An Adoption Story: Absorbing it All . . .

The sun peeks through the trees as I glance about the quiet, old neighborhood in the town where I was born. From across the street, I snap pictures of the house where my mother lived when she gave birth to me. Most likely in that very house or maybe in the small block building in the backyard.

I lower my camera as a car drives by then cross the street for a closer look. I’m drawn to the left of the house where, from the sidewalk, I peer across the yard through trees, bushes, plants, and other greenery to the property behind. The rear of two light blue buildings—a garage on the right, the house on the left—are visible through the foliage. But from this spot, I can’t quite make out the back door where I was found on November 17, 1963.

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from the sidewalk in front of my birthmother’s house looking through the yard to the house where she placed me on the doorstep 

The lump that swelled in my throat when I first turned onto Superior street has melted. I drove by the house without realizing it which kind of ruined the moment. When I circled back around, the dissolved lump did not reform. I’m not sure what I feel.

As the sun warms my back through the thin jacket I needed earlier but could easily shed now, I try to imagine that day long ago. I look around, wondering how much of this vegetation existed back then. Of course, in November, the leaf-less trees would have offered a much clearer view of the neighboring property. Yet it would have been dark and cold at just after 5 a.m. A shiver ripples through me, and I pull the jacket closer.

A couple cars pass. I snap a few more pics, deciding I’ve seen all there is to see. Anyway, I don’t want to rouse the suspicion of the current residents who might question my fascination with the quiet neighborhood in general, their property in particular.

The “official tour” of my hometown, guided by my maternal half-brother, will take place next Saturday. But since a writing related event found me here now, a week early, I welcome the opportunity for a few private moments to absorb it all. To wrap my head around such a complicated series of events. If only that were possible.

Some seven months after the fairly conclusive evidence that she was indeed my mother and four months after the solved father mystery sealed the deal, I’ve yet to grasp it all. Maybe any of it.

While my half-brother has filled in many details about the family, about her as a woman and mother and her life experiences, there are a frustrating number of unanswered questions for both of us. Things we’ll never know. Details that can never be filled in. Questions that will forever remain unanswered.

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The official tour

As we make our way through the now less-unfamiliar neighborhood, I drink in the details of my mother and half-brother’s life through the tidbits he shares. He parks across the street from “the” house, then green shingled, now boasting tan siding with brown trim. “That was my room.” He points to the upstairs window facing the street. He remarks on the block building (mentioned above) that he “helped” construct at the tender age of six.

Just one house stands between this one and that of her then best friend—the one person we can imagine having shared the doorstep baby secret. If only we’d started looking before this woman died in 2015.

We meander past Grandpa and Grandma’s house, just a couple blocks away, around the corner. A home well-loved and remembered by my brother yet foreign to me.

When my mother remarried in 1969 to a widower with five children, they lived a couple blocks up the same street in a spacious house on the corner. I would have had two step-brothers and three step-sisters.

A brief stop in front of the home where I was found leaves us all at a momentary loss for words.

Then it’s on to the local cemetery, to a picturesque setting under a large tree. The family of four—my grandparents, my mother and her brother—rest on either side of one headstone, with flat place markers noting the placement of each body.

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With the warm breeze whisking around us, we stroll about. My brother reliving the past that now includes a huge secret. Me trying to grasp every detail of the journey that brought me to this place. More stories flow from his memory, unleashed by the nearness of his closest relatives, no doubt. We snap pictures, capturing the moment.

A bit more circling about town brings the tour to an end with lunch at a long-time establishment. As we part, half-bro comments, “I guess we could’ve walked from one backyard to the next but . . . ” His tone clearly says, “Maybe not.”

I shake my head. Maybe not indeed. Not only would we have garnered far more attention than we wanted, just no. I made it through the day without crying, but that would have pushed me over the edge. Not tears for myself but for her, the mother leaving her baby.

I cling to the thought that maybe, just maybe something like this happened.

Birthmother to someone associated with the police, welfare department, or court system: “I wonder whatever happened to that baby, you know, the one the newspaper said was left on the doorstep.”

Someone in the know: “Oh, the baby was healthy. She stayed in the hospital a couple weeks then a nice couple adopted her.”

A measure of closure. A bit of peace to ease her mind.

