Brothers Bonifacio – It Is Well

Dedicated to three people:
My superwoman, Yasmin. Thank you for our son.
My Papa Joey and Mama Marie. Thank you for all that you have done for me. I cannot thank you enough.

 

The Morning of the Delivery

I didn’t realize it until one of the nurses asked me to stand to cut the umbilical cord, that I was already passing out. Sitting in that operating room, watching them operate a cesarean on my wife, had hijacked my system. I felt like fainting, throwing up, and taking a crap all at the same time. As I grabbed the scissor-like instrument, I was so worried I would lose control and drop it into my wife’s open belly. Somehow I was able to muster what little control I had left to cut our child’s cord, complete with a photo of me looking like I didn’t know where to look – and that’s because I didn’t know where the camera was. As soon as I cut it, I excused myself from the room, and sat on a stretcher outside. A nurse who saw me very concernedly told me to take deep breaths and gave me a cup of water. It was around then that I realized I was soaking with sweat, as if I had run half a kilometer. It was not my most Instagrammable moment.

But it was one of the best moments of my life, probably the single best moment of my life.

“I’m a father.” I thought to myself. Followed by a “I want to see my son.” and “I’m sure glad I’m not a woman.” in that order.

I walked-back in, held our son, and went to my wife, “You did well, Yasmin. Look at Elijah.” “He’s perfect.” she said. Of course he’s not “perfect”, no one really is, but he is to us.

After 15 months of having given up my much beloved bachelorhood, I have learned three priceless lessons:

1. Marriage taught me the beauty of true love, that the more I chose the satisfaction of another, the more that other satisfied me.

2. Having a son taught me there exists a pure love that has nothing to do with my son’s achievements and everything to do with him being mine.

3. And we (the community of Christ’s followers) are both Christ’s bride and God the Father’s children, and we have access to the satisfaction of choosing to satisfy Christ and the pure love of knowing we are loved, not because of our accomplishments, of which we have nothing to be proud of, but simply because we are His.

In this social-media soaked society, where so much effort is placed on projecting a “likable” life, we must remain sensitive to the important lessons from the simple and mundane, difficult and painful, and unposed and embarrassing.

In my very close fainting-vommiting-crapping-combo moment, I fell in love with my wife in a special way, appreciated my parents in a greater way, and worshipped my God in a deeper way. In my emotional and physical, weakness, when my normally very calm and clear mind just wanted to shut down, His power to communicate His love to me was perfect. There was nothing to capture, no lights, no takes, no slow-motion, no OOTD, no brand to hashtag. Just a very sweaty, anxious, light-headed man needing a puke bag and a diaper, overjoyed at having a son and being a son.

Then my mind drifted for a moment, “Are there nine people operating? Am I paying for all of them?? How am I paying for all of them???” How quickly the cares of the world steal our joy.

Then I heard my wife’s voice ask worriedly about the sutures, and our baby’s soft cry as they observed him, and out went the worry, replaced with just simple unadulterated care. How quickly loving others brings our joy back.

It Is What It Is and It Is Well.

The next day, I walked to the billing center of the hospital. St. Luke’s has been an incredible hospital. The facilities are amazing, the nurses were very helpful, and we’re extremely grateful for our OB Gynecologist Dr. Sapaula and Pediatrician Dr. Saulog, as well as our anesthesiologists Dr. Gary and Dr. Inciong, who was very reassuring towards Yasmin during the operation. Seeing what my wife went through made me appreciate my mother so much. Seeing the bill made me appreciate my father! ”Woah!” I thought. “And it’s only Day 2!!! Another 18 years of this! Another…” my negative thoughts were arrested. “Another collection of moments with my son.” For a second I felt I could afford anything. The idea only lasted for exactly one second. But it is what it is.

