A Merry Little Christmas

Merry Christmas from a happy Korn family to yours!

This was such a strange Christmas for us here. For the first time EVER, we missed Christmas Eve at my aunt and uncle’s house. The snow made the forty minute trip too difficult for us and for most of the rest of the family too. I have gone to their house every Christmas Eve since I was born and consider it one of my most cherished family traditions.

You know in elementary school when they are trying to teach you the meaning of the word “tradition” and the teacher asks everyone to think of an example from their family? This was my example. My tradition. My family encompassed in one night.

First, there is the food. Piles and pounds of gloriously rich holiday food. Each family bringing their very best so that there isn’t a single questionable dish in the bunch. And how we Jardelezas can eat. I remember fondly having to protect my plate from my very enthusiastic uncles and cousins. I remember distinctly one year one of my uncles poked a finger around in my plate while asking “Were you going to eat that?” And you have to be fast about picking up your plate so the cousins who are wrestling in the middle of the floor don’t roll over your food.

Then there is the music. With literally almost fifty voices singing together, it is impossible to escape the swirling layers of harmony. My favorite is the song we sing for grace called “Thank you Lord” sung to the tune of “Edelweiss” from Sound of Music.

Thank you Lord
Thank you Lord
For our many good blessings.
Thank you Lord
Thank you Lord
For our many good friendships
Glory to God
May you hear our prayer
Guide us on forever
Thank you Lord
Thank you Lord
For our blessings and friendships.

But of course, we can’t escape the Christmas carols. We used to pass out folders with pages of lyrics and sing all the verses to all the classics, but we’ve since lost the lyrics and we race through the first verse of every carol we can think of. The goofy young ones favor Rudolph, but I prefer the slower, hymn-like carols because I can feel the rumble of my husband’s baritone wrapping around my uncle Joe’s bright tenor harmonies and my aunts’ rich altos. If there is one thing I identify with my Jardeleza family, it’s the sound of those fifty or so voices singing together. It really makes me think of what it was like to be a shepherd in the field that night listening to the angels sing glory to God.

We always do this game called Posadas where we choose an expectant couple to imitate Mary and Joseph going door to door seeking room at the inn. My husband would complain and say that our classic understanding of the Christmas story is faulty and would start to explain the meaning of the word “kataluma” which has been translated “inn” in so many versions of the Bible, but would be better translated “living space.” But the fun part about posadas is the crazy concepts for each inn my cousins come up with. One year, my teenage male cousins answered the doorpost their “inn” shirtless and in diapers fashioned from bed sheets. Don’t ask me why, but it was hysterical. I usually choose to be one of the audience that follows our Mary and Joseph door to door singing “O Come All Ye Faithful.”

We close the night in a flurry of wrapping paper as we open a few presents and pass out hugs and love. Every year, my aunt Chrissy makes everyone a giant sack of cookies and I look forward to those extra pounds on my hips and thighs with great anticipation. The room always gets a little warm and everyone gets sleepy. We change the little ones into their pajamas because we know they will fall asleep on the way home, and we wish we could do the same. Then we grab some leftovers on the way out the door.

This is what I missed this year and yet, it seemed fitting to celebrate Christmas Eve at home this year. We took a trip to see the doctor to make sure that the dizziness, general discomfort and chest tightness I have been feeling the past week were nothing to be worried about and came home to cuddle by the tree and watch a barrage of Christmas classics on TV. The doc says I am just stressed and my husband insists that I have to give myself permission to feel that way.

I get it, but the thing is, I just don’t feel stressed. I have been home with my wonderful children, showered with love and support, gifted, dined, dated, hugged, cuddled and kissed. And I feel a little annoyed to discover that I really am stressed even if I am trying to convince myself that I am not. How contrary to the holiday it is to feel stressed. Here we are celebrating the birth of Christ, the ultimate symbol of God’s sovereignty, and we still struggle with trusting God with everything. In the midst of remembering that God himself became man to open the gates of heaven for sinners like us, we still think He can’t handle our junk.

And that is why I know that we needed a home Christmas Eve this year. God made it so we were stuck home this year, missing all those things I identify with Christmas at my aunt’s house. I had an awesome Christmas this year at home with my amazing husband and beautiful babies. Celebrating the sovereignty of a trustworthy and faithful God.

Plus even though I didn’t get my aunt Chrissy’s cookies, my gorgeous sister in law Erica made sure my hips and thighs weren’t neglected this year and gave me a cookie jar full of cookies. My family rocks.

