May 11, 2014

For the Hurting on Mother's Day

Ah, Mother’s Day. That day in May where we all get to boast about how great our mothers are. How loving and necessary to our lives they have been. That day we celebrate all their hard work. Celebrate family. Children. Love. After all, a mother is the heart of the home.

Unless she’s not. Unless she hasn’t been. Unless there’s a gaping hole where that solid bedrock of a family’s foundation should have been.

I’d never really thought too much about this day – just another Hallmark holiday, really - until I lost my mom at the age of eleven. Then Mother’s Day seemed more like a neon sign glaring down the road at me from ten long miles away. Much like that cluster of tacky shops and signs known as ‘South of the Border’; that supposed respite along the way to Florida on I-95, just across the state line in South Carolina. There’s a gaudy billboard every mile announcing what’s ahead, just in case for one brief moment you might have forgotten.

Mother’s Day, just ten days ahead: “Look who’s not here. Look what you’re missing.”

For many, this day is a giant exclamation point of pain. Of loss and heartache. For the motherless, for the couple struggling with infertility, for the child who never knew his mother’s love but only her failures and for the mothers who have buried their children, the invisible thread that tethers the two now unbearably severed.

But maybe there is something at the heart of all this. Maybe when something causes so much pain it means that it’s pretty vital to our existence. It’s at the core of who we are, the role of a mother.

We were walking the other day, my family and I, with my oldest daughter and husband walking a few paces ahead. (Hang with me here) And I noticed for the hundredth time how her legs had begun to stretch tall, how her head now reached her daddy’s shoulder. She’s not a little girl anymore. I look at her now, on the brink of womanhood, I look into her bright blue eyes and I don’t see what she was (a baby) or what she is (a girl on the brink), I see what she will be. What she’s aimed for – her trajectory. I see someone else’s mother, someone else’s wife. A woman with her own calling and identity, separate from my own. But vital to someone else. Maybe vital to many others. I don’t know what her path will be, but I know this is my chance. My chance to speak love into her heart, to point her to the only Anchor there is in this stormy life. To hold her up when she feels weak and unsure. To heap grace upon grace upon grace into her life, so that she loves the One from whom grace flows.

And then for the first time it occurred to me (I know, I’m pretty slow) that in the absence of my mother there had been other women who’d done the same for me. Women who laughed with me when I needed to laugh, who cried with me when I needed to cry. Who looked into my eyes and saw my trajectory and not the broken girl I was. Who knew that I was like an arrow that needed aiming before the bow string was released. Who knew there was a calling on my life though they could not guess what that would be. Who heaped grace upon grace upon grace into my life so that I could do nothing else but fall head over heels in love with the One from whom all grace flows.

I’ve had so many mothers. Mothers for a moment. Mothers for a season. Women who looked at me and loved me in spite of myself. (Because isn’t that what a mother does?)

And here is the truth of it, for those of us who are hurting today – we need to remember that we are all nurturing something. Each and every one of us is nurturing someone in some way. You may not even realize it, but you are vital to someone else’s trajectory. Each of us is a mother - that bedrock role God created in order to use our hands as His.

And maybe this South of the Border rest stop is just a reminder of the real destination. We’re halfway there, I think, as the blinking lights and bright colors trying to grab my attention flash by the car window. But it doesn’t hold my attention. I’ve got my mind and my heart set on another place.

Apr 18, 2014

A Woman's Worth

The cursor blinks at me questioningly. My fingers rest on the keys waiting for some fleeting thought of inspiration to flow through them and randomly press this indecipherable arrangement of letters into meaning. I once imagined that I could harness some kind of power in organizing my thoughts and translating them onto a page. Some kind of satisfaction, at least. Perhaps I even thought I might shed some light on the darkness within – in emptying it all out, spreading it thin, trudging through the mess and attempting to arrange it all in a way that might make more sense to me. But at the end of the page the mess remains, behind or in front, and the cursor still blinks. There are no answers, no explanations that satisfy it; it always wants more.

