Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Story Tree

I am propped up in bed, 11:00 PM, heating pad held close to my chest and hoping that tomorrow breathing will be a little easier.  I told Dominick tonight that I am getting just a little frustrated with my annual holiday wreckage, missing out on what is for us the best part of the holiday...the little things leading up to it.

But then I stop and think...I hear the rushing of the wind outside hopefully finally bearing snow tonight, and I am safe and secure with all my loved ones under our roof, warm and snuggled in bed.  This week, that somehow feels like a true gift.  I think probably every parent feels that way right now.

It is a Christmas season filled less with frivolity and great joy this year, and instead is one of quiet reflection and softly whispered prayers of gratitude.  In the background of the past couple of weeks has been the loss of the grandma of my dear friend.  Lost to Alzheimer's long ago, it was mainly her physical presence that slowly reached out to the peace that must have long alluded her.  It was a lingering sort of process, one that had emails going back and forth each day asking, "How is she? How is your grandpa?"  The kids all wrote cards and letters to Grandpa Wally, whose beloved wife was leaving him after 68 years.  What an incredible gift of loving, devoted marital love they were able to witness as Grandpa Wally gently nurtured his wife, who much of the time in recent years couldn't remember him.  Jill, my dear friend, our hearts are with all your family tonight...your family who has adopted us as if we were theirs, who have graciously opened their family holidays to include first 4, then 5, then 7 LaJoy's crowded around your table and all making us feel as if we belonged.  We will be praying for every one of you this week, knowing that hearts are heavy.

You know, if we each examine our lives, there is always something we could sit back and say we wish were different.  We might want a bigger house, better cars, more money and less month.  We might wish for better relationships with relatives, more prestigious jobs, or nicer material possessions of any sort.  I, too, have sat back once in awhile and wished for a few of those things...a larger dining room area to homeschool more comfortably in, newer furniture as the stains, tears, and general wear are taking their toll.  Not 10 minutes ago Dominick asked me about how we could save for Angela's dental crowns, needed sometime in the next year or two, so money is always a concern.  I sort of laugh over that one, because I grew up that way and I guess I wouldn't even know what to do if there wasn't some sort of hovering financial issue!!  I wish we could go buy a new van...totally brand new with the new car smell, the paper tags,the whole 9 yards.

We all wish, but we don't all yearn.  I don't, I really don't.  How could I?  I am bathed in love so often, cared for, comforted, supported and God shows up time after time in the most extraordinary ways!

First, there are these 5 young people I live with and this Italian Gruff Teddy Bear of a hubby.  Sick in bed for the past 6 days, I have awoken my kitchen and dining room having been cleaned up, sink spotless, stove cleaned, floor swept.  Angela and Joshua have done it each morning.  No one asked, they just were the first ones up and didn't want me dealing with it.  And it was no big deal, they never pointed it out, they just went on about their day.  Kenny, Olesya and Matthew have all done their fair share as well, moving laundry, vacuuming.  Each evening I have had Kenny, the Firestarter, make sure there is a lovely fire going in the woodstove, Olesya has brought me blankets and tucked me in, and Matthew has helped by making sure that the kids are all directed a little in getting to the main school work without me having to say a word.  Woke up late this morning after a very long night awake, to find Kenny, Josh, Angela and Olesya had all done their math already, Kenny had remembered EVERYTHING he needed to do in the morning as well as did another hour of Fast Forward, and Matt had math done and spent 4 hours all afternoon on finishing his German for the semester, so that I could get his school records recorded early and not worry about it next week.  Josh came in and made my bed for me one day, Dominick went at 4:00 AM to the store to stock me up on over the counter meds before he went to work so I didn't have to go out.  I have been cared for by Team LaJoy in ways that make any "wish" seem so frivilous.

