I did not grow up in a religious home, but I learned early from my parents to anticipate Christmas. It was exciting to watch as multi-colored lights began twinkling on the shrubs up and down the street. Every picture window framed a sparkling tree, yet my house was dark.
That's because, in a carryover from my mother's childhood when even the National Christmas Tree was lit the night before Christmas, we had the custom of setting up our tree on Christmas Eve. I remember the exquisite anguish of waiting for Christmas Eve to come, and when it finally arrived, our anticipation as we pulled out faded cardboard boxes of ornaments. We hung our handmade ornaments alongside the blown glass ones, leaving the tinsel for my mother, who knew better than to throw all of it on one branch. My parents could not teach me about Christ, but they did teach me the spirit of joyful anticipation that should characterize our Advent and Christmas celebrations.
Advent has a bittersweet taste in the Olasky household this year because two boys, ages 7 and 9, who have been living with us for six months, will be leaving soon. They moved in when their mom began drinking again. We're not a registered foster home but the kids knew us, and living with us seemed like the least traumatic thing for them. But from the beginning it was clear that their stay would be temporary-only until the end of the year.
Now it's December and our deadline for another placement fast approaches. The boys are thinking of Christmas parties at school and woodworking projects, and I'm thinking about what comes next. We've set up our Christmas tree (no, we don't wait until Christmas Eve), and every night we light our Advent candles and read a bit more of the Christmas story. Our own children have outgrown some customs, but we've resurrected them for these little boys. Once again we have Advent calendars filled with chocolates so that they can eat a sweet while we read the Bible. Paper chains deck the dining room as we count down the days until Christmas and (although the thought is unsaid) a new home for the boys. The social workers want them to be adopted, although parental rights have not yet been terminated. We want them adopted by a Christian family; until November ended we thought a good situation was developing, but complications arose. Although the boys won't be free for adoption until spring, we hope a Christian foster family wanting to adopt will come forward now.
They're sweet boys, but they'll definitely turn a house upside down. They have energy and love to run and wrestle, preferably inside where there is lots to knock over. The 9-year-old, in the third grade, struggles with first-grade reading. He has learning disabilities, but it would be hard to be able when he has moved from one school to another so often. Schoolwork of all kinds for him is hard, and he can easily get discouraged. The 7-year-old is also struggling with reading, but he's a tremendous little artist. He has beautiful handwriting and loves to take his time to make things just right.
Sometimes at the dinner table the 9-year-old looks up at me and says, "How was your day today?" and I can tell he truly wants to know. The 7-year-old likes to tell jokes and when he grins he looks a bit like a Jack O'Lantern, with big gaps between his teeth.
Yes, I know Christmas is coming. I know during Advent we anticipate the return of the One who will make all things right. But until that time comes, children like these two boys need a home where they will be loved, where a Christian mom and dad will put the boys' interest above their own. It's not a task for the faint-hearted, but for the steadfast.
The state social worker on the case reads WORLD and thought a column about the boys would be fine. As we celebrate the birth of the baby born in a manger, "for there was no room in the inn," I'm praying that 2,000 years later one of His followers will find room for two boys who need not a manger but a long-term home.