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Blog Introduction

This blog is the story of how my husband and I faced the illness and death of two of our children. Each blog post is essentially a chapter in the story, so in order to truly understand it, you are going to benefit by starting at the beginning.
I hope you find our story touching, and in some way find comfort and hope through it as you face your own storms in life.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Christmas With No Tidings of Great Joy

Christmas was rapidly approaching.  Typically a time to decorate one's home in preparation for the festivities of the season, our house was barren; we had nothing to decorate with.  Not only were there no decorations, there was no furniture, and our shipment from the States had not arrived yet either.  We were living with only the things we had brought with us on the plane. The blandness of our decor matched the blandness of the winter scene outside, and my mood was following suit.

Buying furniture was not as easy as we had thought it would be.  The language barrier was prohibitive at times, although we often had our friend, Luka*, with us to translate. It was also becoming apparent that we didn't know "the rules" of this country.  The way furniture was purchased here, was not the same as buying it back home. There are many furniture stores in the States which offer same day delivery of purchases made.  We rapidly discovered this was not the case in Slovenia.  There were very few places offering "cash and carry" options,  so the hunt to furnish our home became a monumental task.  Things which were familiar back home, were now very foreign and unpredictable.  I was frustrated.  It was like being forced to play a game in which the rules were never explained, and with every attempt made to play the game, I was being slapped with a foul.  I became fearful of even trying.
We were finally able to find two beds which could be delivered the following day, and we purchased a few ready-to-go folding chairs so we would at least have something to sit on.  The floor got to be a bit hard on one's posterior after not many days!  Even the delivery of the beds was a task beyond comprehension.  The delivery driver called Rob because he didn't know which house to bring it to, and was sitting somewhere in the middle of our village unsure of where to go.  This is not usually a big problem except when the driver speaks no English, and we spoke no Slovene.  Even the streets and house numbers are in a random order, so finding a place can be challenging.  Even after a rough attempt to give some direction, Rob ended up running down the road to find the driver and lead him to the house.  It was quite a scene, but we had beds to sleep on that night. We continued to shop for other needed items; a kitchen table and chairs, a sofa.  All took a long time to be delivered.  After six weeks, we finally had a soft seat to sit on, and my tailbone, while eternally grateful, continued to be sore for several more weeks.

Most of the furniture arrived after Christmas.  Before Christmas we were still relegated to folding chairs or the floor.  We bought a small artificial Christmas tree, and purchased a few ornaments to adorn it.  We even had "free" chocolate ornaments we had been given for purchasing cell phone contracts, and a couple other "free" items which made the tree look even sadder than it already appeared to me.  I was feeling pretty low looking at our dismal Christmas display, but I felt even worse knowing there would be few, if any, presents to give Michael.  We hadn't had time to shop for him due to the busyness of the move, but also because of the completely different shopping venue offered in Slovenia.  There was no mall, no Target, nor any other familiar store. We didn't know where to find him anything.  It made me feel like a pathetic mother, and I hated myself for it.

A few days before the 25th, Rob came down with a virus.  It was flu-like, and left him in bed weakened and unable to get around.  The church was having their annual Christmas service followed by gifts for the kids; a  time to have fun as friends and believers.  We couldn't go.  Rob was deemed "contagious", and I was not about to leave him, or to venture out on my own in the car. Mike was feeling bored and lonely, and I felt like a horrible mother, unable to do anything to make his Christmas a better one.  I finally reached a breaking point.  Mike's guitar had been left at our friend's house, and if he had nothing else this Christmas, he was going to have the guitar he wanted to play.  Battling a snowstorm, Mike and I piled into the car and drove over to their home.  It was dark, and the roads were deep with snow.  I'm not sure how often they plowed the roads out in the country where we were, but we were going to get his guitar no matter what.  When we got to their house, they were just getting home from the church Christmas festivities.  We made no intention of staying due to Rob being home sick, along with the escalating snowfall, so we gathered Mike's guitar and prepared to leave.   As we were just about to pull away,  Kristina* came over and handed Mike a present.  All the kids had gotten one, and they had prepared one for him as well.  It was a candy-filled mug with hand painted decorations and his name in Slovene- Michaela. One look and I thought, "Great.  Now my teenaged son gets a present with a girls name on it! What else could go wrong for this poor kid on Christmas!"  He very graciously said thank you, and we were off; ready to slip and slide all the way back home.  I felt so bad for Mike I was nearly in tears and could barely utter a word for fear they would spill over. I tearfully told Mike how sorry I was that his Christmas was so horrible, and how I wished it could have been a better one for him.  I was feeling so guilty for not providing all the "stuff" we usually associate with a good Christmas.  Then this child, this teenaged boy, turned to me and said, "It's okay.  In fact, I think this may be the best Christmas I've ever had.  It's made me really appreciate the things I've been given this year."  The floodgates opened, and tears ran down my cheeks unfettered.  What an unbelievable thing for him to say! I was so impressed with the maturity he demonstrated in that moment;  I could not have been prouder of him.  My wounded mother's heart had just received a huge dose of healing balm at the words of a 15 year old.  It was amazing.  I struggled to see the road as we drove the rest of the way home, partly because of the snowstorm and the darkness of night, but more so because of the overflowing tears cascading from my eyes.  It had become a memorable drive home, and had suddenly become a very memorable Christmas.

*The names of our friends have been changed to protect their privacy.  Peter and Kristina are the fictitious names of our missionary friends. Luka is another friend we spent time with.

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