This is my favorite Christmas picture.
Time: Christmas eve, after all of the hubbub is finished for the day.
Event: After opening the traditional Christmas even present of jammies + book + ornament.

I asked them to get together for a photo, and instead of being difficult, they came together like three little magnets. I snapped the photo and knew it would be my favorite. They hugged Andy and me goodnight.

“You’re going to bed so soon?” Andy asked.

“Well, yeah. It’s Christmas eve and we’re ready to hang out.”

Nate is the one who got them hooked on the Christmas eve tradition of all the siblings sleeping in the same room together. “It’s what we do at my house,” he said. “It’s one of my favorite things. We always get along on Christmas eve.” It wouldn’t have mattered what Nate said, knowing it was his favorite was all it took for them to want to do it too.

This year we decided the Christmas eve slumber party wouldn’t happen if Stephanie were home. It wouldn’t be wise for her to share a room with the others. It wouldn’t be fun for the others to share a room with Stephanie.

They were disappointed, but everyone understood. We’d do it for Stephanie, and they could share a room on another night over break.

When we found out Stephanie wouldn’t be home for Christmas, their excitement over the Christmas eve tradition surprised me. I realized how much it meant to them and how they shouldered their disappointment and adjusted to Stephanie’s needs. They’ve had many years of shouldering disappointments in the name of Stephanie’s needs.

I think looking from the outside in, it is natural to wonder if Stephanie being gone is a hardship for the others. You might wonder if they miss Stephanie. You might wonder if it’s hard for them to have her living somewhere else. You might wonder if there is trauma triggered because some of our kids have experienced being separated from siblings and family members in the dark days of their histories.

The truth is, living apart from Stephanie is much easier than living with Stephanie. We all hope that her story will turn, and she will become a healthy and safe human.  Until then, we are all better for not walking on eggs shells all of the time, especially at holidays. It is best for everyone for Stephanie to have an opportunity to heal in a place with skilled specialists and for the rest of us to feel safe being ourselves at home.

This year we had to make significant and difficult decisions for Stephanie. It wasn’t just about Stephanie, though. It was about our family unit as a whole. Things aren’t getting better for Stephanie. She isn’t making better choices. She isn’t developing a capacity for living in a family. She continues to sabotage herself and our family.

This doesn’t mean it was the wrong choice.

Because if you look at my favorite Christmas 2018 picture, you will find evidence that it was a very wise right choice. Stephanie may not be thriving, but the others are. They are relaxed and have fun. They are forming strong sibling bonds. They are comfortable being home. And they are learning it is wise to put boundaries around our lives to avoid unhealthy people.

We pray that Stephanie will heal wholly while in childhood, but if not, we know God is still good. The favorite Christmas 2018 photo is all the proof we need.

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  1. I just caught up on this burst of joy writing and have enjoyed every moment of exhaling. Thank you for sharing!

  2. When I saw on Instagram that you had blogged again, I immediately jumped over to catch up on what I’d missed! I’m grateful for the stories you stack. Merry Christmas and happy New Year!

    • Awww, thank you so much! It gives me energy to keep writing when I know these stories give others hope.

  3. Prayers for Stephanie and hugs for all! Easy to see why you love this pic. Thinking of this special tradition shared by Nate warms my heart. We’ve always had the PJ gift on Christmas eve, but I love the addition of a book & an ornament. 3 gifts echo the 3 gifts brought by the wise men. Enjoy every single day of this break.

  4. Isn’t that Ramona a wise one to link the three kings to three gifts? There is love and happiness in that photo. What a bond your kids have created!

    • Yes, I love Ramona’s insight. I’ve never thought of it that way for the Christmas eve gift. On Christmas day, our kiddos get 3 gifts, to reflect the wise men.

  5. There are many reasons to make decisions, and it feels as if you’ve made them best for all, hard, but wise as I look at that picture, Ruth. I think of Stephanie often, hoping each day helps her, and I’m happy for the others, growing into great kids/young adults, having fun with family. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Thank you for sharing your story Ruth. I remember when our Autumn was in residential care, her little sister blossomed. We had no idea the effect Autumn was having on her. We just saw the girls over break (they were reunited with their mom in August). We want to believe that things are going well and the system is working, but there are some small hints that all might not be as we hoped. I have to have faith that God is watching over these 2 little girls and keeping them safe. Again, you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.