Monday, December 31

repairable

It was given to me when she passed away, carried from Omaha to Port au Prince.

The pieces of my grandmothers blue candy dish lay shattered on my bedroom floor.  An important family heirloom ruined. Disappointed and upset about breaking this piece of family history I cried over the broken glass. How could I be so careless with something important to so many? 

Cracked into so many jagged pieces, repair and restoration seemed unlikely if not impossible. 


~       ~       ~

A few days later it is Christmas morning and the door to my teenage daughter's room is locked. "What are you doing? Please open up!" I say with my face smashed into the door. Shortly thereafter she appears, pride and triumph evident on her face. She walks toward me to gingerly place the dish, precariously pieced back together, into my hands. I gasp with surprise. It looks so much like it looked before it crashed to the floor. She beams with joy. 

Just as she sets the mainly restored lid of the dish back in its place on top, the entire thing crashes into pieces again in my hands, slicing my thumb. Pieces fall to the floor around our feet.  

Knowing the time and painstaking effort she invested into the repair I look at her face, assuming it is now her turn to weep.  She pauses, looks at the pieces both in my hands and on the floor below us. She takes a deep breath and in a matter of fact tone she says, "I'll fix it again. This is repairable. You just watch." She bends down to pick up what has fallen a second time and turns to walk away with it.

Cracked again into so many jagged pieces, repair and restoration seemed unlikely if not impossible. 

A number of days later, glue dried a second time, a few extra scars and missing pieces evident, she presents me with the dish once more.






I remember vividly the pain of crashing a second time. I was a divorced, single mom. At twenty-two years old I was trying desperately to piece my life back together after the second shattering. 

I said and thought things to myself. 
"I cannot be fixed." 
"Once was enough." 
"Who will love you now?"
"This is too much. Give up."
"You cannot be made whole."

Cracked into so many jagged pieces, repair and restoration seemed unlikely if not impossible. 

At the time I was carrying in my womb the unplanned little baby girl that would grow up to look me in the eye and say to me with confidence, "This is repairable, you just watch."


~       ~       ~


I am heavy with the awareness of the shattered, desperate, and broken world we all woke up to this morning ... Each of us cracked and in need of repair; each of us loving someone in need of the same, all longing for restoration, peace, and hope.

My prayer this New Year is that we find the courage to overcome the pain and shame of whatever piece of us has been shattered. As we enter into the new year may we each hear directly from Him what I know to be true: 'This is repairable.You just watch.'



Tara 

Sunday, December 30

In His Father's House

Geronne's Papa passed away last night. We are so lucky to have a lot of video footage of Miradye telling stories that we hope to edit and pass on to the family.

~          ~          ~          ~ 


(Below) Posted originally April 2011:

Miradye Alexandre 

This weekend Geronne's Dad came to stay with us. He is 90 years old and very frail. He ended up here by accident due to the cruddy reality of Haitian healthcare. While we were sad she had trouble getting him care, we were very touched and blessed by his presence in our home. We have known Mr. Alexandre for more than five years. He spent his whole life in the area we first lived when we moved here in 2006. (For those that have Troy's book he is pictured there.) This was our first opportunity to spend an extended time just listening to him and sitting with him. Multiple times throughout the day Saturday and Sunday we had tears in our eyes watching Geronne care for him or listening to his laugh when Lydia came through the room or listening to him speak of his broken relationship with his father or his memories of raising 12 children in rural Haiti.

Miradye knows which generation and the names of his family that came here on a boat from Africa. He tells that story with confidence, as if he has it etched on his heart and has been passed down word-for-word.

We listened intently as he jumped from decade to decade sharing stories from childhood and recent years and everything in between. Geronne filled in a lot of details throughout the weekend. She shared in a matter of fact tone at times and with much emotion at others. We were humbled to be trusted with much of what she shared.