As parents know, pregnanacy and having children can be expensive. It is a range of more expensive and less expensive, depending on one’s means, but always expensive. When my wife was pregnant, she purchased just one pair of maternity jeans (which she washed every day!) partly because she couldn’t find ones that fit her height, and mostly because I had given her a very tight budget. But our budget is what it is. The available choices are what they are, and there’s nothing wrong with that. She was happy, we were happy, and 38 weeks later, we have a healthy son. With  faith in God and grateful hearts, it is well.

We were asked if we wanted to store the umbilical cord for future stem cells, and we said it’s out of our budget, it’s not something I prepared for, and not a priority. We have some friends who did it, we have some friends who did not, and there are also those who know nothing of stem cells, and there’s no right or wrong here. What one can afford at the moment is what one can afford. What one knows is what one knows. It is what it is. With faith in God and grateful hearts, it is well.

After just about 3 days, my wife has started to see some success with her breastfeeding. It wasn’t easy. We tried many times, had so many nurses help us, and amazedly watched YouTube videos of babies finding boobs on their own. Some mothers take days, some take weeks, some are instant milk farms, and some are never able to produce. I’ve learned that there’s a whole range of nipples, and not all lend well to breastfeeding. Some have access to breastmilk banks, some can afford nipple shields, some can’t afford these supplements, and some don’t need them. Whatever the case, it is what it is. With faith in God and grateful hearts, it is well.

While my wife was recuperating, we read an article of kids being kidnapped in refugee areas and being found killed, and were told of some serious medical conditions that have happened to other babies. The next day, my wife told me, “I cannot stop thinking of those babies. Why does God allow that?” I answered her simply, “The truth is, I don’t know. Some of life is because we or others use our freedom in ways that lead to bad consequences. But there’s also so much we don’t know. There’s so much I don’t know about what is already known, of what has already been discovered, and there’s still so much more to discover. Who can say they fully understand life?” I thought about this more through the evening, and I never found any answers. I did remember that God asks us, the living, to be grateful in all circumstances, to love by serving others (especially those who have less than us), and to have faith in God’s goodness. And while this may seem like the simple-minded belief of those too weak to handle life’s painful truth, I’ve come to realize that whether one believes this is truth or superstition in this situation is irrelevant. Being grateful in all circumstances will bullet-proof your soul and make you more able to face life. From an evolutionary perspective, developing gratefulness is good for you. Continuing to love despite our own personal doubts, personal suffering, and personal loss is good for the world in general. It flicks the finger at the cycle of violence and hurt caused, when people use their own hurt, their own doubt, their own suffering, and their own loss to justify unkind or even inhumane actions. From a social perspective, it’s beneficial to be like a human desalinization plant, taking our salty doubts, suffering, and loss, and releasing a purified love. Finally, believing that there is divine goodness, makes people hope, and hope is a balm for the soul. With faith in God and grateful hearts, we face what is as it is, and know that it is well.

And it is well not simply because we have everything figured out, or can afford everything we want or need, or because everything is wonderful, colorful, and great. It is well not simply because we’re laughing, content, and succeeding in our goals. It is well not simply because pain, doubt, and suffering are absent. Neither is it because we experience something relatively better than what someone else is suffering. (I hate it when people try to comfort you by pointing out how someone has it worse.) Just like I learned that I could love my son not because of any perfection but simply because he is mine, you need to love your own gift of life simply because it is yours. Don’t compare it to someone else’s, as any parent would be a fool to compare their own with someone else’s. But realize that it is special because it is yours. Without getting political or controversial, this is why I am so against any thought process that makes killing a solution. Life, your life, every life, is special in itself, not comparatively or relatively special, but special and amazing, a true miracle. A life that travels the world and one that stays put are equally special. A life celebrated by the world on social media and tbe one no one knew existed are equally special as well. We need to move away from valuing our lives and the lives of others comparatively, based on man-made metrics that are really mostly focused on utility: how useful this person is in satisfying society’s needs and wants. We value good looking people and celebrities because they fill our need for beauty. We value rich people or successful people to fill our aspirations. We value powerful people because we look for security and order. We value the intelligent child because he will discover things and get a good job. We value ourselves and people by how good we are at meeting society’s needs and wants. This is why we think it is smart, advanced, even humane to abort children and kill crooks. Why maintain a life that does not fulfill society’s needs and wants? Why maintain a life that drains society from meeting its needs and wants? The answer is because it is a life. Even if one doesn’t believe in God, each life is owned by a corresponding person. Is it not more sophisticated to be able to go beyond utilitarianism into the metaphysical understanding that this life is the private property of someone, and to snuff it out means breaking that person’s rights, and showing we value utility over honoring individual lives? And if utility is the best score for a person’s right to live, never expect a peaceful world. Expect a highly competitive world, expect a divided world, expect a highly insecure world, and expect a highly unequal world as we all prioritize that which maximizes our own individual utility. This is a world I know I can thrive in given my personality, skills, and relational advantages.

