Is It Time to Rethink Your Definition of Christmas?

When Christmas seems to have been reduced to a shopping list;
When the squares on your December calendar are bulging with enough activity to exhaust Frosty the Snowman, Santa, and all his elves;
When you are tired of the knot that has already twisted itself into your stomach by the day after Thanksgiving . . .

. . . it’s time to look carefully at your definition of Christmas.

This Christmas season, join Meadow Rue Merrill at Lantern Hill Farm where a Christmas party in the barn helps to redefine the season for her young friend Molly who knew all about Christmas!

“Christmas was Santa and reindeer and elves!
Christmas was bright lights and a tall tree!
Best of all, Christmas was presents!”  (5)

 

The Christmas Cradle Picture Book (Ages 4-7) spins a realistic tale in the context of family and comes alongside parents with practical and yet winsome suggestions for activities that will help children discover the joy of serving others. Inspired by Jesus, the ultimate Sharer who invites us into a poured out life, our acts of love become a gift to Him. Like Molly and her friends at Lantern Hill Farm, we learn:

“Christmas [isn’t] Santa or reindeer or elves.
It’s not bright lights or a tall tree.
It [isn’t] even presents.
Christmas was a baby who shared God’s love with the world so that we could share it, too.”

Many thanks to Hendrickson Publishers for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

Because of God’s great Gift to the world,

Michele Morin

 

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase, The Christmas Cradle Picture Book (Ages 4-7)  [or the board book version, The Christmas Cradle Board Book (Ages 1-4)] simply click on the title here or within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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When God Says “Yes”

From her earliest days, Meadow Rue Merrill dreamed of adopting a child, and she longed to travel to Africa, even wrestling a promise from her husband that if she promised to marry him, he would not stand in the way of her going. Redeeming Ruth is Meadow’s record of God’s “yes” to her dreams — and it stands as powerful evidence that the unfolding of our dreams may not look exactly as we imagined.

International adoption is complicated even without a large family and economic limitations. The Merrill family had both, but when they met tiny Ruth, she captured their hearts.  Ruth  had traveled from Uganda through Welcome Home Ministries, Africa, to stay with a family in Maine (friends of the Merrils) where she could receive physical therapy. When Meadow and her husband Dana held Ruth’s limp body for the first time, they were astonished at her level of disability from cerebral palsy — and at the way their hearts responded to her.

Desire warred against ambivalence as Meadow and Dana weighed the wisdom of bringing a profoundly disabled African child into their already-full-and-busy home located in the whitest state in America. Yielding to what Meadow described as Dana’s “annoying habit of believing that God will take care of us,” (22) they took one tentative step after another, weathered countless setbacks, and put thousands of miles on their vehicle until one momentous day, Meadow and Ruth boarded a plane for Uganda to finalize Ruth’s adoption.

Time to Walk

In the spirit of “leaving the 99 to save one,” Meadow spent nearly a month in Uganda chasing paperwork, caring for Ruth in primitive surroundings, living among the other orphans and workers at Welcome Home. There, she gained insight to the hopelessness of Ruth’s future, forever trapped in a body with the skill set of a two-month-old infant, if she did not gain entrance to the United States and the privilege of hope that comes with education, health care, and rehabilitation.

Together, the Merrill family prayed for healing and trusted for progress, but what would healing look like? Her big brothers and sister prayed specifically that Ruth would walk and talk. Would a cochlear implant restore Ruth’s hearing? Meadow pondered theological implications of her daughter’s fragility:

“[P]erhaps God’s purpose was higher than ours. Perhaps instead of healing Ruth, he intended to heal us of our selfishness and pride. Wouldn’t that be a miracle?”

A Faith Journey into God’s Yes

Redeeming Ruth reminded me of why memoir is my favorite genre. Not everyone who reads Meadow’s descriptive prose will be able to appreciate her references to Brunswick area landmarks or have memories of sunny days at Popham Beach and walks around the trails of Mackworth Island that heightened my appreciation for the setting. However, it will be a rare reader who does not identify with the struggle to hold onto a dream that keeps slipping away or to continue in faith when sight is alarmingly out of sync with expected outcomes.

The Merrill family’s unique story is a valuable resource for anyone who is learning to trust God’s motives and struggling to live well in the tension of pursuing a dream while holding it loosely, for within the flow of story, priceless principles emerge:

Close the door on worries.

“I can believe what my  mind is telling me, which is ‘Panic!’ Or I can believe what the Bible tells me, which is that children are a blessing. Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I close my eyes and picture myself physically putting my trust in God the way I’d put something in a cupboard. I give my worries to him. Then I close the door.”   (149)

Love like a fool.

“Even if you love and lose, keep sharing God’s love anyway. Love in the face of suffering and grief and heartache and loss. Love beyond racial and religious and physical borders and barriers. . . You won’t have to look far to find someone who is hurting, someone without a voice, someone waiting to know they are loved.” (203)

There is nothing of value that may be lost here that will not be redeemed in heaven.

“Everything life takes, love restores. Everything. Broken bodies. Broken hearts. Broken dreams. No matter how painful. No matter how devastating. God can transform even our greatest sorrow into something good.” (201)

The unfolding of Ruth’s story rebukes the notion that God is made visible only in happy endings. Loving and caring for Ruth became Meadow’s offering to God, “one small piece of this broken, pain-pierced world that [she] could redeem.” It will surprise no one who has read the New Testament that redemption is a costly process. In the midst of grinding fatigue and great joy, discouragement and soaring faith, mourning and soul-deep comfort, the Merrill family continues to live their way into God’s high purpose for bringing Ruth into their family.

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This book was provided by Hendrickson Publishers in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Additional Resources

Downeast Magazine is a favorite here in Maine, and Meadow shares an excerpt from Redeeming Ruth in their March 2017 issue. You can read it here.

A fellow member of the Redbud Writers Guild, Meadow wrote an article featuring her adoption journey for September 2017 issue of The Redbud Post: A Promise, a Prayer, and an Irresistible Smile.

For more of Meadow’s fine writing, including her blog, be sure to check out her website.

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Featured image from Meadow Rue Merrill’s website.

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.