After the lengthy discussion about his life Miradye talked specifically about his faith. He said he used to be able to read a Bible and asked if we had one. His eyesight won't allow him to read anymore. Troy randomly flipped open the Kreyol New Testament. He "randomly" started to read from John chapter 14 ... try reading this to a 90 year old who is aware his time on earth is short.

John 14 Jesus Comforts His Disciples 
1"Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.
2"In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.
3"If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.
4"And you know the way where I am going."
5Thomas said to Him, "Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?" 6Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.


Saturday, December 29


a new life to celebrate the coming new year ~ menchica gave birth to a daughter today

Friday, December 28

late december review for posterity's sake


We went hiking in the beautiful mountains of this beautiful land with beautiful friends.
Hope's birthday date with Mom and Dad - Left photo before trying sushi, right photo after learning what was in the sushi.
The pizza and fries we got because sushi was not an 11-year-old crowd pleaser ... 
Sushi followed by (free) ice-cream (from sushi people) followed by french-fries and pizza.  Not recommended. Not classy.  Best part: Japanese restaurant patrons singing Happy Birthday to Hope in a restaurant in Port au Prince. #lovethat
Birthday cake a couple days later...


Christmas Eve ...
Lots of singing and reciting. Noah, Isaac and Hope recited a long poem from memory. When an adult man stood to read scripture Noah leaned over and said "Why does that guy use the words?" Lydia got bored and impatient for the candle light part of the service and said "I am tired and I would like to sleep but people keep on singing." Best part: Amazingly talented Haitian guy singing an Italian opera song at the English-language Christmas Eve service in Haiti.  #lovethat



Kid quotes from late December:
  • ‎"You know what Mom? When it's scary, I just ask God to put the light on. That's all I do."  - Lydia 
  • Noah walks over to hug me - "You're my favorite"  - I whisper in his ear with a hint of teasing humor.   "Uh - white son - you mean, - right?" he replied, with one eye-brow raised. Fine. Yes. My favorite white son.

Paige hosting sleep overs in her room frequently
  • The five youngest kids went to Beth and John's to decorate their house for Christmas and have pizza with them.  Everyone was very excited about this night - a time where they were invited but Mom and Dad were not.  They decorated and ate and had much fun.  When they got home Isaac and Noah reported that Lydia and Phoebe were mooches and asked for Beth to give them decorations.  Noah worried out loud about "Beth having to pay for our meal!" Hope reported that Beth listened to my pleas about sugar and "only gave us a baby amount of pop". The next morning Lydia came to ask if she could "take this ball in the bathtub"?  The ball was something she lifted from Beth's without permission ...Happened to be a 1979 Christmas ornament that belongs to the McHouls first-born. 
  • Had to have a talk about what qualifies as a bathtub toy and what qualifies as stealing.

  • As we worked together to make a cake, Lydia said: "God made us for that we could make birthday cake for that He would't have to make cake. That is one reason He made us -maybe."
Baking in our undies, it's how we do.
(God hates baking!)
  • Noah kept us entertained with multiple Christmas carols and phrases in burp format while we inched our way through insane traffic on the way home Christmas Eve 
video

As we wrap up this year we're a little bit dumb-founded at how much went on in one short twelve month period. Looking back at the photos from early in the year feels like looking at ancient history. One of the most challenging parts of the year was figuring out some health-concerns with two of our girls. The best part of the year was seeing how often God shows up and gives supernatural strength and provision to press on in challenging times. 

2012 is free to exit the scene; bon voyage.


What was the best part of your 2012?  The worst?

Wednesday, December 26

Justice, Power & The Kingdom





When the song of the angels is stilled, When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,

The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.

-Howard Thurman

"Truly he taught us to love one another, His law is love and His gospel is peace."

Tuesday, December 25

Monday, December 24

sharing the day

Birthday date night
Hope happens to be our most mellow, most flexible child. She rolls with the punches and does not allow small things to ruffle her feathers. Perhaps being born in the back of a truck set her up to roll with the unplanned with an abundance of grace.

