This year

This year

Last year, the holidays didn’t feel very holidayish. This year is turning out somewhat the same.

Partly because any holiday without one so loved as Michael is hard, and partly because we are so much in transition. We’ll be moving the week after Christmas, which means instead of decking the halls this December, we will be packing them. I struggle with that. My most favorite time of the year will pass with hardly an acknowledgement from us. That’s tough.

And more than anything, I will miss our tradition of driving all the way to the mountains to find and cut the perfect tree and bring it home. But all that time, effort and money just to have to tear it down in a frenzy of moving? The sparkly lights are beautiful, but not so much when surrounded by mountains of boxes and rolls of packing tape.

Alas, I am coming to the realization that this year just isn’t our year. Oh, I had grand plans for Christmas — for the decor, the colors, the lights, the wrapping. It was going to be perfect.

Then we moved. And now we’re moving again.

So I’ll save it. All the plans and dreams and beauty. I’ll save it for next year.

And I hope — I pray — that next year we will be in a house of our very own, decorated to the nines with lovely cheer.

Until then, Holidays, you will be missed.

Christmas lights

A strange beast

A strange beast

A thought from Franchesca at Small Bird Studios:

The holidays are a strange beast. On the one hand they are my favorite, favorite time of year. It’s almost like people in general are friendlier, more giving, more forgiving, more compassionate. There is also this unseen magic that fills the streets… On the other hand, they have a way of highlighting all the painful wounds of grief that are so easily ripped open this time of year.

It’s true. I enter this holiday season with equal measures of anticipation and struggle…for so many reasons. Living in a temporary house, with the knowledge that we have to move out before the New Year (with nowhere to go), trying (unsuccessfully) to buy a home, soldiering on without Michael in our lives, celebrating holidays so far away from family.

So many good things, so many hard things. Such a plethora of questions, desires, and hurts on our hearts right now. But above them all, the will to follow our Lord with joy and thanksgiving.

This season is, indeed, a strange beast.

Today

Today

I don’t have my usual Wednesday post…there has been no knitting and little reading going on in the past week. Unfortunately, after moving just two months ago, it now appears we’ll have to move again. Before the end of the year.

I’m no stranger to moving, but this one sort of took us by surprise. The house that we are living in has been for sale for nearly 2 years. When we moved in, we knew that it was for sale (which is how we managed to get a month-to-month lease). And, lo and behold, it sold. The buyers really liked our “presentation,” or so they said. Does that mean we should get a commission for this?

Now we are not only looking for a place to buy, but we’re also back to looking for a place to rent in the meantime (monthly, of course). It’s a frustrating turn of events.

So today, as I’m working on some Christmas related communications for work, I’m cranking up the Christmas music and sipping hot chocolate flavored with Girl Scout Thin Mint creamer, determined not to think about how this move will affect our holiday celebrations.

After all, God is in control. Always.

hot chocolate

A seed of hope for Easter

A seed of hope for Easter

Spring flowers

I wasn’t sure how I would feel about Easter, considering the recent tragic loss our family has endured. Thanksgiving and Christmas were hard–both because they came on the heels of our loss and because they are supposed to be such joyous occasions. But Easter…it was hard to anticipate.

It turns out that Easter was like a reflection of what our lives have been. A lot of sorrow, humility, heartache mixed with a seed of hope. And I pray that just like Easter, this journey will also come to a place of joy and victory.

The weekend also reflected these feelings…there were pockets of productivity, moments of rest with friends, and a few hours of hopeful togetherness. The weather began chilly, damp and drizzly, but with a break in the clouds and a burst of warmth on Easter afternoon.

We took full advantage of that moment of hope and took the pup out for a mini-adventure. A new park is pure bliss for Ginger. But amid her excitement, even she had to stop and smell the flowers. Because Spring is coming, full of hope and promise, with a few cloudy reminders of sorrow mixed in.

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost 6 months since we lost Michael. Just a few months ago, we wondered how we would make it one more day and one more day after that. Here we are, 6 months later, exhausted with grief and sorrow yet fostering a small seed of hope that tomorrow will be better and someday, some glorious day, this world will be made new and all the hurt and pain and suffering will be gone.

Ginger stopping to smell the flowers.

Ginger at the park

Vibrant flowers.

A grace-filled Christmas

A grace-filled Christmas

Husband and I on Christmas Day.

This Christmas was filled with grace–of necessity and through purpose. Grace for ourselves, grace for others.

We’re still reeling from our loss this fall, and the holidays just didn’t feel as bright and merry as usual. But there is still reason to celebrate–family, friends, and of course, most of all the birth of our Savior. So celebrate we did–even if it was a little more sedate than previous years. The change was actually kind of nice. There were fewer gifts and decorations, and perhaps a little less boisterous laughter, but there was a sacred peace.

We had a lazy start to the morning, ate puffy pancakes and opened our stockings. We even dozed on the couch for a few minutes before we headed out to Husband’s mom’s house. There we spent time with family, exchanging gifts, eating and making merry. It was unusually quiet without the nieces and nephews (who were sick and stayed home in DC), and of course there was the absence of my dear brother-in-law. But friends helped make the day brighter.

