time seems to pass so quickly. all of a sudden we wake up and we’re putting up Christmas trees again and scrambling to find that perfect festive dish to bring to ugly sweater party number seven. each Christmas creates new memories and retrieves old ones from the recesses of our minds. they’re all different, but in some ways the same. there’s one that stands out to me - one that changed how Christmases will be for our family from that one forward. it was Christmas 2005. you see, a few weeks before Christmas, my phone rang in California. i was at a friend’s house watching a movie and my brother called from Texas and told me to he needed to talk. it was late in Texas. i knew something was amiss. so i walked outside and listened as he told me the sad news - he was getting divorced... at 26 years old.
my niece was 6 months old. this is what would forever change Christmas for our family. i remember that Christmas being a sad one. one filled with mixed emotions for all of us - deep sadness for my brother and my niece, anxiety about the future, frustration and a tinge of anger for the broken relationship, questions and prayer... lots of questions and prayer. and i’m sure my emotions pale in comparison to those of my brother - now a 26-year-old single dad with a new job, in a new town, all alone. i remember picking up my 6-month old niece from her mom and sitting in the back seat with her while my mom drove. she wrapped her chubby little hand around my finger and fell asleep in her car seat on the drive. uncontrollable tears started pouring down my cheeks for the innocent baby whose life was now in two different homes. they’re starting to come again even as i write this. i remember that Christmas being hard - watching my precious girl try to adjust to being without her mom, traveling with her to California and hearing her scream when we tried to put her to bed in her port-a-crib. she was so out of sorts and so sad. it broke my heart. i can’t imagine what it did to her dad who was doing a heck of a job loving and caring for her. i remember thinking, “i hope we never have a Christmas like this again” but yet that time with her was treasured.
every Christmas, my brother gets that sweet girl for a little more than a week, sometimes before Christmas, sometimes after. and every Christmas it’s gotten better, easier, less tears, more just a part of life. i remember the joy of that next Christmas...
that little girl was now one and a half. she was walking and doing her best to say Bree - “Bee” and all she wanted to do was laugh and play. that has been typical, every Christmas since then. she is probably the biggest joy in my life, that girl. and every time i say goodbye to her after being with her for a few days at Christmas, i close the car door and as soon as she’s out of sight, the tears fall. i think partly because i love her so stinkin’ much and it’s hard to not see her whenever i want to. i think partly because i remember that first Christmas of her life and how hard it was. i think mostly because of God’s sweet redemptive power and the fact that this well-adjusted kid has a loving step-dad and a loving step-mom now and has two in-tact homes with an infant sister in one and a baby on the way in the other. the tears are bittersweet.
and someday... someday i’ll tell Cameron these stories and we’ll laugh and we’ll cry. but for now, me and that awesome 5-year-old get to crimp our hair for ugly sweater parties and experience the joy of Christmas. i stand amazed at the healing, restoration and grace that God has given us in just five years.