It's that time of year again. It's a time for peace, love, goodwill, and sticking your child in the annual Christmas Pageant.
When I was growing up it wasn't optional. You were in the pageant. And chances are if you came in at the bottom of the totem pole you were cast as livestock of sorts.
I was as you can probably guess a sheep. Sheep 3 to be exact. A role I was dedicated to bring to life. I was actually a little bent out of shape. I didn't get to be an Angel or the coveted role of Mary. I was stuck with a paper bag on my head with cotton balls. But I was determined to bring all the sheepiness to the role that I could muster.
I was quite shocked when I was told by the blessed virgin to shut up and not bleet so loudly. The shepherd also was instructed to cane me. So I did what any self respecting sheep could do. I threatened to bite Mary and the baby Jesus (it was just a doll don't panic). Mary immediately tattled on me and I tattled right back. The director gave the usual "everyone is important" speech to which Mary asserted that she was the queen of the show. The director then mentioned that she would tell our parents and Mary being afraid of a spanking was quiet and I managed to tone my bleeting down. It was a tragic blow for sheep everywhere but the performance went off well and I only stuck out my tongue at Mary when I was sure no one was watching.
Fast forward to today. I have much more sympathy with the pageant directors of the world having had to walk a mile in their shoes with having to keep peace through countless programs and deal with my own Marys and sheep.
Today I sat in our church and watched our Cantata. It was beautiful. As I watched it I looked at my children and fell back in time.
Not so long ago I was waiting. Just as the world held it's breath all those years ago I held mine. We had taken all the classes, gotten a room ready. I had even heard the voice of my own angel, our son's social worker. She had proclaimed, "You hadn't gotten any other children because you were meant to be Marvin's mama." I had believed in the promise and a day before my birthday a son was delivered into our home.
A few years later my second angel visitation, social worker number 2 proclaimed, "This is a very special little girl. She needs a special family. I think you are just what we have been waiting for." And a second promise was kept.
I often think if Mary ever wondered what she signed herself up for? Did she fully understand what she was doing? Did she ever say, "What did I get myself into?" Or, "What can I teach Him? I mean He knows everything for crying out loud?!"
I often find myself thinking those things. As I look at them I remember all the plans I had. The things I've wanted to do. The lessons I planned. But those dreams have been long ago put aside. I've found over and over again that my children are the teachers and I am just doing my best to tread water. I've learned to think new thoughts and dream new dreams.
Joseph and Mary chose to have faith and walk a different path. Daily I have to do the same. I watch typical children hit milestones that mine may never reach. I watch little ones grow and remember that my daughters chances of making it into adulthood are very slim. I see my son struggle to break free from the abuses of his past. To realize that he is safe. The way is often narrow and even though there is always a helping hand along the way, I often walk it alone. It just is too narrow for others and the dangers scare them. I don't blame them. The path I walk has made me who I am today and I don't regret putting my feet on it.
The Cantata wraps up. I look at two children. One who is happily humming in her wheelchair and the other one who has been asking, "Are we finished yet?!" since the second song and hasn't been able to keep still. But I'm all smiles. It hasn't been easy but nothing that we want badly enough is. Like Mary I can say that I am richly blessed by everything. My children are a promise fulfilled and a daily reminder that the journey I take is worth it. Merry Christmas.