Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Naughty or Nice?

Me (Kelly), Santa, Bryan

Christmas in the '70's sometime

I remember when I discovered that there was no santa. Sorry if I spoiled it for you here. I know how disappointed you feel. I was 8 or 9 when my Christmas changed. My mom had asked me to find something for her. She innocently told me to look in the trunk of Daddy's car. I did. Christmas was never the same.

Our bowling balls, my pretty pink dress, and a plethora of other presents were stashed in that trunk. Mom and Dad hadn't let each other in on their hiding places. Oops! Bryan may have already "known" but he certainly did after I went racing back into the house.

In some ways, I think my parents were glad that they were done with that part of the Christmas revelries: hiding gifts, wrapping them late into the night on Christmas Eve, eating cookies nad carrots and drinking milk, keeping up appearances of santa, the whole thing. So after that Christmas, things changed.

I was on the hunt starting in December. Little tidbit: I DO NOT like surprises. I would search the house high and low until I found my gifts. It became harder and harder for my parents to keep our presents a surprise. Which is so sad since Bryan LOVED being surprised. He didn't peek. Sorry little brother. If I found HIS, I would tell. Meanie!

After my parents finally surrendered and stopped hiding our gifts, they began wrapping them as they bought each present and left them under the tree until Christmas morn. That year, I UNWRAPPED every single one of my gifts and re-wrapped them. I know. I know. SICK! Bryan refused to take part in my season-spoiling sickness. He finked on me! Serves me right! Naughty little girl!

The next year, my parents set boobie-traps and made threats. If any gift was so much as TOUCHED or tampered with, it would be given to needy children. I will not reveal here if I ever disobeyed my parents with my illness/sneakiness. My parents have had so much heartache this year. I think I will keep that to myself. The only other person who knows...was Bryan. So my secret is safe. Until the Reunion.


Christmas in our first house


I told you my parents were young and didn't have much money when they had Bryan and me. This photo shows my thrifty and creative mom showing us how to string popcorn and cranberries to make garland for our Christmas Tree. An amazingly painstaking and boring task. Bryan did it with a smile! I keep feeling like I already posted about this? Maybe I should read my own blog occasionally :)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Look Alikes

Aidan at approxiamately the same age.

Bryan at Grandma Birthday's Home
Christmas 1978?

I remember this rocking-chair, that TV, that funny santa in the background, the simple little nativity with all the barn animals gazing down at baby Jesus. As soon as I saw this photo on my mom's fridge this week, a flood of memories (complete with smells--how weird it that?) washed over me. I have a musty memory unless it is dusted off by a sight or sound or smell! The sweet thing about this photo is that is reminds me so much of my Aidan, our middle son. He smiles the same tooth-hidden grin. A bit mischievous. A little melancholy. It surprises me how much they look alike. I have never really noticed it before. I have observed that Wyatt, our cousin, looks some like Bryan as a child. But I had not seen Uncle B and Aidan as familiar.
There are several other great Christmas photos in the slide show at the top of the blog. Just press the PLAY arrow in the center of the box and enjoy that sunny, beloved, goofy, funny face of Bryan's. And Santa's.

The Uncle B Tree

Made with Love by Meredith
December 2009
In honor of the One Year Anniversary of my brother's death, my best friend stopped by on Monday, December 14 and left this Uncle B tree. A labor of love loaded with thoughtfulness and sweet memories, each bag contained an ornament that represents one of the stories I have told here on this blogspot. She brought a tiny fir tree wrapped in burlap and lights. So far we have opened a football, a log cabin, a baseball glove, a fish, ice skates, a snowflake, an anchor, a "B", a Disneyland ornament, the list goes on. Each one symbolizing the many ways Bryan has touched our lives and left his mark in our hearts. It has been so fun for the kids to rush to open each package in the morning. Then we retell Bryan's story. And we laugh. It is good.
My best friend is helping me keep my word--to continue telling his stories. I am so touched. And so blessed. So are my parents: Meredith made a tree for them as well. We are so thankful for this tangible way to include Bryan in a new Christmas tradition: Remembering Bryan while we decorate the Uncle B Tree. Thanks Meredith. I love you.
Christmas Chaos--so much fun!
1996? Aunt Barbara & Uncle John's Home
I like this picture because it captures Bryan's Christmas habits so well. After giving his gifts--he PLAYED with them! Here he is enjoying one of the toys he got my cousin's boys for Christmas. (Bryan is on the right with toy in hand!) Wyatt, Matthew and Marc don't seem too disappointed since there were other distractions available. Good thing!
I am looking forward to seeing these boys this weekend. They aren't little anymore--they are on their way to manhood. Bryan enjoyed hanging out with them and his other "nephews" Justin and Nik. One good thing--they won't have to fight him off/share their gifts with Uncle B this year! :)See you soon family.

