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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Beauty in Graced Endings

Just when a year seems to be heading for long and dreary...

We are graced with a gift, pure and sweet...{God is good like that}

Great-Grandpa Poppy is smitten!

And so is Grandpa Steve...

Welcome to the world sweet little Violet

You make our hearts smile...
and assure that new beginnings are always possible!

God is all about new beginnings.
{He is good like that!}

Happy New Year...
May you find Grace in the Journey
from Beginning to End.

My Love, Always,

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Hope for a Weary World

Praying Hope and Love over all our loved ones
near and far...

May you feel a Mighty Peace holding you close
this Christmas night!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

A New Christmas Wrinkle...

Losing Mom right before Christmas has become a complicated part of our journey.

Pancreatic cancer didn't care about our wonderful Christmas traditions, nor the pain her death would cause each year as we faced the season without her... these past 5 years have seen our traditions change in many ways as we try to balance the beauty and grace of Christmas with the aching loss we will always feel.

And this year the tightrope of balance has been shaken hard, for after much agonizing, too many health  scares, and oh, so much prayer, Dad has made the decision to move into an Assisted Living Home.

This past month has been an emotional cauldron.

Decisions, questions, tours, talking, praying, discussing... and finally deciding...

Deep breath.  {It will be ok}

Dad has chosen a beautiful new facility just down the street.  And he moved in with a smile born of equal amounts grace and grit. This has not been easy.

We are calling it his apartment... and decorating like mad... making it home... learning new names to go with new faces... developing new routines... finding our footing...

It would seem that Christmas in our family is destined to be colored by change.  Even as I long for those traditions that comfort and soothe, we are breaking from the old and preparing for the new...

And a lightbulb blinks on in this weary head of mine... for that is exactly what Christmas is all about... yes?

A Christ-Child born to us... come to make all things new... for the old will pass away in the light of his wholly transforming gift of Grace.

 "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature:
old things are passed away;
behold, all things are become new."
 II Corinthians 5:17

Amen... Amen... Balm to this aching heart...

{It will be ok!}

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

It's Ok to "Lean Out" this Christmas...

Every now and then a word can bring peace to a troubled soul...

And if you are feeling the weight of this special season {and not the magic}, then perhaps Laura's story from over at The Grief Toolbox will resonate just a bit:

When It's Not 'The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.' 

"Ten years ago, while grieving the sudden loss of my father, I decided to actively avoid the build-up leading to Christmas. Thanksgiving had nearly done me in, and I couldn’t handle an entire month of cheer accompanying another grief milestone.

My plan? Avoid the mall. Or any store that might play Christmas music. Only buy presents for my immediately family. No wrapping — just gift bags. Don’t open any mail that looked like a Christmas card. Don’t decorate. Definitely don’t watch any Christmas movies. And for the love, avoid any and all versions of “The Christmas Shoes” at all costs.

My plan worked for about a day. But then my coworkers started listening to Christmas music at their desks. I started receiving e-mails about holiday parties. The stores below my loft were decked out with tinsel and lights. Everyone else was leaning way in to the magic of the season, and I could hardly breathe. What was once my favorite time of year slowly but surely threatened to destroy me.

My grief and depression didn’t manifest itself as sadness. At least, not all the time. It mostly manifested itself as a blackout rage.

The month of December made me furious. For the first time in my life, it was not “the most wonderful time of the year.” It was a mirror, reflecting everything I’d lost.

Every gift from my secret Santa was a reminder that I had one less person to shop for. Every Christmas card a reminder that my family had a gaping hole that would never be filled. Every party was hours of torture for me, trying to appear festive and light while swimming in darkness. I hated it.

Every minute of it.

For many of our friends and family, the holiday season will be the final highlight of a year that included unimaginable joy: a wedding, a birth, a promotion, an exciting new chapter in life. And for just as many, the new chapters might be painful: an illness, a divorce, depression, grief or death.

There are times when “leaning in” to the holidays really can help change your mindset. You fake holiday cheer long enough and eventually you experience the real thing. If that has worked for you, wonderful! I’ve done that, too, and I’ll honestly do quite a bit of that this year.

But for some of us, December might be the most painful month we’ve experienced in an already painful year. It might feel as if there’s nothing worth celebrating, and we’ll feel guilty, feeling like we’re dragging others down. The contrast of joy around us and despair within us will be too confusing. Too bittersweet. Too devastating.

For some of us, this might be the one holiday season in our lives we simply can’t handle. If that’s true for you or someone you love, my message is this: it’s OK to “lean out” this year.
  • You don’t have to decorate your house or put up a tree.
  • You don’t have to send holiday cards.
  • You don’t have to accept any holiday party invitations.
  • You don’t have to buy presents.
  • You don’t have to honor family traditions.
  • You don’t have to be festive and cheerful.
  • You don’t have to succumb to the pressure to make the season magical for everyone else.
Your one job this year is to make it through the season.

