Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas Snowflakes

"Like snowflakes, my Christmas memories gather and dance -- each beautiful, unique and too soon gone."
~Deborah Whipp 

I was raised in California where there is no snow at Christmas time. Or any time for that matter.
My first snowy winter was in 1998 as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Montreal, Canada.
I love it.
And I hated it. 
I was mesmerized watching the very first few snowflakes land on the windshield.
Their designs were nothing less than magical.
The way they landed then colapsed, then melted into the tiniest drop you've ever seen.
I could have watched them for days.
I remember driving out in the Frozen Quebec countryside and seeing the sun reflect off the snow, creating a glitter effect that seemed too beautiful to be real.
All of a sudden I understood why they always put glitter on snowy Christmas cards.
I was in a winter wonderland.
The bitter cold that came along with the Canadian winters was a shock to my California bones.
I resented the millions of layers of clothing, the clunky boots, shoveling snow off the car 10 times a day and the frozen nose hairs when I tried to breath.
It was unbearably cold.
I have lived in a snowy climate ever since, and I swore I never would.
Just like back then, I have a love/hate relationship with the snow. 
The road we live on is absolutely astonishing when  it snows, nothing less than a scene from a wintry fairyland movie.
I love how excited my kids get when they wake up to newly fallen snow.
I love to see their cute little foot prints trailing our yard.
I love lopsided snowmen with carrot noses in the front yard.
But the cold still gets to me.
But this is my home.
All of my children were born here, they don't know anything else.
Their Christmases are filled with snow and puffy frozen breath and coats that make us all look like the Michelin  Man.
The memories I have of Christmas here mingles with the Christmases of my childhood.
Being at my grandma and grandpa's house on Baker street.
The sweet smell of my grandfather's pipe, his dog, Shiloh, asleep on the end of his recliner.
Spending all day in the kitchen helping grandma make the Christmas feast.
My job was to wash and cut the fresh green beans for her bacon beans.
I also opened cans of olives and pickles and scrubbed and peeled potatoes.
I remember sitting in the living room by the fire opening presents.
The thrill I felt when that one was for me.
Being raised by a single mom, our Christmases were always very frugal.
Grandma made sure we had a good Christmas.
Sweaters, toys, Avon lotion and lip balm.
Oh, to be transported back to that place and time.
To hug my grandpa again.
To wash dishes with my grandma near my side.
Those memories are sweet to me.
I love to make these new memories for my kids, right here.
I hope their Christmas memories are magical.
I hope the memories they are making right here, right now will stay with them their whole lives long, just as mine have.
I hope you all have A magical Christmas filled with love and laughter and peace.

From our family to yours, 
Merry Christmas!!!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

I Hope They Know, My Letter to the Families in Conneticut

Like everyone in the country that heard the chilling news of yesterday's tragedy, my heart is sick.
Like all of you, I simply can't comprehend.
I really don't know if anything I have to say can possibly make any sort of difference, yet my heart is so full.
I hope the parents of those tiny angels know that the whole nation is grieving with them.
We see the pictures of your babies and our hearts break and we cry with you.
You are not alone in this.
I hope you know the whole nation was praying for you last night and today and tomorrow and for many days to come. 
The words fell from our lips as tears fell from our eyes.
It was hard for us to breath, too.
I hope you know that I don't pretend to know the depth of your grief and pain, I can only imagine.
Actually, I can't even imagine, I'm sure the reality is more horrific than anything I could ever conjure up.
I hope you know we have all hugged our own children a little tighter today and spoken a little gentler.
I hope you know God has your babies in His arms and they are safe now.

painting by David Bowman

I hope you know that we know you'd rather have them in your own arms and you'll feel that pain everyday for the rest of your life.
I hope you know you have a million shoulders to cry on.
But there's One who wants you to come to Him with your grief and pain, for he's really the only one that can give you peace.
I hope you know that you will be happy in this life again, you will.
You may not think so now, but peace will come in the morning.
 I don't pretend to know when the morning will come, but it will come.
I hope you know that Christmas will take on a new meaning for you.
The birth of that tiny babe, with Him was born the hope of a life yet to be.
He came to heal the broken hearted. 
I hope you know that because of that tiny baby born over 2 millina ago  you can have your babies for eternity, families can be together forever through Heavenly Father's plan.
And in despair I bowed my head: "There is no peace on earth," I said, "For hate is strong and mocks the song Of peace on earth, good will to men."...Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: "God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, With peace on earth, good will to men."         ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Be Still My Soul Hymn

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and bless├Ęd we shall meet at last.

