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A White Christmas

December 16, 2013

surrenderWe are waiting for our son.  We know Haven is coming.  But, we don’t know when.

It is a season of expectant waiting.  And, some days, the waiting can be hard.

But, as our pastor recently pointed out to us, there is really no better time to be waiting for Haven than right now.  There is no better time to experience a season of expectant waiting in our lives than during this season of Advent.  This season that is set aside each year as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of Christ’s birth.

For me, so far, this Advent season has been one of hope and reflection.  It has been a time to reflect upon the groans, prayers, attitudes, hopes, and struggles of those who expectantly waited many, many years for Christ – the promised Messiah – to come.  In doing so, God has pointed me to Mary….a woman who played a critical role in that first Advent season long ago.  The attitudes and actions she displayed as she waited for the Savior to come have offered me much encouragement and edification as I, too, find myself in the midst of an advent season in my own life.

In some small way, I find myself identifying with her.

For many years, the Jewish people had waited for their promised Messiah to come.  They knew He was coming.  But, they didn’t know when.  And, at times, I’m sure the waiting was quite hard.  Mary, a young teenage girl from Nazareth, was among those who waited.  She, like the rest of her people, found herself waiting and wondering when her long-awaited Savior would finally come.

Then, one day, something amazing happened to her.  An angel appeared to her with some very surprising news.  He told her that she would conceive a child – a son – from the Holy Spirit.  This child would grow in her womb until the time would come for her to give birth.  Upon giving birth to him, she was to give him the name, “Jesus”.  He would be the Son of the Most High.  He would reign.  And his kingdom would have no end.

I can’t imagine just how hard it must have been for this young girl to digest this news all at once.  She was told that the long-awaited Messiah would soon take up residence in her womb .  The excitement and shock of that news must have overwhelmed her.  But, that wasn’t the only news that she received.  She also received the news that the long wait, for her and for her people, would continue.  There was more waiting to come.  You see, her promised Messiah would not be coming in the form of a full grown man…..ready to preach, serve, teach, and change the world.  No.  He would begin His life just as we do, and progress through the necessary stages of human development.

From zygote to blastocyst, to embryo, to fetus, to infant, to toddler, to child, to adolescent, to teenager, to adult.

Yes, there was more waiting to come.  And, yes, there would be many difficulties that would come her way during the months and years ahead of her.  Even in her youth, I’m sure she understood that.  But, alongside those difficulties, she had to have known that there would be extraordinary beauty coming her way as well.

So, how does Mary respond to this news?  How does she choose to face the inevitably long and difficult wait ahead of her?  Well, this young, uneducated, teenage girl responds by simply saying these words, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

She responds by surrendering.  100% surrender to His timing.  100% submission to His plans.  She heard the voice of God, then she raised the white flag.  And she continued to remain hopeful.

This, folks, is Mary’s Advent message to me this Christmas.  There is no better way to wait than to simply wave a white flag.  Wave it high in surrender to whatever it is that the Lord might be asking me to do….to say….to be….or to give during this long wait to meet Haven.

As Mary waited for her son – her Messiah –  to come, she waved the white flag.  She hoped, she trusted, and she surrendered.   As we wait for Haven to come, I pray that we can do the same.  Whatever it is that God might be asking us to do….to say….to be….or to give during this season of waiting, I hope that we can follow Mary’s example of submission

God is working.  All the time.  During periods of waiting in our lives, He is at work.  So, the best way for us to wait is to ACTIVELY wait… wave the white flag in surrender to Him, and join Him in what He is doing while we wait and watch His plans unfold.

After all, isn’t there beauty to be found in the waiting?  Surely the advent seasons in our lives aren’t meant to be wasted.  Surely there is much good to be done, found, and seen during these seasons.  Advent seasons don’t simply exist to be wasted.  If approached with open eyes, hopeful hearts, and a submissive spirit, advent seasons (of any kind) can prove to be extraordinary.  If we choose to wait in surrender to the One who holds our waiting moments – and all of our moments – in His hands, the waiting can be extraordinary.

