Do You Hear What I Hear.

Said the night wind to the little lamb // Do you see what I see // Way up in the sky little lamb // Do you see what I see // A star, a star // Dancing in the night // With a tail as big as a kite // With a tail as big as a kite

For my 31st birthday, in December of last year, our family stayed at the German Schmear house in Waco, Texas. For fans of Fixer Upper, this house is a favorite – rustic Texas meets French provincial meets West Elm. Max Lucado’s daughter and son-in-law own this house, and in the master bedroom is a beautiful custom art piece of the blessing that he spoke at their wedding.

For a few days, it is our home away from home. We huddle on the couch in matching family pjs – dark green plaid Hearth & Hand union suits. I happen to have my phone in hand, when Judah, my 11-month old, takes his first steps. He stands first, looking around. I start recording at the same time my heart skips a beat – I know I’ll want to remember this. He takes one small step, then uses his other leg like a lever, swinging it forward straight and strong, his tiny, round face set in bulldog determination. We’re watching now, all of us, and cheering.

“Keep going, bud! You’re walking!”

We watch the video later, and my voice is the loudest one. I see you, big guy, I’m saying. I see you.

Said the little lamb to the Shepherd boy // Do you hear what I hear // Ringing through the sky Shepherd boy // Do you hear what I hear // A song, a song // High above the trees // With a voice as big as the sea // With a voice as big as the sea

We flew into Dallas on a late flight, navigating around the boys’ bedtimes, so we could have an extra night in the German Schmear house.

It is the worst flight I have ever been on. The winter weather is just stormy enough to cause turbulence, and before landing, we make three loops, each plummeting in intervals so hard and so fast that women are screaming prayers and children around us are crying. In my head, I pray, Lord, help us survive this. Out loud, I whine cry to my husband, trying to hide my fear, “Why can’t we just land already?”

The boys, miraculously, sleep through the entire thing.

We disembark, and shakily collect our bags. Outside, as we wait for the rental car shuttle, the rain begins, softly at first, then harder. We’re from Southern California – in other words, unprepared. The boys are awake now. The shuttle arrives, and we squeeze in, cold and wet, when we hear out of the speakers, the Revelation song.

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty. Who was, and is, and is to come.

“Do you hear that?” says Noah.

He recognizes the words from Revelation 4:8, his first memory verse.


Said the Shepherd boy to the mighty king // Do you know what I know // In your palace wall mighty king // Do you know what I know // A child, a child // Shivers in the cold // Let us bring him silver and gold // Let us bring him silver and gold

We must have caught a bug from the airplane travel.

We were sick for three weeks straight. It started as an upper respiratory virus that turned into an ear infection that morphed into bronchitis. We missed three Christmas parties, including one at Nobu (insert all the wailing face emojis here). Noah skipped entire weeks of preschool that we paid for, including his first Christmas chapel. We didn’t make it to Disneyland, where we promised the boys we would go for Judah’s 1st birthday, in lieu of a party.

Instead, we lay huddled in bed, the four of us, shivering and clinging to each other for warmth.

We were together. I forget the rest, wrote Walt Whitman.

Said the king to the people everywhere // Listen to what I say // Pray for peace people everywhere // Listen to what I say // The child, the child // Sleeping in the night // He will bring us goodness and light // He will bring us goodness and light

We’re at the nativity lighting at our church. The scene is high on a hill next to the 5 freeway, in South Orange County, a Christmas reminder to the thousands of cars that pass daily. We’ve seen it in passing, but never up close. After the service, I’m handed a candle that I almost don’t take because I have a one year old on my hip and a three year old ready to impale himself on a candy cane. We wait, and wait, and wait. We are cold, and the mulled cider that was boiling hot when it was poured is now lukewarm at best.

Finally, the lights come on. Impatience turns into wonder. At the top of the hill, the wisemen, the shepherds, Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus glow, colorful and bright.

Now, December 2018, a year later, and we have another baby boy, our happy surprise.

December, 2018.

December, 2018.

We’re celebrating Judah’s 2nd birthday now – we give him the choice between an indoor playground and the beach, and future surfer boy that he is, he chooses the beach. It’s December in Southern California – in other words: sunny, clear, 70 degrees. A dreamily perfect day. We drive down streets with wreaths on the lampposts, and after lunch on the pier and ice cream for dessert, we stop at a ceramics shop.

We’ve come here before, for each of the boys to have impressions done. Today, Judah chooses a horse to paint, like Spirit, his favorite show. We have our last baby boy’s six week hand and foot impressions done. We’re loading the boys into the car seats to head home when we hear the bells  from the church nearby playing O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

Do you hear what I hear.

When we’ve stopped to notice, we see the signs that Christmas is coming. We find the season strung with hope –  where we’ve looked, and when we’ve listened.

God meets us where we are. The place of first steps. The place of fear. The place of sickness. The place of awe. The place of celebration. And into these places, he brings us goodness and light, preparing our hearts for His Christmas gift.

Merry Christmas.

Nativity scene 2014

I wonder what Christmas would be like if we stripped everything else away. I wonder what Christmas would be like if where were no presents that needed to be bought, wrapped, or given out; if there were no holiday parties and no Christmas cookies, no Christmas lights or extravagant traditions. I wonder what Christmas would be like without the full stockings on Christmas morning or the presents under the tree, waiting until December 25 to be unwrapped. I wonder what Christmas would be like if there were just one light, shining in the darkness, onto the manger scene.

This Christmas season has been the simplest one we’ve had together as a family. I don’t even think we’ve been to one holiday party this year. Our gifts were mostly for Noah, mostly keepsake items and things that we would have bought for him anyway in the coming months. Honestly, though, I can’t do without traditions. I’m not a stickler

we’ve passed on seeing

It’s a Wonderful Life

 at the Lido Theater this year because I’m not about to smuggle a newborn into the movies. There was no fancy Christmas brunch, no cinnamon rolls or mimosas. For dinner, we had soup. But there were Minted cards, a glittery, shimmering tree, monogrammed stockings,

Silent Night

 by candlelight.

Most of all, I can’t do without tradition of advent, or without worship on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, and interspersed throughout the season, in those quiet moments as we sip hot cocoa or candy cane green tea. Sharing those moments with my husband and my baby boy have been the most beautiful part of this season for me.

There is nothing like the joy and anticipation of Christmas morning, being woken up by a precious baby who you can’t believe is your own. There is no celebration like the celebration of gifts given to and from loved ones or the meditation of preparing meals from scratch, breaking bread and sipping wine. I will always hold onto the meditative tradition of singing

Silent Night

 by candlelight, our faces lit up by a warm, tiny flame as we sing.

I love traditions for their groundedness, their familiarity, the repetition. Traditions anchor my soul and prepare my heart. They’re a respite from the heartbreak and the violence. They are stepping stones leading to the manger scene, solid and illuminated

. Merry Christmas. 

merry christmas.

[card designed by my BFF]
This Christmas, we're far from home but thankful that we can still celebrate here in China.
Merry Christmas from Ruth & David.