Happy Birthday Benjamin! You turn 5……

photo (10)Oh sweet Ben……you turn 5 today.  And today marks a new journey for us.  You have now been in heaven longer than you were here with us.  And that fact starts the new reality.  But oh how very blessed we are to have had you those two wonderful, amazing years.  I can’t imagine my life without you being a part of it.  You were so different from your big brother Fischer.  So content and wanting to grow up way to fast to keep up with Fischer.  Your small bare feet that pounded the floor so determined when you walked.  I remember when you fell off a cardboard box you climbed up on when you were playing in my garage.  I gasped and you simply rubbed your head without a tear and continued on never missing a beat.  I loved that about you.  You always took whatever came your way.

I’m sure you mom has planned a glorious day for you and I am heartbroken that I am not there to experience it.  However, I have a feeling when I am joined with you one day, God in all his amazing awesomeness will have a way to let me experience every moment that we were apart.  I hope so anyway.  He is a mighty God!

Have a great time running and playing in heaven today.  We will celebrate your 836 days that we were blessed to have you here in our lives.  I’m sure you will get to hug Jesus today.  Tell him I love him and can’t wait to meet him face to face.  Give your amazing mom a hug and kiss and tell her that I love her.  Wrestle some with Fischer for me and tell him Nana loves him.  Go fishing, swimming, camping and I’m sure your mom will encourage you to “get dirty”.

1394850_244239795726949_678364205_n

Chalkboard drawing in the boys playroom.

I finished a new memorial wreath to celebrate this day.  I call it the Ben “man, man” wreath.  You loved Spiderman and referred to him as “man, man”.

IMG_1354

I will go lay your birthday wreath later today at the place that honors your earthly life.  IMG_1363Your birthday video this year is one your mommy made.  She sent this to me March 28, 2012.  The email message said:  “Can you believe it?  Benjamin is turning 2?  Bittersweet…..”.  The song she chose is Taylor Swift’s “Don’t ever grow up”.    I think the sentiments of this song and the pictures she selected speak volumes to us today and express what we all feel.

I love you Benjamin.

Nana

Kindness of Strangers

Live Big

Elizabeth doing her artistry at a wedding with her bracelet.

Recently, I was trying to find some additional “Live Big” and “Give Big” bracelets that Elizabeth had gotten at the Armadillo Bazaar in Austin one year for Christmas as a gift for me and a bracelet for herself.  I wanted to give them to others that were doing things that honored my daughter (i.e. MCH prom) as a small token of my appreciation.

IMG_1501

Elizabeth’s bracelet (front): Live BIG

IMG_1502

Elizabeth’s bracelet (back): before I go….

IMG_0695

My bracelet (front): give BIG

IMG_0696

My bracelet (back): before I go….

I was able to track down who made the bracelets and her website.  I sent her an email and received a response that she would need to follow up with me due to her involvement in a large project.  When I didn’t receive a follow up several months later, I went back to the website which was no longer operating.  I sent another email and no response.  So I went to Google and found out that she had unexpectedly passed away.  Knowing that these bracelets were now a one of a kind I began to look for businesses that carried her jewelry to see if there were by chance any remaining inventory.

That search brought me to these amazing people!  They are located in Weston, MO!  I contacted them through Facebook and they didn’t have the same bracelets, but they did have similar coordinating jewelry by the same artist.  I decided to purchase them; however, these amazing ladies insisted that I put the money in Elizabeth’s scholarship fund!  She then wanted to share Elizabeth’s story with her customers, requested Twentycoats business cards and sent me these pieces.

So, if you are near Weston, MO (15 min NW of KC), I hope you go visit Cactus Creek!  I know I plan to!  If you go, ask for Fancy and introduce yourself.  By the looks of their website:  www.cactuscreekshop.com, seems like an awesome store!

