Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Perfectly Imperfect Christmas

Hope and me seated on the floor, just outside the sanctuary at Broadstreet United Methodist Church

It came in the mail, a rather ordinary invitation probably sent to the entire city.  A mass mailer.  Those things we all hate.  The 5 X 7 card said my family was invited to attend the Christmas Eve service at Broadstreet United Methodist Church.  My perfectly imperfect family invited to what would be a perfect Christmas Eve service, one that had probably been planned and rehearsed for weeks.  I read it aloud to Lydia and actually smirked when I said:  "Oh, OUR family is definitely not invited!"  Then I tossed it in the garbage. 

The entire week, I thought about that invitation.  I couldn't get it out of my mind.  'Were we really invited?' I wondered.  Would they accept two non-verbal kiddos who make lots of random (sometimes loud) noises?  Would they show grace and mercy to a couple of little ones who are unable to sit still?  There was only one way to find out.  

We arrived at 10:45pm.  

While unloading Hope and Charlie from the car, a homeless man approached us with his arms raised, "May I approach you, Ma'am?"  I honestly didn't have any cash to give him, but I told him we were going to the church on the corner and asked if he was planning to attend.  He said something I couldn't understand and shook his head.  In response, Hope melted, likely feeling unsure about the stranger, so I ended up hauling all 50+ pounds of her down the sidewalk, up the steps, and into the church.  
'Is our family invited?'

We made our way up into the balcony (uhhhm, yes, I was still carrying Hope) and onto the back row.  Why they began the evening with a trumpet solo, I cannot fathom.  But they did.   Charlie, to everyone's surprise, immediately began to mimic the sound....and was actually louder and more shrill than the trumpeter.  After being seated for all of two or three minutes, we quickly rose to our feet, scooted at maximum speed out of the balcony with horn baby in tow, and made our way back down the steps.  
'Is our family invited?'

We decided to have a seat in the floor, just outside one of the doors leading into the sanctuary.  We literally plopped right onto the floor.  All was going fairly well, too, until the homeless guy waltzed in and made a bee line straight for us.  I still couldn't understand anything he said, only something about "the children", but he seemed nice enough.  And Hopey began making giggling noises at him.  One of the church workers eventually came and offered the man a seat in the church.  And after getting him situated, the worker returned to us, bent down on the floor, and spoke to both Hope and Charlie.  The kindness in his voice caused me to well up and nearly bawl.  
'Our family is invited.'

The message centered around the shepherds who were the first to get news about the newborn King of Kings.  They were considered the lowest of the low in that time, the poorest of the poor.  My mind immediately went to the homeless man.  The shepherds were probably a lot like him.  Sleeping outside must have made them dirty.  I bet their hair was wiry and clothes tattered.  The homeless man was seated in a pew in that church just like everyone else.  He may of been seated next to someone accomplished, well educated, or wealthy.  It didn't matter.  He was listening to the message of Good News.  The BEST news.  The news that was and is for ALL people.  
'The homeless man is invited.'

The evening ended with communion.  An usher, not forgetting us, brought communion to the floor.  He didn't act like it was odd that everyone else in the church was seated in either a pew or a chair.  Honestly, he didn't seem to notice.  Following communion, candles were lit and the moment we'd all come for began.  It was finally midnight; the chimes tolled twelve times.  Christmas had officially arrived.  We gathered our two special ones and took them into the sanctuary to be engulfed by the worship of the One who came to earth so OUR family could be the homeless man could be we ALL could be invited.

Hope couldn't contain her joy.  Her arms flapped wildly as a smile took over her entire face.  "This is for you,"  I whispered in her ear, having a difficult time containing my own delight, "Jesus came and did all of this for you."

Maybe you found an invitation in your mailbox this holiday season just like I did.  Or maybe you didn't.  The true invitation is an open one that doesn't come in the form of a 5 X 7 card, but instead, comes wrapped in swaddling cloths as a baby.  God came to earth to change the world; He came because of His absolute boundless love for you!  
YOU are invited!

Merry Christmas!


  1. The alternative is to teach your kids with DS to behave in a non-feral manner.

    Parents who truly love their kids take the time to do so

    1. Sandra~ While I am so hurt at you for attacking my children and for judging me and my love for Hope and Charlie without knowing me (at least I hope you don't know me), if I truly believe in THE ONE I wrote about in the post, THE ONE who came for us all, then I am called to LOVE you. And so I choose to do that.

    2. Wow Sandra! Just WOW! Do you know Melanie or her children? Have you ever interacted with them or with anyone with Downs. Be careful, Sandra your ignorance is showing. So incredibly rude and uncaring of you to assume that you know anything about this mom, her children or their journey. UNBELIEVABLE!

    3. My dear Sandra, you obviously do not know this family. Melanie's skin is thicker than most but her heart is more tender than anyone I know. Several years ago when my preteen daughter was having some issues with friends at school and was feeling rather broken,cue stopped but for a visit with these sweet friends. Sweet Hopey could tell something was bothering my daughter and being that she is nonverbal she demonstrated love as it had been given to her. She approached my girls, whom she had not seen in quite some time, and gave her sweet hugs and love. She loved my girls just as she has been loved every moment of her life. Unconditionally.

    4. Sandra, I would challenge you this ... First try being non verbal for just 24 hours. No words, very few sounds and then try to express yourself. Remember words and a 10 year old thought process. Second, I would challenge you to love everyone you meet unconditionally. That is r

    5. That is right, unconditionally with no thought as to what the other person looks like, acts like or who they know and how it could help you. I do not say any of this out of anger but I would like you to try to walk in Melanie's shoes for a few moments. What she has walked through the last 14 years actually is amazing. She has demonstrTed God's love to people most would think are unlovable but yet, she loves as He loves. Sorry for the typos and disjointed posts I am not skilled at technology but I am skilled at loving my friend and walking thru seasons of life with her.

    6. Sandra, I'm not sure why you are reading this blog. But I hope you will may learn something.

  2. Melanie, I just read this post and it made me dissolve in tears....particularly the part where you whispered to Hope "This is for you." So grateful that you were invited to a church that truly lives out the Gospel of Jesus Christ....

    And I love the picture of you and Hope sitting on the floor together.

  3. Sandra seems very wounded. My guess is that she was treated dismissively and just needs to be heard , She was heard, she is wrong and even tho I don't know her, I can still respect her. Obviously her mean spirited commented had nothing to do with Melanie (who I don't know either) and everything to do with some deep seated anger. Maybe her parents made her relinquish a child with DS for adoption? So many possibilities. Sandra life is too short to be so angry. It really is. Get help.