But it is not the world I want to live in nor want to raise our son in.

Instead, we decide to live by the simplicity and elegance of remembering that every life is God’s, and it is only for Him to decide on whether it lives or dies, and our role is to love; to care; to cultivate; to improve, to take our 1, 2, or 5 “talents” and multiply them, not compare them, but expand them; and to hope for the day that we share in our Father’s happiness. Walking with faith in God and gratefulness in our hearts, knowing that no matter what happens, it is well. #db

Brothers Bonifacio – For Millions Still Unborn

January 3, 2017
I had gone to work early – really early – 2am early. Yasmin and I had been arguing, and I decided to do what I do when I need to relax: work. Later in the morning, I got a text from Yasmin telling me she was at the hospital and needed to tell me something. She had not been feeling well, feeling easily tired with aches, so she was really planning to have a check-up. Embarrassingly, ungentlemanly of me, I had taken the car my wife uses without thinking (I usually take Uber everywhere), so my sick wife decided to walk to St. Luke’s since it wasn’t too far. When I got the text, I had a feeling I knew what it was about already but I don’t know why. I called Yasmin, and heard the news that would seismically alter my life.

“I’m pregnant.”

Out the door went the pride, offense, and anger I had been harboring from the argument before. And I quickly settled things in the office and drove to the hospital. There’s nothing like being responsible for another life that brings out the better parts of our nature.

After the check-up, Yasmin said, “No wonder my breasts were getting so tender. They’re going to get bigger.”

“Nice!” I answered.

“You’re terrible! I can’t believe that’s what you’re thinking about!” Yasmin reacted.

“Sorry… What I meant is, I’m sorry you’re feeling pain.” I corrected.

“Whatever…” she said with a slight smile.

 

Being married has revealed different parts of me – for better AND worse. But I’m making up for my insensitivity these days with my daily role as Chief Body Butter applier. Apparently, there’s a whole line of products just for helping with the stretching a woman undergoes while pregnant. It’s not easy being Chief Body Butter Applier, but someone has to do it. It’s part of the many sacrifices a husband has to make. I’m being sarcastic of course. My wife’s body gets stretched and expanded, and that’s just what I can see. Inside her, she is literally chemically changing. I can’t imagine what that’s like. All I need to do is massage her. The more I read up on it, the more I think “I’m lucky to be a guy”. When my wife’s not pregnant, she’s bleeding every month. When she is pregnant, she’s…

She’s…

She’s…

I don’t know what she is.

Just kidding.

My wife is, pregnant or not pregnant, always beautiful.

 

Someone’s 179 BPM
On the way to a meeting yesterday, with order restored with me in an Uber, I stared at the photo of my baby. I’ve been staring at that photo since I took it. I remembered seeing the heartbeat and the doctor telling us, “There’s the heart beating. 179bpm.” I was so excited, that as I posted a photo on Instagram, the only word I could think of was “Joy”. Yasmin laughed. She said, “You were thinking so long about your post that I was worried you’d say something smart and make mine look corny. After all that, you ended up with one word. For once, David Bonifacio has nothing to say.”

