Saturday, November 30, 2013

Christmas Angel

Most of my friends have the adorable (or terrifying, depending on how you look at it!) Elf on the Shelf. I think I heard about these little guys when they first premiered in 2005, but figured I'd wait til my princess was a little older to buy one. Suddenly last year EVERYONE had one. At first I was horrified, then I read the story about the origin of the concept. As I Googled images of retro elves, I saw some that looked similar to the elf that my family owned. Suddenly all the memories came flooding back, and I felt a little more enthusiasm about the little helper.

 This year I thought ahead and asked Hope outright if she wanted one. She was a little interested, but admitted it wasn't high on her priority list. Of course, if Santa happened to drop one off, it had to be a girl. Later that night I found the cutest Christmas elves on Pinterest. I was planning on posting a link, but now it's broken. Go figure. Anyway, this mom's idea was to buy elves from the dollar store and have them leave encouraging notes (caught you being good!) and suggestions for acts of kindness (let's bake cookies for our neighbors!). I loved this idea so much more! I knew with a little tweaking I could make it work for our family. So I spent my Black Friday shopping for an elf, angel, fairy, anything that would work as our Christmas helper. This is what I found:

I'm going to let little miss give her a name tomorrow. Here's the poem I wrote to go with her (it's been a few years since I wrote poetry, so cut me some slack!)

I'm a Christmas Angel 
that you can see
my job is simple but,
I hope you'll join me.
I spend each December trying to find
Boys and girls, moms and dads,
who are helping others and being kind.
Each morning I'll leave a note or two
telling the good deeds
I saw coming from you.
Some days I'll leave a simple quest.
A challenge for you and your family
to share how you're blessed.
Christmas is often a time when
we're reminded of family
already in Heaven.
I know you miss each one
so whisper a prayer in my ear
and I'll carry it to them to hear.
One last thing I want you to do.
Please pick a name,
one you will treasure
a name to call me forever.

What do you think? A little less creepy than the elf? 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


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Friday, November 15, 2013

Ten Years Later

     Ten years is far too long to be without your best friend. I have several "best friends", so the word probably doesn't mean the same to you as it does to me. My best friends are the people I call or text at almost any hour. They're the ones I come to first for prayer. If we decide to go on an outing and take friends, they're the ones I call. My list of best friends has changed over the years, but there are some lifers on there. If Jason survived, he would've been a lifer.
     Jason and I had a relationship that was different from others. We depended on each other in the hard times. Sure we laughed and joked, but some of our memorable conversations were difficult ones. He got me through middle and high school. If we hadn't met when we did, I honestly don't know where I'd be today. He loved "sweater weather", that time from October to March when comfy sweaters and pajama pants are in style. Christmas was OUR holiday. We marched up and down the school halls singing Christmas carols, we decorated our lockers, and we gave cards to all our friends. It's all we talked about in December (until finals week.) Jason's death was announced on November 16 2003, and one of my first thoughts was "How am I going to survive Christmas?"
     I survived it, somehow. God carried me through. That was one of the more memorable Christmases, and it wasn't all good. I wasn't ready to celebrate yet. I tried, but my heart wasn't in it. It took five years for me to adjust and celebrate the season. Sure I went through the motions, but I wasn't excited. By the time I was ready to celebrate, we were grieving two more losses. Shaun, Hope and my mom made that Christmas exceptionally special. Since then I've been able to enjoy the holiday season, and I've tried to pass some of the joy to Hope. Honestly I don't think I could ever make it through without her & Shaun.
     I've grown so much in the last ten years. I'm now able to look forward to my birthday and Christmas. I also appreciate birthdays. Every one. Even though I'm well past the quarter century and I'm inching toward 30, I'm thankful for every year. Growing older is always something to celebrate! I see each day as a new adventure, a chance to start fresh. Even if everything goes wrong from the minute your feet hit the floor, there's always the chance the next minute things will turn around. I savor time with my family. Sure we have our problems like all families, but we do our best to work through them. I am so thankful for the lessons I learned this year. Turning 27 was incredibly difficult. I was further from 25, and every month was one less in which we could conceive another baby. All I saw was darkness. Now our family is awaiting some news, and even though there's no chance of me getting pregnant, I'm totally okay with that. I'm thankful for Hope and the blessings she brings, and I'm thankful for the lessons William and my other have taught me. Happy Birthday to me (a day early!)!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Love Your Family, Because One Day God Will Take Them Home

I've been thinking and praying about this post for weeks, that's why it took me so long to write. I've come to some surprising conclusions in the process. November has always been my worst month. Here's why.