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A Return to Normalcy?

The phrase “a return to normalcy” was a slogan coined by some presidential candidate (Harding, maybe?) following World War I. The Great War. While this war was going on, the world thought it was the epitome of horrific wars – the war to end all wars. And the American people wanted nothing more than to feel normal again. And maybe they did feel like things were going back to normal. Until World War II.

In the past week, I have started to feel closer to that normal. Patrick and I had been staying in our first floor spare room (Jake’s room) so that I didn’t have to go up and down so many stairs and we returned to our bedroom Monday. After my washer broke and we bought a new one, I had a renewed drive to keep house and do laundry. I even made the executive decision to put real pants on at least one day this week instead of living in my sweats.

But I can’t help but feel like something else lurks on the horizon. It’s in our nature as women to worry and fret over little things, right? Maybe. But shouldn’t it be more my nature as a believer to hand it all over to God and trust Him with it?

I feel like I have successfully handed Luna over to God, but I am battling with the idea that I have to hand everything over to Him. It’s like I am saying to God, “I gave you Luna, now you have to leave the rest of my life alone.” Like he doesn’t have my permission to do what He wants with my life because he already made one difficult decision for me. What if I can’t have more children? What if something happens to Patrick? Or Bo or Maggie? What if, what if, what if?

It’s the same as the feeling we all have when we’re going through something to feel like people have to be extra nice to us as we grieve. So we feel double slighted when people make our grief about them or make it more difficult for us because of their lack of understanding. We are not entitled to anything – even consideration from people we call our friends. Even a break from life. Even mercy from God when we are in the midst of something difficult. Even a return to normalcy -EVER.

And if I am being honest, I don’t think I want normal. When things were normal, I took life for granted. When things were normal, I had no idea how blessed I was. When things were normal, I had no perspective on God’s plan for my life. When things were normal, I was self absorbed and focused on my plan for my life instead of God’s plan for my life.

I pray only that God would give me faith strong enough to entrust him with my WHOLE life. Faith enough to rejoice in all circumstances. Yes, ALL circumstances. And I am thankful that I could learn this lesson and thankful that I could teach this lesson to my children now instead of later. Thankful for this opportunity to share my heart with all of you.

As we prepare our hearts to celebrate the birth of our Savior, I can’t stop thinking about how Jesus chose to become human. He chose to be born into a life like mine. He chose a life of physical and emotional pain. A life full of earthly sorrow and loss. And why? So that one day I could choose an eternity in heaven with Him. An eternity free of physical and emotional pain. An eternity free of sorrow and loss. An ETERNITY with the child and brother I have already lost.

So whatever God ordains for my life is worth it. Not because I get that eternity in heaven, but because my God is faithful and merciful and just. He is worthy of my trust. Worthy of my FULL and TOTAL trust. Pray with me that we can all give ourselves over to Him completely especially now in this Advent season.

Everybody’s Best Friend

Two years ago today was one of the most important days of my Christian life.

It was a Monday. I got up and got ready for work and woke my brother Jacob up at 6:50 to take care of baby Bo like always. He didn’t live with us, but stayed in our spare room during the week so that he could be our “manny” or man nanny. He grumbled a little and Patrick said something about how awful Mondays are. Jake says “Hey Bogus” and goes into the bathroom which is directly off the bedroom.

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One-year-old Bo and his best friend Jake

That is where it stopped being like a regular Monday.

I sat Bo up on the counter with a slice of peanut butter toast and got lunch together. I even remember which plate his toast was on. Patrick offered to wait for Jake so I could go to work. (He knows I hate to be late and we were driving separately anyway.) I go out to the car and try to back down the driveway which I have done a million times before but I keep riding up on the hill, so I throw my hands up and go back inside to ask Patrick for help. While he is out moving the car, my heart drops a little and I start to worry. Jake doesn’t take that long in the mornings…

I walk into his room and ask the closed bathroom door “Are you alright? Jake? For real…are you okay?” No answer. Patrick came back in and I pretend I am not flipping out and ask him to check on Jake. He knocked on the bathroom door and tried to open it. He had to force it open because Jake was leaning against the door, completely unresponsive.

Patrick yells for me to call 911 and starts CPR. I remember having to yell at the 911 operator because she was asking me stupid questions just to keep me on the line. “Do you need me on the line? Because you’re not really helping me anymore and I need to call my family!!!” I call my dad and don’t get an answer. My mom doesn’t answer her cell either. I run down the driveway to move the car so the ambulance can get up to the door. Finally I get a hold of my dad.