It’s how I’ve come to view life, I think: A giant, blinking cursor, waiting for me to do something profound and meaningful, waiting for me to make something of it. To fill in the blank, so to speak. Sort it all out. Weighty expectation, that may have either been instilled by the world or self perpetuated from youth.

Meaning. Where is the meaning in all of this - this one life, one page, I have to write on?

When someone puts it like that I start to panic, quite honestly. Because for some reason I have always been acutely aware of the brevity and constraint of my own humanity. And suddenly I become like Alice’s rabbit, with a clock in my hand and the mantra, “Late! There’s not enough time!” or “I’m missing it!” Though if you pressed me I couldn’t quite articulate just what it is I’ve missed exactly. I am only scrambling through Wonderland convinced that I’m missing the party. It’s urgency and aimlessness, bound together as one. I know I have something to do but I haven’t figured out what it is just yet. Someone I am supposed to be. But I’m certain I’m not her.

A blinking cursor that might as well be a looming question mark.

In my younger years I would look in the mirror and wonder if the magazines and television shows were right. Was there meaning for a woman in her beauty? If I put all of my energy into appearing lovely on the outside, would that satisfy? What if I were beautiful enough to turn every head in a room, or simply attract the man I longed to be with? If he were to find me physically beautiful, more beautiful than any other woman in the world, would that fulfill?
Perhaps for a moment, or even a year. Perhaps for several. But I would inevitably find myself left clinging to something that is more like a tattered rag. It would unavoidably become like a child’s silk blankie - worn thin, like lines across a once smooth face or silvery strings of grey hair through a once rich brunette. If that was all that drew him, it will not keep him.

A middle-aged woman knows for certain that her worth and her meaning cannot be found in outward appearances. For, like Marmee warns Jo in Little Women:
“If you feel your value lies in being merely decorative, I fear that someday you might find yourself believing that’s all that you really are. Time erodes all such beauty, but what it cannot diminish is the wonderful workings of your mind: Your humor, your kindness, and your moral courage. These are the things I cherish so in you.”

Best not to wait and discover this until we are halfway through life. So in urgency we warn the younger woman not to fall into this ‘beauty trap’, not to set any hope on the standard that fails us every time. Do not be deceived, we warn them. It is what you do that defines you. Who you are on the inside. What you achieve with that inner person of yours. Even in the faith we are encouraged to labor in the fields of ministry and weave a legacy for the generations that come. Do something!

What are you doing?

Well would you think less of me if in my rabbit-y way I am still left scurrying with an anxiously thumping foot - surely it’s become a tick at this point - and a spinning clock in hand? It’s in this trap that I have lingered the longest, and often return to whenever I am unsure. This blinking cursor is the biggest: What have you done that’s worthwhile? Worthy of a legacy? Worthy of remembrance?

A very wise man recently told me that a legacy is fleeting and that I shouldn’t put my stock in that either. For one day your great-grandchildren may wander through a cemetery and see their last name on a stone and wonder for a brief moment if the dust beneath the ground they stand on used to be a man or woman that was somehow related to them. And then they’ll walk on.

Let that sink in for a moment.

It all becomes dust – not just the outer appearances but the deeds as well. And I will be forgotten, perhaps completely, within a few short generations of man, which are like a breath in the span of eternity. Here and gone and forgotten in one exhale.

Some may feel deeply concerned at this thought, but somehow I feel deeply peaceful. It’s the same kind of peace I sense when I look up at a starry sky or a radiant sunrise and know for sure just how small I am. Because none of this universe’s function is dependent on me. (And I’m exceedingly thankful that it isn’t.)

So if worth and meaning are not on the outside and not on the inside either, then they must be something of another substance altogether. Something – Someone – outside of myself. My thumping foot at last takes a rest and the clock stops spinning in my tightly clenched hand. I am reminded now of Cori Ten Boom’s mantra instead of Alice’s rabbit's: “Hold everything in your hands lightly, lest God pry them open.”

