Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Stolen Advent

First . . . backing up . . . pre Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving and after

Elk hunt, happened. All safe, one got an elk, all had fun, all made it home. Grandma (after a week here and a wonderful birthday weekend) drove us to Bismarck where we met Trevor.

We're grateful always to spend holidays in Bismarck - where we really just show up and stay in beautiful homes with amazing people and get fed and watch our kids have a blast. Amazing, we appreciate it more all the time.
Grandma led our very own turkey trot!

This Thanksgiving Day held sadness - my paternal Grandfather, Rodney, passed away suddenly that afternoon. We got the call late afternoon . . . and went to sit with my parents for a while, a precious memory already. I don't have many words, death does bring a new clarity to life and the days we're in right now. For me, death triggers fear (always has). Everyone processes differently as they grieve and navigate new territory of losing a loved one. We are thankful for Rodney and his legacy. The wild gift to me was that I talked to him on the phone that morning, in a flurry before getting out the door to dinner - and I can't remember if I ever ever had talked on the phone with him before? We had a nice short chat, and what peace that brings (and also some regret at how little I reached out to get to know him more). One of my lasting memories is his greeting questions was often, "Hi, whaddya know?". It's a good question, what if I would've answered more fully, or asked it back?

Rather related, as I finish this post in a haphazard way, I'm reading A Man Called Ove and this quote is one I want to plug in here to remember: "We fear it (death), yet most of us fear more than anything that it may take someone other than ourselves . . . ". True, true.

And then, Minot.
We came home for a few days and then hit the road for Grandpa's Rodney's memorial service in Minot.  Journey soundtrack included some of Grandpa Rodney's tunes, Sinatra and Sons of the Pioneers. An afternoon in Bismarck with my parents and brother's fam was a time of reminiscing and togetherness. We got to spend a bit of time on the prairie and on Saturday we stopped quickly at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center before settling in at Sammy's Pizza in Minot, an old family tradition. As does happen, loss brings loved ones together and it was meaningful to be with my grandma, dear cousins' families (met their babies!), uncles. The afternoon flowed beautifully with music, rememberings, readings, pictures, honoring Rodney's life. Remarkable. We moved on to a hotel, reconnecting with my grandma, aunt, uncle, cousins - meaningful, grateful, blessed. Watching the kids get comfy around this family, others love on them, inviting them into the fold, heart filling. Not to mention swimming and Karis got a sleepover with grandpa (late night watching Full House & woke him at 6!). Family is it.

And then, Stolen Advent
I think most years I have this feeling of being robbed during Advent. Craving simple, quiet, slow - and that's just not the way the season generally goes. Trying to squeeze in connecting, celebrations, gatherings, programs . . . all so wonderful, loved, intentional, wouldn't trade them. But that feeling, robbed, it's usually underlying. It had to go this year. One night we had our Life Group here and played the "greedy gift exchange" game - hilarity ensued watching the kids get into "stealing presents!". We laughed at the irony of teaching our kids to steal during the Advent season . . . but then, that week, I thought - "Yes, steal! I'm stealing Advent". And sure enough, as the days unfolded, the stolen moments piled up. Quiet moments with my kids at home. Dark night dinners. Slow evenings. A couple silent mornings, listening to choral music and feeling overwhelmed at our need for Jesus, the Gifts we're given. The waiting.

Stealing new ponderings, like the way Mary stayed with Elizabeth 3 months. Two pregnant women together for 3 months, with so much to wonder (worry?) about - what must that've been like? Also, the Wise Men, they captivated me this season. Traveling afar, rebelling, honoring, giving. I wonder what they looked like? Were they good friends? What did they talk about on their journey? Did they hold baby Jesus?

We stole back a cozy Friday night when Karis's Christmas program was moved to the afternoon on a Friday. We stole a donut date with our godchildren and their parents, so sweet. We stole a family sub-zero-Sunday date to Milton's and then drove around looking at Christmas lights - Karis: "This is the best night ever!". I thought so, too.

More stolen moments . . . SNOW/Frostbite/Fake Snow Days

It happened here and what fun. I'm all about bundling up the kids even if it's cold and sending them out for a few minutes - on the really cold days I set a timer, and one time I explained frostbite to Karis. Oops! I forgot my literal child who holds on tightly to ideas. We talk often about frostbite here now. We stole some pretend-we're-snowed-in days, slow days where the kids were able to create and flow and rest and even get a little bored. Books and popcorn by the tree. Painting. Hot chocolate. And, you know, running around inside and putting on summer clothes.

And then, Advent Nights: 
Candles & readings right before bed. The stories and wonderings and repetitions: "The people walking in darkness . . . have seen a great light!" . . . "Come, Lord Jesus, Come". The rhythm of this after dinner ritual brought calm and depth. Oh, and there was that night Uncle T & Aunt T stopped by for dessert and devotions and surprised the kids with gifts and a song/dance . . . just wonderfully stolen.

