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Category Archives: Christmas

2017 Without You #Loss #Grief #Holidays

His inhaler was empty.

A little American boy woke up a few weeks ago and went to school…just like my four sons did. If he is like them, he was in his favorite class, PE, when the attack came. It had happened before. This time his inhaler was empty. His lungs felt as if they were filling with water. The pressure inside pulled everything into that growing liquid. He was drowning in a room full of dry air. His throat was closing down in the middle of the gym. And his inhaler was empty.

Did you head into the holidays with an empty slot? A vibrant friend who took his own life? A parent you’ve never been without at Hanukkah before? A brother who fought the cancer till he had no fight left?

Is there an empty slot at your center threatening to suck your whole life into pain? Threatening your joy with sorrow? Threatening your blessing with unbearable loss?

When I started writing this blog, Alan Thicke and George Michael were still breathing. Mother and daughter, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, were still in the world together. Shocking. Taking our wind for a moment. Yet distant. Not like my husband’s father and his aunt. My friend Beth’s brother. My student Sydney’s grandfather. Not like Yuhan, the little boy in my nephew’s class. No article by CNN will review that we lost them this year, or the person you lost who makes your throat ache and close.

Some people will try to comfort us. Try to speak of how great his life was. How my aunt  did everything on her own terms. How filled their lives were with accomplishments, or family, or friends. You know what though? Friends don’t cut it. Honestly, if there’s an empty slot, no lover, no marriage, no success, no child birthed or adopted is ever going to fill that slot. And no words of sympathy, no matter how heart-felt, are going to relieve that grief. Not right now.

My friend wrote me about her loss. “As the year comes to a close here in a few hours for me, I find a strange sense of anxiety welling up inside me. It’s as if by going into 2017 and leaving 2016 I’m stepping through a door and closing off my brother forever. I don’t quite understand that one.” I don’t get it either. But I feel it. Don’t you?

My religious tradition talks about an emptiness inside us that we try to fill with the things of this world, that we think will make us happy. Maybe some of them work for a while. Distract us. Put a lift in our step. A smile for a moment. The hole is God-sized though, and nothing else can take that place. No one else can fill it. And grief is that way too.

An older person dies and somebody somewhere will inevitably talk about how fulfilled their life was. Really? Can’t they feel how wrong that death was? The great-aunt in her 80’s or the little boy in gym class–IT’S WRONG. It was not how this world was created to be. We know that truth inside of us even if we don’t have any way to express it–even if the words won’t come to us or the faith is beyond us. Death is wrong.

Her life was filled. Was it fulfilled? Full-filled life. How do we get that?

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full,” Jesus said. Weren’t those people already living? Well, yeah. There’s more though. More for you and for me to reach full-fillment. It’s there for anyone who seeks it. That’s what I’m opening my heart to.

In 2017, that is the air I breathe (song lyrics again) when my chest is too tight to expand. That is the bread I eat when my throat is too constricted to swallow. How do people go on without Jesus? There’s lots I can imagine. Not that. I really can’t imagine that.

2016 was the year that: the colleague lost his dad, the granddaughter lost her grandfather, the wife lost her husband, the sister lost her big sis. The year that you lost…

 

The doctors said my nephew’s best friend would have died even if his inhaler had been full. If the medics had been right there. If he’d been in the hospital at the time of his asthma attack. Sometimes the emptiness is one that nothing on this earth can fill, that nothing in this world can fix. One song lyric says, “And all I see, it could never make me happy.” And if that was the point of the song, it’d be one pretty depressing tune. But the chorus quietly prays:

Let me know that You hear me
Let me know Your touch
Let me know that You love me
And let that be enough (Switchfoot)

Oh God, so many of us are hurting. We need to feel your touch, to know you love us. Some of us know that you hear us, but you seem so far away. We know you are there for us, that you are here with us. Let that be enough. Fill our emptiness with more of you. Full-fill our lives with all you have for us.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

I had decided not to write this post. Not to transfer the words from my chicken-scratched notebook to this page. Then I opened social media, and two more friends had lost someone so dear to them. I couldn’t not write it. I couldn’t not tell you that there is hope, that there is comfort, that there is a brighter tomorrow. It might get worse before it gets better. And that tomorrow won’t be the same as those yesterdays with your loved one. This is new place, a new way of being in a new year…

2017 Without You

Never without our all-loving God.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  (Romans 15:13)

Maybe this will speak to you, the words of Gwen Flowers’ “Grief”

I had my own notion of grief.
I thought it was the sad time
That followed the death of someone you love.
And you had to push through it
To get to the other side.
But I’m learning there is no other side.
There is no pushing through.
But rather,
There is absorption.
Adjustment.
Acceptance.
And grief is not something you complete,
But rather, you endure.
Grief is not a task to finish
And move on,
But an element of yourself-
An alteration of your being.
A new way of seeing.
A new definition of self.

(Some names were changed to protect the privacy of the individuals.)

–Kristin

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Posted by on January 3, 2017 in Christmas, Holidays, Moments

 

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R U Using the Better Amazon Site?

There is a better Amazon site for US customers than Amazon.com. What makes it better? Are the prices cheaper? Nope. Are there inside deals beyond what your Prime Membership gives you? Nope. Are your purchases tele-ported directly to your home? Not unless you bought digital content. Is there better customer service? Not that I know of.

So what makes this premier Amazon website better for all your online shopping needs? It gives both you and the charity of your choice BIG smiles. Your account log-in and customer history is all the same, but a portion of every dollar you spend goes to the charity of your choice.

Are you smiling?