We go back to our regular, normal lives, each left to ponder the reality of her secret. The very certain fact she never dreamed her son would years later receive a letter from the baby she placed on the doorstep.

The “who” answers have left weighty “how” and “why” questions in their wake. What was once a mystery to be solved has morphed into a reality rife with raw emotions and impossible to grasp realizations. Like how without her, I would not be here, yet I’ll never know her or the impact of my existence on her life.

I always understood how this was not the kind of story to be told to a young child. But now, that truth is magnified a thousand times as so many complexities have come to light.

In the last couple weeks, the reminder has pressed closer that this story is not mine alone. I’ve even questioned whether the secret she took to her grave should have remained undisclosed. But the prompting that One far wiser than I has guided this journey, soothes away most of those misgivings.

In the meantime, I’m connecting with my birthfather and his family—my birth stepmother, my aunt, two half-brothers, one half-sister, two adopted sisters, and two first cousins as well as various nieces and nephews. His family happens to number considerably more than that of my birthmother’s–her only sibling neither married nor had children. Of course there’s the reality that on his side, it’s an entirely different scenario. “Hey, look, a child I never knew about,” doesn’t even compare to her secret baby situation.

Even though I can’t yet answer the “Why now?” for the revelations falling into place at such a time as this, I still believe there is meaning and purpose to the timing. So, I’ll be ever vigilant to GOD’s continued intervention and direction. And strive to be content with the answers I do have rather than fret over those I don’t.

Adoption records open!

Next July in my state, adoptee birth records will be unsealed. Although this action would not have helped me, thousands of “traditionally” adopted persons will finally have access to information about their birthparents. My advice to one and all?

Toss out all expectations and preconceived ideas about the “who, what, when, where, how and why” and prepare yourself to discover truths stranger than any fiction author could conjure up.

And please oh please, realize you did not and cannot now walk in the shoes of those who made those long ago decisions. So, try very hard not to judge.

Remind yourself that your story impacts more than just you and that others will have different perspectives.  Tread lightly. Be kind and compassionate. 

 Stay tuned. I’ve a feeling this journey is not yet over. cropped-head-shot-2

Beth is passionate about seeing GOD at work in the “slices” of every day life AND about the saving of sex for marriage. She believes strongly in accountability and mentoring and considers herself a cheerleader for “renewed waiting” too. Because SEX is worth waiting for. She’d love to hear from you! Comment here OR email her at  waitingmatters@gmail.com. Connect with her on Facebook at Beth Steury, Author.

 

 

 

 

 

“We knew you came from somewhere.”

As the search for answers behind my doorstep beginnings came to an end, my mom made this rather profound statement, “Well, we knew you came from somewhere.”

Of course I did. I had a past before being found on the doorstep. A past that didn’t simply disappear because my future was headed in a very new and different direction.

Although they didn’t care what that past involved nor did they want to know any details, my parents “got” what so many adoptive parents don’t get. That where we came from would always be a part of us.

I came from somewhere, from people whose contribution to my existence did not simply vanish because the decision was made that we would part ways.

family tree picOnce I knew who those people were, I wanted to know about them. The mom and dad, the grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. Unless you are adopted, you won’t understand how exhilarating it was to click the box on my Ancestry.com results to “link my test results with a family tree”—the new tree my daughter began building after the mystery was solved. A tree comprised of my blood relatives.

For years, she’d painstakingly built our family tree, going back seven generations in some areas. The branches had swelled to include over 1850 ancestors. My side of the tree held the names and dates and stories of my adoptive family—the Hammitts and the Dagues.

I will always be a Hammitt regardless of whose DNA courses through my body. I’m proud of my Hammitt / Dague heritage. I love that my daughter created a family tree based on the rich history of these families who played a huge role in my life, in her life. That tree will never be deleted or replaced. Rather the new Brown / Hubbard family tree will rest alongside the Hammitt / Dague tree in our Ancestry.com account. Each as vital and important as the other.

As I connect more with my biological family, as we fill in the blanks of the last 50+ years, my mind swirls with “what ifs?”. What if I’d grown up with them? My life would have taken a very different path. My husband would be married to someone else. I would be married to someone else. Neither my daughter or son would exist. Nor would my grandson. I would have different children. Be someone else’s “Gram.” That’s a lot to wrap my head around.

