Tuesday, December 25, 2007

An advent cleaving

You can tell by the advent candles when our lives cleaved.

It is Christmas morning in our house, as it is in much of the world. Even the Orthodox are celebrating the Feast of the Nativity today. (We rarely align, due to different calendar systems. How unlikely!) After heating yesterday's coffee, setting a fresh pot going, and putting rice on for our diarrheic dog, I turned my attention to our kitchen table, which has been buried under cookies and candy and boxes and tissue and ribbon and communion bread for a long time.

That table was its own record of the season. 16 days ago, we had friends over to bake cookies, drink wine, eat amazing hors d'oeuvres, and generally celebrate friendship. The table never really emerged from that event, as we continued to pack cookie bags and wrap staff and team leader gifts and sort through dog harnesses and xmaswear and take phone notes and make lists.

This morning, I packed the last three cookie gifts, condensed the remainder, put away the boxes and tissue and ribbon, and swept up the crumbs and more sticky reminders. Then, I turned to the table that holds our little stereo, unburied the advent candles, and replaced them on the table.

Two have been burned. Two have not, and the Christ candle looks as virgin as the Holy Mother herself.

Somewhere around December 9, our world cleaved. We got a call from our adoption agency, asking us if we wanted to connect with a certain birthmother, living in Florida, due to give birth on January 3. On December 20, we had spoken with her, flown her to California, and were meeting with her and the agency to work out details. Since then -- five days ago -- we have moved her twice, scoured the area for affordable weekly housing (don't bother -- it's not here), collected gently-loved baby goods from our church family, run countless errands, gone to clinics and Medi-Cal offices. And: planned 4 worship services, written sermons and entire liturgies, led small groups, thrown parties, created graphics, rehearsed, decorated, redecorated, and redux over the last week of the divine waiting. Did I mention prayer? There's been a lot of prayer in there.

Things could still go differently than we imagine. The birthmother could change her mind. The baby could not survive. The birthfather could decide to contest. The last remaining Indian tribe might claim the child, with scarcely a drop of native blood, as its own. There are lots of unknowns in this scenario, including God's will.

Today is Christmas, and a young woman is very far from home, staying at an inn, waiting for the birth of her child. And we, we are exhausted and terrified, and very very hopeful.

Yesterday's doctor said the baby isn't going to wait until January 3.

Improbably, the word "cleave" has two precisely different meanings. To cleave is to "split or divide as if by a cutting blow." It is also "to remain faithful."

You can tell by the advent candles when our lives cleaved. We need to light them all tonight, on this first day of Christmas, to celebrate the arrival of the long-expected babe.

Painting: Nativity, by He Qi (China)

1 comment:

Tim said...

The Lord be with you and your husband, Elane, in this exhilirating and daunting time ... We have three adopted children, adopted as a sibling group at ages 3,5, and 8. Over the years they have brought us more heartache and more joy than we could have ever imagined.

And now (so far!) they have brought us three grandchildren to love and to cherish ...

May the Lord be good to you, and may the Lord be good through you ...