Every year, my children receive a new Christmas ornament. It may be something beautiful like a sparkly tiara for the year Gracie was totally a princess, or it may be Batman. There is the puppy in the mailbox for the year Katie loved the fur off of her stuffed dog, and the ESPN tree for DJ who knows all the stats. But they always represent something about that child and what they were "in to" that year.
Well it hit me that Mari doesn't have a ornament for her first three Christmases that she spent with her birth family in Ethiopia. And we decided we needed to fix that. She has a "first Christmas home" ornament from last year, and her beautiful African angel for this year, but I decided to get the "lost" ones from families who are fundraising in order to add even more meaning to them.
So this is her first one...
Pink, for a tiny baby girl born in an African mud hut.
A tiny girl who barely survived.
But she was so loved.
The second one...
Her second Christmas.
Spent sleeping on a straw mat with her entire family of seven.
Spent running barefoot through the fields of Wolaita, watching wild elephants and giraffes lope by.
Spent being loved by both of her parents and her four siblings.
This represents the year that hurt.
Her father passed away suddenly and she was hungry.
She was small and sick. Her mother was afraid for her.
She was taken, in loving sacrifice, to a place where "she would get to grow up."
God was there, and He knew. He sparked a desire in our hearts and that very summer, when her hurt began, we filled out the application with America World Adoption to bring her home. Not knowing...well...of course we didn't know. But He knew. He had driven her someday-sister in America to pray and beg and believe for a sister from Africa. Yes, He knew and He was weaving it all together.
Today was a hard day. She struggled and decided today she didn't feel like being nice. She told me she wanted to act up. As I write this, my heart hurts because so often she acts completely normal and whole. But today I could see the wound that is still there. It only flares up occasionally now, but it is still there. All the kids could see that today was harder, and they were exasperated because, well, why won't she just stop acting up and getting in trouble? Why is she hitting and yelling? Lord, help me to see. Help me to love her as she needs to be loved. Give me patience when I don't feel patient. Give me eyes that see her heart when I am frustrated and feel manipulated or ignored. Help me draw close when I am pushed away. Help me remember how you have woven this all together and to remember that it is not, and has never been, about me. Give me the mind of Christ, Lord. Give me the strength to lay aside what I think should be and choose to pour myself out for You for the sake of my children. Help me to model service by serving. Help me to teach patience by being patient. And above all help me to foster love and connection by loving and intentionally connecting with my children even when all I want to do is grab a cup of coffee and go into my room alone.
Meaningful...yes this post was meaningful to me because, in remembering, my heart opens up.
Collecting these stones of rememberance is healthy because we do so easily forget. He encourages us to remember...
Even in the beauty of Communion...it is there for us because we need it. We forget without it. We forget Him and what He has done and why. How much more do we need stones of rememberance in our every day?
Much, much more. I am convinced.