You may have noticed that we don't normally send out year-end letters with our Christmas cards. That's because if it happens to be a year we randomly choose to create Christmas cards, we don't get started on them until December, and we rarely get them mailed until the week between Christmas and the New Year. In other words, our belated cards should be enough to let you know that we're alive and still kicking.
Even though I have mailed most of my cards, (I still have a stack of cards waiting for their addresses to be tracked down and scrawled in green pen across their sealed envelopes) tonight I'm writing a little year end letter.
Because I don't want to.
Because my heart is thudding heavily and that's usually the sign that I need to speak.
Yesterday amidst all the Merry Christmas greetings that packed my Facebook feed, on friend asked, "What was your favorite gift this year?"
I tried several times to type a response, but I couldn't bear the cheesiness of my truest response.
My favorite gift this year is my children's safety.
It is a gift. No matter how hard I try, it is not something I can guarantee. I can put the household cleaners out of reach, keep the Hunter's guns unloaded and locked away, secure those car seats properly and... whatever else, but
I never fully realized this until Christmas Eve 2013.
We were enjoying a stay at the Potawanomi Inn at Pokagen State Park in Indiana with some of our extended Ruffers. When the phone rang at 2:45 in the morning (barely Christmas Eve) I knew it couldn't be good news. Probably someone among our group vomiting. My husband answered the phone. I could quickly tell he was upset beyond vomit. He fumbled for the light as he said, "Are we missing one of the girls?"
Ginger's blanket was empty.
My stomach twisted in a knot that has yet to be untangled.
I ran out of the room, heedless of my pajama-clad body and bare feet.
I sprinted down the carpeted halls that I'd spent the weekend telling my children were not for running.
To the front desk.
To my baby.
My precious, safe, sobbing baby.
She had wandered out of our room while the rest of us slept, pulling a door handle we thought out of her reach. Once in the hall, she couldn't reopen the door.
And we (four people who love her best) slept. A fan for which we couldn't find the switch muffled her cries.
Someone else heard.
Someone else took her by the hand to the hotel lobby where they deciphered her toddler gibberish into enough information to figure out who we were.
She calmed down much sooner than I did.
I curled my body around hers and agonized over what could have happened, over what we nearly lost.
Honestly, the inside part of me isn't all that calm yet.
Do you know what an auger is? It's kind of like a giant screw. I felt as if someone had begun twisting one right into my middle, below my heart and lungs, just north of my abdomen.
What kind of mother am I? How could I have slept through that? Why didn't I check to make sure the door was locked properly? How am I going to protect her in the future if I can't even hear when she wakes up?
For better than two hours, long after everyone else had returned to one form of sleep or another, my fearful imagination kept me awake and in pain.
Someone heard me.
Quite simply, He reminded me that my children's safety was an act of His mercy. That was the very word that soothed my anxieties and stopped the auger screwing though my belly. MERCY.
What about the mothers who wake to find their children gone and there is no reassuring phone call?
What about the mothers who are enduring their first Christmas beside their child's headstone?
What about the mothers who weren't even able to kiss those darling faces before life was snatched from their womb?
What about the toddlers whose crying is unanswered?
What about those broken hearts? Where is the mercy for them?
I don't have an easy answer. But as I snuggle my children a little more, I ask the Source of mercy to hear them, to find them. I have seen a little glimpse of their pain.
And so, dear friends and family, as I close out this letter, please join with me in gratitude for the many ways we've seen mercy in our lives. 2013 is nearly done. Let us use the remaining five days to hug our beloved ones a few extra times. Relish the luxury of staring at their faces, young or old, for a bit each morning. Give the dog a bonus scratch behind the ears. Send a message to your old highschool or college buddies. Call your cousin (especially if your cousin is me). Let's savor the living peices of sunshine in our lives, finishing the year basking in mercy.
But... if you can't bask in mercy, if your heart is heavy and broken, give me a call. Let's have coffee. I don't claim to know all the answers, but I am trying to listen for them in the middle of tears.