a playdate to a restaurant with an indoor play area. It all seemed well and good, and like it would be a successful trip out of the house before my daughter decided to stage a coup.

She had been playing happily for over an hour when she decided the erected play structure was indeed too tall for her simple tastes, and that she was henceforth too afraid to climb it anymore because it was too high. 

I had to yell at her as she sat peeking at me through a plastic and plexiglass hole, ten feet up in the air, in order to get her to climb up or down or something. My yelling was comprised of half encouragement, half threats because I am a good mother, I reiterated to myself over and over again.

But by the bleeding heavens, if I have to climb up there we are *leaving*, I shouted.

If I have to wiggle my way up those twisty stairs, and risk the embarrassment of getting myself stuck in a plastic, purple Burger King play place that smells like hundreds of toddler hands coated in old peanut butter,  heads.will.ROLL. I vowed to myself.

She relented. Twenty minutes later.

What does this have to do with you?…

You know what.

I see you. Staring at me. Sitting in the corner of the living room. The giant soft-needeled elephant in the room. The reminder. Of yet one more thing in my life that needs to be done.

A reminder that I have to take every single solitary ornament off of you while being stabbed repeatedly by your dead and drying pine needles a billion times over just to remove the lights off of your yuletide corpse.

But wait, there is more.

Then I need to drag you to my front door, itching and being prickled the entire way, shedding pine needles into my couch cushions and into the cracks of my hardwood floors. Spilling water that, year after year, always seems to be left in your stand even though we haven’t watered you in, like, three and a half weeks.

There is always water left, water that spills across my floor. That your needles stick to.

You leave pine needles all across my floor that I have to sweep. You take up the largest corner of my living room, leaving my couch and rug askew. Making the room look more cluttered than it already is.

You.

By December 26th, you disgust me.

Now, more than ever, I’m convinced of this fact: you know this.   

And you sit there, taunting me. Every day.

Watching me explain to my children that their legs are, in fact, not so tired that they can’t pick up their toys. You watch as my eyes twitch as I clean up the puke the dog left on the carpet. You watch me shuffle around in my pj’s well past lunchtime.

You see, Christmas Tree, you have seen it all. And now? Now you know too much.

You silently laugh. And remind me that even when I have succeeded in getting my children who have been hyped up on Christmas offerings for three weeks off to bed, and new homes for the plethora of toys and gadgets they received at Christmas time, I still have one more thing to do before my home can return to its pre-holiday normalcy.

I could clean this house from top to bottom. I can put away the stockings and snow globes, clean out the fridge from the leftover holiday ham and potato salad. But am I done? I mean really finished?

Heaven’s no. Because there you are. I won’t be done everything. It will never be over. Not until you’re gone.

Unfortunately, for you? Today is the day that I have decided that it’s all your fault. Alllllll your fault.

Not just the mess or the nuisance of you for just being a tree inside of a house that five other humans. All of it. Every bump in the road that has been my day. Every squirming, disobedient child or annoying dog or headache or nuisance of a chore.

It’s you, I have decided. And I just won’t feel better, it all just won’t do, until you are GONE.

I vow to make it my mission to see personally to your banishment and subsequent destruction.

I will win. I will crack one evening, letting out a howl out of aggravation that will be heard far and wide throughout the house at the precise moment that I can’t stand it any longer. It will make all of the bats that live in our chimney flutter in fear. And I will carefully remove those precious ornaments, and NOT snap and simply throw the whole lot of you outside in the bitter cold where you belong.

I will win.

I will do this even though I know you’ll be back next year. And I will vow to remove you promptly on December 26th before my husband goes back to work the next day.  I probably won’t.

But just the same you will eventually go on top of the giant heap in the backyard. The Christmas tree graveyard. Where the twiggy bones of your predecessors still lay.

The deed will be done. And I will stand at my kitchen window, and sip my coffee in the quiet of the morning before the children wake. That cup of coffee shall be the most satisfying of all.

I will silently know you’re out there, slowly shedding your needles. One. By. One. Turning browner by the moment. Until you are but a shell of what you once were.

I shall have victory.

So enjoy your moment, you green brown son of a….

While it lasts.

Sincerely,

Ashley freaking LeCompte

Well, I feel better already.

Christ Enters In

It’s officially Christmas time.

How do I know this? Because I bought a box of Christmas Crunch by Cap’n Crunch. You know, with those little Christmas tree shaped crunch-berries in it? And let me tell you, it was gone within 48 hours. And I am not ashamed of it.

I never appreciated the story of Mary and Martha until recently…

Luke 10:38-42

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village.

And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 

39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 

40 But Martha was distracted with much serving.

And she went up to him and said,

“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”

 41 But the Lord answered her,“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things,

42 but one thing is necessary. 

Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

In my own pride I always thought that I had deciphered all that that text of the Bible had to offer. Jesus is the most important thing. Right, got it. Let’s move on.

It wasn’t until recently, at the start of Advent, that this story began to take on a whole new life for me, as only the Bible can do, even when you have read a passage dozens of times.

I’ve been struggling lately. I’m in the trenches of having three babies now. It sort of feels like that grace period that moms seem to get when they first bring a new baby home is over. And while I am actually enjoying very much that I have a newborn, I have been hating something else.

The current situation of my house. It looks like a bomb went off. All. The. Time.