A fellow adoptee who recently connected with his birthmother summed it up well.“If I hadn’t been adopted, my life would have been very different. But I wouldn’t have known the difference.” Another profound statement.

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Of course my life and his could have been snuffed out before we took our first breath. Abortion wasn’t legal in 1963 or 1965, but it took place all the same. In fact the Society for Human Abortion was established in San Francisco in 1963, openly providing information on abortion, and no doubt paving the way for the 1973 ruling that would legalize the killing of unborn babies.

Even though my birthmother determined she could not raise me or relinquish me for adoption through traditional means, she chose to give me life. Then shedoorstep-announcement-angola protected my life by making sure I would be found quickly. Remember the homeowner’s dog Frisky? When the small dog went out to do “his business”, no baby on the step. Minutes later when he scampered back into the house, he
jumped over the bundle of baby wrapped in a black shirt. Although the backyard neighbors had only lived there a short time, my birthmom and Mrs. N. were acquainted as members of a local club some years prior to 1963. I’m betting she remembered them as the good, family-oriented folks I discovered them to be, and she knew they would do the right thing.

I have to wonder if she checked the newspaper for word of her baby. I wonder if maybe she cut out the three paragraph snippet—in one publication—four paragraph blurb in the other local paper—and tucked it away somewhere. I wonder if she feared prosecution were someone to discover the doorstep baby belonged to her.

baby-safe-havenYou see, “Safe Haven” laws that allow a distressed parent to give up an unwanted infant safely, legally and confidentially, without fear of arrest or prosecution, and requires no names or records, didn’t go into effect in my state until 2000. I’m thrilled that this safe, legal option is available now.

Because not everyone who can father a child or give birth to a child is equipped to, in that moment in time, care for and nurture that child.

I promised you more about the “cool process and the incredible people” that made this discovery possible. With absolutely no clues, the only hope of finding answers was to look into my DNA. We chose Ancestry.com’s autosomal DNA kit that tests a sample of saliva. The results provided a list of people who had also tested, with whom I shared DNA, referred to as “matches.” With the help of the amazing genetic genealogist Amanda R., we built a “speculative” family tree to determine how these matches fit together. Ancestry’s vast resources combined with sleuthing skills we didn’t know we possessed, uncovered the details that led us to my birthmother’s family. A couple months later, a new “close match” pointed us directly to my birthfather. Without Ancestry.com, the mystery would never have been solved.

ancestry logo

The company has experienced exponential growth in the last six months. In March their user base topped 4 million. Evidently having one’s DNA tested is the “in” thing to do. Which is fabulous news for anyone searching for genealogical answers via DNA as the more people who test, the more clues will be available to everyone searching.

Early in this journey, we discovered DNA Detectives, the amazing nearly 50,000 member strong Facebook group focused on using DNA to solve genealogical mysteries.The closed group–you must request to be a member–is administered by a faithful crew of kind, dedicated, knowledgeable genetic genealogists and “search angels” who pour themselves into solving family mysteries. Here we made friends with other searching adoptees, learned valuable search tips, and gained deep and impactful insights into the emotionally charged world of digging for adoption answers. The stories are as unique as the individuals, each looking for answers that can only be found in the DNA that links them to their ancestors.

While some people search for years—decades even—to solve family mysteries, the puzzle pieces fell into place very quickly for me. I found both birthparents in just five months and 11 days. Something I have to believe is related to the “why now?” factor. At this very moment, a situation is unfolding that was spurred by my searching for answers. Someone touched by my journey has embarked on his own important quest for answers.

More adventures await as the visit to my birthmother’s grave and the house where I was born will happen soon. I’ve connected with several more of my eight, newly-discovered half-siblings. Plans are coming together for meeting my birthfather, his sister and possibly some of the sibs. And my eyes will be ever open for more “why now?” evidence.

So stay tuned . . .   cropped-head-shot-2

Beth is passionate about seeing GOD at work in the “slices” of every day life AND about the saving of sex for marriage. She believes strongly in accountability and mentoring and considers herself a cheerleader for “renewed waiting” too. Because SEX is worth waiting for.

She’d love to hear from you! Comment here OR email her at  waitingmatters@gmail.com. Connect with her on Facebook at Beth Steury, Author.