This character trait comes in handy when Christmas rolls around and everyone is (rightfully) focused on the birth of Jesus and she must share her birthday with the King. She is easy-going and thinks it is a wonderful date to be born.

Today our precious gift of smiles and serenity celebrates her 11th birthday. After we sing to her, she will sing for us tonight at the Christmas Eve service. We are blessed to parent this strong and gorgeous girl and we're certain she has only just begun to touch the world with her unique gifts.  

Happy Birthday Hope ... And Merry Christmas Eve to all.

~       ~       ~


An excerpt from the archives:

Hope's FIRST-mother shares with us that Hope was born on the way to a hospital in the back of a tap-tap (public transportation) in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Christmas Eve, 2001. 

How is that for a grand entrance?! 



April 2002
We first met Hope in April of 2002 when she was just about four months old.  She has always been a mellow, soft-spoken, patient little girl. She has also always been a tough-as-nails-girl.

A few months into her adoption she began to lose weight. Each time I would visit she would either be the same size or smaller. In mid-August of 2002 I was very concerned, she seemed to be losing ground consistently.

In late August we got an email that said "Hope is sick. We cannot touch her. She just screams. Send medicine." Well, we all know how I handled that. I was on an airplane in less than 24 hours.

When I arrived in Haiti it hit me that I had no one to talk to and was all alone with a very sick little girl and no great ideas about how to find her help. I was left to do my best and pray. I have never prayed harder then I did during those five days I was alone with her in a small hotel room. She had passed a kidney stone, that was why she screamed and would not let anyone touch her. A 12 pound baby passing a kidney stone is almost unheard of, but that is exactly what happened. The orphanage nannies saved the tiny little stone and we brought it back to MN to find out what was causing her trouble.

A urologist in MN tested it and determined that she was both severely malnourished and dehydrated. We began the process to apply for a medical visa to get her out of Haiti and to the USA for surgery. One kidney was very enlarged and there was no telling when the next stone would begin to cause problems.

Three weeks later, in mid September, my dad and Paige and I flew to Haiti, prepared to ask the U.S. Embassy to let her out prior to the end of her adoption, on a medical visa.

The orphanage director was very negative towards the idea and attempted to discourage us from applying for the medical visa. She was also the person ultimately in charge of the orphanage that was allowing Hope to be dehydrated and starved ... But I won't go there because I cannot say anything nice about that whole thing.

We went to the Embassy fully prepared and armed to the teeth with documentation. We had repeatedly been told that our request would likely be denied.

The lady from the Embassy looked for a few key documents, gave us ZERO grief and told us she would have a visa ready THAT AFTERNOON. 

Hope came home to MN in late September, not as our child in the legal sense, but on a 90 day visa. She had surgery a few days after arriving in the USA. She came through like a champ but required a second surgery 40 days later. In between the two surgeries her adoption was legally completed and we returned with her to Haiti to finalize the legal end of things and to pick up Isaac who was then also ready to come to Minnesota.


Hope has been with our family since she was nine months old. She fought through kidney stones and dehydration and malnutrition. She is an incredibly resilient little girl.

Happy Birthday to our tap-tap Christmas Eve baby girl.

Thursday, December 20

Looking Back: Year End Statistics



The end of the year - here we are already. We've compiled and counted and reviewed the year that was. 

We do not place an abundance of importance on statistics. If statistics are the forest, we are always aware of each individual tree. As a team, we are too involved in relationships to worry a lot about the numbers.  

Working with the women we quickly learn that one healthy pregnancy carried to term, one victorious labor and delivery, one healthy single baby born to one mother that overcame immeasurable obstacles is what truly matters. The young woman courageously delivering her healthy baby far outweighs the preponderance of any statistic.

At the Maternity Center each woman is known by name. Statistics never know a name. Without a doubt a community has developed.  It is safe to say that staff, midwives, and pregnant women alike all look forward to program days.

Having said that - we recognize that those that give to keep this program operating and pray continually for these women and for the staff might like to see how the numbers look.


