Christmas Present

This past December 2007, as Andy sat before the computer to compose their Christmas letter, tears were all he could produce. Andy and Stephanie hoped to announce the wonderful news that they were expecting their first child. But two years of infertility and a miscarriage finally wore their spirits thin. Tears were all they had . . . and who sends tears at Christmas?

Andy and Stephanie knew the Babe of Bethlehem came to earth to bring salvation, yet the joy of Christmas was dampened by their sorrow. They worshiped Him as King of Kings. But their grief was great. Their hearts were heavy.

Trusting God with their grief, Andy and Stephanie began to accept the fact that they may not produce children of their own, and they began to work with an adoption agency. There were questionnaires to complete, interviews to go through, and classes to learn about how to be adoptive parents. Then, the morning after they completed a weekend parenting seminar on adoption, Andy and Stephanie were surprised by a positive pregnancy test!

Once again, they had conceived! But like others who live with the burden of infertility, their joy was mixed with the reality that another miscarriage may occur. Again, they waited on the Lord.


Christmas Present

is here, as Andy sits before the computer this December 2008, he has magnificent news to share. The Lord has given them a precious daughter, Annaliese Joy, who came into their world on November 18th. In their Christmas letter, Andy writes, “She is beautiful like her mother and each day we both fall more madly in love with her. I can better imagine now the love the Father must have for us as His children.”

I am privileged to know Andy and Stephanie as friends. I am grateful for their willingness to be transparent in their pain and sorrow. Although they cried many tears, and their empty arms at Christmas, 2007 was a very difficult time, they never lost the perspective of a loving heavenly Father who sent his Son to earth over 2000 years ago.

In their sorrow, Andy and Stephanie turned to this Wonderful Counselor, the Prince of Peace, to carry their burden, to restore their joy, and to increase their faith. What God taught them about His promises could not have been learned except in the depths of their need. And the beauty of redemption is that it truly sets one free to restore the future, to be transformed rather than destroyed by the pain of the past.

This story of Christmas Present is not about

redeeming the future

because a precious daughter was born into their family. The birth of Annaliese does not take away the pain and grief of the life they lost through miscarriage and the sorrow of years of infertility. Andy and Stephanie began to redeem the future in the


of their grief. It was there, in the dark night of the soul, that the potential existed for this young couple to be destroyed by the loss of the dream of having children of their own. But Andy and Stephanie chose daily, in the midst of their pain, to be transformed along the way. By God’s grace and mercy, they chose to rest in the everlasting arms of God, to trust Him with the losses, and in the process, their lives continue to glorify God and draw others to His Kingdom.

That, my friends, is redeeming the future.

Revelation 21:3-5 promises: And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." And He who sits on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new," and He said, "Write, for these words are faithful and true."

Welcome Annaliese Joy

Precious Gift of God

Christmases Past

I keep our Christmas decorations in narrow plastic bins under our bed. We always pull the dust covered containers out from under the bed in the days following Thanksgiving as we anticipate the coming of Christmas. I remember when Amy and Scott were little - the excitement of opening those bins each year and their joy as they placed the decorations around the house and on the tree.

I vividly remember Christmas, 1995. Amy was in her first year of college at Biola in southern California. Scott was a sophomore at Immanuel High School in Reedley. As was our tradition, we went out to a local Christmas tree farm, and cut down the


tree. Scott wanted to begin decorating the tree immediately. I told him that we were going to wait for Amy to arrive home from college before we decorate the tree. I remember saying, "We will always wait until we are all together to decorate the tree." And we did.

That was December, 1995. In six short weeks, February 1996, Scott was killed in an accident. As December 1996 rolled around, my words from Christmas past rang in my ears -

"We will always wait until we are all together to decorate the tree."

I could not buy a tree for Christmas. I could not pull the bins out from under the bed. I could not feel the joy of the season.

For ten painful years we did not buy a Christmas tree. We did not decorate the house for Christmas. Although we celebrated the holiday in the homes of friends and family, exchanging gifts and sharing meals, I could not bring myself to touch the ornaments Scott had touched his last Christmas on earth. I could not decorate a tree when our family would never be


again this side of eternity.

I remember thinking, "How long will I go on like this?"

In a feeble attempt to conquer the pain, we decided to try a


Christmas tree farm, and we actually purchased a tree for Christmas in 2005 - ten years since the tree we decorated all together. We bravely brought it home, but that was as far as my courage could take me. The tree remained outside, leaning against the side of the garage.

Christmas 2006 again found us able to purchase a tree for our home. We again bravely brought it home. This time, we placed the tree in the stand, and stood it in its rightful place beside the fireplace in our family room. But, sadly, there it stood; we never decorated it. It just stood there throughout the Christmas season; its bare, empty branches a metaphor for my heart. It was Christmas, but something . . .


. . . was so obviously missing.

Then last year, we purchased one of those


trees, only about four feet tall, that already has lights attached to it. We set it up in its rightful place and I slid the bins out from under our bed. As I opened each bin, I was hit with waves of emotions that brought all the pain and sorrow of losing Scott right back to me. There were the ornaments celebrating his early years. There were the precious trinkets he had made in school. There was the box of


, what Scott called our breakable ornaments when he was little. I pulled out a few items for my grandchildren to hang on the tree and slid the bins back under the bed.

Well, Christmas has come again. This year we decided to have a few friends over to celebrate the season with a Christmas brunch. It sounded like a good idea until I realized that I had set myself up to


to decorate. How could they come to my house and have it not look bleak for Christmas? Yet, how could I face my sorrows stored in those bins under the bed?

I asked Amy if she and the grandchildren could come over to help me. I pulled the bins out from under the bed. Almost immediately upon opening the bins there were once again, shouts of glee as my grandchildren spied some of the decorations for the first time. They joyfully decorated the house and stood back to admire their work. Yes, it was painful. Yes, it was difficult. But it was then that I realized I had to let go of the tight grip I held on my old traditions and embrace new ones . . . new traditions that would have been created even if Scott was still here.

I share my experiences with Christmases Past because Christmas can be one of the saddest times for those who have experienced loss.

If you are one of those who grieves the loss of a dear one, I hope my own experience can bring you some comfort. Everyone's grief is unique and you have the right to


your own journey. It took me ten years to begin to feel like I could face Christmas in a familiar fashion. And then it took another three years to come to the place in my heart where I was ready to create


traditions to build on the old ones. This Christmas, give yourself the gift of listening to your heart. Honor the memories of Christmases Past, take care of yourself this Christmas Present, and look forward to Christmas Future.

If you know someone who is having a hard time this Christmas, be present to their need. Do not hurry them to leave their grief behind. Do not ask them to experience Christmas through your eyes. Listen to their sorrow. Respect their reasoning. Honor the memories they hold dear. In so doing, you will companion them toward experiencing peace with loss.

For the very Babe of Bethlehem came to earth as the Prince of Peace, and He will reconcile all things to himself in time, and make all things beautiful. Happy Birthday, Jesus.