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Yes, they’re hung.

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Nine children’s stockings are attached to the fireplace with holders (I don’t want to ruin the wood with nails, you know!) David’s and mine will go up Christmas Eve. This time of year, I always think about the babies too who are waiting for us in heaven. There should be five more stockings. I know, bittersweet.

I love staring at the stockings hanging. Each stocking has a story. Each is like a little fingerprint or snowflake- unique, different, special just like the person to whom it belongs. For many years, it was always an exciting time each year when we added another stocking . I hand stitched each with love, although imperfectly.

Stitching the stockings is like being a mother. Just as my efforts are strong in my attempt to be a good mother, I am still imperfect. Just as my effort to stitch the perfect stocking for each child was the very best I could do, each is still imperfect. I don’t worry about either too much now that I am older. It doesn’t matter. There is love infused profusely in both endeavors. I ask God to fill where I lack in my mothering, and I ask Him to fill each individual child’s needs. Each stocking reminds me that I need God’s help with raising and loving each of my unique and special children.

When I was pregnant the very first time, just a few months after David’s and my wedding in 1986, my mother suggested I start to sew a stocking for the new baby. I chose quilted Christmasy material from the fabric store, and began.

I didn’t have much experience sewing, and the stocking was all done by hand. This was before the internet and Google and You Tube videos which could have instructed me expertly how to undertake this new endeavor. I just plugged along and tried to figure it out. I did okay. Not great. Just okay. Some parts of the material were lumpy. Some stitches were uneven, but every stitch was full of love.

Just a week before Christmas it became clear that the pregnancy was in trouble. Each stitch then became  an action of hope and prayer. I whispered Our Fathers and heartfelt murmurings to God  with each needle going in and out. On Christmas Day I lost our child, and David and I mourned. The  stocking was set aside.

A few months later we were pregnant again, this time resulting in the eventual birth of David. I happily cross stitched his name in the red area of the original stocking that would have belonged to someone else- a brother or sister who had no need of it now. Being practical, I gave it to our new son and it became his.

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Fourteen months later, baby Michael came along, and I made another stocking, this time selecting green for the background color. When Caroline was born two years later, I took out the fabric again, but I was winging it and her stocking ended up way bigger than the boys’.  My husband told me not to worry about its size. It is unique. Indeed. More presents fit inside, which suits Caroline just fine.

Matthew’s stocking was next, in 1992. It was stitched while he was just a few months old. We hit some busy years with miscarriages or newborn babies punctuating our lives about every 18 months. Those years the children had stockings at Christmas to hang but it took a long time for me to cross stitch the names: Melissa, Rachel, Theresa, Angela.

Grace still has a blank stocking, and she told me she liked it that way. This year she decided she wanted her name added. I’m happy to oblige.

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Today, tonight, the stockings hang and I think of, and pray for my children. I am grateful for the gifts of their lives in my life. They, with my husband, are my greatest gifts.  And I pray, that just  like the stockings are filled with presents on Christmas morning, that I can always fill my husband and children’s lives with support, generosity and love. We are blessed and overflowing with joy. Thank you, God.

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