Each year, December brings with it a blend of Christmas music, fun festivities, and a sense that something is missing. Four stockings hang below our mantle waiting eagerly to be filled with goodies. However, there are only three sets of feet that inhabit our home.
We believe that our sweet girl is in heaven looking down and praying for her family here on earth. To acknowledge her important role, each year we write notes to Isabelle listing out our prayer intentions and place them in her stocking. I like to imagine that the innocent soul of a child has a special place in heaven and like to picture her whispering our prayers into Jesus’s ear.
This simple family tradition is one that I am excited for Mark to be a part of in the future. He already likes listing people for whom he wants to pray. This year we plan to write them down and add his list to the stocking. We also enjoy reading what was written in previous years and reflect on how God has worked in our lives. It is a yearly reminder of the importance of prayer.
Early on, it was hard to look past the pain and emptiness that the stocking seemed to represent. Nevertheless, as each new year comes and goes, Isabelle’s stocking has also become a reminder of her persistent prayers. It hangs from our mantle, prompting us daily to turn to God amidst any challenges that life may throw our way.
During this Advent season, I’ve been working hard to see things through Mark’s two-year-old eyes. Viewing the season through such a simplified lens is a reminder of how much extra “stuff” clouds this beautiful time of year. As far as Mark is concerned, Christmas consists of an Advent wreath that we light each week, a Christmas tree, his toy nativity set, baby Jesus’s birthday, Santa, and presents (“big presents!”). He gets a few of the details mixed together but no one is judging – he is two. Just in case you are wondering, his favorite Christmas song are currently Frosty the Snowman and Jingle Bells. He sings the cutest rendition of them. Ever.
When I find myself getting weighted down by that ever-present hole in my heart, holiday travel plans, Christmas shopping, and all the little details that come with the season, I just look at Mark playing with his nativity set. As far as he is concerned, it is baby Jesus’ s birthday so we all get presents to celebrate. I’ve been trying to focus on the tremendous significance of that: it’s Jesus’s birthday – we should celebrate! What a gift! What a reason to rejoice!
I pray that this season is a true reminder of the gift that we were all given on that evening many years ago. I hope that we can all look forward to this coming year with renewed hearts and trust in God’s plan for our lives. May God bless you and your family!