I also have the kind of friends that no amount of money can buy...who are far, far better at friendship than I am.  I sometimes wonder what keeps them circling my life, because they give so, so much of their hearts to us, and I am never as thoughtful, as generous, or as kind in return.  I try my best to keep up with it all, and once in awhile I manage to do a little better, but generally, it is nothing compared to what we are blessed with, and I know it.  I wish they each knew just how much their love means to us, but there is no adequate way to express it.  Our life is as joyous as it is, in large part, because of the souls we are surrounded with...and while it might be more convenient to have that larger dining area or that new car smell, I know with all certainty that it would never, ever bring happiness.

So thank you, to whichever friends may be reading this today.  Please, please know that the gift of YOU is the best thing that ever happened to us.  I mean this to all who love us, both near and far...from CA to VA, from Kyrgyzstan to Canada, be it virtual or in real life.  YOU are what Christmas is about for the LaJoy's.

I looked at our tree today, and discovered that probably more that any other thing in our home other than this blog, that tree represents us.  It is our story.  The ornaments we have collected over the years speak softly of love anticipated, of love realized.  In a week, Joshua will be 10.  Three years ago, we were in turmoil and learning how to walk the talk that for us, Love Wins.  How different our life has been from what I ever imagined it being, and how lucky I am that it has been so different!!!!

Matthew at 2 years old, back when we truly thought he would be our one and only.
Don't laugh too hard over that one :-)

Oh, how my heart hurt as we waited...and waited...and waited!
They were worth every single moment.

An ornament with one of first photos of Kenny we received, as we waited to travel for him.
That smile has only grown broader.

With only 2 babies out of 5 children, this Baby's First Christmas for Joshua is precious to me. 

I spied a card from Olesya for Mom and Dad! That was a new addition today!
Wondering if any of you remember the stuffed heart given to us by the girls, signaling a fresh start as we hit the "reset button" on our adoption trip for them.  It may look like it is for Valentine's Day, but for us it was a Christmas Miracle.

We carried our Dollar Store felt snow men home all the way from Kazakhstan, as a remembrance of one of the ways we spent those long, frigid afternoons trying to test the new family waters.  Glitter glue and some felt, and something much bigger was made.

A tree, covered in miniature stories.
It's nothing all that special...looks like an ordinary tree to anyone else 
but those whose story resides upon it.

Santa may no longer be listened for on Christmas Eve, but the Spirit...the real alive and well at Casa LaJoy.

It's not all about us, though. Our Wichita friends, the Ewings, long ago sent us something we use every year:

The symbol of a friendship born in adoption, and nurtured through the internet. 13 years later, as we visited this summer while they were in Colorado, I am reminded of how our Cyber Family has been such an important part of our lives.  Today I received a surprise from another long time cyber friend, whose special gift meant so very, very much this year.  Dee and Elva, thank you for caring from afar for so long.  I feel as if we are raising our families side by side...OK...well, maybe a little far apart physically, but we have prayed, cheered, and mourned for you as I know you have for us for a very long time.  I love the connection our kids have to one another, and it is my fondest hope that one of these days, we'll manage to meet in person.

The reach grows beyond our borders though, as the mail today revealed to us that God uses us in little ways, too, that may make a big difference somewhere down the road...even if we never do meet another face to face.  Angela and Kenny received a special little package from Kyrgyzstan, via John and Julie Wright in Canada.  About a year and a half ago, Angela and Kenny were touched by a story John shared on his blog about a young teenaged girl in Kyrgyzstan who needed a prosthetic arm.  Angela was so moved, that she offered a significant amount of her savings to try and help provide the $300 needed for the prosthetic, and Kenny jumped right in to help make up the difference that Angela couldn't come up with.  John was somehow able to get the prosthetic provided at no charge, so asked if they would like something else to be done with their money.  Both agreed that if the need had been met, they wanted to meet a "want", so they asked John to use the money to give her a computer that she longed for to use for her studies.  Today, we received a small little box with a beautiful set of earrings and a ring, a gift of love (and no doubt at some sacrifice) from this young girl and her mom.  Kenny and Angela were so excited to feel the connection with someone so far away!!
Bright smiles, the warmest hearts. Dearest God...thank you for the gift of each of our children...children that were wholly a gift from you!!

