Monday, December 31, 2007

Food, family, faith, fun & games...

These pictures are just a mix of photos taken in the last week. As this year comes to a close and we look forward to a New Year I can see so many ways that my family is blessed and we have more than we deserve.
I can think back to times in my life when things have been less than wonderful- even painful and hard- and it only affirms to me that faith is the one constant and that it is the very reason our family looks 'as good as we do'. Not in our appearances...but in the sense that we have so much to be grateful for. God has filled our hearts and lives to overflowing. Our grief has become something that surfaces at times...but moreso we have love and laughter at the forefront of our days.
It is nothing short of a miracle to me- that we have come full circle in many regards. Living through loss and challenges has been the source of us finding Joy and strengthening and growing our family into what it is today.
We are far from perfect...far from having it altogther. But still, we can see how God has His hand in all aspects of our lives. It's not always easy. Yet I wouldn't trade the things we've not only been given, but been through together. Seeing blessing and beauty and goodness grow from where we've been is what I thank God for most in our lives. I can only hope that next year we grow in similar ways. I wish you all a Happy New Year full of changes that strengthen your life and make your Faith real in ways you might never have dreamed. It really can be a great adventure. You just have to seek it and see hidden blessings all along the way.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Reflections of birthdays and gifts~

Last night my family celebrated my dad's birthday at dinner just before he and my mom and my sister and her kids loaded up their van and headed back to Minnesota- a 10 1/2 hour drive through the night. Today is my dad's birthday. I was so happy that my family could be here in my home with us not only to celebrate Christmas, but to squeeze in some birthday memories too.
My birthday was included- as it has been over the years; we also sang 'Happy Birthday' to Wyndham because her birthday is just around the corner on January 4th. The time we had together was full of fun, relaxation and lots of good food too. I love seeing the dynamics between my parents and their grandkids. I was thinking back to where my dad came from- a hard-working young man who grew up on a dairy farm with lots of family around him to his life cows in sight, but still he is a hard-working man with lots of family who love him very much. He has changed and 'softened' through the years. He chose to stand next to my pink Christmas tree for a photo op- saying it was fitting for him to do so because his name is Floyd...get it? "Pink Floyd". =)
I love that he has so many talents and abilities but none more characteristic than his heart for people. He cares so much and on so many levels. He will lend a hand or word of advice to anyone who calls on him- day or night. He has been there for me and countless others through the years. I am humbled that God placed me under his care and guidance through the years, and now in my 'grown-up years' I have come to love him more as a friend. Today is his birthday...but really, I think those who know him would consider him to be a gift to us.
Happy Birthday, Dad. I am so glad we could spend time together and make memories this was truly the icing on the {buttercream} cake! Love from me and all your adoring family and fans. =)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

There's no place like home for the holidays...

There's just something so special about the feeling on Christmas morning. Even if you're not a kid anymore. =)
We're so happy to have my Mom, Dad, sister and her kids here with us to celebrate. There's lots of laughter, love and good food happening in our home. Memories are made of such things.
I hope you had a wonderful Christmas too.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas.

I've done a bit more decorating and baking the last few days. We had a nice laid-back evening with some of our neighbor friends in our home last night. Today we are getting a few things in place and the last of the menu planned and looking forward to the arrival of some of my family who are traveling tomorrow from Minnesota.
Our family will go to a Christmas Eve service and I just know it will be a special time. A time to reflect on not only who Jesus was- as a newborn King bringing peace and love to everyone, everywhere- but also who He still is in our lives every moment of every day. I am blessed beyond measure and find myself thanking and praising God for His goodness and mercy in my life and the rest of my family. I cannot thank Him for all He has done in my life.
But my hope is that I will continue to find small ways to share my faith and to encourage those who may not feel such blessing and peace to seek Him with all their heart and share in this goodness that He wants to pour out into them too.
Christmas is my favorite time of year- it's true. It is a time of much thought and reflection. I love the lights and the gifts and the music and the trees. But it is the story of Jesus' birth and the message of love and redemption for all that warms my heart most of all. My prayer is that it will be the most special part of your Christmas each and every year as well.
Merry Christmas to all my family, friends- both in real life and those I only know through the 'net, and even to those of you who only read but have yet to say 'hello'. From my heart to yours this Christmas, I wish you Joy and Peace. xoxo

