December 29, 2012

I Hear the Bells

Many years ago I was shuffling through the crowds at the shopping mall.  People were moving along like an agitated herd of animals, gruff with anyone who caused an interruption to their frantic pace, clip with cashiers, and ruthless in the parking lot.  It was late in the evening, it was close to Christmas -- coincidentally, just the time when people start losing the Christmas spirit.  I was feeling sullen at the sight of it all.  At that precise moment, from the overhead speakers in the store I heard the carol playing, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day."  The familiar 3rd verse sang:
And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

That is how I felt sandwiched in the herd of shoppers.  But then the 4th verse rang out overshadowing the previous:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."

That pierced my heart and changed how I saw and what I felt that Christmas and every Christmas since.  The season can be overwhelming with consumerism, cookie exchanges, parties, cards, gifting, decorating and the list goes on.  And when all is said and done, that may be all we see in the season.  This season saw unspeakable tragedy and I have felt my broken heart and wiped my eyes every day for those children, for those parents, and especially their siblings of Newtown.  There has been so much evil and heartbreak before and after that tragedy as well.  Other shootings, cancers, deaths and grieving have been all too commonplace this season.

The 4th verse of the carol is sometimes more difficult to see, but despite and through the heartbreaks, shallowness, selfishness, evils and sadness that abound, I have had a Christmas season that I have heard the bells peal louder and deeper.

My daughters held a dinner party with a few of their friends where they stuffed and licked 500 envelopes of Santa letters to help the initiative of a little girl suffering from inoperable brain cancer in our community.  These letters were matched with a $500 donation by Macy's to Make a Wish.  We had a discussion over dinner on how friends can help friends during challenging times.  It was so heart warming to see how incredibly excited they were to do this!

Alan took off for an entire Saturday during the middle of December to board a bus of volunteers that went up to New York to help the hurricane Sandy victims in the Rockaways.  I sent him off at 3am armed with some shovels, crow bar, bottles of water, protein bars, a face mask.  He returned at 11:00 that night exhausted, dirty and humbled.  His walked miles that day pulling a sled of tools behind him as he and the other volunteers in his crew hauled debris out and tore drywall out of basements that are now becoming mold infested hazards.  The residents were beyond grateful.  They hadn't seen a lick of FEMA yet, but they had seen plenty of our church volunteers in yellow vests weekend after weekend.  Their "angels in yellow" they call them.  He thought that there was no better way for a busy dad to spend a precious Saturday in December.  Love him for that.

Our family made dinner for the homeless shelter the following Saturday and had a neighbor join with us in our effort.  The kids assisted and were mixing casseroles and measuring ingredients for desserts all morning.  We delivered the meal to the shelter with the kids that evening.  While we were setting up the dinner, the girls, on their own initiative, helped to sort and organize the children's play area.  Love them for that too.

Our December has been filled with many other wonderful experiences that have made the bells ring louder to our family.  Most will remain private, ever only to be known between the recipient and us.  Being the self-confessed OCD person that I am - October and November is when all of the gifts are purchased, wrapped and neatly tucked away before Thanksgiving.  December is too important for such things and our December has been full of everything that is important.  I am grateful for those bells that do indeed peal the most important message of all to us - "that God is not dead, nor doth he sleep."  He is mindful of each and every one of us and has commissioned us to be His hands to help others feel the love of their Savior, not only in December, but every month of the year.

December 14, 2012

The Parable of the Ice Cream Ball

In my husband's large family, we draw names of his siblings to give Christmas gifts to each year. Then we think and stew and think some more of what would be the perfect gift for that family. We came up with an answer a few years ago for a family member - they are fun outdoorsy kind-of people, so we gave them a ice cream ball from LLBean. 

I thought it would be perfect.  I loved it.  Surely they would as well.

A couple of years later, we received a package in the mail from another of my husband's family members.  This family is always wonderful, thoughtful and caring in every way.  So true to their sweet nature they had sent us a housewarming gift - something I have always wanted -- an ice cream ball from LLBean!  It was in a slightly beaten up and well-traveled box, but otherwise identical to the one I had given to the other sibling two years prior, which coincidentally was long enough ago that they would have had been through the rotation of giving this family a Christmas gift as well.  Perhaps they gave them a LLBean ice cream ball?

