Be still and know that I am God.
Psalm 46:10

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Merry Christmas from Heaven

Christmas was my Mom's favorite time of year. She just loved everything about this season from the decorating, shopping, wrapping ... all of it! The Christmas music of Elvis Presley and the like would start right up after Thanksgiving and play nonstop. She'd start shopping and wrapping and hiding gifts long before the holiday, like a busy little elf.

Plus, she took great pleasure in always writing "From: Santa" on each present and would never, ever fess up to the truth.

Even as adults when we all voted to stop gift exchanges for us & just focus on the kids, she'd protest mightily. It simply brought her great joy trying to find that perfect gift for her loved ones. Gift cards or cash just wouldn't do. She put much thought into each gift ... each person ... trying to find that perfect gift that would light up their face.

Interestingly enough, she was never concerned with what or if she got anything in return. Kind of a 'mom thing' I think. But ... of course! We loved seeing her face light up when someone bought her a new bell to go into her curio cabinet or a new pair of her favorite colored (blue) pajamas.

It didn't take much to bring a smile to her face at this time of year that was always so nice to see.

I miss her more during December than at Mother's Day since her death in 2007.  Maybe it is because her birthday was on the 14th or maybe it is because when I think back over my childhood, my very best & happiest memories were at Christmastime.

Christmas is just different if you've lost a parent(s) to death or otherwise. It feels like there is this big puzzle, and a piece is missing. Because there is something missing. 

There is nothing else that can fill it.

My loss reminds me that there are many others experiencing this same sadness at this time of year. Just a few weeks ago, a fitness instructor at the gym I go to announced her father had passed away from terminal cancer. I ran into her a few days ago and knew the only words I could say were I understand and You aren't alone. With tears in both of our eyes, we connected, in a way, that only those experiencing this type of loss can truly understand.

Amongst all of the fun, happy music, shopping & wrapping, and the baking of cookies ... it reminds me that behind the smiles there are many hurting hearts. That just "maybe" the store clerk's lack of a smile goes beyond just job stress and irritation.

That's when I try to offer a kind hello and a smile. Just because. And most of the time, it does the trick.

Pure, sweet, simple kindness has a way of doing that.

So as we put up our "real" Christmas tree this year, and I pulled out my old familiar picture ornament of my Mom to hang up, I was reminded of this poem that I wanted to share with you. If you are missing a loved one this year, I hope it brings you comfort, too.

Merry Christmas from Heaven
I still hear the songs
I still see the lights
I still feel your love
on cold wintery nights

I still share your hopes
and all your cares
I'll even remind you to please
say your prayers

I just want to tell you
you still make me proud
You stand head and shoulders
above all the crowd

Keep trying each moment
to stay in His grace
I came here before you
to help set your place

You don't have to be
perfect all the time
He forgives you the slip
If you continue
to climb

To my family and friends
please be thankful today
I'm still close beside you
In a new special way

I love you all dearly
now don't shed a tear
Cause I'm spending my Christmas
with Jesus this year.
~John Mooney
Missing you Mom!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Christmas Like a Child

Just the other day on the way home from school we were passing a park, and both Megan and Luke said, "Hey, can we play there?" Surprised me as it was obviously for much smaller children & I didn't think they cared about stuff like that anymore at their ages of almost 13 and 8. And the truth be told, I really didn't want to stop and it was cold! I had a long list of things I needed to get done at home, but instead I thought Why not?

I let them out to play and watched from the car as they took in every last slide & swing. They played tag over & over. They laughed and got along (trust me, this isn't an ordinary occurrence!). As I watched them play, tears came to my eyes because of how fast time goes. Wasn't it just yesterday that they were toddlers? Preschoolers?

But more importantly, my tears were for what they were teaching me as I watched them play. I took in their childlike wonder & excitement about Life. Their ability to just drop everything and play. Something that just doesn't come naturally for me. Children have this incredible ability to be in the here and now. They aren't concerned or worried about yesterday or tomorrow or their "to do lists." They look at life from many different eyes than we do as adults.

I then began to wonder: When does it all change? and Why does it need to? and Why is it so hard to get back to that place once we are adults?

What they taught me that day was to not put things off. I've spent the majority of my life dealing with chronic illness. I've told myself many times that once I feel better, I will ... Or once Lyme disease has finally taken a hike, I will ... but honestly what I learned from that day watching them is that there is no time like the present. The things that I think are so important can wait.

What I do know for sure is the next time they want to stop at a park, even if it's in the middle of winter, I am definitely going to get out of our van and go down those slides with them whether I feel like it or not. I will get on that swing next to them and see who can go the highest! I will play tag with them and let them win. And I will probably drag Matthew along just because. :)

I don't want to miss a thing. Those are the moments that will matter at the end of my life.

This park experience reminded me that I wanted to experience this 2011 holiday season, in the same way, as I hope it does for you, too. Take time to slow down during this busy time of year and take in the simple things. The things that really matter. To stop and reflect & remember the true meaning of the season.

Take a moment to pause and take in that pine smell of a real Christmas tree (unless you're allergic!) or stop at that beautifully decorated home all lit up and let it bring joy to your heart. Or maybe make that special person a homemade gift instead of just picking something off the shelf. Or put your "list" aside and instead spend time with your loved ones.

Take some time to get down on bended knee at that manger scene & give Praise and Thanks for Jesus, who is the Gift. Sing that old familiar Christmas song with all of your heart & soul like you mean it.

I write this post on my 17th wedding anniversary to Mark. And even though today's weather doesn't even compare to how it was 17 years ago (it was a beautiful 50 degree day & no snowstorm!), but instead looks like much rain ahead, I think I will ask him to take my hand & take me for a stroll around our neighborhood.

And we will for sure stop and take in all of the Christmas decorations and maybe stop and chat with our neighbors. We will talk about the past 17 years and all that we've been blessed with. And I  will let the rain fall on my face & soak my shoes & I will not complain about it for one second.

Because I have everything I need.

Please take a moment to enjoy this video from Third Day. You'll need to "pause" my music player first. My wish for you this season is that you, also, experience Christmas Like a Child and are able to slow down & take it all in.