Christmas 2015...the best one yet.
This Christmas letter is brought to you by the letter G and by the numbers 2 and 6. As I type Grant is holding down the couch, the 2nd to go down in what will surely become known as PukeFest 2015 and which, if history repeats, will strike all 6 with terrible ferocity before it’s end. It’s one of the perks of a large family: we literally share everything.
I pray this letter finds your family well and anticipating Christmas. We Michiganders are in the grip of a record snow drought. It has left all the Smalls standing on the front porch, new sleds in hand, wearing flip flops and confused expressions. We are a stalwart bunch, ready to greet winter with gore-tex and mitten warmers only to have fall revisit again and again, a sort of seasonal Ground Hog Day. Maggie (3) is perhaps the only Vos who is in favor of global warming. She strung together her first two word sentence this fall at Peter’s LaCrosse tournament: I cold. She hasn’t stopped saying it since. That is why we are giving her brochures for retirement villages in Scottsdale AZ for Christmas. She’s an old soul, happiest with her slippers and sitting quietly on someone’s lap. She would make the perfect therapy dog.
I could spend the next two pages going on about the kid’s academic achievements and athletic prowess, painting for you the rosy picture of a perfect family and, well, that would be the funniest Christmas letter of them all. Because the truth of it is that it’s been kind of a wrecking year. One that’s left us gasping and straining to find grace and we are only now starting to feel our equilibrium come back. Abram was perfectly chosen for our family. Had he been placed with a small family of quiet intellectual introverts, they’d all be dead by now. Boy is loud and active and all the things we didn’t expect a boy in his health to be. Such a gift. Such a handful. He walks around the kitchen counters, hands feeling for all the things like some Asian Helen Keller. We sit, watching, a string of drool connecting us to our shirts and reminding the kids waiting in line for their homework to be checked that that’s what we pay their teachers for. Dinners are a joke. We will never again have a civilized family dinner in our lives. Never again. And don’t even get me started on the laundry. So we pick battles. Lucy walks out the door each morning looking like she’s been dressed by a blind gypsy, hair in a million directions, grinning a grin that reveals all her front teef are gone. Bless her. She has spent the last 6.6 years scripting our dialog, all her directives starting the same way, “and then you’re like...”. Which is why she and Abe are a perfect fit. He willingly enters into her world just to be one of the guys. And she allows him to stay as long as he takes direction well. Which, thankfully, he does.
These Smalls, they have adjusted so well. We have added two to their number in 12 months and they just roll. And on days they can’t roll anymore, when none of us can, we leave the little guys in capable hands and take the four olders out for some two on four time, which is about as good as the ratio gets around here. We chew our food and linger over dessert and drive in the driveway refreshed and ready to enter into the madness again. And Dan and I escape for nights out, saying a quick prayer for the sitter and knowing we can never pay her enough to compensate for what she’ll go through for the next 5 or so hours. We return wearing stupid grins and with literature about tubal ligation to save her the time googling it.
In reality, these kids are gold. They love each other well, most of the time, serve their younger siblings, most of the time and obey us when they feel like it. We shoot for 2 out of 3 in this life of lowered expectations. Our family is big and loud and free-range and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Except Dan. Sometimes I catch him staring far off and think maybe he’s dreaming of 2.5 children and a dog. But then he pulls Maggie up on his lap and holds her tight, working to decode her signs in the most patient of ways and I know he was made for this. We all were.
Father has used our kids to teach us the most wrecking and beautiful lessons. They’ve shown us that needs revealed must become needs filled, without question, without hesitation. Just go. We stink at this so often, but He continues to work on it with us. We’ve watched them fly across the world, twice, to gather up their siblings and bring them home, even though it meant sharing rooms, toys, mom and dad. It’s bled into their everyday lives. Grant spends every spare moment he gets in the Special Needs room at his middle school, mentoring, tutoring, friending. It’s his work and he is passionate about it. And Peter, he shares a room with Abe and is woken often by his night terrors and even though we’ve put a sweet, soft bed up for him in another room, he choses to be there for his brother. Tess spends herself on Maggie’s behalf, playing with her, teaching her new signs, carrying her teeny self around perched on Tessie’s hip like her very own baby doll. And as we all settle in, Lucy has discovered that having littles she can boss around isn’t half bad. Most often they are her dogs, complete with yarn collars and leashes. She is the quintessential director and they the principal actors. Growing our family through adoption has taken us by storm and none of us will ever be the same, thank God.
Dan and I continue to labor side by side, as we raise this crew and find other work Father is calling us to. We feel a growing need to pour into his employees. They are dear to us. But we also are so wrecked for the orphan. China owns us, I think. And while we don’t anticipate adding to our numbers unless Father makes it really clear (burning bush), we feel a loud call to help others bring their children home. God has given us a soap box and we’re standing on it, sometimes with quivery, tired legs, but still standing. Standing until they are all home.
And in the meantime we are here, raising our Smalls in the best way we know: with love and levity and exasperation all mixed up. The boys have become addicted to fishing, the girls to horses. The chickens continue to make us breakfast, bless them, and our insurance provider continues to look the other way as the kids jump on the tramp, zipline into the woods and launch themselves down the creek on boats hammered together of scrap wood and ingenuity. There are Perler beads permanently imbedded in the rug and wallpaper is peeling under the drinking fountain. These things bear witness to the life lived here. It is messy and beautiful and full, so very very full.
We pray this Christmas season gives birth to another growing year for all of us. One in which we find ourselves wrecked for something after Jesus’ own heart. And as we worship King turned Baby so we could be called Daughter and Son, may we invite courage to add to our numbers, strength to overcome the dark of this temporary world and boldness to proclaim the truth that Jesus, and only Jesus, saves.
Merriest of Christmases to you all.
Love, Dan, Megan, Grant, Peter, Tess, Lucy, Abe and Maggie (and 11 Kevins and a Keloid scar named Steve).