Open hands. Relaxed fingers that aren’t clawing for something to hold on to, something to be, something to achieve. Some kind of purpose to call my own.
Give it all to Him.
This is beauty. Incorruptible beauty, Scripture tells us, because our hands aren’t open to a universe established from chaos. They are open and submitted to a God of purpose and order who means to use that single exhale of ours for His glory.

“The principle runs through all of life from top to bottom. Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end…and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will really be yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; repr., New York: Harper Collins, 1980), 226-27.

Suddenly in the meaninglessness, the urgency and aimlessness, there is purpose, a purpose that did not initiate within, from a place that is rapidly decaying, but one that initiated from without. And if those great-grandchildren who are wandering through the cemetery a hundred years from now know Christ then they have received the only Thing there is of worth in this world. It does not matter if I am remembered or if I did all the right things. Even great things.
He is the only legacy. The only meaning. And better still – it is only by His power that this will be accomplished.

Ah. Rest.
That’s what rest feels like.

As it turns out, I come to the end of the page and discover that my fingertips didn’t fill it in with words or the aimless prattling of keystrokes. He had been the One writing the story all along. The blinking cursor was answered, but not by me. Like Solomon in Ecclesiastes, I come to the end of an anxious rabbit’s journey, of searching every alleyway and briar bush for meaning, every narrow path through the woods for purpose and worth. And after finding nothing at the end of these roads I look up to the Source of it all and I open my hands.

Dec 25, 2013

A Christmas Symphony

The children have been brimming with anticipation for weeks. An early snow set for them a Christmas scene that beckoned the holiday to come quickly. But it only seemed to stall. Still, I shop and wrap and scheme a plan to make this a special Christmas to remember.

"It’s Jesus’ birthday! Happy birthday, Jesus!” the littlest exclaims. “Do you think He can hear me?”
I nod and smile, knowing intimately that He does.

He does.

A newlywed couple sent us their card, of eyes and grins beaming, enjoying their first holiday together. And others now adorn our pantry door, a patchwork of faces and stories. Of smiles in spite of pain and of joy in spite of trial. I have walked in some of their shoes for just a mile or two, and can see past the red and green fonts and clip art. On some cards there are new, round faces to kiss. While on others there are sweet faces missing. The tears come easily as the tape masks these ones into place in this half finished collage.

There is a sweet newborn cry at the hospital, of a little girl who has just begun to breathe in this world.
And there’s an old man lying in his bed, in a house that echoes with memories of Christmases past, where children and grandchildren, and great-grandchildren alike, have laughed and shared meals together. The halls are quieter now as he waits for a Home coming like no other.

We drive. With five merry souls singing a carol out of tune in the rows behind us, we go. The twinkling lights that dress the houses along the streets seem to echo, becoming mere joyous reflections of the crystal night with her gleaming, white stars.

A universe aglow above us. Around us.

My heart is full, with both the heights and the depths, in awe of how they seem to mingle together into a finely tuned song on this one day of the year. And I’m in awe of their higher purpose, which can only be brought into focus by the King who heard us, and answered.

With my face turned toward the foggy car window that is refracting the glow of the world, I whisper, “Do You see it? It’s all for You.”

Aug 15, 2013

Memoirs For Miriam (excerpts)

August 21, 2008

The earth is the Lord's and everything in it, the world and all who live in it.
Psalm 24:1
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
Prov. 3:5

We received a picture of Siddhi last night. And there was nothing to do but cry. How is it possible that she is even smaller than before? Sicker? Her arms and legs look like bones. She looks like an old woman, not a child. And is that her hair falling out? Strands of dark brown lightening to red from malnutrition? My mind lingers over these terrible questions and yet my heart cannot even bear to go there.

Am I watching her die?

