Friday, 28 December 2012

Winter Wonderland

Monday, 24 December 2012

O Holy Night

...A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn...

Today marks four and a half years since we lost our sweet daughter. It is the fifth Christmas that we will celebrate without her. There is something about the holidays that makes me long a little more for my Leah. She would have been four this year, just a little younger than Tommy, and I know she would be anticipating the day with as much wonder and excitement as he is. And I'm missing it.

I'm weary from the missing, and from the longing, and the yearning. As the years go on living without Leah becomes more and more routine, and the freshness of the grief is long past, and the rawest scars have healed over. But the dull ache never subsides. The beauty of that ache is that it always reminds me how weary I am, and how much I need Christ to arrive. I need the new and glorious morn that he brings, I need his transformation and his new life.

...Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices! Oh night divine, the night when Christ was born...

What hope the birth of a baby can bring. The freshness of new life and the mystery of God's plan for that little one are such precious gifts. How much more so when the new life bears the title Messiah, when he is the promised Holy One, the God With Us. I wonder how the Shepherds felt, as they sat in a cold field in the middle of the night and suddenly the night sky was filled with angels proclaiming to them that their lives would change, that the world would change, that Christ the Lord had come. I wonder how they felt five years down the road. How had this brush with the divine altered them? Were their expectations met? Did they feel let down?

This year has held disappointment for me. Did you know that we found out about Mom's cancer on the very same day that my pregnancy with Kenny was finally officially declared "low risk?" I never even had a chance to revel in the peace that that pronouncement brought. I had only a few hours to rejoice in that amazing news before my world went dark. I know Christ has come. I know his hope, and yet, I struggle. Even having experienced his beautiful redemption of my deepest hurts, I struggle when trials visit me again, when life fails my expectations, when my hopes are not met.

...The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our Friend;
He knows our need, To our weakness is no stranger...

Emmanuel means God With Us. This Christmas I am clinging to that name. God With Us. God on earth. God who was born covered in slime and gasping for breath. God who slept in the humblest of beds. God who experienced hunger. God who lived under oppression. God who walked among us. God who loved sinners, from prostitutes to tax collectors to Pharisees. God who lost friends and family members. God who suffered. God who died. But best of all, God who rose again.

Gods knows. He has experienced. Truly, these are tidings of comfort and joy. Tidings I need to hear this Christmas eve, when our activities sag a bit under the weight of our sadness. As we fight for normalcy and joy, the question "is this the last Christmas as we have known it?" lingers on the edges. We certainly hope that it isn't, but we don't know.

Christmas has not been the same for Jeff and I since Leah died. I know it hasn't been the same for Jeff since his Dad died, even before we lost Leah. As the years march on, we will repeat this scenario again and again with different people and different losses. At least we know that Christ did this too. God With Us has shared our pain.

....Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother, And in His name all oppression shall cease. Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, Let all within us praise His holy name; Christ is the Lord, Oh Praise His name forever...

At Christmas we long for peace. We long for all to be made right. For the promise that God made when he sent his son to see fulfillment. For our world to be restored. God's work through Christ is ongoing. There is more to be done, more restoration on the horizon, more redeeming work.

As I contemplate the birth of Christ, as I ponder the mystery of a God who fulfills the hope of generations by providing a baby born in the most inauspicious of circumstances, as I wonder at the oddness of God's strategies and his painful and strange and beautiful plans, I realize how inadequate my only response can be: praising His holy name.

I hurt. I don't understand. I pine for life to be different. I long for the end of oppression. I know that God With Us has done the same.

The miracle of a babe. The mystery of a holy night. Oh night divine, the night when Christ was born...

Monday, 17 December 2012

Update on Mary: It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

The boys and I are now in California and we are all getting ready for Christmas! We've picked out a tree, baked and decorated a big pile of cookies, and watched The Bells of St. Mary. We are excitedly awaiting the arrival of the rest of the family (and hiding most of the cookies).

Please pray that mom would stay healthy and strong during the next few weeks. Please pray that she will get plenty of rest, that she wouldn't catch any of the many viruses circulating this cold and flu season, and that her stomach will not bother her. Please pray that she would be able to recover quickly from chemo this week (Thursday) so that she will feel well by Christmas. Please pray that we would be able to enjoy our time together and make some really wonderful memories.

Thank you all for your prayers and support this past year. We are so thankful that Mom has made it to Christmas and that we have the blessing of celebrating the birth of our Savior together this year. We attribute this to your keep them coming! We hope you have a very Merry Christmas.

Maybe this one...

Papa's boy

Uncle Kevin plays peek-a-boo

Nothing better than cookies in the morning

The Baby Whisperer

Papa ate most of the cookies

Nic ate most of the sprinkles

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Terrible But True

Recently in the Klug Household...

I was softening our last stick of butter to make a coffee cake. Nicolas found it and licked it up and down like a lollipop. I used it anyway. (Don't worry, the cake was only consumed by our family).