Friday, December 21, 2007

"You're the love of my Heart"

Teagan had this little game where she would say, "Guess what?" and we would ask, "what?". Then she would ask again, "Guess what?" and again, we would say "what?". After two or three times she would answer, "You're the love of my heart". It was sometimes silly; sometimes very tender {especially at bedtime}. It was definitely my favorite guessing game to play with her and always ended in hugs and kisses.
One of the things that Chip and I would do to one another after Teagan died was send each other emails with the words, 'Angel Mail' listed in the subject line, or we would leave cards or notes to each other from Teagan- for special occasions or sometimes for no reason at all. Other than we missed her so much and it was a special way of making her 'seem closer to us' than she was.
Yesterday, for my birthday, after I had opened cards and gifts from Chip and my kids, Chip handed me a couple of gifts wrapped in hot pink Hello Kitty paper. I knew. That same knot that gets stuck in my throat at times when I suddenly remember, came back. I looked at the card and it had a little "stick angel" in place of the return address and it just made me smile. Bella said, "who is that from?" and I just showed her the card. I said, "There's a little angel on it...who's our special angel?" which she asked, "Teagan?". I think she really believed the gifts and cards came from Teagan. It's much like how she still believes in Santa.
"Teagan" gave me the cd soundtrack and book, "P.S. I Love You.". Tonight Chip and I will go out to the movie.
I don't know how or why I was blessed with such an amazing little girl in my life. She asked me more than once, "How many days old am I?". I told her, "Teagan, you're a lot of days and you have a lot of days left. I don't know how many exactly, but God numbers all our days perfectly." I had no idea she only had a couple of 'perfect days' left. My heart still aches that she lived only 1595 days {if I did the math correctly}, but I have to trust and believe that God knows and it works perfectly into the Plan He designed before the beginning of time.
My heart knows that she was a gift. I still love getting 'angel mail' and remembering that she was and always will be the love of my heart.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

So far...

being 35 is great! I've had a wonderful, mellow birthday. That ended with chocolate fudge bread pudding warm with whipped cream on top. Mmmm. Thanks for all the birthday wishes in the comments and sent to my email today.
I have some really wonderful family and friends! Love from me to you today. ~Jody

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

An early birthday present...

This was so big and had me choked up. It definitely warrants a double-post- even though I'm 'behind' on getting things done for Christmas. I gave the kids their baths and got everyone in jammies and teeth-brushed and even had to 're-tuck' a couple of the kids a few times. Chip is busy at the golf club working a Christmas party tonight, so I was thinking I should use a couple of hours to get some cards written and other projects wrapped up.
Instead, here I am. Holding onto a moment that happened so unexpectedly- the best little 'gift' that Wyndham could have given to me on the eve of my 35th birthday. She has no idea she even gave me such a wonderful gift...but that only adds more beauty and meaning to this moment for me.
I was just getting some things out and was planning on sitting and working at our dining room table when I heard Ava playing a little too loudly in bed. She has this thing with bringing as many animals and toys and dolls into bed with her as she can each night. I had given her 4 or 5 for the night, but apparantly I had missed the Christmas puzzle/book which she had dumped out onto her bed and was happily putting together. I made a point to just soak up this instance and again, I just hugged and kissed her knowing I would give anything to hug and kiss Teagan and re-tuck her into bed if I had that chance. Even if she was causing a bit of trouble.
As I walked back toward the dining room, I stopped to peek in on Wyndham and was surprised to see that she was still awake too.
I walked over to her for one more kiss goodnight and she smiled and held up her hand, signing, "I love you". She has done this quite a few times in the past several months...but I never tire of it- and tonight I smiled and signed "I love you" back to her. Then I started to sign "goodnight" and as I did so she pointed toward the door. I said, "No,'s time for night-night. It's not playtime." She then smiled {and this was the moment!} and moved just a bit back on her bed and then patted the space next to herself on the bed. I said, "Do you want me to lay and snuggle by you on the bed?" and she nodded 'yes' with one of her big grins that I love so much!
I had to hold back the tears- her gesture so small in reality, yet so big in the scheme of things. I have to say, that moment in and of itself makes so many of the other things we go through each day (like the shot I had just given her before bed- she gets one each night) so worth it. I can't put a price tag on what I felt inside- and I never want to forget this moment.
I climbed in next to her for several minutes and she and I did signs back and forth. Signs like 'friends' and 'happy' and 'time for sleep'. =) I may not get all the cards in the mail or all the things done on my to-do list tonight. But I know I will always savor that "little-big moment" I had with Wyndham.
Christmas, and life, to me isn't about getting things done and checking off lists. No. It's about living with intention and understanding. It's about priorities and having them so in tune with what is Real that everything else can wait. Just so that the moments that truly matter can take center stage.