Frederick Buechner puts it like this:

“In the silence of a midwinter dusk there is far off in the deeps of it somewhere a sound so faint that for all you can tell it may be only the sound of the silence itself. You hold your breath to listen.  You walk up the steps to the front door. The empty windows at either side of it tell you nothing, or almost nothing. For a second you catch a whiff in the air of some fragrance that reminds you of a place you’ve never been and a time you have no words for. You are aware of the beating of your heart.  The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens. Advent is the name of that moment.”

This Advent season, God has spoken to me in a way that He might not have, had I not found myself smack dab in the middle of this waiting game called “adoption”.  For that reason alone, I praise Him for this wait.  Yes, it can be hard, at times.  And, I know that this wait is just as hard, if not harder, for Haven.  That is a hard truth to swallow.  But, there is beauty to be found during this wait.   I praise God in the midst of this advent season in our lives because I know that He will use it for good and for His glory if I allow him to….if I can remember to wave that little white flag continuously, hopefully, and enthusiastically for Him to see.

Waving a wave flag is usually seen as an act of surrender that leads to defeat… loss.  However, the incredible truth about waving a white flag in the face of God is that it is an act of surrender that leads to victory.

That’s how I want to wait.  I want to wait victoriously for Haven.

After God pointed me to Mary’s shining example, He chose to really drive His point home to me.  He did this by pointing me to someone in my own life who has become a shining example of surrender and submission during a very difficult wait.

This shining example is my Uncle Alan.

Several months ago, Alan received some devastating news.  He was told that he has ALS (also known as Lou Gherig’s disease).  It is a ruthless, progressive, neurodegenerative disease.  The life expectancy of someone with ALS averages about two to five years from the time of diagnosis.  Needless to say, this diagnosis was a huge blow to Alan, his wife, and his daughter.  And it was a huge blow to all of us who know and love him.

Alan now finds himself in the midst of a wait.  A very difficult wait.  He is waiting to see if the medical experts are correct.  He is waiting to see if that average life expectancy applies to him.  He is in the midst of an advent season, of sorts.  He has been told that something is coming.  And, he is left to wait, watch, and wonder.

How is he dealing with this waiting game in which he finds himself?  What is he doing in the midst of this season of waiting?

Well, a couple of weeks ago, I saw firsthand what he has chosen to do.  He has chosen to actively wait, rather than passively watch the time go by.  His eyes are open, and he is searching for where God is working so that he can join Him.  He has chosen to spend this season of waiting in his life by waving the white flag.

How do I know this?

I know this because of something that he gave to us as we shared lunch with him a couple of weeks ago.  As we were eating alongside him, he and his wife, Sharon, handed us a white sheet of paper.  A handwritten letter.  This is what it said….


Carly & Bryan,

It is with great joy that I am writing to you today.  I am happy to share a story with your family.

In the past years of my working career, I have been blessed.  Each year in the month of November or early December, I would receive a bonus for that year.  Each year, we would receive this and each year we would tithe to the church because we felt this was the correct thing to do.  And it was!  This year, as we all know, things are quite different.  Not because we are different people, but because God has helped us to gain a different perspective.  So, after we received the money, the questions began as usual.  I’m sure it’s the same for everyone.  What do we do with the money?  I have to admit that Satan visited also…telling us that since I’m no longer able to work anymore, we can’t afford to tithe.  I’m sure you’ve been there.  Anyway, something, everything, was different.  Sharon and I found ourselves questioning what to do with the money.  It wasn’t a question of whether or not to pay it, but rather, where is God leading us to put this money for the best use?  It has been three weeks now, and we have been given an answer.

We have been led to your family.  We believe that by giving you this money to help with your adoption expenses, a child’s life will be saved.  And we know he will be taught to follow Jesus throughout his life.  What a gift you will be giving him!  So, we ask ourselves, what price would you put on leading a child to living a life with Jesus?  So, we are so glad that we can help you in this way.  I’m so grateful we were led to do something DIFFERENT!