I was changing Kenny with Nic's "help," so I set the dirty diaper behind me to make sure Nic didn't play with it. Then Kenny let loose with a little stream. While attempting to dodge said urine shower I fell backwards and sat squarely on the old diaper that had fallen open. To add insult to injury, I wasn't quick enough to dodge the pee Kenny was shooting at me, so I got wet on both sides.

Tommy learned a hard lesson about putting down the toilet seat and closing the lid when he stumbled backwards while brushing his teeth and fell all the way into the toilet. He was totally soaked and it scared the be-jabbers out of him...and it didn't help that one of his two parents was doubled over laughing at the spectacle.

I emerged from the shower to find Tommy jumping up and down on the coffee table in an attempt to yank the cord to our ceiling fan. He and Nic had thrown some objects on top of the fan and wanted to turn it on to watch them fly off. He is about an inch away from being able to activate the fan and shoot tennis shoes everywhere. If you given them ten minutes by themselves...

And. most terrible of all, Nic broke our digital camera (accidentally). I wish that had a funny punch-line. Thus, no more pictures until we hit CA for Christmas.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Remembering Hope

Advent is a time of longing. A time of waiting. A time of anticipation. A time of hope. We look forward to Christ's return, we look forward to the celebration of His birth and the fulfillment of years of waiting for God to send a Messiah for His people. But we wait and hope and yearn for little things too. For the bits and pieces that comprise the things we long for the most. Those things don't matter to humanity the way that the coming of a Savior and his eventual return do, but in our small stories they mean everything. And I know that they matter to God, because He orchestrates both the big and the small picture. He carefully oversees not just the redemption of man, but the redemption of me.

This Advent I have found myself reflecting much more on the things that I long for. Perhaps it's timing. This is the fifth season of advent that we have celebrated since losing Leah. For me Advent has never been more real or more personal since I walked through it while desperately longing for an actual child. Advent is a hard time when you yearn for a baby, but yearning also makes it so much more meaningful because you intimately understand the urgency with which we should be craving the coming of our Lord.

In my current day to day, which is filled to bursting with children and their laborious (but joyous) care, I forget what it feels like to long for anything more than a clean kitchen and a three day nap. In the midst of this, Advent is a precious reminder to stop and yearn, to stop and anticipate, and to hope. Sometimes God wipes the lenses of my eyes clean. They have been so clouded with sorrow about my mom's illness, disappointments with Jeff's job, frustration with our living arrangement, and a difficult situation concerning one of the kids. I often feel like I am treading water very poorly, spiritually speaking, instead of clinging to God's grace and allowing him to do the work of keeping me afloat. So this week he threw me a life preserver.

Sunday was the first day of Advent. I was feeling draggy and grumpy because Nic is still teething, and then he wakes up Kenny, and trust me, it's a vicious cycle. I dressed Kenny up for church and was tearing through the boy's bedroom unsuccessfully searching for his second church shoe, when Nic came in grasping a baby tennis shoe, and offered it to me. Kenny had never worn these shoes before, and I knew as soon as I saw Nic holding it that it was a little shoe of hope.

In order to understand the impact Nic's gesture had on me, you need to know the story behind the shoe. And, perhaps it is a silly story, but, when you are grieving things that seem trifling to others can be terribly important to you.

Rewind almost five years. Jeff and I announced we were pregnant, and congratulations and such poured in. Along with those came an offer from a neighbor, who mentioned she had boy clothing that she would be happy to pass on to us if we needed it. As you know, we didn't. We had a daughter, and she only needed a burial gown. Then I did something silly after we lost Leah; I asked for the clothes anyway. At the time, I didn't know if we would ever have a child, much less when. We had begun our adoption, and we knew that there was a higher chance we would be matched with a boy. So, it sort of made sense. But it didn't matter to me whether or not it made a lick of sense, because my parents had space in the attic and were willing to indulge my crazy hoarding whims. You see, to me it wasn't just a pile of baby clothes, it was a pile of hope. A tangible collection of material objects that reminded me that as dark as my life seemed, and hard as it hurt to lose Leah, and travel the excruciating road of waiting that was our first adoption, that someone believed that we would really and truly have a baby enough to give me the things that I would need when my baby arrived, even if they might have served someone else "faster" or "better" had they been donated to the Salvation Army or Goodwill. It was like our neighbor who donated the clothes, and my parents who patiently stored all those bags, really believed that a baby would come into my life, that a little child would someday snuggle in my arms and need all of those tiny outfits. As I longed for that baby to come, I needed hope (and really, when you consider how many piles of rocks our Old Testament heroes collected to remember and remind, making a pile of clothes isn't that odd).

