"Joshua...what was THAT??"
"Eeewww...I don't even want to know!"
"Ok, it's getting cold out here. Let's make mom happy and get this over with quickly!"
As I sat in the pew at the end of the service, I had a hard time not shedding a tear or two. These souls we find ourselves connected to are so, so special. Now, I know that to anyone else, they are just a handful of ordinary kids. But as I watched Matthew and Angela standing at the front of the church readying themselves to collect the evening's offering, I almost couldn't take my eyes off them. They looked so mature, so capable, so lovely and loved. All of them have come so far, and are such deeply good young people. There are moments such as those tonight, sitting side by side in the candlelight, when I know that there will never be the words to express the value of what God has given all of us. Each of us needed one another, each of us was missing the most important thing in the world.
Tonight, the world celebrates the love that came in the form of the Christ child, offered freely to all. Tonight, we celebrate the love that came in the form of other children, long yearned for and hard earned. We are a family tonight by choice, there are seven people who are not alone tonight by choice, and by extension there are others who surround us who, hopefully, also feel part of our family and because of that know that they, too, are loved.
As each of the kids opened their gifts tonight, that love was offered over and over again, and it had nothing to do with what was or wasn't under the tree. It was their glee at my new slippers that Matthew gave me, it was the delight in the surprise for Dominick when we all pitched in to come up with the $50 to give him a gift certificate for a 30 minute Go Kart ride. It was the thoughtful note Olesya gave us, the gratitude for something as small as pickle flavored chapstick, an $8 wall clock, and "re-gifted" used M*A*S*H DVD's tied up in a green bow and offered with great love from a friend. All that was missing was the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree :-) It couldn't have been any better.
Somehow, when genuine love is present, all that matters is "presence". We received handmade Christmas placemats today with that as a reminder written right across the middle of each one from someone who really understands us.
Tomorrow we will rise and head over to join Dominick at the airport. We might even get a special visitor for the second year in a row, offering her own gift of "presence". We'll laugh, we'll work, we'll surely sing a little and hug a lot, 'cuz THAT's how the LaJoy's roll!!