I'm not sure I'm in the best place to write at the moment, but the events of our holiday are fresh on my emotionally and physically tired brain, so I am determined to put it to paper (or computer screen) before turning in tonight. You see, what started as a fun, idyllic family celebration went totally off the rails.
On Christmas Eve, I climbed in a gift- and food- laden car with my husband and girls to drive the short 75 miles to my mom and dad's place. Both of my sisters and their families, my step-son and daughter-in-law with their 2 biological and 2 foster children, and my PawPaw (my last living grandparent) were all expected. It was a joyful reunion with everyone. We played games, opened presents and enjoyed the almost 80 degree weather outside. Unseasonably warm even for Texas. Last but not least, we ate...and ate...and ate. My mom is a fabulous cook and everyone else contributed sweets and snacks.
Once we were all stuffed like sausages, we headed outside to take family pictures. It was during this activity that my step-son and daughter-in-law got a call from their case worker asking if they could take two more foster kids. Unspeakable violence erupted, on Christmas day no less, between family members. Because of this, these girls needed a safe place to stay immediately. I decided to ride with my daughter-in-law and the 2 month old foster baby they already had for the hour trip to pick up these traumatized kids. During the course of the day, foster baby (these precious children have names that are implanted on my heart, but I must protect their privacy), had developed a cough and his breathing got increasingly labored. We decided on the drive that he needed medical attention. So after retrieving the new two, doing the necessary paperwork and filling their hungry bellies, we made arrangements to meet my step-son at the emergency room so that he could stay with the baby there and we could get the other two back to my parents' home.
In the time it took us to make this round trip, my mom got violently ill with a stomach bug. She was so frequently and constantly sick that she became completely dehydrated and so weak that she couldn't get up off of the bathroom floor by herself. About the time we were getting word that foster baby had RSV and would be transferred to a bigger hospital to be admitted, my dad decided that he needed to take my mom to the emergency room. My husband helped my dad transport her and it took all I could do not to cry as they drove away - knowing how much work still lie ahead. These two sweet girls we brought home were ok as long as we were playing with them and engaging them, but as soon as we tried to get them settled down for the night, they would resist. At their tender age, they understood that falling asleep in this strange place meant that they weren't going home. For several hours, one and then another of them would cry for family. Mama, grandparents, anyone besides these strangers. They finally gave up the fight and went to sleep at 1:00 or 1:30am. My mom returned about 2:00am from the hospital - better but weak and isolating herself to minimize exposure. Not exactly a greeting card Christmas.
We are back home now, unpacked and weary. And all I can think is, "Silent night, my foot". Isaiah 55:8-9 says, '"My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,' says the Lord. 'And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.'" The biblical account of the first Christmas doesn't mention presents, roaring fires, red and green decorations or gluttonous feasts. A picture perfect gathering with all family in attendance and accord, although lovely, is man's idea. Not God's. Life is MESSY. So statistically, some years Christmas will be messy. That's just the way it goes. No matter how much we try to manufacture the snow-dusted fairy tale, REAL life gets in the way. I can't say I wouldn't have preferred to end the day with Christmas carols, hot cocoa and a full night's sleep; but loving on three precious and helpless little children feels more like true Christmas spirit. And watching my husband come to the rescue of my mom and dad has a charm all it's own. All in all, I had myself a merry little Christmas. And now, to all, a good night. Zzzzzzzz.