Here are the amazing pieces they sent to me:

10878418_10152648093083227_1197158452_o

Bracelet (front) – Love Big, Live Big, Give Big and Dream Big

10814268_10152648093078227_109696389_n

Bracelet (back)

10877755_10152648093028227_1988756171_n (1)

Necklace (front) – Live BIG

10863618_10152648093038227_2038902451_n

Necklace (back)

I love that the bracelets send two more important reminders besides the ones that Elizabeth left me with “Live BIG” and “Give BIG” but also to “Love BIG” and to “Dream BIG”.

To the family that experienced great loss for the amazing lady that created this jewelry line, my heart goes out to you.  But I hope you know that her love for the design of jewelry made a huge difference to me and continues to this day with these pieces.  When I first wrote about Elizabeth and my bracelets, some people found my blog because they were also searching for these bracelets.  They were cancer survivors and the message to LIVE BIG was their goal.

Lastly, here’s hoping to BIG living! And I am so blessed that God is faithful and continues to bring beauty from the ashes.

Until next time,

Julie

Saying Goodbye……

Next week John and I say goodbye to our home, neighborhood and town where we have lived since we said “I do”.  This is a bittersweet event for sure.  There have been lots of wonderful memories here….holidays, family, Ava spending the night, Fischer catching lizards and frogs and time with my daughters, family, and friends.

And yet, I am absolutely certain that we are going where we are suppose to go……I love our new home and am looking forward to joining a new community.  Blessed that there are great friends that live there and family.   Looking forward to a church family that I just know has been waiting for John and I to get there!

So, I close with some of my favorite memories that happened in this home that we will say goodbye to…..

Private moments of Ava and John on the back porch throwing peanuts to the blue jays.  As you can see this has been a multi-year tradition.

Many weekends when Ava stayed with us meant trips to Ava’s favorite store, the Disney Store for a new princess outfit.  We were blessed to have several princesses here at the house…..Cinderella, Merida and Jasmine.

Ava dressed up in her white wrap as we went to the Nutcracker one Christmas…..

Lizz playing with Ava and Fischer in the backyard.

There were the Thanksgivings, Christmas’…….

Fischer in Papa John’s Army hat…..

and so many more that I will store in my heart forever.

Blessings,

Julie

Papa John and AvaIMG_0846009LizzFischAva 041220091619_56436312736_5463_nAva25022052photo044Papa John and Fischer (2)381673_2300811127034_998555814_n380826_2300842767825_10824650_nFischer Christmas Diem005

Fischer turns 6……

37744_426473882736_2776045_nToday Fischer you turn six.  An age where you would be in kindergarten and could have started playing baseball with your little friends.  It’s hard to believe you have celebrated 3 birthdays in heaven since you left us.  So how will I honor you on this day?

As has been my custom, I have run birthday memorial ads in the Salado Village Voice and the Lexington Leader.

FischerPhillipDowdy (1)

I will visit the earthly place that bears a testament to your life.  I will lay your birthday wreath.

IMG_3178

Fischer’s 6th birthday balloon wreath for the cemetery.

I will spend some time remembering your joy, and your amazing spirit.  I will eat lots of green veggies and fruit today because you thought if you ate enough green food you would turn into the HULK!  I will enjoy green grapes which was one of your faves and eat them from the cluster of grapes.  You always were insistent to pull them from the stems!  I made a wreath for my front door to honor your fascination with the HULK:

IMG_3184

Diem front door to honor and celebrate this day!

Here are some of my favorite pictures of you:

1930786_44246037736_7468_n

Fischer and his amazing mom on 10/1/2008

Fischer and Lizard3 09182010

Fischer and his amazement with a lizard

2842_94133587736_1028055_n

Oh your joy and that laugh……

Fischer frog 10162010

You were so careful with the little creatures….here you are with a frog

IMG_0983

Running the bases like in the movie “The Sandlot”

You loved lizards and frogs, and you loved the movie “The Sandlot”.  You loved running the bases, swinging a bat and throwing a ball.

I’m sure your momma has an amazing party planned for you.  She always had the best parties for you and your brother.  I can only imagine the guest list!  I miss you so much Fischman.  We all do.  Even though we were blessed to have you with us for only 1,397 days…..I am so thankful for that time you were part of our lives this side of heaven.  I also know you will be there with your brothers and your mom to welcome me when I am called home.