In June, a few mid-year stats were posted HERE.


YEAR END STATS:
  • 88 women ended their time in the prenatal program in the calendar year 2012
  • 6 of the 88 withdrew early from the prenatal program due to various reasons (risked out early, quit, or moved away)
  • 82 of the 88 stayed until delivery/end of pregnancy
  • 90% of the 82 continued on in the 6 month early childhood development program after they delivered
  • 84 babies born in total (two sets of twins: 82 moms delivered 84 babies)
  • 77 babies lived - 7 babies died 
  • 3 babies died (IUFD) and were born deceased (one delivered by us - two delivered elsewhere)
  • 4 babies died after birth due to prematurity (none delivered with us - all transfered to local hospital)
  • 16 of 82 women were transported to other hospitals due to complications or perceived risk 
  • 10 of those 16 ended up having a cesarean section - (a very low cesarean rate when considering the  health challenges this population faces)
  • 82 moms lived - 0% maternal death - This is a statistic we are thrilled to share
The  troubles:
  • Our biggest enemy is pre-eclampsia - number one transport reason
  • Number two transport reason was premature labor
Breaking it down:
  • 44 boys
  • 33 girls
  • 50% of the women were having their first baby
  • The oldest mother that delivered this year was 45
  • The youngest mother that delivered this year was 15

Fun & random stats:
  • First baby of the year born 1/1 ~ last baby of the year born 12/29
  • March was the month for girls
  • November was the month for boys
  • 12 babies were born in one month on two occasions in January and in September
  • June was the slowest month, only 2 babies born
  • Three babies born in just over a 12 hour period was a new record set in November
  • Three babies were born on the same calendar date twice in the year 2012 - all six of those babies were boys. 
  • We estimate that more than 35 friends of Heartline Ministries have donated blood to MSF (M√©decins Sans Fronti√®res) for high-risk deliveries. We know that this blood has saved lives in 2012. To learn about giving blood when you visit Haiti - read this post with options and guidelines written by Dr. Jen Halverson
  • There was one VBAC in 2012
  • Heartline delivered one expat baby in 2012
  • 1,500+ Depo Provera birth control shots given - this program is growing rapidly - we're currently averaging 35 injections every Friday
  • 52 Friday Bible Study/Devotions Presented
  • 52  Friday Birth-Control Education Classes Presented
  • 52 Thursday Prenatal Classes
  • 51 Tuesday Early Childhood Development Classes
  • The women eat a meal each day they come for class - Upwards of 4,000 nutritious meals were served in 2012
More Still:
  • After every consultation the midwife that has seen the woman takes a moment to pray with her before she leaves for the day
  • Every mother that delivers is seen for a postpartum visit at 1 week, 3 weeks, and 6 weeks postpartum - approximately 249 post partum visits completed
  • Every new baby is given a gift bag with basic supplies and clothing, these gifts are possible due to your generous donations
  • Sick babies are seen for the first six months of their lives. An estimated 400 individual visits to see/treat for minor and major illness took place - Once women graduate from early childhood development class they are asked and advised to use a local Pediatrician
  • Most women are driven home after post partum care - we did not keep stats on this but we estimate that 65 women received transportation to their home after their babies were born.  To read more about the blessing of that experience, see this post
  • One life-threatening and intense transport was done due to a post partum hemorrhage, that was the most memorable day of 2012 for all involved
  •  By U.S. standards all but a few of the women served would have been labeled "high risk". We do risk some women out. Our numbers reflect the fact that we cannot typically accept women that have had previous C/S or very extreme blood pressure issues
  • Hundreds of you let us know you were praying for a specific woman as she was pregnant and during labor and delivery - that mattered
  • MANY thanks to every visiting midwife and nurse midwife - but especially those that stayed for a few weeks to cover while the full-time staff traveled.  Cookie Ireland, Shelly Downing, Betsy Robinett, Jennifer Germain, Sarah Obermeyer - we are so grateful for your help and wisdom and gifts and training
  • Thanks to Sarah Dornbos and Jen Halverson for keeping us organized and stocked with supplies
  • We are so grateful ... Especially to each and every person that supports the Heartline Maternity Center with your financial gifts and your prayers - God shows up and does God-sized things every week, it is an honor to be a small part of His work
A picture is worth 1000 statistics:






























These numbers are being published ten days early, we may still have a baby or two before the calendar turns over to 2013. 