That time of year...

We are all nearly partied out. My birthday is tomorrow {in case I don't post, you'll understand why...I'll be busy with some fabulous buttercream hopefully} and when Chip asked me what I wanted for a gift I said, "That European bed that I had pictured on my blog...and all day to spend in it!". =) Hey?! I may as well dream big, right?!
Between school parties/programs and therapy parties and church programs we are feeling the 'sugary effects' of the season.
I feel like I have a million things I wish I could be doing or get done, and yet I am just trying to stay on top of the basics that need to happen for us to survive from day to day. Take my fridge for instance. If you peeked inside it today you would find milk, eggs, butter, cheese, a head of broccoli, some OJ, apples, grapefruit and condiments. Thank goodness for Easy Mac, because I don't know what we would be eating for dinner otherwise. Well, maybe grilled cheese or peanut butter sandwiches...but nothing too exciting.
I don't know why I am feeling 'out of it' moreso this year than other years. I definitely have my ups and downs right now. It's probably a combination of things, and certainly nothing that warrants major concern. One of the little things that I did take note of more in the past few weeks is how often I think of Teagan and miss her this time of year.
Some people think I'm obsessive when it comes to talking about her and the way we 'make her a part of our lives' still years after she's been gone, but really, I think it's more about the changes we make in our lives and how 'she changes' with us.
This year Ava is almost exactly the age Teagan was on her last Christmas with us on earth (their birthdays are only 4 days apart). So when I see Ava doing things it just seems to bring back memories of Teagan so clearly...or jog some that were nearly forgotten. It's of course, bittersweet, and thankfully, more sweet than bitter most days. That little Santa shirt she is wearing is one Teagan and I bought for her when we took a day trip to Traverse City not long before Christmas. I remember our shopping trip well and especially how intentional Teagan was about choosing the shirt she wanted. She wore it a lot...I have pictures of her wearing it into March and April- months after Christmas was over. Seeing Ava in it makes me see firsthand just how young and small Teagan really was when she died. I always thought she was so big and grown up, as she was our oldest child at that time. Now that Ava is my youngest and so close to the age Teagan hits me harder in a sense, and I draw more and more parallels between those two.
Still, I know Teagan was a special girl and I will never let her go- even as we all grow and change and time moves on.
It's just once in awhile I wish I could take those special times that we shared all back. And I'd love one more birthday hug and kiss from her. Hey?! I may as well dream big, right?!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A lot of loving...