Stockings

Opening stockings

Husband wasn’t feeling well, so we headed home to relax in our own cozy home. We lazed on the couch, opened gifts a few at a time and enjoyed the sparkling tree, crackling fireplace DVD (yep.), and the lovely sounds of holiday music. Our traditional fondue dinner was accompanied by traditional James Bond movies (with Sean Connery, of course).

Ginger asking for toys from her stocking.

Ginger pleadingly asked for more toys from her stocking…

Before long, we were headed to bed–myself to read =), and Husband to sleep off some of the medicine he’d taken.

In all, I’d call it a good Christmas. A quiet Christmas. A grace-filled Christmas.

Our Christmas tree with gifts underneath.

Yarn Along

Yarn Along

What I’m knitting, and what I’m reading

Yarn Along Christmas

I finished my new ribbon scarf this week, it was quick, easy and fun to make. I’m not sure if I should keep it, sell it, or find someone to give it to…

Meanwhile, I’ve been reading the next book in the Little House series (and thoroughly enjoying it!) and The Littlest Angel–it’s a tradition in my family to read this book on Christmas Eve, so I read it aloud to Husband every year (he usually falls asleep somewhere in the middle). If you can ignore the erroneous doctrine (it’s a story, after all, not Scripture), this children’s book uses some of the richest vocabulary I’ve ever heard. When I was a little girl, I remember loving this book because although I didn’t understand what all of the words meant, I loved the sound of them–the cadence, rhythm and richness.

Joining Ginny at Small Things.

Mourning

Grief added onto grief.

As we still mourn the untimely death of my dear brother-in-law, I feel acutely for those who lost a loved one long before their time amid tragedy in Connecticut.

Everyone grieves in their own way, and I am learning to support and take part in so many forms of grief–a lesson I would rather have done without. But this is my comfort as the holiday season approaches during a time that my heart is far from celebratory.

These words come from a Christmas carol no less, fitting for such a time as this:

No more let sins and sorrows grow
nor thorns infest the ground:
he comes to make his blessings flow
far as the curse is found.

~ Joy to the World

I’ll be back tomorrow with a few reflections on my weekend.

It doesn’t “feel” like Christmas

It doesn’t “feel” like Christmas

Despite our efforts to celebrate, it doesn’t feel much like Christmas around here. And there are so many things that contribute to that…Michael’s passing, Husband’s crazy work schedule, warm Southern weather, and work. Instead of sipping hot cocoa and cozying up in front of a warm fire, I’m writing about child slavery, trafficking, abuse and war crimes. It’s enough to get anybody down. But no amount of grief staves off Christmas and it is coming full force.

One thing that I’ve determined for this holiday season is to give myself grace…

While we don’t always feel like celebrating right now, it is important to us on many levels–important to recognize the gift of our Lord’s birth, important to continue living (really living) in spite of our loss, and important to honor those we have lost by never taking for granted those we still have with us. So we will celebrate this season, but we will do it in simplicity and with a focus on the true reason we celebrate this season.

To make things a little easier on myself this year, I’m mostly using the decorations I already have, and even at that I have left those less important to me wrapped up for another year. We did celebrate our tradition of cutting our own tree and we made our gingerbread house, but I’ll only be baking ONE kind of Christmas cookie, not ten. And I’ll only be using lights that actually work, instead of spending hours fixing those that don’t.

Searching for the perfect tree

This is our third Christmas since we married in 2010, and each year I have desired to display a crèche (nativity) among my other decorations–a reminder that Christmas isn’t all about the wrapping paper and lights and wreaths, but about a sacred, holy and glorious birth. But I didn’t want to just buy any old crèche, I wanted a beautiful one–one that reflects my belief that Christ’s birth was a beautiful gift from God. This year, even though money is tight, I knew that I needed this reminder to help me celebrate the season, so I pulled together coupon codes and sales and shipping deals and purchased this lovely scene that now graces my mantel.

I received free tickets to the Virginia Symphony Orchestra’s performance of The Messiah, and (although I’ve seen it many times before) it spoke to me in a whole new way this year. The reminder that it isn’t about Santa Clause, or even snow, but about our Savior–and that is something I can celebrate no matter how difficult life gets. Because His birth, His life, His death and resurrection–they are all part of a bigger plan to redeem this broken world. And I cannot wait for the day He returns to complete His good work on earth.

Meanwhile, I think this self-enforced simplicity is not only good for this time in our lives, when we are short on both emotional and physical energy, but also as we head into the future. Every year, our lives become more and more complicated. I have been making a concerted effort to simplify things this year, and I believe I’ve done pretty well! This is one more way to take care of ourselves and intentionally create the life we desire to have, all the while remembering that it is Christ we live for, and not ourselves.

So while the impetus is so grievously sad, we can create a blessing out of our current state.

So in the theme of keeping it simple, here’s a peek at the little touches we’ve added to our home this holiday…

Christmas ornaments

Christmas decorations

Ginger with her Christmas penguin

Decorating the tree with R

Christmas stockings

Ballet shoes ornament

Lighting up the Christmas tree