They say they found Him wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger, but I have absolutely no idea how they found my daughter.
I wasn’t there.
I have no idea if they found her naked or swaddled in something or if she was lying on anything between her and the dirt, or if her bare back indented the granular earth.
I don’t know how they found her that late summer day, but thank the Lord someone found her. Thank God someone heard the wails of our daughter not from a feed trough, but from her own hidden finding place — at least that’s what the paperwork said.
I flew 10,000 kilometres across the arc of the world two springs ago, stood by that river in China where they found her and I hold her and her brave and broken beating heart next to mine.
I only go back there now a thousand times in my mind. Because in some ways, she begins there for me, and all these questions begin there for me, all the answers I have found…
How does a world, a heart, not make room — and why do answers to that question make a heart, a world, hurt, and what if there are answers that haven’t yet found me?
The wind didn’t move through the trees that day. I know this. I stood there watching for even a sigh through the leaves. I had stood there watching for a coming.
And I had heard the thrumming heart of her and it’s like a murmur, this cry against abandonment that beats like a drumming in our daughter’s broken heart, that echoes like a howl through the chambers of every single one of our broken hearts:
If I broke into a thousand pieces — who would come and pick me up?
If I up and lost my way —- who would come look for me until all of me was found?
If I forgot who I really am — who would come make me remember my real name?
This happens, these things happen. You can get to the middle of your life, the middle of a season, and be met with a haunting of questions that refuse to be hushed.
Now is Advent — and Jesus comes.
Jesus comes and when there’s been a breaking into a thousand pieces, He picks up the pieces of you, the pieces you’re tired of being brave and saying aren’t even broken and He whispers: What feels broken and falling all apart — I’m making it all fall together.He is taking the broken things and making better things.
Now is Advent and when you’ve up and lost your way in the wounding loudness of things, Jesus comes and He looks for you and He won’t let you stay lost and He won’t stop coming until —
Jesus finds you and whispers: You most find yourself when you find your joy in Myself.
Our heart is restless until it finds its rest in the fully accepting embrace of Christ.
Now is Advent and when you’ve forgotten who you really are, Jesus comes, He comes and makes you who are in Him remember your real name:
You are My friend… Hear Me — You don’t ever get rejected.
You are justified… Hear Me — You don’t ever get any condemnation.
You are complete… Hear Me — You don’t ever have to prove anything.
You are forgiven… Hear Me — You don’t ever have to beat yourself up.
You are chosen… Hear Me —You don’t ever have to feel like you don’t belong.
And I’d looked down at our little daughter, standing beside me in her finding place, and I kneel down beside her and tuck this little wisp of hair behind her ear and whisper:
Little One?You weren’t abandoned in this place to be forgotten — you were placed in this place to be found.
That place that may feel like abandonment —- is placement.
And what may feel like being thrown away — is about being placed because a way is coming always.
And there was the echo of the heartbeat of the Father for all His children, and there is a feeling of this:
That place where you feel abandoned by everyone —- is really where God has placed You to be met by Someone —- Him.That place that feels like abandonment —- is placement.
That place where you feel thrown away — is about being placed because His way of healing wholeness is coming for you always.
You are never abandoned in a place to be forgotten — you were placed in this place to be found.
I’d knelt in the long grass with her. Pulled her close.
And “sometimes God takes us into the wilderness not to abandon us — but because He wants to be alone with us.
Wildernesses can be safe because we are always safe when we are always with Him.
Wildernesses can be where God woos.” (~excerpt from The Broken Way)
Beside that river where she was found, I had cupped my daughter’s little face in my hands: “I was always coming, Little One — always coming.” Her eyes looked like an answer. Looking long into the eyes around you is always the beginning of answers.
And He is always coming for you, Brave One — His healing, breaking free ways are always coming for you.
And now she stands in front of our Christmas tree, her eyes, her face, lit with all this light, and she holds up the fabric nativity scene that my mother hand quilted with long strokes of her needle, her thread always coming, and she hold up Mary: “Mama!”
She runs over to me, thrusts Mary into my hands: “Mama.” She pats my cheek, like I could be like that willing girl.
Can I live given to God? You can live given — surrendered — wherever you haven’t surrendered or given yourself over to fear.
And there is never any need to fear anything: There is no abandonment — only placement.
Placement for His coming ways, placement for His coming arms, placement for His coming purpose, placement to be an Esther, to be in this place for such a time as now.
And then she turns and reaches back for Joseph:
“Papa!” She holds the quilted Joseph above her head, like she knows the banner over her is love and she laughs like music: “PAPA!”
And then her clubbed, bluing fingers reaches for the manger, and she cups the wrapped quilting in her creased palm, and she holds the newborn in the cradle out to me like an offering — and I’m waiting for her to whisper — Jesus?
And she whispers it like a hushed secret: “Me.”
“Your baby, look, Mama! —- Me!” she pats my cheek again.
And I nod, and smile, and she’s confused and she’s not and there are answers when you don’t expect them.
“Yes, You — You, made in the image of God.”
I may have questions about what her birth mother looks like … but no matter who she looks like — she bears the image of God.
No matter how anyone looks — you know who they look like: they bear the image of God.
The most belligerent relative, the most difficult neighbor, the most resistant kid, the most different foreigner, stranger, other —- is Jesus in the manger, in Christ in the crèche, is the image of God.
And when you give to the least of these, when you hold the least of these, when you welcome in the least of these, when you live broken wide open and given to the least of these: you give to Jesus.
I take the little Baby Jesus from her hand.
Yes….. All there is to see is Jesus — for you to see Jesus in every person — and every person to see Jesus in you.
Now is the time of year where there are lights to see and plays to see and family and neighbors and community to see — and all there is to see is Jesus. For you to see Jesus coming in everyone and everyone to see Jesus coming in you.
Now is the time we don’t only look for Jesus coming to the stable — we look for Him around every table; we don’t only look for Him coming to the crèche, we look for Him in every crisis.
We don’t look for Him coming only to the manger, look for Him in every mess; we don’t look for Him coming only in the barn — we look for Him coming through brokenness.
Advent is about looking for the coming face of Christ — in every face that comes to you.
There is never abandonment — only placement… and we are all placed by Him for each other, so no one has to feel abandoned.
Light the candles but never let anything less than the heart be lit:
Advent isn’t so much about hushed waiting, as much as it’s about heart breaking with the things that break God’s heart, about a heart breaking in repentance… a heart breaking over the darkness and crying for the light to break in, for Advent to come and the Kingdom of GOD to break in to us.
Never let anyone shrink your Advent down to only lighting candles — instead of you breaking into flame, because our God is holy fire and His people ignite light that breaks into a wildfire of change that breaks the captives free.
In the spring, I knelt beside her, beside a river in China where she was found, and in winter I kneel beside her, beside a Christmas tree where the light is finding us all in the dark, that is finding us because there is never any abandonment to be forgotten, only placement to be found.
And Christ keeps coming to find and remind and remake and rename, and we could keep finding Christ coming in every face, finding Christ coming — not only through the world to us, but coming to the world through us.
The lights are blazing brave, coming through the dark everywhere right about now.
And they’re calling for snow to fall all day tomorrow, swaddling us in white.
It’s coming now, tomorrow, always coming — like a quiet abandonment to the arms and will of God who never abandons or fails.
Want to know how all your unspoken broken can be be transformed into abundance? Tired of trite answers?
These are for you. It’s possible — abundant joy is always possible, especially for you.