I am so happy and proud to wish my parents all the best as they celebrate and mark their 40th wedding annivesary today. Theirs is a wonderful love story...they met and married in a matter of 3 months, back in 1967. My mom was 18 years young and my dad just 24. They have been together through thick and thin- from living on and owning a dairy farm in central Minnesota, to raising 5 kids and moving throughout the state over the years. From Bible college to pastoring churches and now assisting and caring for hundreds of residents in the Twin Cities, they have lived and worked together more closely than almost any other couple I know. Somehow they not only enjoy working together, but they compliment one another and seem to grow more in love and tolerant with each other as the years go by. That, I believe, is the key to the success and beauty of their marriage.
They would be the first to tell you it has not been all rosy and bliss through the years. But as you would suspect, they would probably say that the trials and hardships have helped them depend on each other and more importantly, they have relied on God in the good times and the bad.
Their marriage and relationship has been a wondeful model to me and to those who are forunate to know them and spend time with them. I wish them both more years of this love that they share. Not only with each other...but love that flows out of them into all apects of their lives. My kids have been on the receiving end of it many times too. They send all their love and wishes for years of love and happiness.
Thank you for being so selfless to one another and to so many you have touched all through the years. I consider you both to be one of the greatest blessings in my life. I think the world of you both. Your love and lives inspire me and others. Happy 40th annivesary.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Kid's Eggnog...

Next week I turn 35. I was thinking about that last night as I fell asleep~ after going to the kids' school Christmas Program and thinking how fast they all grow up. It was not that long ago that I was dragging bulging diaper bags and a double stroller everywhere I went and I was unable to recall when I last slept five consecutive hours. Now I love that I get longer stretches of sleep, but I don't know that I am ready to grow up or at least grow older. How is that middleage sneaks up on one so quickly?! In the spirit of thinking about being a kid and all the fun it is for them this time of year, I found this great-sounding Peppermint Eggnog
recipe over at Martha
Now, in the past I have been very outspoken about not 'doing or getting' Christmas stuff on my birthday...but for this fun nog {and if you know me at all, you know how much I love eggnog, custards, buttercream, whipped cream and vanilla!} I just may bend my own rules! =)
Here is the recipe and instrustions. If you make it, let me know what you think of it. And if you want another fun challenge, tell me what flavor(s) of ice cream would best describe your life up til now? I was thinking I could sum mine up in a double scoop of Rocky Road and Marshmallow Twist. It's had its share of rough spots and bumbps along the way, but I'm finding most of my life's 'twists' are really ribbons of good stuff in the end.
Maybe it's quirky and weird, but I think it would be fun to read some of your takes on life. Any Ben & Jerry lovers out there in Nitty.Gritty.Land.? This game's for you. =)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Keeping memories alive...

I have found that there are ways to remember our loved ones this time of year, though they may not be physically with us. We have included Teagan's name on Christmas cards, taken family pictures with some of her favorite items, and used her photo along with the rest of ours, simply as a way to 'include her' in our lives.
I know people grieve differently and some people can't bear to 'reopen' wounds and memories of their loved ones. In our family we have found that talking about Teagan and sharing her life and pictures with others has increased our joy and helped ease our sorrows. So, in that spirit, I share this link with you... even though she's not physically here with us, we can still dance with her and smile because her spirit still touches our hearts and lives each day.
Enjoy. =)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christmas journal~

In the scrapping community there are a lot of people keeping record of the events of this holiday season, and I decided to join them this year. I got this wonderful, handmade notebook from my friend Sarah this summer, and it has been sitting on my desk just waiting for a special occasion to be filled up. I looked at it in a new way as the Christmas season rolled around a couple of weeks ago and realized with the red and green striped cover it would be perfect for a little Christmas journal.
Now, you must realize that I do not have much free time in my schedule, which includes maintaining a household of six (four of them are 8 and under), teaching part-time at high school and lots of other things in between all of that. So, I really wanted to keep it simple- yet still make something that I could consider a 'keepsake'. =) Talk about a challenge right? Simple, but not a piece of junk to be thrown away in the end. I was so glad that I had this little book because it provided a great starting point...and simple is exactly what it has been so far.
What I have been doing is filling it each day with a memory or detailed event that our family has done as we countdown the days until Christmas. From baking a batch of cookies to spending a night with friends, it's all in there, along with little 'extras'. There is patterened paper, stickers, rub-ons, ribbons, felt shapes, stamping and my own doodling and handwriting. I just think it will be a fun things- especially if I do it each year for several years- to have a bunch of these to read through each Christmas and to see what has become tradition and what sorts of things we can laugh about or we would have forgotten had they not been written down.
Anyway, I just thought I would share my little book with you. It's not too late to start one of your own- even if it's just a plain notebook where you jot down a couple of thoughts and notes each day. To me the little details are so important because they weave the fabrics of our life stories. And for some reason, these same details are the ones that get lots and overlooked most it's just another way to keep track of them at such a special time of year. In a really simple way.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Follow that star~