When the pile of clothes was delivered to my parent's house, we had just been given a referral for a baby who never ended up joining our family. I carefully sorted through clothes picking out his sizes and packing what I would need for our trip to get him in Uganda. I was full of hope. I carefully selected my favorite teeny tiny outfits (he was small), and delighted in little bitty baby shoes. Because let's be real, baby shoes are ridiculously unnecessary and therefore ridiculously cute. I picked from the bag the most absurd baby shoes, Nike tennis shoes in the smallest size possible, looking brand spanking new because they clearly hadn't been walked on. They struck me as the most adorable thing, and I couldn't wait to get them on our little man's feet. But that was also not to be, and after our referral fell through all that stuff went back into bags to wait a little longer. When Tommy finally became part of our family he was much too old and grown up to wear the tiny baby shoes. Back in the clothes bag they went again. When Nic came home I tried again with him. While he fit in many of the baby (6 to 12 month) clothes, his feet were (and are) rather large for his body, so the shoes barely went over his toes. Back in the clothes bag they went. I got them out when Kenny started needing shoes for the purpose of holding on his socks, but I never quite got around to putting them on. Eventually Nic and Tommy decided they were cool and tried to wear them in an effort reminiscent of Cinderella's step-sisters. The shoes got separated and one was misplaced, and they never ended up on Kenny's feet, until that first morning of Advent.

As I slid that little shoe on Kenny's feet, zipped it up and pulled the velcro tight, it was as if God was whispering into my ear, "Remember, your crazy pile of clothes? Remember, you have hope. Remember what I have done."

It was a culmination of a longing. Not that Kenny has completed our family in a way that is better than Tommy or Nic. He is no more my child than they are. All my children are equally mine, and they hold the same place in my heart. All of their lives and stories are equally miraculous to me. But in those dark days I longed for a baby, I dreamed of tiny hands, newborn cries, and chubby thigh rolls, because I had lost those things. I had lost not only a daughter, but an experience. When we chose to adopt internationally, we knew we were giving that up, and we knew that it was the right choice for us. But I always hoped for tiny little feet to wear those shoes, and those itsy newborn onesies, and sweet little sleepers, and Kenny has done all those things. We've awakened many times a night to his sweet snuffles and pathetic little cries. We've changed countless diapers, given careful baths, and had our fingers grasped by tiny little fingers. We've introduced solids, been gnawed on with tender gums, and chomped on by a first tooth. Kenny is almost as old as Nic was when Nic joined our family, and we are just about done experiencing infant "firsts" that have been as new to us as they are to Kenny. It's been a bittersweet journey, one that has dredged up bits and pieces of loss and grief, but it's also been healing, and joyous, and good. So, so good.

But it is easy to forget how good life is when your mom's doctors tell you she is going to die, and when your children fight, and when your house has no space for playing, no appliances for dishwashing or laundry, and the funk that is effecting our economy hits your household. That's why I needed the little reminder of how much God has done: a little pair of white tennis shoes that carried the message of a longing fulfilled on a day dedicated to anticipation, to yearning, to expectation, and to that ache in one's heart that whispers, "and yet, there must be something more."

Christ was here once. His coming fulfilled a long awaited promise, and when He came He brought with Him hope. Hope in a restored relationship with God. Hope in a restored world. Hope that all the hurts and sorrows we bear will pass away. Hope that all of our yearnings and deep need will be met, through God's provision, and in His time. I needed to remember that this Advent. I needed to remember to take time to let my heart ache, to yearn, to know that my life is just a small part of a big redemption story, one that God is actively working to bring to completion, just as he is actively working to complete a good work in me. And knowing all that, remembering all that, I hope.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Early Morning Football

Inspired by last night's game, this morning Tommy got up, ate breakfast, and suited up for the football game he intended to play with Nic on our bed ("I need my helmet so we can play football on your bed!"). While this idea was nixed, we did allow them to play on the floor. When we explained that playing on the bed might be dangerous, he responded, "but we're wearing helmets!"

Tommy thought up this outfit all by himself: I'm rather proud of the shoulder pads in particular. When Nic saw Tommy's get-up, he wanted to join in on the fun.

Tommy announced, "I'm Jetski and Nic can be Johnathan Franklin." (For those of you who don't bleed Bruin blue, Jetski is Johnathan Franklin is The Mayor). So we suggested he choose another play for Nic, so Nic got to be one of the other favorites, Brett Hundley. He even knows their numbers from watching games this season - 23 and 17. He noted last night that it is nice that they have chocolate skin and curly hair just like he does.

My little boys are football fans. Just about every fourth word out of Nic's mouth is "football." They've enjoyed that the last few Bruin games were televised nationally so we actually got to watch some of the game together (the games have been on too late for them to stay up for the whole thing). Tommy likes to watch the players and ask questions about them, work on figuring out their numbers, and try to decipher exactly what is going on in the game. Nic enjoys the band. He stands closer to the TV so he can hear even the faintest melody, and claps along to his two favorite songs, Sons of Westwood and the Mighty Bruins.

Jeff has never really been interested in football, but since the kids love it so much he is learning the rules and following along with the games. This is the sign of a great dad, in my opinion - being willing to take up his kids' interests even when they aren't his. Given Jeff's excellent memory, he will probably know more about football than I do very very soon. It is funny to watch football with an adult who isn't familiar with the game, because all of the stuff you take for granted when you grow up watching football - like the inane babble of certain commentators - seems odd when you aren't used to it.

Some pictures of the boys, all suited up and ready to play:

Kenny enjoyed watching from a safe distance.