Last year I bought Ann Voskamp's advent tradition book, "Unwrapping the greatest gift."
Last year we started it but didn't really stick with it. This year, we've been much better about it, in part because Nora especially enjoys this quiet time as a family.
Don't get me wrong. Our 'adventing' doesn't look perfect or even really ideal. Braden's running around making noises- as usual. Nora's yelling at him- as usual. I'm yelling at her to let me do the mothering- as usual. Just like everything else in our life, I'm just really proud of the effort we are putting in as a family to make this a priority during this season.
We are also doing a daily 'joy dare.' Every day we write down thethings we are grateful for, as instructed by the prompts I printed. As a family, collectively we will have written over 4,000 love gifts after an entire year. It's also become something I think we all look forward to in our days. I notice the kids have filled in their gifts before I even remind them to. It's nice to read what Chris has written because sometimes the gifts of our hearts go unspoken. Like, the vision of a cardinal in the front yard or a sunrise that only I saw before anyone else was awake. These special gifts are giving us a reason to plug along every day, counting our blessings; thanking God.
I really do highly recommend this advent book for anyone interested in starting a sweet family tradition/devotion during the Christmas season. The kids are interested, intrigued and are asking important questions. I cry, sometimes they cry, we pray and talk about ways we can honor God and love others. We are focusing our hearts on Him and purposing to be intentional in our joy. This is key, especially this year.
As part of our normal tradition, Frufert returned this year in full force. The kids are just as excited now as they were when he first joined our family a few years ago. He's as ornery as ever and I love the magic of it all, not only for Nora and Braden, but for us too.
Due to a really long week (Chris had unexpected surgery and has been in a lot of pain), we just went and cut our live Christmas tree today with the help of Uncle Jake. We went back and forth on whether to continue this tradition that we started 3 Christmas' ago or to get a simple, artificial tree this year to make it easier. Thankfully the kids made the decision easy and led the way as usual. Nora expressed wanting to be the one to cut down our tree and that she did!
The tree flew out of Uncle Jake's truck on the way to town. We pulled over on the side of the highway where Nora and I just laughed and laughed. When we got it home, the trunk of the tree was too small for the tree stand I had bought. So Chris had to literally hold the tree while I went out into town to find a new one. All the while, smiling his patient smile and making it enjoyable, as he always has a way of doing.
Last night on instagram, I wrote this of grief:
"I miss being the kind of tired that involved her care & being her mom. Now, mostly, I'm the kind of tired that I can't explain. The kind of tired that is trying desperately to pretend it isn't real. I have to get through my days & not think about the fact that she isn't here or why she isn't or how that even happened. Or how I'll survive without her. I can't think about it and so as long as I stay really busy trying not to think about it, I will survive.
It isn't denial as much as it is endurance. It's horrific & terrifying and guilt inducing but it is strictly necessary for the continuance of life; of being a mom, being a friend, being an encourager, a sister, a daughter and a lover.
Mostly it's easier thinking about those things that it is this new reality; but it's also more tiring. Exhausting in all new ways.
Though my body is growing stronger, my mind is still so much in a fog. And I'm thanking God for it because I believe this 'fog,' otherwise felt as 'peace,' is given by Him alone. He's equipping my mind and body to survive. He has built me for it and given me the tools and I'm slowly figuring it all out.
I realized the other day that I'm running hard and fast to stay physically occupied during the day, especially during this season. I want to slow myself but instead, rather, I'm going to allow it. Sadly, the truth is-I have forever on this earth to miss her and deal with our new reality. For now, this first Christmas without her-I want to be present with Nora and Braden and Christ and our family.
However that is possible is exactly how I'm going to get through-for today. For now. For however long it gets me through. And when running hard and fast runs me straight into a very big, sad, scary wall-I will find a way to climb it too. However my spirit tells me to at that time.
Oh I miss her. And I'm thankful to be alive. This mama grief-my oh my it's exhausting."
Today we got our tree.
I put an ornament on it that says her name and smiled.
She isn't here but she's so here.
I'm exhausted but onward, onward, onward...
Toward celebrating the birth of a special kind of God. A perfect kind of Savior,
The human kind. The king kind.
The kind that gives and takes away; the kind that I trust with all things, even the most painful.
Moving toward Him with a merry heart, even now.