It is a cool gray November day in Nashville.
At any other time of the year this sort of weather would probably tempt me to hibernate. Slip into my fuzzy slippers, snuggle beneath my alpaca throw and budge only for coffee and bathroom breaks.
But, it’s not just any time of the year. It is 32 days until Christmas and I am trying, in vain, to control a level of excitement generally reserved for seven year old children hopped up on hot chocolate and candy canes!
I’ve been drinking coffee out of my favorite Pottery Barn Christmas Mug, watching “A Christmas Carol” and sorting Christmas gifts. I’ve tucked gifts into festive Santa and Snowmen boxes with bows and glitter (which is now covering me!). One such box holds a beautifully hand knitted (no, not knitted by THESE hands) scarf and hat- pink of course. I can’t wait to see my sweet niece Joyce’s face when she opens it.
This is the holiday we’ve been dreaming, waiting and planning for. For the last twelve months, my entire family and many close friends have prayed, hoped, cried and sacrificed time and money in the pursuit of bringing home these two beautiful children. Just typing this is causing my eyes to well with tears…
Excuse me a moment while I wipe the tears away AND swipe the stuffed Rudolf figure my dog Reagan stealthfully snatched from the stash of Christmas decorations while I was otherwise engaged.
I cannot wait to see the look of excitement and wonder in those deep brown eyes- Joyce and Desmond’s, not Reagan’s…
I have heard a phrase bandied about in the corporate world quite a bit of late. “You don’t know what you don’t know.”
Joyce and Desmond have known a very different life than my other eleven nieces and nephews. The first eleven have always known the life enriching love of an uber close-knit, funny, loud, musical, creative and God-fearing family.
We’re not perfect- not by any stretch! But, we are fiercely loyal and can always count on each other for the support we need. We have faith in each other. We trust each other.
A few weeks ago I visited the orphanage where Joyce and Desmond spent most of their lives. Accra Ghana is entrenched in abject poverty. I have seen poverty in inner-city areas. I’ve seen homeless on the streets in New York City and my own city of Nashville. I remember driving through some very poor neighborhoods when I was in the Bahamas several years ago. I remember how sad I felt at the thought that people were forced to live that way. I thought I knew what being poor looked like. I couldn’t have been more wrong. In Ghana, we drove for hours and NEVER once saw a residential area I would feel safe living in.
The orphanage in Accra had no indoor shower, cramped sleeping quarters and abysmal nutrition. There were chickens wandering about in the courtyard- and by courtyard I mean concrete slab outside the dormitory. They had little adult supervision and clearly had to learn to fend for themselves. The older children routinely hit the younger children displaying a sort of tenuous hierarchy among the group. I can honestly (and with heavy heart) say that I treat my dog far better than these children are treated.
How then could Desmond and Joyce still occasionally cry for what they knew as “home”?
“You don’t know what you don’t know.”
They don’t know they now have the chance at a better life. An amazing life! They don’t know they have a family who loves them deeply. That their mother, father, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents would do anything within their power to make sure they were happy, healthy and safe. As my sister shared earlier this week, they don’t know yet, but day by day they are starting to feel a little more comfortable. A little more settled.
This Christmas our big quirky family will attempt to solidify this for them even more. We will envelope them in the kind of love only a family can give. The kind of love which heals the deepest hurt and empowers us to do greater things.
We share this love because it was first shared with us…
“Unto us a child is born…and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, the Prince of Peace…” Isaiah 9:6
Until next time…Merry Christmas Today and Every Day!