Christmas Packages


I bought fancy wrapping paper after Christmas last year and stored it under my bed. I’ve never had fancy wrapping paper, mostly because the pragmatic part of me thinks it is  a waste of money.

I purchased it on a whim. All year I’ve been catching glimpses of the fancy wrapping paper when I vacuum under the bed. It makes me smile. I know this seems silly, but I’m beginning to wonder if it’s just as silly as being too pragmatic.

I like the way whim is just a few letters short of whimsy. I need more whimsy in my life. I think whimsy is the way you fight against the hard stuff in life.

There’s been hard stuff in our life this year. That’s because we’re human. All humans are in the middle of hard stuff…or they are heading into hard stuff…or they are coming out of hard stuff. That’s just part of being human. We all face hard stuff.

For us, the hard stuff usually revolves around our daughter, Stephanie. We adopted her from foster care when she was 4. She just turned 15. Rather than healing and overcoming her history of hard, like we hoped her story would go, this year has revealed a plot line of mental illness that makes it impossible for Stephanie to live in a traditional family.

It is also becoming evident that it is unlikely Stephanie will outgrow her difficult behaviors, nor is there a medication or cure. Her best hope is intense therapy. We are grateful to have found a faith-based facility  that allows her to live in a home setting, go to an accredited school and have daily therapy. This has not stopped her from creating chaos for the rest of our family with her deception and manipulation.

I wrap pretty packages with thick paper that doesn’t tear on the corners or rip when I slide the gifts under the tree. I’m still surprised by the reversible wrapping paper with designs on both sides, and just as quickly I remember Stephanie won’t be home for Christmas.

Stephanie hasn’t been home since April. We’re not sure if she will call our house home ever again. We don’t know when she will sit at our dinner table or curl up on her favorite chair with a good book.

The longer I think about the reality of Stephanie’s story, the more I realize whimsy may be more important than pragmatism. The playful dance of fancy paper and the homemade pom-poms Hannah and I added to some of the packages too-late-one-night bring me easy smiles and unexpected joy. The lights sparkle and Christmas becomes playfully quaint.

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  1. Wow. Thanks for sharing! Whimsey, breathing, hope, joy, and beautiful double-sided wrapping paper and pompoms … wonderful things to embrace. Blessings!

  2. So often everyone only expects happy adoption stories where things turn out perfectly. But there are hard parts in the best adoptions, and some turn out to be permanently hard, especially if mental illness or addiction is part of the story. Moments of joy and whimsy are part of the story, too, and we treasure them. Thank you for sharing your real story. Knowing Jesus and welcoming Him anew brings true joy to our Christmas celebrations. Merry Christmas! Love your tree and pretty packages!

    • Thanks so much, Diane! I’ve been thinking about how being obedient to God doesn’t mean success is a guarantee. Sometimes God asks us to do things that will look like a failure to the world.

  3. Thanks for sharing your stuff.
    As one in a family that has its own share of “stuff,” I find strength in knowing that we are not alone.

  4. Dearest Ruth, My heart breaks for you and at the same time celebrates your strength. Mental illness is so hard to reckon with and wreaks havoc on families. Prayers and virtual hugs are coming your way. Stephanie is so very lucky to call all of you family. Love to you all.