Before I had a passel of kids and a bunch of December birthdays that took up a bunch of time, I used to send out Christmas cards to friends and relatives who lived far from us. In them I would add a letter telling them the highlights of the year. Of course, the letter was always sugar coated, with pictures of smiling faces and all the good news of the year. Here's how I would write this year's letter:
This year has been a good one for the G- household! Hubby is still working at the linear accelerator lab. It has been so good for him to work there. He also spent three weeks in August in Nicaragua, going all over the country, praying, speaking, teaching a computer class at a university, and even talking once on the radio. He also spent a few days in a remote part of Nicaragua which is only accessible by boat and is out of cell phone range. The people there treat him like family. He is working right now to establish small businesses in Nicaragua so that people are able to support themselves and serve their communities. If you want to know more, check out the website for his nonprofit at Progresstools.org. We are thrilled to have Grandson in our lives. He's been growing so quickly. We just celebrated his first birthday and he has been such a joy! Oldest son is still working in administration at the rehab hospital and his wife stays home with the baby. I'm so glad they live near enough for me to spend time with them. I've been having a fun time making diapers and other things for him and am considering starting a business making baby things early next year. Photography son and his wife celebrated their first anniversary this year. His business is doing well and his wife started school so that she could work towards a respiratory therapy degree. They recently moved back to our city so it's good to see them more often. Microbio Daughter now has a job in a biotech place less than 15 minutes from our house. It is good experience for her and a chance to pay down the student loans. Black Belt Daughter is going to the university now and is studying child development with an emphasis on teaching. She hopes to get her teaching credential in a couple of years or so. She is still teaching at the Taekwando studio. She also went to Honduras in June to visit some missionary friends of ours, distribute food to the poor, and teach self defense to some of the local people. I am still homeschooling Ms. D and Mr. I. They came in contact with their birth family this year. It is going better than I had thought. We went to Oregon twice this year to visit family. The second time was in October when we surprised Hubby's dad on his 80th birthday. It was so good to see everyone!
I would probably end the letter with something about how God is the center of our lives and to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New year.
I would probably keep out the hard stuff. I wouldn't say anything about how our grandson was hospitalized because of a fever. I wouldn't say how the kids hid from us that they were in contact with the birth family for over a month, that Ms. D had plans to run away to them for awhile, that one of the birth brothers and cousins were awaiting trial for murder, that the mother is on a program in lieu of jail and is having difficulty keeping to the program, and oh, another birth brother and a cousin are in a gang. I wouldn't tell on the letter how much I have struggled with the decisions of how much and what kind of contact to have with the birth family and how it has been impacting the kids, of how we now have to be careful what colors my kids wear, and how much fear Mr. I has when he is near the birth family. I wouldn't mention that it took Microbio daughter nine months to find her job, because it's been difficult lately for any new grad to get a job in their field. I wouldn't talk about my fears when Hubby was on the Caribbean in a dugout canoe with a 15 hp motor during hurricane season and absolutely no contact with the outside world. I wouldn't talk about my disappointment of just missing my mother when we went to Oregon to visit. I wouldn't talk about how three of Ms. D's friends were shot, one fatally. I wouldn't talk about how one of my friends was diagnosed with stage four cancer, and another moved to another part of the country. It wouldn't include how I've had more migraines and trouble with asthma. I wouldn't talk about how hubby has a kidney problem that has decreased his energy, sent him to the emergency room a few times with horrific pain, and that he has surgery scheduled next month. I wouldn't talk about how Ms. D was in intensive care this week to figure out what kind of seizures she had, only to find out that they are caused by stress. Stress? In our lives this year? I wouldn't mention it!
But that's not even the real story. The real story would include how God has been helping us, guiding us, and coming through for us, even at the last minute. The story needs to include how people, our family, church, friends, and neighbors have helped us, supported us, prayed for us. It needs to say how Microbio daughter got her job right when the student loans were due, how I received money from my grandparents the week before the taxes were due and I couldn't figure out how I would pay them. It would have to tell of how, even through difficult times and hard decisions, we have been sustained by God and have had the ability to get through those times. It would have to include how our grown children have been supportive, caring, and even have offered to do most of our Christmas meal. How even during finals week our Blackbelt daughter and then Microbio daughter after she came home from work, had watched Mr. I while I was in the hospital with Ms. D. How a neighbor gave us a meal when we came home and I needed it more than I ever have before. It would also have to include doctors and psychologists who "get" fetal alcohol enough to finally do some testing and are taking it into consideration in therapy. I would also include how wonderful the people at Kaiser have been in giving us good care every time we've been in contact with them this year. It would have to include how loving, how caring, how supportive people have been, beyond what I had ever expected and just when I needed it the most.
You see, the real story is how blessed we really are, even in the midst of difficult situations. Our lives have not been the typical Christmas letter lives this year, but our lives have been so much better! Richer. I am so blessed to have God right here with us, leading us, alongside us, comforting us, sustaining us. I am so blessed to have people who are doing the same. We are not alone. God is with us. Emmanuel. And that's what Christmas is about.