I close with your birthday video.  The song I chose is by Mark Harris, “When We’re Together”.  It was featured in the movie Courageous.

Love you Fischman……Forever.

Forever in my heart

Forever in my thoughts

Forever with me

Forever.

Nana

Mother’s Day 2014

Celebrating Mother’s Day with a child and grandchildren that live in heaven is a tough day.  This is the day that brings to the forefront all that we grieve……our children and their absence.  Today was the second Mother’s Day without Elizabeth.

My Mother’s Day now always starts out at the cemetery.  To go to the place that is a testament to her life….I go to honor…..and I go to remember.  I spend time with my private thoughts and memories of my blue eyed baby girl that I treasure and never ever want to forget.

IMG_2048

I have found those of us that have children in heaven, many times create rituals to recognize these days.  For me, one of my rituals is around tea.  One of my special memories is that Elizabeth and I went to a “tea” for Mother’s Day.  The tea was complete with fancy china, cucumber sandwiches, petit fours and lots of tea to sample all in a beautiful old home in downtown Austin.    We have always made an annual pilgrimage to the Tea Embassy for tea.    In 2012, we had a Living Social Coupon to use before it expired on July 11, 2012.  Who would have known 19 days later she would be in heaven.  So, that day is very special to me.  That day would just be us two….no children or husbands.  So, we made the trek to 6th and Rio Grande and tasted many teas.  Since Lizz was pregnant, she was very interested in the herbal teas.  I can close my eyes and remember what she wore that day.  After tea, we wanted lunch and she requested to go to Top Notch….one of our favorite places.  We had cheeseburgers and onion rings.  After lunch, she wasn’t quite ready to go home and resume her role as mommy to two little boys, so we went to TJ Maxx.  I always loved going there with Elizabeth.  Especially when she went to the part of the store that had skincare.  She would always tell me if there was any good deals!  Her Sephora experience kicking in gear!

And as the day came to a close, the phone calls began wanting to know when she was coming home…..and so our day came to an end.  Who would have known…..if I had, I wouldn’t have let her go.

So, drinking tea….making tea…..takes me back……and the tears flow…..so, I save this ritual for a day like Mother’s Day to remember the last time we were together.  It is also why her Mother’s Day wreaths always have teacups.

So I started my day and spent the morning with her.  I made the tea when I arrived….yes, I boiled water and took it with me, took the tea, the infuser, my Mother’s Day mug, and a bag of Raisinets!  Why Raisinets?  It was part of my Mother’s Day present.  She had filled my mug with them.  The mug she got at TJ Maxx.  She remembered that I collect polish pottery and had found this mug.  And the last words she would write would be on my Mother’s Day card I now cling to and read when I need encouragement as a mom.

Mother's Day

I made some of the tea that she bought that day and never opened.  It was Lavender Lemon Tea.

IMG_2051

So, as I made a mug of Lavender Lemon tea…..and ate some Raisinets…..I listened to the birds sing, felt the wind on my face, watched the butterflies and dragonflies and remembered……I looked up at the big blue Texas sky with the fluffy clouds and wondered if she was able to see me today…..and was so hoping she could…..and that she too was sitting on a bench drinking a cup of tea.  God gathered more tears for my tear bottle today…..I placed her wreath and when I left I placed some lavender tea in her tea cup.

IMG_2052

I then joined my other two daughters and granddaughter at Old Settlers Park for a picnic under the Oak Tree that we dedicated in October of 2013.  It is a way I knew to include the memory of Elizabeth with us…..to gather around a tree planted in her honor.  Here we are almost two years later….standing as strong as Elizabeth’s oak tree……and we are joyfully anticipating the addition of another baby!  Lauren is expecting in November.  The women in this picture are strong oaks……we have withstood the worst pain that a family can experience.  We have survived.  We have faced the pain of life….and it hasn’t been easy…..but I love this picture.  Here we are standing arms together, smiling, and redefining our lives into a “new normal”.  With faith and the grace of God, we are enjoying a warm and very windy Texas day and being together.  We all miss Elizabeth and the boys like crazy.  And sometimes days like today are bittersweet.  I am so thankful and joyful for what I have and then there is still the grief of my loss.  It is a dichotomy for sure.  But this I do know……we will continue to put one foot in front of the other and lean on each other and to use a quote from Christa Black:

“This time, and with this level of pain, I want to feel every moment of the agony, to experience every second of the grief.  In her honor. In her memory. Because she‘s worth it.”  