I am. Today I confirmed the bank account information for our nonprofit, Future Hope Africa. Over the holidays we spread the word about Smile.Amazon.com, so maybe there will be another little gift headed to the children in east Congo soon.

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2016 in Christmas

 

Merry Ethiopian Christmas!

Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 10.23.48 AMOne of our holiday traditions while the children are out of school is family movie nights on weekdays. This year while watching Indiana Jones approach the temple where the Holy Grail is guarded, I told my children I’ve always wanted to go to that place, to Petra.

My oldest son said it reminded him of all the stone churches in Ethiopia which he would rather visit. I had to agree. Funny how a movie can be a reminder of the great heritage my older sons have in their land of birth.Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 10.30.53 AM

 

 

 

(Churches hewn out of solid stone from the ground down.)

Wishing you a blessed Ethiopian Christmas Day.

–Kristin

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2016 in Christmas

 

Wrapped Christmas Presents Today…

IMG_9767No, I’m not getting ready for December 2016. We’re overseas with my soldier husband, and our postal office is still swamped with packages in the delivery room, on the truck outside, and more waiting at the airport for pickup.

I don’t mind stretching out Christmas though–not really.

In fact, that’s part of the reason we note the 12 Days of Christmas. Jesus birthday is day one, but then the three kings need travel time, hence the 12 days before their arrival is celebrated on a holiday called epiphany. I can stretch the season further though.

How?

Our older sons are from Ethiopia where the old Julian calendar has been used for eons. That means their Christmas falls on January 7th. Hopefully all the packages will arrive by this Thursday. Otherwise we’ll be forced to open them on Ethiopian Epiphany.IMG_9766

Regardless, here are a couple of our Ethiopian Manger scenes. The top one is the traditional style of painted scenes. The other is considered “rare” according to WorldNativity.com because a blue glaze was applied before firing the clay.

Coming soon…a handmade Polish nativity that the kids cannot break!

–Kristin

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2016 in Christmas

 

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Congolese Nativity (4th Day of Christmas)

IMG_9763This day last year I was visiting our project in Bukavu, DR Congo. I blogged extensively about that trip and invite you take a look.

How I ended up spending Christmas and New Year in the Congo is a long story. One slice of that is the adoption of our two younger sons from Kinshasa. Today’s nativity set came from that capital along the Congo river.

If you’re having trouble finding the 3rd Wiseman (or is he a shepherd?), he’s standing on the pale rock to the left. His base was digested by a doggy visitor, so we stood him in the circular crevice of this stone from Denmark.

On the 4th day of Christmas, I give you a Congolese Nativity set carved in wood. Are you interested in Nativities from around the world? Check out WorldNativity.com.

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Kristin King is an author and co-founder of Future Hope Africa, a nonprofit working in East Congo to improve the lives of children and families through education. The NGO’s founding verse is Jeremiah 29:11.

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2015 in Christmas, Future Hope Africa

 

3rd Day of Christmas – Nativity

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A gift from precious neighbor in Maryland

Once, before Christmas, I was sitting down to a late lunch in The Hague with a new Dutch friend. I’m not sure how Nativity Sets came up, but she said, “I wish I had a nativity scene.”

Not ‘I wish I had a pretty nativity set’ or ‘I wish I had grandma’s nativity set’ or even ‘I wish I had a Delft nativity scene.’ No. She wished she had one at all.

Saddened I tried to offer encouragement.

I actually have a small collection of scenes which I’ll share with you over these next Days of Christmas. Perhaps you’ll see one that reminds you of another or find one you particularly like. The first day of Christmas I shared the one made by my grandmother and told a story about my son.

Enjoy the Twelve Days of Christmas!

–Kristin

 

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2015 in Christmas, Other

 

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Broken Angel (Unexpected Blessing)

IMG_9759As I handed the old box to my son, I neglected to mention how I treasure the contents. You see, a white ceramic nativity set (i.e. crèche) made by my Nonnie lies within, some of the figures in their original tissue paper which has yellowed with age. My grandmother died while I was in university, but the memories and the faith she gave me throughout my growing years is strong. This set represents all that to me in a tangible way.

So when my son came to me not long after to tell me he broke the angel, I tried not to over react. “I can fix it,” he spoke quickly, a young voice edged with worry after seeing my face.

Later, he came back to say the broken wing was hardly noticeable, and the angel was now secured above the scene with duct tape. Duct tape! My smile was weak as I went to see his handiwork (photo above).

What he had done amazed me, though not because of the angel. I had to look closely to even pick out which wing he repaired. No. It was the scene he arranged that strummed the cords of my heart and made me proud of my son.

Adults like me, who know how do to these sorts of things correctly,  normally arrange the people who visited the Christ child in an arch which opens the scene for the viewer who remains outside. What my child did was to crowd the shepherds, the kings, even the animals close around the baby. Every ceramic person vying for a place in the circle nearest to our Savior.

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Arrangement made over this year

My son captured a truth I had never seen before and showed it to me with the handiwork of a great-grandmother he has never met. How could it not have been like this? Especially after the angels told the shepherds the Good News? Even more so after the shepherds went around telling everyone they’d met about the Christ child’s birth.

God is with us. He’s finally here. Come see!  What was broken will be made new. What was lost will be found. This is “Christ”-mas.

May your holiday be blessed in unexpected ways this year.–Kristin

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. 10 The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 [b]For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:

14 [c]“Glory to God in the highest
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

(Luke 2:8-14 NABRE Version)

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Kristin King is an author, publisher, nonprofit co-founder, and mother of four sons who break things on a regular basis. She has gotten much better at handling that than she used to be.

 

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2015 in Christmas, Other

 

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