This is a star ornament that I made after seeing some pretty glitter stars over at Martha Stewart...the directions and samples are here. The center and sequin loop to hang this star are fashioned from the embellishments that come in the SIS ZingBoom kit here. Very unique... I still need to get out and buy some glitter- there are so many projects to do with glitter and it just adds that sparkle and shine and little bit of 'oomph' that I like in crafts this time of year.
Now for my mini~sermon- because I just can't help but think and reflect this time of year, especially when I sit and make things like star ornaments. My kids have been singing and signing about the star over Bethlehem and so I have done some reading and thinking about the star and it made me wonder about some things. These thoughts are for me...but I know some of you get a kick out of what I think about sometimes- so that's why I share them here.
The angels announced the Savior's birth out in the middle of a field one night over 2000 years ago and told the shepherds that they should follow the star that shone brightly in the sky that night.
Now, I believe that the "Christmas story" happened- that it is true and not just a feel-good story to read and listen to and sing about in carols to warm our hearts this time of year. But sometimes I think it loses it's meaning and significance and I don't pause long and hard enough to reflect on the impact of this story in my life. I have often wondered about what it was like to be Mary and Jospeh. I have tried to put myself in their sandals and imagine what they were thinking and feeling as they traveled the long road to Bethlehem only to find there was no place to stay and how hard it must have been for them to 'keep their faith' that this was somehow all a part of God's plan for the birth of His Son.
I know that God was with them and that the peace and assurance He filled their hearts with was enough to make them do exactly as they were led- but still, it must have been hard to not question the circumstances.
I can just imagine me in similar circumstances. I would probably have griped and complained most of the way to Bethlehem and Chip would have been leading the donkey saying in his mind, "God, how could you have picked me for this woman?". He would have questioned his role in this plan, and then I can just see us stepping up to the counter at the inn and hearing the words, "there's no room here for you" after all those miles and I think I would have snapped and lost my patience right about then. I would have said, "Wait. You can't possibly understand or even want to believe what I am about to tell you, but the truth is, I am about to deliver the Savior- the Christ child. Certainly God prepared a nice warm room for me and my not-yet-husband, Joseph, where we will settle in and have an amazing birth experience. Now...maybe you should just check which room is waiting and ready for us."
That would have been me. In my nice tone. =)
But it didn't happen that way. Even though God could have blinked or said the word and the poshest hotel room could have been willed into being right then and there in that little town of Bethlehem.
God's son was born in a cold, dusty stable. By His choice. He sent angels to earth to announce the babe's arrival. He sent them to some lowly shepherds out in a field in the middle of nowhere. And that is what grabs me in a new way this year. He sent angels to tell shepherds this good news. He put a special star in the sky and simply invited the shepherds to be a part of this miracle- but it was their decision to follow the star and become a part of this amazing 'story'- this miracle that changed the destiny of the lives of many.
I imagine the trembling shepherds and know that they must have been thinking they were crazy, or about to be killed or that they should just pretend none of it happened. I suppose they wondered for a few minutes, 'what should we do now?'...but their hearts had been moved and they could see the bright star, so it would have been almost an easy decision to follow the star to the babe in Bethlehem.
It makes me wonder why so many of us miss the 'heart of the message of Christmas', which I believe is simply wrapped up in the word, "Immanuel" which means "God with us". God sent His son to be Love for us, to be "Him" to us- a visual, tangible, living, breathing, walking, talking, healing Prince of Peace to a broken and needy world. The world has needed a Savior since Adam and Eve first broke the relationship between God and man. We needed someone to restore this relationship from the beginning of time, and God had a plan that He only He could put in place to make things 'right' again. This plan meant that God would 'put on human flesh' and live among us in order to 'become one of us- only spotless and blameless' that ultimatley ended in His sacrifice and death on a cross. Three days later when Christ arose victorious over death, it made a 'new way' for us to have restoration with God. We now simply have to believe that Jesus is God's son and that He died for our sin in order for us to live as 'new creations'- forgiven and free- that when we die we can stand blameless before God and worship Him for all eternity!
What an amazing story that is so easily overshadowed these days with the glitz and glam of lights and trees and presents and cookies and things that are so trivial in comparison to what God had planned all along.
Back to the star...I was thinking about all the 'commercialism' of this Christmas season in our society today and it makes me stop and think. Not just a little bit out of sadness that the 'real message' is so distorted and hidden in the festivities, but it made me stop and wonder if I would have seen the star on the hillside with the shepherds that day, and how God wants us to 'see Him' no matter where we are in our lives- even 2000+ years later.
I wonder if God were to hang a 'sign'- a star in the sky this Christmas- would I 'see it'? Would I be too busy to notice a star in the sky or to hear the message of His birth? Would I believe that He is who He says He is...or would I pretend that my 'inn was full' or that the angels' chorus was just a dream or part of my imagination? Would I tune out what the world wants me to believe- the idea that you have to be able to touch something and 'prove something' before you just accept it as truth? Yes. The star makes me wonder. Some of you may wonder what is true about Christmas and what one can really believe.
I thank God that my heart doesn't question, it doesn't resist, it doesn't fear. I thank God that His peace and His assurance fills me. Not just at Christmas. But all the year through. It's my wish for everyone to have this same Peace and Hope in life. I hope that those of you who are seeking and questioning and wondering will 'see' that God is who He is. And He is with us- not just back then in the form of a babe, but His spirit is alive and moves in those who accept Him into their hearts and lives. No matter where we are or how broken we may be. God's plan to restore us to Him includes one and all. May you be blessed to know Him and claim Him as yours this Christmas and for the rest of your life.

