When You’re Hurting At Christmas


I drive the car into the parking lot, his lanky frame, dressed in black, waits. My heart feels heavy as he opens the door and quietly gets in. My husband asks how he’s doing and I listen to their exchange.


My son.


He’s 15 now and hasn’t lived with us since he was 10.


The pain in just writing that sentence stops me for a moment. The familiarity of doubt and fear sears through my soul and my momma heart just can’t take it anymore. When I signed my name on the adoption papers, I made a promise to this boy that I would be his momma. The one he could trust, the one he could count on.


But trauma does bad stuff to great kids and he couldn’t handle the voices in his head telling him he didn’t belong to me and he had to go because he wasn’t safe. We weren’t safe.


Yet the promise didn’t stop and for all of these years I’ve been fighting for him, throwing money at a monster, a system who doesn’t know how to help our family, vowing, vowing, yet never able to fulfill those vows. My heart has been broken more times than I thought possible, yet I stay.


For him.


As we sit through supper at his favorite restaurant, opening presents and trying to celebrate his life, all i see is what’s missing: our family, surrounding him, giving him presents, waiting anxiously to see his reactions. Sitting around the table while I serve his favorite meal, singing happy birthday to him while he blows out the candles on a cake I made with love. My girls, his sisters, telling him how happy they are he’s born, all of us celebrating his life.




Instead, we sit in a restaurant, surrounded by strangers while he opens presents I bought, eating a meal I bought and then taking him to a home that’s not mine. The sadness of sitting here sits heavy in my chest and I fight back the tears. This is how we celebrate his birthday, yet the girls get the love scene. The frustration that this injustice brings, mixes in my stomach and hangs on.


And all of this is at Christmas time.


A time that is supposed to be happy, joyful, yet is not. The loss we are reminded of every year sits next to us, an uninvited guest. His stocking hangs, but sits empty Christmas morning, a reminder of this life we never intended to happen. I hide his presents, wrapped so it doesn’t stress out the girls. I cry, not just for me, but for him. He is missing so much but I’m not sure he knows he’s missing and I guess I find some solace in that. I want to give him our world, our family, so desperately that it’s all consuming at times.


I made him a promise and I haven’t kept it.


But Christmas reminds me of the one thing that I cling to in these restaurant birthday days–




The world was dying, crying out for a savior to free them from all consuming sins, but they didn’t know it. And while they looked for a king to ride in and save them all, a baby was quietly pushed into the world, to save the world. King of the world, and they didn’t know it. His birth started the timeline of a life and death, which brings us a life we didn’t know we were missing.


A gift. To us.


A sinful brood of children who are never content and always on the lookout for anything but His love. So much like my children. So much like me. A Christmas miracle to remind me that miracles do happen. Maybe one could rain down on this boy, on our family? Christmas reminds me of the possibility and I feel hope rising up, covering the tears and fears, even as they fall down my face.


How can Christmas, the one time of the year where the loss is felt the most, be the tool God uses to help me heal?


Can I look outside of my circumstances long enough to relish in this idea of God humbling himself to the point of being a baby, just for me?


A woman who gets it wrong more than I get it right, He thought of me, He thought of my son, and still came to this world. For us. There was no white horse he rode upon, brandishing his sword and fighting back the demons that crowd my heart.


No, it was much grander.


A baby, pudgy cheeks, cooing at his mother while she tenderly held him. Crying for food when he was hungry, wet, was uncomfortable. Toddler, learning how to walk, how to eat, how to play with his parents, did peek-a-boo exist back then?


Yet the entire time he knew the secret workings of his mother’s hearts, his father’s doubts, my future sin. He knew how to create the world, how to set the planets in motion that his parents were unaware even existed. He knew, yet he cried for his mother’s care anyway, because of me. His love for me.


God’s son for my son.


How can a God who would do this leave me? Our circumstances may never change, but the Christmas story is the blanket that God wraps us in, while He pulls us close and holds us in His loving arms, and reminds us of hope.


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