Be still, my soul: begin the song of praise
On earth, be leaving, to Thy Lord on high;
Acknowledge Him in all thy words and ways,
So shall He view thee with a well pleased eye.
Be still, my soul: the Sun of life divine
Through passing clouds shall but more brightly shine.

Monday, December 10, 2012

To Every Thing There is a Season

Or so The Bible says.
And I full heartily agree.
In a little over a week we will mark the 5th anniversary of the passing of my dear mother-in-law.
Really, she was more like my real mother, but that's another post for another day.
She went back to her maker just a few short days before Christmas.
We buried her the day after.
That was a heavy year.
All of our hearts were filled with incredible sorrow.
The joy of the season was hard to find, but somehow we managed.
The next year took me by surprise. 
It was entirely more difficult than I had expected.
I felt more like crying than laughing the whole season long.
I had not expected that.
I thought that I would have some sad memories, but that for the most part I would be excited for Christmas and all the fun traditions our family enjoyed.
I had to force myself to be cheerful for the children and to carry on the traditions for their sake, because heaven knows if it weren't for them I would have brushed them off entirely.
In fact all of the holiday seasons since then have been difficult for me.
Until this year.
I heard a Christmas song on the radio a few weeks ago and I found myself jamming out, practically dancing in the car at a stoplight.
I was excited to feel the crispness in the air, to see lights appearing on houses, to decorate our home with my children, to make things for them with my own hands.
It occured to me one day that for the first time in years I was excited for the Christmas season.
Truely, deeply excited, all the way down to my toes.
For the first time I wanted to drink everything in, to feel it all and do it all.
It seemed as if the fog had lifted.
"To every thing there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance"

~Ecclesiastes 3:1&4
I just wish I could have had just a little more time to dance.

Just a few short days after I realized the joy was back in Christmas we got some news that stopped me dead in my tracks.

My most amazing brother-in-law, Brad has been diagnosed with stage IV kidney cancer that has metastasized to his spine and pelvis.

All of a sudden I find myself with only 2 weeks until Christmas and yet again I am feeling the pangs of sorrow and disbelief .

I have taken the children to see the Nutcracker and the lights at Christmas village and even the light parade complete with fireworks.

We have been busily readying for weeks of celebration and fun and once again I feel like the winds have left my sails. We are praying for Brad and nothing less than a miracle will do.

"A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away" 

~ Ecclesiastes 3:6

My prayer is that it's God's will that we keep Brad with us for a good long while, nevertheless, His will be done. At least until he's good and old with many, many children and grandchildren near his side. 

I have prayed this prayer so many times in the last few weeks that my heart aches from praying it. 

As if that were not enough, my sister-in-law, Teresa went in for an appointment with her cardiologist last week and ended up having emergency by pass surgery. They did 6 by passes. I did not even know that was possible.

 Prayers have been answered as Teresa is recovering beautifully. She will get more time to watch her boys grow and to "just keep swimming".

More reasons to dance and to mourn.

But for me the joy is not gone. The wonder on Little M&M's face as she looks at the shining lights of the tree is not lost on me.

The thrill of watching my kids make gifts and secretly hide them away brings that familiar warmth to my heart. 

So with tears in my eyes for a loving Savior who is merciful and kind and so giving, I embrace this wonderful season of birth and life and laughter, right along with the sorrow and pain of it all.

May this season find you all with happy hearts and warm homes.