Saturday, December 31, 2016
Saturday, December 24, 2016
Of course, every Christmas is the last one exactly like itself, isn't it? Kraig and I aren't staying up late putting toys together anymore. Now we wake our kids up on Christmas Day instead of the reverse. My grandparents aren't able to be present at every single Christmas gathering now, able only to attend the Christmas Day festivities. Some years bring gifts you cannot wait to give, others you feel like you were struggling to think of ANYTHING to give (that was this year for me). Some years Christmas sneaks up on you, others it feels long-anticipated. One day Christmas won't even bring kids waking up in our house anymore, but rather coming to visit, hanging their coat instead of making their bed.
But this Christmas is the last one as a foursome. And it has had lots of feelings attached to it. We are all very aware of the changes to come (and probably very unaware of others, haha!). There is also a sense, at least for me and Kraig (I haven't talked about this much to the girls), of feeling incomplete. And yet also more complete than ever before. We are in a time of waiting, much like the Advent season, much like Mary probably felt as she made that long journey to Bethlehem. We are also in a time of great anticipation and fulfillment of a promise, also much like Mary probably felt as she bedded down in the straw of that cave, birth pains beginning, ready to look into the face of her Son.
Tomorrow celebrates the day that Mary got to feel His tiny fingers wrap around hers for the first time, the day that she cradled His downy head in her hands, listened to His newborn mewing, and saw in His eyes her whole purpose. We won't get to wrap our arms around two boys and a girl tomorrow, feeling the first hug. We won't get to hear their voices for the first time, to add the laughter of three more to our family chorus. We won't get to see their faces tomorrow, to hear their excitement as they wake up on their first tender Tennessee Christmas morning.
But we will hold to the same promise that Mary held to throughout her pregnancy, delivery, and the years of loving Him on earth... the promise that just as He was His first, they were His first. And just as He walked beside Him during His years on earth, so He is walking beside them across the world right now. He is preparing their hearts, He is holding their hands, and He is loving them through the beautiful caregivers He has provided in their lives "for such a time as this". And our other promise that we cling to is that next Christmas will look different, will be much louder, and will be filled with love multiplied. And for that we are so thankful this year.
Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Saturday, December 17, 2016
Isn't life funny? It took me 37 years to discover my true self and it happened during a month stay in Israel in the summer of 2015. The symbol for me of that self-discovery is a little Italian bistro in a bustling mall in Jerusalem. I always chose a table outside with a view of the Old City Walls. There, in the shadow of ancient history's storied walls, I found the truest version of me, and the one I will carry into my future. I ate there alone (something I had never done anywhere) more nights than I didn't, spending time in prayer and study and reflection and introspection. The "return to life" (see: Joseph Campbell) has been more challenging than I ever would have imagined. The year after Israel was the hardest year I have lived through in 39 years. From a challenging year professionally to an emotionally dark year for my extended family to deep struggles personally, August 2015-August 2016 was a time of great turmoil and pain. I believe the seeds planted in Israel encountered a season of painful growth last year. Growth involves tests and pruning and tilling. It's amazing to me, though, how almost to the date, a new year brought light and fruit and hope. My school year this year feels better, my grandparents are together and happy (which means my mom is at peace), we have started an incredible journey as a family, a journey of hope and promise. I'm forever grateful for that July in Israel and that little bistro that represents my own awakening. Even knowing of the year that came after, I'm still filled with nostalgia and happiness every time I look at this little bag.
Tuesday, December 13, 2016
So tonight, I had to look. And read. And listen. And mourn. And remember that "never again" simply wasn't true. Because tomorrow I will be teaching about other genocides. I will take them with me through the Killing Fields of Cambodia, down the halls of S-21 in Phnom Penh. I will tell them about the churches with pews filled with clothing in Rwanda. I will talk about the toddler in Darfur and the scavenging bird and the photographer who committed suicide later. I will share the markings of the homes of Christians in Iraq. And tomorrow, I will add a new chapter in this ghastly book of hate and apathy. Tomorrow I will tell them about the babies in Aleppo, the mothers and fathers who carried their children from the rubble. Tomorrow I will share the goodbyes from residents of a once-thriving city that is now a wasteland.
But tonight, I wrote. Inspired by Peter Fischl's "To the Little Polish Boy, Standing with His Arms Up" poem, I wrote my own version for the children of Aleppo. The link to Peter Fischl's poem is here.
The photo that captured my heart is below, credit to CreditAgence France-Presse — Getty Images.