It happens more than Yasmin knows, like when I watch her sleeping beside me. In those moments, I also have nothing to say. I just feel joy.

I wrote this poem while stuck in traffic:

179
BPM
Our treasure’s heart
A beating gem

“Is that  healthy?”
We asked naively
Doctor said, “Quite fast,
But safe. Believe me.”

“Of course it’s fast”
I thought with sanguinity
“That’s my child
Also chasing infinity”

So much hope you bring,
With so many a concern
But we’re not without ways
And what we lack, we’ll learn

I want so much to be perfect
For you, but you’ll find
What your mother now knows
I can be blinder than blind

But I will do my utmost
And where I fall short
There is One who watches
Our first and last resort

Best you meet Him early
For He already knows your frame
Best you get used to calling on Him,
To crying out His name

I am getting ahead of myself
As I am prone to do
You’re still forming
But you’re there, that’s you

You already hold my heart
Just a few weeks, yet you do
I feel my chest getting tighter
At the thought of beautiful you

We love you our treasure,
We love you our beating gem
We love you more than you’ll ever know
We love you 179 BPM
#db

But my thoughts for my child were suddenly overtaken by the faces of team members and the people who work with me. And this question popped into my head, “Am I the kind of leader that a wise father would enthusiastically encourage their child to follow?”

I thought about this idea. Let’s say my baby was now a grown up, would I tell him or her “Go work with David. You’ll produce your life’s best work, you’ll grow, you’ll become a better version, you won’t have to compromise your values, you’ll be successful, you’ll achieve your goals, you’ll be healthy, you’ll be well provided, you’ll have great relationships, follow him, follow his instructions, and follow his example”?

Would I?

All of them are someone else’s 179 bpm. All of them have the potential to bring the joy I’m feeling. Putting myself in their shoes, would I enthusiastically recommend my leadership? And would I be wise for doing so?

These thoughts quickly revealed many areas of improvement that I quickly jotted down and made plans to improve on. I made a commitment to myself to become the type of leader that a wise father would enthusiastically recommend that their child follow me.

 

For Millions Still Unborn
I’ve been reading on the different Founding Fathers of America. I’ve read the biographies of Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and Alexander Hamilton, and now reading through Thomas Jefferson. I’m always blown away by the work they were able to accomplish despite the diversity of their perspectives and interests. Reading about their lives removed the myth of perfection and showed really really really flawed men – even terrible men. But a few things struck me about them. One was a deep desire to live out their principles, as flawed as they were. The other was how the idea of “the millions still unborn” was so important to them. They realized that their lives, their decisions and actions, the principles they defended, the institutions they erected, and the battles they fought would go beyond their own lifetimes and would affect generations, the millions yet unborn. So even as they lived in the present, their perspective gave them the foresight to build for far into the future.

I’m no George Washington or Benjamin Franklin. I’m no great leader. I simply have myself, my family, and our companies to lead. Our companies are not huge. I believe they will be. But I’m biased of course. Just as I think my baby is the most beautiful baby in the world even if no one, not even I, know how he or she looks like, even if it’s only been 6 weeks – in my wife’s tummy. But the decisions I make today will impact my baby decisions. If I save for the future, my baby will have money for the future. If I build a good name my baby will have a good name. If I build a strong relationship with my wife our baby will have that security. My decisions today will greatly affect my child still not yet born.

In the same way, in business, in anything I’m leading, my decisions today affect the millions yet to be impacted. Current employees and future employees, current shareholders and future shareholders, current customers and future customers, all will be affected. Are my present actions guided by the knowledge of future implications?

Am I the kind of person who is living with such a big purpose that it impacts the millions still unborn?

Or have I shrunk my purpose to just myself and today?

