Tuesday, December 16, 2008

New Column

Rather than link to my column this week, I am printing it in its entirety here so that it will forever be a part of this online journal of my family. It is a lesson learned I don't want to soon forget.--Jane

Finding Hope for the Holidays

For every bell-ringing Salvation Army volunteer wielding a red kettle, there are ten Fox Valley parents rallying to de-clutter their homes before the gift-giving frenzy of Christmas morning hits. Armed only with large, black garbage bags, their covert missions typically begin with a highly orchestrated smokescreen involving children’s DVDs and end with mysteriously full Hefty bags materializing on the donation pile. At least that’s what I hear. Ahem.

Recently, I sat down and meticulously crafted a schedule to prepare my heart and home for Christmas that seemed nearly flawless. There were old favorites on my calendar such as Oswego’s Annual Christmas Walk and Blackberry Farm’s weekend Polar Express. There were a few new items that tickled my holiday fancy which were added as well. The Aurora University Christmas Concert and concerts at several of the local high schools seemed perfect additions to our seasonal activity calendar. But my Christmas preparations got off to a slow start. I hadn’t even picked up a single trash bag—let alone filled one—when my children started dropping like flies evidencing yet another seasonal certainty…“Kids are sick…it must be Christmas” humorist Erma Bombeck wrote several decades ago.

It left me holding the bag (literally) and wondering what to do next.

It also left me contemplating my Christmas preparations. For what exactly, I wondered, was I preparing?

Unfortunately, I wasn’t left with much time to discern an answer as our baby daughter—newly adopted from Ethiopia—was determined to be sick enough to warrant admission to the hospital. Suddenly, my painstakingly crafted plans were replaced by meetings with doctors, medication schedules, waiting for test results and the re-crafting of our “holiday” schedule involving simply day-by-day plans for a household of nine to function while mom (or dad) was at the hospital.

Sitting in the quiet of my daughter’s hospital room, listening to the hums and beeps of her monitors gave me plenty of time to reflect on this change. I sat puzzling and puzzling. Having watched A Charlie Brown Christmas every year for nearly four decades, I knew “the true meaning of Christmas” but wanted to understand how that translated into the happiness and joy that miraculously appeared each year at this time. And I began to realize that Christmas was drawing closer and closer whether we sang any Christmas carols or baked any Christmas cookies.

With a new resolve, I stood and walked out of my daughter’s hospital room. Crossing the threshold, my attention was drawn to the ceiling tile above my head. Lifting my eyes upward, I focused on the tile. Where did this come from? Was this here before? I scanned the hallway and noticed other, similar tiles, scattered across the ceiling and painted in bright colors. The one above my head was simple. Consisting of four letters each painted in a different color was the word H-O-P-E. How had I missed this? I had entered and exited that room many times during her stay. A nurse saw me staring at the tile and commented, “Aren’t those wonderful? They were done in 2007 by children staying in the hospital.” And it finally dawned on me; it had been there all along. Even still it remains. There it was spelled out in bold, childlike faith for all eyes to see. What I had been so busy preparing for had been there all along—hope.

So take in a live nativity at one of the local churches…stop by and visit a friend, neighbor or relative for a spell…drive around with the kids to see the lights in the darkness. Be sure to make time to clear the clutter of your spirit as well as your home. And if life deals you a different card than this; or your holiday plans, like mine, get sidetracked on the way to Christmas—don’t despair. Hope abounds this time of year, that’s for certain, but it doesn’t pack its bags and leave town on December 26th. Hope is all around us…all year round…simply lift your eyes upward and see.


Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle said...

Very beautiful! Thanks for sharing and may Our good Lord and His Blessed Mother bring all that you need for good health and happiness for all in the Ark!

God bless and hugs,

PS I love your photo header!

Barb, sfo said...

I always thought your column was worth following a link, but you're right--you want to preserve it as part of your family blog as well.

This was a beautiful reflection and I thank you for sharing it. How lovely that the hospital put those "hope" ceiling tiles around.

God bless your whole family at Christmas and always!

D&D Brown said...

I hope you don't mind me asking you a question on this comment page. I have been following your blog for awhile now, OutnChgoBurbs from CAF referred me to you months ago. I have been putting of contacting you until I knew where we were at with our adoption. We just completed our home study (DIA) so I figured it was time I got on the ball!!!
I have a few question$ that if you have the time and patience I would appreciate being able to ask you them.
I don't know if you screen your comments so I don't want to leave my email address. If you are a part of CAF, I am JustAnotherThou or here is my blog address http://aboutouradoptionjourney.blogspot.com/ , I have MSN messenger on there if you have that.
Thank you and Peace be with you!!!

Oh, also LOVE your advent wreath!!!

I just saw on the comment form that it looks like you will be able to follow up comments to my email address!?!?!

Ericka said...

beautiful Jane - thank you.
Hope baby girl and ALL ark-lings are doing better :)

scmom (Barbara) said...

Great column, Jane. Isn't that the great thing about Christmas -- Our Lord comes whether we are ready or not. If He had to wait until we are ready, we would keep putting Him off. But He comes. Praise God!

Anonymous said...

loved your article Jane... am

Becky said...

Amen. Loved it. Hope all are feeling better.

Anne said...

Boy do I know the "my plan" versus "God's plan." But in the end God's plan is so much better than anything I could have dreamed up. May you be able to be hope and bring hope to others during this Advent and Christmas Seasons.


Prayers continue for that wee one!

Mary Poppins NOT said...

Thanks for this. We have had our own unexpected health issues that have completely derailed our usual Christmas preparations. Your insight really helps me embrace Christmas regardless of such things. Thank you again!

Easter A. said...

Great post, Jane!!!

Merry Christmas in advance and many, many blessings to you and your beautiful family!!! :-)

Matthew said...

Merry Christmas!

Hodie Christus Natus Est!