the january trees.

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The veil of exhaustion is thick upon me today.

I consider it, and it makes sense. Thursday was The Day Everything Changed, a new beginning, a fresh grief, a higher call, a deeper joy. Today is Wednesday, so in a way, it is the end of the week that began that heavy day. It’s like my body knows this somehow, like it senses that after 6 days of hard it is time for 1 of slow, easy, calm, rest. I am hungry for a weekend that isn’t likely to come in the form I would choose. And it definitely isn’t coming right now, in this moment, on a Wednesday afternoon at 3pm, smack dab in the middle of the week when a preschooler wakes early from his rest and the baby’s nap schedule is opposite his.

So, I let the oldest watch a movie while the youngest dreams; the coffee percolates and my heart brews alongside it, pressing the grounds of this weighty season through the filter of what I know to be true, what I know of God, what I believe of the world and myself and good. The pressing is slow and strong, the heat turned up high. And I sense that what will come from it will be both bitter and sweet, heavy and heartening, not unlike the mug-full I just poured.

I couldn’t quite bear to remove every touch of Christmas from our home when the new year came. I resonated with Owen a bit more than I may care to admit when he saw our tree stripped bare of ornaments, packed away till the season returns. He hung his head with both sincerity and flair, tearfully exclaiming, “oh no!”

In solidarity with him, and aware that the year to come may hold a greater need for resolute faith than ever before, I kept two miniature trees atop our mantel, calling them “the January trees,” as though a name could transform them into being seasonally appropriate. The trees are decorated with cards from Naptime Diaries advent calendar, and the central most card is from Christmas Day. “HE IS HERE,” it reads. I look at it several times a day, like the Israelites to the bronze serpent (Numbers 21), desperate for healing and sure of the only One who can give it. But the healing I’m craving isn’t physical per se, not even for Gabriel, though I would give my legs for his if given the chance. Those basic instincts run deep and true, the desire for healthy children, for their opportunities and freedom and the ability to run unhindered and silly and agile. But, by grace, beneath them is the certainty that the healing every person under our roof needs more than anything else is the healing of soul, the working out of salvation in us, the freely received but hard lived truth of the gospel burrowed deeply into us. He is here, my heart testifies, He has not left or forsaken us. How now shall we live?

I’m learning that a heart can feel both heavy and free. The January trees remind me of this as they sit atop that mantel, next to a whimsy wooden “JOY” that sits like a mantra made visible over our home. They remind me that, when considering a word for the year, I immediately chose “rooted,” the deeper place, the firmer ground. The trees preach truth in their branches and I pray that their roots grow deep through our walls and into our foundation, unable to be extracted, limbs unshakable. I want what comes forth from me to be like those trees, wild and strong, free and secure, certain of the undying grip of their roots.

This year calls for so much. For grieving the loss or delay of dreams, some I knew I had and some I didn’t, for advocating on behalf of a child entirely dependent on me, for food, for ability, for love. For questioning and believing and living a life that some may call brave and inspiring but I know simply as a journey toward obedience by a traveler ever-reliant on grace. For letting the Maker lift up my head so I can see the beauty from ashes, the truth that hangs in the January trees and never changes.

He is the root; He is the one who roots us. And buds of hope, of belief, sprout green.

an attempt to savor & believe & celebrate.

it’s the most wonderful, busy, heart-pricking, thought-provoking, tidings of comfort and joy time of the year. i started decorating today, playing Christmas music and letting Owen stomp on bubble wrap as i fluffed garland and thought about who will celebrate in our home this year as we host Christmas dinner for the first time. just moments ago, Owen crawled into my lap with his two stuffed puppies and fell asleep, the sign of a morning well spent.

i suppose i’m feeling a bit sentimental today, although it feels like it’s something a little stronger than that. a need to recognize these days as fleeting, and a desire to savor this snoring 16 month old in all his sweat and sweetness. just yesterday, he handed our foster care application to the postman and stared at his wide-eyed mama as she took the moment in, the official beginning to a countdown, a decision further solidified, a craving and longing and hope and fear mingled and released. i snapped a picture of him holding the envelope before mailing it, a picture that will be sealed in my heart forever as one both precious and presumptuous as we ask our unknowing son to begin an adventure with us that will have immeasurable impact on how he sees his childhood, his parents, others, Jesus, the world.

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are we doing right by him? my timid flesh asks occasionally, and without hesitation the Spirit affirms, yes. teach him to love the least, to steward not own, to care not control, to give not grasp. oh that i could impart to my child that which i daily struggle to learn myself.

we’re walking hand in hand, Owen, Jared and i, and we’re begging the Three in One to knit the three of us more closely together with Him as we open doors and make beds and say hello and goodbye and ask why and shout yes.

Immanuel. God with us.

i’m intent on recording my awareness of just how very near He is this year. how very meaningful His presence on this earth, in a form like yours and mine, was to all eternity and reality, how very comforted i am by the Spirit’s testimony to me daily, hourly, moment by moment of Who God is and what that means about me and for me and in me and through me. a friend reminded me recently that God will continue to call us “further up and further in” [C.S. Lewis] as we follow His voice. perhaps that captures all of these jumbled thoughts best of all. what a fitting season to ponder that truth.

tidings of comfort and joy, indeed.