Do I throw that piece of trash on the street for my convenience now and ignore the pollution the millions still not born will face?

Do I spend the resources on my current impulse and neglect the future education, the future opportunities, and the future quality of living of the millions still not born will experience?

Do I truly love my neighbor as myself, and am I truly living a big purpose, that mobilizes the same type of resources for others, for future others, as I do for myself?

My 179 bpm is already impacting the world by impacting me. And it’s not because he’s done anything yet, and it’s not because he’s perfect, or healthy, or a boy, or a girl, or anything more than this growing form. In a world that’s so entitled, materialistic, and no longer capable or willing to suffer, we’ve managed to rationalize the killing of babies as practical but this is ignorant to this fact:

The first gift our child ever gives us has nothing to do with their perfection. It has everything to do with the child being ours. Perfection, at least as we know it, after all, is basically how close the baby is to “normal”, and “normal” is how close it is to average. The first gift our child gives us is joy that comes from loving someone beyond the love you have for yourself, and the second, for those willing to learn, is that we learn a new kind of love, a love not based on external excellences, but exclusive possession. I love my unborn child because he or she is mine.

Maybe this is also why God can love me so much despite how terrible I am. I am loved because I am His. It’s as simple, and as beautiful, as that.

Brothers Bonifacio – This Christmas

Last Christmas, I gave you my heart

But the very next day you gave it away

This year, to save me from tears

I’ll give it to someone special

- Wham

 


 

Our First Christmas Decorations

“More tape please.” Yasmin said, as she stood on two Monobloc chairs, the same two plastic chairs she bought for the apartment when she realized her fiancé didn’t have furniture. “David! More tape! You’re not listening!” I did hear both times, but the first was heard in the man-dimension, that place where time slows and instructions seem more like arrows whizzing-by in the Temple of Doom, things to be dodged, not caught. “Sorry!” I quickly apologized and stretched my hand out to her so she could get the cut-up strips of double-sided tapes sticking to my fingers. “One more.” She said, as she carefully placed the double-sided tape on the wall and firmly pressed the end of a faux-pine garland with small green, gold, and red Christmas balls hanging from them “There!” she said. “Done”

She stepped down and we admired her handiwork. “Do you like it” she asked me. “Yup. Looks nice.” I answered. “I would like it better if we had a sofa under everything instead of this extra mattress.” She said. “But I’m happy we have something Christmassy”

“I’m happy too.” I answered. “I’m happy too.” I don’t think I’ve been that happy about Christmas ornaments since I was a kid, when the trappings signaled the season. But this was a different kind of happiness. As a kid, the joy came from the great expectations of festivities and gifts, but now, it isn’t that at all. It’s seeing Yasmin truly satisfied at making that part of our wall more beautiful.

A few days later, I was sitting on the floor beside a stack of books and my iPad, when I noticed figurines of a small Christmas Tree and an angel. A few minutes later, Yasmin texted me from the bedroom (like we modern folk do), “Did you see the Christmas Tree?” She seemed really excited about it. She loves these random small things. I’m more of a planner. I prefer to have things intricately planned and executed more than randomly cobbled together. I’m the guy who insisted Yasmin plan out the way the Christmas balls were attached to her garland in a consistent alternating of colors. But for some weird reason, these little out-of-place figurines beside the flat screen (also from Yasmin, as I had given my TVs away), looked like they belonged. I stood up and walked to the bedroom. “I saw the figurines.” I said. She smiled, and that smile cut through my cheapo heart.

I decided to increase next year’s Christmas budget.

Nothing like the sincere smile of someone you love to melt your heart.

 


 

My First Christmas Decoration

”…but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.”

- Mark 4:19

I didn’t have much. My place was still furnished back then (it was the year before I decided to go minimalist), but I didn’t have a lot of cash in my account, in my wallet, nor in any of my pockets. It was a tough year like every year has been since taking over that company. But I had it in my heart to use the Christmas season to rekindle a love for God, a love I could feel was still alive, but suffocated by the worries of life and wrong decisions.

