“If you are sad this Christmas, it might be tempting to try to ignore the season altogether. But may I suggest instead that you do the opposite?  Move into the very center of it. Stand for a moment – not around a perfectly decked Christmas tree – but at the foot of the manger and look again at that tiny baby. Can you even believe it? There He is. Born for you. Born for us. For our sin and sadness…He is joy, and at the heart of His story is fullness of joy….especially for those who grieve.”

    ~Bo Stern, For Those Who Grieve at Christmas

I know this is cheating, but I really feel like I’m supposed to let the “Ghost of Kristen Past” blog for you today. These words tell, in part, the story of the ache and uncertainty that settled in my soul in December 2008. I pray they give you hope, and I hope they give you courage…because even when December sucks, the savior still reigns.

December 13, 2008 

As Christmas creeps closer with no word from America World Adoption about our daughter, we find ourselves with only two things to choose from each day: despair or hope. Thankfully–and only by God’s grace–we have been able to continue holding hope tightly against our chests, even during those fleeting moments when it would be far easier to throw up our hands and scream, “This sucks.” Because the truth is that this does suck, and it does hurt, and it does make us wonder if we are ever going to get through this.

But here’s the thing we’ve learned about hope: it’s a lot like forgiveness in that it’s something we have to choose over, and over, and over again whenever the hurt starts to bubble up. Hope, like forgiveness and love, is something we choose, something we lean into, something we pursue regardless of how weary we are. And when we choose hope in the morning, peace comes to us in the evening, even when the phone–and God–have remained silent another day.

December 18, 2008

When we answered God’s call in May 2007 to help put the fire out in Africa, we had every reason to believe that we would be home with our daughter by Christmas 2008. But as time went on, and wait
times continued to increase, we came to grips with the fact that our daughter’s presence with us at Christmas would be in the form of a few photographs.

And now today, after pleading with our agency for some concrete answers, we know that we won’t even have pictures to cling to while the boys open gifts on Christmas morning. Terra told us this morning
that “from the way things are looking currently in our transition home, it appears as though you will not be receiving a referral this month.”

So once again we have two choices: depression or dependence. We can sulk our way through Christmas with an attitude of, “but we were entitled to a referral by now,” or we can remind ourselves once again that this is not about us, and that we need to move forward depending on God to get us through the next few weeks–the same way he’s gotten us through the last 19 months.

December 28, 2008

For some families, a year gone by is remembered by the places they traveled, by the people they met, and by the things they started and, eventually, finished. But this year our family’s story is best told by the places we didn’t go, by the person we weren’t able to meet, and by the suspense still building from a mission that remains largely unfinished.

When our adoption paperwork left for Ethiopia on February 19, 2008 after nine months of compiling it, we had every reason to believe that we would be referred a baby girl, pass through the Ethiopian court system, spend a soul-shattering week in Africa, and return home different people…all in time to stuff five stockings.

But as the curtain drops on 2008, none of those things have come to pass—and God’s answer to our persistent prayers to rescue an orphan continues to be, “Not yet.”

So in a year defined by waiting and longing and depending on God to finish what he began in us, we have been surprised by much and humbled by more.

When we didn’t think Ryan was ever going to get through seminary, he graduated. When we had no idea where we would get $25,000 to fund the adoption, many of you said it would come from you.
crossroads church woodburyWhen we wondered what more we could offer our employers, they entrusted us to raise the bar. When we had every reason to worry, we found more reasons to be still. When we didn’t know how our inseparable sons would function once Landon started all-day preschool, they thrived independently. When we ran out of seats at Crossroads, the new campus opened ahead of schedule, making room for greater things. When gas prices soared, we learned that living without a DVR and some of our favorite TV shows was well worth the extra breathing room in our budget. When we thought we’d never see the end of diapers, Evan shocked us by being almost as keen on Mickey Mouse underwear as Landon had been. When our friends struggled through the heat of life, we helped them see that the fire only leaves behind whatever is of worth. When we thought we couldn’t make it through another day of waiting for the phone to ring, God gave us just enough grace and mercy to make sure that we could.

And when we didn’t think we had it in us to write a Christmas letter this year, we decided we had to because hope is still rising.

The momentum of hope that began our year and that continues to wake us each morning is the same momentum that will push us toward a new year, a new child, and a new perspective on what it means to be used by a God who has so very much for us to do. Though closure eludes us on the adoption front and the world is still holding onto one orphan too many, our posture remains expectant as we are made more faithful in the waiting and certainly in the hoping.

So no matter how strong or how weak your glance is toward—or away from—the cross this Christmas, may our family’s story give you every reason to believe that Jesus is as ravished by your hearts as he is by ours, and may knowing that push you toward lives of greater purpose, conviction, and hope.