Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Christmas Miracle

It's been a while since I've written. I guess I haven't felt very inspired, so instead of sitting at my computer plucking out a jumbled mess of words in an effort to express my thoughts and feelings, I've avoided it instead. But sometimes, life drives me here, and I can't resist the urge to write. Maybe because it's good therapy, or maybe because it helps me realize how blessed I am; I think the main reason, though, is that I fear life will keep forging ahead, refusing to break at significant moments, and I will forget all the experiences--small and great--that make up my life and insist I look outside of myself to see the miracles happening all around me. I think that's what drives me here today.

It seems that every year at Christmas time, I feel deeply sober as I examine my life and the passing year and wonder if I've become any closer to the woman I hope to one day become. Always, I am drawn to my knees, pleading both for forgiveness for the many ways I still fall short, and also for a nearness to the only One who can help me in my plight. This year was no different. Except that my heart has refused to remain comfortless and hopeless. The year was difficult in many ways--unrealized desires, discouragements and even the death of a loved one plagued me and those I love and forced deep introspection and mourning. But, amidst it all, I am closing 2010 with tears of deep gratitude for all I do have and a desire to have more faith in the miracles that are possible in every life and every situation.

My family did something a bit uncharacteristic of us this Christmas season--we got together for a few days and followed a scheduled itinerary of events to celebrate the holiday season. It's not that we don't usually try to get together, but we're never very organized, nor are we ever usually able to all be together at once due to crazy work schedules. This year, however, my sister Traci planned, invited and carried out a well-executed family event that lasted a couple of days and proved to be an absolutely wonderful experience. We decorated sugar cookies (the kids in newly made aprons, each personally embroidered with their names), went sledding, enjoyed a wonderful feast, visited, laughed, shared favorite memories and experiences, and even went caroling together on a horse-drawn sleigh.

It was while we were bundled together, nestled on bales of hay situated on the wooden sleigh, listening to the jingling of the bells as the team of horses trotted over the snow-covered ground, the sweet scent of sweat lifting off the team and drifting into the air like steam, that I took a moment to realize I was experiencing something most people probably only dream about. It was a picture you read about in story books--a large family snuggled together on the back of a horse-drawn sleigh, singing, laughing together, enjoying the moment in a way most of us never do any more these days. And I was determined to soak up every part of it--the feeling, the smells, the sight, the sounds--all of it. And just at the moment I thought I couldn't be happier, I looked around at every family member, and the closeness we shared--the pure joy and contentment of the moment--overwhelmed me and I thought of how lucky I am to be a simple ranch girl from Wyoming who grew up in a family that's certainly had its share of problems over the years but who loves each other so deeply it hurts sometimes.

Only two days later, on Christmas day, did it come full circle once again. After enjoying a joyous Christmas morning with my husband and children, grandparents visiting to join in the excitement of new toys and games, the doorbell rang. We opened the door and were surprised to find an older couple from our neighborhood, he in a Santa hat, both holding gifts. It was then that the gentleman leaned down and offered my five-year-old a small wrapped package, explaining that he had made the gift himself just for her and wanted to present it to her as a way of thanking her for her prayers on his behalf over the past few years.

I was deeply touched as my little girl opened the package and found a gold chain ornamenting a glass heart pendant hand-carved with a pink rose inside. It was beautiful and meaningful beyond words. He told my sweet little girl how thankful he personally was for her unending faith in his behalf as he had been told she prayed for him every day. His wife expressed her appreciation as well and expressed her belief in the answered prayers of little children.

I asked them how long it had now been since her husband had been diagnosed with cancer, and when they told me three years, I could hardly believe it. Had it really been three full years that my child had faithfully offered prayers in his behalf each time she prayed? That would mean she was only nearly three years old when she began to supplicate the Lord on behalf of this man she hardly knew. I had simply mentioned one evening that he was having health problems and we should remember him in our prayers, but she had done much more than that. I was humbled as I knelt beside her and looked in her eyes in an effort to help her somehow understand what a wonderful thing she had done and what a meaningful gift he had given her.

It was then that I realized I was preaching to the choir. I was hoping to teach her a lesson she had already taught me. My own prayers for this gentleman had ceased after only a few months, while my little girl had steadfastly continued to ask the Lord to bless him, even amidst disgusted remarks from her siblings that she could probably stop praying for him now.

For me, it was a Christmas miracle. Another example of what my children are teaching me and why I am so grateful to be a mother. From seeing my own mother rejoice at the sight of her children fully enjoying time spent together, to feeling deep appreciation and gratitude at the faith and love of my own child, I realized once again what a miracle motherhood is, and that it is truly meant to bring the greatest joy and satisfaction possible.

And so, as another year draws to a close, although I still feel inadequate and dissatisfied at my performance as wife and mother, I realize that my children are filled to the top with goodness, and I believe it will show itself at the times it is most needed. I read a Chinese fortune at the beginning of 2010 that read, "This year, your highest priority will be your family." It was a profound reminder to me of how to spend my time and energy. And as I've simplified life and worked to truly live that proverb, my life has been so blessed and I have found once again that my greatest joy comes from my family. Motherhood truly is memorable and I am so grateful for that.