Festival of Lights

Wild Animal Park
Christmas 1998
Since we grew up in Escondido and lived there until the 2000's, we have lots of memories at the WAP. This was the last year we all went together. Bryan was in the middle of all the memories and fun. He loved the "snow" the park brought in. And the cocoa and treats. He was like a child with his laughter and the light in his eyes. I believe that is why Reilly enjoyed being near Uncle B so much. They looked at the wonder of the world with childlike eyes. Corny but true.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

One More

YIPPEE! I found Aidan's! Now I just need Reilly's!
I am so glad to have this one--to remember there WAS a time when Aidan was a bundle of joy :)

For Me--Kelly--Unbelievable love & strength in family. My sister.

Blogger sometimes does weird stuff to my posts. Not complaining--just explaining. I put this in yesterday's post and somehow it was lost in cyberspace. So here it is again today--the card Bryan made for me Christmas 2001. If I ever find the "safe" place I tucked away Aidan's and Reilly's, I will add them here. To complete the set. I can't "add" it to yesterday's post without making it the first entry and looking like I am tooting my own horn, so here it is--separate so that I don't have to retype and reload the entire post from yesterday. Thanks for understanding. When it is bound in a book for my momma and my kids--it won't even matter. It'll be quirky like me.

PS I found an "O Holy Night" that knocked my socks off AND included the last refrain which is so lovely. Hold on! It is not for the faint of heart. It is playing now. Sitting in the candle light, looking at my beautiful creche, listening to Josh Groban sing about that holy night. Oh man. Enjoy. And Bryan is there. Singing with the angels. In that deep and fine baritone voice. Smiling. O Night Divine!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Bryan's Gift

The top of the tree says" Believe in Him and all things are possible."

December 25, 2001

Bryan's Gift to the Family

In his own handwriting, on fine paper he selected, Bryan hand stamped and inscribed each card.

For Samuel-Sweet, happy, content, my boy!

For Bob-Courageous & Brave, my brother, always

For Kate-Kind-hearted, high-spirited, my girl

Each card came with a cross enclosed.

This is a hard post. But a good one. Bittersweet.

I have these cards, handstamped and lovingly created by my brother, for each member of my family. For some reason, I can't find Reilly's (she probably took hers years ago since she is a keepsake girl like her mom) and Aidan's (I KNOW I saw it somewhere "safe" in the last few weeks!). Peter doesn't have one. He wouldn't be born for another four years. Sweet Peter, he will never really know his Uncle B.

Everyone Bryan planned on seeing at the extended Christmas Celebration got a card and a cross. I am so very thankful for this gift, Bryan's gift. From his own pen, in his own words, in his special way, Bryan told each of us how much he loved us and why. He was imaginative, thoughtful, artistic, creative--of all the gifts he ever gave (and remember, I told you he was the BEST gift -giver!)--this is my favorite. I love words and homemade gifts and special, thoughtful touches. Yet in all my life, I have never made anything so lovely and honoring. My brother did. He was an amazing man. Have I said that before? Then let me say it again this morning with tears streaming down my face, with pride bursting in my heart, with memories racing through my mind, Bryan was one of the best, kindest, truest friends I have ever had. I miss him today.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bless Your Heart

No matter how big I make the font--THANK YOU--can never adequately express my sincere gratitude to all of you who have sent kind, sympathetic words and prayers our way on Monday. For pretty poinsettias, fresh baked pie, cookies, hugs, shared tears, verses of comfort and the Uncle B tree--thanks! My family has felt your love and support carrying us through this next part of the healing process. The first year down. All the rest to go. For sharing in our pain, for praying through our suffering, for remembering my brother...thank all of you who have stood with us this year and especially this week.
Bless your hearts, every one of you! Who said that finding the appropriate response to all this grief stuff was hard? Oh! I did? Well, you few have learned the secret. Probably as you suffered once yourself and have been comforted. Isn't that just how our God works? Thank you, thank you, thank you! May He richly reward you for your love and compassion to my family this week.
My Daddy said, in one of the comments here, that it is hard to understand why people stay away from us like we are sick, like our grief is contagious cooties to be avoided. I understand that. I have been there before. Timid and afraid to offend. Unsure of what to say. Helpless to DO anything to help. But I have learned that what our family suffers from this week is not punitive or contagious. It is curative. John Piper adds:
"The pain He causes is like the surgeon's knife, not like the executioner's whip. Suffering is not dispensed willy-nilly among the people of God. It is apportioned to us as individually designed, expert therapy by the loving hand of our great Physician. And its aim is that our faith might be refined, our holiness might be enlarged, our soul might be saved, and our God might be glorified."
So today, instead of hiding our grief, suffering, and pain away in secret, ashamed at how it crushes. I REJOICE that the Great Physician is working in my heart. And in my Daddy's. He is refining my Momma's faith. I am witnessing it all--firsthand this year. I will take John Piper's (and God's : ) advice:
"Keep on rejoicing. When you are thrown in the cellars of suffering, keep on rejoicing. When you dive in the sea of affliction, keep on rejoicing. In fact, keep on rejoicing not in spite of the affliction but even because of it. This is not a little piece of advice about the power of positive thinking. This is an utterly radical, abnormal, supernatural way to respond to suffering. It is not in our power. It is not for the sake of our honor. It is the way spiritual aliens and exiles live on the earth for the glory of the great King. 'Count it all joy when you meet various trials,' is foolish advice, except for one thing—God."

