We buried my mother the day before Thanksgiving. I shopped for my familyís funeral clothes Ė in festive malls jammed with early Christmas shoppers.
That was the year I resolved to be joyful during the holiday season. My two children were young: a one, and a three-year-old. I believed it was important for their well-being to feel that all was right in their world; A happy mom was a necessary factor.
My mother lived long enough to know two of my three children. My dad never knew my children. He died when I was twenty. I admit that I felt cheated at losing my mom, when I still needed her so desperately.
The week after Momís funeral, my younger, unmarried brother had to be hospitalized for three weeks with a deep-vein blood clot. They released him on Christmas Eve. I drove four hours to the hospital in Atlanta, with my children in tow, to bring him back with us to recuperate at our home in Knoxville, Tennessee.
My faith in Godís goodness had been shaken. My parents had died too soon and I worried about my brotherís health. I didnít question Godís existence. I questioned His love for us. I loved my brother and I believed if God did, then, this was a poor way to show it.
Despite my stony heart, I knew Godís blessings were already at work in my life. I had a good husband and beautiful children. And a large, extended Christian family, my husbandís family.
God further blessed me with a loving mother-in-law, Carol. I knew she prayed for my marriage and children. She once told me that she prayed for Godís blessings on her childrenís future spouses Ė while we were still children.
My husbandís family, three brothers, a sister, and their families gather to celebrate the New Years holiday in St. Louis each year. We have lots of fun spending hours playing board games and talking late into the night, after the children go to bed.
I looked forward to leaving behind all my grief and worry, basking in the conversation of truly happy people. Perhaps, I thought, it will rub off on me.
So, with our children strapped in car seats, hugging tight to their blankeys, their eyes riveted to cartoon videos to help the miles pass by; and with my brother resting on pillows in the back seat of our minivan, we drove ten hours from Knoxville to St. Louis, to celebrate the New Year at the Grandfolkís house.
On New Years Eve, we were all tucked into nooks and crannies in Wayne and Carolís two story, white-frame-house. Despite an unusually warm Christmas season, the older kids held out hoping for snow-sledding down the big hill behind the house on Grandpaís old, wooden toboggan. They would not be disappointed. By nightfall, light from the dining room windows spread a golden glow over the thick, white blanket covering the ground.
After dinner, the children delighted in tearing open Christmas gifts. Grandpa lit a fire and we toasted Símores. The younger children grew sleepy and were tucked into bed.
Before midnight, Dale, my husbandís youngest brother, brought out boxes of fire crackers and sparklers. We pulled on coats and boots, spilling out of the house onto the pristine ground to watch the night sky light up with colorful displays, bringing in the New Year.
Back inside, sitting near the fire my brother sipped a hot drink, laughing and talking with my husband. My husband caught my gaze and smiled.
I tiptoed into the bedroom we shared with our sleeping children. As I gently kissed each forehead, a Bible verse came to mind:
ďI know the plans I have for you. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future.Ē
My heart filled with Godís peace, and my eyes with tears of repentance. I knew that God placed the verse in my thoughts to encourage me. God wanted me to know that He had not forsaken me, nor my brother.
I took my first tentative steps toward His promise, placing the heavy burdens of grief and worry back in Godís hands, where they belonged. I stepped over the threshold to learn that in Christ, nothing is lost:
God holds our yesterdays in eternity and our tomorrows in His hands.
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