Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Advent Reflections

December 24th

Christmas Eve morning began pleasantly. Janice looked out her bedroom window to see a clear blue winter sky with the sun shining brilliantly. The world looked bright and hopeful, and she felt this inside too. As much as snow would have been fun, seeing the sunshine made her feel warm and grateful.
Their family plans for the evening involved going to a Christmas Eve service with Jonathan’s family, then back to their home for dessert and gifts. It was a pleasure to spend time with her in-laws; she recalled that Jonathan’s Mom from the first day they met made her feel accepted and comfortable. Now they shared the loss of Jonathan, something that would continue to keep them close in heart for the remainder of their lives. She and Sara spent many moments crying and hugging each other in the early days after Jonathan’s death. They found solace in realizing each of them missed him in an intense way that few others could understand.
Janice was standing in front of her closet trying to decide what to wear for the evening. A black dress with a red jacket look possible, but she hadn’t worn it in years and it looked a bit outdated. Her eye caught sight of a couple of Jonathan’s suits she had kept to remind her of him. She grabbed the sport coat from one of them and put it on. It still smelled of his cologne and she hugged it close to her body thinking how much she still missed him. Without thinking she reached inside the pocket. She pulled out a folded piece of paper, much like Madeline had given her the night before. How coincidental it seemed. She put the sport coat back on the hangar and proceeded to sit on the edge of her bed to open it.
Janice immediately recognized her husbands writing. Tears came to her eyes as she saw it was a note that started “Dear Janice”. She held her breath, wondering when he had written it, and why he had never given it to her. Suddenly it didn’t matter because it was one last opportunity to hear from the man she loved so much.
The note read:
Dear Janice,
I love you so very much. Don’t ever forget that. Lately I see something missing in your eyes, and I want you to find what it is you need to bring the sparkle back. I believe you have forgotten yourself. I also believe God has something else for you to do, something only you know in your heart. Listen to that and follow the route he has for you. I will be cheering for you all the way sweetheart.
Love always and forever,
All she could do was sit there and sob, her whole body overcome with sorrow and joy at the same time. The time had come to move in a very different direction, to take that new route. God had confirmed this now through her husband. There was no more room for second-guessing. She would follow her heart. And she would learn to fly by doing it.
When she and the children returned to Sara and Dave’s house after the service, it felt good to be with family. The holidays were all about sharing these special times with the people you love. Gracie and Noah enjoyed their many gifts, and seemed especially anxious to get home. After saying their goodbyes, they drove until they reached a traffic backup due to an accident. They were detoured down roads they were not familiar with, and the kids kept wondering if they were lost. It seemed taking some new routes could be interesting!
The three of them were tired but after getting pajamas on they sat around the Christmas tree, ready to listen to Janice read the Christmas story. This was a tradition Jonathan had started after Gracie was born. They turned the lights down low and with the light of the Christmas tree and a candle held in her hand, Janice read from the bible the story of the first Christmas. Gracie and Noah then insisted that she open a gift they had gotten for her.
As Janice unwrapped the paper from the gift, she grew excited. The box inside held what looked like a music box. It couldn’t possibly be- could it? Gracie began to tell her how she had seen it at a special gift shop in town months before, but didn’t have the money to buy it. Gracie was so concerned that someone else would buy it first that she went to the clerk and asked if she could lay it away. Now Janice held the special gift in her hands wondering what melody would come from within.
When she opened the box the sound was faint and the melody not recognizable. But as she listened closely a huge smile spread across her face.
Gracie asked “Do you like it Mom?”
“I love it Gracie, it’s perfect. And the melody that plays within it has been part of a dream I’ve had many times. It means God wants me to let that music out of my own box- out from inside of me. A little girl began singing inside me a long time ago but I couldn’t hear her. Now I can hear her song and I want to share it with others.” Janice replied.
Gracie and Noah both hugged her tightly. God had prepared them too for the changes coming. They were all ready to walk this new route together.
After saying goodnight to the children and putting the gifts under the tree, Janice sat looking at the lights of the tree, in awe at the various ways God had spoken to her in the days leading to tonight. She opened the music box again, closed her eyes, and listened. She made a huge decision that night, one that would mean uprooting her family and trying something new. Tomorrow she would share with Gracie and Noah these new plans. It would be a Christmas they would never forget, one during which the very course of her life changed for the better.
In her journal for December 24th, Janice wrote:

Dear God,
Thank you for hearing my prayers Lord. You have shown great mercy towards me during a dark season of my life. Now that the darkness has lifted I can see the route you have laid before me. It will mean facing new challenges, but I am excited to get going. I ask only that you continue to walk with me and guide me in the future.
I looked at myself in the mirror and saw a sparkle back in my eyes. Jonathan would be pleased. Tell him I said hello, and that I’m okay now.
Love, Janice

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