We were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself. Why, we felt that we had received the sentence of death; but that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. (2 Corinthians 1:8-9)
Relying on Christ alone, Kelly for us all
David, Vickey, Bob and the kids

Monday, December 14, 2009

One Year

Beloved son. Only brother. Favorite uncle. Faithful friend. Nephew, cousin, co-worker, neighbor, boss, roommate, ex-boyfriend. Bryan was a lot of things to a lot of people. Those labels can never capture WHO he was. Not completely. Each season of his life, each role he played, each hat he wore were only small pieces of who Bryan David Klungreseter TRULY was. My Momma's tender hearted little boy. The only son who would carry on my Daddy's name. My only sibling, the one who knew all about me and loved me anyway. My children's most bestest Uncle B. Bryan David Klungreseter died this night last year. His heart stopped beating and he breathed his last on December 14, 2008.

I don't like the words associated with death. "One Year Anniversary" of his death? Anniversary is a happy word--I think of celebrations and nice greeting cards. Anniversary isn't right. "Passed away"? Where is "away"? I don't get that. I "lost" my brother a year ago? I didn't lose him, I know where Bryan is. All the words I try to wrap around this year are incomplete. Just like obituaries and sympathy cards and pithy statements about the meaning of pain and death. No wonder people have a hard time talking to those who are mourning and grieving. The vocabulary for this stuff is lame. But I can't offer any better substitutions today. Death just stinks.

I never used to read obituaries. I don't like to dwell on sad things. A self-protective mechanism, I guess. I don't like to get emotional in front of other people, to expose my heart. This year, I didn't have a choice. Sad things were a daily part of my day. Missing Bryan. I began reading the words that those who are aching for their loved ones wrote in the final words of an obituary. It was then that I realized that words can never cut it. Even though I love words. All kinds of words. Poetry, song lyrics, a well-spoken phrase, a good book, a poignant play/movie line, a verse of Scripture. But no matter how expressive, accurate or suitable the words, they do not contain the ability, the magical capacity, to completely tell the story or capture a moment or describe a person's impact on another's life.

Maybe that is why after years of giving His Words to His children through every means; prophecy, visions, dreams, angels and the Pentateuch, the Word of God became flesh and made His dwelling among us. A flesh and blood baby boy. His final Word--Emmanuel--God with Us. The three-dimensional, walking, talking Word that finally expressed ALL that God had been trying to show and tell us with His words. Jesus.

The things that tortured me the days following Bryan's death do not torment me today. I am not undone by the thought of him dying alone in his home. I know that he was not alone--He was there with him. I know that with every fiber of my being. Not because I am superspiritual or because Bryan confirmed this from the other side. God's Word promises this; Jesus promised to NEVER leave or forsake my brother. Or me. Or you, if you are His. Bryan did nothing to earn Heaven. No one can. It was a free gift that Bryan accepted in 2007. So the circumstances of his death or even the manner in which he lived his final weeks don't really matter, because God's Son did all that was needed to purchase a non-refundable ticket into Heaven, eternal life with His Father, for Bryan. For Me. For you? His grace alone saved my brother from everything that I fear when I think of death. Horrible death.

The Son of man came to seek and save that which was lost. My God is the God who saves. He does not leave us alone to struggle and despair in this hard world alone, without Hope. Without Peace. That is why Jesus was born in a filthy barn into a messed up world on that quiet night long ago. We need Him more than He needs us; our good deeds, our righteousness, our every effort to earn salvation--none of it matters--only Jesus matters. God with us. The God who saves. He relentlessly pursued my brother with His love, He never gave up on him. In the end, He carried my brother to the other side, to his real home, where Bryan is feasting at the Table with the King. Not because Bryan deserved it, who does? The Savior did all the work. When Bryan was weak and broken and lame, his gentle Savior carried him home and seated him at the table of the Lord. Bryan is feasting as I type. 2 Samuel 9

Many times in the last months I have rejoiced for my brother because he is with Jesus. Tonight I envy him. I can't even imagine, and I have a wild imagination, what Bryan is experiencing this VERY moment. I miss you brother. I do not wish you were here with me. I wish I were there with you.

Until you carry me home Jesus, I will run my race, looking toward the finish line, waiting eagerly for the prize--You! Forever and for eternity. With You. You carried Bryan. Trusting You to carry each one of us Home. To You. Forever and for eternity.
This is what faith is, the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen. You have given me this faith, Lord. Faith in You and Your Promise. I believe and I won't stop believing. Not even this year could take that from me. Thank You for Faith. For Hope. For Love. For Peace. For Truth. For Your Presence. "Thank You"--two more words that just don't cut it.