Let me be honest in saying that it isn’t like my house has it all together the rest of the year. Even when there wasn’t a pregnant belly to lug around or a newborn to tend to, my house could still look like war torn streets of the apocalypse by the end of the day.

I am all about being real. I am all about welcoming anyone into my home, perhaps with the qualifying statement of, “you’re welcome to come in, buuut just so you know my house is messy,” at first but I ultimately have no shame. Because it is what it is.

Lately though I have crossed over from being confident in my home to being ashamed of it. I feel like no matter what I do, no matter how much time during my day gets committed to doing SOME sort of cleaning, it simply doesn’t matter. It will still look roughly the same tomorrow.

If I get the bathrooms get scrubbed, I can only see that the wood floors in the living room need desperately to be mopped because there are dried splatters of juice everywhere. If I get three loads of laundry washed, dried and folded, I can only see that the dishes in my kitchen sink are piled like a mountain.

It’s taken over my life. Which is especially sad considering that something I worry and fret over so much never seems to get any better no matter what I do. It’s a perpetual cycle.

Nothing feels good enough. 

Does it ever, really?

And it always seems to ramp up around Christmas, right? When you have the most stuff to do, when you have things you want to sit back and enjoy, that’s when ish hits the proverbial fan. Or maybe we just don’t notice it as often until the calendar page flips to December. Maybe the pressure doesn’t get to us any other time like it does during the holiday season.

That’s when our eyes pop out of our heads over the angst of believing nothing is the way that it should be. This is supposed to be a special time of year. Somehow we think that means that our kids are going to magically remember to always put their shoes away and not make a mess of the dining room table by littering it with strips of cut paper and macaroni noodles from lunch.

Christmas is supposed to be different. It’s supposed to be “just so.”

Enter Christ. 

Does Christ really care about our messy homes? Does Christ really care that the calendar says that it’s December?

We bought our Christmas tree last weekend. It was a great time for all of us. Although I would have chosen a tree about a foot taller and three feet wider, we ultimately made a more sensible choice. Having a Christmas tree that looks like it ate other Christmas trees sounds fun and even seems that way at first. Until about December 26th.

After a month of having a giant Christmas tree occupying a vast space in my living room, about when the needles start turning brown, that’s when I start losing my mind. Normally I crack first and start taking the tree down because I just can’t take it anymore.

We brought our tree home. Our beautiful tree. Such a picturesque scene, a family in their mini van driving down the road with the perfect tree strapped to the roof. Kids piling out of the car and into the house where we could enjoy hot chocolate together.

All of those lovely images marred by how we promptly had to spend about 30 minutes cleaning up/rearranging everything to even get the tree into our living room.

Because our house is simply that chaotic right now. The tree isn’t decorated yet because we have had holiday activities and obligations pretty much every evening since then. So it sits (stands?) naked in my living room.

It’ll get decorated when we find the urge to ruffle through the attic to find the decorations. How is that the box with Christmas decorations always seems to be in the furthest corner of the attic and buried under the most stuff? Even though it was only put away in, like, July?

It didn’t seem like a page for the memory books. Beleaguered parents who are tired. Who are tired of feeling like they are at the bottom of the heap with day to day life. Just trying to keep it together. Our beautiful tree, surrounded by a sea of clutter.

Isn’t this our Christ?

Who comes to shine the light in our cluttered hearts and declare that it matters not? That those who would receive Him still are all that He desires.

This is advent, people. 

P1090092

The beautiful tree, shining in a house cluttered with a sea of funk. This is where the tree belongs. A savior, born to a world full of broken, helpless people.  This is where the savior belongs. Born to humble parents, in a small, unassuming town in a shabby barn. From tiny, unlikely niches, He would light the way.

I cannot stress the following statement enough: Christ did not come for the people who “have it all together.”

If you told me right now that Christ would be standing at my door in 30 minutes, I would guffaw and then promptly melt down because I’m not showered, the kids aren’t dressed, the house is filthy and I would be wondering why He would want to even come to a place like this anyway?

My old farm house with a rusty tin roof and worn siding? I would be a Martha, I would be worried that my home wasn’t ready. And I would be wondering what, if anything, He would want with me? I would fret, I’m sad to say. Even though I know I shouldn’t, I would.

Christ came for me. For all people. For the people who were willing to fling open their doors and the door to their heart and receive Him. And especially for those who make precursory statements such as, “welcome. It’s very messy in here, but you’re welcome to all that I have.” 

He delights when you admit that it’s messy, and still yield to Him so that He can show you a better way. To show us that His promises will long outlast the clutter in our home, the pain in our hearts. He delights when instead of busying ourselves with things that don’t matter, we find time to sit at His feet.

This is why, even though this is a special time of year from a celebratory standpoint, we should not be caught up in making everything just so. Put that Advent Wreath in your messy home. Hang those lights on the front of your old, rickety house. Put that tree in the one corner of your living room that isn’t cluttered. Turn off all of the lights and stare at it. Don’t look around, look only at it.

In much the same way, welcome Christ into your messy heart. Every. Day. Fling open its doors and announce that its messy in here, and acknowledge that it’s not much but that He is most welcome here. Receive Him.

Turn off all of the lights to everything else, and sit at the feet at the one who lights the way.