we kept him a secret about till the end.
Almost 2 decades ago now, we kept him a secret till I was almost 7 months pregnant.
And Kathy Agnes leaned over just before prayer time at Bible Study and said knowingly, “Anything you’d like to share, Ann?”
I was 20 years old and 9 months married and scared skittish silly about messing up another human being so I was in flat-out denial and running hard and not looking back or letting anyone in. Nobody had told me — and I can’t say that I would have listened right then anyway — how every woman needs limbs to hold her so she can find her roots.
It’s the long lines that come behind us that end up being the unlikely lifeline. Try telling that to a 20-year-old farm hick too scared to find her flattened tongue.
So I just smoothed out the wrinkles in that blue-gingham patterned jumper, smoothed them over the swelling secret and I looked over at the Farmer and he smiled when he told Mrs. Agnes:
But the secret came like a star startling the early twilight.
The boy came in May.
He came loud and and a full four weeks early and the Farmer smiled. The Farmer smiled and held the swaddled boy and he bit his husbandry-tongue to not go on comparing his bride’s labor and delivery with the vast and varied birthings he’d midwifed — in the barn.
But c’mon — so what if I looked like a first-time wide-eyed gilt who wanted to run? Like that skittish heifer he’d had who bawled in the back corner of the field when it came time to bear down and push? I was just a girl scared I’d lose my way back, lost my way forward — lose them and me and The Way through?
That first night alone in the hospital, I sat up holding the boy and I bent over him and I cried longer than any baby.
6,570 dark nights later, the boy turned 18. He grew up. He leaves this week for university.
And we pack up his clothes and his books and remember that 5th birthday when he wore a tool belt with a hammer and crowbar and stood on the table with that straight-up cowlick of his and a smile as long as the Golden Gate Bridge.
And that Christmas he stood on tip-toe on the edge of a chair trying to get that smiley-faced star he had drawn himself to stay on the top of that sad tree we had that looked like a used up wire bristle broom of some chimney sweep.
6,570 nights later, 18 summers, and how many Christmases – how much of your life do you leave behind memories the way you want?
How many of the Christmases slowed you down to wonder, led you back home to the shimmer of His glory — ushered you into a New Year revived and changed?
How many Christmases did you give the gift of a changed you to everyone you know?
“You’ll take that, yes?”
I ask the boy all grown up and leaving, ask if he’ll take that family tree he charted back in grade 3, that’s there still in the back of a heap of a closet.
And he nods — looks over at me, “Yeah, that, and that carved duck from Grandpa… yeah.”
And in a moment your boy can look like his father the day you first met him and shades of your mother that day you drove away from home and it’s the long lines that come behind us that end up being the unlikely lifeline.
It’s that family tree of Christ that gets named every Christmas that didn’t forget the women, the family tree of Christ that brazenly claims the weary women, four broken women— Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba — women who felt like outsiders, like has-beens, like never-beens.
Women who were weary of being taken advantage of, of being unnoticed and uncherished and unappreciated; women who didn’t fit in, who didn’t know how to keep going, what to believe, where to go— women who had thought about giving up.
And Jesus claims exactly these who are wandering and wondering and wounded and worn out — Jesus claims women like these as His.
And He grafts in you and me and our mothers and our sisters and the woman sitting alone in the back pew at church and the man of few words at the door and the kid who thinks everything been messed up for good and the wife who doesn’t think there’s any way she can live through this mama-thing — we say yes and He claims all our broken hearts as His and He grafts us all into His line and His story and His heart, and He gives you His name, His lineage, and His righteousness.
You don’t have to know the way back or the way forward – you just need to know The Way.
The Way, The Truth and the Light, who goes to the Tree so your bent and twisted family tree can be grafted into His.
There are bad secrets and ugly secrets and I’ve done things that only the angels and Him know how I’m know angel — and you get to the day where your firstborn secret is ready to leave for the world and you want a do-over and you want a try-again … again.
You want to have not ranted about how the depths of his room could be the impenetrable hide-out for for the Al Qaeda and who would ever know what lurked behind his piles? And you want to have counted more gifts over his strewn disasters and grinning birthdays and lingered long around the lights of the Christmas tree and how it lit all their faces and you just want to unwrap your life again.
All during the boy’s last spring with us, I pour over the family tree of God.
I don’t plant flowers in the garden. I don’t deal with piles of laundry – well, at least until the boy and his brothers periodically holler that they’ve run out of underwear. I don’t sleep – much. I just unwrap – from early spring straight through till I am flying over the ocean to Uganda.