The rest is a blur of calling all my siblings and answering the EMTs questions. I accidentally say Jake is 24 when he’s really 25. The EMTs can’t get a heart rhythm and they scratch the wall with the gurney. We load Bo into the van and follow the ambulance to the hospital where my Aunt Mecky meets us and takes us to some secret waiting room for people with serious cases or something. The bereavement room. My mom is already with Jake. My dad shows up soon after us and my brother Jack joins us in the secret room. Too soon my aunt is back and she takes my hand and whispers like she can’t bear to be heard, “He didn’t make it.”

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Me and my little brother Jake cuddling on the couch.

My whole life changed that day. I can still hear my brother Joe screaming on the phone when I tell him Jake died. No…it was more like wailing. The way I imagine they wail and mourn in the Old Testament, ripping their clothes and throwing ashes on their heads. He was in the car with is fiancĂ© and Jake was his best man. I remember saying something stupid to Jes about her trying to get off of work. Duh. Of course she would take off work and come to the hospital. No one had been able to get a hold of my brother Jimbo yet. Jen was in the hospital fighting off pneumonia and Chris was driving to Hopkins to tell her in person.

That morning was a mess, but in that morning I saw more clearly than ever that God is in charge.

If Jake had died ten minutes later, one-year-old Bo would have been by himself all day until I got home from work around 4. If he had died ten minutes earlier, he wouldn’t have seen Bo one last time and I wouldn’t have seen him. If I had backed down the driveway like I always do, I would have been on the way to work when Patrick found Jake. Since Jake died at our house and not at home, he was taken straight to the hospital where my mom was working. And my aunt was even at work at the hospital that morning too, so she could be there for my mom and for me.

If God had not crept into my heart that morning, I would have been impatient and angry that Jake was taking so long in the bathroom. I mean, that’s my natural frame of mind…my typical response to life. Anger. Impatience. Selfishness. But that morning, I wasn’t angry at all. Not one tiny bit. God even controlled my heart so that I wouldn’t live in regret for my attitude that morning.

God orchestrated every detail that morning. Right down to my heart. Right down to my sinful, angry, selfish heart.

I mean, it was Jake’s heart that gave out. He had his first heart attack at 16 and his last nine years later. Nine years we didn’t know we were going to get. Nine years God blessed us with.

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This photo was taken after Jake’s first heart attack at my high school graduation dinner

Don’t misunderstand me. That day was awful and every day since has felt incomplete because Jake isn’t here to share it with us, but I trust that God has got it all under control because HE managed to control even my temper that morning. It certainly wasn’t me. I have been fighting that thing for almost three decades now.

Even though I miss Jake more now than ever before, I get to see bits and pieces of him in my Bo and in my siblings. I can watch a movie and feel like he’s sitting right next to me because I have watched that movie with him so often. I can eat certain foods and feel close to him because the smell reminds me of him and I can see him standing by the stove with his pony tail down his back.

And I am certain that this peace I feel about losing Luna is totally God’s doing. But I blame Jake too.

Remembering

I am finding it difficult to write about this past week because I have nothing profound or meaningful to say about those things. There are no deep thoughts or exceptional emotions. No epiphanies or breakdowns or teachable moments. So much happened this week. But I feel separated from it. I feel infantile in my responses like I am waiting for my parents or my husband to tell me how to react. Honestly, I think I am ignoring myself.

I cling to the knowledge that God is sovereign. I am gripping it in my sweaty palms like a security blanket.

I have so many opportunities to remember Luna in pleasant ways. My Aunt Bim created for us an incredible painting of the moon and on Sunday at the Hollow, it glowed in the window of her artist’s studio like it was the moon itself. Even now as it hangs in our house, I can’t take my eyes off of it.

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Her husband, my uncle Robert, used his carpenter’s hands and his artist’s heart to build for us the casket in which Luna was buried. He intentionally chose woods and patterns that were meaningful to him and put so much love into such a tiny box. He carved the moon in the lid as it shone on him from overhead. I cannot imagine a more love-soaked place for Luna’s body to await the resurrection.

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We nestled Luna between my two brothers, Josh and Jake.

At the burial, Patrick poured out his heart, singing “It is Well” at the top of his lungs. It was like he cracked open his soul and showed everyone what was inside of him. The fleshy, pulsating innards and private places that no one gets to see were put on display. And as transparent as I appear to be in this blog, I haven’t let anyone see me like that. Maybe I am still waiting for that moment for me. He took some artistic liberty with the second verse.