Monday, December 10, 2007


A double blogpost day...because Bella said this,
"Does Santa have to stop for bathroom breaks on Christmas?". We do 'believe' in Santa at our house although we celebrate Christmas because it is recognized as the day Christ was born. The most important part of this holiday season is to focus on what that birth and Savior meant to the world, and to us, as sinners and believers now.
I am thankful for both the fun that this special time of year allows our family, but most importantly I am thankful that we have a Real Reason to celebrate. Jesus is the Reason for the Season!

Weekend recap.

Saturday I spent the day with a really great group of friends that I met through SIStv website. I personally didn't get a whole lot scrapped or created, but I did enjoy our conversation over a leisure lunch, the inspiration we shared with each other, and most importantly the laughs and deepening relationships that filled our time together.
Thanks for so much fun girls! I love the gifts you gave to me. That felt polka dot bag was a gift from Christine, the blank journal {and Starbuck's tumbler and Hello Kitty cards/ribbon not pictured} from Nicole, the star ornament with initial was made by Jill... so much love and goodness from everyone! I did make the tags and birdie card you see here, as well as punched out lots of index tabs and scalloped circles. =) I have to admit, I could have gotten more done, but was happy to just relax and kick back for several hours. I have to thank Chip for getting some laundry done and baking while I was away. It made me feel like I had done so much more with my time. =)

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The winner is...

