The Friday night after Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays of the whole year. It is the holiday officially entitled, “The Night We Put Up the Christmas Tree.” My parents drive nearly 500 miles to see us. They say it is for Thanksgiving, but secretly we all know it is really to celebrate “The Night We Put Up the Christmas Tree.”
While most holidays involve so many expectations, this one is simple and without a lot of pretense. The kids ask for the same food every year—summer sausage, cheese, crackers, frozen taquitos, Dixie caviar with chips, apples and apple dip, and chocolate covered pretzels. We get out our bin of Christmas books (yes, bin — it is the perfect convergence of my two secret addictions: children’s literature and Christmas). The kids read while we put the ribbon and beads on the tree. If I am especially slow they will play “forest” with their stuffed animals and the little trees we put up around the house.
Then comes the ornament presentation.
Each year we try to find an ornament that really represents who they were that year. It may involve something they have done like learn to read or play soccer, but we try hard to make it more about who they are. My favorite ever was of our oldest daughter, Cecilia. It was this cute snowman dressed up in all these unmatched clothes carrying tons of purses filled with dolls. I really think whoever made this ornament must have followed her around that year.
Every year we reminisce and laugh as we pull out the ornaments. It is my job to hand them to the kids to put on the tree. I do this for two reasons. First, I do it so that we actually have unbroken ornaments for future years, but I also do it to tell our family’s story to our kids. We marvel at all God has done in their lives. We rejoice when we pull out the ornaments that commemorate things God has allowed us to be a part of like the one some friends bought for us while picking up their special needs son in another country.
Every year, though, I always get caught off guard by the ornament that we bought for one of our foster daughters who is no longer with us. We sent all of her ornaments with her except for this one. I cry every year as I pull it out. It has been five years since she left, but I still miss her. The older kids cry with me as I try to choke out the words to explain the ornament, and then fight over who gets to put it on the tree that year.
To me, this ornament represents Christmas. It represents how Jesus gave everything for the sake of love no matter what the pain would be to Him. Some say that foster care is too hard and that they could never do it because of the pain of a child leaving. That pain never leaves and I would never trade it for anything. It reminds our kids and us that moving toward pain as Jesus did is necessary if you ever want to truly love someone. That, to me, is Christmas.
Trisha Weber graduated from the University of Kansas School of Social Work in 1996 and has been on staff with Cru, the name for Campus Crusade for Christ in the U.S., since then. During Trisha and Jason’s first seven years on staff they lived and worked in inner city Denver where they encountered many families who had been touched by foster care. Trisha and her husband, Jason, have been caring for and adopting children from the U.S. foster care system since 2001 and have adopted all five of their children. They have been on staff with Hope for Orphans, a ministry of FamilyLife since 2004. Trisha is a co-author of Considering Adoption: A Biblical Perspective, a study in the HomeBuilders Couples Series. Trisha and Jason live with their five children and Max the poodle in Plano, Texas.