So I decided to do what my parents used to do with us as kids: Advent Night, and I went to the store to buy my first Christmas decoration: a wreath and Advent candles.

Here’s a quick reference on Advent candles:

There are three purple candles and one rose-colored candle on an Advent wreath. The purple candles are lit over the course of the first two and fourth Sundays of Advent. These candles represent prayer, penance and preparation for the coming of the Lord that each person is expected to undertake during the Advent season. The rose candle is lit on the third Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, and it represents joy. Gaudete Sunday is seen as a day of rejoicing because it marks the midpoint of Advent.

A white candle can also be placed in the middle of the Advent wreath. When used, this candle is often called the Christ candle. It is only lit on Christmas and represents the birth and purity of the Christ child. The candles are lit progressively throughout Advent to show the hope and expectation of the first coming of Christ and the anticipation of the second coming where Jesus is to judge the living and dead.

- [Advent Wreath](https://www.reference.com/holidays-celebrations/advent-candles-represent-fdfceb390d042274)

I took these and set them up at home, taking care to pray as I would light them at night. I remember celebrating with some friends as well. This is before we all started getting married and having kids. Everyone’s so busy these days. But I do remember a remarkable effect on me as I used an old tradition to trigger a new desire for Christ. Despite the brokenness of my situation, the anchoring practice of coming home, lighting the candles, and praying was good for my soul.

In an age where everyone is after the latest and greatest, that year, I was reminded that many times what we need is not some new technique or new insight. What we need are solid foundations, firm paths under our feet to help us walk steadily. I’m in the business and tech space, an industry that is obsessed with the future, but despite this, whenever I feel a little lost or even incredibly lost, I go back to those old paths, those old traditions taught to me, remembering old stories, implementing old practices, and performing old disciplines. These ancient paths have a way of grounding me, and helping me find my way.

 


 

The Ancient Paths

As I remember the lessons of past Christmases, thinking about all these old traditions and how times are changing fast, displacing many who refuse to change, and leaving many people lost. I was reminded of a question someone asked me about encouraging creativity in the church. He asked, “Where does creativity come from? From the leadership or from the staff? When it’s up to the leader, he reaches a point where his ideas aren’t that creative anymore. When it’s the staff, sometimes they take too many risks or fall away. How would you manage creativity without losing the way?”

I told him, “I don’t believe creativity comes from either. Creativity comes from loving your customer, from truly understanding them deeply and finding ways to serve them in higher impact ways. Look at the most creative organizations in the world. They’re not commanding creativity. They are sparking creativity by understanding their customers.”

What does that question have to do with this article? What does it have to do with Christmas? Well, it has to do with the wave of modern practices engulfing us today. I think it’s important for us to ask ourselves and our families, “How do we enjoy a creative and joyful Christmas without losing the meaning of the season, which is the Love of Christ?” Many times we think that modernization and innovation are at odds with tradition and foundations. But they don’t have to be.

A few weeks ago, I read:

Thus says the LORD, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, Where the good way is, and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’

- Jeremiah 6:16

The words Ancient Paths stuck with me. The verse clearly said that finding this path would lead to rest for our souls. What an awesome promise.

So I did a little more digging, which is probably what I’m doing if you see me busily hammering away on my iPhone, ignoring everything going on around me. Here’s what I wrote in my notes:

What are the ancient paths?

  • The way of faith: The way of complete trust and obedience
  • The way of holiness: The way of transformative love

How do we NOT walk in the ancient paths?

The ancient paths are not about the age or the recency of the concept but about alignment with God’s original purpose of living each day in faith and transformative love.

When new ideas, new concepts, new innovations lead to less faith in God (less belief and less obedience) and less holiness (less transformative love) then we fall away from the ancient paths.

