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On a warm and sultry day in August, it started to pour.

It rained and rained and rained. And then, it rained some more. So began a season of heartache for many farmers and ranchers in our area of the Good Life. The crops were gone, the pastures annihilated under the pounding hail, and rushing waters. Trees were stripped bare, fences washed away, along with dreams of a bountiful harvest.

Summer turned into fall, and as we began to evaluate the damages to our home, it also revealed leaky plumbing in the ceiling. What began as an attempt to repair the area, soon escalated into stripping the kitchen and bathroom of our 99-year-old farmhouse, to its bones.

The days of fall evaporated, and as November began to tick away, so did my hopeful anticipation of a house put to right, and a warm and cozy place to make Christmas happen in all its beauty, wonder, and traditions.

The soft glow of Christmas has always served as a distraction from the stress of this life. This year, the glow has been replaced by hanging lightbulbs that cast shadows over the shell of my kitchen. The piles of sawdust have replaced the scented Christmas candles, and the sight of tools and piles of rubbish and displaced belongings fill every nook and cranny of my farmhouse. Since the first of November we have been without washer and dryer and bathtub and stove and cooktop and dishwasher. We have gone days without a kitchen sink as we work to move and fix plumbing and vision the kitchen of our dreams. A dream right now that seems just beyond the grasp of my fingertips.

Last night the full weight of the season of hardship sat fully upon my shoulders. Built into this season has been the loss of three grandparents, the challenges of raising children in this disarray, and the soul searching that comes when two happily married people reach a period where they question their chosen career fields, their parenting abilities, and if they have done the right thing in navigating the first almost 20 years of their lives together. The storms of 2017 have not been limited to the skies themselves, but also have raged in the hearts and minds of my little family on the prairie.

As I tried to rally my people to load up and go ring bells for the Salvation Army last night, I could hardly rally myself. We had no running water or flushing toilet, my youngest tripped over a cord and cut her lip. While my husband tried to batten things down for the night, I angrily loaded kids into the car and sulked as we made our way down the gravel road. I felt like Christmas had abandoned me.

I was looking up at the stars, as I was pouting over my disaster of a house, and I thought about Mary. Tears began to fall from my eyes as I softened my heart against the stress and hurt of my life, as I considered the girl who undoubtedly felt like her world was falling apart. Who had to have wept over the idea of giving birth in a place darker and dirtier than my kitchen. Who couldn’t have had much to be excited about when considering the unknown before her. As quickly as I was to feel sorry for myself, it only took thinking of the one who helped make Christmas what it is, to realize that its not only my house that is under construction.

The expectations and stress and hurry and plans and mania that is the Christmas season easily sweeps away the simple joy and meaning that is Christmas. God has me under construction, just as my house is today. Fully exposed, with messes and piles, waiting to be swept up and organized and built again for the better. I don’t know how long it will take, but I know its for His Glory.

Tonight, we are going to get out just one tote of Christmas decorations. Just one.

It’s our Nativity. Fragile, breakable, but oh so beautiful.

Just as God sent Jesus that night to begin construction on the hearts of the people of the world, we will look at it and remember that we are too.

I will put up my card table and assemble it. In my kitchen.

Merry Christmas.

Leah Peterson

Leah Peterson is a native Nebraskan, living on the ranch her ancestors homesteaded in 1878. She and her husband Matt, met at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, and returned to the ranch in 2012 after working and living in Central Nebraska the past 12 years. They are parents to two daughters, Maggie and Lucy. Leah has an undergrad degree from UNL in Communication Studies, and a MA in Leadership from Bellevue University. Aside from her work at the ranch and opportunity to be a stay at home mom, she enjoys writing, photography, community involvement, spending time with friends and family and trying new recipes in her kitchen. Leah published her first children's book in 2011 titled "An Apple for Dapple" and enjoys traveling throughout the state to share her book with children and raise awareness about the importance Agriculture in Nebraska.

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