Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Our Christmas Miracle

In the fall of 1992, I was a freshman at Maryville College and on work-study in the library. My friend Akiko was standing just on the other side of the circulation desk, talking with me, when a security guard approached and said I needed to call home. I hurried with dread to the payphone in the lobby, Akiko on my heels, and learned that my (paternal) grandma had died. I've never forgotten the comfort of my friend: how she walked with me to my dorm room, stayed with me as I packed. I've always believed that God sent her to the library to be with me.

I remembered this at the restaurant, last night, when I was hurrying to leave work and looked up to see Andrea and Vanderhoop just inside the front door. Am I dying? I thought, then: Whatever is happening, God has sent them. I've been here before.

My sister-cousin Andrea is a nurse. When I told her I was leaving work and why (more bleeding than after childbirth or miscarriage), she insisted not only that I go to the ER but also that I allow her to drive me. Jim and the four children had been at the zoo for the live nativity and headed toward the hospital. "Go ahead and check in," he said. "I'll bring the insurance card."

As I left with a nurse for triage, Andrea asked: "How do you want this to go?"

"I want you to take the children home," I told her. "I want Jim to stay with me."

And even as the words left my mouth, I realized: I already have my Christmas miracle.

I've been praying for a different one; Jim had a fourth interview, last week, and whatever the company decided, they decided, yesterday. They told him they would turn yesterday's decision over to HR and contact the candidate of choice early next week. I can't tell you how many times I've thought: Wouldn't it be nice if they called, this week, to say he has the job? 

I've been longing for my parents and brother's family in East Tennessee; I haven't been home for an entire year, and I guess I've never been apart from my mom at Christmastime. I haven't been able to bring myself to ship her a package. She hasn't been able to bring herself to put up a tree. Wouldn't it be nice, I've thought, to know Jim has that job...to just pack up and go home?

Our situation has not yet been resolved; yet, already I can say:

I would not go back.

I would not go back to where we were before Jim lost his job. We were with our third marriage counselor, and while he is incredible!, progress was painfully slow. Jim was so frustrated that he walked out of our last session. He lost his job right after; then, we didn't have the option to return to our (slow) miracle worker. We didn't have the $300/month to spare.

Trust me when I say: after Jim lost his job, things got much worse before they got better. But this situation has been like a jump-start, or defibrillation, to our marriage. I believe we will make it, now. I believe we will be okay. And I'm going to be okay: I was discharged from the hospital with a doctor's note for work and strict instructions to visit my OB/GYN, today. My body is changing. (There's a pill for me.)

My heart is changing, too, and Jim's. We are changing. God is at work, here. There has already been a Christmas miracle.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

When Santa Sat in My Section

Jim's concerns were broader than mine when it became necessary for me to start working nights; I fretted only in anticipation of missing Cade (who attends school during the day) and certain nighttime events, especially holiday ones. I prayed about these concerns and tried my best to trust that whatever was meant to work out, would.

Halloween rolled around, first, and I love halloween. One year when Cade was small, I taught a composition class three times in order to accommodate all the students in a class I'd cancelled: a class I'd been scheduled to teach on halloween night. It was worth it, too, to take Cade trick-or-treating.

I tried to get halloween off, this year, but got scheduled to work. Rachel suggested that we trick-or-treat with her family (and many others from our small group) at Bethpage Camp-Resort the Saturday before halloween, and upon hire at the restaurant, I had requested that night off...but only because I'd been paid generously to take some family photos. To further complicate matters, I was hoping to catch Cade's band performance (which I hadn't yet seen) at the Fall Classic.

In the end (and I can still scarcely believe it all worked out), the family asked to be photographed in the morning as opposed to the oft-requested afternoon; Jim, the little kids, and I enjoyed Bethpage to the fullest; and I made it to the late (10 pm) band performance.

I worked halloween night joyfully and met a customer for whom I pray often. He's an older gentleman and was alone on a slow night, so I did a rare thing: I sat down with him. He told me his wife had just died.

Next, Thanksgiving. Travel was impossible given that I had to work the days before and after, but the restaurant was closed, Thanksgiving day, and Cade and I spent hours hiking together.

After all this, I wish I could tell you I had no trepidation about Christmas, but I wondered about Christmas eve; I did. The restaurant is closed on Christmas day, but Cade spends Christmas day with his dad, Christmas eve with me. This is how we all prefer it; Cade's other family has a big meal on Christmas day, while this family attends candlelight service on Christmas eve. Amazingly, management granted not only my request to have Christmas eve off, but also lunch, today, to attend Jesus's birthday party at church.

Friday night, I walked into my section at work only to realize that Santa and Mrs. Claus were seated in one of my booths. When I introduced myself, Santa said: "I already know your name. And furthermore, I know you've been a very good girl this year." I burst into tears right there at the table.

Later, I said to a friend: "I was way too emotionally disregulated to serve Santa Claus!"

He shook his head, laughed, and said: "You were the perfect person! No one else would've cared as much as you. You got the full effect of what he was trying to do. I think it's awesome!" And, yes. Awesome. Because there's something no one--neither Santa nor my friend--knew.

My recent prayers have included my asking God to help me trust Him with my little-girl self, and I received Santa's visit as a response, from God, to that prayer. It was as if God were saying: I hear you (all of you, including the little-girl you), and I care about you, and I care very much about your Christmas. I couldn't wonder if God had sent Santa for my children because my children weren't present. I was alone. But I am never alone.

The further I journey, the more fully I believe that a relationship with God is just that: a relationship. It requires faith on my part (and sometimes, the suspension of disbelief). It requires my seeking with expectancy. I could chalk everything I've just shared and more! up to coincidence, luck, serendipity, fortune, or---I don't know--an alien spark? But I find it so much more thrilling to believe I am blessed...that God is using all things to my good: even (especially?) the hard things. Because if that's true, I have nothing to fear and everything to anticipate with joy. Bad is good if He is with me, and He is. His very name tells it. He is Immanuel.

The front of the card Santa left me.

The back of the card Santa left me.