Five years ago, the month of December didn't make sense to me. It was a grievous time filled with loss, confusion, and a creeping sense of hopelessness.
After waiting months for our court date to be scheduled in West Africa, we received the devastating news that our adoption was over on Thanksgiving day. We were told that the country was refusing to work with adoptive families, and there would be no way to bring our kids home.
Frantically, we tried to figure out if there was anything we could do, but the agency we were working with crumbled over the next week. And after speaking with the kids every Saturday for nine months, we suddenly lost contact with them, along with $10,000 set aside for court fees.
It was devastating. December unfolded with so many emotions and unanswered questions. I felt like I was in a fog trying to find some way forward, but the Christmas lights strung everywhere only enhanced the eerie shadows that lingered in my heart. I didn't know what to do, what to think, or even how to feel. We knew from the beginning that bringing the kids home was never a guarantee, but we promised to provide for them from afar, and now we couldn't even do that.
The month felt like it lasted a lifetime, and I sat staring at my Christmas tree every night from my couch, wondering what would happen to them. Wondering if it was pointless to hope they could still come home.
Halfway through the month, we got word of a couple traveling to Africa to visit the center where the kids lived, so we reached out to ask if we could send a small package along for the kids with them.
But what do you give children that you'll never see? And how do you tell them you're breaking their heart?
Or do you even tell them anything at all?
I didn't know what to send, but I had to keep it short and small, and I had a day to figure it out.
Eventually, I ended up at Target wandering up and down the Christmas isles, hoping to make sense of something to give the kids. Little fabric ornaments of people dressed in wintery clothes caught my eye, and I instantly thought of how excited the children were when they realized we lived where it snowed. Searching through the dwindling bin, I picked one out for each of the kids and noted how they even reflected their personalities. Then, later that night, I packed the ornaments up with a little note and realized I would never see them again.
Immediately, I regretted not buying a second pair.
If the kids could never come home, I wanted them to be part of our Christmas every year, and these little ornaments felt like a tangible way to include them.
A sense of urgency rushed in, and after dropping the package off in the mail the next day, I drove to Target again only to find the bin of ornaments empty. Quickly using my phone to check their stock online, I realized they were sold out there too. My heart sunk. The little people were all gone. It took everything I had in me not to fall on the floor in the middle of the store and cry.
Leaving in a hurry, I felt a strange sense of desperation and called my older sister to ask if she would check the Targets where she lived for the little people. It was unlikely there would be any left, but it was the only chance I had.
To my surprise, on Christmas day, my sister handed me one of each of the ornaments I described. Carefully holding them in my hands, I didn't know whether to rejoice or mourn, so I simply thanked her and brought them home that night to hang on the tree. Placing them carefully together, I curled up on the couch and stared at the fabric reminders of loss only to notice a wooden ornament hanging nearby. On it, in white painted letters, the word hope illuminated my dark place of uncertainty.
It reminded me of the day I first said yes to adopting the three kids. Sitting in the same place on my couch, I dared to believe in the only thing there was to hope in---God. Even though I knew their coming home was beyond the bounds of possibility, I still said yes because God invited me to, and nothing was impossible for him.
He didn't promise to bring the kids home that day. He simply asked me to trust him---and I did. Not because I was brave, but because God reminded me that it wasn't my story or theirs. It was his. He had a plan and a purpose, and he would accomplish what he willed. I didn't need to know what would happen, but I could trust him because he was sovereign and good.
My hope that day wasn't in the kids coming home. It was in God alone. And he was still the same in that dark December night as he was that hopeful day. Though circumstances changed, he remained the same, and it was all still his story.
Was I going to keep trusting him?
The Christmas lights helped me see in the dark for the first time that season. Instead of making the fog worse, they revealed the path forward that had always been there---hope.
God's plan and purpose was not thwarted because circumstances changed. Even when the dark didn't make sense, he was still accomplishing his purpose. And he was trustworthy because he had already revealed the end of his story.
A dark night long ago, he fulfilled his promise through the gift of his son. Jesus' birth didn't make sense, and neither did his death, but his resurrection brought it all together and sealed God's promise of deliverance for me and anyone who believes. Because of him, hope was never lost. Through him, I had the assurance of his goodness and faithfulness. He was sovereign even over death, and he was good. I didn't need to know the end of this chapter to trust him.
Staring at the Christmas tree that night, I dared to hope in him again.
December tends to hold many hard things for me every year, but I keep holding on to hope because of that Christmas long ago. Those little fabric ornaments remind me of God's faithfulness in such a tangible way, and every year they grace our Christmas tree by the very hands of the children that weren't supposed to come home. They invite me to remember what God has done in my family and through generations before me.
It's easy to get so narrow-sighted by present circumstances, but today is part of his greater redemption story that he's already laid out. So no matter how dark things may get or how much it doesn't make sense, he holds it all in his faithful and sovereign hands. And he gave me all that I would ever need through the gift of his son.
That is a hope that does not put me to shame.
"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." (Romans 5:1-5)
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