19 December 2012

the same, but different

This Christmas.

Things are different this year {IN SO MANY WAYS}. And yet, somehow the same.

Our family has grown by two!  After such a long, long wait. 

Last November, I thought our child(ren) would be home by Christmas.  I just believed they would be home.  Our caseworker had told me about a sibling set and I had even spoken to their foster parents.  I hadn't seen their faces.  {Thank you Jesus}. And as the days turned into weeks and November dwindled with not so much as a phone call, December began to feel heavy.  I had also hoped for a very special baby to be able to come home from the NICU by Christmas.  God knew these deep wishes in my heart, even if I wasn't that comfortable admitting just how desperately I wished for them.  He knew.  And as that first week of December dragged by, I spent more and more time in prayer - or really in quiet brokenness, because I didn't know what to pray.  And He met me there.  He always does. I can't put my finger on it, I don't have a beautiful image to give you, and I am not even certain it will make sense...but He gave me peace - the kind that goes beyond understanding.  And my heart knew my child(ren) were home... my heart had made a place for them, and God would fill in the details when the time came.  Our caseworker called around mid-December and told me that sibling set she had mentioned was in a different county now, but she was certain "2012 would be our year!"  Somehow her words were enough.  And that sweet baby wasn't yet able to come home for Christmas, but God told me He was faithful even in that.  While my heart was still heavy, it was also hopeful.  I left some Christmas decorations up longer than I normally would - a stubborn hope that our child(ren) would be coming any day.

January 11, we got the phone call that we had been matched with our boys.  And I felt like it was Christmas all over again.  Weeks later, sweet baby John Buckley was discharged from the NICU.

Oh what joy to wait on Him, the Giver of all good gifts!  This year had some bumps along the way, but there were many, many moments to celebrate as our family grew from 4 to 6.

As this Christmas approached, we considered not setting up our Christmas tree at all.  Our babies have one speed- GO!  They are healthy, active, inquisitive toddlers and we couldn't be happier about that.  We put out our nativity sets... the nicest one is a little further out of reach than it has been in the past.  We put out a tabletop tree in the kitchen and our little light-up Christmas village buildings too.  By December 1, though, we decided we should put up our tree too.  The big boys chose a few of their ornaments from their boxes to hang way-up-high, non-breakables only.  We bought a box of shatterproof bulbs to hang too.  Our garland covers the top 2/3 of the tree.  I put out the wonky tree skirt that I had made years ago.  A lot of the same, but still different.  It looked nearly perfect ;)  ...until the babies discovered they could drag that silly tree skirt all over the living room.  Or wear it like a cape.

Thankfully, Dayspring had chosen me to receive the No Greater Love Than Jesus- Reversible Tree Skirt from their Redeemed Christmas line.  I was a little over-the-top excited when it came.

It really is the perfect fit for our tree.  And nobody can wear it like a cape because it ties securely with two ties - which is two more ties than the tree skirt I had made years ago. 
 Its reversible which is all-kinds-of-fun.  I am especially fond of the side that says, "no greater love than Jesus."  I can't think of a better reminder for beneath the tree.
Most days Lincoln and Franklin spend some time lying under the tree while their big brothers are at school. And most of the days, if I am quiet and listen, I am reminded that God brought these gifts home to us at just the right time.  He redeems the waiting time.  He loves so deeply, so carefully, so intimately.  At Christmas, I am thankful for His love and overwhelmed by His good gifts. 

It's helpful to have it spelled out right there like that - because sometimes I forget how truly blessed I am, how deeply my Redeemer loves.

***Dayspring sent me the tree skirt for free (awesome, right?) but the opinions about it, are all my own.***

P.S. the tree skirt is on sale right now.  Big time.  Click here to check it out!

17 December 2012

and the tears keep falling...

...and there are no answers.  Not really.

Brad told me while I was driving across town Friday.  "There was a school shooting, 26 dead most of them children."  So while I merged into the left lane I could not answer him.  I could not speak; the tears, the ache in my stomach, the hurt in my heart.  And he says, "Are you still there?"  So I tell him I can't bear it.  Its so awful.  And every adjective I know seems small in comparison to this kind of horror.  At a school.  An elementary school.

Today the tears still come.  I ache for families I don't know.  I weep for children that have had to huddle in a bathroom and listen to nearby gunfire.  There are presents tucked away in closets that will not be wrapped.  There are half-finished Christmas projects in elementary classrooms that are circled with crime scene tape.

And I wonder as I watch the footage, did someone go collect the winter coats for those children that escaped the horror?  I know they hugged their parents on that cold Connecticut day without coats.  And my mind lingers on the coats, because its easier to wonder if they have coats then to think any deeper.  And I scold myself a little for being so concerned with their coats.

I cried before church.  I almost cried while the preschoolers danced crazy to "Big House."  The tears spilled as we sang Christmas carols in service and wondered how these families will ever hear the carols again.  I cried as I read the newspaper.  I wondered aloud to Brad if I should just go shut our bedroom door and wail and weep and mourn and moan.  If I cried enough, would the tears stop?  If I really got a good cry out, would it end?  Or would it just keep happening?  And he in his wisdom said, "it will keep happening."

He's right.  I've seen some of those sweet baby faces now, and heard snippets of their much-too-short-stories.  And my tears spill again.  and my stomach feels sick, and my heart feels faint.  And I pray, "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, be near, come quickly, hold close."  My mind wonders how?  How can these families walk into their baby's bedrooms?  How can they look at their Christmas trees?  How can they breathe?  Oh my God.  Its too much. 

But God.

He is compassionate, so He reminds me that He is able.
{be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate. luke 6:36 ceb}

He is the Comforter.  
{blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 corinthians 1:3-4}

He is the Healer.  
{and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 1 peter 2:24}

He is Immanuel.  God with us.
{“the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). matthew 1:23 niv}

He is here. 
{where can I go from Your Spirit? or where can I flee from Your presence? psalm 139:7}

He wraps His arms around Newtown.
{I am surrounded by trouble, but you protect me against my angry enemies.  with your own powerful arm you keep me safe.  psalm 138:7}

He is near the brokenhearted. 
{the Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. psalm 34:18}

He carries the weak.  
{come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.  matthew 11:28}

He weeps with those who weep. 
{when Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, and said, “where have you laid him?” they said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. john 11:33-35}

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.  Only Him.

He does not scold me for crying long and often.  He hears my cries and my prayers for this broken world.  My arms are heavy with the blessings of my family this Christmas, while at the same time my heart aches for those with empty arms.  Tears fill my eyes.  Those families far away.  The first responders that saw horrors worse than any imagination can fathom.  Those parents that fell broken at the news their babies were gone.  Tears fill my eyes.  The hurt down deep is only matched by the gratitude for the blessings He has so richly given me.  He urges me to count those blessings.

Tears came again this morning.  I hugged my boys extra tight. I snuck notes into their lunch bags even though the 4th grader has repeatedly asked me not to.   I even wrote notes to their teachers. Two women that God has chosen to teach our boys this year, I told them "thank you."  Through tears I wrote in flowing cursive how deeply grateful I am that they care for our boys so well.  I told them that I expect the best from them, that I do not doubt for a minute that would do everything in their power to keep their students safe - and I wanted them to know that I was grateful for that confidence in them.  I wanted each of them to know that they are appreciated.

The tears will continue this week.  No doubt.  As I see those sweet faces, and hear the brave stories; I will continue to beg Jesus to hold and comfort and bring mercy to us here. I won't seek for answers, I won't ask "why."   I will hug tighter and hold closer and make sure words are not left unsaid.  I will believe  God's word to be true and trust that He is enough.  I have no other choice.