I’m walking down memory lane today, full of emotion — mostly that of gratitude. You see, Advent fifteen years ago was a time of waiting not only for the Saviour’s birth, but also that of my very own “firstborn.” So the preparations that year were filled with added anticipation, and I found myself entering in to the season with a new appreciation for the Blessed Mother’s role in the Christmas story. Our home at the time was quite humble, too (though a step up from a stable), as we were living in an apartment in a college dormitory, where we were campus ministers.
After a previous miscarriage, I was full of gratitude when I discovered that the Lord had blessed me with another pregnancy so soon. This was also to be the first grandchild on both sides of our family, so the whole extended family shared the excitement.
I soon realized that because I was due a couple of days after Christmas, we would not be able to travel to Massachusetts to spend the holiday with my parents and siblings. So my entire family (parents and six siblings) agreed to come to us. And we got permission for them to stay in other campus apartments/dorm rooms that were vacant for the Christmas break. My mom also told me not to worry about Christmas dinner, since I would most likely be huge and extremely uncomfortable by Christmas Day.
However, God had other plans. Joseph decided to arrive early. In the middle of a snowstorm, on the morning of December 19, my water broke, and around 1 p.m. I received the best Christmas present ever. To this day, I have not received a greater one (other than the Baby Jesus, of course). I learned that day the depth of a mother’s love, a love I didn’t even know I was capable of, a love that I’ve since discovered grows even greater every time we receive a new baby into our family.
A gang of college students who had not yet left for their homes soon showed up at the hospital to celebrate with us. They claim that we blessed them with our presence on campus, but with their visit that day they were the ones ministering to us, especially since, with the snowstorm raging, we weren’t too hopeful that my family would be able to make it.
To our surprise and delight, though, two of my siblings, who were to be Joseph’s godparents, braved the snow, and showed up later that day. I’m tearing up just remembering it. Having them there to share in our joy was so incredible.
Two days later, we bundled up our little guy for the short drive back to campus. When we arrived, our door was plastered with signs of congratulations to us and welcomes to Joseph. The students who had become part of our extended family by sharing the dorm with us now shared the excitement of this new life. It was almost like having a bunch more younger brothers and sisters who had all been waiting for this moment, too.
Over the next couple days, my parents and the rest of my siblings showed up. No sooner had they all arrived, then one of the Franciscan brothers at the school showed up at the door with a huge bowl of pasta to feed us all. And Jay’s dad, brother, and grandparents came on Christmas Eve, too. The Baby Jesus was honored by shepherds and Wise Men, and our Joseph was visited by college students, family members, and Franciscan friars. What a Christmas! And to top it all off, one of our good friends, a Franciscan priest who later baptized Joseph, was kind enough to celebrate a private Christmas Mass for the whole family in the small Friary chapel.
On Christmas morning, my entire family squished into our tiny apartment to open presents, prepare Christmas dinner in our Barbie-doll-sized kitchen (quite a remarkable feat for a crowd of that size!), and pass around our new little bundle of joy. When I look back on that Christmas, I still feel the same sense of Christian community that I felt then. We were surrounded by love and support.
We have a little birthday tradition, started by my husband, where we all gather around the birthday boy (or girl), lay hands on him, and bless him. We sing that old song: “Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on him . . . melt him, mold him, fill him, use him. Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on him.” That’s followed by my husband (and anyone else who wishes) speaking a blessing over him.
As we sang today, I found myself choked up, remembering all the blessed events surrounding Joe’s birth, and I realized that the love I felt then has only increased. It’s not like 15 is a magic age or anything, but there are moments like these, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of our crazy family life, when the Lord likes to remind me just how blessed I am.
Now obviously, I’m just slightly biased, but I’m going to brag on my son anyway (mother’s prerogative!). He is an amazing young man. Certainly, he has his moments (don’t we all?!) but generally, he is a great big brother, a helpful and kind son, and a responsible, likeable, funny, confident guy who also happens to love Jesus. I love to listen to him play his guitar and sing, too, especially when he sings praise songs, and sings with his siblings. I am in awe at how the Lord has used him already, and I can’t wait to see what God has planned for his future. I feel so blessed to be his mom.