I still smile every time I see it, because the truth is, I secretly really wanted it too.  Part of me would have like to just keep giving it and see how many times it would be cycled through the family, but we love ice cream too much in our house, and it has made plenty - by the kids and their friends, by my husband's scouts at camp, even Bridger enjoys rolling it around.  Just like I thought in the beginning - it is the perfect gift!

Moral of the story: 
Love to Give and Give What you Love [it just might come back to you!]

December 05, 2012

You Can Help

I often hear from people, "I just don't know how to help."  A family member excuses the burden, saying they can't help with childcare.  Then proceeds to do nothing.  I have never asked for childcare.  As people who know me can attest, I rarely ask for anything.  Sometimes it is because I just don't know what will help, just as the person struggling on the other end doesn't know either.

People can't lift and haul Bridger and his heavy equipment to and fro, in and out all day long.  They can't be covered in daily vomit as I am, attend the dozens of monthly doctors appointments, do the cumbersome bathing, listen to the hours of screaming - sometimes done directly in my ear, manage the hours of insurance work, endure the fat lip given to me in a swift uppercut by the hysterical child that did not want to leave the grocery store while I struggle to pin his arms away from his wheels to get him out of the store door while holding my groceries as dozens of onlookers gawk (pleasantries of yesterday).  They cannot endure the full sweat workout it is to change one of the 10 daily diapers of a large child who will fight with every limb to make sure that you don't.  They cannot wear the scars that Alan has on his cheeks from a new behavioral challenge we are dealing with from Bridger who likes to gouge at his dad's face when he carries him.  They cannot go tend to him in the middle of the billionth night in a row that he doesn't sleep or is screaming from the pains of reflux or nightmares.  People cannot take away my back pain caused from degeneration in the spine - exacerbated by heaving lifting of a 55 pound thrashing dead weight.  They cannot dry the tears of my little girl who just had a handful of hair ripped out by her brother because she got too close to him at the wrong time or stop people from staring at us every time we are in public.  They cannot spend hours trying to get Bridger to eat and do all the tube feedings throughout the day when he does not or draw out the daily meds precisely to the fraction of an ml (a skill I can do with my eyes closed no matter the size of the syringe). . .  The list of "cannots" goes on. . .

Nope.  People can't help.

At least, in these ways.

There is a scene in The Lord of the Rings, from the final journey of Frodo where he is struggling and exhausted as he is carrying the ring to throw in the volcano.  His friend, Sam, hurts for the challenge he is witnessing his friend endure - helpless because he knows he cannot carry the ring.  But then he champions, "I can't carry it for you…but I can carry you! Come on!"

This is my ring to carry, and I have a great love and appreciation for the "Sams" in my life.

How can you be a "Sam" today?

There is a girl named Gabriella in our community that has inoperable brain cancer.  She is the family friend of one of Bridger's therapists.  Gabriella is collecting letters to Santa to deliver to Macy's, who will donate $1 million dollars to Make-a-Wish if one million letters are received this Christmas.  Gabriella wants to personally deliver 10,000 letters.  Bridger's therapist requested that I help them.  I made a goal to collect 500 letters by next Tuesday.  This supports me as I feel this is a way to return the love and devotion that this therapist has shown to Bridger.  It is a way to comfort the therapist's daughter, who is a friend of Gabriella.  To give the letters to this daughter, who can then pass them along to her sick friend, is helping her feel the power of being a "Sam" and how, despite the grief she feels for her friend, that she can carry her friend when she can't carry her ring.

I created an email account to receive the letters I will present to her in Bridger's therapy session next Tuesday.  Email letters to  Type the text directly in an email or scan the letter and attach it to the email and I will put it in an envelope.  Letters can be from old or young and need not be anything beyond simple.

According to the analytics site I have connected to my blog, my last post had just over 1500 reads.  Is it safe to assume that I should expect to receive just over a thousand letters? :)  My dad passed away from brain cancer, and Make-a-Wish has supported Bridger and dozens of my dear friends who provide superhuman care to their medical fragile children.

I hope this Christmas season that we will look for ways to be a "Sam" to others around us, instead of wringing our hands helplessly and walking away because we cannot carry their ring.