The first Christmas wasn’t easy.
There were the wonderings about the meanings of prophecies and angelic meetings.
Hoping your husband doesn’t leave you.
Whispers of sexual impropriety and social anxiety.
A long travel by foot while 9 months pregnant.
Sleeping with animals in a barn.
Your first baby born… not at all in the manner you had imagined.
In 2014, I accepted a Call to serve a church in Cypress, TX.
It was mid-November and we had to move our family 1800+ miles.
Pack up the house!
Sell the cars.
Put the house on the market.
Take care of a 3-year-old and a 9-month-old. (This is its own list!)
Say goodbye to dear friends. When? How? Who?
Not enough time.
Not enough energy.
Christmas Eve afternoon we swept an empty house before we went to lead worship at church.
My wife is a superhero.
She did the vast majority of this while I did what a worship leader and school music teacher does in December: rehearse, plan, teach, minister and try to end 6.5 years of ministry the best I can. I wanted to make sure my replacement was setup to succeed for the rest of the school year. It was hard, but this is about Emily. I know she bore even more than I did.
Christmas wasn’t easy for Mary.
Christmases have continued to be hard for Emily. This wasn’t the end.
In 2016, our family was getting sick in our apartment in Texas.
We found lots of mold.
The boy upstairs was getting sick as well.
So, a week before Christmas Eve, my wife did what she did 2 years before.
She packed up our house and raised the kids while I worked.
No Christmas tree.
Just transitions and things out of place.
We were welcomed into our friends’ home with open arms and we felt the warmth of Christmas in a place not our own.
Emily had to make due with the little she had.
Mary was happy for the birth of her son, but yet there was probably still some lament.
It wasn’t the home she hoped to bring her little boy into.
Her own bowls passed on from her mother wouldn’t be the first to bathe Jesus.
Her own knitted blankets wouldn’t cover him the first time.
Yet, she basked in the presence of her son, the Messiah.
And that’s all she needed.
Now, it’s 2019 and we have mold. again.
Our youngest has been sick this year with unexplained bellyaches.
My voice has been really weird and my vocal cords attacked.
Are they connected? No doctor can totally say.
But we know that Gus is allergic to at least 3 molds which are extremely high in our home.
The mold inspector found a number of areas which need to be remediated.
We’re still waiting on insurance, but a few wonderful, beautiful, generous people at church are helping us with some funds to make our home healthy. We’re not sure how we will pay for the reconstruction fully, but God will find a way.
Now, for the third time in 6 years, Emily is packing up a large portion of our home heading into Christmas.
Soon we are scheduled to begin remediation.
We will be welcomed into another home of dear friends.
We will bring some of our own decorations and things to make their house somewhat like our own.
Mary probably brought a few things from home.
I wonder if those swaddling cloths on Jesus were the ones Mary had hoped to wrap him in.
I hope that she had planned ahead and snuck them in her bag.
Just in case.
This time around, though, our family is even stronger in peace, joy and faith.
We feel closer to the Father’s love than we’ve ever felt.
Our past tough Christmases only drew us closer to Him and strengthened us.
We know His presence and His love is all we need.
It fills our hearts and it’s the joy through which we sing, smile, live and be!
Mary probably wouldn’t have labeled the first Christmas, Stress-Free.
Yet, when she held the face of her son, she “treasured up all these things in her heart.”
God has kept my wife close to His heart for much of her life.
She is a blessing to me and all those who know her.
As I begin to worry and stress, she draws me back to the Father’s heart.
To the safe place.
If this Christmas season brings struggle, remember, you’re not alone.
There is hope and life for you.
In His presence.
His light casts out all darkness.
He is all you need.
He loves you.
This coming Christmas season.