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The fuller picture



We wrote a Christmas letter a few weeks ago to recap the year for our family. As I reviewed the draft, I was struck by how zooming out on the year brought a much different story to light than the one I felt I lived in day to day. Our year was challenging, as we weathered the growing pains of our daughter, Scarlett, being welcomed into the family. Some health issues in utero left her with profound hearing loss and concerns about her development. A second child, let alone one with special needs, put stress on our family system. My head spun all year trying to balance giving both my kids the attention they need, invest in the health of my marriage, maintain my own mental/emotional/spiritual health, etc. It was, at times, arduous. In the darker moments, it felt like we would never move past the sticky spots in our marriage, and small road bumps in Scarlett’s journey to health felt like mountains she would not overcome. 


But reading that Christmas card, I felt God inviting me out of this narrow view, to a truer and fuller view revealing the beauty and goodness of our past year. We had found deeper depths within ourselves to accept an idea of family that was different than we expected. We found spaces to grieve, and to ask God to meet us in that grief. Conor and I gained new understandings of each other - the ways we deal with stress and what our values are. We sorted (and sorted and sorted!) through our time/activities/relationships and distilled it down to those that give us the most meaning. And all the while, our children had been growing into spunky, funny, precious, curious little people! The year had been full of beauty and texture, if I could just get out of my narrow small view of things.


This advent we read through Richard Rohr’s book, Preparing for Christmas. In it he states, "When we demand any completion to history on our terms, when we demand that our anxiety or any dissatisfaction be taken away, saying as it were, ‘Why weren’t you this for me? Why didn’t life do that for me?’ we are refusing to say, ‘Come, Lord Jesus.’ We are refusing to hold out for the full picture that is always given by God.”


Reflecting on the Christmas story, the narrow view of Jesus’ arrival into humanity was unremarkable and disappointing, especially to Israelites who imagined a savior arriving in a much more grandiose way. On this side of history, we now can appreciate the mysterious splendor of the incarnation and how it fits into the full picture of what God is doing on Earth. It leaves me wondering how to bring a full picture view into my own life, how to avoid catastrophizing in the short term, and how to keep open hands for God to move on a grander scale.


The more I chewed on this, the question that kept coming to me was - what is my work? If the call is not to control, catastrophize, clench my fists and grit through it, if the call is to have open hands and trust God to bring me into fullness, then what is my work in the moments where appointments need to get made, noses wiped, emails answered, arguments resolved?


Around this time, Scarlett got called in to see some specialists to monitor her neurodevelopment. After the long exam, the doctor broke the news that she had scored “high risk” for developmental delays. I felt like I was at a crossroad. I could choose to indulge in the disappointing news, spiraling into despair, or I could choose to put this in context of a fuller view of what might happen to Scarlett in the course of her lifetime. The image of my babbling, playful 8-month-old, and some voice of truth within, called me to take a fuller picture approach.


I sensed God’s solidness before me in that moment like a giant anchor, giving me the steadiness to press the physicians on what this actually meant. I asked how can I reconcile this happy healthy girl with their seemingly harsh “high risk” label? In sorting it through I began to understand the scope - she needs a little extra support to stay on track, a couple more appointments per month would likely do - all reasonable and doable. What a shift!

Leaning into God’s steadiness and choosing a larger view brought a balance and nuance I did not expect.


I still don’t have the full view on Scarlett like I do in an end-of-the-year Christmas recap letter. But while I wait, I am learning the answer to my question, what is my work? It is to hold out for the full picture by returning to God’s solidness in every moment.


- Melanie


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