Five years ago, I said those cherished words, "You remembered!" "You remembered" are words that characterize that someone cares about you. They took the time to call you, send a note, bring a gift or meet you for coffee. It means someone values you, especially when you are going through a tough time.
Those precious two words flew out of my mouth about five years ago on Christmas Eve, and this is my story.
My husband was the pastor about five years ago, and we left our church that we dearly loved. We were intertwined with the people in that body of Christ, and we always thought we would be with them forever. We birthed that church with a group of 60 people, nursed it, and babied it until it grew to over a thousand. We cared deeply about the people and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ, and encouraged the people to grow in their relationship with him.
Around October, through many sad and painful circumstances, we walked away from that body of Christ with sorrowful hearts and an ache that penetrated our souls. Not only was Bill and I devastated, but our kids were brokenhearted. Our emotions were raw, and we sat amid the mess clinging to our Lord but not knowing how to go forward.
As in every loss, the "firsts" of the year are the hardest. Whether you lose a spouse, a parent and loved one or a friend, or a divorce, the firsts of that year are the hardest. When you celebrate a holiday for the first time, you intensely experience a profound loss. There is an empty chair at the table of Easter, and gifts are not bought for that person at Christmas. The empty feeling that that person gone from this earth on holiday is deathly.
Similarly, our kids and I walked through that first Christmas with confusion and isolation as a husband and wife. Especially when you are in the pastorate, we look forward to the Christmas Eve service. We looked forward to singing the carols as a family of Christ and lighting the candles as we sang silents night. See old friends and family members that we had not seen since last Christmas Eve. We were all deeply grieved and at a loss to figure out how we would celebrate the birth of Christ with such heartache.
I remember watching out our front bay window our neighbors driving off for church. The church that we had left. I ask the Lord... "how in this heartache am I to celebrate your birth and help my husband and kids celebrate your birth? I don't know how to do this?
My husband and kids were downstairs, and I am not sure what they were doing. I was upstairs looking out the bay window, and I saw a car drive up and park in our driveway. The snowflakes were gently tumbling from the sky, and I could see them falling in front of his headlights. When the man jumped out of his car, he was carrying a red box. I recognized the man, who was from our old church. He walked up the snowy walkway with a red box in his hand.
I hurriedly ran to the door and opened it. He said, "my wife baked these for you, and we wanted to drop them off on our way to the Christmas Eve service. Through my tears, I said, "You remembered." He said, of course, we remembered you. We miss you and Bill." I I passionately thanked him for remembering us. I turned around, and there my kids and my husband were standing there wondering what was going on. They saw the red box. I laid the box on the kitchen table and carefully opened the box. In the box were a dozen homemade Almond Croissants.
The croissants tasted wonderful! More than the gift, it was that somebody remembered us on a Christmas Eve during a painful time in my husband's and kids' lives.
Now, ever since that night, I pray every Christmas season, "Who can I remember?" Who needs encouragement? Who is going through loss that needs a knock on the door, and I can remember them.