Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas 2012

Well, we seem to have made it. Our first Christmas without Chris. There were some hard moments--more than I expected, actually. And there were many sweet moments--spent with family and friends. I hope your Christmas was blessed this year, as well.

Erika and I had our family (of 2) Christmas on Christmas Eve. We read the Christmas story (from the shepherds' perspective) from her Jesus Storybook Bible. The angel ornament ("Hope") was a gift from a sweet friend, who is also walking through her first Christmas without her husband...
Dad kept a fire burning downstairs for us throughout the days of Christmas.

We ate lots of yummy food (this is Erika enjoying Nana's Christmas morning brunch)

and were loved completely (with cousin Audrey).

Erika lets her uncles know when she needs some male attention...and they happily give it every time.  Thanks, guys. I love you for this.
(Uncle Steve above, Uncle Jake below)

Thank you to our friends and family, who treated us so tenderly this Christmas season. You prayed for us, sent us cards, and gave us sweet gifts. We love you more than we can express with words.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas..With Joy and Pain

Bells Across the Snow

O Christmas, merry Christmas!
Is it really come again,
With its memories and greetings,
With its joy and with its pain?
There's a minor in the carol,
And a shadow in the light,
And a spray of cypress twining
With the holly wreath to-night.
And the hush is never broken
By laughter light and low,
As we listen in the starlight
To the "bells across the snow."

O Christmas, merry Christmas!
'Tis not so very long
Since other voices blended
With the carol and the song!
If we could but hear them singing
As they are singing now,
If we could but see the radiance
Of the crown on each dear brow;
There would be no sigh to smother,
No hidden tear to flow,
As we listen in the starlight
To the "bells across the snow."

O Christmas, merry Christmas!
This never more can be;
We cannot bring again the days
Of our unshadowed glee.
But Christmas, happy Christmas,
Sweet herald of good-will,
With holy songs of glory
Brings holy gladness still.
For peace and hope may brighten,
And patient love may glow,
As we listen in the starlight
To the "bells across the snow."
Frances Ridley Havrgal

We miss you, Chris.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Merry Christmas Infant

I remember that first Christmas season as a mom... three years ago. Erika came to us just before Thanksgiving, which means she was so very tiny on baby's first Christmas.

 I was struck by her complete dependence upon others. She was so fragile. So needy. So completely helpless.
And I read, "He was made in the likeness of men" (Phil. 2:7). Jesus was like this? Dependent, fragile, needy, helpless? God became a baby? Emmanuel. God with us. The infant God!
Humility in its purest form.
And not only did God become a newborn, but this newborn was born to die—a newborn sacrifice.
I heard a sermon (by Alastair Begg) last week called "Comfort and Joy." He told a story of an ornament he received as a gift. It was a nail with a ribbon tied to the top. He said simply about this powerful reminder, "without the nails, there would be no ribbons to deck our halls."
MacArthur shares this meditation which I've carried with me this Christmas season (forgive me if you've already heard this from my lips):
Here's a side to the Christmas story that isn't often told: those soft little hands, fashioned by the Holy Spirit in Mary's womb, were made so that nails might be driven through them. Those baby feet, pink and unable to walk, would one day walk up a dusty hill to be nailed to a cross. That sweet infant's head with sparkling eyes and eager mouth was formed so that someday men might force a crown of thorns onto it. That tender body, warm and soft, wrapped in swaddling clothes, would one day be ripped open by a spear.
Jesus was born to die.
Don't think I'm trying to put a damper on your Christmas spirit. Far from itfor Jesus' death, though devised and carried out by men with evil intentions, was in no sense a tragedy. In fact, it represents the greatest victory over evil anyone has ever accomplished. (Truth for Today, December25)
As a mom, Mary seems to have been shielded from the details of what was to come for her Son. At least at first. But Simeon told her (when Jesus was an infant) that a sword would pierce her own soul when the Messiah did what He came to do (Luke 2:34-35). I wonder what she thought when she heard that?
And now because He came to die, I do not fear death. There is no punishment waiting for me. He was the ransom, the payment, the sacrifice. Once and for all.
And THAT is why we can truly say, "Merry Christmas."