Father, you are asking me to trust you with the life of my daughter. And so I find myself wondering if I ever knew what it meant to trust - to relinquish ALL control. acknowledge that I never had it.
I realize now that in the deepest parts of my heart I have been deceived into believing that I do have control - over my life and also over the lives of my children. I feed them. I clothe them. I take them to the doctor when they are sick.
I take care of their every need.
Don't I?

I am now feeling the fear of what it is like to be totally and completely out of control. I have no earthly power to save Siddhi's life. I have none but You. Is it because, for the first time, I am helpless? Or is it that for the first time I am seeing that I have ALWAYS been helpless? That I have no control over any of my children's lives, not just Siddhi's. Every day we're dependent on the One who gives and takes away.

Nothing that has come to be, or that will eventually come to be, happens without first passing through Your hands. And if I truly believe that this adoption is ordained by You - that this little girl is our daughter, our covenant child - then I must also believe that she was Yours before she was ever mine. In fact, she will never be mine. Always Yours.
So I have no other choice but to trust You with what is already Yours.

I plead every moment of every day that she will make it home to my arms. My heart groans with words that only Your spirit understands. Please save her life, Father, if it be Your will. Please bring her home to us, if it be Your will.

But what will Your answer be?
We don't know. And all I have to cling to are Your promises, no matter what the answer may be. I must tell myself what I know to be true - the miniscule and finite understanding I have of who You are. Yet my understanding is too small; I must not lean on it too heavily. And so I find myself repeating this over and over again:

I trust You. I trust You. I trust You. Whatever the answer may be...she is Yours.

December 28, 2008

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 14:27

The thing about John 14 is that it takes place before the cross, and the irony is that Jesus is about to make this gift of peace possible because of that fearful thing He is facing.

What kind of power is this?

He knows that He is facing torture and death and yet He speaks of peace. KNOWING peace - a gift not of this world, because He does not give to us as the world gives.
Other worldly peace.

I have learned this in its fuller meaning these past seven months. First You were teaching me how to trust, and now I realize that I could not experience Your peace without first trusting You. Peace is the bloom that flowers from the scraggly roots of trust which are gripping tightly to their source of nourishment.

The terrorist attacks in Mumbai could have sent me into a new wave of concern - realizing the turmoil in India in a new way, and worrying that our travel may be inhibited to go and get our daughter, even worries for our own safety when we travel. I could have been sent flailing into a stormy sea of fears.

We felt incredible sadness for the families involved, but somehow no fear was added to that sadness. And the strangest thing happened as I watched the horrible news stories flood in: there was a profound peace, an unusual and very present sense of peace. And this passage came to mind as Your peace washed over me.

Mary's Song: "My God has been mindful of the humble estate of His servant. The Lord has not abandoned us here. He has performed mighty deeds...brought down rulers and lifted the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things."

Those words I had never memorized were whispered in my mind as I watched the images of terror on the television screen. Your Holy Spirit was reminding me of all you have already done - not only in continuing to preserve Siddhi's life, but in teaching my heart contentedness. You have opened every closed door that seemed to signify the end of this adoption. And now those words in Mary’s song, "filling the hungry", mean so much more to me than ever before. You have physically sustained her tiny, hungry body, just as you have sustained my fainting spirit.

You have made my heart, as the proverb says, like a weaned child is with its mother; content to just sit on Your lap and be held by You. The struggling to meet my own needs has vanished. You will meet them in Your way, in Your time. Every day I give Siddhi back to You. She is Your child. You have brought her this far and Your mighty hand will bring this work to completion.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Jul 2, 2013

Of Wars and Men

He had strong, carpenter hands that were rough and calloused. From building things and making them sound or fixing something when it was broken. “Pick me up!” I’d squeal, knowing those hands were gentle and affectionate too. He’d oblige and carry me about the yard which was half meadow and half woods.

