Note: This a cross post from zjvv.net. As ardenlane is our adoption blog, and posts relating to adoption will most likely find themselves over here!
Growing up I lived in an earth-bermed house built into a hill. Beyond the hill lay a creek that, on good winter days with the right combination of snow and ice, could be cleared by a well placed sled and an intuitive sense of physics. Along the creek were cottonwood trees, beech trees, and pine. During some Novembers, Mom would send me down the hill with a bow saw to cut branches from the pine trees. We needed them for the Advent wreathe.
Today my wife and I either use a fake wreathe or we use the clippings from the Christmas tree we usually buy the 1st week of December. But when I was a kid my family didn’t get around to purchasing a tree until a week before Christmas. My parents never seemed to be big into trees (today they have a “Christmas plant” they bring in from the front porch…it’s a bedraggled thing, slightly less pathetic than Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree). Advent, on the other hand, was important. And it was good to have a respectable wreathe.
I love Advent. Part of that love is rooted in my family’s traditions. Every night we’d gather at the table. There were 3 distinct jobs split between me and my sisters. One of us got to light the Advent candles. One of us got to snuff it out. One of us got to pick an ornament to hang on the Advent Calendar my Mom made at a crafts fair. Dad or Mom would read a devotional, something liturgical (one year my mom even used a Catholic study) and then we’d pray. The time would end with a Christmas song, dad singing horribly out of tune (but none of us cared) and Mom adding alto parts to the Christmas hymns.
The yearly ritual fostered a feeling of longing, of happily riding a crescendo to December 25th when, wonderfully, we remembered that Christ was born. The experience of waiting calmed the spirit.
Lately I’ve come to view my faith through a lens of reconciliation. I’m not much of a black and white Christian. There is much to the faith that is confusing, odd, and – frankly – bizarre. To deal with such peculiarities I often have to get comfortable with the idea of mystery…that some questions lack answers (at least in this life). That’s the gray area of being a Christian. But then I’m left wondering about the absolutes.
One absolute, rooted in my experience of being human, is that, on my own, I am quite alone. We humans have a tendency towards selfishness. This selfishness alienates us, from each other and from God. I’m not exactly sure why, but I find it easy to view Christ’s sacrifice as a means of making it possible for us to reconcile with God and, by extension, with each other. Reconciliation is a way of making us whole.
So this Advent, when reflecting on Christ’s coming and being made whole, I’m also reflecting on an area of our lives where we’ve been quite broken…and the hope that this too will end.
Ren and I always wanted children. We’re a family with room to grow. When we discovered that this was not to be, at least through normal means, the decision to adopt came quickly and naturally. Honestly, I’ve never felt much grief over the inability to have biological children. I did feel grief – strong, deep and terrifying – over the long wait (and uncertainties) for our adopted children. These past 2 years have moved me to tears in many unexpected moments (the funniest was when watching an ER episode in which the nurse practitioner and her husband adopt a little boy…I started with crying). I’m a man made aware of a longing that echoes through his soul. We’re a family that needs to be made whole.
I know our family is forming because of brokenness. Our girls come from a broken family. We are a family made whole through our brokenness. I also know healing brokenness takes time and considerable effort.
This Advent is different. I find myself trying to look at everything as if I were a 6 year old. What will this be like next year? This year we set the Advent wreathe on the table and hung the Advent calendar next to our Colombian flag. Ren plunked Christmas songs on the piano and I tried to follow with the guitar. When we decorated our tree it felt odd. It’s a tradition that finally will have some permanence next year. For next year Monica and Kelly will be home.
This Advent we’re waiting, not just for the coming of our Lord, but for our two little girls.
Waiting to be made whole.