We spent our first Christmas away from home, far from our families as we cared for our son with special needs. To my surprise, it was a wonderful. Here's why.

Our first Christmas away from home was also my first one as a parent.

My husband and I lived in a small, remote town. Our town was surrounded by ranches. Cattle and sheep outnumbered people by the thousands. Taking our sick and struggling baby to the doctor required a 240 mile round trip, and winter travel could be treacherous. Traveling hundreds of miles to be with my parents for Christmas was out of the question. I thought celebrating Jesus’ birthday away my parents and extended family would be horrible. I was wrong.

Our first Christmas away from home was hard. But it wasn’t horrible.

It wasn’t horrible because the people in our small town made room and invited us into their homes that Christmas. It wasn’t horrible because friends oohed and aahed over our baby and declared him a fighter. It wasn’t horrible because the doctor released our baby from one therapy and removed a piece of nasty hardware the therapy had required. It wasn’t horrible because though we were walking a parenting path different from what we had anticipated, we were still parents of an adorable baby boy.

Our first Christmas away from home was hard. It was also wonderful.

After months filled with our son’s surgeries, hospital stays, and doctor visits, while working full time, Christmas vacation was our first chance to reflect since we became parents. As I changed our baby’s diapers, I pictured Joseph and Mary caring for their baby in a small, remote village. As our car bumped down snow-packed gravel roads on the way to the doctor, I imagined how uncomfortable Mary’s donkey ride to Bethlehem must have been. As we passed herds of cattle and sheep feeding on hay bales in winter pastures, my nose wrinkled and my eyes watered thinking of the stench in the stable where Jesus was born. As I met my baby’s bright-eyed gaze, I could hear the shepherds oohing and aahing over the precious new life in the manger.

Our first Christmas away from home was hard. It was also humbling.

As a new mom who had nearly lost her newborn son, I ached for Mary’s future sorrow when she would watch her Son die. Having watched my baby endure great pain, I cringed for what Christ would experience on the cross. For the first time I understood the magnitude of the sacrifice by which God set sinners free. My heart was pierced with new understanding, and I was humbled by the sacrifice wrought for me. That year, for the first time, I celebrated our Savior’s birth under the shadow of the cross.

To read the rest of this post, visit Key Ministry’s blog for parents raising kids with special needs.

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