The air around his house smelled of old pines and sandy soil mingled with the scent of motor oil on his shirt. It drifted from his workshop too. And sometimes he’d walk me through his treasure trove in that outbuilding so I could marvel at all of the old things he’d kept stored away. An antique milk cart that had once required a horse to pull it. A black car that had first seen the road in the 1930’s but no longer had the will to run. An attic full of desks he’d salvaged from a 19th century school house, along with a myriad of other items he’d saved from destruction. I was curious at the stories which these objects had been a part of and I held a deep admiration that my grandfather had kept these pieces of history hidden here. Safe from an ever changing world that did not always appreciate their value.

At the back of that workshop was a small garage where I would often find him and my father bent over the hood of an old Ford restoration together. Except for the sound of clinking tools, their work was quiet and earnest. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of hours were invested into that engine over the course of my growing up years. And when it was all ready for going, I would sit in the rumble seat with my sister and take a ride down the pebbly New Jersey roads, with granddad at the wheel and daddy sitting proudly beside him. Or sometimes, the other way around.

At precisely 12 o’clock my grandmother would holler from the back porch: “Harold!” And granddad would come into the house for his lunch. Together they sat at a checkered tablecloth and ate sandwiches beneath a ticking antique clock, as they had for decades. He kept a stock of pantry items on a long shelf just inside their basement door. There were always extra canned goods and bottles of 7Up ready for another depression should it ever come. Because he could not un-know what he had seen. Somewhere else in that dusty basement was a military issued duffle bag full of yellowed letters that had been written between the years of 1941 and 1945.

At the end of our visits we’d relax on their screened-in porch. My grandfather would sit in the same upholstered chair each time with his large hands hanging off the slip-covered arms, a big panting dog at his side. Keeping watch over him. And we would talk about the weather, or some other simple thing, before we left for home. Every time we pulled away granddad would stand in the driveway and wave until we were out of sight, his face looking longer and more weary as the visits numbered over the years.

Eventually, his body did give out. As all men’s do. But I will never forget how he laid next to grandmom in the bed they had shared for sixty years, with caretakers tending to them. Holding hands. His work shoes sat by his nightstand, retired from duty. A row of weathered shirts hung in his closet.
And like so many of that greatest generation, he went quietly into the night.

There was a long shelf in my father’s basement where stacks of books and volumes of military encyclopedias were stored behind a closet door. Each page of those thousands recalled some detailed memory of the Second World War. Throughout my childhood I had studied those black and white pictures and words, trying to understand the atrocities that took place in Europe and the heroes who fought to end them. But it didn’t occur to me until I was much older that perhaps my father’s purpose had been the same. Only he’d been seeking to know his own father through those pages. Of landing in Normandy on D-Day plus two. Of fighting in the Battle of the Bulge. Of Holland and the tokens of war now hidden away in our family’s safe. These were stories that were hardly mentioned in passing. Perhaps because my grandfather had learned too many hard lessons from grief and he would never speak of things done in darkness. Or perhaps because he meant to keep those memories safe in an ever changing world that doesn’t always appreciate the value of such things. His strength had come with stoic quietness that did not recognize his own contribution to salvaging something so large from destruction.

Or maybe he truly believed that he had done nothing grand. Nothing of importance.

A few years after I was married that old duffle bag from my grandparent’s basement sat in my home. And I poured through the handwritten love notes exchanged between a young bride and her groom, who were oceans apart at the time. On those brittle papers were the simplest words that held the deepest of meaning, which could only be perceived in full by the next generations who would watch these two lovers hold on to each other until the end.
He gave his life to her, all that he had. And that was all we needed to know about him. That he had strong, carpenter hands which were rough and calloused. From building things and making them sound. Or fixing something when it was broken. Maybe, more than anything though, he just wanted us to know that they were gentle and affectionate hands too.

Feb 12, 2013

My Last

You tell everyone that you were a surprise. And you were.
I named you “God is Gracious” because He gives good and perfect gifts. And because the best gifts are the ones that aren’t asked for but given anyway, and received with an overflowing heart.

You tell everyone that preschool “didn’t work out for us.”
But in truth, it was me. I wasn’t ready to let you go yet; I wasn’t ready for this stage to be over. Because you know, we can never get this back again. And I don’t want to miss a thing.
After all, you’re only three.
My last three.