I want to thank you for the prayers.  They are felt and I do appreciate it.  We hope the rest of the adoption process goes smoothly.  Keep us informed, as you always do.  We love you guys.

God Bless & Merry Christmas.


Along with the letter, Alan and Sharon gave us a $1,000 check to put toward our adoption expenses.  We were blown away by their generous gift.  Their gift will have a huge impact on our adoption journey.  Even though Alan and Sharon are facing a time of great physical and financial uncertainty due to his recent diagnosis, they chose to push any concerns aside and surrender to what God might be asking them to do.  I am truly humbled that God happened to ask them to join us on this journey to Haven. Their generous gift will help to bring him home.  That’s all there is to it.   For that reason, they will forever be a part of his story.  And for that reason, we will forever be grateful.

Amidst Alan’s waiting and wondering, there is an obvious surrender that is occurring.  Despite his circumstances, he has chosen to raise the white flag.  By doing so, he has helped to answer our prayers regarding financial provision for our adoption journey.  From the very beginning, we have prayed that God would provide the finances needed to bring our Haven home.  Alan’s choice to surrender to what God placed upon his heart this Christmas is nothing less than an answer to our prayers.

How beautiful is that?

Yes, there is beauty to be found in the waiting.  And, often times, it comes as a direct result of a white flag raised.

That little white piece of paper that Alan handed to us last week symbolizes the raising of a white flag.

Make no mistake, he is not waving the white flag in surrender to ALS.  There will be no surrender to that wicked disease.  Our prayers for a miracle and our hope for a complete healing will continue.  The white flag he holds has not been raised in surrender to ALS, it has been raised in surrender to God.  And that’s a beautiful thing.

I, for one, am looking forward to seeing the other ways that he chooses to wave the white flag in surrender during this advent season that has come upon him.

Let’s face it.  Waiting is an inevitable part of the human experience.  None of us are exempt from it.

Mary waited for her Savior.

Alan waits to see if the medical experts are right.

We are waiting to meet our son.

What is it that you’re waiting for right now?  Are you experiencing an advent season of your own?

Whatever it is that you are waiting for….regardless of how big or small…I would encourage you today to remember these two shining examples of surrender that I have shared with you today.  I encourage you to call to mind the image of Mary and Alan faithfully and victoriously waving their white flags in submission to the Lord.  May that image spur you on to do the same as you seek to find beauty in the waiting.

Not long ago, I mentioned on here that the song “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” has taken on a whole new meaning for me this Christmas season.  I can’t hear it without thinking of Haven.  When I imagine him spending this season alone, and when I imagine him sharing Christmas with us only in his dreams, I am left with a heavy heart.  But, that song isn’t the only beloved Christmas carol that has taken on a new meaning for me this year.  “White Christmas” is one that also holds special meaning to me now.  And it has nothing to do with snow.  Nothing at all.

I hear that song, and I now think of Mary’s white Christmas.  I think of Alan’s white Christmas.  I think of their white flags raised high, and I am inspired to raise mine, too….during this Advent season and beyond.

I listen to the opening line of that song, and I find myself dreaming of a white Christmas.  One that is colored solidly in surrender.

My prayer today for each and every one of you reading this right now is a simple one.

I pray that you take this Christmas season – this Advent season – and color it white.  Sure, red and green are nice.  But, it is white that will make it glisten with beauty.


All to Jesus, I surrender,
All to Him, I freely give.
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.

-J. Van DeVenter-

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 16, 2013 2:41 am

    Beautiful! What a great reminder for me as I am also doing a lot of waiting. What a great perspective! Love you guys and I pray for Haven daily 🙂 Alan too! What a great way to honor Alan also!

    • December 16, 2013 3:04 pm

      Your white flag has been up for many to see over these past few months. A true inspiration to so many…including myself. Love ya!

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