And then, Christmas: 
"On the Road Again" (Willie), "Country Road, Lead me Home" (Brandi Carlisle), "Must be Christmas" (Jim James). Our soundtrack for the week as we drove  here and there. Celebrating Grandpa Warren's 91st birthday, so much hanging out with our fave people at our fave places. Lunch with a dear cousin. Space Aliens! Church, dinners, presents! Traditions, birthday boy celebrations. Sledding for some, baby cuddles, laughs, chats, late-for-us-nights. Truly tasty, all of these things. So much so, driving back to Plymouth looking at pics and listening to "Country Road", the tears flowed. Thanks sister Cassie for the pics!

And then, a stolen favorite gift: 
Karis retelling the Christmas story before gift opening. The video will play in my memory forever. The next day, K gave us gifts she had shopped for with grandma, precious and spot on and just adorable. Love her heart.

Oh and she also went shopping with my mom to get gifts for us - so genuine and thoughtful.

Oh and there was Judah who, every time I said "Merry Christmas!" would reply, "Merry Christmas to one another!"  (the first time he said it he followed with, "What does that mean, mommy?"). Surely got it from a movie or book?

And then, stolen snowed in memories: 
What adventure to have a Christmas Bismarck Blizzard, sneaky sweet stolen moments. We packed up and unpacked and put our jammies back on and ate frozen pizza.  Watching the wind blow and snow swirl from a safe home on a hill with huge windows. North Dakota weather is unique and unpredictable (what did the pioneers do?!).

Oh, and that night Karis lost a front top tooth - many hands were in her mouth before Aunt M suggested biting into something . . . brilliant and did the trick! An apple bite and pop, it was outta there.

And then, the 12 Days of Christmas:  for future reference, I'm stealing these ideas for later years . . .

Songs & books that flavored this Advent

The 24 Days Before Christmas (SO good), Becky's Christmas, Amahl and the Night Visitors
Henri Nouwen's Advent & Christmas, Invention of Lefse (Woiwode)
Picture books: Christmas in the Barn, Christmas is Here, Drummer Boy, The Animals' Christmas Eve, Little Fur Tree, Story of the Candy Cane, Grandfather's Christmas Tree, Christmas in Noisy Village, Christmas in the Country, The Donkey's Dream

Book Quotables: 
From Four Seasons in Rome
"I'm thankful that everything sweet is sweet because it's finite"
"Not-knowing is always more thrilling than knowing. Not-knowing is where hope and art and possibility and invention come from. It is not-knowing, that old, old thing, that allows everything to be renewed"
"Every story seeks, in Emerson's words, 'the invisible and imponderable.'"
"To be a parent and take an occasional day off from being a parent is a special kind of joy - a lightening, a sweetness made sweeter by its impermanence"

- "I'm talking in a secret burp language!"
- "If only jaquins were real!" (flying creatures in Elena show)
- "So, are you there when the women get pregnant?" (asked to my cousin, Dr. Caitlin)
- "Now THAT'S a garage dad would love to organize!"
- "Please don't write that on your blog"
- "I hope you feel better!"
- "I'm going to write a note to Santa that says 'Dear Grandma and Grandpa, Thanks for the stocking presents!' Because you know, Santa's not real"
- "No, we're not great friends - we're BFF's!" (when Trev said they are great friends)
- "Wow mom, you actually look pretty stylin'" (when I was wearing one of her winter hats)
- "You don't seem very humble about your mustache"
- "I can't sleep until my tooth comes out!" (before losing her first front tooth)
- "I just wanna cry first!" (when Trev told her to take a deep breath before they yanked her 2nd front tooth)

Judah Jabbers
- "You really hurt me, mom" (sometimes every time I simply touch him)
- "Oh, sorry 'bout that, mom"
- "Ow!"
- "You're the best cooker, mom!"
- "You're welcome mom!"
- "Mom, I prayed in my room this morning"
- "Will you stay with me mom?" (while playing with sand)
- "That's what mommy's do mom!" (when I said, "yes, I'll stay here and play in the kitchen"). "And I'll play with sand, that's what boys do!"
- "Can we finish it? Oh yeah, we can finish this one" (books)
- "Hey dad put lights all over our house, can you believe it?! It's all over our carpet!"
- "Oh, that's so grateful of you!"
- "I don't want you to speak to me!"
- "I smell bad breath. Do you have bad breath?"
- "Look at the sunset, isn't it beautiful?!"
- "Hey mom, I listened to you!" (when I called him back inside on a subzero day)
- "No, I need the light on - it's too dark and spooky in here!"
- "Someday I'm gonna grow up to be a daddy and have hot coffee!"

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