This Christmas our family was given a very special gift. One that my heart is overflowing with gratitude for. Before I can speak more specifically about it, I'm going to tell you a little about the last several years. Many of you have heard and read about it. But for others this may be the first time you hear about our story.
Like many other families we have had our share of ups and downs. Five years ago our oldest left on a journey at 12 that would take him away for a few years. Years that I felt we're stolen from us and him. Days during those years where I asked "why" so often I dreamt about it.
Four years ago my beloved mother was taken home to be the Lord after a year long battle with cancer. She left a huge hole in our family but thankfully, a legacy too! She is so much of the reason we have so many wonderful memories. Some of those memories and traditions were centered around Christmas. Cookies, baking, hospitality, FAMILY, etc. These were just a few.
My father became lonely very quickly and the Lord provided him with a wonderful, Godly wife who has complimented him in so many ways. But just like all things in life, people adjust to these changes in many different ways. Some of my siblings have struggled while others were able to immediately accept this change. Emotions were very high at times and differences were hard to overlook. Time had to be allowed and patience given.
Fast forward to a little over a year ago. My oldest is home but under very difficult circumstances. Christmas was dampened by decisions made by precious ones. Many tears were shed and it was tumultuous, to say the least. But I had been learning to take each day in light of God's glorious plan for our lives. This was just part of it.
So this year, plans started to be made for Christmas. In years past, my brother, his wife and 4 children; my sister, her husband and 3 children; my youngest sister, and my parents would spend late Christmas Eve into Christmas Day together. We would all sleep around the Christmas tree, while listening to Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Andy Williams and many others. We would enjoy trying to set booby traps for my dad as he brought out our stuffed stockings. we had hoped these would wake us. One year it worked as my brother had set a string attached to a tower of plastic cups across the the path my father would take to bring our stockings. What a fun memory!
Many years have passed since we have been able to all be together again. So as the time got closer for celebration this year we all made plans to meet at my brothers and renew our tradition. Miraculously, we all arrived and made it quite the Christmas Eve overnight. There were 23 of us in all. The children were sacked out on the floor in the living room and all the adults took the bedrooms. Unlike when we were little, our beautiful kiddos let us sleep past six a.m. We read the Christmas story and then sang two praise and worship songs.
I had a pretty neat idea for dinner time conversation. I had received 12 napkin ties from Ever Thine Home. Each napkin tie had a question or conversation starter written on it that gave you an idea to share around the theme of family and thankfulness. I envisioned laughter and heartfelt sharing, but I could never have realized what exactly the Lord was doing in each of our hearts during this hour of full bellies and tear streaked cheeks. Each napkin was placed randomly around the table. But I believe that each person sat just in the seat they needed to be in to let the healing begin. I wish with all my heart there was deep healing in my own children's hearts as well. They have such holes of pain and loss that often come when you are the adoptee. But as I think through how Christ used the Christmas dinner in the adult's lives I realize we are all in our 40's or older and finally getting "it".
Well, back to the story.
As my beloved brothers, sisters, and dad and his wife shared hurts, joys, reflections and sorrows, there was a realness to our conversation. There was vulnerability and unspoken healing. Forgiveness was given and received without the normal apologies. Many, many tears were shed amidst the realities of life lessons including parenting, marriage and yearning for other's hurting hearts.
FAMILY! That is what we received! As all of our children are growing and getting their wings, we realize that this may be the beginning of some very different traditions. New friends which may become spouses, college days, jobs in far away places: all these things play into these new memories and traditions.