Every other Christmas, I walk on water.
Snow piles up around the orange adobe motel in the mountains of northern New Mexico. Prints from wolves and deer dot the fresh powder. The Brandon cousins arrive en masse and add boot prints of varying sizes from the college grads to the smallest toddlers, delighting to ruffle the almost untouched snow. We trek down to the river, a frozen, twisting snake that winds behind the hotel and through the countryside for miles. Hunter, the youngest by far, struggles to lift his little legs, chunky boots and all, and place them right in the footprints left by the big boys walking just ahead.
We have a system; one established when the first Brandon grandchildren braved the icy river back in 1994. The fearless older boys of the clan tentatively lead the way. A booted foot tests the frozen mass, and eyes judge the color and texture of the ice. We form a human chain and proceed hand-in-hand onto nature’s skating rink, choosing to go right to the cow pond or left toward rapids. When one falls through into the shallow water, the rest scramble to rescue that cousin. Falling in is inevitable and soaked feet a reality. Every year, a new cousin rising to maturity learns the rules of ice walking, marking their initiation in our family tradition.
We gather to celebrate Christmas in this snowy mountain town – doting grandparents, four daughters, and their families. Our heritage of faith dates back generations to the time Nanny and Popoo sang hymns and toted an old organ to their tiny church on the plains of West Texas. Just like we teach little Hunter and those before him how to walk on water, we must teach him what Christmas is truly about, a tradition deeper than the river we love to explore. After a day of walking on water, the lesson is easy to teach.
Hunter crawled into my lap the first Christmas morning he was able to walk on water. The smell of turkey and pie tickled our noses, and the noise of our family filled the air. We giggled about our day on the river while he pleaded to go explore, eager to don his floppy hat and ski bib. And then we talked about the baby of Christmas, the water-walking man.
My cousins don’t struggle to understand becoming part of a family with a Father who loves them. They relate to Him. He’s the One who created the river they walk on and placed them in the family who links arms with them and says, “I won’t let go.”
But unlike the unreliability of their older cousins, the young ones understand that Jesus won’t let them down. His grip won’t slip, and He won’t ever fall in. Even when the ice cracks, their booted foot sinks, and their feet and legs soak with icy water, the baby of Christmas, the water-walking Son of God never lets them go.
-->With a wedding on the horizon, Nick Carmichael and Kaylan Richards prepare to commit themselves to one another and their future together. But for Kaylan, every step closer to the big day brings with it more disaster as she struggles to learn the sacrifice of joining the Navy SEALs. While she gains a new family, she will also gain all the secrets that come with it. In the middle of wedding plans, Nick is called away on one last mission. And this time, he will be forced to cooperate with the woman he fears and hates above all others: his mother and known terrorist, Janus. Putting aside their uncertainty, they battle for their love, for family, and for the boldness to do what is necessary. Victory is possible, but as they come to find, it will only come with surrender.