Gift Ideas - Handmade and Other

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Yeah, Tough I Walk - Good Gifts

At nine o’clock in the morning it was already hot, unbearably so out in the sun, and uncomfortably so in the overcrowded kitchen. The concrete floor had been swept, the hammock tied in a knot out of the way, and our friends gathered around us to say goodbye. They said goodbye with gifts, gifts that were given to us out of their sacrifice. Some gave an item that cost them money that they couldn’t afford. Others gave items they possessed that could never be replaced, such as the two brothers who gave away their high school trophies to our two male leaders. That year in Belize we learned about good gifts, ones that are given out of the sacrifice and the love of the giver, gifts that have meaning.

God also gives us good gifts--gifts that have meaning. He gives us people – dear friends, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, husbands, wives, coworkers, neighbors – people of all shapes and sizes. Sometimes we enjoy those people for many years sometimes for only a short time. When these gifts, these people, leave us never to return, it causes grief.

We may not understand why we have one person for many years and another for only a short time. Our view of death is so different from God’s view. We experience it as a loss, an end. For us it is a cause of grief and heartache. God says that it is precious to Him. From His perspective it is a birth for His children into new life where there is no pain or suffering. It is a birth into life in God’s presence.

When we lose someone we love, it is easy to close ourselves off to love, to close our hearts to keep from feeling such intense pain ever again. Yet, God has many wonderful gifts He wants to give us. One gift does not replace another--each is unique and priceless in its own way. God wants to bring other people and experiences into our lives to bring us joy, to meet our needs, to help fill the void of loss, to love us, and to be loved by us.

We value, cherish, and love God’s gifts while they are with us and we must also learn to release them when they are gone. We love, we trust, we accept, we treasure the people who are given from God’s hand. We grieve--deeply, painfully. In the face of our loss, we trust God to meet our needs. In time we move forward. We thank God for the gift we had, for the time we had. We cherish the memories. We reorganize our lives. We learn to laugh again, to accept new people into our lives and we follow God to new things . . . in time.

What is one of your favorite memories of a good gift, a beloved person, whom you have lost?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

End of the Year Update - Guest Blogger

From guest blogger Dakota Colwell filling in for Dar:

Meowry Christmas!!! Greetings from our family to yours!!

Mama has again given me the task of writing our Christmas letter. (She says it’s important for me to help out when I can. She says I’m a very good companion and mouse catcher, [purr, purr] and this is my other once-a-year job.)

Let’s paws for a bit to reflect on the meaning of the season. Recently, Mama was in a meeting where she was asked what Jesus’ birth means to her, not only at Christmas, but all year ‘round.  She answered with (purr, purr) a story about me that went like this:

Seven years ago, I got an itty, bitty kitty. At Christmas time I put him in his carrier to travel to my
parents’ home with me. He didn’t like it and cried for the whole two hours. I spoke soothingly to
him and told him that although he didn’t like it, it was the safest place for him. I told him that if
he were out he would get under my feet and distract me and kill us both. But he couldn’t
understand. I thought of God and how many times He tried to communicate to me and I couldn’t
understand, how He tried to console me and show me that the difficult situation was really for
my best. I couldn’t become a kitty and speak in Cat, but God did become a man, a human being
so that He could communicate to me in a way I could understand. I’m so thankful for that.

Just for the record (hiss, growl) I still don’t like traveling in the carrier!!!

Let me give you a little recap of our year:

·         In March Grammie fell and half of her face was pretty colors for a long time. Uncle Don took her to the ER and they kept her for observation. They wouldn’t let her go home unless her family could guarantee someone would be with her 24/7. Mama was very thankful that Aunt Karen was willing and able to take on this job.

·         Aunt Karen’s girls planned a surprise party for her in April. Mama helped with the surprise by going with her to see a movie so the girls could decorate and set up. Aunt Karen was very surprised and deeply touched by the thoughtful gifts her daughters gave her.

·         In May Aunt Cindy planned a surprise party for Grammie’s 88th birthday. Almost all of her children, many of her grandchildren, and a few of her great-grandchildren were able to celebrate with her.

·         In June it was Mama’s birthday and Aunt Karen put together a special gathering and Aunt Carol made Mama’s favorite red cake to celebrate the momentous occasion. Mama is calling it her Year of Jubilee and made a list of 50 things she would like to accomplish before her next birthday.