Please share the work happening at Heartline in Port au Prince with your friends, neighbors, pastors, and small groups.

To pray for women in the program by name - GO HERE.

Donation Options





Questions about our programs or statistics can be directed to Beth McHoul, Tara Livesay, or left in the comments section of this blog.

That's the year in a nutshell. We've been protected, provided for, surprised, challenged, and blessed!

Grateful for your support,


Beth, Agathe, Winifred, Cherline & Tara

Heartline Maternity Center

Wednesday, December 19

Quoting

If the incarnation teaches us anything, it’s that God can be found everywhere: in a cattle trough, on a throne, among the poor, with the sick, on a donkey, in a fishing boat, with the junkie, with the prostitute, with the hypocrite, with the forgotten, in places of power, in places of oppression, in poverty, in wealth, where God’s name is known, where it is unknown, with our friends, with our enemies, in our convictions, in our doubts, in life, in death, at the table, on the cross, and in every kindergarten classroom from Sandy Hook to Shanghai. -Rachel Held Evans 

Tuesday, December 18




O holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in,
Be born in us today. We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell:
Oh, come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Emmanuel!



Monday, December 17

South Padre Island, TX ~ Give this Christmas Away





Heartline Ministries is in the process of raising funds to expand the Prenatal/Maternity Care program.
The Runforlifehaiti.org event that we've previously shared with you about (see video below) is set to begin in three weeks. That event's purpose is to bring attention and awareness to the dire maternal-health situation in Haiti and to raise funds for Heartline to be able to continue addressing this need at a larger capacity.  We are grateful to be working with pregnant and new mothers in our area and are anxious to be able to increase the numbers in the future. 

Last night $6,600 was raised by friends in South Padre Island, TX. They put on a "co-event" with the intention of giving the proceeds from their event to Heartline's Maternity Center fund.  Their Christmas concert was a huge success and the money they raised will be used toward Heartline's expansion. We're grateful!

This from the organizer of the event:
"Our theme song was 'Give this Christmas Away'. If there's love in your heart, don't let it stay there. Give this Christmas away and you will be grateful you did. It is a way to say to those with much less, "You're not forgotten.."  It's doing what love does even when no one is watching you.  For God so loved the world that he Gave us all His Son , so we could be His hands, His feet... His LOVE!"

Please consider joining these creative Texans by putting on your own "co-event" of any sort. Many people are running races in the coming months, but running is just one way you can help raise funds and awareness.

On behalf of all of us at Heartline Ministries, we are grateful for your generosity and love.



~     ~     ~     ~

If you're new to Heartline Ministries and the work happening in Haiti, from a post earlier this year:

Prior to my own scare delivering Noah in 2004 I can honestly say I never once considered that all over the world women die giving birth due to a lack of very simple things, a lack of healthcare workers and midwives.  I did not consider that not so far away is a tiny little country that boasts the highest maternal mortality rate in the western hemisphere.

I'm tempted to share dozens of other mind-boggling statistics. It really is pretty crazy to see how dangerous womanhood and childbirth is in some of the world's poorest countries.  Sharing them would be my way of trying to convince you it is dire, trying to make it important to you, but I'm not going to do that.

Statistics are numbers meant to prove a point.  For me, the bigger point is this: Behind those statistics are real.live.breathing.feeling.struggling human beings. They are just like you. They are just like me. They are mothers that love their family. They want a stable life. They want to feel healthy. They want to live.