Bryan David Klungreseter

With Us: February 5, 1972

With God: December 14, 2008

Playing right now on the Playlist:
Leeland "Carried to the Table"
Wounded and forsaken
I was shattered by the fall
Broken and forgotten
Feeling lost and all alone
Summoned by the King
Into the Master’s courts
Lifted by the Savior
And cradled in His arms

I was carried to the table
Seated where I don’t belong
Carried to the table
Swept away by His love
And I don’t see my brokenness anymore
When I’m seated at the table of the Lord
I’m carried to the table
The table of the Lord
Fighting thoughts of fear
And wondering why He called my name
Am I good enough to share this cup
This world has left me lame
Even in my weakness
The Savior called my name
In His Holy presence
I’m healed and unashamed

You carried me, my God
You carried me

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Jesu Navn

Jesu Navn
Norwegian Table Prayer
I Jesu navn gar vi til bordsa spise,
drikke pa ditt ord.Deg,
Gud til aere, oss til gavn,
Sa far vi mat i Jesu navn.
In Jesus’ name to the table we go
To eat and drink according to His word.
To God the honor, to us the gain,
So we have food in Jesus' name.
We are studying the Vikings in our homeschool this year. I overheard Aidan telling Peter that we are related to Erik the Red. According to my son's understanding of our family ancestry, Erik was our great, great, great, GREAT granddad. Or at least Aidan said he was. I almost believe it. Even though I don't have red hair, I certainly have a fiery temper. I can't be sure that our family blood can be traced that far. However I do know it certainly goes back to my grandpa, Anders Klungreseter. He arrived by boat in America during the Norwegian resistance to the German Occupation of Norway. He stayed and married a Norwegian-American bride, Bertha Pauline.
When I was a little girl, I remember my grandma Birthday (Bertha!) saying the Norwegian Prayer at her table. My great grandma Lolly (Hjordis, Bertha's Norwegian mother. confused yet?) also used to say it to her grandkids and great grandchildren (Bryan and I). So I taught it to my children this year. Or least I tried to. Even though I listened to stranger old ladies say it OVER and OVER on my computer, Norwegian is a difficult language to mimic. Shheeesh. I am not sure any of my relatives from Norway would be able to decipher what we are saying. But since my Daddy has a plaque with the Table Prayer over his dining room table, just like his mom did, I am determined to bless him this year.
Bryan was proud of his Norwegian heritage. He often joked about getting a Viking Norseman on his bicep. He never did. It may seem a paradox--a fiercely patriotic American who loved his Norwegian blood. I don't think it is such a puzzle after all. His ashes have found their home in a hand-hewn miniature Viking long ship. On a mantle in California.
This Christmas as we remember our dear Savior's birth, we will include the Norwegian Jesu Navn prayer around our very long table. Surrounded by my family and my husband's family, (who, for the record, don't have any Norwegian blood in their veins). Like Bryan was, I am so proud of who I am. And I want our children to prize their legacy as well. Jesus is the Savior of the WORLD not just America :) so Jesu Navn or the Lord's Prayer or whatever blessing you say around your table this Christmas--it's just good to be one of His kids. One big family--co-heirs with Christ! Amazing Grace! Thanks Heavenly Father! My Daddy--don't fret, I promise I won't serve lutefisk to honor our traditions :). But here is something to make you chuckle, since it IS Christmas:

Monday, December 7, 2009

Monday Again.

I love the rain. It a wonderful excuse to stay in our jammies and snuggle all day, reading. Just add fire and cocoa! Since we have our box down of Christmas books, we could easily stay in today. But we aren't. Yet I am determined to get my Multitude Monday Thanks posted on MONDAY. So here are some:
  • rainy days
  • art classes with friends. learning a new technique and studying a old artist
  • watercolors and little hands
  • little boy dressing himself. wearing his undies backwards so HE can enjoy the elmo on his frontside!
  • the smell of our Noble Fir tree twinkling in the corner
  • browsing the Christmas albums. seeing how the faces have changed and families have grown since their first Christmas photo was mailed.
  • checking the mail. i LOVE getting Christmas wishes, letters, cards, and photos from our family and friends. have you mailed YOURS yet? hint hint
  • children who sing while they tidy. so cheerful! so rare.
  • Aidan's artistic decoration ideas--the places that boy puts wreaths and bulbs!
  • nativity scenes surrounding our home--we don't have as many as grandma but we are racing to catch up!
  • morning "touchbase" call with my mom. planning our day together.
  • having friends over for tea and treats
  • cuddling with oldest while she nurses her sniffles. fighting over the same homeschooling magazines!
  • little "David" shouting. "I will fight you in the Name of the Lord!" as weilds his sling and stones--INSIDE! Peter's absolute FAVORITE story is David and Goliath. he loves to boss his older brothers around, directing them in his version of the tale
  • chinese takeout brought home unexpectedly by thoughtful hubby. no prep, no dishes, no clean-up. what a treat! and egg rolls with spicy mustard are yummy!
  • kleenex with lotion added--amazing! where were they when i had the sniffles as a child? seriously. blow it out loud. blow it out proud. into a soft tissue with lotion added.
  • Truth spoken with love and tenderness. thanks Margi. and for the pumpkin seeds. you knew i was missing them.
  • baby (or adopted child) showers
  • re-reading our year's past Christmas letters. voting on which one is the best. maybe this year's?
  • racing off to get the day started after stolen moments on the computer! bye!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