Yes, Elizabeth is.  Our culture does not understand this.  No one does until you are forced to walk this road.  Our hearts are divided.  Grief for our child that isn’t here and yet blessed to have children and grandchildren that walk with us in this life.

Mother's Day 2014

And so here we are……looking forward to the next Mother’s Day as we continue to redefine and transform our lives.  I am looking forward to holding in my arms another grandchild and listen to their precious cry……watching Ava grow up into an amazing young girl and continue watching my daughters grow into awesome women.  Even with the events of July 30, 2012, I can say I am blessed, so very blessed…….and at the end of the day, I will raise my hands and praise the one that gave me my blue eyed baby girl for the 25 years I was so honored and blessed to have her call me “mom”.

My advice as cliche as it may sound………is to soak every moment in with your children…….take every opportunity to tell your children that you love them……you never know when it will be your last.   I wish I could tell Elizabeth a thousand more times how much I love her and how much she means to me.  Never leave your children no matter the age in doubt of your love.

And to those moms who also grieve the loss of their children……may God show us the way with his grace and love…..may our grief be used for something even greater and bigger than before our hearts broke from the loss of our children.

His grace is sufficient,

Julie

Happy Birthday Benjamin! You turn 4 today……

Benjamin, Ben, Benji……..today is your 4th birthday.  Your second birthday in heaven.  And wow, did the heaven’s bring in your birthday in a spectacular way!  A lunar eclipse that turned the moon orange/red!

It’s hard to believe you were only two when you went to live with the world’s true superhero ……JESUS!  And now two birthday’s have passed.  And so on this special day that we celebrate when God brought you into our lives, I wanted to reflect and share some of the things you continue to teach me.

You were such an easy baby, just like your momma.  No colic, you weren’t fussy unless you weren’t feeling well.  We called you gentle Ben.  You were somewhat shy and unsure of people you didn’t know well and your older brother Fischer  taught you so many things, just as I am sure you are doing with your baby brother Hayes.  I remember a time when you were climbing on a box at our house in the garage and you fell off and hurt your head.  No tears from you……you got up, rubbed your head and off you went never missing a beat.  Papa John and I were always amazed with that.  Even at your young age you were fearless.  I’m so thrilled that you have an older brother and that you are now a big brother to Hayes.  As your Lolly and I can tell you sometimes being a middle child can be tough, but I am sure you are finding your place with your brothers.

And then there are those pools of blue….those amazing eyes of yours.  And you like your sweet momma, have one dimple that scores a 10 on the adorable scale!

So, my sweet Ben…….even though you weren’t with us very long, you have made such a profound impact on my life.  And even though you are not physically here with me for this part of my journey in life, you continue to be a significant force every single day.  Your life reminds me to find joy in the small things through the eyes and wonder of a two year old child.    To never forget the joy in the simple things (even a cardboard box!), your amazing laugh, and your exuberant joy.

Your birthday falls this year during Holy Week.  I’m sure the Easter celebration in heaven is amazing and I look forward to those celebrations when I get there one day.

So, to honor you on this day, I placed a memorial in the Salado Village Voice and Lexington Leader.

ben_dowdy

And I will lay your birthday wreath……

IMG_2578

And here is your birthday video!

I look forward to taking your hand one day as you give me a personal tour of heaven and you share me all your favorite things to do there.   Until then, I carry you in my heart.  You have sent me crickets, lizards and baby birds that warm my heart and bring a smile to my face.  Thank you for asking Jesus to send those to me.  I look forward to many more.  Wrestle that big brother of yours and hug him for me…..kiss Hayes……and squeeze your momma tight and tell her that Nana loves her.

