Everything about Christmas this year seemed low-key. My preparations were fairly stress-free as I cut down on decorating, shopping, wrapping, baking and the thousand little tasks that we think are so necessary. There was no trip south on Christmas Day for which to pack; no houseful of kids and toys and noise this year. Even our big family celebration on Christmas Eve at my sister’s house seemed a little subdued as many of the children in the family were missing or had to leave early, and those that were there are growing up.
I was a little bummed. For years we’ve been able to celebrate with one daughter or the other, and sometimes both. This year neither would be coming home with their families, and we could not go to them. With Laurie in Ecuador and Julie in California, traveling with Robbie is just out of the question. Yes, Christmas this year was de-stressed—but it was also waaaaaaaay too quiet around here. I dreaded Christmas morning when it would be just Bob, Robbie and I opening a few gifts by ourselves.
What a blessing it was, then, when we got to celebrate with both families via Skype! My two sons-in-law, bless their hearts, set up their laptops as their children gathered around their Christmas trees, and we eagerly turned on Skype, awaiting their calls.
Laurie and Fernando, along with Sara, Gabi, Melissa, Katie, Matthew and Mandy, called on Christmas Eve afternoon. They were all dressed up in preparation for going to their Naranjo relatives that evening. Wow—what gorgeous kids! We watched with huge smiles and curiosity as they opened their gifts from us. Laurie had done some of the shopping for us since we could only put money in their account for their Christmas gifts. A fine job she did of it, too! The kids were thrilled with their gifts and came running up to the webcam to show us their treasures and say thank you. We laughed as the baby told us “Tank Coo!” for all her gifts whether they were from us or not! They watched us open our gifts from them. They saw the joy on Robbie’s face as he opened the two Winnie the Pooh pillows they had ordered off the internet and had shipped here. We all laughed as Grandpa opened the John Wayne fleece throw they had sent him and he and five year old Matthew said in unison their favorite John Wayne quote, “A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do!” It was as if we were all gathered together in the same room, sharing Christmas just as we had always done.
The next day we enjoyed Julie’s family as they gathered around their tree. It was their first Christmas together as one family. Julie and David had adopted James and Anastasia from the Ukraine just a few months ago, and now Benjamin, Joshua and Hannah with their two new siblings could hardly contain their excitement as they greeted us on Skype. I loved watching them with their arms around each other’s shoulders, obviously blending very well as sisters and brothers. Robbie opened another pillow from them—this time, a colorful light-up one. He was thrilled! In Robbie’s opinion a guy can never have too many pillows! They joked with us and included us throughout the celebration. If I could have silently watched in on them, like a little mouse in the corner, I would have been happy, but they made sure we were actually a part of their Christmas. It was a miracle to me that we could be with both our daughters and their families for Christmas thanks to Skype. The only things missing were the hugs and kisses.
What a difference it made for me to have this Christmas blessing! I expected to be sad and missing our kids. Instead the Lord allowed us to be together in a very real way. As I have so many, many times in the past, I could only praise and thank God for the modern technology He has allowed us to have these days.
It was wonderful to feel such a part of what was happening right there in those living rooms, but it also felt a bit as if we were looking through a window from afar, witnessing the dynamics of these two families and smiling, laughing, cheering them on. We chuckled as once or twice one of the kids would forget we were looking on and do something considered, shall we say, “inappropriate” in polite company. Our hearts were touched as we witnessed little gestures of love among the children.
Hebrews 12:1 reminds us that “…we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses.” All around us are witnesses, viewing our lives. Some are here among us—family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, strangers—watching our lives and being influenced one way or the other by what they see and hear from us. Others surround us unseen—angels—interested bystanders in how we live and serve the Lord and helpers that are sent by Him for our protection and assistance in spiritual warfare. I believe there are others watching from the windows of Heaven—our loved ones who have gone before us, cheering us on in this great race we call life.
And then there is the One who never sleeps or slumbers but is with us always, watching and caring for us even when we are not aware that He walks by our side. He is not limited by the boundaries of Skype. He can reach right through with that touch or hug or kiss when His child needs Him most. We may not see Him, but we can feel His loving arms around us. He is the Unseen Guest, but He is right there in the room with us. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9) His presence is real and always. His watchcare surrounds us. What a comfort and blessing in our lives!