Maybe that means December just looks like any other month. Maybe that means you only accept a few holiday invites instead of over-scheduling yourself. Maybe you forgo gift giving and instead volunteer your time. Maybe you reach out to someone else who is hurting, and you quietly acknowledge the season together. Maybe you schedule a vacation and spend the holidays in a new city. If you are religious, maybe this is the year you strip the season down to its origin.

It’s OK to simplify. It’s often crucial to simplify.

This holiday season might just be one painful struggle after another. And it’s OK to acknowledge that and operate accordingly.

It might not be “the most wonderful time of the year,” but you will get through it. And there will be the promise of a new year."

~ Laura Coward, The Mighty

Yes... this magical time of the year isn't always the most wonderful, especially for those walking their own grief out.

Praying we can all be gentle with each other as we navigate this minefield of loss and pain.  God chose to enter into our lives during the darkest of nights in the most lowly of places... he understands our dark and heartache.  And He comes to give us Hope.

May you feel loved wrapped around you this night.

There is Grace enough for this too, Always,

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Hallelujah Christmas

Preparing my heart this Christmas season...

Beautiful lyrics, swelling chorus... for a baby born to us...

May your spirit be lifted this night, as we begin to celebrate...

A Hallelujah Christmas!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Leaping into Brave...

The Grief Journey

5 years ago... Can it really be?

5 years ago, I watched the sun come up through a hospital window as mom lay behind me, still and small, machines beeping, iv's dripping.  I didn't know it would be the last sunrise I would ever see with her...

And we've wandered this grief journey like a rag-tag bunch of homeless pilgrims.  Always seeking our way back to the familiar, the normal, trusting in a God of Big Grace to guide our steps.  We are finding home in a very new normal, with lessons learned, often upon our knees, torn and tear-stained, along the way:

Life goes on... whether we want it to or not.  That's the hard.  In those early days and weeks how we wanted life to stop. {It did stop... without her.}   We were broken, grieving, a mess.  And Grace pulled us back into the land of the living, with tears and love, laughter bubbled again.

Death is final... we can't go back and undo things we've said or done.  How we've longed to turn back time.  No one is ever ready to say Good-bye... we've learned to rest in the gift of those final months, knowing we said a million I love you's... knowing it will be enough to bridge the long walk until we meet again. 

Compassion is the heartbeat of Grace... my heart grieves more tender with those suffering loss.  I have learned to just be there.  Words are so inadequate when a world disintegrates, but arms to hold, shoulders for endless tears and hearts grieving together... this, I am finding, is the language of compassion and love and God's Grace.

Surprising, I have learned to live larger, take chances, find a little brave... This past cruise with Dad found us all on an adventure that simply slays me!  We, literally, leapt into brave...

Truly... Me, afraid of snakes and speaking in public and jumping off high dives... yes, that fearful, cowering me... she leapt off canyon walls and over thundering waterfalls... Seriously {!}  I did that!

Leaping into Brave... perhaps you would enjoy a picture (or two) of our Extreme Canyoning Adventure??

Did I tell you that our Extreme Canyoning Adventure took place on the beautiful Island of Dominica, home to Pirates of the Caribbean film???  Beautiful I say!

First we got suited up... 
{a lot of gear I'm thinking... hmmmm...}

Ready for Adventure

Crash course in rappelling...
{Think I've got this.  Sort of...}

Gorgeous hike thru the RainForest to get to the, ahem, jumping off point.
{Nervous yet?}

Yep, nervous now,
well, actually getting a little freaked out,
that rappelling tutorial back at home base left a few things out!

This is getting real.
{I might have been trying not to throw up... just saying}

Holy Cow!  I made it!
{In one piece... and I'm smiling!}
And you may notice that the group made me go first...What?!
Yes, they figured if I could do it then they could too... Ha!

I may have needed a push for the first Leap into Brave...
{that was a 20 foot waterfall}
No, No, No!

Yes, Yes, Yes!!!

I just did that!

Navigating the current...
We think the water was cold, but none of us can remember.
We were just so happy to have survived the first two challenges!

Our happy and amazing guide!

More Leaping!

More Climbing!

More Waterfalls!

More Amazing!

{That Smile}

We got this now...

Gorgeous RainForest Canopy
High Above Us...

Last one... and it's a beast!
Getting our Brave on in the most spectacular way!


We just did that!

Leaping into Brave
And we survived!!!!

It's very symbolic of the past 5 years... the cliffs, the waterfalls, the hard,
the pain, the fear, the push, the pull of so many loved ones cheering us on...

It is so like our Grief Journey,
and we are making it, one cliff at a time.

5 years of missing... Time and Grace have woven their way through out our days, slowly, but surely walking us home.

Missing mom... I will always, always miss her.  Time has eased that intense yearning to hear her voice and feel her hugs, but I'm learning to allow myself to grieve those moments when nothing will do but to feel her near.

Today is one of those days... the grief digs in... and we know tomorrow the memories will swamp.

Giving ourselves permission to feel her near, and let the tears fall, and miss her so very deeply... and rest in memories forever ours.

My Love, Always,