Unexpected tears dropped down onto the freshly-written gift tag with the Santa Claus face on it, smearing the words: To j4, From Mom and Dad.
“j4” is the abbreviation I use for my youngest child, my son, John Wallace Carlson, IVth. We still call him “Johnathan,” but years ago, exactly like his Daddy did before him, Johnathan started a new schoolyear by correcting a teacher and asking to be called “John.” It broke my heart a little bit at the time, but I was also proud that he chose to use his Daddy’s name, and the name of the two Dads that came before him.
Today, writing that simple gift tag, my heart was heavily weighted with remembrance and a debt of gratitude … for how I prayed for this child and for a simple moment just like this one.
Johnathan was our first and only foster child. We wanted him in our forever family before he ever arrived in our home. We bathed him, fed him, doctored him, taught him, did therapy with him, loved him and disciplined him for a year before the legal adoption was finalized. During that year, I prayed until my knees were worn out that God would protect him, strengthen and heal him, and fulfill His perfect will for Johnathan’s life. My deepest heartfelt prayer was that, if it be God’s will, He would allow us the privilege of watching Johnathan grow up – of loving him up close instead of from afar.
I earnestly prayed over Johnathan a familiar verse from Jeremiah.
Here I am, years later, and a gift tag to my son from Mom and Dad, completely undid me. He’s my son. We’re his Mom and Dad. And we get to share this Christmas together with his sisters and our extended family members.
I suddenly thought of Hannah, mother of Samuel, in the Bible, and how she poured out her soul to the Lord in prayer, pleading for a son (1 Samuel 1:15). She vowed to dedicate that son to the Lord, and she did not fail to keep her promise. She delivered him to the priest Eli, saying:
I don’t ever want to take for granted the blessings God has granted me, especially when those blessings come in the form of answered prayers.
Like Hannah, I want to remember.
I encourage you to take a moment today and simply look around you. Where do you see evidence of answered prayers? When was the last time you thanked God for those blessings?
Hannah worded her prayer of thanksgiving like this:
Amen, Hannah. And above all, God, thank you.
Thank you for the gift of my son.
And thank you for the gift of your son, Jesus.