I will always treasure this picture.

photo (10)

It is the last one I would take of you until we meet again.  Here’s to blue snow cones in heaven!  I look forward to having one with you when I get there.

I love you sweet Ben…..to the moon and back!

Nana

Music:  Sovereign by Chris Tomlin

Sovereign in my greatest joy
Sovereign in my deepest cry
With me in the dark
With me at the dawn

In your everlasting arms
All the pieces of my life
From beginning to the end
I can trust you

In your never failing love
You work everything for good
God whatever comes my way
I will trust you

God whatever comes my way
I will trust you

All my hopes
All I need
Held in your hands

All my life
All of me
Held in your hands

All my fears
All my dreams
Held in your hands

All my hopes
All I need
Held in your hands

All my life
All of me
Held in your hands

In your everlasting arms
All the pieces of my life
From beginning to the end
I can trust you

In your never failing love
You work everything for good
God whatever comes my way
I will trust you

God whatever comes my way
I will trust you

Amen…….Julie

It’s your 27th birthday……

Lizz 12 12112009 (2)My precious Elizabeth……

Today is your 27th birthday……the second birthday that you will celebrate in heaven.  You are not here for me to give you a card…..a present…….or an embrace.  I think this is the hardest part of a parent having a child that lives in heaven.  And yes, this is a tough day for your Mom….I think I miss you most on this day.  It is a reminder of my 8 pound and 14.5 ounce baby that was born 27 years ago.  Their are only 3 people that have heard my heart beat from the inside of my body……and when we lose someone that has been that connected to us, it’s tough.  Really tough.  I am reminded of all those years of you needing me for your basic needs in life.  The joy of you as a small child, the struggle of those tough teen years and watching you grow into an amazing woman and becoming a mother yourself.   I loved our relationship the last 5 years of your earthly life.  As I reflect on those years, as God would have it, those would be the things I will store up in my heart forever to help with this separation we now experience.  I hold dear those almost daily phone calls,  watching you grow your business and develop your talent, raising your boys in a home of love and grace, and simply displaying your joyous spirit.

My heart is still broken…..and I now understand that it will never be fully whole until we are in heaven and Jesus wipes away all our tears.  But God has also shown me that in this brokenness He uses it for His glory.  And therefore your life lives on in a such a profound way, and I am honored that God has allowed me to be apart of it.

So how will I spend this day……your 27th birthday?

I will start my day with you……at the earthly place that bears witness to your life.  I will lay your wreath I made for you out of your favorite color.  And I will spend time reading scripture, listening to my favorite worship music.  I have learned when these days come I must turn to Jesus and hear what God says to me through his Word.  I will lift my hands and praise the one who gave you to me….and for that I am so very grateful.

2014 Birthday wreath Lizz

I will then spend the day being nice to myself with a massage, facial and manicure/pedicure.  I think you would approve!  Your Mom is trying to take better care of herself.   Something I acknowledge I haven’t done so well for the last 19 months.   I will also have lunch with my dearest friend.   She has walked this path with me….always supportive and loving.   It will be our last time to see each other for awhile because we will be separated by time zones as she leaves Texas to live in another state.  I will end the day with attending a woman’s conference with your sister Jennifer.  I can’t wait to see what God is going to reveal to me through this conference.  I am convinced it is a God appointment that I must keep.

And at the end of the day as I lay my head, I will pray as I do every night to my precious Savior.  I will ask him just like I do every night to hug and kiss you and the boys and tell you that I love you so very much……

As I did last year, I have honored your memory by placing a memorial in the Lexington Leader and the Salado Village Voice.

Eliz_Bday

And I have created your birthday video.  The songs I used are songs that John and I heard at the Steven Curtis Chapman concert with Josh Wilson earlier this month.  These two songs were part of the concert and God spoke to my heart in a very profound way as they performed these songs.  The first song is by Josh Wilson “Dark before the Morning” and the second song is by Steven Curtis Chapman “See you in a little while”.