Angela put the earrings on but took them off right before bed.

I know this is a ladies ring, but I don't think Joshie needs to know, nor would he care!  He asked to wear it, and I think it is on his finger as he sleeps right now.

We also received another addition to our Story Tree, as John and Julie thoughtfully included a little something from them...another ornament to remind us of those we care for.

And Matthew is looking forward to this weekend, when he will spend many hours volunteering on his own with Civil Air Patrol organizing and handing out gifts with Toys for Tots.  I was really disappointed to miss his CAP Christmas party, and sent the camera along with Team LaJoy.  Once they came home, it became obvious why I tend to be behind the lens more than in front of it (OK, I also hate how I look on film, really hate it.)...they barely got one decent photo!  I had photos of the floor, heads cut off, blurry poinsettias, and one photo out of only 20 (How can they take a camera and take only 20 pictures???) that turned out decent.  But what I really want to know, is how did this darling little angel:

Turn into this Big Galoot!:

That's him, second row, third from the right.
Love that smile of his!  He is the quietest of our five...yea, a LaJoy is quiet, go figure.  But what a sweet, decent young man he is...a blessing to his entire LOUD family! HAHAHA!  Hard to believe from his size that due to his age he belongs in that front row of younger cadets.  He has earned another rank advancement, and will get pinned at his next meeting.  He has made it his goal, even though he will not go into the military due to his orthopedic issues, to work to attain the top rank in Civil Air Patrol for young cadets,which he read only 1% ever achieve.  By golly, the way he is going, we just might see a very different kind of 1%er there!  What I love most though, is his enthusiasm to help others. He told me he is really enjoying volunteering at the food bank, and he is anxiously awaiting this weekend to hand out toys.

Yes, Christmas is coming, the Spirit hovers over us bringing us a special sweetness that nothing else can measure up to.  I am so, so happy that it is not about the gifts under the tree, but is about Joshie killing all of us singing Jingle Bells for the 3,783rd time.  It is about Olesya carefully baking cookies, and spending hours decorating gift boxes.  It is about all of us working Christmas Day, greeting travelers with big smiles and homestyle service as we hand them that sandwich and wish them a heartfelt "Merry Christmas"!!  We are all excited about working on Christmas, strange as I know that may sound to some.  It's just, well, it's who we are and what we do even if it makes no sense to anyone else.  We will all be together, sleeves rolled up and Santa hats on, and that's all that matters.  It is about giving of ourselves in the ways we can, even if it often doesn't seem like it is enough...we know God understands what our gifts mean. It is about candlelight service, it is about friends near and far, and yes, it is even about Mom getting the Annual Crud...because I guess it just wouldn't be Christmas without it! HAHA!  Yes, we LaJoy's have some pretty twisted traditions :-)

I wish I could send every single blog reader a Christmas gift, the gift of whatever it is that your soul really needs.  We can't send that, but in the next couple of days, as I hopefully get better, we will be posting a video for you all of Pie Slamming...and surely a little laughter along with it.  Thanks to all who donated money for Christmas in Kyrgyzstan. This year is worse than ever as there is no gas at all for heat in Bishkek right now.  Horrifyingly, this means people are dying due to the cold even as I type this.  So as you read this and you hear your furnace kick on, give thanks for that...and for flush toilets...and that you are safe tonight.

Stay tuned, we'll post Pie in the Face as soon as we can manage it!  And, if I don't get the chance to say it again beforehand, Merry, Merry Christmas to you, my friends.  Thank you for your love.


. said...

Beautiful family, wonderful story (storIES!). Very Merry Christmas to all the LaJoys.

Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas!

From all of us

Peggy in Virginia

PS Hope you feel better soon. Glad your kiddos and Dominick take such loving care of you.