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A Season of Foreshadowing

December 11, 2014
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~DECEMBER 2012~

“The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing….the longing to find the place where all the beauty came from.” (C.S. Lewis)

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Two Decembers ago, I became very, very ill.

It was the worst illness that I’d had in years.

I was sick to the core.

So sick.

Heartsick, that is.

I woke up on the morning of December 14, 2012 feeling just fine.  It started out as just another ordinary day.  The only kink in our routine was that Sidney, my six-year-old kindergartner, had woken up with a pretty bad cold.  So, I called the school and informed them that I wouldn’t be bringing her to school that day.

Once all four of my little ones had finished their breakfasts, they headed into the living room so that they could watch their usual post-breakfast cartoons as I cleaned the kitchen.  As their cartoons began to come to a close, I hopped onto the computer to briefly log into my email account and my Facebook account, just as I did every morning after breakfast clean-up.  I started scrolling through my news feed in Facebook.  As I did, something caught my eye.  It was a post from a friend of mine that sent chills down my spine.

As I read through the words, they lunged off the page and thrust themselves violently into my heart.

Shooter.

Automatic weapons.

Elementary school.

Victims.

Teachers.

Children.

First graders.

Kindergartners.

I didn’t want to believe it.  So, for a few moments, I chose not to.  But, as I continued to scroll down my news feed, I began to see post after post after post about a shooting that had, indeed, occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.  A twenty-year old man had forcibly entered the school building that morning and fatally shot twenty kindergartners and first graders, as well as six adult staff members.  It was the deadliest mass shooting in a high school or grade school in U.S. history.

NO!  No, no, no.

Tears filled my eyes as I read through status after status….confirming the unthinkable.  The unimaginable.

I called for Sidney.  She came to me.  She saw the tears and she hugged me.

Each and every day, I try to smother that girl with affection, but on that particular morning, I held her tighter than I think I had ever held her before.  I held my six-year-old daughter that morning and wouldn’t let her go….because there were twenty mothers in Newtown, Connecticut who had embraced their six-year-old children earlier that morning for the last time.

I didn’t tell her why I was so teary-eyed.  I just told her that I was so glad that she was at home with me and not at school.  In that moment, I can remember thinking that I would never, ever send her into a school building again.  Never.  No way.  I would begin home schooling her.  That was my initial gut reaction after hearing the horrible news.

All morning long, I couldn’t stop thinking about how the mothers of those twenty precious victims must have WISHED that their kindergartners and first graders had been home sick from school that day, just as my Sidney was.  If only they hadn’t gone to school that day….if only….

I was nauseous.  Absolutely nauseous.  And I knew that I wasn’t the only one feeling that way.  Mothers across the country were weeping and mourning alongside those twenty mothers from Newtown.

Those twenty women found themselves living in a nightmare.  A nightmare from which they couldn’t awaken.

In the days following the tragedy, Bryan and I couldn’t stop watching the news coverage.  It was something that hit so very close to home for us, and we ached as we watched all of the coverage.  But, for whatever reason, we just couldn’t stop watching it, despite how painful it was.

There were many interviews that made my heartsickness worsen.  But, there was one in particular that made me ache from head to toe.  It was an interview with a beautiful couple whose adorable six-year-old daughter, Emilie, had been killed by the crazed shooter.  I watched and I listened as they described Emilie.  It was as if they were describing Sidney.  There were just so many similarities between their six-year-old little girl and our six-year-old little girl.  So many.  I don’t think that I have ever empathized with anyone else as deeply as I empathized with that grieving mother on the TV screen that night.  I truly felt her pain.  And her pain made me feel utterly sick inside.  It wasn’t hard at all for me to put myself in her shoes.  I, too, had a sweet innocent kindergartner who I watched – day after day – walk into a school building.  I, too, loved my daughter with all of my  heart.  I, too, would be in a state of inexplicable grief if someone had taken her precious life in such a violent way.

To make matters worse, this tragedy occurred right smack-dab in the middle of the Christmas season.  The time of year that most children absolutely love.  The time of year when we should see pure joy on their faces, not sheer terror.  The time of year that should be filled with their smiles and giggles….not their blood-curdling screams.   Those thoughts were becoming too much for me to bear.

And what about the gifts?

My goodness!

The gifts.

Surely the mothers of those twenty victims had already purchased Christmas gifts for them.  And now, as they found themselves in a situation that was smothering them with grief, they had to look at those gifts….knowing that the precious little hands that they had loved so dearly would never have the chance to open them up.

How terribly tragic.

For days, I grieved.

For days, the heartsickness remained.

Then, finally, one Sunday morning, the sickness began to subside a bit….thanks to a little conversation that I had with Sidney.