(Photography by who else? Emily Steffen)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Chili, Robbery & Hope

Tonight is my parents' annual Christmas chili party (the guest list is different every year, so don't be offended if you're not on it this year!). Last year on this weekend, I was in a very dark spot. Chris taught his very last day (December 16th) at school. He was declining quickly. We barely made it out the door for the party amidst all his pain. And not two steps in the door at Mom and Dad's, our neighbors called.

Someone had broken into our house. Came in through the kitchen. Rifled through the desk, the medicine cabinet, and every drawer in my dresser. Did not seem to set foot in Erika's room. We turned around and went back to the house to survey the damage and talk to police.

Chris' wedding ring (which he was not wearing since it no longer fit him due to his significant weight loss), a flash drive, an ipod, my decoy jewelry box (yes, it was my own idea and it worked--sort of proud of that), and all of Chris' narcotics for pain. Gone. It felt like insult added to injury. Lord, we need this too? How much more can we take?

We took this at the chili party last year...I don't much like it. Chris looks so very ill
 And then, he started hospice care on December 21st.

People are worried about me this Christmas. My first without Chris. But, my spot is not nearly so dark as it was last year. Sure, I'm a bit worried about how all the festivities will go without that third member of our family. But, last year we had a very dark cloud hanging over us. We knew it would be his last Christmas, and he was absolutely miserable and in pain through all of the events. It was no celebration at all. It was deep, deep grief.

This year, there are twinges and aches and missing. But there is healing and hope.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Mueller for Christmastime

For sixty-two years and five months I had a beloved wife, and now, in my ninety-second year I am left alone. But I turn to the ever-present Jesus, as I walk up and down in my room, and say "Lord Jesus, I am alone, yet not aloneThou art with me, Thou art my friend. Now, Lord, comfort me, strengthen me, give to Thy poor servant everything Thou seest He needs." And we should be not satisfied till we are brought to this, that we know the Lord Jesus Christ experimentally, habitually to be our Friend: at all times, and under all circumstances, ready to prove Himself to be our friend.  George Mueller 

I love this. Unlike Mr. Mueller, I did not spend two-thirds of my life with my spouse, but his words ring true and real.

For the grieving person, time is so significant. He says he was married not sixty-two years but sixty-two years and five months.

And I appreciate and know so well the feeling of feeling so very aloneso without the one I thought would always be thereyet feeling so upheld by Jesus. In a way I have never felt before.

I've paced and wondered and fearedwalked "up and down in my room." I've asked "why me?", "how can I do this alone?", "will I always be alone?", "I'm too young to be alone!", "Doesn't my girl need a dad?"

And I love his prayer. Lord Jesus, you are my friend! My friend! Comfort me, strengthen me, give me everything YOU see that I need. Many times, I feel I have so many unmet needs. But He supplies all my needs, so they must not truly be needs. Not yet anyway.

This Christmas season has me a bit fearfulnot a lot, but a bit. It's the unexpected things that make me so aware of Chris' absence. This past weekend, I watched The Nativity Story. I did not remember until I watched it alone that Chris used to translate all the Hebrew for me... He was not there for me to ask, "what are they saying?" He enriched my life in so many big waysbut lots of small ways too. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Nine months

Three-quarters of one whole year. And Erika and I are doing really well. We are enjoying life, our many blessings, the Christmas season, and fun! We laugh a lot. And we talk about Daddy a lot. And when Vince Guaraldi music comes on the Christmas station, Erika shouts, "It's Charlie Brown, Mom!" Chris would be so proud. Here's his favorite part of A Charlie Brown Christmaswhat Christmas is all about.

I hope you all are enjoying your gifts and blessings this Christmas season. Much love to you all.