I saw this photo floating around on Facebook of babies who are born at Middle Tennessee Medical Center, and placed into an oversized Christmas stocking.
It struck me deeply on many different levels.
As I looked at these babies, cuddled up innocently in the most appropriate of wraps, I first thought about what a gift from God my own children are. But then, I thought about myself.
That's because soon after my own birth in April of 1979, I was placed into the loving arms of my parents, who I have a hard time ever referring to as my "adoptive parents." That terminology does them no justice. They are, and will always be "my mom and dad."
I couldn't have asked for a greater pair of arms to be placed into. It was as if God knew exactly who I needed when I was just a young "stocking."
I could go on and on about the amazing experiences they've provided me with, or the loving home they built, or the amount of patience and kindness they have shown -- and still show -- through the years.
Growing up, I never thought much about the fact that I was adopted, because I had no reason to. It was a closed adoption, and beyond some comments made here and there by family members, it wasn't something that was discussed.
I realize that everyone is different, but I preferred it that way. I have always known that I was loved deeply. And that was all that mattered. I couldn't have imagined it any other way, and at the age of 33, I still can't.
In 2000, I gave birth to my oldest son. Increasingly, doctors were asking me about my family medical history. I felt obligated to learn more about my birth family, and I was, admittedly, a bit curious. I think that curiosity might have always been there, but I chose to ignore it for fear of what I might find out.
But it felt like the right time -- time to face the unknown.
I was amazed at how quickly most of the answers I wanted just fell into place. It wasn't very difficult for me to find my birth mother, because she was already trying to find me.
We talked by email, and I learned [half of] my family medical history, and we learned about each other. I was in my early 20s at the time, and we had plenty to catch up on. The best way I can describe those early conversations were as "wonderfully strange."
From those conversations, the thing that really stood out to me was when she told me that, while she was pregnant with me, she watched a video about abortions at a local women's facility. She ended up leaving, and she "never looked back."
She had a choice and she chose to give me life. It hit me in that moment, reading her words, how precious my life really was. She could have gone through with an abortion, but she didn't. She gave me life, and in turn, gave my parents a daughter, and allowed my three children a chance at their lives.
For that, I am eternally grateful to her.
So, when I look at the photo above, and I see those babies wrapped up as gifts, I truly understand what a gift they are.
I'm going to take some time tonight to pray for all of the gifts that have come into this world, and to pray for those who have come and gone. I'm going to pray for those who never received a chance at life, and for the mothers who are faced with their own choices. I'll also pray for the couples who want nothing more than to have a gift of their own.
I don't, for one split second, take my life for granted.
The greatest gifts really do come in small packages.
And on Christmas and every day in between, I will celebrate the birth of the greatest gift of all.
"And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. And the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger." -- Luke 2:9-12