Bryan had left early for church that morning to rehearse some songs with the worship team, as he usually does.  And he had taken Jackson and Grace with him.  That left Morganne and Sidney with me.  Once I had them dressed, fed, and ready to go, we hopped into the van and began to head toward church.  As we made our way out of our neighborhood, Sidney mentioned how much she loved Christmas.  I told her that I loved it, too.  She then shared a few thoughts as to why she loved it so much.  I nodded in agreement.

Then, she said, “Mommy, do you think there is Christmas in heaven?”

I paused for only a moment.  Without thinking much about it, I said, “Of course I do.  In fact, I think every day will feel like Christmas in heaven.”

I looked in my rear view mirror at her.

She was looking out the window.

Still, to this day, I can see how her face looked as she reacted to what I had just said.  She looked off into the distance and the sweetest smile imaginable broke out on her face.  Then, she giggled very, very softly.  She looked so incredibly happy in that moment.  I could tell that she was trying to envision what those future heavenly Christmases might look like.  How I wish I could have entered her mind to see what she was seeing!

After a few moments, she simply whispered, “Wow, Mommy.”

As I glanced back to take another peek at the smile that accompanied her words, I noticed something in Sidney’s expression.  In her expression, I saw the face of another little girl.  The face of Emilie.  It was the face of a little girl who didn’t have to imagine what a Christmas spent in heaven would be like.  Instead, she was now getting to see it firsthand.

For days, I had been pitying precious Emilie and the nineteen other children who had perished along with her in that horrific school shooting because they weren’t going to be able to experience the magic of Christmas.  Any time I began to think about that, the sadness would simply become too overwhelming for me to handle.

For them, there would be no presents.  No tree.  No lights.  No music.  No feasting.

But, wait just a minute.

If what I had just told Sidney was true….if heaven truly does feel like Christmas every day….then, why on earth should I pity little Emilie?  The comforting words of 1 Corinthians 2:9 came to mind:  “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him!” 

In that moment, something dawned on me.  I came to the realization that the beauty, the wonder, and the magic that we get to experience each Christmas season provide us with some wonderful foreshadowing of the beauty, the wonder, and the magic that we get to experience in our eternal home.

As we continued to make our way to church that morning, I could literally feel the healing taking place inside of me as I considered the fact that Emilie would most definitely be celebrating Christmas.  And her Christmas celebration would be far more glorious than the celebration that we would be having here on earth.  And, praise be to God, it isn’t just a month-long celebration that occurs once a year.  No.  It’s a celebration that will never, ever end.

I drove and I pondered.

I pondered the magic of our earthly Christmases.

Throughout my thirty six years, I have heard people refer to the “magic” of Christmas time and time again.  I have referred to it myself.  And I’ve done so because Christmas truly IS a magical time.

But, why?

That morning, I felt as though the answer to that question had become crystal clear in my mind.   The magic of Christmas lies in the fact that this is a time – a season – of foreshadowing.

The driving and the pondering continued.

I called to mind everything that I love about Christmastime…and why I find it to be such a magical, special time of year.

The brilliant lights.  The colors.  The music.  The beautiful, timeless Christmas carols.  The brotherhood.  The worship.  The softening of hearts.  The love.  The gathering together of families.  The gathering together of friends.  The feasts.  The eating, the drinking, the merriment.  The joy.  The worship.  The glowing faces of little children.  The dazzling trees.  The stunning decor.  The laughter.  The gifts.  The giving.  The generosity that overflows.  The reconciliations.  The lightened moods.  The church services by candlelight.  The peace.  The joyous reunions with those who we have missed so dearly.

As I considered all of the elements that make Christmastime so magical, I began to see the validity of the answer that I had given just moments ago to my inquisitive daughter’s question.

I called to mind every biblical description of heaven that I could possibly think of as I continued driving.  I shook my head in amazement as the beautiful realization continued to unfold before me.  Though there are so many unknowns about our heavenly home, we ARE given a few tidbits of information in the bible about what awaits us.  And I was struck by just how similar some of those tidbits were to certain aspects of our earthly Christmas celebrations.

-The gifts.  “Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad: for great are your gifts in heaven!” (Matthew 5:12)

-The joy.  “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

-The brilliant lights.  “And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and He is the light!  And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honor into it.  And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there!” (Revelation 21:23-25)  “They need no candles, for the Lord God gives them light.”  (Revelation 22:5)

-The stunning decor.  “The city was pure gold, like clear glass.  And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald;  the fifth, sardonyx;  the sixth, sardius;  the seventh, chrysolite;  the eighth, beryl;  the ninth, a topaz;  the tenth, a chrysoprasus;  the eleventh, a jacinth;  the twelfth, an amethyst.  And the twelve gates were twelve pearls…and the street of the city was pure gold, and as transparent as glass.”  (Revelation 21:18-21)

-The dazzling trees.  “Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. Beside the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”  (Revelation 22:1-3)

-The reunions with those we love.  “Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise!  You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!  (Isaiah 26:19)   “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.  If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.…” (John 14:1-3)

