I met my oldest daughter, Rebekah, 4 years ago today. I remember the halfhearted cry she gave me when one of the workers placed her on my lap while we sat in the orphanage directors office in the outback of Russia back in 2009. Her hollow little eyes told the tale, a little girl who's life up to that point had been a steady stream of hurt and dysfunction that is not appropriate for civilized conversation. But by God's grace, it is a past that has since been buried and plowed under many times over and the decaying remains now provide fertile soil for the garden of blessings her life has become. December 16th, 2009, Oh my soul, what a day.
We had to leave her behind that December. We had to go home and wait for our court date. As we left, I picked that little girl up and whispering in her ear: “I go to prepare a place for you...” Because that's what Jesus once told me. Then Allison and I watched her be led down a dark hallway where the children stay. We weren't allowed down there, and that is probably for the best...
Allison and I got home in time for Christmas that year, but it was tough to celebrate. The house was still empty, and there was a mountain left to climb in our journey come early spring, and a rugged mountain it proved to be. But we climbed it, and she's home... forever... What a gift.
Then there is Ruthie. Be still my heart...
On a cold morning last March we drove up to a hospital in Birmingham to meet our second addition. A little brown baby girl that had just been born 2 days prior and was about to be discharged from the hospital and needed a place to go.
There we found ourselves in the neonatal ICU, with our new daughter and the woman who gave birth to her. Many people have made a lot of presumptions about Ruthie's birth mother and they are always wrong. She is nothing less than a hero to me, and I'll never refer to her with anything less than my utmost respect. I hugged her and told her I loved her and we thanked her for minutes on end. We cried, she cried, all of the nurses cried, and then we held hands and prayed... Then we drove back home that afternoon a family of 4. I never will forget Rebekah's reaction when we stepped off the elevator into the lobby with her new baby sister. She beamed with pride and joy, deep down she knew what was at stake.
Getting Ruthie home wasn't quite the ordeal it was for Rebekah, but it was every bit as miraculous. It has been said that the most dangerous place for a black female is in the womb, sadly the abortion industry has made that statistically true. But our Ruthie's birth mother quietly and resolutely made a remarkable sacrifice and chose to give life, a decision for which I am eternally grateful. The gift of life... What a precious gift.
At almost 10 months old, Ruthie is now in to everything, and Rebekah is in Kindergarten and the finest big sister a girl could ask for. Both their stockings hang on the mantle waiting for gifts. The house is filled with the warmth of family, the smell of food, and lit with the glow of Christmas lights. And because of my diligent and loving wife, it has become the home every child deserves.
And soon presents will be opened, cousins and grandparents will be visited and Rebekah and Ruthie will continue to be part of something very special, a family. I wanted it like this, after all, I told Rebekah I would prepare a place for her... and we did... Then there was room for Ruthie... and there is plenty of room for more.
This year, like many others, my gift won't be unwrapped, they'll be the ones doing the unwrapping. Just fix me a cup of coffee and give me a good seat by the fire, because everything I ever wanted for Christmas I've already got. The gift of life.