when you’re weary & just want to prepare your heart for Christmas — & a bit of Hope

We carried her through the dark to see her broken heart.

The headlights pry open the night and the snow keeps falling like a coverlet and there are defiant stars above the clouds, always stars above everything.








3 am rising to drive the stretching cold miles to the city, carry her up to the cardiac wing of Sick Kids Hospital, lay her out on the bed, and wait for the sedation of the chloral hydrate to cradle her into the deep.

We wait well and wise by looking up.

“See the stars, baby?” The nurse points to the ceiling.

These galaxies of indigos and violets swirl around shimmering lights projected on the white panels above her crib and her big sister and I whisper-sing into her ear, “The stars in the bright sky looked down where He lay...”

And her eyes lids linger heavy and I pull her in and we look up at stars, and beg to be one of the wise men who never stop looking up, seeking the way through, because there always is a way through, and we wait for her to let go.

There is a kind grace that comes to you only as you let go. 

And when she finally drifts off, weightless and yet steadying gravity in my arms, I lay her head down gently, her sleep breath there in my face, like a warm visitation, and they scan her heart, beating there like courage on the screen. Courage is the one thing that is always asked of us — because it determines how we answer everything in our life. 

Whoosh. Whoosh.

The technician murmurs it quietly, dragging the echocardiogram sensor across our daughter’s raised brave scar, right over her broken heart.

It’s the ultimate selfie — what your heart looks like.”

And I nod slowly. It’s been the hardest year of brokenness and weariness and painfulness — but not hopelessness.

What would my heart look like exposed on a screen? 

Let every heart prepare Him room. 

Let every heart let go — and let Him in.

The year may not have gone as hoped — but Hope is not gone. Hope comes.

The thrumming of her heart fills the room.

+  +  +  +  +

When we get word the third week of Advent that little Luna was gone, I look over at our little girl playing in front of the fire, the tree, laughter singing in her belly like a song.

Our girl had held Luna when they both lived in China, when they both lived at Morning Star. Our girl had kissed Luna like her own little sister, had brushed back Luna’s hair with her own bluing fingers, had leaned over her like she had found Light under a star.

I had sat at Morning Star in the Spring, sat ringed by orphans in rooms and hearts prepared for them, and I held Luna in my arms.

Luna with her broken heart, her rattled, raspy breaths, she had shone like a beacon in the night sky.



Screen Shot 2016-12-22 at 7.48.15 PM

Screen Shot 2016-12-22 at 8.58.12 PM








Screen Shot 2016-12-22 at 7.48.28 PM



I remember the weight of her, the lightness of her, the holiness of her.

Then, come Advent, Luna arrested, her battling and failing and broken heart pounding like a begging and the emergency demanded a risk: Do surgery.

And Luna fought through the night, through the dark, through the surgery — and breathed hard and tired and blazingly brave out of the 14 hour heart surgery — and then exhaled into the arms of Light Himself. Her broken heart stilled. Heaven-Healed.

Luna left a light-ripple of love, of courage, of laughter glimmering along edges of things — and a staggering medical bill that now had an ending that no one wanted to carry.

Why would anyone choose to pay for the steep price of weeks of ICU care and ECMO and surgeries for an orphan — when the baby doesn’t live? When the baby is carried motionless down to the morgue?

When you could give clean water to children in Uganda or fling open more doors in a school for kids who live in the Guatemala City dump or stand with the fleeing children of Aleppo — why invest in a story that seems to end with a chapter that could read as hopeless?

Because when we’re unbending in what is important — endings aren’t the thing that is important. 

Because if we don’t always fiercely stand for Hope, regardless of risk, cost, or ending —- we steal all future Hope.

Because if Hope isn’t worth it, no matter how it turns out — then it turns out, that nothing is actually worth it. 

Because when we say that one life has worth — we’re saying that all lives have worth.

And a life that believes in the worth of all lives — is the only kind of life that’s really worth living. 

Luna was a holy being. Her life had meaning — and the light of her lodged into the broken places in me.

So when we get word on that third week of Advent, we reach again, like you do for the Child, and offer to carry Luna and her light and her medical bills and her memory because she had holy meaning and weight and gravity and when there’s been a light — how can we not carry it on?

Luna’s one little life becomes part of ours…. becomes us. 

And when we invest in one Hope, when we pay the cost of one Hope — we make a way for a thousand more Hopes. Hope is contagious, blazing, risky thing — and it can light a thousand more nights with countless stars.

Now is the season to believe: Stories may not have gone as we hoped — but Hope is not gone. Hope comes. Hope comes down and Hope never stops coming.

No matter what one outcome was… believe that Hope always still comes.

We can’t ever afford to lose Hope — or we lose our future, our faith, our fight, our fortitude.

When we light the last of the Advent candles, the light of the flaming wick fills the room, reflects in our little girl’s eyes like inextinguishable rounding moons.

+   +  +   +   +

I stood in Bethlehem once.

There were stars unblinking in their brave overhead and I stood outside a long time, my neck craning, with a holy imagination and prayers that know He is the realest reality.












I finally bent low to walk into the Church of the Nativity — because there is no finding Hope until you humble yourself to believe.

I knelt where they say the Star-Maker came and first grazed earth, where the Hope-Bringer first inhaled all our dark into His holy lungs and exhaled pure glory that swept us all into the Light of the Land of the Living.

I let fingertips trace the star pressed right into the ground, ran my hands across it over and over again, feeling an echocardiogram of my own, seeing my own naked broken, aching heart.

There is brokenness and failing and hurting and falling and dying and burying and there are times you don’t know how to breathe — but there is always, always, always Hope.

The Star-Maker, the Wisdom-Carrier, the Hope-Bringer — He had to take on skin and come with lung and lips and warm breath because this is the gift that all the heart bruised need: Hope resuscitates.

Let your heart prepare Hope room.

If you don’t let your heart prepare Hope room — it’s your own house that comes crashing down. 

It’s worth it to take courage and let your busted and broken heart prepare Hope room and prepare room for the prodigal to come home and the hard-hearted to change and the hurting to not hurt and the wounders to heal and the impossible to find a possible way and let nothing stop you from following the star this Christmas.

There’s no performing Christmas, producing Christmas, or perfecting Christmas.

There is resting in Christmas.

There is breathing easy in Christ.

He will prepare your heart for the coming of the Lord.

There’s a hope waiting right up ahead right now for you in the dark.

Hope’s always making a way — follow the Star.


Be one of the ones that makes Hope Shine for loved orphans with broken hearts this Christmas
Or join our family and Morning Star & be part of loving Luna’s hope and carrying her medical bills and her holy life.