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.

27 comments:

Jamie said...

Beautifully written. You are a lovely, lovely woman and I am so thankful to have stumbled upon your writings. You are a blessing to me in more ways than you could ever know and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Merry Christmas!

Cathy said...

What a beautiful story! I cried reading it. You truly are an amazing woman Jody. You MUST know that Teagan is enjoying her Christmas in Heaven with the best seat in the house - next to God!

Merry Christmas!

3QTGUYS said...

Oh, I just love it. I love the fact that you are "real" and share pain, and I love the fact that other people still have so much good in them.

Merry "Barbie" Christmas

Coco said...

Very powerful.

Our God is wise - and the wisdom you have gleaned in your honest relationship with him is beautiful.

You hang it out there for us Jody, I know that you are simply sharing your journey, but it ministers. Man, does it ever.

Tonight in thanks to you for your cyber-friendship I will lift each one of the Ferlaaks individually - Ava, Isabella, Brock, Wyndham, Teagan, Chip and Jody - up in prayer. I do not know specifically what to ask our Father for on y'all's behalf, but he does.

I will thank him for the 'sweet things' I have had glimpses into from each of you, and ask for his wisdom in providing something to each of you that you each need as individuals and for something that will bless you abundantly as a family.

You rock Jody -- don't you ever forget it!

Tina Vega said...

Thank you so much for sharing this story with us, Jody. What a beautiful tribute to the Lord and great reminder for us to look for His goodness in the midst of the storm. What a sweet, sweet story.

Merry Christmas!

Cynthia said...

Wow. Thank you for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Although I am significantly older than you - 47 to be exact - when I grow up I want to be just like you. Beautiful!!! Your new friend in West Virginia - Susan

Michelle said...

Jody, You are a continual source of wisdom for me. I really needed your post this morning, and I thank you so much for sharing your honest and true self with all of us. You are a blessing to me.

Janna said...

I think it is absolutely precious that you guys put up a Barbie tree in Teagan's memory. What a wonderful way to remember your little girl each Christmas. :) I am all teared up as I write this... I just can't imagine the pain you felt that first Christmas without her. I am so glad that Jesus gave you a reason for joy that year... and every year since.

God bless & Merry Christmas!!! :)

Staci Compher said...

....this will be my first christmas without my husband, and we are doing our best to find the beauty in the holiday........thanks for the inspirational words...

Shelly said...

what a touching story. You sound like such a remarkable women, what an inspiration. Thank you....

Cyndi said...

heart-wrenching, heart-warming. . . goosebumps and good feelings here! To share your misery and truimph over it is very courageous and I admire you a great deal for living a faith-filled life. It makes me strive to be a better person. Thank you

Heather said...

oh Jody that is beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing it, i cried. i am going to link it from my blog, everyone should read this!

Regina said...

Wow! I have been touched by so many of your posts - and think of you every time I see owls - but now I will be thinking of Teagan every time I see Barbies - and smiling!

Linda said...

Thank you so much for the precious story. I hope you know that you are a voice of joy, thanksgiving and love to those who read this blog. I pray that many many will be led to your blog for the very gift giving inspiration and heartfelt love that you inspire in me, that they be blessed with the light that you shine. You are amazing.

Liz Ness said...

Beautiful story and a beautiful way to honor Teagan's memory. No doubt she is smiling down on you (always).

Shalay said...

I was brought to tears reading this. You are truly a remarkable person and I admire you very much. Thank you for writing. You and your family are beautiful.

All moments remembered said...

I am so glad this blog was brough to my attention. An amazing story. You and your family will be in my thoughts and prayers! I am so sorry you lost your little girl but what an amazing thing you have done with it. I can only imagine the pain you must have and still do feel. My heart and love go out to everyone in your family!!!

Liz said...

Still makes me tear up, I love coming to your blog and being fillled with hope.

thank you!

Unforgettable Crop for Kids said...

I have no words. That is the most beautiful thing I've read in a while.

lize said...

jody as I read your blog I am so inspired and touched by your honesty. it is our belief that one day we will be with our loved ones again, and for that i give praises to our Father above. I too have lost a loved one and know what it is to feel that pain. you more than inspire you lift us up to him, thanks all my love to you and yours this holiday season. lize

Lisa G said...

You have my heart every time I read your posts. Love you!

JackieQ said...

Jody, you are such an eloquent writer and such a thoughtful person. Your words no doubt have helped and will help many. I am in awe of your ability to see the true beauty in life and am happy and proud to call you my SISter. All the best to you this season!

leslie said...

I remember reading about Teagan when you first wrote about what had happened and have always felt moved and touched by how real and true you were in telling about your feelings. Your story has given me a new out look on life and the true, "value" of Christmas. Thank you so very much for touching my heart...forever!

Teagan has one awesome mommy.

leslie Avila

susan opel said...

Wow! It's like I knew somehow. I donated a Barbie to Toys for Tots just yesterday. I hadn't given her a name in my head, but now I will always think of her as Teagan. :)

Andrea Amu said...

I am thrilled that I came across this beautiful story! Jody, I am so very sorry that you are missing your sweet Teagan, but you are certainly keeping every aspect of her memory alive. I am awed by your strength, and I too am a mother who seeks to "find joy in every circumstance" while missing my babies. Thanks for sharing your soul!

Fabienne said...

i've never experienced what you've been through and i hope i never will. I found your blog few month ago and at that time i did not want a second child, but reading your blog made me want one. I just wanted to say thank you because you made me realized the chance i have to live the life i have.

Have you and your family a very Merry Christmas