 

An Adoption Story: The Final Pieces of the Puzzle

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Two weeks ago today it happened. A new, very close match popped up on my
Ancestry.com DNA results. Admittedly obsessed with checking our results daily, somehow neither my daughter nor I had checked for new matches before 1:15, maybe 1:30 in the afternoon that day. Unheard of.

But as we finished lunch, I did a quick perusal of our account before settling into other matters and there it was. There she was. An aunt or half-sister. With just a few key strokes, we knew she was a match on my birthfather’s side. And she’d already discovered us and left a message including her phone number with an invitation to call her.

The next two hours were a blur of friendly conversation and discovery. A brief retelling of my doorstep beginnings, including the city and the mention of my birthmother’s name, seemed to unlock the mystery. She announced that she must be my aunt. And she was thrilled.

I was speechless. Not only had the discovery of my birthfather dropped into my lap, but he was alive.

Hold that thought while I back the story up a bit. Remember the DNA test my very-probable half-brother and I submitted in December to look at the specific DNA mothers pass on to their children? The results delivered the last day of January further corroborated all the other evidence. We had as much proof as we were going to get without her to confirm her role in my existence. Unless we found my birthfather.

As the last piece of the puzzle, he might be able to verify the case we’d built although that seemed a long shot for several reasons. First, we had no close DNA leads. Second, he may have known nothing about a pregnancy, a baby girl, or a doorstep. And last, he too was likely to have passed.

Still, I strapped on a go get’m attitude, printed a stack of family tree charts and determined to find the common ancestors among my third and fourth cousin matches, whose number hovered just under 300,  approximately half of whom related to my birthfather’s side. I was in the midst of deciphering how three particular matches related to each other when this new aunt appeared on the scene, possessing clues that pointed to her brother being the last piece of the puzzle.DNA detectives family tree form

Now back to me being speechless—which almost never happens. I’d convinced myself that if I was extremely lucky, I’d maybe find a person who had been in the right place at the right time who could possibly fit into the last puzzle piece space. Someone whose involvement could possibly be confirmed via the testing of others—maybe more half-siblings—because he would no longer be living.

But he was alive and well and considerably younger than my mother.

Remember how we celebrated her would-be 91st birthday in January? That means she was 37, almost 38, when I was born. She wasn’t a teenager like I’d always suspected. She wasn’t even a young 20-something. She was middle aged with teenage sons.

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My new aunt was most anxious to share the discovery with her brother, but a whirlwind of emotion made it difficult for me to think coherently. Part of me wanted to yell, “Wait!” while I tried to process this new reality. But this was no longer just my story. Actually, it never was just my story—a truth that I’ve tried very hard to be mindful of. She didn’t really need my permission to share the discovery, but she very kindly sought it out of consideration for my feelings. I concluded it would be best/better to receive such news from someone he knew, so I agreed.

I was not surprised to learn he’d been unaware of a pregnancy let alone a baby. The details painted a rather sticky, complicated, and unpredictable situation, just as one might expect when the end result is a secret baby left on the neighbor’s back doorstep. The reality was a scenario even this fiction writer found difficult to fathom.

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It was a DOG not a CAT, and I weighed  5 lbs. 12 oz. and measured 19 inches in length.

As the story came together, I felt removed from the plot, as if it was someone else’s past being revealed. It was about “him” and “her” and “the pregnancy” and “the baby.” All third person. The surreal-ness soon faded into an understanding that it was my story. A story I’d been unaware of for 53 years.

I decided before embarking on this journey that I would not be upset by what I found, and I am not. It is what it is. And I’m okay with it.

Life is complicated and often messy. Decisions are made. Consequences follow. Time passes. Life goes on.

So what happened next? And what’s ahead? And the WHY? What’s the WHY to this entire journey?

Stay tuned for part 2 . . . coming very soon! cropped-head-shot-2

Beth is passionate about seeing GOD at work in the “slices” of every day life AND about the saving of sex for marriage. She believes strongly in accountability and mentoring and considers herself a cheerleader for “renewed waiting” too. Because SEX is worth waiting for. She’d love to hear from you! Comment here OR email her at waitingmatters@gmail.com. Connect with her on Facebook at Beth Steury, Author.

