Several years ago I made an after-Christmas sale purchase that had been on my wish list for some time. It was a set of mantel stocking hangers in the form of a word, with a hanger beneath each letter. There were two sets left, one that said “PEACE,” and one that said “NOEL.” We only had three stockings to hang, so I thought “PEACE” was overkill. Since we knew we would try and have/adopt another child, I went with “NOEL” and tucked away the set for the following year. What a pleasant surprise it was to open our Christmas rubbermade containers eleven months later and remember that we finally had a lovely way of displaying our handmade (thank you mother-in-law!) stockings. But after a few days of admiring the display I realized we had a big problem.
The irony was profound. Every time I looked at our fireplace the bold letters shouted at me that there was, in fact, no “L.” The “L” was empty. It was empty the next year, too. And the next. What seemed at first like the perfect decoration turned into a painful reminder of what I thought was missing in our home.
Several years ago I started a Christmas journal in which I annually document important events from the previous year, Christmas wishes for the family, and updates on what was going on in our lives . Here are some excerpts that demonstrate what that “L” stood for in my mind during that time:
2009: I’m trying not to think about how far along I would be now, had the miscarriage not occurred in May. Several friends are due in January. It hurts, but I know God has another plan.
2010: We have a potential adoption coming up in March or April…wondering if it will actually happen… It’s all so exciting–we just pray that we’re able to bring this little boy home as planned. (See “A Change of Heart – Part 1“, “A Change of Hear t- Part 2“, and “A Change of Heart – Part 3” for more on this story.)
2011: No baby yet. Everything that has seemed like a remote possibility has fallen through. Sometimes it seems like it will never happen. I try not to think about it and just keep busy.
My wise husband, who only just recently found out that my fireplace mantel had been haunting me for several years, has pointed out that the pain inflicted by the one-letter-too-long mantel set was self-imposed. Why had I not spent the money earlier when there was more to choose from and just purchase “JOY”? After all, did our family of three not bring us great happiness? Did our cups (and stockings!) not overflow with just one child? Focusing on what I thought was missing was my own choice. Even though we had hopes and plans to adopt, our family may very well have been complete at three. “JOY” may have been the perfect word for us. He’s so right.
As it turned out, the Lord did eventually grant us another child. Last month I received an email from my dear mother-in-law regarding this baby: “Shall I make a stocking for J or did you have something else in mind?” she asked. Another stocking? I had completely forgotten about the “L”! The thought of draping a newly sewn, bright red stocking on the final hanger of the mantel set brought tears to my eyes. Although the court finalization for the adoption won’t occur until January, for me the seal that makes J truly part of this family is the ceremony of hanging that stocking. The word is complete.
It’s true that I should never have bought that set. We were not promised another child. Though we did not deserve him, God in His grace granted our request and gifted us J. The “L” no longer stands for longing, but rather reminds me of another Son, sent to an undeserving people as a gift, to hang his blood red body on a tree. I am reminded that the true meaning of “NOEL” is “Christmas”. The Child who was promised has come so that I might have “L”ife.
Even though the hangers are full, I pray that in some way–though we have no idea how–God would eventually put us in the position to need “PEACE” in our family at Christmas time, too. Is this evidence of discontent again? Greed even? I don’t think so. Just a realization that the more “L”ove we experience, the more we seem to have to give away. But on the advice of my husband, I’m not buying any more stocking hangers until we really need them.