When it was my turn, I talked about the wonderful Christmas Carol Sing-along we had had at Whispering Winds the previous Sunday afternoon. I described what it was like to have a group of 21 people gathered together at our retreat house, singing Christmas carols for a couple hours, and enjoying the anticipation of once again celebrating the birth of the Christ Child and God's love for us.
One of the women asked me several questions about what Whispering Winds is like, and then asked me if I knew about another retreat center not far from Madison. At first I said no, that I didn't. But then, as she described it, I realized she was talking about my niece's home. My niece and her husband have a remodeled farmhouse and a large beautifully landscaped yard that they use for various church groups and youth camping events. My niece and her husband are foster parents and have adopted three of the children they have cared for. One of them is this woman's son. All nine of us sitting around the circle were amazed at this God-wink - the what a small world it is discovery.
This woman has been in and out of jail several times over the past ten years. When she saw how lovingly my niece and her husband cared for children in their home, and when she learned that they were willing to adopt her son, she made one of the toughest decisions of her life. She decided to forfeit her parental rights so that her son could become their son. She knew that she would not be able to care for him for the next year or two while she served time in prison. She loved her son so much that she wanted what would be best for him, even if it meant sacrificing her parental rights.
She asked me to be sure to tell my niece that we met, and to let them know how thankful she is that they have adopted her son, and that they are letting her still be involved in his life. She is hoping to be able to send them all a Christmas card this week.
When I talked with my niece about this God-wink she said God's ability to put pieces together is truly amazing. She said that they have been praying for God's protection for her. She has a wonderful heart, but keeps getting pulled back into trouble, despite her best intentions.
We are now in the fourth week of Advent. The theme for this week is love. Can you imagine a love so great that a mother would give up her parental rights for the good of the child? Or, can you imagine a God who loves us so much that He gave His Son for us? As the Bible says, Faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. [I Corinthians 13:13 NRSV]
Once again, God's love is made visible in jail.