Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Remembering Hope

Advent is a time of longing. A time of waiting. A time of anticipation. A time of hope. We look forward to Christ's return, we look forward to the celebration of His birth and the fulfillment of years of waiting for God to send a Messiah for His people. But we wait and hope and yearn for little things too. For the bits and pieces that comprise the things we long for the most. Those things don't matter to humanity the way that the coming of a Savior and his eventual return do, but in our small stories they mean everything. And I know that they matter to God, because He orchestrates both the big and the small picture. He carefully oversees not just the redemption of man, but the redemption of me.

This Advent I have found myself reflecting much more on the things that I long for. Perhaps it's timing. This is the fifth season of advent that we have celebrated since losing Leah. For me Advent has never been more real or more personal since I walked through it while desperately longing for an actual child. Advent is a hard time when you yearn for a baby, but yearning also makes it so much more meaningful because you intimately understand the urgency with which we should be craving the coming of our Lord.

In my current day to day, which is filled to bursting with children and their laborious (but joyous) care, I forget what it feels like to long for anything more than a clean kitchen and a three day nap. In the midst of this, Advent is a precious reminder to stop and yearn, to stop and anticipate, and to hope. Sometimes God wipes the lenses of my eyes clean. They have been so clouded with sorrow about my mom's illness, disappointments with Jeff's job, frustration with our living arrangement, and a difficult situation concerning one of the kids. I often feel like I am treading water very poorly, spiritually speaking, instead of clinging to God's grace and allowing him to do the work of keeping me afloat. So this week he threw me a life preserver.

Sunday was the first day of Advent. I was feeling draggy and grumpy because Nic is still teething, and then he wakes up Kenny, and trust me, it's a vicious cycle. I dressed Kenny up for church and was tearing through the boy's bedroom unsuccessfully searching for his second church shoe, when Nic came in grasping a baby tennis shoe, and offered it to me. Kenny had never worn these shoes before, and I knew as soon as I saw Nic holding it that it was a little shoe of hope.

In order to understand the impact Nic's gesture had on me, you need to know the story behind the shoe. And, perhaps it is a silly story, but, when you are grieving things that seem trifling to others can be terribly important to you.

Rewind almost five years. Jeff and I announced we were pregnant, and congratulations and such poured in. Along with those came an offer from a neighbor, who mentioned she had boy clothing that she would be happy to pass on to us if we needed it. As you know, we didn't. We had a daughter, and she only needed a burial gown. Then I did something silly after we lost Leah; I asked for the clothes anyway. At the time, I didn't know if we would ever have a child, much less when. We had begun our adoption, and we knew that there was a higher chance we would be matched with a boy. So, it sort of made sense. But it didn't matter to me whether or not it made a lick of sense, because my parents had space in the attic and were willing to indulge my crazy hoarding whims. You see, to me it wasn't just a pile of baby clothes, it was a pile of hope. A tangible collection of material objects that reminded me that as dark as my life seemed, and hard as it hurt to lose Leah, and travel the excruciating road of waiting that was our first adoption, that someone believed that we would really and truly have a baby enough to give me the things that I would need when my baby arrived, even if they might have served someone else "faster" or "better" had they been donated to the Salvation Army or Goodwill. It was like our neighbor who donated the clothes, and my parents who patiently stored all those bags, really believed that a baby would come into my life, that a little child would someday snuggle in my arms and need all of those tiny outfits. As I longed for that baby to come, I needed hope (and really, when you consider how many piles of rocks our Old Testament heroes collected to remember and remind, making a pile of clothes isn't that odd).

When the pile of clothes was delivered to my parent's house, we had just been given a referral for a baby who never ended up joining our family. I carefully sorted through clothes picking out his sizes and packing what I would need for our trip to get him in Uganda. I was full of hope. I carefully selected my favorite teeny tiny outfits (he was small), and delighted in little bitty baby shoes. Because let's be real, baby shoes are ridiculously unnecessary and therefore ridiculously cute. I picked from the bag the most absurd baby shoes, Nike tennis shoes in the smallest size possible, looking brand spanking new because they clearly hadn't been walked on. They struck me as the most adorable thing, and I couldn't wait to get them on our little man's feet. But that was also not to be, and after our referral fell through all that stuff went back into bags to wait a little longer. When Tommy finally became part of our family he was much too old and grown up to wear the tiny baby shoes. Back in the clothes bag they went again. When Nic came home I tried again with him. While he fit in many of the baby (6 to 12 month) clothes, his feet were (and are) rather large for his body, so the shoes barely went over his toes. Back in the clothes bag they went. I got them out when Kenny started needing shoes for the purpose of holding on his socks, but I never quite got around to putting them on. Eventually Nic and Tommy decided they were cool and tried to wear them in an effort reminiscent of Cinderella's step-sisters. The shoes got separated and one was misplaced, and they never ended up on Kenny's feet, until that first morning of Advent.

As I slid that little shoe on Kenny's feet, zipped it up and pulled the velcro tight, it was as if God was whispering into my ear, "Remember, your crazy pile of clothes? Remember, you have hope. Remember what I have done."

It was a culmination of a longing. Not that Kenny has completed our family in a way that is better than Tommy or Nic. He is no more my child than they are. All my children are equally mine, and they hold the same place in my heart. All of their lives and stories are equally miraculous to me. But in those dark days I longed for a baby, I dreamed of tiny hands, newborn cries, and chubby thigh rolls, because I had lost those things. I had lost not only a daughter, but an experience. When we chose to adopt internationally, we knew we were giving that up, and we knew that it was the right choice for us. But I always hoped for tiny little feet to wear those shoes, and those itsy newborn onesies, and sweet little sleepers, and Kenny has done all those things. We've awakened many times a night to his sweet snuffles and pathetic little cries. We've changed countless diapers, given careful baths, and had our fingers grasped by tiny little fingers. We've introduced solids, been gnawed on with tender gums, and chomped on by a first tooth. Kenny is almost as old as Nic was when Nic joined our family, and we are just about done experiencing infant "firsts" that have been as new to us as they are to Kenny. It's been a bittersweet journey, one that has dredged up bits and pieces of loss and grief, but it's also been healing, and joyous, and good. So, so good.

But it is easy to forget how good life is when your mom's doctors tell you she is going to die, and when your children fight, and when your house has no space for playing, no appliances for dishwashing or laundry, and the funk that is effecting our economy hits your household. That's why I needed the little reminder of how much God has done: a little pair of white tennis shoes that carried the message of a longing fulfilled on a day dedicated to anticipation, to yearning, to expectation, and to that ache in one's heart that whispers, "and yet, there must be something more."

Christ was here once. His coming fulfilled a long awaited promise, and when He came He brought with Him hope. Hope in a restored relationship with God. Hope in a restored world. Hope that all the hurts and sorrows we bear will pass away. Hope that all of our yearnings and deep need will be met, through God's provision, and in His time. I needed to remember that this Advent. I needed to remember to take time to let my heart ache, to yearn, to know that my life is just a small part of a big redemption story, one that God is actively working to bring to completion, just as he is actively working to complete a good work in me. And knowing all that, remembering all that, I hope.

1 comment:

Haley said...

Amy this is so beautiful. I needed to hear these words today. Thank you for taking the time to share your stories of hope and redemption!