In Which Peter Learns That Christmas Will Never Be The Same

We are decorating this weekend. Dragging down all the boxes. Putting up lights. Placing the JOY sign in the front yard. Listening to carols. Dusting off the Christmas books. Peter is so excited about every new thing. At three, this is really the first year that Peter is participating in our family traditions. It is all new to him. So far, he adores our sleepy drives to look at lights. He favorite movie has been **blush, cringe, sheepish grin** Home Alone (a movie my other four watched for the first time this year!). He asks for Ba Rum Ba Pum Pum song (read: Jars of Clay's Little Drummer Boy). He thinks eating his chocolate off his advent tree each night is cool. His siblings are so thrilled to be showing him the ropes and giving all the explanations. So sweet to see them bringing Peter into it all.
Peter started crying when we brought down the box of Christmas stuffed animals.
"Where is mine? Which one is for me?" His sad little cries broke my heart.
Uncle Bryan was in charge of the Christmas bears or moose or reindeers with the dates on them. Peter doesn't have one. Sweetly, Reilly tied Winnie the Pooh onto his back and said he could have hers. Peter's tears stopped. He is running around the house looking for his stocking. There is one with Peter's name in a box somewhere.
And there is one with Bryan's name at my parent's home.
My parents are not decorated yet. I feel a sense of sadness sweep over me when I think of Bryan's stocking there on their mantle. Our stocking holders are picture frames with each family member with a goofy face. We all made the "Parker Lips". Each one is classic and I love it that we have embraced our off-beat selves. No poised and painted photos for us. No sir.
Even before Bryan died, my mom and dad weren't in the mood for celebrating and decorating last Christmas. They did put a fresh Noble Fir tree up but it remained undecorated until January when we finally took it down. They had meant to put their ornaments on it but that dreadful door bell rang instead.
And our Christmas was changed forever.
I don't even remember if my mom put up our stockings over their fireplace. We did not go there for Christmas morning like we always did. We needed to do something different last year. My brother always slept over at their house and woke up with my parents. Last year, my parents slept under the tree at our home surrounded by their grandchildren. None of us could fathom the idea of waking up without Bryan there. I have NEVER spent a Christmas without my brother before last year.
This year, I am not sure how we are going to do Christmas. It feels like every single thing I do or think or smell or taste or hear reminds me of my brother and I weep. Is that normal after a year? I have no idea what "normal" is anymore. But last year I was blessedly anesthetized and numb. I did not dwell deeply on things, I just moved through each "thing" expected of me. I suspect my parents responded the same way. True confessions: this year seems WAY more painful.
I am learning with Peter that Christmas will never be the same. But I am choosing joy and waiting to enjoy the new pleasures in store. This season is about Jesus after all, not Bryan. I keep reminding myself of that. And I am certain that Bryan would not want us weeping throughout his favorite time of year. So I will honor my brother's memory this year by doing what he did best: enjoying the delights of Christmas. May you and your family delight in this season as well.

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Family Tree

Bryan's Family Tree
(Click on Image to see Enlarged View)

The first family activity for our Advent was to make a family tree. The Jesse Tree book begins by focusing on Isaiah 11:1-2 "Then a shoot will spring forth from the stem of Jesse and a branch from his root will bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord will rest upon Him." Jesus' tree went far back and had some amazing people in it. So does Bryan's!
After I made one for our children, I made a Tree for my brother (and me too). I wish I knew my grandfather's parents names. It is when I stop to think back that far that I realize that I don't know enough about my family stems and branches. I don't want to make that mistake with my kids. I want them to know where all the juicy fruit came from, and the nuts too :).
My brother's paternal side is mostly Norwegian. His maternal side is American Mixed-breed :)...I don't know if any one ancestry tops out in the blood from that side. I think that makes my brother 50% Norwegian- 50% Unknown stock.
Chime in family if I misspelled or made a mistake or if you can tell me Bestemor and Bestefar's names.


Such a goob! I wrote these on MONDAY, where they belong (hence the cloudy day thanks!), but forgot to post them. Here are the latest entries in my thankful list--1,000 Gifts:

246. cloudy days
247. the cover of darkness while i exercise in the pre-dawn hour.
248. hand knit hat and scarf (thanks Aunt Barbara!)
249. Boy's Book Club--Daddy's reading aloud to sons and discussing fine books
250. Large pots of spaghetti shared with good friends
251. sleepy drives
252. twinkly lights adorning homes at Christmas
253. shortbread, cocoa, and singing Christmas carols
254. snowflakes--the child made, paper and scissor and glitter kind
255. lighting the first candle of advent, the beginning of our Christ-exalting, Christ-focus, Christ-celebrating season
256. taking down the box of Christmas books
257. watching my girls dance, Clara in the Nutcracker and her Frolicking Sister at the ball
258. listening to my girl play carols on the piano
259. clean room, made bed--a rare and happy treat
260. dusting off the Christmas movies, getting ready for the marathon
261. praying and praising in my husband's arms
262. 12 hours of sleep--uninterrupted
263. a soldier in a crisp uniform, standing tall and proud
264. brainstorming for the 17th Annual Christmas Letter
265. Meredith
266. choosing shirts and location for Christmas Family Photo--sheesh! that is a LOT of work
267. flannel jammies, cozy faux-fur lined slippers
268. pictures made with love to mom from sweet boy

Choosing joy today.