 

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

Vintage reads

 

 

Anthropomorphic. What a mouthful! But many children’s stories are anthropomorphic. Simple definition: a literary device attributing mrs_frisby_and_the_rats_of_nimhhuman qualities to animals or objects. However, Robert  O’Brien’s Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH an anthropomorphic story, is not merely fantasy. or in my mind, science fiction, because many of the human characteristics of the rats originated with a science experiment in a mental health laboratory at the National Institute of Mental Health.

Synopsis

Mrs. Frisby, a widowed mouse, seeks help from a band of odd-behaving rats who are extremely intelligent. As she becomes acquainted with them, she learns they escaped from the laboratory at NIMH. The rats help save her son’s life, and she in turn, is able to save theirs when danger hunts them down. I suppose that’s more of a hook than a synopsis, but I don’t want to give a whole lot away.

 

Because we have moved book reviews to the new website, you can see the pros and cons and more regarding the Rats of NIMH at scriblerians.com. You can read more details about the new site right here on the News Flash post.

 

News Flash!

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For all our wonderful and loyal followers, we have a News Flash for you!

The Scriblerians have opened up a new site!

http://www.scriblerians.com   (click on book reviews to subscribe)

We will still post here, but we are hoping you will check out our brand new idea for the literary world. Here is a description of who we are and what we will be providing.

About the Scriblerians

The Scriblerians is a group of nine authors and critique partners who write for student readers. We agree that our target audience is not the students, per se, but their parents, teachers, and librarians. We want to nurture relationships with those adults who make book-purchasing decisions for their student readers by providing an essential service to them.

We want to provide reviews for books, especially those written for the Middle Grade and Young Adult markets, evaluating both content and literary quality.

This will help us recommend engaging, well-written books and offer discussion questions for popular books that may include questionable content for a Christian-worldview reader.

 

Here is an excerpt from of a critique done by Loraine Kemp.

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A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness is a bittersweet teen fiction about a boy struggling to come to terms with his mother’s serious illness.

Synopsis:

Connor, a twelve-year-old-boy, is faced with unbelievable stress – a dying mother, a father who has split from the family, a recurrent nightmare, a domineering grandmother, and bullies at school. Then, a monster visits. But this monster, which Connor initially believes is just a dream, insists that Connor “called” him. Between dealing with the above problems, Connor must listen to the monster’s stories that force him to confront his anger, confusion, and frustrations. And at the end of the monster’s three tales, Connor is forced to reciprocate by describing his nightmare – a story of truth, and the root of his depression and anxiety.

 

For the rest of the post including pros, cons, and general impression, hop over to our site http://www.scriblerians.com

Again, to subscribe, click book reviews and plunk away. We would love to see you there!

 

Writing . . . Reading . . . And Piecing Together an Adoption Story in 2017

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This January 3rd . . . uh, I mean 4th finds me making a serious effort to shift back into high gear after the holidays. Considering I was supposed to post this blog yesterday, it appears I’m still operating in low gear.

We enjoyed a grand time of celebrating the birth of the Saviour with family and friends. Then we shifted into a much needed slower pace to rest up from all of the holiday cheer. To catch our collective breaths before plunging into 2017. So far we’ve just dipped our toes in the water of the new year, but any second now the diving in will commence.

By comparison to November and December, January is a sloooowwww month. Although normal school and work schedules have resumed, not a lot else goes on and that’s fine by me. It’s the perfect set-up for getting back to writing. The final revisions on “Before I Knew You”, book one of my YA “Choices Matter” series, are seriously calling my name. Then it’s on to finishing books two and three.  I’m anxious to introduce this story to the world in 2017.

As much as I love my characters and their story, it will be a real challenge to stay away from the myriad of genealogy sites, Facebook groups, DNA how-to’s, and to also limit the chatting with all the awesome people I’ve met through these various means. Hey, it’s not every day a person learns she was found on a doorstep at three-days of age. Then discovers her probable birthmother’s family and meets a probable half-brother. To say I’ve been distracted is putting it mildly. (Find several posts about this journey here; posts are in reverse order.) 