-The music.  “Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands…” (Revelation 5:11)

-The feasting and merriment.  “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage feast of the Lamb.” (Revelation 19:9)

-The peace.  “In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard and the goat will be at peace. Calves and yearlings will be safe among lions, and a little child will lead them all. The cattle will graze among bears. Cubs and calves will lie down together. And lions will eat grass as the livestock do.  Babies will crawl safely among poisonous snakes. Yes, a little child will put its hand in a nest of deadly snakes and pull it out unharmed.  Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain.”  (Isaiah 11:6-9)

-The love.  “Give thanks to the God of heaven, for His love is eternal.”  (Psalm 136:26)

Yes.  Every day WILL feel like Christmas when we are in heaven.

As I pulled into the parking lot of our church that morning, thus reaching our destination, I felt as though I had also reached a solid conclusion.

Each year, during Christmastime, we are surrounded by foreshadowing.  Foreshadowing of the immeasurable beauty that is to come.  Each year, during Christmastime, it feels as if a magic wand has been waved over the world, and as it waves, everything around us becomes softer and more beautiful.  And it does so because it is a season of foreshadowing.  A season that foreshadows the magic and the beauty that awaits us in heaven.

This foreshadowing stirs up a sense of longing inside of me.  A longing to find the place where all of the beauty around us has come from.  A longing to find the source of not just Christmas’ beauty, but ALL beauty.  A longing to find Him, and be with Him.

Foreshadowing.

It is something that authors often use to give an advance hint of what is to come later in their story. It helps the reader to develop expectations about the coming events.  Foreshadowing can create an atmosphere of suspense, and piques the interest of the reader….causing them to want to know more.  Authors use it to build anticipation.  They use it to foretell something that will occur in the future.

Each Christmas season, I truly believe that God (the Author and Writer of our stories) provides us with some wonderful foreshadowing of what is to come.  What an incredible gift that is!

For years, I had been trying to pinpoint the source of the magic and the wonder of Christmas.  Surprisingly, it was a brief conversation with my six-year-old daughter that led me to the answer.

As I grabbed Sidney’s hand to help her out of our van that morning, the sickness that had been ravaging my heart for days was starting to subside.

Yes, I still ached for Emilie and what she had to experience during her final minutes here on earth.  And I most certainly ached for her sweet family.  I always would.  But, I found great peace in knowing that she was now in the midst of her eternal Christmas celebration.  As beautiful and magical as our earthly Christmas celebrations can be, I knew that they were just a mere foreshadowing of what that sweet little girl was now experiencing.

That brought me peace.

And that peace became a healing salve for my heartsickness.

One week later, I found myself sitting on our living room floor….watching Sidney open up her gifts on Christmas morning, along with her three younger siblings.  I enjoyed every second of it.  There are very few experiences in life that are more precious than watching children on Christmas morning.  I sat and I watched Sidney’s face break out into smile after smile after smile.  I listened to her squeals of delight.  I felt her warm embraces after opening gifts that had caused her to burst with joy.  I heard the beautiful, peaceful sound of Christmas music playing in the background.  I felt the warmth of our fireplace.  I smelled warm cinnamon rolls, freshly baked and ready for the kids to feast on for breakfast.  I felt the love that filled the room.  I basked in the glow of our Christmas tree’s light.  I took hold of everything that was occurring around me, and I treasured it up in my heart.

It was magical.

It was Christmas.

It was a time of foreshadowing.

The lights.  The trees.  The joy.  The laughter.  The peace.  The music.  The love. The feasting.  The beauty.  I took great delight in the fact that all of the wonderful things that made our home feel so magical that Christmas morning would one day be magnified immensely in our eternal home.

As I watched my sweet Sidney’s face shine that morning, I knew that Emilie’s face was shining, too.  But, I knew that the light that was emanating  from Sidney’s face paled in comparison to light that was now emanating from Emilie’s face.  For she was now in a place where every day feels like Christmas day.

For Sidney, and the rest of us, the season of magic would soon come to an end.

But, for Emilie, it was just beginning.

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 “A new day will come.  

And when the sunlight shines,

it will shine out the clearer.”  

(J.R.R. Tolkien)

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~ CHRISTMAS MORNING 2012 ~

 

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 11, 2014 12:57 am

    Reblogged this on Totally Inspired Mind….

  2. December 11, 2014 2:16 am

    My Dear Carly. having just finished reading the above, I’m not only full of the words that
    Sidney used to bring a feeling to you that began to alleviate the nauseous feeling you had, but a joyous feeling it has brought to me that I had not had. I am thankful you were raised in a home where your parents gave you the basis for all the inspirations you have used for your family, and to many that have read your interpretations of daily problems. Thanks for the time you give to those who glean so much from your insight. May a joyous and Merry Christmas fill your home this year, followed by a glorious New Year.

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