Of all my memories of Christmas with Jolene, the year 1995 has to stand out.
I was heavily involved with the music ministry at our church. Our leader, Ruth Bartel, invited me and another person to help her write the Christmas program. We came up with the idea of "Home for Christmas." Each of us wrote a skit about Christmas in different periods of history, accompanied by appropriate music. We scrounged for actors from our small congregation, and Jolene got to play a part. It was a simple story, about a person who received Christ at Christmas as a child, returned from war at Christmas, and went home to heaven also at Christmas.
I don't remember exactly what her character did. But participating in memorizing her lines, listening to the story and music, brought home the gospel message in a very personal way. She was ten at the time.
The following Saturday, she came running down the stairs at our house, frightened from a nightmare. "I don't want to go to hell!" She fell into my arms, sobbing.
(Now, I'm not sure what brought that fear on. Although I believe in a literal hell, neither the church nor I taught about salvation as fire insurance.)
Nevertheless, God was moving in Jolene's heart. We talked again about how Jesus came so no one had to go to hell. He paid the price for her sins on the cross, and all she had to do was believe in Him. She wanted to call the pastor.
Pastor Bob Moneypenny (who took part in her funeral service) led her to Christ. He told us how he had just returned from the bedside of an elderly saint who had just gone home to glory. Jolene always linked the two events; one person absent from the church on earth while another one was added. Her.
Jordan's birth feels the same way, of course. One person close to me absent from the earth; another added. I can see Jolene up in heaven, nodding her head and smiling.
Christmas was Jolene's new birthday, when she was born into God's family. I rejoice in that memory even while I grieve. Because Jolene made that choice, I know I will see her again.
On my first day back at work, I listened to a Christian music station. On the way to work, Mercy Me sang I Can Only Imagine. On the way home, someone sang a new song about coming home for Christmas. After that, I turned off the radio. Jolene is home, but she won't be at my home this year.
God has been meeting with me in ways large and small. Thank you for reaching out, for your continued prayers.