This led me to this decision:

Never be too modern, too edgy, too disruptive, too innovative for faith and holiness. We see this when:

    ○ Ideas of grace condone sin
    ○ Technology causes sin
    ○ Disruption causes division

The I also thought:

When old conventions, old policies, old traditions lead to less faith in God (less belief and less obedience) and less holiness (less transformative love) then we fall away from the ancient paths.

Never be too conservative, too formulaic, too defined, too stable for faith and holiness. As seen by:

    ○ When we live by convention not conviction, and sacrifice creativity, limiting transformative love
    ○ When we lead by policy not by purpose, destroying passion, and preventing transformative love
    ○ When we mistake tradition for obedience, fooling ourselves, and destroying our ability to impact with transformative love

The Ancient Paths, are the decisions we make that lead us to greater faith in God and greater transformative love. And t his simple verse gives an elegant way to discern our activities this Christmas:

Will this lead us down to more trust, more faith, and more holiness?

And connected to this:

How can I make this activity (whatever it is I am doing), a way that exercises faith and leads to more transformative love?

Let’s get practical.

  • Don’t just give gifts. Pray for every person you’re giving to as well.
  • Instead of just showing up for church, rekindle faith and spur loving action.
  • Don’t just sing the carols. Worship with your soul through obedience.
  • Don’t just get together with the family. Remind the family of your role in blessing others by being generous, especially to the poor.

I can go on but I don’t want you to think that this is about prescriptions. It’s not. Those were just ideas. The point is, this Christmas, go down the path that leads greater trust in God and greater holiness. It really doesn’t matter whether you’re buying gifts or fighting guilt, having a Turkey or scrambling for change, spending time with grandkids or learning how to buy your wife a gift she’ll like. The point is to ask yourself: Does this lead to greater faith and transformative love?

If yes, we should keep going. We’ll find rest. If no, we need to stop. We can’t head home if we run away from it. We won’t find heaven if we seek hell.

I’d like to share a part of an old post to end this one:

There was a time when my father had lost his business, we had to move into a much smaller house, had to get rid of our cars and really most of our stuff. Christmas, like for everyone else, was usually a big event for our family but this year we really didn’t have any money so the nicely wrapped giant boxes were missing from under a smaller tree, and the turkey was a big chicken with misplaced gravy (that’s another story). But even as we downscaled what Christmas was to me, God was setting up a backdrop for one the greatest lessons I would ever learn. He had to remove the trappings, the traps we fall into, that distract us from Him.

Having very little resources, my mom decided that our Advent would consist of a walk around our tiny village – which was one small circle. My brothers and I were complaining of the flies and having to walk, actually, I think I was the only one complaining. I was such a grumbler looking back. When we got back to the house we realized we had left the keys inside. We were locked out.
So there we were sitting on the curb, my dad, my brothers, me, and my mom, who was still trying to turn everything into a lesson.

I think Joe’s, mine, and Joshua’s minds were thinking “Be quiet”, “Shut up”, ‘Candy” respectively.

Then my mom said:

“Maybe this is how Joseph and Mary felt being locked out of every inn. Imagine what they were going through. And Mary was pregnant. This is what we do to Jesus when we don’t let Him into our lives.”

Years later to today, I still remember her lesson, but I think I’ve realized something deeper. More tragic than what we do to Jesus when we don’t let Him reside in our heart, is what we do to our lives – we leave it a dark empty shell with no light and no life.

I think about that Christmas lesson, and about all the other Christmas lessons, each of them a step towards greater faith and greater holiness as we draw closer to Jesus. This gives me peace. It gives me peace because I am reminded that though circumstances change, some seemingly for the worse, I only need to look for the step that exercises greater faith and leads to transformative love, and then take the next step, and the next. I may not know where these steps will take me through. I do know that the promise at the end is rest.

I’m really looking forward to a restful Christmas.

Merry Christmas everyone!