This year, New Year's Day hardly even registered with me. It was lost in a dizzying string of days of diapers and nursing and onesies and everything in between. We stayed up until midnight New Year's Eve, but not by choice. But the new year didn't arrive completely unnoticed. I stopped long enough to think about all the hope and fear that I had in my heart one year ago, and how it's been replaced by a whole different kind of hope (and fear!) as I sat with my beautiful baby girl in my arms.
December started out as a season of waiting. I had finished my job the week before Thanksgiving, which then left me with what turned out to be three weeks at home, very pregnant and very antsy for Baby to arrive. Advent took on a whole new meaning as I reflected on the coming of another baby, and all the blessed hope that arrival brings. We went to the annual Andrew Peterson Christmas concert, waiting. We read our Advent devotional every day, waiting. I even welcomed a new niece, Lyla, who arrived 8 days before her due date. And I waited. I wrapped presents and watched Christmas movies. Matthew and I decorated our tree and made cookies for our neighbors. It was a beautiful season, really, even though it was hard. As my due date came and went, I faced a daily battle for patience and against anxiety. And then finally, 8 days after my due date, she somehow arrived. Our quivering, beautiful, miracle of a baby girl, Noelle Helen, was here.
From that moment on, I forgot it was Christmas. It's a good thing the gifts had all been bought and wrapped and the decorations up, because by December 13 everything else in life was gone, it seemed, except for this little baby. We went in to hibernation mode, recovery mode, survival mode, trying to figure all of this out. Frankly, we're still there.
But there have been moments when we've been able to come up for air just long enough for God to show us some beautiful things. We were able to travel to Iowa for Christmas to celebrate with both of our families, and it was a joy to be together and to introduce everyone to our little Christmas baby. Even though I was sleep deprived and an emotional wreck, I'm so glad to have the memories - of Noelle and Lyla side by side under my parents' Christmas tree, of all of our nieces gushing over their new cousin at Matthew's parents' house, of holding my daughter in my arms as we opened up gifts of cute little dresses and stuffed animals and "Baby's First Christmas" ornaments. Even though she won't remember a thing, her mommy will always remember Christmas 2013 with fondness.
And Christmas Eve itself... beautiful. Our friend Laura goes to the church in Elkhorn where we often go to a lot of concerts (AP's Christmas show among them)... The church was looking for newborns to play Jesus in their various Christmas Eve services, and Laura thought of us. In addition, Laura actually works long distance for Eric Peters, and invited him to town for Christmas Eve to be a part of the services. Thinking about how much his music meant to me this year, I still can't get over how special it was to talk with Eric, to have him meet Noelle, to share the stage with him at the end of this, our "new year".
We were backstage for most of the service, picking up bits and pieces over the speakers while getting in to our Mary and Joseph garb and getting Noelle "milk drunk" so she'd sleep the whole time she was on stage (and she did!). We were chit chatting with people when I heard a woman singing a song that sounded familiar but took awhile to place. Once I finally recognized it, I stopped and started to cry. It was what I call a "first trimester song", Plumb's "Need You Now". Back in April and May, when I was crazy-fearful at the start of this pregnancy, I had made a mixed CD that I played in my car and my iPod constantly. This CD was a mix of songs about hope and how God is always at work even in the hard times. Kristine had texted me during this time to tell me that she heard "Need You Now" on the radio and thought I needed to hear it too. So I bought it and added it to the mix. I would listen to it on repeat in the kitchen, singing and crying in desperate prayer as I fought to hold on to God in the midst of the fear and the waiting of that first trimester. "How many times have You heard me cry out 'God, please take this'? And how many times have You given me strength to just keep breathing? Oh, I need You, God I need You now." Hearing this song as part of the Christmas Eve service was so unexpected and so personal. I'll never forget it. It made a special night all the more beautiful.
The time came to take the stage. We knew nothing about the context of the skit we were a part of, nor of the music that was planned. All we knew was that a woman would be holding Noelle for awhile during "the song". We did not know that "the song" was going to be "Behold the Lamb of God", the title track from AP's Christmas album. If I hadn't been on stage, I would've wept during the whole thing. I was in awe as Eric and the others sang the song around us, as I watched my beautiful little girl while also reflecting on the glory of the magnitude of the Christmas story. I was humbled and amazed, my heart full of wonder and praise at the goodness and grace of God. Here's a video that Laura took for us:
And... I really don't know how to end this. To be honest, it's a wonder I was able to write anything relatively coherent in the first place. So, instead of words, I'll leave you with this:
Happy New Year from Matthew, Nicole, Noelle and Olive the cat!