Mom and Dad

A guide to Christmas gift giving

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Surprisingly, I am finished with my Christmas shopping. However, most years I’m the Christmas Eve 10:00 pm shopper and so I thought I’d provide some insight into successful gift giving.

Mom and Dad were the best gift givers. And when I say “best” I mean the worst. But the memories we have of those Christmas’s together are the best.

Mom would always make us play games to get our gifts. We would moan and groan about it, but I think I can speak for my siblings when I say we actually thought it was pretty awesome. There was always Christmas trivia and a Christmas word search and often times a scavenger hunt of some kind. Whoever won would get to pick a present out of the present box – which was actually a laundry basket with unwrapped stuff they had collected over the year like toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap…that’s all I can remember that was actually useful. The rest was just a bunch of junk. The first couple years of our gift tradition, Mom and Dad would wrap the gifts in the basket. I remember the year Jim got a shower cap and panty hose. Best Christmas ever, right Jim? I think that was the same year they wrapped up the urn that held the remains of our family dog Ed.

We would also get cans of vegetables. Gee, thanks Mom and Dad. Although it’s a lot better than dead Ed. Of course we would eventually learn that they would carefully take the label off the can, put money inside the label and put the label back so you couldn’t tell it had been touched. Pretty sneaky!

The best gift? Mentos. That’s right, those disgusting candies. When Mom started doing the games, she would wrap the Mentos and they would be one of our “main” gifts. It turned into a joke that it was our favorite present and sure enough, we got a pack every year.

At the end of each game-gift party we would all sit there thinking, “Is that it?” Of course, every year Mom and Dad would then hand us a check or cash.

Our last Christmas together we decided to do a gift exchange. We all had to buy something that was a “favorite.” And then we did the white elephant gift exchange game. Turns out Mom and Dad each bought something that really was their favorite and that they actually wanted. So they went for their gifts and they were gifts that no one else would want. Dad’s was a handkerchief – he wore them when we was out with the horses. I can’t remember what Mom’s gift was but I do know they both ended up with their own gift in the end. I can still see Dad sitting in his chair giggling because he thought he and Mom were so sneaky.

On Sunday we had Christmas with my brother Tracy and his wife Patricia. We stuffed ourselves with amazing food and then had a little gift exchange. Tracy decided to carry on the tradition with their gifts to me and Pat.

I got this movie:

It had been opened and I could tell it was used. I was like, “Oh, thank you!” trying to mask my real thought of, “What the heck is this!” After a few awkward minutes, Tracy said, “Missy open it.” Of course, there was a gift card inside. I can’t believe I didn’t think of that! They did the same with Pat. They gave him an old pair of jeans. Hidden away in one of the pockets was another gift card.

My children are already teaching me how to give gifts. We let them go to the dollar store and pick out whatever they wanted for their aunts and uncles. Oh dear. For the last couple of years they’ve had this thing with Tracy that they want to get him the worst gift. I have no idea where this comes from. They truly do love their uncle Tracy. Last year they got him a big spider (he hates spiders) and some type of slime stuff.

This year Angel got him a different type of slime. It was pretty cool and he actually like it. And she was bummed. ?? Caleb was so excited for Tracy to open his gift. He kept saying, “You are going to hate it!” It was a Mr Potato head paper weight thing (I think). Mr P was dressed up like a scuba diver. It was really weird. Because of all of Caleb’s smack talk before opening presents, Tracy asked Patricia to video tape Caleb’s reaction when he opened the present.

Hahaha. Seriously, Caleb’s expression when Tracy says he likes it, is so funny!

Well anyway, that’s all the “wisdom” I have for you today.

Whatever you do decide to get your loved ones, remember that the most important gift you can give is your love and your time. I’ve learned not to take anyone for granted because in the blink of an eye, they could be gone. What I wouldn’t give for just one more Christmas with a pack of Mentos.

Cherish every moment and have a blessed Christmas!

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Just get over it

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I’ve been thinking about grief and depression lately. Mostly because I am tired of it. I’m frustrated because it’s been three and a half years since mom and dad died and it still feels like yesterday. It still takes my breath away and reduces me to a big puddle of tears and sorrow.

Our life changed that day in June. I know I will never be the same. But seriously, why can’t I just get over it?

I’ve read God’s Word and I listen to music that draws my heart to God. I pray and ask Him to take away the darkness of grief and depression that seems to consume my life. I have so much to be thankful for. And I am thankful. But still, why can’t I just get over it?

Do you ever feel that way? Do you have a grief or sorrow that seems to consume you? You pray and beg God to take it from you or from a loved one but for some reason, He doesn’t?

Of course, God always provides hope, even through the questions and the why:

Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,

My grace is enough; it’s all you need.

My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.

We don’t know what Paul’s “handicap” was but the God-breathed words of Paul’s gives me encouragement and reminds me that through whatever we face, it’s in our weaknesses that God is strong.

God does give us more than we can handle! I have prayed so many times, “Jesus, I don’t have the strength!” He gently whispers to my heart, “I know my child, but I do.” Without this thorn of grief and depression, I know that I would not be fully relying on God in all things.