Though Satan should buffet
And trials should come
Let this blessed assurance control
That Christ hath regarded
Luna’s helpless estate
And hath shed His own blood for her soul

Patrick went back to work on Tuesday. All of a sudden, I am reminded of the fact that life continues. There is this whole other part of my life that will come back into play before I know it. On the same day, my washer died. Yet another reminder that life does not stop when tragedy strikes. God does not intend for us to pause in that moment of pain and rest there. God intends for us to move forward and move ahead and carry that tragedy like a banner so that we can better serve Him.

My purpose is not to stop and stay cooped up in my house, ignoring the world and hoping that one day I will feel normal. My purpose is to carry the bleeding heart of Christ with me as I go into the world and share the magnitude of the sacrifice He made for us. We were talking to Bo about Christmas as we put up our nativity set and I was reminded that Christ humbled himself for our sake. He became man – and not even a rich or powerful or extraordinary man – and was tortured and killed for the glory of God the Father, so that we could come to know him intimately and ultimately spend eternity with him.

What God asks of me is so puny in comparison. In fact, it is our honor as Christians to share in the suffering of Christ so that we can glorify our Creator. We all have our burdens. Mine is losing a baby. Mine is losing my brother. Mine is struggling with a sinful, selfish attitude. But instead of focusing on those burdens, God calls me to hand them over to Him. They are opportunities for us to participate in the wonder of God’s plan. What is God going to ask of me in the future? What is God asking of you?

One Week Later

So, it has been a week and I don’t feel that much different. There are up days and down days…more like up moments and down moments. Moments of perfect incomprehensible peace and moments of unreasonable confusion.

I’ve surprised myself in a few different ways this week. First of all, I expected to react with great jealousy when people announce their pregnancies but I am just so happy for a healthy baby for ANYBODY that I can’t be jealous. After I had Bo, I was so envious of everyone who got pregnant – I had just had a baby and I was really missing carrying that baby in my belly. So I am really surprised at how happy for other people I am. But I really am happy for them and I relish the opportunity to rejoice in a healthy pregnancy and baby. I know I don’t get to have that experience myself this time around, but I am glad that other people do.

The other thing that surprises me is my negative reaction to most people before they even say or do anything. When I originally started telling people about Luna’s Turner Syndrome diagnosis, many of my family and friends who have experienced similar loss warned me about all the hurtful things people would say in the name of comfort. They warned me not to be too upset or too worried about it because they are really trying to make me feel better even if they are saying something completely stupid. So I was (I thought) prepared to respond to these things with patience, grace and understanding…but it is so much harder than I ever thought it would be. Honestly, I have a cynical attitude before anyone even says anything. That is my sinful self acting out like a child because I didn’t get what I want.

It is weird to miss someone you never really met. Luna and I had an intimate connection for five months, and I never got to see the girl she would become. But I miss her. Then I think about how blessed I was to know her the way I did because I knew her in ways no one else could.

She loved chocolate. She would kick and punch and roll every time I ate chocolate. She was a night owl and would kick me awake at night to go pee and give her more room in her tiny cramped space. Her favorite thing was church – between the praise music and the preaching, she was dancing the whole service long. I swear she would react most to the parts of the sermon that were most challenging to me. Like she was shouting out “Amen!” or “Alleluia!” in response to a powerful sermon. She loved hearing Bo talk to her and he did every day saying, “I love you, Luna. You’re the best baby in the whole world!” She was totally a contrary Hansbrough because she was adamant about making me sleep on my right side even though all the books tell pregnant women to sleep on their left side. If I wanted to sleep, it had to be my right side. She was totally Korn too because she loved music and she played my ribs like a harp.

My husband didn’t get to experience Luna that way. No one did. Just me. What an incredible blessing.

Patrick expressed how we are feeling best this afternoon. “I feel like a small percentage of myself.”

Something is so clearly missing in this picture. But if you squint really hard you can convince yourself that it’s all there. Then all your squinting gives you a headache and you have to face the empty space again. Up and down.

Again, thank you for your prayers and love and support. Please keep it coming.

They came and planted our Luna tree today. It’s an Okame cherry tree and we are already excited for March (when Luna was due) to see the tree bloom like crazy. It will be gorgeous and pink and blossoming for a short time – just like our Luna Baby. Pictures to come.