You tell me that you want to grow big so you can play the big drums.
But I tell you to wait for me. I’m not ready for growing big yet, and when you’re big you’ll leave.
You promise, “I won’t, mommy”. You smile and say that I can come and live with you when you’re bigger, and I’m older. You seal the promise with the sweetest of kisses. And daddy thinks I’m funny when I laugh and cry at the same time. But I kiss you back and receive it just the same.

You take my hand when we’re walking; your chubby fingers nestle in mine. And I find myself walking a bit slower than usual, keeping pace with your shorter stride. Do you know that I would walk slower still if it would make this last a little longer?

You hug me so tightly when I tuck you in at night and I am thankful to have been loved by a rough-and-tumble little boy. It’s the best kind of love.
But sometimes I come into your room at night and I watch you while you are sleeping. In the shadows. Snuggled up in a Star Wars blanket. Your long lashes resting on your cherub cheeks. And I think that this baby-like sweetness is the best kind of love too.
After all, you’re only three.
My last three.

That next birthday is just around the corner. One day very soon it will be our last day of three. And on that day I’ll walk all the more slowly with you; I’ll rock you a little longer and sing to you a little sweeter. I’ll hold you more tightly, if it were possible.
And then, when the morning comes, I’ll do the same for my four year old.

Dec 6, 2012

All Resolved, A Christmas Story

Today was a poignant day for me. What seemed like a routine doctor’s visit became something else altogether. It was an ebenezer, of sorts, a remembrance of where my family has come from, of where I have come from. You see, six and a half months ago I met a little girl, a beautiful but fragile little girl. On the other side of the world. In an ancient city called Pune. In a little white orphanage with cracked walls, with faded paint and a dusty cement floor. She’d been born of another woman but was ordained to be my daughter from the beginning of all time. A mystery I still can’t fathom.

I will never forget the first time her mahogany eyes looked into mine. And I will never forget how I saw myself in them, a reflection of bittersweet joy. Because I had longed to hold her for so long, and when I finally did I saw the full extent of her desperation.

She cried. Afraid. Terribly afraid. Not knowing who I was. Not realizing that love had finally found her. She cried because she’d borne so much pain before we’d ever met and she could only see me filtered through that filmy lens. She couldn’t see me as I was - the one who wanted to love her.
They said she was sick. They said she had failure to thrive. They said she wouldn’t eat. She wouldn’t grow. And I saw the scars on her skin. The infections and discomfort. I saw the hollow look in her eyes. She was barely alive. She’d barely survived to the day that I first held her. Battled for her very existence. A miracle child.
And I carried her home. Across miles of mountainous landscape and ancient rivers. Over war torn countries and cavernous depths of ocean we flew. And she never left my arms. Even when she slept, I was there; my hand was over her. I never left her. Not once.

She arrived in this strange new land with strange new people. A frightening arrival, because she didn’t know that Home had finally found her. She feared she was lost, that she would never return to the cracked walls and the dusty floor she remembered. The doctors said she was severely malnourished. Developmentally delayed. Neglected. She had feeding issues, social issues, relational issues. Her swallowing reflexes weren’t strong enough. She couldn’t stand. She could hardly hold herself up to be seated. The list went on and on, and the road ahead seemed long. Perhaps it would be a life-long journey. So we set our eyes on the path and our hearts on the goal.
For months we tried to feed her. We labored for each bite. Each swallow. We fought the everyday battles for her heart. And inch by inch, she learned to trust. We taught her how to use a bottle. How to be held and rocked. She learned to eat. She learned to crawl and then to stand. She learned to smile. And then to laugh. I heard my child laughing and it was one of the sweetest sounds I’d ever heard. And then one day she took her first steps. She walked, even though the physicians in India had not been sure if she ever would take a step.
Six and a half months of laboring. Doctors appointments, specialists, nutritionists, hospitals and more. Poked, prodded, examined and x-rayed. Diagnoses and predictions. All coming up short. Because all she had needed…was love.
She needed to know Love.