On my eighteenth birthday I awoke to the phone ringing. I was always the first one awake, and was usually handed my baby sister to care for. Since it was my birthday and I wanted to sleep in, I rolled over and pretended not to hear. I waited a while before dragging myself up and going to the living room to watch TV. A little while later I heard my dad and step mom coming up the stairs.

"Do you know a Jason Brink?" my dad asked.
"Yeah," I answered.
"How about an Elizabeth Shubert?"
"Yeah, she's like my best friend." I said, getting nervous.
"Well, Elizabeth called. Jason died in a car crash last night."

I don't remember anything else about that conversation. I know I asked to call Elizabeth, and I know she and I talked briefly. I also know my dad returned a short time later and wished me a happy birthday. I didn't care about my birthday, I just wanted to die. I could not imagine life without Jason, my confidant, encourager and best friend. I just talked to him a week ago! How could he be dead?

I could write a novella about that birthday and the weeks that followed. Maybe I will for NANO month. I'll spare you the details, but just know Jason was the first young person I knew who died. Sure my great-grandma died a few years before, and I'd attended the wake for an elderly church member before that, but losing a classmate is a whole different grief. I didn't understand why God took Jason. I felt it was a personal attack on me, something I did wrong caused it. I was young and didn't know any better.

In 2008 my dad called me while I was spending time with Shaun. He demanded that I go to my cousin Daven's right away. I knew by his tone something was wrong. I expected my grandma died. When he met me in the front yard and told me Evan, Daven's six-year-old son didn't wake up that morning, I was shocked. How does a healthy child die in his sleep? I'd heard of Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood (SUDC), but never thought it would happen to MY family. Once again, a novel could be written on the impact Evan's death had on the whole family (don't worry! I'm not planning on it!). Many of us are closer for it, some have drifted further apart. We all dealt with it in our own way, each as unique as the family member grieving. Most of us tried to find a middle ground, a safe place to stand in the pit. We each handled it in our own way, none were right and none were wrong. Looking back I also feel sorry for my dad. How do you tell a child someone she loves died, twice?! It's been five years, and we're still changing from Evan's death.

Later that year I returned to college. My three-year-old daughter and I moved in with my mom, step dad and sister. I was ready to face the world as a single mom, and excited for what my education would do. My cousin Carolyn was pregnant with her fourth girl, but I didn't give it much thought. One night while I was working, Mom & Lee (my step dad) came in to Citgo to tell me they were going to see Carolyn, she was in labor and it wasn't going well. I reminded them to tell everyone hello for me, and asked that they give the new princess a kiss.

When they returned later that evening, I was disturbed by the change in their moods. Mom was confident Carolyn was dying. She didn't really understand what happened, just that it was bad and didn't look good for Carolyn. Her baby, Liberty Belle, was fine. My mom has a flair for the dramatic, so I murmured a prayer and brushed it off.

When we arrived at the hospital the next morning, there was a feeling of death in the air. So much so I was certain Carolyn had already passed. We stayed for hours, and were finally allowed in one at a time to say our goodbyes. She was in some sort of coma.*

I didn't deal with any of the deaths well to that point, but with Carolyn's I shut it aside. I told Shaun I would deal with it if and when I ever got pregnant again. I was just getting back in school, had a preschooler to worry about, and didn't have time for grief. For future reference, this is NOT a healthy way to handle loss. I would NEVER suggest it to anyone.

This brings us to another reason I lost William: I was just reaching a point in my pregnancy where I felt better, I was more energized, and ready to tackle my grief over Carolyn, Evan and even some residue from Jason. God, in his own clever way, gave me the chance to do just that. When William died I had at least four years of grief I poured out. I firmly believe that's one of the reasons it took me so long to come to a place of acceptance.

For the past nine years I have approached May and November with a certain amount of trepidation. I was terrified something bad would happen. Now I am confident if anything bad does happen, God is in control. I am no longer grieving the losses. Do I still miss them? Desperately. Do I wish I could talk to them? Every day. Am I confident they are in a better place, and I will see them again? Absolutely. I've seen many good things come from each death: Jason prepared me for a lifetime of grief, he taught me how to grieve so I could better handle it the next time, and the next, and the next. Evan taught me to enjoy every moment with my children. He taught me to be kind and always remind them how much I love them. He also taught me the importance of raising children to follow Christ, because no age is too young to return home to Him. Carolyn taught me to enjoy each pregnancy. She reminded me even in the twenty-first century mothers die giving birth in America. Tomorrow is not promised, so hold your children today.

Wow. That was long and emotional! Thanks for reading to the end.

God Bless!

*There have been several causes suggested. I don't know what is fact or hearsay. What I know for sure is the doctors had never seen anything like it. She was the only mom Good Samaritan has ever lost, and everyone was devastated. If you have any medical knowledge and would like to explain anything to me, feel free to contact me.