When our daughter announced last week that she wanted to be “nothing” in the Christmas Pageant this year, I was like cool, cool. Totally fine. It’s just that you’re already assigned to be one of the angels. And you look like an actual angel. Oh, and your Dad is the minister at the church. But you do you, three year old.

So when the other kids were all, “I’m going to be a sheep! I’m going to be Mary!” our daughter was all, “Imma be nupping.”

This week I struggled with what I should bribe/threaten her with. I told her I would give her chocolate. That was a failure. I told her that she would have to stay in the nursery during the actual performance. She replied, “Nope.” And then I told here there was a special surprise gift for everyone who participated to which she said, “Imma be nupping. I don’t want nupping.”

So nupping it was.

This week I did what I always do when I feel powerless in my life. I prayed.

Just kidding.

I anxiously tried to control the situation. I asked my husband if he could make her participate. I talked a lot about how great pageants are in front of her. Like it’s some kind of a grown lady pastime I was just discovering. She was not buying what I was selling.

And then I started the trudging march into spiritualizing a problem in the hopes of controlling it. I told myself to “Let go and let God.” That was a hard pass from the Lord. He doesn’t want to tell my three-year-old to be in the pageant. He created her. He knows that’s an impossible approach.

I quickly folded on Christianity (that’s really all it takes), and I told myself to be “more Zen” about it. I’m sure the notion of Zen works for people for whom the idea of Zen is an actual tenet of their religion. But suburban mom Zen is just not the real thing. When I tell myself to “Be more Zen,” that thought is immediately followed by, “Do I need more expensive yoga pants for that? I should go shopping!”

So there we sat, Scene One: Mary, Joseph, and an Angel of the Lord on stage. And belligerent mini me in my anxious lap. And in that moment I realized this was actually not going to happen. Our daughter was officially not going to be in the Christmas Pageant. The damn thing had already started.

And so I gave up.

And as my gaze lifted, I looked up to see our son portraying Joseph. Our boy was beautiful all dressed in his striped cotton robe with the iconic piece of fabric tied around his forehead. He was “sleeping” on the stage as the narrator reminded us of Joseph’s life-changing dream. An angel of the Lord came to Joseph and told him that he would not be quietly dismissing pregnant Mary. Instead, he was to marry her, because she was carrying the son of God.

Sometimes we think that life is one big “no” when really it’s just a giant shove in what feels like the wrong direction. Sometimes all of the effort and trying and controlling have to be wrung out of us. Sometimes God has to send an angel.

And literally 45 seconds later two giant blue eyes and a mass of blonde hair appeared in my face and yelled, “MAMA! I WANNABE UH ANGEEEEEEEL!”

It is a real tenet of my faith that God is always preparing us in life for something else to come. I realize now that all of those years of bad high school theatre were preparing me for this very moment. I was made for such a time as this. Daughter’s hand in mine, we began to run (during the pageant) to the back of the church, to find the one last angel costume, plop a halo headband on her head and dress her like she was Kate McKinnon doing one SNL skit after another.

We landed on the pew with seconds to spare and she looked up at me stricken. “What’s wrong?” I yell-whispered. “I NEED WINGS,” she yell-yelled back. And there on the front pew, sitting right behind her were a set of unclaimed wings. At a freaking Christmas Pageant. Unclaimed wings at a Christmas Pageant are like an unclaimed deviled egg at a church supper. They are like an unclaimed glass of wine at “book club.” Unclaimed wings are like the Fingerling Monkey of Christmas 2017. You just aren’t going to come across a set randomly sitting in the pew.

And suddenly, there she was, in the Christmas Pageant. Taller and louder than everyone else. Proud of her sudden rise to stardom. Standing in scenes she did not belong in. And periodically yelling at me to fix her headband mid-performance.

I don’t recommend “giving up” as some kind of a way to manipulate God. That never works. Besides, trying to just “give up” is not really giving up at all. It is still trying to control. It is still hoping things work out just the way you envisioned.

But I do highly recommend being your own neurotic and controlling self. Because that’s something God is actually interested in. That’s something he can work with.

As someone who is knee-deep in gift lists and menu planning, it was an awfully seasonal shove. But I needed it. This Christmas, be your most ridiculous self. Over-analyze every outlandish possibility. Try to fix everything. Realize you control nothing. Collapse in sheer exhaustion of yourself. And then God might send you your own loud angel, changing her mind after the show has begun, yelling for her miraculous wings, and loudly proclaiming the birth of our Savior.