Scrapfairy...send me an email with your address and I will get some Christmas tags in the mail for you this week. You were the 'winner' of the RAK by random draw. Sounds like lots of you are busy making things for Christmas this year.
I had a fun time at a crop yesterday with the Michigan SIS girls...but didn't get much scrapping done. It worked out fine though, because Chip was home making cookies and Divinty candy with the kids. So even though I was gone all day, my home feels one step closer and ready for Christmas.
Although the truth is, the one thing that matters this time of year {and I believe the only thing that matters all year} is one's heart. I hope yours is prepared.
Happy Birthday to Great Grandma Dot. Our family likes to pile in the special days all month long. Love to you!!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Joy at Christmastime...

Tonight I will be speaking to our ladies' group at my church about how I found joy in Christmas that first year that Teagan died. In preparing for what I will share, I pulled up a blog post from Dec. 2005.
Here it is, in case you missed it. I think it still has some good thoughts in it.
Happy birthday to Great Grandma Rose today too! All of us here in Michigan hope she eats a BIG piece of cake in celebration of such a wonderful long life! Love you.

The Barbie Tree
So, here is the legacy of the Barbie Christmas tree...
That first Christmas I faced without my daughter, Teagan was approaching 4 years ago and I was an emotional time bomb. I was still dealing with my own physical problems (muscle/tissue and nerve damage) plus reeling with grief, on top of trying to regain a sense of "normalcy" in our home. That meant living with traumatic stress disorder in my young son, nightmares and headaches for myself, intense physical/occupational and speech therapy for my daughter, Wyndham and a husband recovering from an injured spleen and 8 fractured ribs.You put yourself in that position and ask yourself, "How should I celebrate Christmas this year?". I know that some of you have lost loved ones and you know that stabbing pain you feel every moment you're awake and even sometimes in your dreams. It takes a lot of happiness out of things that used to be fun...and can heap more pain on you as you imagine a favorite time of year without the physical presence of that person that made the holiday extra special. I still feel that. It doesn't stab as deep as it did that first Christmas- but it is always there. And it hurts all the time. For me it's become a lump in my throat that comes at certain times- like when the snowflakes start to appear in the air for the first time in winter. Or when I hang the stockings and I'm not sure how many to put up on the mantel. Or when someone says, "Hope this Christmas is the best one yet"...and in my heart I know it won't ever be. I've already lived the best Christmases of my life. Now they can still be special- but they will never again be the same.Okay. I guess this is the long version of the story of the Barbie tree. I'll try to stay on track.
So, that first Christmas was rougher than I imagined it would be. I cried every time I stood in line and saw someone with a child. I was missing mine. I cried when I tried to walk down the toy aisles to pick out gifts for my other 2 kids. It just plain HURT! I didn't want to think about my sad life- and the hustle and happiness of everyone around me made me feel horrible. On returning from one of these shopping trips I stepped inside the house, bawling and telling my husband Chip that it wasn't fair. As if he needed to be reminded of our situation being so horrible. I stood in the kitchen blubbering about our life and how much it sucked and how I was the unluckiest mother to never be able to buy Teagan anything Barbie and frilly again. That I just wanted to skip Christmas and turn back time to summer and get a chance to relive that fateful day. That was my one wish---and it could never come true. Chip agreed with me on almost every statement I said...except one. He told me I could buy Teagan a bunch of Barbie stuff. He said go out and buy a bunch of stuff and instead of giving it to her- give it in her memory to Toys for Tots. The idea lifted my spirit right there. I mentioned the idea to a friend who asked us instead to donate and decorate a tree for a community charity auction. You know the kind. Black tie event where you bid on trees and then the money goes to a certain fund. We were all over the idea. I signed up and went to work.