Who knew that half-siblings and uncle/niece share the same amount of DNA? Although we feel quite certain we are looking at a half-sibling rather than uncle/niece relationship, a particular test will help us be sure since the parties directly involved cannot corroborate the story. So, a few days before Christmas, likely half-brother and I sat at my dining room table and carefully read instructions and completed forms for a DNA test that looks at the specific DNA mothers pass on to their children. I tell you, a person doesn’t realize how long sixty seconds is until you must swish/scrape a tiny brush/swab like thing against the inside of each cheek for a minute.cake

photo credit:  http://www.suddenlink.net/pages/jwiolold/Moms%20BD/91/91.html

This Friday we will celebrate the birthday of his (our) deceased mother by going out to dinner. She would have been 91-years-old this January 6th. He will share more about her, their life, our shared ancestors. We’ll probably compare more pictures—there is definitely a resemblance between her and I. We’ll ponder some more about the days and weeks leading up to and immediately following my birth. And I imagine each of us will continue to wonder how this event impacted the rest of her life.

While distant clues pointing toward the other side of the birth equatiScribcolumnon continue to appear, there are no breakthroughs to report. I’m hoping a close match will pop up any day now as the time and energy it takes to hone in on a birth parent with only third and fourth cousin DNA matches is extraordinary. Please stay tuned right here for future updates on this very real “slice” of my life.

The slower pace of January is perfect for both writing and reading. I’m thrilled to announce The Scriblerians are launching a fab book review site that will be a helpful resource for purchasers of middle grades and YA books, a place that will encourage constructive conversations about the books geared toward this important audience. I love reading YA fiction and just last night I perused for books I want to read and share with all of you in the coming year.

Writing . . . launching my new series . . . reading awesome YA fiction . . . piecing together an adoption story . . . 2017 is shaping up to be an amazing year.

I hope your 2017 is already off to a winning start and that it will continucropped-head-shot-2e to gain momentum in the weeks and months ahead. What are you most looking forward to accomplishing this year?

Beth is passionate about seeing GOD at work in the “slices” of every day life AND about the saving of sex for marriage. She believes strongly in accountability and mentoring and considers herself a cheerleader for “renewed waiting” too. Because SEX is worth waiting for. She’d love to hear from you! Comment here OR email her at waitingmatters@gmail.com. Connect with her on Facebook atBeth Steury, Author.

Christmas Hymns of Faith

With my day to post on Christmas Eve, I just couldn’t write about a favorite vintage book. December 24 is as much of a holy day on the Christian calendar as is Christmas Day. In fact, the two days together create a most holy time rivaled only by Holy Week leading up to Easter.


What better way to acknowledge this sacred time than to look at a few centuries-old hymns celebrating the birth of our Lord? I love at least a dozen, having sung them since I knew how to carry a tune. I’ve picked three.


“O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” I fell in love with this melody in a minor key the first time I was allowed to attend the midnight Christmas Eve service. Within the lyrics, I recognized how the people ached for Messiah’s arrival. They mourned in lonely exile. They begged Him to end all envy, strife, and quarrels. I felt their pain, and at the same time, I was filled with joy. For Messiah came! He answered their prayers! And I reap the benefits of His arrival, and subsequent sacrifice, on earth.

credit to: dewthis.blogspot.com

“Angels We Have Heard on High.” Every verse is filled with the story of the angels proclaiming Christ’s birth: they appeared to the shepherds, the shepherds were jubilant, and they were invited to see the newborn Messiah for themselves. The final stanza invites all of us to find this joy for ourselves.

But it was the “Glorias” that hooked me. What a thrill to take a deep breath and then belt out “GLO—————-RIA!” My little girl worship soared to the heavens, and I knew Jesus was pleased. Kind of like what the Little Drummer Boy felt–but I’m not going to choose his song today.

joy-to-the-world

“Joy to the World!” This hymn is so familiar, I tend to take it for granted, but when I consider the words, oh my! The words are why we sing it so often! Be joyful! The Lord has come. Even the rocks cry out! He’s broken the curse! We have the best ruler the world has ever known or will ever know! And He loves us beyond what we can imagine. Lots of exclamation points. I don’t know how to skimp on exclamation points with such a hymn! One is even included in the title.
It’s certainly worth your time to go over the words in these hymns with your children. Each is an individual sermon.
Which hymn would you choose to share with your child in detail? And why?
Have a blessed Christmas!