This is our third year without Michael, but our fourth Christmas [my heart goes out to those of you experiencing deep loss just before the holidays; we know the pain]. Each year, we have progressed in our handling of the season:

Christmas One:
This post sums up our broken attempts to keep tradition, to cry it out, and to hold it together all at the same time.

Christmas Two:
We were in a new old house to huddle and to heal. We fumbled through our tradition attempts and still pulled out all the ornaments with the stories and memories. We started to inch toward new things, and the kids got BIKES for new adventures, and we released the Good Grief Project with a family worship night [again, my mode being full ON, in order to try hard to force some good and perhaps some sense into our loss, while trying to heal by helping others. Exhausting season, no doubt].

Christmas Three:
Last year, we did NOT get the ornaments down from the attic.
Instead, we threw out more attempts at creating special “somethings new.” We put up a new tree [and left it up ALL YEAR!], and we decorated ornaments to represent who we want to become now as a family. The kids received the promised hope of the new basketball court [wheeeeeee!] while we experienced a hard test on Resilience…

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Tonight I am thankful for resilience. In packing the car to leave for the OH trip to see Mike’s family, we realized that the car thieves actually DID take something of incredible value to us — the large DVD case which held the movies Michael had gotten the kids over the years, surprising them steadily since toddler J. Michael. We could have blamed each other. We could have let bitterness have a seat on the journey. We could have done a lot of things, and lashed one another with a lot of regrettable words. Instead, silence. Then three sobbing Shroyers. Then words of forgiveness. It was a longer car ride than usual, even though we made great time. We drove through rain and sleet. But we are Resilient. Objects may seem closer than they are. Today those movies were big. This is year three with some reminder of the brokenness. First year, something smashed. Last year, something lost. This year, something stolen. But the reality? Everything remains intact. For always. #resilient

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This year, just before I ordered their gifts online, someone random out there decided to try to use my bank card to buy shoes. In canceling my card, the new one was NOT processed correctly over the phone. I went to the bank and had the teller EXPEDITE my new one so that I *MIGHT* get Christmas gifts in time. Guess what? SHE DID NOT expedite, and that put me on the 7-10 business day plan, and I FINALLY got my card on … Saturday, December 22nd!

DON’T MISS THIS! I’m finally to the point of this post…”

We dubbed this “Random Christmas” and then we even decided YESTERDAY on Christmas Eve Eve, to open our gifts to one another.

Oh. My. Heart.

We left our phones downstairs and went to the tree.

We read Luke 2 [the ONE thing that we have continued to do every year no matter what].

Sadie and I each opened boxes from Stitch Fix [we hadn’t seen anything yet, and it was a blast].

Then we began to open the surprising amount of packages under the tree!!!
Like… WHERE did these even come from???

My sweet friend, Kristin Diesel, had seen my post about my card debacle, and she mailed us these “random teapots” that we will treasure forever as a beautiful reminder to take TIME to heal, to SIP on all the joys as they come, and to STEEP in goodness overflow, even when life around us seems heated, fast, bitter, or chaotic:

Next came the interspersing of SADIELLA’S competely RANDOM gifts to us!!!
She had swept through the house and dug through our stuff, wrapping things that Jeffrey Michael and I already own!


We laughed and laughed, and I seriously [pun intended] don’t know that my kids ever remember seeing me laugh so hard!!! Definitely a first in over three years!

She wrapped a $1 bill in the goofiest way, like a puzzle, for her brother to open. Her words, “Yes, it’s YOUR dollar, but you didn’t even know you had it because I found it in the bottom of your laundry pile!”

In a big box, she wrapped a guitar pick for her brother, to which he responded with, “HEY! I’ve been looking for this!!!” And we laughed again.

For me, she wrapped a picture of me and Mike that I keep at my desk, wrapped his old cell phone, and a bracelet that I just bought a few weeks ago and have been wondering what in the world I did with it!
Again, we laughed.

She got to the cleaning supply delivery before I could open it, and YOU GUESSED IT — she wrapped it and put it under the tree! Just what I wanted 😀

The gift that made me laugh the MOST was a tiny necklace she made me and wrapped in a HUGE leaf-blower box, with another wrapped box, in a box, in a box, in a box, in a box… I took this picture while cleaning the house because I mean — WHO thinks to recycle a hazelnut wafer box into this necklace box holder??? Sadie, that’s who!

JM and I kept saying, “She’s amazing. So thougthful. Soooooo creative!”

Her final gift to me was this coupon book that she made out of a keepsake that Jonatha Brooke had signed and given me! hahaha!

They were able to see images of the gifts that I have ordered that are now on the way… And they freaked out at the thought of a new guitar, and some beautiful gifts to come.

But I wanted to post this on this Christmas Eve to let you know this:

* Life gets hard.

* Traditions crash out sometimes.

* And there are moments when inviting the RANDOM will bring just the right surprises.

For us, the gift of sheer belly-aching laughter will be our most treasured gift and memory. And the best thing?

It will keep giving, as we remember to remember.

Finally, we visited Nana before we hit the road.

Tomorrow is Christmas, so I’m off now to pick up Christmas Jammies.
[some traditions are essential]

Happy Holy night, and on this night, I hope for you… JOY.


The kids and Nana

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