To view the video, please click the link below:

Elizabeth…….one thing I have realized since you went to your forever home and you are no longer physically present here but you are in my heart and go with me wherever I go!  You and my precious Savior!   And because of that I am hopeful that there will be things as I go through out the day and weekend that will warm my heart because it will remind me of you.

Until I am called to my real home, know that you give me strength and creativity, to be open to God’s leading and to see where this journey will take me.

Dear Jesus:  It’s my little girl’s birthday!  Hold her tight and tell her I love her!  Tell her I’ll see her in a little while……and I’m sure you are throwing her an awesome celebration!  As the song says, we are ready and waiting for you to come…….until then I will press on and fight the good fight…….and will hold on knowing this time is the dark before the morning……

I love you Elizabeth Anne……to the moon and back.

Mom

Twentycoats Wreath Creations…….2013

IMG_0903As many of you may or may not know, I purchased Elizabeth’s website domain www.twentycoats.com.  I wasn’t sure what if anything I was going to do with it, I just knew I didn’t want anyone else to re-purpose the URL site or name.  In August, when I decided to start a scholarship fund and decided to auction off Elizabeth’s Easter wreath to start her scholarship, I also received an order to recreate her 1 year anniversary wreath for a dear friend in Salado.  That’s when God showed me the way and what I was going to do with her business name and how I would raise money for her scholarship at Methodist Children’s Home and the boys scholarship at Salado High.  I was going to do it by selling wreaths one creation at a time!

As we close 2013, I wanted to take the time to reflect on my wreath creations and sales/contributions for 2013.  I have been very blessed in the last four months!   Due to the generosity and support, I have contributed  $8,000 dollars between Elizabeth’s scholarship fund at the Methodist Children’s Home and Fischer, Benjamin and Hayes’ scholarship fund at Salado High School!

If you purchased a wreath from Twentycoats Wreath Creations, I want you to know that I prayed over each wreath that I created, delivered, and shipped.  I prayed that God would bless your homes in a mighty way!  I also sent these wreaths knowing there is a part of my daughter and grandsons memory adorning your homes during the Christmas season, everyday, and for those special moments in your life!  As I told many of you when I delivered your wreath and many of you knew Elizabeth and the boys………..my prayer is that you have a wonderful reminder in your home of her amazing spirit and may it bring you joy!  And when you look at your wreath or take it out and hang it for another season, my hope is that you will remember my little girl and three amazing little boys and may it give you an opportunity to share her story with others.

I also collect pictures of the wreaths hanging on their new owners door.  These pictures are such a blessing to me.  These pictures allow me to see my wreath creation placed in your home and knowing there is a part of my daughter and grandsons story all over the State of Texas!

I am looking forward to 2014 as I continue to build a legacy!

Therefore, I wanted to catalog the wreaths that I sold in 2013 and to that end I created a video.  The song that I chose is titled “Mountains” by the group Lonestar.  I chose this song, because when I was in Connecticut in 2006, Elizabeth called me one day and told me that I needed to listen to this song.  When I asked her why, she told me:  “Because this song reminds me of you Mom!”  I still to this day remember that fall day in Connecticut when it came on the radio and I pulled the car over to the shoulder and heard the song for the first time and the tears began to flow.  You see, as a single mom, that quit college and returned 25 years later to finish, who purchased her first home on her own and established a career past her prime, my youngest daughter understood the significance of all of that.  And so, 7 years later when I have a tough day, I listen to this song and it encourages me because of the message but also because my daughter associated it with me.  It speaks volumes to me in these days past July 30, 2012 and her homegoing.  So, in honor of that special memory, I have selected that song for this video.

Please click on the video below and see all the wreaths I sold that contributed to their scholarship fund in 2013:

Secondly, I created many wreaths as gifts, donations for ministries, schools, etc. along with the memorial wreaths I created for Elizabeth and the boys at their resting place in Salado.    I have also created a video to catalog those wreath creations.  Please click and see the memorial wreaths and wreaths I made as gifts:

Lastly, I am humbled at the support for Twentycoats Wreath Creations and I am looking forward to continuing this success in 2014.  To those that have sent contributions to their scholarship funds without a wreath purchase, gave more money than the price of the wreath, my heart is full of blessings and gratitude!

