This time of year is always one of thanksgiving and expectation. Thanksgiving because, well, it’s Thanksgiving (and there’s always so much to be grateful for) and expectation because it’s a time of waiting (and when you’re waiting you’re always expecting something. I know, simple, right?) We’re coming up on the culmination of Advent—awaiting, expecting, the “arrival of a notable person, thing, or event”—that Person being a Savior, the thing being God’s grace (or take your pick of many other glorious things), the event being Christmas, the birth of Jesus.
Of all the marvelous things that typically happen during this season, something different stands out for me this year. It has truly been a time of miracles—but miracles of an unexpected kind. Just days before Thanksgiving I found myself again thinking of a woman who had been my friend when I was a teenager. We lived in Newport, Rhode Island, Navy housing back then. It was a lonely and confusing time for me. I had only one really good friend my age (hey there, Lin!) with whom I’m still friends today. But there was someone else, and I had lost contact with her. Mrs. Faul was a neighbor who hired me as babysitter to Jennifer, her adorable two-year-old. She was young, beautiful, smart, and devoted to her husband and child. Somewhere in the middle of all the babysitting, she became my friend, my mentor, and a huge influence in my life. She never treated me like a kid, never laughed at my teenage crushes (I was SO in love with Tony Conigliaro who played right field for the Boston Red Sox) or my angst-ridden poetry. She listened to music with me, introduced me to Rod McKuen’s poetry, helped me with my biology and math homework, took me shopping, and even sometimes went out just so I could earn some extra money. But, more than anything, she listened. To everything. And I was devastated when I lost contact with her.
Over the years I’ve tried several times to find her (no, everyone in the world is not on Facebook) to no avail. When I tried again before Thanksgiving, I somehow hit the right combination of whatevers … and there she was. I wasted no time in calling her, wondering if she would remember me. Not only did she remember, but she seemed to be as delighted in reconnecting with me as I was with her. She brought up Tony and said my voice sounded the same. Even after all these years (and we’re talking 43 of them), we were still on the same page. I am so thrilled to have her back in my life and to have the opportunity to get to know her again. It was truly something to top my gratitude list on Thanksgiving. Miracle number one.
And then a sad thing happened. I got word that one of our dearest friends had passed away. He was really my parents’ friend, but he was a man I respected and truly liked when I was a kid. His son called to let us know of his dad’s passing … and this was another amazing reconnection. We hadn’t seen each other since his mom’s memorial service 19 years ago. Before that, I hadn’t seen him since I was in 8th grade (and that’s a LOT of years ago). We had a long conversation by phone, then my brother and I made the long trip to the memorial service where Danny and I were able to give long hugs and actually look at each other. We had spent so much time together as kids. We were the same age, and we were both “only” children (until my brother was born). We played Beatle records, roller skated, and spent hours and hours playing The Green Hornet with him starring as Kato. And we laughed. And laughed. Though we were initially “forced” together by our parents’ friendship, we became good friends. Then we were transferred to Newport, and his family was transferred to Northern Ireland. And we had no connection until his mom passed away. Such is Navy life.
We have marveled at the depth of our reconnection and are pretty sure we’ve figured it out. This time we’re both believers. We understand each other in a way we never did before. There’s something sobering about looking at another human being and knowing that person has come to the same understanding of need and hopelessness without God and has surrendered to Jesus, believing on Him as Lord and Savior. There’s a connection between us that can only come about by the work of the Holy Spirit. We were friends way back then, and now we’re even better friends. Miracle number two.
And then last week I was celebrating a dear friend’s birthday at lunch. Into the restaurant walked someone I hadn’t seen in almost 30 years. I recognized him right away though he had grown a tremendous white beard. Of course he had. His hair is a beautiful white, and it’s Christmas. He always loved playing Santa, and it just seemed so right. Amazingly, he recognized me and came over to the table. What a sweet treat! We had been such good friends all those years ago, but circumstances and changes in location did what so often happens. But now we’ve reconnected. Miracle number three.
And so the word for this season (literally and of my life) is reconnection. One definition of “to reconnect” is “to meet or come into contact again after a long absence.” How perfectly that describes what has happened to me these past few weeks. And I feel like holes in my life have been plugged. (Okay, that’s not a very elegant way of describing it.) Joy has been multiplied. Anticipation has re-awakened.
Isn’t that what this time of year should be about? Advent. Christmas. A time of reconnecting—not just with friends and family—but with our Savior. A time to again look to the One who journeyed from the wood of the manger to the wood of the Cross. For us. A time to reflect on Who He is and what He’s done. The greatest miracle of all.