Today she had her last follow up appointment. She’s gained a total of eight pounds (nearly twice the weight she’d been when we brought her home) and she was four inches longer! My heart swelled with joy. The doctor sat with me and asked me some questions about my little girl’s progress. I answered them all, each one with a positive reply. Then the doctor laid open the medical file and began to write. She made a list inside my child’s records, and as she wrote she said it aloud for my benefit: “Orphaned, malnourished, neglected, failure to thrive, swallowing difficulties, developmentally delayed…”
Her list was long, and I found them hard to hear with the chubby, radiant child smiling back at me in my lap. It was painful to remember my daughter like that. And I wondered what the list meant. Why would the doctor take the time to write all of these things in the record now, after everything?
The physician stopped; she looked up at my daughter for a moment, introspectively, and then looked back to the list. With one long, decisive strike she crossed the list out, a line drawn through it. I held my breath as I watched. She made an arrow at the bottom of that line and pointed it to the words she wrote beneath.
“All. Resolved.” She said in her thick Middle Eastern accent.
And those words of absolution made my throat catch. Made my eyes well up with tears. I had to say it again in my head to be sure it was true. All resolved…. All resolved. And the physician smiled with me.
I could not tell you the relief that flooded over me with that declaration. The freedom I felt from the fears that had plagued us for the previous year and a half. Lightness and joy now washed every one of those fears away. This was the greatest Christmas gift I could have received: Hope. This child will know life and know it fully. The weight of her past was being lifted away. And though I know there will be hard days ahead, as with any child, today I felt the full realization of peace. After the agonizing wait to bring her home, and the fear for her health and her future, she was home in my arms. She was safe. And now she was well. All of the unknowns and all of the fears had been resolved.

“You rescued this child,” the physician said in all seriousness. “You know that is the greatest thing any person can do? To save the life of another human being.” The milky gaze through her glasses was tearing up now. “And you will have a big castle in heaven.”
I shook my head. That was all wrong, though I knew her intentions were kind, and that in all her seriousness she probably believed it to be true. But the synopsis was reversed. I was the one who had been rescued, and my love for this child was just a small glimpse of that much bigger story. A microcosm of the greater One. The far greater work. My works were filthy rags. Even my attempts to love this child as Jesus loved are worthless. Nothing without Him.

Because you see, there was another child. Born many years ago. On the other side of the world. In an ancient town called Bethlehem, with cracked walls and dusty floors. Conditions far worse than the orphanage I found my daughter in. This was a baby born of a woman, who also came to a strange land with strange people. A baby who cried when he breathed his first breath, just like you and me. And He must have been afraid. Because unlike my child coming into a strange world, He knew where he was going. He knew the purpose for which he had come. A child ordained for a purpose much greater than any man had ever known. Born to become the Hero of mankind; born to die. The God man. Emmanuel - God with us. The most miraculous child of all. A mystery I can’t fathom.
But I can imagine that dirty stable a little bit better now, that filthy hole in the ground where the God of the universe condescended into flesh as the most vulnerable creature possible – a human baby. Defenseless. Reliant on the arms that held him. As fragile as my baby had been. And somehow in this divine mystery, the hands that had defined the universe and laid out the stars were now clinging to an earthly mother for warmth in the chill of night. Beneath the very moon He created.
The bright sun of Heaven, now the light of the world. Without any beauty or majesty that we should recognize Him. He put on flesh to dwell with us.

It’s so curious, isn’t it? Why the God of the universe chose this method to reach us. Maybe before that precious Baby came we couldn’t view God rightly. We could only see Him through the filmy lenses of sin and depravity. We couldn’t see Him as He was in Heaven: The One who wanted to love us. And so to view Him - as He revealed Himself - to view the manger as God intended, we must also view the cross. The inseparable ‘coming’ and ‘reason He came’. The whole reason that Heaven and earth collided and the veil was lifted for those thirty three years when God walked among us. And the reason was this:

Love found us. Love came to rescue us.

