We’ve been anticipating my parents arrival for the holidays for several months. They haven’t been to visit in 5 years, exactly. Last time was Christmas of 2008, and their trip in was anything but stellar. It was the year that Seattle got hit with a freak snowstorm that grounded the entire airport for about 24 hours. My parents waited in line for 6 hours, only to be told that there was no way anyone was flying that day. They re-booked a flight out of Vancouver, BC, for two days later – Christmas Day. When they arrived in Haiti, they had very little of their luggage. Back then, they weren’t able to track it as well as they can now, so after checking on every flight coming in for the rest of the day, we headed home. Got the call the next morning that it was there and Chris and my brother did a quick trip to town to get it. We did Christmas a day late. Needless to say, we were all feeling a bit anxious about this trip in.
On Thursday my mom flew to Alberta, where my dad has been working for the last two years and my brother and sister-in-law now live with my niece and nephew. They did Christmas on Friday, then Saturday mom and dad drove back to BC. In the midst of all of this my parents were notified that my Grandad was in the hospital and the family needed to prepare for him not to make it more than a few days. Thankfully my parents were able to make it to the hospital to see him before he passed away early Sunday morning. He was almost 92 years old and had health problems for some time. In truth, I think everyone had been preparing themselves for a long time, but that doesn’t make the sadness easier.
The mix of emotions over the past few days has been strange, and it has me thinking about heart things.
A strange mix of grief and expectation. Heart groaning and joy. Anxiousness and hope. I really don’t know if I can offer the right words to describe it.
Because of the travel difficulties last time, I’ve been praying and hoping for a better travel experience for my parents this time. And waiting expectantly for their arrival, yet worrying we would get an email at the last minute telling us something went wrong and it wouldn’t happen. The news of my Grandad’s passing and yet my Granny’s insisting that everyone keep their Christmas plans brought grief and relief, if I’m honest. We’ve been anticipating their visit so much.
And now they are here. On time. With all their luggage.
And we held each other tightly and shed some tears in the airport parking lot because everything collided. Joy. Excitement. Grief. Thankfulness. The holding on to each other and being thankful for being together in the midst of loss. Expectation rewarded with the tangible.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot in relation to Christmas over the past weeks. Recently I’ve been part of a Bible study with some other local missionary ladies. We’ve been going through the Beth Moore “A Woman’s Heart” study, focusing on the first tabernacle in the wilderness that God had the Israelites construct.
The thing that has been so deeply resonating for me in the past couple of months from doing the study, is something that I think I’ve known in a head sense, and spoken of with my mouth, but my heart is absorbing in a different way now.
It is the very fact that God’s whole intention for man, the reason he created humankind in the first place, was to be in relationship with him. And not distant, domineering relationship with him. In the Garden of Eden he physically walked and talked with Adam and Eve. He was in their presence. The eating of the fruit wasn’t just about sin entering the world, it was about severing an intimate, personal relationship with the one who created them. There was shame and heartbreak.
And since that time, all through the Bible, we see example after example of God providing a way for his people to once again be in intimate, personal relationship with him. To talk face to face, heart to heart. For so long I have thought of God in a loving, yet distant way. Yet, now I see that he has been actively pursuing me, and each one of us since that moment when the first bite was taken. Could he have created people without the capacity to sin. Yes. But he didn’t, because then we wouldn’t have the freedom to choose to be in relationship with him. He gave us the freedom to come of our own free will. Wow.
As I think about all these things my thoughts about Christmas are different this year. I love the season and all the fun and “bling”. But, this year, that very fact that the birth of Jesus was God’s plan set in motion to provide a way for us to finally, once again be in a personal, intimate, know him kind of relationship has me thinking about things with more expectation. Celebrating that gift, that offering. The opportunity to reach out and take hold and enter in. The expectation and joy colliding with the grief over the need. The grief of loss. The anticipation. How I’ve longed for my family to be here, and realizing that is just a small amount of what God feels when he thinks on us, his precious creation made for relationship with him. He longs for us to be home with him.
I know that not everyone reading this believes what I believe, and that’s okay. I love that you want to follow with our family as we journey through life here. But, this is my heart. My hope and prayer for everyone this Christmas is that maybe we all see a glimmer of God in the festivities. And that we know the nearness of his presence. That while we groan from the pains and hardships of this life, we will long for more, and that we will reach out and take the hand that is constantly waiting to be grasped.
And, my gift to you this Christmas is the following video. It moved me. The collision of grief and joy, anxiousness and expectation. It’s a beautiful Christmas rendition of a well known song.
From our family to yours, Merry Christmas!