The fact is, I'd rather tell you the miraculous story of one tenacious woman and how her life was spared. I'd rather tell you about the hundreds of courageous mothers and babies that are thriving. I'd rather tell you about the ways God is showing up and providing for these women. 


Saturday, December 15

in our dark street shines





 Trouble comes like wrecking ball~to your peace of mind~ and all that worry you can't leave behind ~Peace peace~it's hard to find~doubt comes like a tiny voice that's~so unkind~and all your fears they conspire~to unwind you. But in your dark street shines, an Everlasting Light ... All your hopes and fears are met in Him tonight


(Practicing for Christmas Eve service. Song by Sara Groves. 
All lyrics posted at YouTube link of video.)


So terribly sad to read the news.Indescribable grief and no words that could even begin to touch the depth of that sort of pain and loss ... Heavy hearts and prayers for the mommies and daddies in Connecticut this Christmas. 

Thursday, December 13

inspiration, live generously ...



New Film Premiere - I Like Adoption. from ILikeGiving.com on Vimeo.

When all of a sudden ~I am unaware of these afflications eclipsed by glory ~
And I realize just how beautiful you are ~And how great you affections are for me ~
I don't have time to maintain these regrets  ~ When I think about the way He loves us

question & answer on prenatal day



Hi Tara, 
Can you explain a little more why you do not deliver walk-ins. I'm asking in order to once again learn. My instinct, as someone who has no idea what it takes to do the work you are doing, would be to take her in. You have such a hard job and I continue to pray for you, your family and those you serve. Thank you for doing what you are doing.

Love,
J.

T & T Livesay said...

HI J-
Thanks for asking!
Sure, I can explain ... There are a lot of reasons, and because saying "no" to walk-ins is hard and quite uncomfortable I hope I don't sound defensive when I explain some of the reasons.

The core of our program is education and relationship building. The women come every week for class. During the education time and the weekly meals - relationship is built. If they miss three times over the course of the pregnancy they lose their spot in the program. (The wait list is long and the spots are hard to get.) Without an attendance policy like that people would miss a lot and we wouldn't be able to provide the same program and quality care because they'd miss out on too much of the important education piece (and their vitamins and iron) just coming to class here and there. If we started to take walk-ins there would be no incentive to those that take the time to faithfully come every Thursday for class and prenatal care.

Even when we choose to drive a woman that shows up as a walk-in to the hospital we are setting ourselves up to become a ambulance service. Word of mouth is a powerful way of communication in Haiti. One woman tells a few women and all of a sudden there are walk-ins coming because word of mouth says that there is a service that can provide rides to a hospital. Delivering a walk-in would also be news that would spread like wild fire and we'd very quickly have babies being born day and night.

We're small (Beth, Tara, Wini are the only three here full time all the time and then Melissa is here about 75%+ of the time.) Besides labor and deliveries we have three days of classes we do at the Maternity Center. If we did walk-ins we couldn't do those classes and we'd never sleep or see our families. (We will grow our staff as our program grows but we're not to that place yet, still raising funds at this point.)

There are government hospitals and other non-government hospitals (that I admit are sometimes terrible) doing walk-in deliveries. They provide that option. It is not loving, warm, or respectful care  - but in truth it would be hard for us to provide that kind of care with a high volume of women too -- our model works because we know the forty-five women so well and we've had time to build two-way trust. When they walk in with contractions at week 38+ we know their names, their story, their fears, risks, etc.

With seeing the women every week we are more certain of their health, their prenatal care is better, we can be more aware of the risks in each individual pregnancy. When we enter into labor and delivery time we understand a lot more about what the possible risks are. (Reducing our liability and reducing our likelihood of losing a mom and/or a baby). If we delivered walk-ins we would lose all of that.

Liability (if someone dies - which has not happened to us in three years but honestly - statistically - it will happen) is somewhat of a concern. When you know someone (and vice versa) for 7+ months before delivery and know about their health risks it cuts Heartline's liability down quite a bit.

