For all of the December the 26th's I can remember, I in some way, have found myself crying. Some years a full out weeping with sobs a snotty nose and smeared mascara, and some years, just a small tear drop that slid down my cheek.
Sometimes, I cried because Christmas was over. Decorations were to come down. Christmas break was almost over and school would be starting soon. No more Christmas cookies, no more Christmas music, no more holiday parties. Sometimes I cried because of my own sin- ways I "messed up" Christmas. Lies I told, people I hurt, places I shouldn't be, sin I knew I shouldn't be involved in. Sometimes I cried because of broken relationships, loneliness, and an unexplainable sadness that just seemed to take over my heart.
I always knew that Christmas was not about a day, and not about presents, or decorations, or any of the magical things Christmas was promoted to be. I had sat through dozens of Christmas day church services, went to midnight masses, Christmas Eve vigils, lit advent candles, and read Christmas devotions. I knew that Jesus came to save the world from our sins. I knew that He died for me. I knew all of the real reasons for Christmas. I knew about the virgin Mary, the realness and messiness of an infant Jesus coming into this world. I knew about the prophecies Jesus fulfilled. I knew Jesus came to this earth for me, and the rest of the world full of sinners. I knew all of those things. And yet, I cried.
Tonight is December the 26th and I sit on my couch pondering. The fire is smoldering on a bed of ashes that is 3 days old and needs to be cleaned. The lights are twinkling and casting an almost magical glow from our Christmas tree. I can see Tommy's socks in the middle of the living room floor, and I chuckle, because I know he pulled them off before he went to bed-he hates wearing socks to bed. The kitchen is halfway clean. The dishwasher is loaded to as full as it can be and the rest of the dishes sit waiting for their turn in the dishwasher tomorrow. Toys and tags and paper are still strewn about in bits and pieces from yesterdays festivities. Everyone is asleep. I can hear Isabell tossing and turning. I can hear Noah breathing too loud. The dogs are dreaming, because I can hear their nails clicking on the floor as they must be imagining they are running. I feel more tired than I have ever been, and yet I sit here awake.
So many things to think about. So many things I want to remember, I want to share, I want to write down. Yet, I've not done that for two months.
My heart is so full. Full of sadness- I wanted to write down, to do something in the month of November to celebrate and promote adoption, after all November is national adoption month and I have three children whom we adopted, and I did nothing. Full of joy- I wanted to write about friendship. In my entire life I have struggled with friendships and slowly, very, very slowly, I have found and learned so much about what I was missing and where I was wrong. I wanted to remember the friends that have helped us. The dozens of ladies that made meals when we came home from China, that will never understand how much they blessed us. How pivotal their generosity to a person most of them barely knew, taught me so much about the character of Jesus. The friends that sat outside on our back porch and chatted on hot summer nights, listening to crickets chirping under a blanket of northwest Indiana stars. The talks we had about Jesus and silly YouTube videos will forever be a noteworthy memory of mine, the comfort and ease and importance of our conversations taught me more about fellowship than I have ever known. Full of pain- the brokenness of my children. The difficulty and struggles as a mamma I have with parenting... parenting little ones, parenting kids from hard places, parenting handicapped kids, parenting when nothing makes sense, and everything hurts. Full of change- a new niece, new schedules, new projects, new paperwork, new friends. Full of confusion- going where God leads us, continuing to grow, being challenged in our marriage, in our home, in our family, in our finances, in almost every. single. decision. this year we have been challenged to think deeper, seek God's kingdom first, and that has made things harder, harder, because no longer can we be okay with living in our flesh, no longer can we make decisions solely based on what is "best for us", and that brings about changes, daily changes that require us to every single day die to ourselves and allow Him to increase and force us to decrease.
We are in the middle. In the middle of joy and pain. So many days I cry to my mother about the children I can't parent, only to find myself hours later building a couch fort and snuggling with the kiddos with a flashlight a good book smiling because they are all so precious and life is so good.
Maybe I am fickle. Maybe I am complicated and random. Maybe a bit unstable. Maybe a bit too mouthy.
But tonight is December the 26th and in the 32 years of December the 26th's I can remember, this is the first time I am not crying. In fact I have found myself with a slight smile on my face. Growth and change is not easy. It's hard and messy. It's painful and full of scabs that get reopened and scars that don't want to go away. But to know Jesus.... but to know Jesus.
I can't say that I didn't know Him, but I can say, I didn't know Him, like I do today. All the times I ran from Him, He loved me, and still died for me. All the times I knowingly chose sin, chose to hurt my loved ones, chose to live for myself, chose to steal, to lie, to sin against His commandments, all those times, He loved me. His mercy for me is unfathomable. All the times He should have abandoned me, He didn't. All the times I thought He did, He was only growing me, disciplining me, challenging me, using what Satan had planned for death, He used for His glory through me. Each day the innumerable times I know better, and yet I parent out of anger, I parent out of frustration, I parent out of selfishness, He is still there- giving me new mercies every morning, and extending me His grace. Every stupid argument with my family, my husband, my sisters, my parents, my in-laws. He is still there, loving me, loving me, His love never changing. No matter my sin, His love doesn't change. On the days I yelled at my kids more than ever, why did I somehow think He loved me any less than the days I didn't yell? Why did I ever think His arms were not open?
His love has always been there, always been first, and it's His love that changes me. It's his love that grows me. Knowing my savior loves me like this, is what makes me love. It's what brings joy to my broken heart. His love is what grows me. His love is what makes me want to "sin no more."
It's this unconditional, unfathomable, indescribable love, that He freely gives me, that on this December the 26th in all of the 32 years of December the 26th's keeps me smiling, and brings joy and peace to my heart.
To keep this joy in my heart forever. I write it down to remember.