The Ornaments of Christmas Past

In the early morning hours when I cannot sleep, I love coming downstairs, snuggling under my Christmas blanket, and sit in the warm glow of the Christmas tree. The blue lights hung around our front door and palm tree outside shimmer through the frosted windows. We have a new gold star as the crowning glory of our tree, casting just the right amount of light. Wrapped around the base of our tree is a gorgeous hand quilted tree skirt I received as a wedding shower gift.

As with many families, our ornaments have memories attached to them. There are ones we have purchased at each new place we traveled to, ornaments celebrating Matt and my first dating Christmas(1985), first married Christmas, Sara’s first Christmas (23 years ago!), and some ornaments from close friends, such as one that I received (from close friends of my parents- that now celebrate Christmas in heaven) when I was 8 years old(I will not say how many years ago that was) 😊

Each year Matt hangs ornaments that he actually painted as a child. Unfortunately, I have very little ornaments from my childhood. The one ornament I have is of gingerbread angels and gingerbread men. It is peeling and probably made with lead paint, but I treasure it just the same.

(Matt’s painted ornaments)

When I look at it, I’m reminded of the very first gift I chose and paid for all by myself. I was in first grade and our school library had a small craft fair. I remember being so proud that I bought my parents a gift with my very own quarter (yup that’s what it cost). My treasure of a find was a small glass snowman with a black hat and a green scarf. I remember how happy and surprised my parents were when they opened it. They hung it on the tree every year. I loved how it sparkled when placed just so in front of the string of tree lights. Sadly, I no longer know where it is since circumstances prevented me from having the ornaments from my childhood.

This Advent season amidst the waiting, the hope and joy of the Christmas season, there’s also loss and hearts needing to be healed. I will of course be missing my mom and my Godfather (who I can’t believe have been gone 5 and 6 years respectively). It’s only 7 months since my Dad passed away and a few weeks ago, we unexpectedly lost someone very dear to our hearts. She “adopted” my family nearly 12 years ago when she learned we had just moved to NC and I was so far away from family for the very first time. Her family(her husband and daughter-my bestie) then became family to us as well.

To be honest, I’m grieving and the idea of having merriment eludes me at times. I try to hide it, but I’m clinging to my faith- sometimes grasping at it so tightly, hands clenched, white knuckled in prayer (at least they would be if my hands were better). Yet, I also feel guilty because there are some wonderful possibilities opening up for me, so I should be rejoicing in that. But if I’m rejoicing, shouldn’t I be grieving? My emotions love to play this ping pong match with my heart. I have been trying to think about how my loved ones would have reacted to these future possibilities, and that makes me smile. I’m hopeful when I recognize the joy in these grace filled moments.

Although I may not have all the physical ornaments of my childhood, I do have memories of them boosted by some blurry pictures of the Christmas tree from my childhood. But, more importantly I have memories of my parent’s smiles when they opened that messily wrapped snowman package (those of you who know me well, know that my wrapping skills have not improved and I can’t even blame RSD for that). 🙂

Snowman circled in blue near teddy bear

I know that no matter what gift may be under the tree or hanging on it- like my precious quarter bin snowman ornament – a physical present can never replace a person’s presence. So, tomorrow I will delight in sharing my fond, loving memories of past Christmas celebrations with our loved ones. I hope I can be the peace that someone else may need with my presence as we grieve, reminisce, and smile together on Jesus’ birthday.

Wishing you & your loved ones a blessed, joyous holiday season, enjoying each other’s presence, along with a healthy, peace-filled New Year! I look forward to sharing my November experience at the United Nations and other exciting news in 2020! 

Waiting to be Found

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Have you ever searched all over the house to look for a lost item, say, your checkbook? Worse yet you know you recently had it in your hand. Maybe, something caught your attention along the way and you placed it down. Perhaps it’s the moment you remembered that you needed the extra extension cord for the Christmas tree. Since you have forgotten to look for one the past week, you decide to search for it immediately.

Of course the place you could swear you saw it last year-nope, no longer there. As you ponder where it could be, you realize that the mailman will come soon and you need to get that paid bill into the mailbox. Now where did you set that checkbook?

Okay, I confess—that was me earlier this week.

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My family is in the midst of celebrating Advent. Advent is known to be a season of waiting-waiting to celebrate the birth of our Lord and celebrate the joy in waiting for Him to return. Little children are waiting for Santa or waiting for the Elf to give his report from the shelf.

This past Thanksgiving, I found myself waiting and feeling extremely lost—no, not because my husband wouldn’t ask for directions to where we were having Thanksgiving dinner—not this year anyway.

My mother was very ill in the hospital and I have never felt so adrift with worry. Minutes seemed like hours wondering if her body could fight back or if I would lose her. Normally, I would research as much as I could to know what to expect, yet that day before Thanksgiving I found myself paralyzed with fear of the uncertainty of whether she would make it through. Only once I heard from the Specialist that the worst was over and she stabilized, I researched in earnest (you had to see that coming).

Adrenaline pushed me through that critical week and I would be there until the wee hours of the morning. Now for people who do not know me, I turn into a pumpkin after 9pm. So, I definitely knew another source of strength was at hand. I had some of my Tenn. family visiting and she stayed with me at the hospital. Not only was she a comfort to me, but my mother was comfortable with her there because she had known her for many years. She also is an early to bed kind of gal, but she stayed with me. She gently, but firmly pushed me to leave, so I would have strength to continue the next day.

I am very lucky that in addition to receiving the support and strength from her, my husband and daughter, I also have my NC family. My NC family took us in when we first moved here and we knew no one. I can’t imagine my life without them!

They all helped me, each in their own way; to find the where-with-all to push through the emotional pain so I could focus on the best way to help my mother. Eventually the physical pain caught up with me—RSD does not like stress and makes a point to really let you know. I lost some blog posts because I could barely move let alone write a coherent sentence that anyone would want to read.

The thing of it is I had to find the strength and recognize the help God gave to me when I was lost in the, as they say in the South, “hot mess” of it all.

Waiting goes hand in hand with writing. I wait for the right words to strike. Yet sometimes, I find I get too caught up in something sounding perfect as soon as my pen hits the paper (yes, I am old school). I have found that I just need to write what pops into my mind and eventually (sometimes days later), the polished words will come. After all, there is plenty of time for edits, edits, and more edits.

Once I finally completed my, I don’t know, say my 5th or 6th draft of THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM manuscript, the next step was to wait for a response from a query to an agent or editor. During that wait I had wondered, maybe I lost what inkling of writing talent I believed I once had, or worse, maybe I don’t have any at all? Yet the more I thought about it, I came to the conclusion that I am not happy unless I am creating something. I found that I needed to write. My body may have lost some of what it used to be capable of to RSD.  But, I found that my brain did not have to be lost along with it!

When I stopped searching for perfection and released some of my fear of making mistakes, I wrote at my best (for me anyway). When I found a Literary Agent, Anna Olswanger, who could see potential in my manuscript, it was an early Christmas gift last year!

My mom still has a long journey ahead with her health, but we are finding strength in our faith and one another.

Oh, and if you are wondering about that missing extension cord- I went out and bought a new one. Guess what I found in another box of Christmas decorations the very next day?

I would love to hear of your ‘waiting to be found’ situation.  Please tell me what happened for you?

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