There it stood; the culmination of at least two day's toil. Illuminate, light reflecting from countless metallic and glass surfaces. Home-made ornaments nested throughout and store bought ornaments hovering from invisible hooks. Before us was our family Christmas Tree. We all stood back and gazed upon our handiwork...and it was ugly.
Perhaps "ugly" is too strong a word. Gaudy? Unshapely. Certainly it had none of the "splendor" of the trees of years past. It was shorter, for one. And the lights? For some reason the lights never did seem to lay on the branches in the evenly spaced concentric patterns that we preferred despite my best efforts in placement. The ornaments seemed mis-matched. It simply looked a hodgepodge of illumination, crafts, and ceramics - messy. And this was par for the course with this particular tree.
Our story in obtaining our less than perfect tree was one for the books. Our family of seven donned winter gear in preparation of a trek to a countryside tree farm. Our foster children had never been to a tree farm, never even been permitted to get a tree before - so this was a very special occasion. Bundled like miniature Stay-Puffs all of our children bounded through an evergreen forest laughing the day away. Photo ops were golden as they took turns with the saw, cutting down our prize possession. The only problem was that dad forgot the rope and bungee cords for tying the tree to the top of the van.
A bundled family of seven, all straddling a tree inside the van like a pine-people clown car. The only way our human-lumber Jenga puzzle was possible was for my bride to ride in the back seat in the middle at the point of the tree like a blond angel. Pine needles encroached every seat and with every stop the trunk of the tree slid forward tapping the radio "seek" button changing the channel for us to random musical selections. Our laughter was near non-stop and our memories were priceless.
In putting up our tree, I misplaced the lights on the tree and my bride rearranged my blunders - a nearly annual occurrence, children danced and jumped around excitedly. Again, our foster children had never partaken of this tradition of decorating the tree and this was only our adopted son's third Christmas excursion so this was a special occasion. Ornaments were hung, clustered too close together, and splayed all over the tree, and within minutes most fell off and had to be rehung by my bride - her previous work and efforts undone by the over exuberance of our children. When we were all done, my bride and I were less than thrilled with the outcome. Something was still not right. As I mentioned before - messy.
None-the-less the kids were dancing in front of it and each of them donned a smile larger than their own faces as the spirit of the moment was full upon them. We darkened the house so they could marvel at the spectacle of the illuminated tree and silhouetted in front of it they all held hands and began to sing:
Fah who For-aze, Dah who dor-aze
Welcome Christmas, Come this way!
After my laughter subsided it hit me - it was right in front of me in the scene of my dancing children; this tree was the perfect picture of our family, a picture of adoption and foster care - messy, pieced together, not always perfect, but full of love, joy, and God's presence.
There are sure to be giftings in the opening and healing of damaged hearts. There are also sure to be disappointments as we cope with failed solutions and institutions that have been brought about outside of the Body of Christ and apart from God's heart for the orphan and the defenseless. It is a difficult and challenging road to embark upon and expectations have a way of forcibly changing in the journey but the reward of rescuing hearts and seeing a future brought to life in small eyes where only dull "survival-ism" previously existed far out-ways the risk.
This is but a picture of God's work in our own lives and the lengths Jesus was willing to go to redeem us to adoption as sons and daughters.
"For He foreordained us, destined us, planned in love for us to be adopted, revealed as His own children through Jesus Christ, in accordance with the purpose of His will because it pleased Him and was His kind intent"
Ephesians 1:5 AMP
I'm looking at my family tree a little differently this year. I'm thankful for what it represents, for small hands of various skin tones and with various last names that have decorated it. It's not a perfect tree, it's not even the tallest tree, but it's our tree, it's my bride's tree and it's my tree, my children's tree and together I know that God has placed it in our home for a reason and we will cherish it as we celebrate the Savior who brought us all into His family tree.
Joshua and his wife Tonya have two biological children, one child adopted through foster care, and are currently foster parents to two additional children. In experiencing the joys and challenges of foster care, they are continually discovering the heart of the Father for all of us as He is the ultimate model of love and adoption. They believe that the Lord has called each of us to minister to the fatherless as exemplified throughout His word as in James 1:27. They further seek to share their heart for orphan care and adoption and are happy to engage with any who need information or assistance. Joshua shares from his heart and their lives on his blog at http://joshua-asforme.blogspot.com/ .