"A thankful heart is a happy heart." ~Madame Blueberry

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Christmas Carols

Bryan loved Christmas carols. This morning Reilly asked me which carol was my favorite. I couldn't pick just one. They are among my most beloved music--the old Christmas carols that tell His story. Christ-exalting lyrics, beautiful music. How can I pick just one? As I type she is pounding out Hark The Herald Angels Sing, attempting to learn the notes and make lovely music.

Bryan did have a favorite carol to listen to: Little Drummer Boy. I have included it on the playlist below. Jars of Clay sang his favorite version. Enjoy. I added a few other songs I know he liked (even Bing Crosby singing White Christmas!). His favorite song to sing was O Holy Night. I will miss hearing him sing it this year. Through the years our families gathered at my mother-in-love's home to sing carols around her piano. I love those memories. Bryan joined us once or twice and I can still picture him belting out that song. And eating German Rouladen until he was sick! Steak and bacon wrapped pickles will do it to you! Weird. There is no accounting for other people's tastes.

If you usually mute the playlist at the bottom while reading here, you might change your mind when you hear the delightful collection there. God has always "spoken" to my heart through music. I rejoice when I think of Bryan joining the angels in Heaven singing these songs to his Savior this Christmas.

Who knew that O Holy Night's last refrain included such moving lyrics:

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave he is our brother.
And in his name, all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

I included a more modern rendition of O Holy Night on the playlist. It won't be the same as listening to Bryan's beautiful baritone voice raised in song. And it does not include all the words to the carol. Such a shame! Let me know if you have a version that is more traditional which includes the refrain above. I'd like that.

As a side note, (it is described here in another post) my mom, dad, and I sang O Holy Night--for the first time singing the not-oft-sung verse above--together, weeping and silently praying for my brother on Sunday, December 14, 2008. I have no way of knowing until I get to Heaven if that is the moment the Good Shepherd was carrying His lost lamb home, but I like to believe that it was. It was a blessed moment that I will NEVER forget.
***a little funny PS***The children and I were sitting here listening to the music and three, count 'em THREE, said they simply do NOT care for Bing Crosby's voice. They don't like his version of White Christmas. Since I am recording stuff here that I will want to remember later, that seems like a pertinent fact to include. And funny. Sorry Uncle B. They are young yet.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

White Christmas

Our family has always lived in Southern California. It has never snowed here. I only dream of a white christmas. I am not certain why Bryan's favorite Christmas movie was Irving Berlin's musical White Christmas. I think it had to do with the whole tribute to a noble-military-general thing. Or maybe he really liked listening to Bing Crosby sing?

Forget Advent candles, Sunday School Christmas choir, acting out the story of Joseph and Mary dressed in our bathrobes, or reading the Nativity story nightly--not the Klungreseter family growing up! We went to the movies every Christmas Eve. We ate at Bamboo House for Chinese food. We counted each other's gifts under the tree to make sure they were equitable. And we watched every Christmas movie ever made. Bryan owns them ALL. I am not exaggerating. I can not remember a Christmas of of my youth when we did not watch It's A Wonderful Life, or A Charlie Brown's Christmas, or Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer on TV. Not one single year.

Bryan carried on our movie watching tradition as an adult. The kids just dusted off his collection in preparation for our annual movie watching fun. It is so handy to have the DVDs. No more wading through lame commercials. Bryan memorized the lines of most of his favorites. I am not exaggerating. I'm not. Ask my mom. She'll back me up. It was one of his more useful talents.

This year we will watch each one without his genius for editing out the "inappropriate" parts. We will watch them without his exuberant acting along with his favorite characters. He won't be there to make gingerbread houses or drink coco. He won't be there in the flesh. But Bryan's memory will be a part of every one of our holiday traditions this year. I miss my brother. I am so glad he left so much of himself for us to remember him by.

Gotta go light the advent candle and read the story and watch our kids act out the scene. Again. But we won't forget my childhood habits--we will watch White Christmas, just like I did as a kid. With my brother.

The Problem with Pain

Grief is unpredictable. Raw. Quiet. Patient. I want to write some tidy text about what I have learned, what God has shown me, why Bryan's death has meaning and how I am no longer struggling to figure it all out as we approach the One Year Anniversary of his death. But I can't.
Today is December 1st. Opening day for Bryan's favorite season--Christmas.

