The presents are opened, the food has been eaten, the house is now quiet. Ryan is playing in his room with his table toys spinning and beeping and spinning some more. Trevor’s happy voice floats up the stairwell as he eats candy from his stocking while playing a video game on line with best friends. Sidney and Brad are out with their significant others, and Travis is on duty because police officers do not get the holiday off. And in the quiet where warmth is found, where comforts abound, where I look around and see the love that shaped these boards and nails into a home, I am reminded of the blessings. In the quiet reflection, as emotions stir and tears hang gingerly on the edge of falling, I feel insignificant. I feel unworthy. I feel mercy unending. Because the warmth of loved ones at my side, the time spent sharing gifts, the moments of eating eggs and warm cinnamon rolls together at the prepared table are precious to my heart. My mind wanders to lost loves, to far away family, to those without the resources to enjoy a day of celebrating. I do not deserve this community the Lord has given me. Yet it is mine, and I gladly with a heart bursting with thanksgiving, claim the blessing.
While teenagers yawned and brushed teeth and wandered aimlessly looking out the window at a foggy morning filled with snowy trees, Travis seemed distracted. He wore the look only I can recognize. The one that says his mind was fixed on something, somewhere else…not on the coffee brewing as he placed cups on the counter to be filled. As I inquired, and he hesitated to respond, his simply words caused a swirling of emotions in my heart – “I’m thinking of Ryan”. I knew. I understood in that place where locked eyes spoke of the stinging pain. Of the miracle boy who peacefully slept just footsteps away in the warmth and quiet of his bed. Of the child who does not understand Christmas, who cannot open a present or appreciate a gift. Of a child whom we were told should not be alive, yet here we are nearly three years after hearing the words, still soaking in the beauty of his brokenness. So we let him sleep, our precious wonder who had no recognition this day is a celebration.
Yet our day, our journey through Christmas Eve and Christmas Day held a story of acceptance and loving to fill another broken soul’s yearning for tradition and family. His name is Willy, and he is a precious friend. Willy is part of our adult special needs Sunday school class. When we learned he had nowhere to go this Christmas, that his family would not be present to celebrate Jesus’ birth, that loneliness would fill his days, our hearts yearned to include him in our traditions. As I filled Ryan’s Winnie the Pooh stocking with candy and small gifts for Willy, emotions ping ponged in my heart as I yearned for a child who could engage in the giving and sharing and appreciate the surprises in a Pooh stocking. Yet my heart overflowed with thanksgiving for the joy Willy brought to our home with his gentle hugs, contagious laughter and constant words of appreciation. I caught myself looking at him in awe at the joy he exuberates. We have a tradition of playing the UnGame at dinner on Christmas Eve. One card said “if you could spend the perfect day with your best friend, what would you do?” When we got to Willy, his face lit up, his smile stretched wide, his hands clapped then he pointed up and said “Me and my best friend Jesus, we would have a great day!” Oh the conviction, the stabbing to the heart. Is Jesus my best friend? Do I ever consider Him my first choice to spend the day with? Do I possess the passion and love Willy has for his Savior? I could not catch my breath as I sat by Willy’s side and took in the pure joy and excitement the thought of spending the day with Jesus gave my friend. Oh the simplicity of Willy’s routine, mundane life. He has little, yet he has so very much. If only I could live a life so full of excitement for my Lord and Savior. If only my first thoughts went to Jesus when so many moments in my day find me thinking of Him as an afterthought. Oh the conviction I felt as I watched, over and over during Willy’s time in our home, the excitement he exuded to speak of Jesus. As I contemplated the difference, the chasm between Willy’s and my attitudes and words, I realized. Willy’s life is full of simplicity. He manages a tight routine of work, activities and evenings with staff members in his home. He can barely read, has a limited understanding of the world around him and relies on others for so much help. Oh what a sharp contrast to my experiences and world view. How I long to be free from the social pressures Willy knows nothing about. How I long to live in that simplicity, to be free from the awareness of insecurities and peer pressure and social status and keeping up with the Joneses. How I long for pleasures such as Batman Legos and coloring pages and the joy in being able to find Luke 2 all by myself.
What this Christmas season has taught me is just this – I need, no I want, to do a better job, a more purposeful decision, of choosing Jesus first. I do not want to get caught up in the looking back at a journey that was not supposed to be. I do not want to get caught up in comparisons. I do not want to get caught up in self focused living I so quickly accept. I want to be more like my friend Willy. I want his passion for Jesus. I want his joy in the everyday mundane details of my life. I want his peace when life overwhelms and does not work out as I plan and hope for.
As darkness overtakes the light, as evening dances on to close out the day, as the chapter of Christmas planning and family time and holiday events quickly comes to a close, and as fatigue overwhelms my mind, I am reminded of His mercies and His greater plan for my life. And in the reminding, in the remembering of the why, I am blessed with the assurance of my salvation, of the undeserved love lavished on me by a Savior who simply came, who showed up and paid the ultimate price – Jesus, my best friend.