I wasn't going to decorate much this year as the new baby was coming. I was busy making presents and we were having our Christmas on the 15th- early, as families were traveling. "Just put up lights and the tree," I told myself, but I got carried away and did a lot! This month has been so crazy with my emotions. One day I'll be crying, remembering the past, and the next day singing along to carols while I go about my work. The Christmas season brings so many memories; my grief is still very great at times. But the joy! Oh, the joy this season has been wonderful!
We welcomed Samuel Bradley into the world on December 8. No longer does the 8th bring pain, but only joy. He was such a tiny little thing but is growing so fast!
The day before we celebrated Christmas, we woke up to this! So we had a white Christmas this year.We celebrated with the family when Samuel was only a week old. It was the kids idea to keep things simple since I went all out for Thanksgiving. The first photo is Thanksgiving. The next three are Christmas.
This was the fun present I got for the "boys" this years.
The next Sunday evening we visited a church where our retired pastor and his wife attend. Our associate pastor and his family attend there now also. They had an evening of music for Christmas and I was able to hear "I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day" one of my favorite Christmas songs. Special memories.
Our greatest joy this season included Sunday morning worship. Our children had visited this one church for a few weeks and they kept encouraging us to come. But we had the idea to visit a lot of local churches first and this one is about half an hour away, just over the county line. But Bill and I were getting weary; visiting local churches always brought someone from our past and they'd want to know why we were looking for a new church. We were tired of so many small churches and we just wanted to put the past behind us, be uplifted, and move on.
Our first Sunday there, before the service started, a man came up shook Bill's hand and said he was Pastor___. Bill said, "So you're the head honcho." The Pastor shook his head and said, "No. I'm part of a team of pastors." Later we found out he was the head pastor, but obviously a very humble man. Even though the church is in the middle of a small town in a farming community, we saw a mixed congregation of ages, abilities, and race. What a joy that was to me! The music was so great as the worship director really feels what he is singing. He has the passion for music that our associate pastor had at our old church and I have missed hearing and seeing that passion for the last 4 months. We've experienced everything from formal choirs with a small orchestra, to a contemporary band with guitars and drums in the three Sundays we have been there. They sing a mixture of hymns and new songs. I was moved to tears last week when I saw two men in front of us raising their hands in worship as they sang. Just a few minutes before the service started they were talking to each other about hunting. The people have been so very friendly to us. Last Sunday the greeter at the door remembered our names, as did others we talked to! This was only our third time there! This is not because it is a small church; they average 400-500 every week.
They have a team of pastors and they take turns preaching. We have heard three different pastors in the three times we have attended. God spoke to my heart each time through His word. The first message we heard was on contentment. "Contentment increases as we view our lives in the light of eternity." The second was on saying yes to God (as Mary did). "For when I am weak, then I am strong." and "I am not my own." Last week the youth pastor spoke. He's younger and so 'real' and funny. "We misinterpret what God says and we say things that God never said and we try to make God in our image. Joseph (Mary's Joseph)obeyed God. It wasn't easy for him, but he did it." So it is for me. Obedience isn't easy and following God is hard, but He is always there to help me because He has walked a harder road than I have or ever will. "We celebrate the baby Jesus to prepare for His second coming. Will Jesus find us obedient when He comes?"
They are a church that has an mission/outreach emphasis. This is so important to us to find a church that cares about the community around them and the needs of the whole world. Every Sunday they pray for a different church in the community, two Sundays they shared mission trip reports, and they help an orphanage in a foreign country. I'm sure there is more we don't know about yet.
We have not attended the Adult Bible Fellowship (Sunday School), but they are starting a 6 week grief support class the first of the year during ABF and we signed up for it.
I have been moved to tears at every single service. It just feels so good to be there. God has given us peace and joy.
The final closing song we sang last week was one I had been taught quite a few years ago by someone very special to me.
Before The Throne of God
Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea.
A great high Priest whose Name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart.
I know that while in Heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart.
When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.
Behold Him there the risen Lamb,
My perfect spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I AM,
The King of glory and of grace,
One with Himself I cannot die.
My soul is purchased by His blood,
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ my Savior and my God!
I read a quote by Corrie ten Boom that says exactly what my last month and this past year has been like for me.
"Joy runs deeper than despair."
So as we close out this year, my year of joy, I will not fight my tears anymore. Tears are cleansing, despair will come because I'm still mourning the loss of Amy, my Daddy, and my church friends, but I know that my joy runs deeper because of Jesus.
Amy has been gone 4 years. As I write this, the tears come.
God has given me four new little people in that time.
My arms aren't empty anymore. Merry Christmas everyone!