This time last year, Bryan was wasting away alone in his apartment. He would not let us, my parents, my kids, me into his dungeon of despair. There were no trips to his elaborately decorated apartment, no coco and carols, no Christmas movies or gingerbread houses built together. Bryan died. I can't change the details of the final chapter of his story. I can't add meaning. I have no answers. I can't explain any of it. I can't fix it or make it all better. I still have no fathomable idea why Bryan had to die. I see no good in any of it. None.
I suspect that people all over the world have been and are still working on that problem of pain. For much longer than 351 days. Trying to make sense of their senseless circumstances. Choosing joy even in the midst of calamity and crisis. I am not alone in my grief and sorrow.
I read this quote again today: "God marks across some of our days: "Will Explain Later". And then "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass. It's about learning to dance in the rain." This year God has been teaching me to dance.
Sometimes when I catch myself forgetting that Bryan is gone and I realize that I haven't thought about him all day--I feel like that's a betrayal. Somehow by "moving on" with my life, I am leaving him in my past where he resides only in my distant memory. I don't want to keep my brother in my heart, tucked away somewhere I only venture once a year. I want to travel to that place where my grief and my faith meet. And there is Peace.
Take me there Lord. As I journey in this place of grief, bring me into Your Peace, Lord.
My husband says I am like a pitbull, I bite down and don't let go. I am tenacious, resolute, unyielding when I want something. I want to know why my brother died. Yet in my stubborn insistence, I miss out on peace and grace. It is only when I simply stop struggling (sometimes by conscience choice, mostly out of sheer exhaustion) and contending that Peace takes the place of strife in my heart. I can't explain that either.
I never cross-examine God and ask Him why He blessed me with a man who is devoted to our family. I don't shake my fist at the Lord and demand an explanation for our five healthy children. You will never hear me insisting He demonstrate His motive when I sleep in my warm bed in my big house. I have never asked Jesus to account for His provision of freedom, friendship, and full belly. Why is it that I think an answer is owed to me when He allows stuff to happen that I don't understand?
I don't deserve His daily Grace, I never earned His favor, yet my God lavishly provides blessings upon blessings to me daily. I will never understand that either.
You would think that God would punish me for my little faith. Or perhaps my disbelief would bring separation and spurning. But my God isn't like that. He gently whispers in the pain, in the quiet, in the tears, in the rain, "I'm with you." The God who gives and takes away--He is close to me.
It's not my job to understand the "why" of the last 351 days. Somedays, I have been biting the wrong leg. My Lord has only asked me to trust Him, His goodness, His unfailing love for me. And for Bryan. I can't lean on my own understanding in all of this. I will never be able to understand all this yuck! Death stinks. There are no circumstances or final chapters that can change that sad fact.
I don't have any pat answers or deep philosophical conclusions to offer here. I only have His Hope today. As we begin our celebration of Jesus' birth, the Father's Most Precious Gift, I realize anew that my Savior is enough, more than enough for all that I truly need. May He be more than enough for you today too.
Psalm 34:18" The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgivings Past

Thanksgiving at our childhood home in Escondido
November 1997
Squeezed like sardines in the TV room
Enjoy the bleach blond Chad and Casey!

Thanksgiving 2002
My Our Parents Home
Bryan is in the back row-far right

Candid moment
Squishing us all in--again!
Regret: I always say I am going to take family photos even if many groan and object to piling on top of each other and forcing a smile. I did not insist in 2007 and now I don't have a picture. Word to the Wise: Snap those digital treasures this Thanksgiving! Make sure you capture the moments on camera as well as in your heart! Me being bossy again!
A couple of times a decade we try and get the extended family all together: 1992, 1997, 2002, 2007. This year, our cousin Jenn is hosting a feast which we won't be joining. My parents requested the holidays be different than in years past so that the pain of missing Bryan will not be as pronounced. I am not sure that is possible but we are attempting. It is an effort at self-preservation or sanity. I pray it helps. No matter what we do, this Thanksgiving will not be as difficult as last year. My brother was self-destructing and keeping everyone away. This year, he is giving thanks to the Father in person :) with no more pain, no more tears. I can be thankful for that.
My mom and I were talking and praying about how to make the holidays sweet without Bryan. He loved this season. It is hard to think of celebrating without his big grin and boyish thrill of pleasure in them. But Thanksgiving and Christmas aren't about Bryan. Mom and I decided that next year, we are going to start a new tradition in Bryan's honor. Maybe sponsoring the family of an incarcerated person? Bryan did that one Christmas. Or taking gifts to the battered Women & Children Shelter? That was a project of his another year. We are going to think about it this year and see if we can come up with a perfect "Bryan Tribute" to keep his love of this time of year alive and meaningful. And to keep the focus on the reason for this season--the Son of God who came to seek and save that which was lost. Lost hope, lost sheep, lost dreams, lost purity, lost moments, lost heart, lost joy, lost marriages, lost homes, Lost. He came to SAVE that which was lost. I am so thankful.