The humble beginning in a manger was only the foreshadowing of His work to come, His servanthood. It was only a foretaste of how He would enter human frailty completely to fight the battle for us in physical death. The yoke of our burdens would be upon Him. The Hero of mankind would have to become the Man of Sorrows first. Stricken by grief and afflicted. The pain of sin and death, the punishment for all of it, would be upon that Baby’s shoulders. And not just my burden, but yours, and his, and hers and theirs. All of them. All of us, who were and are and are yet to be born. Those sons and daughters He has called to Himself in His infinitely divine mercy. The mighty crushing weight of all of our human distress. Our utter clamoring desperation. Hollow eyed, sickly skinned, wretched creatures of our own demise. Enemies of God. Unable to know His love.
If all of that burden was lain upon one Man, how great must the burden have been? So much sorrow. So much sin. So much death and darkness. I cannot comprehend the burden of it. And how it grieves me to know that my own burden is in that awful heap! It was my terrible weight that helped to crush Him!

This one thought gives me comfort in the knowledge of Christ’s indescribable sufferings: How much greater must His love have been for us, to carry ALL of this to the cross willingly and slay it there upon Himself? His love for us had to have been greater than all of the sorrow and sin of this world combined. It had to have been immeasurably greater.
And my daughter’s physician was right. The greatest thing any one person could do is to save the life of another human being. To save just one life. So how much greater is Christ then, who saved many from every nation, from every people, through all of history. And more: The life He gives to those He saves is everlasting, never to be lost again.
A Savior. In the purest, truest, most beautiful and perfect understanding of the word.
God’s reconciliation for us. The greatest gift ever given.
And I will never forget the first time I met Him. How I saw myself for the first time in His eyes. The reflection of my complete forgiveness being understood. The reflection of my new-found hope and purest joy received. I will never forget how I saw Him, because I knew then that Love had found me.

I know that in my feeble nature I am still learning to trust Him. Inch by inch He battles for my fully-surrendered heart each day, even though the final battle is already won - I am already His child, and I cannot lose that inheritance. Still, He is teaching me how to be held by Him. I’m learning that His arms are safe. Over time I have learned to crawl. To eat. To stand. And still I teeter as I learn to walk these years later. Someday I hope to run this great race as other saints before me have run. But He has been there. He is carrying me homeward to His unveiled presence. Over the war torn lands and high mountains I never could have crossed on my own. Over the murky rivers and cavernously deep oceans that would have swallowed me for certain. Even when I’ve slept, His hand was over me. He has never left me. Not once.

And I imagine that maybe this list could have been made about me before Love came to rescue me that very first Christmas: Liar, cheater, gossiper, slothful, spiteful, prideful, broken, wanton, hurting, hopeless, motherless, godless …

But a strike has now been made through my list, a list far longer than I have given here. And far more shameful, I’m afraid. That list was struck from the record by my Savior.


It was struck ON my Savior. And the strike that was needed was not one of ink, but one of blood. The most precious blood of all. Spilled for me. So that these words could finally be written of me: All. Resolved.

That is the story of Christmas. That is the ebenezer I place in the ground today. I will remember from where I came. And I will look on the manger with eyes that have also looked on the cross. I will see Him now, with the film of sin and depravity peeled back from my eyes. He is the God of Heaven, come down, the One who has loved me from before time began. The One who has ordained in His mercy to call me His own, before I ever had a formed mouth to call on Him. The One who made the moon and placed the stars. The One who remembers how He formed me and knows that I am only dust.
I am His. I rejoice in my adoption. I sit radiantly upon His lap. A lost child - found. A sinner – forgiven. A wretched and depraved heart – cleansed. My brokenness - made whole. My sin – resolved. And my separation from a Holy God – resolved.

All. Resolved.