·         At the end of July Mama took a little weekend excursion to Connecticut to spend time with her friend Anne. They went to the ocean, visited a butterfly garden, stopped at Yankee Candle headquarters, and had lunch with some of Anne’s friends. Mama crossed several things off her Jubilee List as a result of this trip.

·         Shortly after her return, she heard sad news that Uncle Don had bone cancer. Following surgery and radiation treatments he has received a cancer free report from his doctors. They will continue to monitor him regularly. Mama is thankful for his renewed health and God’s answer to many prayers on his behalf.

·         On September 16th Mama left for work and had a few “firsts” take place (although these were NOT on her Jubilee List - hiss). She rode in an ambulance for the first time and was a patient in the ER for the first time. On her way to work, a pick-up pulling a trailer pulled across the road in front of her. Mama was okay, just a few bumps and bruises, but her car was smushed. Thankfully God provided through the insurance company and her church and now Mama has a cute little white Mazda (purr, purr).

Mama continues to visit Grammie every other weekend and on breaks, work at the church, blog, and edit papers for doctoral candidates. This year she also completed training to become a life coach specializing in spiritual development as well as grief. She hopes to build her coaching practice in the coming year.

We hope that you have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy, Healthy and Blessed 2015!!

Meowry Christmas,

Dakota for Mama Dar J

Friday, December 12, 2014

Yeah, Though I Walk - Lost (My Little Cousin)

I stood at the window in the lobby of my dorm waiting. It was an April day and I had someplace that I very much wanted to be, yet at the same time didn’t want to be at all. I watched intently out the window waiting for my ride to come. As I waited, I remembered.

She had been born less than 4 years before. A sweet new life, a second child, a little sister, a new granddaughter, the promise of dreams and a rich life to come entered the world on June 15, 1979. She was loved and wanted, and full of hope. She grew. She cooed and giggled and wiggled her fingers and toes. She learned to roll over and to sit up. Then one day the doctors discovered that something was wrong.

An awful diagnosis sent her parents’ world spinning wildly out of control. Leukemia. So young to receive such a dire diagnosis.

I remembered her sweet, energetic little being coming to the Awana Cubbies class that my parents led during our youth program at church. In a room filled with two and three year olds, dashing about, playing and exploring, I could see her bright eyes and her little bald head. She seemed so bright . . . and so vulnerable with her mesh shirt holding her chemo port in place. So tiny, her fair skin so white.

Her treatments were given in a city over an hour away. The schedule was grueling. Her parents were often separated as her mom stayed at the hospital with her and her father took care of the family business. Her older sister would later praise her parents for choosing to include her grandparents as co-parents for her during her little sister’s illness. This was a time of anxiety and fear for My Little Cousin’s immediate family and for our extended family around them.

I remember too her mother telling me that one lesson she sought to teach My Little Cousin was that pain is not an excuse for bad behavior. My Little Cousin was in pain, great pain throughout her short life, yet her mother saw with hope that one day she would grow up and that good behavior would be important and that pain was not an excuse to behave badly. Sadly, she did not grow up, but the lesson her mother sought to teach her was an important one for any person to learn.

The day came when My Little Cousin’s mom gave her daughter a bone marrow transplant. For a short time it seemed to work and then the news came that My Little Cousin was no longer responding to treatment. There was nothing more the doctors could do.

She and the other children in the hospital sang a song based on Revelation 4. “Worthy is the Lamb to receive . . .” and in place of the words of the song they would insert the names of the children that went to be with Jesus.  On April 6, 1983 My Little Cousin’s name was added to the song as she went to be with Jesus. She was only with us for 3 ¾ short years, too short a time. Her passing left behind pain and devastating grief and loss.

My ride never came that day. I never found out why. I have always felt a little sad and disappointed that I never got to say good-bye to My Little Cousin, that I wasn’t there to support, to express my love on this very sad day.

We all struggled to make sense of this loss, yet it seemed so senseless. Her older sister questioned why God would take My Little Cousin and no one really had a good answer. My Little Cousin’s parents seemed lost in the face of this gargantuan loss, unsure how to navigate the grief, crushed and dazed. My heart ached with them and longed to somehow ease their pain, to somehow fill the huge, empty hole that had entered their life. But, I had no idea what to say or do.

With this loss, my questions and doubts continued to grow. I wrestled with “why” and it was a long time before I found peace with that question. I think this loss more than the others gave me a desire to learn how to comfort grieving people, to learn how to walk with those who have suffered great loss in a way that would console and encourage.