This Christmas story, composed not from my own creativity, is absent the tinsel, twinkling lights or cookie baking, yet, a version worth sharing, none the less.
December, 1996, our first Christmas bearing the weight of infertility, oblivious that we were about to embark on years of anguish and endless tears coupled with uncertainty and empty womb. Yet, unbeknownst to us, God was scripting a beautiful Christmas story, interweaving his promises with each chapter.
Dec 24th, 1996 “Somethings not right,” I said. My husband replied, “so we pray.” We had traveled to Texas that Christmas and though the air was warm, our hearts were cold with realization that our journey to expand our family was to be a rugged path. The effort to begin our family came with such ease with our first born, Sheldon, we were quick to be concerned and frustrated when 8 months of trying produced no results.
Family traditions and chaos surrounded us, so Dave and I withdrew to separate places of privacy. Though his time is undefined, mine consisted of painful groans of sorrow and fear. “God, I need to hear from you.” Same question from both and as not always is the case, produced was a very distinctive promise from God to each of us. The only difference between, the wording. For Dave, “December” was branded into his vision. For me, “Merry Christmas” rang loud. My heart danced inside my chest, not with anticipation but indication of the Holy Spirit’s presence. “That’s it? No dates, no yes, no?” Silence was my answer.
My interpretation gave me hope that with the absence of nausea and day one of my next cycle as January rolled in.
The snow of winter melted, buds bloomed but nothing more. The terrain grew rougher as we began the dreaded process of fertility drugs. The back of my mind held “Merry Christmas” but the the forefront of my heart blazed with desire unfulfilled and a need to do something, anything even if God’s time was not yet.
December 21st of 1997 Depression was my companion, sense was not to be made of any of it. Christmas approached and because trepidation does not fuse well with hopeful anticipation, I never found a medium in which to happily settle. A moment of angst and I fell to my knees and pleaded to God for something, anything. For the first time in a year, He spoke. “Isaiah 26:18.” Did I really hear it? Did I make it up? Hands trembled as I flipped the bible, first passing by Isaiah so having to flip back, turn 5 pages, then 1 at a time, until… In shock, I read the first three words, “we were pregnant…” Cause for wonder, cause for confusion. “Am I pregnant? or will be?” I mis-dialed the phone, not once but 3 times before it rang to Dave’s office. “You should write it down and date it.” I did.
Silence fell for what seemed like eternity.
December 1998 December returned, no pregnancy! Christmas was only a painful word and a hopeless season where my only desire was another child. “I can’t hear God. Not sure I even believe, yet I’m certain He’s all I’ve got.” I drove to church, fabricated joy covered my face because no one wants a downer in their presence during the most “wonderful time of the year.” 50 people, give or take, attended the service. “I just want to go home.” My heart battled my body’s urge to leave. Touched by those who offered prayer for healing, I hid the doubt that raged and doused their efforts to comfort. The pastor prayed a final word and people gathered their coats. I turned to make a hasty exit and a gal, stranger to me, approached me with tears. “I hurt for you,” she began, “and for two months I have felt led to share something with you. Fear has held me back, but tonight I know if I don’t say this, I will be disobeying Him.” Her words simple, but precisely perfect. “God grants the desires of our hearts, and you can hear His voice.” Any sooner than that moment, her words would have been mute. Delivered by anyone other than a stranger, the blatant obviousness that it was God’s newest message for the month of December would have been dismissed. I accepted that was to be the last building block to God’s promise that we would receive until the following year.
Still, the year to come involved more treatment and activity in effort to “help God along.”
December 24th of 1999 No miracle to report, no hope remained. No comfort, no words from God, yet. Reflecting on the condition of my soul, I began to desire a relationship with God that offered healing from the need to be healed. To encounter God’s character, His love rather than His miracles was a new focus for both Dave and I. Several days before, Sheldon and I had played with a nativity set, acting out the story of Jesus’ birth. That same night he wanted to go through it again before bed. We pulled the set out and were saddened that baby Jesus was missing. We turned the room inside out. There was no sign of Him. (A feeling that mirrored the void in our hearts to be perfectly honest.) For days we could not find Him. I looked in, around, under and behind everything, multiple times. Still no baby Jesus.
Christmas Eve, relational turmoil that often surfaces during the holiday was in full force. A painful encounter coupled with the pain of infertility fused with chronic physical pain proved more than I could bare. An emotional breakdown awaited and I went to my “go to” stress reliever. I cleaned like a mad woman and in my madness, God once again revealed Himself. Living room, I prayed and dusted. Kitchen, I mopped and pleaded. The bathroom, I scrubbed so hard out of anxious adrenaline, I’m certain some enamel came off. In tears of defeat, I reached Sheldon’s room, paused, broken, I fell to my knees. “God, I have no idea where you are anymore.” I reached out to embrace the huge stuffed bear that sat by the head of Sheldon’s bed on the floor (that had been moved several times before in the search) and felt something hit my foot. Out of the bent leg of the bear, baby Jesus appeared. “I’m right here and I’m all that matters.” Once again He came at the time I needed Him most. I wept in His presence. We knew this was to be added to our annual word from God.
We surrendered to the presumption that another year would pass with no baby sibling. His promises were tucked away, hope in pregnancy gave way to His sufficient grace. It had to be, after all, when a tube test revealed damage and blockage making pregnancy unlikely. It was God’s timing that we didn’t have that information until He had us where He wanted us. The year 2000 steered us on the path of adoption, an endeavor we long before had planned, but only after completing our biological family.
December 23rd, 2000 Given our new directive, we doubted we would hear much from God. Surprise understates what we got instead. The 23rd, last mailing day before Christmas, we received, from our adoption agency, a video referral of two siblings in an orphanage in Russia. We opened it, nervous, in part because we had received another referral prior to this but didn’t feel it was “the one” and in part because, well it was Christmas and …need I say more. We popped the video in, pressed play, and tears flowed.
We realized God was speaking and fulfilling His promise to us from years before. We knew these children were hand chosen by Him to join our family. What is more, as we looked back through the journal that documented all of the Christmas promises, we realized that the verse God gave Teresa on December of 1997, the one that stated “we were pregnant” was the same time that Coleson, the oldest, was being formed in the womb of his birth mother.
Coleson Paul Ahrendt joined our family in July, 2000. Due to red tape and bureaucracy, we were forced to make two trips, therefore had to leave the youngest behind.
December 2001 I wrote this Christmas Story, thinking it was mostly over, sought prayer for our speedy return to Russia to complete the adoption of the younger sibling. More red tape, incomplete paperwork, excuse after excuse led to month after month after agonizing month. We would wait another year.
December 2002 True to God’s nature, He made certain that this Christmas Story was scripted to perfection and had His markings to the end. After a long, tedious and pain staking process, we finally brought our daughter, Macee Leigh Ahrendt home, just in time to celebrate Christmas in December of 2002.
He promised Dave, “December” and He delivered my “Merry Christmas.”
12 years have passed, kids have grown, challenges prevail, but one thing we know to be true. God intended this family to be precisely what it is and who is in it and the story He wrote far exceeds the realm of my creativity. This Christmas, I pray God writes His personal story in your life, or at least adds a miraculous chapter of faith, hope and love. It would mean the world to me if you shared our story with someone special in your life, this Christmas season.
Merry Christmas with love,
Dave, Teresa, Sheldon, Coleson and Macee Ahrendt