This week of Christmas can be hard. There are many who will be facing sorrow and pain this week. And so I pray with you that through your weakness you will feel the strength and love of God in your life.

His grace is enough; it’s all we need.

Twinkles in Orion

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Last night I was struggling with something and decided I needed to go have some time to pray. I told Pat I was going to go to the church to pray (just something I’ve always loved doing, praying in the sanctuary at night with just me and Jesus), but on my way there I saw how bright the stars were. I decided to go out to a park on the outskirts of town and spend some time praying out in the beauty of God’s majestic creation.

I was listening to music and praying, gazing up at the beautiful sky. Orion was so bright, it was amazing. Orion is me and Pat’s constellation. But only because of Prince. The singer.

“Orion’s arms are wide enough to hold us both together…”

For you youngins’ out there, that’s a song from the 80’s.

Anyway, as I sat outside praying about some heavy burdens, I missed Mom and Dad so much. They would know what to do. What to say. Their absence in our life knocks the breath out of me.

And then Orion twinkled. First the bottom right star. Then the top left star. Right after each other, so bright. I stared at the stars waiting for it to happen again but it didn’t. I thought to myself, “maybe that was Mom and Dad.” But that sounded stupid because stars just normally twinkle.

Today, I came across this picture:


Still maybe kind of silly, but pretty awesome too.

I don’t know if God twinkled those two stars as a hello from Mom and Dad. I don’t know if it will ever get easier not having them in our life. I don’t know what challenges will come our way in the days to come.

But I do know that no matter how alone I may feel, I am not alone. And if I just open my eyes and ears, I will see and hear God proclaiming His great love for me.

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Trying to see

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This week is the anniversary of mom and dad’s death. It’s been three years. It feels like yesterday. And it feels like forever.

If you’re a regular reader, you know that I haven’t been writing much. I get so exhausted with writing depressing stuff. And that seems to be all I can think or write about lately. I’ve felt like I’ve been doing really well the past six months, and then May rolls around and I realize it’s getting close to June. When June arrives it knocks the breath out of me.

So this post might be a little depressing. I’m not sorry though, because I hate living behind the lie of everything being all wonderful and rainbows and butterflies. Yes, Jesus is on the throne and I praise Him for His love and faithfulness. But as a friend recently said, this is major suckness.

One of my favorite singers is Steven Curtis Chapman. When I became a believer in college he was the first Christian artist I started listening to. You may know that his precious daughter was killed tragically in 2008. The album Beauty Will Rise came out in 2009 and many of the songs were inspired by his daughter. I’ve been listening to those songs a lot lately. One in particular is See.

Right now all I can taste are bitter tears
And right now all I can see are clouds of sorrow

We have so many good memories of time spent with Mom and Dad. And I know I should be focusing on those memories and the blessing of the years we had together. But as hard as I try, all I can see are the painful memories. The memories of that week in June.

The night of Monday, June 11 as my sister and I started to worry, just a little, that something might be wrong.

The day of June 12. The phone calls. Pacing back and forth in the kitchen. Their boat being located and for the first time knowing that something was terribly wrong. Driving to Platte. Running down to the dock, seeing the police tape. The sheriff telling us Mom and Dad were gone. Sitting on the rocks along the Missouri River, waiting for the police to get Mom and Dad off the boat.

Waking up June 13 and realizing it hadn’t been a dream. Having to tell Jim and Leana over the phone as they waited for a plane in Chicago.

Learning that Mom and Dad had died on June 9 and lay in the boat for three days, while we went on with our life, oblivious to the fact that our parents were dead. On June 10 we had a picnic in the park with our friends.

But right now, all I can say is “Lord, how long
Before you come and take away this aching?”
This night of weeping seems to have no end.

I want to look back and see the joy. But all I see are the lasts.

The last time I saw Mom. It was at Ruby Tuesday in Mitchell a week before they died. The kids had spent a few days with them at the river, and we met half way so I didn’t have to drive all the way to Chamberlain to get the kids. She ordered the salmon dinner and saved half of it to take home to dad.

The last time I talked to Dad. It was Friday, June 8. I called to asking him some questions about the garden.

The last time we were together as a family, the end of April at Cherry Berry. I hate Cherry Berry.

I think of my kids and it makes me sad that they have a mom who is so sad. I want to see. I want to see the joy. And I’m trying. I’m crying out to God to help me see Him through this grief and through whatever the days to come might bring.

That’s the heart of this song. It’s Maria Chapman in heaven saying, “See, Mom and Dad. It’s so much better than you said it would be.”

Even though most days lately I can only see the grief and sorrow and pain, there is one thing I can see that brings me joy. I can see Mom and Dad in heaven too, saying the same thing. “See Missy, Nellie, Jim, Leana, Tracy, Patricia, Angel, Caleb and Cleo. It’s so much better than we said it would be.”

And I’m counting down the days until I see
It’s everything He said that it would be
And even better than we would believe
And I’m counting down the days ’til He says, “Come with me.”
And finally, we’ll see. We will see.

I couldn’t find a video on youtube with the song See. I decided to make one and it is a little long. But the more and more I watch it, the more and more I see. Love. Joy. God’s faithfulness. God’s presence.

Thank you Jesus, for helping me see.

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