Do you have a special Christmas story?
– Something so special that those moments are etched into your hearts as well as your minds … forever???
As a child, and later a parent of young children, I considered myself to be well-steeped in both the Biblical story of Christmas and loved the traditions we practiced at home with our family. I would have never guessed that there was a far deeper way to remember Christmas – for I had never experienced what was about to happen!
A number of years ago, and even though we already had two boys aged five and ten, we adopted two young girls, ages three and five years, from the Texas Department of Child Protective Services. They had spent all of their young years locked away from neighbors and other family members in a tiny house near Paris, Texas. The police were called when one of the neighbors finally had the courage to report the terrible screams they heard coming from inside the house.
The youngest girl, Linda was nearly dead when they found her, having been intentionally starved since she had been born. She had gained only one pound from her birth weight in the nineteen months since she had been born.
Throughout her three years since her birth, her sister Theresa had been brutalized and horribly abused in every possible way. They had never known anything but the most horrific abuse – even when they went to live in their adoptive homes – so when they came to live with us two years later, it was as if they were entering a whole new world. Linda was three and Theresa was five when they came to us with nothing but the clothes they had on their backs and two little purses our state case worker had given them.
At no time was their extreme former poverty more evident than the night we decorated our Christmas tree – the first Christmas tree they had even seen! Their First Christmas. Ever. Period.
We always had a fresh tree – sometimes one we had cut down ourselves. After we would bring the tree inside, we would put on the strings of lights, and then hang as many ornaments (many of them handmade by our children) as our little tree could hold! When we determined there was no longer a single square inch left open on the tree, we would turn out all the lights in the house and plug in the lights on the tree. It was always a momentous event, with cries of ooohs and aaahs – sheer joy coming from each of us – children and parents alike.
But this time, it was so different. Knowing this was their very first Christmas, we were looking at the girls as we plugged in the lights. The beautiful colors of the bulbs danced on the walls, while our precious daughters took huge gasps of breath, stood speechless at first, and then let out tremendous screams of joy! They danced up and down clapping their little hands together… and left two little puddles on the floor while they danced for joy! (That was one potty accident I never minded cleaning!)
We all laughed until we ached, and sat wrapped up in each others’ arms as we stared at the beauty of our tree for the rest of the night. Both of the girls fell to sleep on the sofa – refusing to leave “their tree”, and had to be carried to bed that night.
Christmas has never been the same for me since that night. We,who thought we had so little, shared our lives, our home, and our love with two little girls who had only their first names, two little purses and the clothes on their backs when they came to us. A year or so later, one of the neighborhood children who had come to play with them at our house asked Linda when her birthday was. She looked at me, and without hesitating while pointing to our front door said, “I was born the day I walked through that door!” My heart skipped a beat or two as I dissolved into tears of thanksgiving to God for giving us the opportunity to love these little girls and welcome them into our home.
(God gives us) beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they (we) might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified. Isaiah 61:3 NIV,( emphases, mine)