We ended up creating a foundation in Teagan's name {The Teagan Ferlaak Memorial Foundation} and decorated and donated a tree. We called it "Teagan's Dream Tree" and it was covered top to bottom in pink/silver and purple balls, Barbie toys, lipgloss, real life Barbie dolls- including an "Angel" Bride Barbie on top. It had white glittery tinsel and pink strings of beads. I made ornaments with Teagan's picture on them- her smiling face lit up that tree. I walked up and down the Barbie aisles with tears in my eyes- but this time I had a greater purpose and it helped to ease the pain I was feeling. I even got to hear a couple of little girls exclaim that some other girl was going to have the best Christmas ever. It made me realize that in fact Teagan would be having her best Christmas ever. She would be celebrating with the real angels in Heaven and singing to Jesus- to whom we owe our praise and worship this time of year and all the year through! She was a lucky girl indeed. It took me 2 afternoons to get the tree just right. It was the first tree that you saw when you entered the hall. Chip and I decided we had to dress up and attend the event. It would be good to get out of the house and socialize and pretend that we were a happy couple for a few hours. We went and were having a nice evening. The Barbie tree was auctioned off last. The event planners called it the "Belle of the Ball". It took top dollar- raising $1500.00. We were very proud and it made me realize that even in the middle of my pain and grief I could create joy. I have tried to adopt that idea as kind of a life mission statement. That even though life doesn't always go my way, or when there is unfair suffering and pain, that I can feel that. But I can't let that determine how I live. I've learned and am still learning that life can have some very dark valleys- but there is always a path out of them. And the sooner I search for it- the sooner I lift myself out of those depths. There is Joy in any circumstance- sometimes you have to make it yourself- like the Barbie tree. Here's the point of this whole story. I was ready to sit home, pout, sulk, cry and feel really sorry for myself and depressed that others were enjoying all the fun. Instead, my husband and I had a very nice evening out.
[Side story here: I found out the morning of that event that I was pregnant with another baby- and the due date was the anniversary of the day Teagan died. How's that for a twist in all we were going through?! By the way- we were not planning or trying or ever thinking of having another baby- especially at this point in our lives. In fact, there had only been like half a chance that it could have even been possible for me to get pregnant at this time- and it actually happened. That's when I knew God was still in control of ALL we were going through.]
Oh yeah.I told Chip that we were having a baby that night too. He TOTALLY didn't believe me. I don't remember how I finally convinced him- but I do remember he grinned the first smile I had seen on his face that came from real happiness...and he hugged me not out of our pain and grief- but out of the joy we realized we still had available to us in this life. It was a memoriable night for both of us- and when the bidding was done on the tree it made us so proud that our pain had brought a nice amount of money- for a great cause. The story then came full circle. I had shed several tears as I decorated the tree. I thought of Teagan and the way her eyes would have sparkled had she stood in front of my creation for her. I imagined the way she might have been telling her new friends in Heaven about her Mommy making her the greatest tree ever for her. I cried for myself and the way I was able to move through my pain. The following morning after the event, the Barbie tree was delivered to our home- it was placed in our living room decorated top to bottom just as I had left it the night before. The man who bid and won the tree said that he couldn't bear the thought of anyone else having the tree. He said it belonged to our family and he was thrilled to be able to give it back. That is how we came to get a Barbie Christmas tree. I put it up again this year- only with most of the Barbie items packed away. It still has pink and silver balls and sparkly white tinsel and pink strings of beads. But I am saving the Barbies to put in my girls stockings this year. I still see Teagan "in that tree" and my heart still aches that she has never helped to put it up with me. But it is a visual reminder to me that when you choose to do something good in this world- even if the source of that goodness comes from pain or hurt- it will always yield a beautiful result. Keep that in mind as you walk through your own circumstances in life that there will be pitstops and roadblocks and dark valleys- but there is always something beautiful along the way. Even if you have to plant your own roses to smell along the way. The fragrance of your efforts is your joy and reward. And yes, Chip and I did have the baby that I told him about that night the following July. She's our Isabella Teagan- born 4 days before the first annivesary of losing Teagan. Her likeness to Teagan is remarkable, her attitudes and behaviors as well. And we wouldn't trade a minute of her life for anything! Enjoy the blessings that await you this season. They are there for the taking...and giving as well.