I could barely read them, but at least the airport signs were written in English again.
After ten and a half hours on the plane from Frankfurt, Germany, preceded by a four-hour layover in the Frankfurt airport, and a three and a half hour flight from Moscow, Russia, I was exhausted. Our itinerary was made all the more challenging by the fact that my husband and I were in the company of two toddler boys who didn’t speak a word of English. We had been pronounced their legal parents just days earlier in a Siberian courtroom. After the boys bid an indifferent farewell to the cinderblock building that had been their home, we set out on our long journey to their new one.
At last our feet were firmly planted on American soil. In the lengthy lines of the airport immigration office, we awaited the final step in our twelve-month adoptive process: the official stamps on their paperwork. Our sons had become legal U.S. citizens the instant the wheels of our 747 plane skidded down on the runway. Though nothing compared to the difficult months of waiting to meet them, hold them, and bring them home, the moments spent in the immigration lines seemed unending.
Finally, we approached the window. Signatures scrawled. Thunk! Thunk!
Passports stamped. With that, we were waved toward the automatic doors that exited the secure area.
On the other side of the frosted glass doors lay not just the other side of post-adoption life, but also our two young daughters, then three and five years old. We had shared tearful but expectant goodbyes with them 21 days prior, when we departed for our court appointment in Yekaterinburg. After three weeks, and a life-changing event, I ached to fold my daughters into my arms, and to introduce them to their brothers for the first time.
The doors swooshed open, and we dodged our way through throngs of travelers to that much-awaited rendezvous. I sobbed through the hugs, and savored the immediate tenderness shown by my daughters to their new brothers. As we drove home, I was filled with a sense of fullness. Of wholeness. Our sons were finally home. The boys perched alongside our daughters around the dinner table as we gathered for our first meal together.
Despite the incapacitating fatigue, I will never forget that night: it was the night we became a family. It was Christmas Eve.
Each year now, on December 24th, we again encircle the table for dinner to celebrate the birth of our family.
Some years we have an elaborate meal, complete with candles, linens, and silver. Other times, a much simpler meal sits before us on an unadorned table, one worn smooth from years of spelling homework and Monopoly games. It matters very little to me what lies on the table; it matters a great deal who sits around it.
Whatever else the day of Christmas Eve may hold for our family — attending church, wrapping gifts, or even travel — the most important event for me is seeing each of my children seated at our family table, in the spot reserved especially for them. My gaze sentimentally shifts from one child to the next and I’m reminded again that Christmas celebrates the gift given to each of us in Jesus, whose birth invites us to sit at God’s table, for a matchless feast, in a seat reserved especially for us.
And then, for a moment, I can imagine the abounding joy my Father in heaven has in seeing the faces of His adoptive children seated around His table.
Related: Celebrate the names He’s given each person around your table with this beautiful art print that reminds us how God even counts the stars by name.