I have always loved the story of the Nutcracker Prince. I love the music, the costumes, and the fancy, little, wooden men that deck my mantle each Christmas. Confession: I’m a tiny bit obsessed. Over the years I have collected Nutcrackers of all shapes and sizes and have acquired somewhere between fifty and a hundred of the fabulous little statues.

For the past week, my daughter and I have been anticipating the arrival of Christmas by reading the Nutcracker every afternoon before naptime. My cousin recently gave me a new picture book copy of the timeless story. With large colorful pictures, my daughter has fallen in love with this book, and it has been a delight to share it with her.

Today as we finished lunch and started to get ready for naptime, I found myself feeling frazzled and strained. Laundry piled high in the hallway, dishes waited in the sink, my two tired girls fussed (loudly) at the table and poked at the last bites of chicken nuggets and cottage cheese that lingered on their plates.

In my mind, last minute shopping lists weighed heavy, Christmas letters sat stranded on the counter missing the mark of the mailbox for yet another day, and the peaceful joy of Christmas that should be filling heart and home seemed, for the moment, nonexistent.

Ragged and irritable, I tucked my girls in bed and grabbed our storybook. No sooner did I start to read, than my husband Chris walked in the door.

“You got some lunch for me?” He asked.

Urghhh! I thought. Really? The girls and I just finished lunch, and now he’s adding one more thing to my DO RIGHT NOW list.

I opened my mouth as grace flew out the window. I can’t remember everything I said in my moment of graceless frustration, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t helpful or constructive, and it definitely fit the description of whining and complaining.

I decided to let Chris’ lunch wait and returned to Aletheia and our Nutcracker book.

I love it when God speaks into the middle of my day. Sometimes He speaks through His word, or a friend, or a song. Sometimes He speaks through a quiet moment stolen with Him. Today, His voice rang loud and clear through the words of my treasured story.

With Aletheia wrapped beneath my arm I opened our book and read the following:

“What does it all mean?”

He smiled at her very tenderly.

“It means,” he said, “that the spell has been broken. I was a young boy who did not appreciate his good fortune. I had health and friends and work to do but I was so foolish as to be discontented and to complain of this and that all the time. An enchanter deprived me of speech and turned me into a nutcracker so that my mouth would no longer whine, but would serve some kind of purpose until I should learn to be glad of living and being of use. The spell would only be broken when someone realized how much I had changed and believed that I had a new heart under my funny costume of painted iron. It was you, Maria, who broke the enchantment, or rather, completed it. For you see, it was a lucky enchantment, since now I do know that it is good and wonderful to be alive.” ~ From The Nutcracker by E.T.A.Hoffman ~

Hmmm, I thought. That sounds a bit familiar. Okay, God, consider my attitude officially adjusted.

The Nutcracker was made speechless, his mouth put to better use than words, until thanksgiving reclaimed his heart. Isn’t that what I need too, in my moments of gripe and frustration? To be made speechless, not by an enchanted spell but by the awestruck wonder of God and His unspeakable gifts? To do nothing with grumbling or complaining, but in everything give thanks to God. To put my own mouth to better use than ornery and complaining words and make praise the purpose of my tongue.

Here I was complaining and whining about this and that in the midst of so much blessing, and there was God, speaking to me, to the new heart He gave me, sending His joy to break the spell.

Aletheia and I finished our story time, and I left her to her dreams. I returned to the kitchen and fixed Chris some lunch.

The laundry, dishes, shopping lists, and letters still waited, but joy, peace, and Christmas returned to fill my heart and home.

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