Five months old, his first Christmas. Finnegan watches eight people constantly buzz around him, and all he can do is scoot backwards.
He’s almost crawling, but so far only his reverse gear works and he ends up pushing himself farther away from what he’s trying to reach. I can tell he wants to go places, to keep up with everyone and get things for himself. Sometimes he fusses about it. But he’s patient, usually, and waits.
I sit with him on the floor, watching him as he watches everyone else: brothers coming and going, sisters stopping to coo over him before moving on. Even the cats, those lazy things, run circles around us. He looks at me with those blue eyes and I can tell he’s asking, Stay with me? And I tell him, It’s okay, buddy. I’ll stay with you. I have a book to read, he has some plastic keys to shake. And we sit in each other’s company, watching the laundry and dishes pile up as the afternoon goes by.
What all this means is the tree is probably safe from getting knocked over this year. Next year will be a different story.
Next year will be a milestone, because I turned the big 3-9 last week. My grandma, that brave lady who started 2015 in the emergency room, called me on my birthday and asked how old I was again. And I told her, again.
“Really!” she said, feigning disbelief. “Are you sure you’re not just 21?” (Don’t you love her?)
“Pretty sure. I could go buy something scandalous though, and see if they card me for it. Vince has been wanting some bourbon to cook with.”
“Ha! What would you do if your pastor saw you at the liquor store?” Grandma is Baptist, don’t you know.
“Well, I guess…I’d ask what he was buying.” Ha, yourself.
(Side note: The kids have been wanting to make homemade vanilla for about a year and we bought a bottle of alcohol for that purpose. We finally got around to reading the super-easy instructions last weekend, and I confess it was more than a little disturbing to hear Afton calmly say, “I’ll go get the vodka.” But I digress.)
Our conversations are usually all over the place, coming back to touch on a few things more than once because of her memory loss. She always asks what we’re having for dinner (twice this time) and I told her I was all out of sorts because Vin took all the kids with him (all! the! kids!) to run errands so I could have a few hours to myself. They got home around naptime, but I’d been totally irresponsible and forgot to make lunch. She said she does that too, only she does it on purpose.
But she’d been extra responsible that day, because dinner was well on its way at her house, even though it was still afternoon. She starts making it at sunset, which is around 3 pm here lately. Her vision has deteriorated and she doesn’t like the dark. She no longer drives, reading and writing are no picnic, and she is more dependent than she’d like. Sometimes she fusses about it. But she’s patient, usually, and waits.
She can’t tell that Finnegan’s eyes are blue, and she can’t see the dimple in his left cheek that he inherited from her. She could not have known what this year held for her twelve months ago.
Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened but go on in fortune or misfortune at their own private pace like the ticking of a clock during a thunderstorm.
– Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Most of us have had to adjust one way or another this year, and we’re all facing unknowns that we don’t have answers for. We had no idea what this year would look like. If we’re honest, we’ll admit that we don’t know what Christmas will look like, and it’s only days away.
We’ve sat in one place when we wanted to move. We’ve moved when we wanted to dig our heels in and stay still. We’ve been restless for the next big thing, and anxious about getting what we’ve asked for. We’ve wanted to go places, to keep up with everyone, and get things for ourselves. We’ve watched things darken around us, and wondered if anyone else notices.
We’ve been Joseph, feeling unprepared and out of options. Or we’ve been Mary, holding onto promise in a pregnancy she didn’t plan, and seeing its fulfillment in the most unlikely of places.
Wherever we’ve been, He’s said, It’s okay, Love. I’ll stay with you.
A year ago we faced our own unplanned pregnancy. The Sunday before we told anyone, I remember singing You make me brave, but I was wiping my eyes and feeling anything but brave. But we sang it again recently, and I was holding our fair blond Finnegan — all baby curves and chubby cheeks and sleepy, sweepy eyelashes – and I know more than ever that He delivers on His promise. He is the God-With-Us who delivers us from the unknown, and from the dark outside and in us.
For our family, by God’s grace, next year we will be moving to a house with more than three bedrooms. More woods, and less homeowner restrictions. There are a lot of unknowns at play and we’re not totally sure what He’s moving us into. We have no idea how the adjustment is going to affect two of our kiddos who are just learning to handle the upheaval of a four-day weekend.
This is the season that transforms darkness to light, when the star shone on our circumstances and showed us the Savior: we celebrate the baby who was kept warm in burial wrappings because He was the lamb of God, and laid in a food trough because He was also the bread of life.
Delivering and providing are what He does, so it doesn’t matter too much that we have no idea what next year will look like. Next year will be a different story.