For weeks, I unwrap this story, from the beginning of Genesis to the barn of Bethlehem, this story that is our legacy to those who come behind, that is our inheritance that is still to come, the one story that will revive you when you’re right wrung out.
I write for the woman who wants to unwrap her life again, for the man who wants to reorient again, for the boy on the brink of leaving again, to remind him of Whose he is and the one love story that will always save him.
I unwrap the full love story of all of us.
There are secrets that shouldn’t be kept secrets.
Like love stories.
It’s possible to miss it.
To live like you’ve missed the whole story, to spend all the years, all the wonder years, all the amazed days of grace, in between the bills and the the forgotten dish molding at the back of the fridge, and you can spend your life on a blur of things that leave you bankrupt.
To rush through the birthdays and the kiss goodnights and all the Christmases — and straight-out miss the love story that whispers who you really are and who your family really is and who Grace really is.
And when we think we’re the ones who will have to produce — have to produce good family trees and good houses and kids and memories and our own good Christmases — we only half-wrap the notion that we think the saving of the world begins with us. There is a name for this. Idolatry.
Things can change.
Before it’s too late, before we’re completely burnt out, things can be different. We could receive The Greatest Gift of letting ourselves be changed. We can get weary enough of being weary to have the strength to reach out for the gift we’ve always wanted.
We can say no to whole seasons of performing and say yes to whole lives in His presence.
“You know it’s all okay, right Mom?” The boy all grown up and leaving grins at me over this drawer pile he’s sorting through. In a blink, he’s a man.
And his mother whose blown it a thousand times and a thousand more, she blinks it back and knows what she wants. We could make living loved our family tradition.
And there are these words about The Greatest Gift and unwrapping the fullest love story that just keeps coming for us and there is rest.
And I smile back at him and whisper “Yes.”
The #HappySecretComing — is Here!
There are secrets that shouldn’t be kept secrets.
Like love stories.
The #HappySecretComing that was meant to be shared –
is all His love, written about in this little book I wrote from scratch for you this spring
(with Tyndale, whose profits are given away to spread the Gospel around the world):
A book written this spring, for your Christmas, to change your whole new year — change you.
25 fresh readings. 25 simple action points. 25 FREE (exquisite) ornaments to download.
A brand-new, fresh take on the Jesse Tree Advent tradition for adults.
Order now – and you order the best Christmas ever:
You get The Greatest Gift. And your family gets the gift of the Greatest Gift in you.
Christmas like you’ve never experienced it — but always wished for.
Why Bring Home The Greatest Gift this Christmas:
“I sat in an idle, hot car for 15 minutes in 90 degrees heat for carpool while reading this — and literally had chills.
To walk through Advent with Ann Voskamp is to read The Greatest Story Ever Told written in the words of one of the greatest storytellers of our time.
I read and understood with a fresh perspective.
The Greatest Gift is the most meaningful gift you’ll buy all year. ”
“Breathtaking. Stunning. The Greatest Gift — a gift for life.”
“Every year, we, the adults, The Keepers of Christmas, wonder, “Where did the wonder go?”
Into our wonder-dearth comes Ann Voskamp, sweeping into our jaded hearts with her observant heart, engaging pen and her way of opening our hearts to the truth and beauty hidden in plain sight.
Hello, Christmas. Hello, wonder.“
“Ann Voskamp shows up with a secret gift for all of us: words that somehow sing, pause, and lift the soul. I simply can’t wait to spend December with The Greatest Gift.“
“The Greatest Gift isn’t simply words on a page; it’s a song your heart already loves: a song about Jesus from beginning to end… A glorious way to celebrate the season!“
“No-one unveils Jesus like Ann Voskamp.
Journeying through The Greatest Gift will fill you with wonder, awe & gratitude. Emmanuel, God with us.”
“Ann Voskamp taught our hearts to say thank you for gifts in an entirely new way and now she’s taking us on another intimate journey: Beautiful words, deep faith, and true worship make this book a wonder…”
“Leave it to Ann Voskamp to powerfully and poetically call our hearts to respond to the real meaning of Christmas. Her pen crafts a beautiful masterpiece that slows us down only long enough to lift us up to see Him more clearly.
Thank you, Ann. You’ve done it again.“
“For those of us who sometimes feel lost in the wash and rinse and repeat of our daily routines here comes the assurance that we are beloved with a passion that slays dragons.
That Christmas was a daring act of divine love that turns all our ordinary days — into extraordinary gifts.”
“Ann Voskamp on Christmas is Monet on sunsets — made for each other.”
Max Lucado, pastor, Oak Hills Church and best-selling author of You’ll Get Through This: Hope and Help for Your Turbulent Times
Christmas like you’ve never experienced it — but always wished for: