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When the Kids Don’t Come Home for Christmas

Reprinted by permission from her December 19, 2019 blog, Coffee with Kathy.

This message is bathed in hope for the parent who has not heard from her kids, who might not see them at Christmas.

I want you to know it won’t always be this way.

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while,

will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” 1 Peter 5:10 

My late husband, Roger, was fond of saying, “Let’s make the kind of memories that keep the kids coming back home – even when they’re grown.”

Oh! How I loved Roger’s enthusiasm for special calendar dates – particularly Christmastime and All Things Winter.

To commemorate the First Snow, he and I wrapped a “snow gift” for each of the girls. For gift-wrapping, he used the funny papers.

He was thrilled at the arrival of egg nog in the dairy section – he went nuts with the stuff, pouring it into his morning coffee and grabbing enough cartons to store in the freezer “to get through the winter months”, he would say.

For years, we bundled the girls and searched tree farms for just the right tree to grace our Colorado home.

Every Christmas Eve, he read from Luke’s account of the birth of Christ; when our daughters became readers, they read it out loud to the family.

We had an advent calendar.

He sang the carols, often adding verses he made up on the fly. 

He insisted on driving us around the neighborhood to look at the festive light displays.

He was big on memories and minimal on material things.

So many rich traditions, steeped in the wonder of raising our girls; the sweet simplicity of being a family together.

And then.

Four months shy of Christmas 2008, Roger died.

The girls were 18 and 15.

A black shadow passed over our little snow globe of a family.

What if they don’t come home?

For three years of emotional drought, they didn’t.

It was dreadful for me, the surviving parent.

A mom who is unsure of her child’s safety and well-being is a pile of misery, and that’s what I was during those lean years.

I won’t go into the whys and the pain of those whys. Grief is weird. A sudden loss can unravel a lifetime and reorder it into something scary, chaotic, unknown.

We all respond in different ways. My daughters turned from me, not in open rejection or hostility, but in the throes of sudden, unexpected loss.

What if they don’t come home?

Christmas during those years was the stark reality of an empty chair, a huge hole he once filled with his larger-than-life-laughter. The emptiness was intensified by my fractured family.

And that star? The one shining in the east? That star was shrouded in a fog of grief and worry; I couldn’t see it through the haze and maze of guilt, fear, anger.

All I could feel was the dull ache of my heart, thumping along in spite of wanting to disappear, to fold up inside my pain.

I’d become an exile to my husband’s family, through a sad myriad of misunderstandings.

Being an outsider to in-laws, that’s pretty hard to deal with.
Being an outsider to your own kids – that’s impossible to endure.

Then, we had a series of fun celebrations together. Endearment was restored like a chain of Christmas lights getting the dud bulbs replaced so that the whole string twinkles, unbroken.

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Fast forward to now:

Covid 19 has crimped the style of families everywhere. For our safety, holiday celebrations are limited, shops, even grocery stores, and home celebrations closed down. We are given tips on how to keep children safe and parents informed during 2021.

During Thanksgiving, people posted humble but joyful pictures of their small feasts for two, three, and even singular plates on social media.  They called it the war of light and loveliness on the darkness of this holiday season.  Still, when I called my own mother to tell her that I had been exposed to the disease at work and could not risk her health, she wept. She and I both sat alone with our thoughts this Thanksgiving, like many others.

My adult girls remember their dad’s corny jokes. They ask about his favorite movies, then they watch them. But, there are many episodes of tragic family attitudes and events in our history, and probably in yours, that haunt our current decisions and lives. Parents are blamed for decisions they didn’t have the wherewithal to tackle; they should have been wiser. Children are not excused because they were trained up better than that.

Helplessly, we grapple for promises of better days from the only One who can provide these to us.

The Lord has promised to restore what the locust has eaten.  

I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you. “You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame.

Joel 2:25-26

Does this promise mean today, tomorrow, or next year? I believe He does restore our souls in mysterious ways, and we can depend on that, but it doesn’t always look the way we want it to look.  And, this is why our faith is often called a “walk of faith” “traveling in darkness” “running the race” because we don’t bear our weights in vain. They make us stronger.

We honor Roger’s memory in small, sweet ways. We laugh a lot, we cry some, we laugh some more.

His name is a regular part of our conversation.

Before, we avoided saying it for fear our brittle voices would break and scatter on the floor.

We can now dream of the future and we know the strength of forgiveness, the binding up of wounds.

My daughters call regularly to check in on me; my oldest planned a June wedding and made it happen even in the pandemic, and it was a landmark memory I will always cherish.

It’s not a Hallmark movie; there are still some things quietly coming to the light to be dealt with as we continue forward.

Cars break down, we have health scares, there are often misunderstandings to be ironed out. The point is, we’re doing life together again – as an extended family finds ways to do so.

This year, I celebrate the many times the kids and I have been together. It has been a hard year once again, but I am stronger and more creative than I once was. They will come home for Christmas another time.

And that star? The one shining in the east? That star is a glowing reminder of God’s presence, His longing to be in a relationship with us. He traveled from His heavenly home and spiritual body to become human and to wander in a strange, unwelcoming place. It meant everything for Him to do that.

“God with us, Immanuel.”

God with us Immanuel, image by Glenn Daman. In Winter Whispers, Breath of Joy


Kathy Joy, author of the Breath of Joy gift book series
Coffee with Kathy supports www.booksforbondinghearts.com. timely gifts for all seasons. Please visit the link to see, “Breath of Joy! Winter Whispers.

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A Picture Book to be Aware of a Child’s Grief

traipsing home from school
Artist’s Sketch Meggi Beth in different perspectives

Busy woman in title Will You Hold My Story
Choosing the color scheme for the busy woman in Will You Hold My Story? picture book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The late Mister Rogers is quoted as saying, “It’s ok to not be ok.”

November includes the National Children’s Grief Awareness Day, a day to honor kids who are grieving – in any season – and particularly as we journey into the holidays.

Children need to feel safe inside the space of their sorrow.

They need to tell about their story and tell about it to someone who is safe and available to hear it.

For Meggi Beth, it’s been hard lately to carry the weight of her story, which you may sense is a story of grief. In the picture book, “Will You Hold My Story?”, (artistry by Brianna Osaseri), this lovable little girl is patiently waiting for someone else to ease her burden. An endearing children’s book is one that carries meaning for both children and grownups.

Meggi Beth discovers two things along the way: a secret and a story-bearer who becomes a treasured friend. Settle in and get acquainted with the delightful characters who stop by to comfort Meggi Beth.

You may even recognize yourself in the story.

Scene from Will You Hold My Story
Artist’s Sketch Old Man Passing By Meggi Beth

Meggi Beth and old man in Will You Hold My Story? by Kathy Joy

Will You Hold My Story
Artist’s sketch Old Man Pats Meggi Beth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sketch Will You Hold My Story
Artist’s Sketch Old Man’s Face Closeup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Will You Hold My Story?” by Kathy Joy, to be released in February 2021.

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Untangling the Knots

Do you ever have a day that feels like a never-ending loop of knots to be untied? You have to solve one problem in order to gain entrance to the real problem – find an outlet, silence your phone, then assist a client all comes before you can see your way clear to untangling your own problems.

I had an hour of work that turned into two weeks of work because I had to back up and do the math, then I had to learn how to complete a new task that was part of the finished product. Then, I had to get permission to buy a software program in order to implement the answer.

It was a lot easier when all I had to do was give the ball of knots to my dad to untangle.

You may hear from a doctor that self-care is the act of providing yourself a sacred space in which to quiet your jangled nerves. It’s important, yes, to schedule peace in an overwhelming world.

To this end, I’ve found some simple things will sustain you  – things such as:

  • Giving yourself time to untangle a problem
  • Sharing hopes and dreams with somebody safe
  • pausing during a busy moment for a nudge of encouragement

Take a Step Against the Flow

Take a step against the flow and look at the surroundings for a different perspective.

Life is too short to go with the flow. Have fun and be different.”

Bianca Schlappa, Everyday Matters

Look further afield.

Look over a detail up close.

Sometimes, the masses have it mostly right but the right way just needs tweaking, and that is something that a different perspective can provide.

Use Your Humor, Wry Humor Acceptable

What’s the use of feeling sorry for yourself when you just get tangled into more knots? Even the wise and wonderful Oz got himself tangled up for a time behind a curtain far outside of Kansas and his usual County Fairs. Someone came along and discovered his need.

He was a little ashamed, but he laughed at his way of bumbling things up, and that helped. A lot. Someone came along and helped him find his way back home.

Laugh at yourself as you consider the past.

Open your hand to future options.

Celebrate Even a Partial Loosening of Knot Strands.

Thoughts from Winter Whispers: Breath of Joy by Kathy Joy

It heartens me in a way to know my knots are not all born from my individual situation or my personal inadequacy. It seems to be a community problem: “Humanity is born for trouble, as sparks fly upward.” This wit, from a friend of Job’s (Job 5:7). We are all just making our way through the challenging phases of life.

Help will arrive.

Ask for help.

Laugh a little.

Be willing to accept truth.

Choose as wisely as possible.

This article is co-written by good friends: author, Kathy Joy and editor, Laura Bartnick.

©Capture Books, 2020

Kathy Joy, Author of the Breath of Joy calendarial gift books
Laura Bartnick
Laura Bartnick is the author of Welcome to the Shivoo! a creative and inspirational guide to entering into the Creator’s great party.

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Words, Like Nets

Thoughts from Ah, Autumn: Breath of Joy by Kathy Joy

Today, writing a blog feels inadequate as I shift under the weight of yet another personal loss. In a short week, I found I had lost a dear family member and a co-worker whom I really liked.

“Words are like nets – we hope they’ll cover what we mean, but we know they can’t possibly hold that much joy, or grief, or wonder.”

Jodi Picoult, Change of Heart

I feel like any combination of words cannot capture the wistfulness of wanting everything to stay the same; for everyone to remain alive; for grief to pack its bags and visit somewhere not so close-to-home.

What a relief to know we don’t have to cast out our nets and fish for words to express how we feel.

There are other ways to reach out for meaning. Or to stay folded-in.

In difficult times, carry something beautiful in your heart.

Blaise Pascal

Beautiful Things You Might Carry in Your Heart…

  • A memory
  • A discovery
  • An anticipated event
  • A person you love
  • A song
  • A landmark place where you discovered God
  • A promise
  • A smile
  • A secret
  • A scripture
  • A rare and splendid moment

Let these treasures sustain you, carry you, ground you and tie all your loose ends to something real. Something of substance.

We know we must carry on even during a time of grief. How is that possible? Here is a quote I often turn to.

Just for Today

Just for today, keep it simple.

Don’t be so hard on yourself.

Look at your life

for all you have gained

rather than lost.

Look at your path for everything

you’ve gotten through, rather than

where you think you should be.

Celebrate rather than criticize.

Experience rather than expect.

Stand in the sunlight

Rather than the shadows.

Quietly honor your heart

rather than disown pieces of yourself.

Take a break from all that.

See how that goes.

Just for today.

Author, L.C. Lourie

Maybe today you need this. If not, I’ll not be offended.

The power of empathy is often felt deeply in silence.

Thoughts from Ah, Autumn: Breath of Joy by Kathy Joy
Kathy Joy, Author of the Breath of Joy seasonal gift books

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©2020 Capture Books and its authors are happily represented by the publicity of Books for Bonding Hearts where you will find novels, memoirs, gift books, and several children’s books of high literary quality.

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WANTED: A Harbor Pilot, Please

Kathy Joy

Have you ever wondered what’s happened to all the working lighthouses? How could they be defunct? What takes the place of helping a vessel to anchor or to its pier in safe harbor?

Harbor Pilots are, by sheer tenacity, a remarkable crew. The job requires round-the-clock availability, a complete understanding of the local waters, hazards and weather conditions, and the agility to climb a 30-foot rope ladder up the side of a large vessel.

Our harbor has them. Any port of call has them; these sailors are navigational experts regarding local waters.

When a ship comes into unknown waters, the harbor pilot maneuvers a small craft right up to the big rig, climbing up that ladder and getting behind the wheel to steer the vessel into safe mooring.

And so it is with the staff I work with.

There are a few who understand the aim in a specialized way. They can plot the course for shoreline and safe harbor in waters that most of us have never seen prior to this. We don’t want to encounter nasty surprises, do we? What will we do if a rock pierces the hull?

While most of us are sequestered with our laptops and zoom sessions focused in on the target for the day, someone with years in the industry will come alongside and prove their maturity and faithfulness by soldiering our vision through our company’s performance of the necessary tasks.

Tasks, such as security, handling delays, sorting through the troubled complaints and defunct systems, and steering the crew into the final destination with wisdom and other hands-on assignments move us beyond the irritations and angers and abnormal shallows.

Mister B is the story of one such harbor pilot. From his daughter’s memoir, Mister B: Living With A 98-Year-Old Rocket Scientist

These are our harbor pilots – these comrades who are sailing in to assist our somewhat lurching, unsteady building to navigate in unknown waters.

In rough waters, how does a ship or smaller boat find it’s way around sandy banks, jutting rocks, and unusual winds to safe harbor? Guided by the strength and knowledge of someone who has a firm grasp of the way around the banks that would beach us, that’s how.

We all experience waves of gratitude and relief as we are coming to the shoreline.

We are all in this together – but today, let’s take a moment to applaud our unsung heroes, our unseen administrators, first responders, our essential leaders.

A collective “thank you” from all our various ports of call; our kitchen table offices, our cell phones, laptops and heart connections everywhere are warranted. You are worthy deckhands, but it would mean there’s nowhere to land without the harbor pilot.

Can you list one or two harbor pilots in your most choppy, unpredictable waves of life?

Later — when we are all back together — tossed, tested and polished bits of beach glass will emerge gleaming in our midst.

What treasures we will discover.

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https://www.amazon.com/Breath-Joy-Ah-Autumn-Kathy/dp/0999635379

Kathy Joy, writes the Breath of Joy coffee table series. Simply Summer, Ah, Autumn, Winter Whispers, and Singing Spring. These books make for exceptional “thank-you” gifts and acknowledgments of special someones in your life.

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©2020 Capture Books and its authors are happily represented by the publicity of Books for Bonding Hearts where you will find novels, memoirs, gift books, and several children’s books of high literary quality.