Thanks so much for your prayers -- we think our statistics are good for exactly that reason and we covet your continued prayers. 
With love and gratitude,
tara & the whole Heartline team

*Please feel free to ask questions, we'll answer and post the answers as time allows.

Wednesday, December 12

The Spirit


‎"The spirit of Christmas needs to be superseded by the Spirit of Christ. The spirit of Christmas is annual; the Spirit of Christ is eternal. The spirit of Christmas is sentimental; the Spirit of Christ is supernatural. The spirit of Christmas is a human product; the Spirit of Christ is a divine person. That makes all the difference in the world." 

~Stuart Briscoe

Tuesday, December 11

O Holy Night


Every direction you turn, images of Christmas are evident.

You need not look far to find beautiful and thoughtful displays, tastefully decorated homes with glowing trees, and rows and rows of symmetrical twinkling lights. Step into one of these homes and the warm fire will greet you as you breathe in fresh scents of pine and cinnamon. It is beautiful and clean and so.very.pristine.

Looking upon these exquisite arrangements one senses order and peace.

O Holy Night

In contrast I'm reflecting on the untidy disorder and chaos in the lives of so many celebrating Christmas around the world this year.

They experience vastly different surroundings and a much more simplified version of the annual celebration of the Christ child. It looks nothing like the photos in the magazines and has not even the tiniest hint of Martha Stewart. There are no smells of fresh baked cookies or apple cider to entice them. They don't string lights around a tree, pile colorfully wrapped gifts high, or build gingerbread houses; yet meek and mild - they celebrate.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining,'Til He appear'd and the soul felt its worth


How did our celebration of this day become so clean and crisp? Where are the smells and  sweat and tears that were most certainly a part of Mary and Joseph's journey? 

It begs the question:  Do 'Better Homes and Gardens' scenes with sparkling lights and gorgeous decorations reflect the Christmas story best? Are the experiences of a frightened and ashamed teenage mother-to-be anything like that?

Do the marginalized and suffering in our world experience Christmas more like Mary and Joseph did - or do we?

A thrill of hope - the weary world rejoices

I'm reflecting on these two extremes.  I love the exquisitely ordered and the beautifully arranged. I close my eyes and picture that sort of beauty in our Heavenly home.

While yonder breaks a new and glorious morn

I long for a day when disparity and injustice ends. I dream of a Christmas were no child is enslaved, abused, and sold. I pray for the glorious morn, where the oppressed are free. I long to wake up to learn that no child is suffering or slowly starving to death. I dream of a day when people from every continent and every nation celebrate Jesus and His birth surrounded by love, joy, dancing, singing and immeasurable peace and beauty and justice. 

Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace

Truthfully I also find great inspiration in the simple, dingy, gritty, humble celebrations of those who struggle and toil without access to our unstained images of Christmas. I long for their stripped down total dependence on God. I pray for spiritual wealth like that of the materially poor. I want their depth. I want their undying hope. I want a Christmas less like Oprah's and more like theirs.

Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother; And in His name all oppression shall cease

Our youngest daughter Lydia has been struggling with choices. When offered a choice of two things she'll often reply, "I want two ones."  When she says that, she means I want them both.  

As I soak in Christmas this year I find myself wanting two ones.  I want the perfect looking, delicious smelling, pain free and unpolluted Christmas and I want the dirty, stinky, humble, difficult, but miraculous Christmas that Mary and Joseph and the rich in faith experience.

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, Let all within us praise His holy name

While I attempt to reconcile two very different Christmases, the celebrations only make sense to me in the context of good overcoming evil. God coming to earth in the form of His son Jesus, to live a sinless life, to die for us ... In His resurrection the promise that one day there will be beauty and justice for all. 

The end of death. 
The end of suffering.

O Holy Night




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(Written and originally posted in 2010 - reposted in original format 2011 - EDITED 12/10/12 and posted AGAIN. Thank-you so much for reading. again.)