Julie

Christmas……

1497533_10201023996829135_2051462908_nWell….another Christmas holiday season is here.  And for many and particularly bereaved parents, this is a tough, tough time.  Years of traditions and memories flood our minds and make our loss more pronounced.  I still haven’t put up any tree or decorations this year in the house.  And so stripped away from the tree, the lights, the shopping, the presents and distractions, God has encouraged me to focus on the Christ child.    The incarnation.  The rescue.  It is because of this act of immense love that we have the cross that is in the background and the tomb that will have the stone rolled away.  Emmanuel……God with us.  So, please, please don’t miss it this season.  You see, the enemy REALLY wants you to.  He wants you to stress, worry about gifts, parties, money, family, you name it.   He doesn’t want you to see the child.  But this holiday is when God’s grace and love was born to a young teen mother and father in a manger.  A manger of all places!  For many of us that have been around barn and livestock animals this would not be anyone’s choice to have a baby especially Almighty God!  Think about it……the manger……it’s a smelly place definitely not the cleanest!  The real manger is not the sanitized version we see in our nativity sets and school plays.  And yet isn’t that what he does in our lives?   When he comes into our hearts (our personal manger), and lets face it our lives are not much different from the smelly, germ filled, bug invested, excrement scene of that night….and yet his grace and truth still comes into my life bursting on the scene thrilled beyond my comprehension!  God could have been born anywhere you see……but he didn’t plan it that way.  There could have been room at the inn if God wanted it to be.  He could have arranged for the finest.  But he chose not to.  Even in his birth he revealed his nature to us being born in a place where no one would have a child…..but yet, that is where God came crashing into our world and chose to come walk among us!

The loss of my daughter and grandsons physical presence and this heaviness of heart has stripped this concept down at it’s core.  No lights, no ornaments, no presents.  Just Julie’s heart laid bare in a season that is about the joy of children’s faces….my grandsons faces…..reminders that I won’t have those this year.    But ever so gently, God urges and whispers to me to peer in and look at the Christ child….a long hard look.    And once again, He shows me how much he loves me….even through this…..this smelly, fly covered excrement called grief.

So, amongst the lights, presents and glitter…….take some time out and peer in and gaze upon the child.  Don’t miss it because the moment will be gone for another year.  The business of life will begin again.  Don’t be like others on that first Christmas and miss the birth!  You see most did miss it that night.  I don’t want to miss it….ever again.    I don’t want to miss the birth of the baby who 33 years later would endure the unbelievable to die for you and for me so we could be made right in his sight and live with him forever.  That is the gift….and it started in the manger that first Christmas.   I am so thankful for this gift.  Because of his gift, I live out this life with hope knowing where I will spend eternity and that Elizabeth, Fischer, Benjamin and Hayes are already there worshiping and cheering my family on to finish well!

So, don’t sweat the small stuff this Christmas…..and it truly is small stuff.    Love more, hug more, tell your children you love them.  Life is short…..sometimes very short.  And whatever you do, take time to sit in the manger of your heart along with the smelliness of your life and peer into the face of the babe……God who became man!

I end this posting with a video of the last Christmas Elizabeth and the boys were here before going to their “real” home.    Christmas for my adult daughters along with many other adult children is a scheduling nightmare amongst parents and family.    This celebration started the morning of Christmas eve at our house for brunch, followed by dinner at Lauren’s, Christmas morning at their house with Fischer and Ben, and finally with their Dad and Lisa the day after Christmas.  I have organized the pictures in that order.  So, I implore you as you look into my memories of that last Christmas with my complete family….. and I hope through the pictures and music you will see the Christ child…….God incarnate!  The music is by Michael W. Smith “All is Well”.    And even though my heart is heavy I too look at the Christ child and know that “All is Well” and because of the babe in a manger one day there will be no more tears and I will live in the light of the Lamb forever more.  Amen.

Julie