A Christmas Card

Below is our family’s Christmas letter, a long-winded version of a Christmas card. I’ve also included some photos from a trip we made to Anna’s grave back in September. There’s a fun picture at the end of the letter, too.  I write a letter each year, and since this one focused so much on the birth of our Anna, I wanted to share it with all of you who followed our story and prayed for our family.  I did not send as many letters out this year because I was trying to buy Christmas stationery, write, print the letters out, and get them sent while recovering from a strain of the flu (not to mention preparing for Christmas, as we all enjoy doing.) So . . . a belated Merry Christmas from our family to yours and may your New Year be a special one indeed. -Misty 

“For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved.” John 3:17

Dear Friends and Family,

When Anna Grace McMath was born March 27, 2012, our hearts burst with joy and pride for a third time. Abby and Josiah were so proud to introduce friends and family to their little sister.  They were so adoring, so worthy of the roles of big sister and big brother.  They cooed at her, gently stroked her, told her they loved her. Anna’s full head of black hair reminded me of both Abby’s and Josiah’s hair at birth, and her sweet little fingers made me want to hold on forever. Joey held his daughter and showed her off to his parents and others in the room. Lullabies played as we prayed, sang, and talked. Anna opened up an eye to see Abby.  Then she let us hear that beautiful voice of hers.  She sucked my finger. She rested in my arms. I told her there wasn’t a pink baby in that Sacred Heart nursery I would trade for her. She was ours.  And we loved her totally and completely, as she was.

This is how I will always remember 2012. This is how I will always remember Anna. It was not just a year of loss.  It was the year we were gifted with our Anna.

When Anna passed, our hearts were shattered. And yet, those five hours of life have more fully defined our year than the days, weeks, and months we have mourned her loss. We’re still not at peace with the fact that she’s not here this Christmas.  We wish with all our hearts that we were buying Christmas gifts for our baby girl, dressing her up in smocked dresses, and enjoying the season with our youngest.  Joey reassured me just last night, saying, “Eternity is a whole lot longer than life.”  I cling to that in the darkest, hardest moments. This is not the end. In the interim, though, I must admit that life has often felt thick and awkward since March 27th. We know we have to proceed, but we aren’t sure how at times.

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In September, we each wrote a message on a balloon and released it at Anna’s gravesite. The kids have talked about that several times since. We all went to eat at Pizza Hut afterwards, which is where Joey and I met almost 17 years ago.

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We thank each of you who helped lighten our load this year. When we wondered where God was in all this, someone would show up with a casserole. Or we’d get a card. Or someone would make a memorial gift. Or the phone would ring. Or flowers would arrive. Or a song would play. Finally, we began to realize that God’s family was bigger than we ever imagined and that He used each member to remind us of His presence. Thank you all for your prayers and kind expressions of love, encouragement, and concern over the past year. You may never fully know how you brought God’s light into our darkest hour.

Abby and Josiah have certainly brought us joy and sunshine this year.  For every tear shed, there have been at least a dozen laughs.  They have each had their struggles, trying to make sense out of losing their sister.  But I am so thankful that they are coming through and making healthy strides.  Abby has written about Anna in her journals. She’s drawn lots of pictures and asked many questions about heaven this year. Josiah’s anger is dissipating.  He still asks the why questions, but what four-year-old wouldn’t?  His whys are now more curious and thoughtful—not as angry.  He’s not as aggressive, either.  His behavior has improved drastically, which I attribute to prayer, his maturing a bit, and a parenting Bible study course Joey and I took called Growing Kids God’s Way.  I highly recommend the study to any parent who needs a little help.  We did, and we are so grateful that we got it.

Josiah, now 4 ½, is attending preschool three days a week. He likes going to school—most days. He is our little firecracker, strong willed and full of laughter. God has great big plans for him. Josiah is still a rough little fellow, but I can see signs that he is recognizing proper and improper times to attack people with a running start. When things go awry, we just politely say, “We’re still working on that.” Josiah still loves tractors and “destruction” equipment. (That’s construction for the rest of us, but Josiah’s version of the word does better fit his intent.) He also enjoys playing Batman and Spiderman and putting on “shows” with Abby.

About those shows.  They are Abby’s favorite pastime.  Sometimes they include singing and dancing.  Sometimes it’s more of a variety show with trapeze artistry, swing tricks, and, of course, the classic run-around-the-backyard-at-full-speed-and-“leap”-over-an-object trick. Abby, our sensitive, easy-to-get-along-with little 7-year-old, also enjoys ballet, playing school, making up songs, drawing, and writing stories. Now in the first grade, she is reading anything she can get her hands on.  And I mean that literally. Coupons, cereal boxes, grocery lists.  So you have to be careful about what articles might lurk in seemingly harmless magazines.  She came out of my bathroom one day asking me what a word meant that I knew was a bit over a first-grader’s head.  (Oprah!  Blast you! )

We are still worshiping at the same church.  Joey serves as a deacon and he’s on fourteen committees.  Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but it sometimes feels that way.  We both sing in the choir.  I have had the privilege of teaching Josiah in AWANA Cubbies, which he heartily enjoys.  Well, he heartily tolerates it. He enjoys the puppet time and any time he gets called on to hold a flag during the pledges.  He also enjoys snack time. By 6:00 PM, he enjoys lying in my lap while I try to tell the Bible story. Meanwhile, Abby looks forward and counts down the hours on Sunday afternoon until her AWANA Sparks class begins, and she would like to stay until 9:00 PM every Sunday night if there was proper supervision. (She is not a fan of chaos.)  She would also love to sing a special every Sunday, and she has cornered our very approachable minister of music more than once about the matter.  He is always very obliging, but her Mama wants to make sure she is well prepared before leading in worship.  Though I joke about my babies, I love the way God wired both of them.  They are uniquely made, but they love each other and they are one another’s best friends and constant playmates.  For that, I am most thankful.

So as difficult as the last year has been . . . it’s also been good. We have more clothes than we can wear. We have two beautiful children and two more waiting for us in heaven. We have family who genuinely enjoys being together. We have a pound cake a friend brought over. We have milk in the fridge and shoes with no holes. We have a peaceful home with no drone planes overhead. Our children came home from school today. I know you will join me in lifting our voices to God to thank Him for these things—and to pray on behalf of those whose pain blinds and silences them now.  During this season of joy and Light, may God show us the path to minister to those who are living through their darkest hours. And may we all be reassured that in heaven, praise God, there will be no more night.

Warmest wishes,

Misty, Joey, Abby, & Josiah McMath