Christmas day this year felt right. It was wonderful in so many ways. Started the day off in church sharing the Lord’s Supper with our fellow believers – church family. What an appropriate way to celebrate Christ’s birthday by remembering the purpose of His birth. The love He shows us – leaving all the glories of heaven (think about that for a moment), leaving a sinless, holy, painless, tearless, deathless environment for us. To come to an earth filled with sin, hatred, sickness, weeping and death. He knew He was going to be hated, beaten, nailed on a cross, but He came anyway – out of love for us – to give us the gift of forgiveness of sin, to give us the gift of abiding in Him, to give us the gift of eternal life. WOW!
My husband and I then went to Amanda’s grave. I cleared the dead flowers off of it, just in case the kids went by. I do not like them seeing the grave unkempt-shows a lack of respect for her. I want them to know even though she is not there – we care enough to keep it clean. It’s a good reminder that she did live and she did die.
We had lunch at my parent’s home. They were so happy to have just about everyone there. My brother from out of town wasn’t able to come but everyone else was there. Of course, the meal was wonderful. My mom is a great cook. But the best part of the lunch was having the family there together. It is not very often since Amanda died that everyone in town has been around their home. It made them so happy. The kids played in the yard – like cousins do – we adults sat around and talked – going out to watch them play from time to time. You know, they have to show off every now and then. It felt right, it felt good.
Normally, we would have gotten up early and gone to the children’s homes to see what Santa brought them. We’ve always enjoyed watching the excitement on their faces as they run around showing us everything. This year we went after lunch. They were so excited running around showing us their “toys”. It is a happy feeling seeing the happiness in children.
Christmas night our whole family came to our home. It made me so happy – yes, I know circumstances determine happiness – the circumstances/people made me happy! It seemed right, normal. I love giving to my family. I love seeing them open gifts. The pure excitement on the children’s faces – well, it fills me with excitement. But, the best gift, the most exciting part was having all of us together.
I gave each family a box that I hand painted. I started the boxes the Christmas before Amanda died. For some reason, I believe something to do with the Live Nativity, I didn’t finish the boxes in 2014. So, I have looked at those unfinished boxes sitting in my studio since then. At first, I actually looked at them with sadness. After all, there was one less “penguin”. The boxes were a reminder that I didn’t have the opportunity to give Amanda hers. Amanda understood my painting was a small piece of me. The decision to work on something else instead of painting made a difference. Maybe not to her, she could care less right now, but to me it makes a difference – I missed seeing her enjoying it. I missed seeing her receive a little piece of me, my time, my talent, my heart, my love.
I picked up those boxes a few months ago and finished them a couple days before Christmas. It did show me how much I have healed. I couldn’t do it in 2015 but by fall of 2016, I was able to start. I wanted to show my children (yes, including in-laws) how much I do love them. Seems silly I know, childlike in a way. Others probably have no idea how much love I put into the things I paint. They seem so simple. Yet each one is painted out of a heart of love. It’s giving some of my time and energy to them – hopefully, for something they will enjoy for years to come.
These boxes represented something else to me too. As I painted I kept thinking about how the small choices we make in spending our time makes a big difference. One thing small children do not understand is the difference in the way their time is spent makes a difference to someone else. You give a child the choice between doing something fun or spending time with family – most of the time, they’ll choose the fun. They’re kids. As we become older, we realize how important family time is to each other. As “empty nesters”, it makes a huge difference when family is around. Holidays – Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas are enjoyed because our families are with us. Birthdays become more important to us. We want to celebrate each and every one with our families. Funny, but the simple truth is – just showing up to family gatherings and/or being invited to family gatherings makes people happy. It shows them you love them, you are willing to sacrifice some time. Simple. Easy. Meaningful. Loving. Caring.
I also realized something else. No one else can choose who I consider family. I love my “children-in-laws”. I consider them part of the immediate family. I always have and always will. No matter what others may say. It is how I feel and how I have always felt. I love my family with all of my heart. I will do anything within my power for them. My mother is actually the same way. She has always treated my husband as her own. It’s how it should be.
We need people here on earth. God knows it, God planned it. God has not given up on us. God is the one who said we need each other. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. “ Hebrews 10 23-25 This doesn’t just apply to church, it applies to each other too. We should encourage our family and neighbors along the way.
Why the long narrative today? Well, because death changes family dynamics. Death changes holidays. Death changes family gatherings. Through my job I have seen first hand exactly how bad it can get. Many of you have emailed me about your family. The concerns and loss you feel. The divisions. But, it doesn’t have to be bad. It’s easier to forgive strangers than family sometimes. Shouldn’t be that way, we should understand family more than anyone but for some reason we expect more from them. I guess, we know them too well. We read things into situations when we should not. We are less forgiving. I guess because we are around them more. Not sure. But, we should be quick to forgive.
Don’t give up on family. Don’t give in to what others say – they mean well, I think. Say, I love you. Show them. Ask forgiveness where needed. Enjoy time together. Ignore the “shots”. Don’t take “shots”. Don’t walk on egg shells. It’s family. Family should know how we feel. Family should encourage each other. Let’s spend our time well. And never quit inviting those you love to gatherings and events. And never quit attending gatherings and events. We may not agree. We may not approve. But, it’s family.
I will always make mistakes – in what I say, in what I do. I am not perfect but it is not an excuse – it’s a fact. I am a sinner, saved by grace, but not perfect. My family is the same. I love each and every one of them. I always will.
Satan wants to destroy the family more than anything else in this world. We must realize it is Satan at work – causing problems. The death of a child is an easy way for him to get into our families. Having a child die is probably the most difficult thing a person/family can go through. But we have a few things we need to remember – God is the victor. God has power over Satan. Through His power, Satan will be defeated. I am praying the Lord and the Lord only will lead me in every step, every word, every deed. We have to remember – things will get worse in this world before the day of the Lords returning. We have to keep watch and be prepared. Especially we have to guard the family. We have to guard ourselves.
“Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesying. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil. And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” 1 Thes. 5:16-24 (KJV)
God if faithful. God has the answers. We are not alone! Do not allow Satan to destroy. He only has power when we give it to him. God is a Mighty, Powerful God. Pay attention to how time is spent. Time is important, our days, minutes, seconds are numbered. We can make someone happy, encourage them, comfort them – simply by spending some time with them. Pretty simple.
Above all pray, get out of bed and get dressed!
Praying for all of you. Praying for your families. Love to you! Hugs ((()))))
Manda’s Mom #APG