One of my favorite parts about Christmas is wrapping presents. 

It’s not so much what is inside — although I often love that too.

 It is the ability to choose a beautiful textured, graphic printed paper. To neatly cover any rounded edges, disjointed parts, in a tidy box. To finish every detail with intention and perfection … The washi tape in a different, but coordinated pattern sourced from the opposite side of the color wheel. And last, the beautiful, wire-edged bow. The one that takes the package and turns it into a present. The finishing touch … Like a cherry on top of a sundae, or the whipped cream on your macchiato.

But a bow does more than finish with finesse. It holds the gift together. It surrounds each side of the box, knotted on one side and twisted on the other. And on the top lay the most beautiful, carefully crafted whirl of loops and strands of ribbon. 

A well-wrapped present is more than a gift. It is art.

But it is art that invites you to into it. To pull just-so on the strands, so that the twisted ribbon and finely crafted knots simply fall away with ease. As it lays on the floor, it opens itself up vulnerably. 

“Here,” it seems to say, “I have freed the gift inside. Now you must unwrap the rest.”

And so you do. Sometimes carefully sliding your fingers under the brightly colored tape — other times ripping and tearing — until all of the art has become trash.

The gift is then exposed. Would it be well-received? Did it live up to the hype of the beautiful packaging it hid underneath? A time of anticipation for the receiver. A time of vulnerability for the giver.

Just as I wrap my presents, so often I wrap up my story. I long to craft with words … Sentences that make you feel as though you are right there with me. You are not reading my story as much as you are seeing it, feeling it, living it.

And like any artist, I long to finish my craft with finesse. To wrap it up in a pretty bow.

I want to tie up the loose ends … encompass the disjointed parts so they don’t become burdensome or clunky. To tie everything together so nicely, so neatly that you both long to unravel the ribbon and see what’s inside … And at the same time, long to behold it for just a bit longer. Because you know that once opened, the art has served its purpose, and can never be experienced the same way again.

This desire for perfection, for art, for a beautifully crafted gift has in a way contained more than my story. It has begun to strangle my voice.

My desire to please you, my readers, has kept me from offering words from my heart.

I forget that the point of gift-giving, of story-telling, is to offer something that holds intrinsic value to the receiver … Not to offer a temporary, quick fix of art.
The gift is what is inside. It is not the beautiful packaging on the outside.

 And because I cannot offer you a beautiful package, I forget there is a gift on the inside that still needs to be given.
In many ways, my story isn’t ready to be wrapped in a beautiful bow. 

There is hope and healing, yes. 

But there are still the nights that come more frequently these days. The silent tears washing my mascara down my face. The only evidence left in our home of a little boy desperately missed. Loved, missed, yearned-for. The memories of saying good-bye that pop up unwanted. The last 15 minutes where he lay in my arms blissfully asleep and unaware. The last time I kissed him. The last time I buckled him in his seat, and watched as he disappeared with my husband around the bend of the road.

I hesitate to share about the child we are expecting. I’m in my 7th month of pregnancy, but have barely shared any of the joys or struggles with you. I still feel self-conscious of my bump. Several people I encounter weekly have just now come to realize I’m pregnant. Yesterday, I wore a bump-hugging shirt. I then covered it up in a khaki trench, a bit self-conscious that my bump was still noticeable then. This pregnancy has been hard on my body, hard on my mind. Any attempt to explain how hard it’s been feels like an unwelcome call for attention. I don’t want attention. I just want a blissfully uneventful pregnancy. 

This baby is a gift. A beautiful gift. But one I’m still afraid to be candid about. One I’m afraid will cause others pain. 

These two stories are the undercurrents of my life right now. Threads of hope, and grief, and loss, and joy weaving impermeably through the fabric of my days. 

They are the plots I long to write about, long to share … But they are the parts without the pretty packaging.

My story is still clunky, disjointed. The corners are not near and tidy and predictable. The edges are rough if you get too close. These stories must be handled with care. 

No wrapping paper can neatly cover up and soothe the rough edges. The tape won’t stick no matter how much I use. And the bow? Not a chance.
But I am a story-teller … A giver of what has been entrusted to me to you, my reader.

So I am committed to doing better. To letting you in more. To stop stifling my words with the pretty little bow I think you need.

And I ask that you be patient with me. Patient that the grieving I started with Olivia almost 5 years ago has not left me. It is not so much that I have not learned to live without her as much as it is that new things keep popping up to grieve. I am not stuck. But I am sad.

And I am also happy. Grief is a part of me, but it is not all of me. There is a lot of joy still. Hope. Goodness. Love. Gratitude.

So bear with me as I venture to share more honestly about all the parts, no matter how clumsy my efforts might be. 

Thank you for bearing with me on this blog. For still showing up when I have been afraid to. I am so grateful for each of you. 

And so now I say to you:

“I have freed the gift inside. Now … It’s your turn to unwrap the rest.”

All my heart,

Rachel