Blessing Tree

Thanksgiving 2007

Bryan's Handprint "leaf"
-My Family
-Our Armed Forces fighting for our freedom!!
-Turkey Sandwiches!
It's Multitude Monday AND it's Thanksgiving vacation. We are so blessed, so thankful! My family is hanging out in our jammies, playing games, drinking cocoa (even though it is 80 degrees outside!) and looking at old photo albums. I love down time--with nothing going on but enjoying each other. We have so much to feel grateful for this year!
This Thursday, we will make a Thankful Tree for 2009. A family tradition where each of us traces our handprint and writes our blessings on a paper leaf and glues it on the paper trunk. Not too classy or craftsy but a treasured keepsake for me nevertheless! I may have been embarrassed to post our Tree in light of all the beautiful and artistic traditions that other families carry out. But I am not embarrassed, I am just so grateful that I have it. I was teary-eyed when the kids unfurled the last Thankful Tree we have with Uncle Bryan's large handprint and his handwritten blessings. I placed my hand over his and was glad for my family.
I spent almost every Thanksgiving with my brother in my 38 years. When he did not come last Thanksgiving, I knew that things were very wrong. Bryan LOVED the holidays and never missed them if it were humanly possible. A few while Bob and I were at Chico State and the Bay area, and last year. Bryan was always there.
My mom is here with me now and she wants to add her blessings to the Multitude Monday list that I have going. Here goes:
240. that God is faithful
241. that He hears and answers prayers
242. Bryan's hands and feet (she did watch them grow from teeny-tiny ones to great BIG size 12s. she felt his soft baby fingers wrap around hers. and then she had to let go as he grew to a man.)
243. being able to listen to music again
244. finding Peace and Hope
245. enjoying old pictures and videos

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Bryan at Rehab feeding goats.

He endured tons of manual labor (feeding goats here) with a smile while he sobered up.

May 2007

I have no sense of time. I have spatial-temporal issues. I can't seem to find my place on the timeline. As I get older, and more life forms depend on me, I realize the blight that my time-challenges make on our lives. I don't wear a watch. I don't use a cell phone. I can never find my purse-sized calendar. Or my purse. I am hopeless.

That is my excuse for why this Multitude Monday posting is happening on Tuesday. I meant to write it last night but I lost track of time. And now it is Tuesday. But I press on, because the only honorable thing a person can do in the face of their weakness is to keep on. Even if I am a day late. Again.

I do all kinds of things to compensate for my time-challenges--sticky notes, leave voice mails for myself, star emails of importance, put time-tickers on my blog, pray, deny, cry. But it is a character weakness I have learned to live with. If you read this blog, you get to live with it too.

Bryan had a half dozen watches. He was timely. Even though he was a single guy, Bryan wasn't known for making the whole family wait for him. Periodically, he changed the plan at the last minute, but for the most part he could be counted on to be on time. For family photos, ballet recitals, Christmas present-opening, etc. I have experience with that other sort of person--you know, the one who doesn't own a watch and has no sense of time. You never know when, or IF, you are going to see that kind of person.

Time. It is so fleeting. My brother has been dead for 11 months. It seems like it was just yesterday that mom, dad, Bryan and I were eating at his favorite Hawaiian BBQ near his house. We had just picked him up from the hospital where he had been taken by ambulance after suffering a long and dreadful seizure. He had nearly bitten his tongue through. It looked awful. He looked awful. I remember thinking to myself, "why are we here? how can he be sipping soup? this is surreal. my brother could have died today." Bryan died 3 months later.

And instead of pressing in, and saying what needed to be said; "Bryan, you are in trouble again. You need help. What can I do to help you?" I ate my teriyaki chicken and made small talk. "he's exhausted. he's just been through the most dreadful thing in his life. where do I begin? he's going to think I am preaching at him. i don't know what to say."

Lost moments. That was the last time my brother and I had an opportunity to really talk. Even though he had been through an excruciating ordeal, even though his tongue was swollen and bruised, even though his heart was breaking but he didn't know how to articulate that, even though we were sitting in busy dive eating fried tempura, I should have seized the moment and said, "i love you too much to watch you self-destruct. the seizure was a HUGE warning light. you need help. you can't see it for yourself, you can't get it for yourself. i am here to help. and i am not going to leave you alone. no matter what. no matter what you say or don't say. i love you and i won't let go."

The holidays are hard for so many people. We forget that. Those of us who are busy, surrounded by people we love, with plenty, and full of good things in our hearts and days--we forget. And we don't make time to think of others who are living a much different reality. Maybe you have a loved one is pretending that they will get it together "later". Maybe you have a neighbor who is spending their first Christmas without his wife. Do you know of a family who is on the verge of losing their home this year? I have people in my life living these realities.
These are the moments to seize: the second to smile, press in, be nosy, insist on dropping off a meal, reach out for a hug even though it seems like you are invading their space, write a note telling her how much you are praying for her, getting on your knees and pleading to God for his life, holding your man and whispering how glad you are to be his, staying up late and listening to a teen prattle about something she finds interesting, reaching across the table in a busy restaurant, holding hands, looking into downcast eyes, and saying, "I love you too much to leave you to yourself. I am here. I am not going away."

Don't let any more moments slip away from you today. Tell the people you love that you won't stop, ever. Forgive the people who have hurt you and look for a way to repay their evil with kindness. Hug, smile, hold hands, write notes, intercede, pursue, reach out, open up, stick your neck out. Don't believe it when people say they just want to be alone. No one really wants to be alone in this fractured, hurting world. I am preaching to myself. I have been given an opportunity to learn from my mistake. I am sharing what I am learning with you. I won't let all this pain be wasted. Learn with me.

Now is the time. Today is the day. Right this minute. I realize I am not God, I can't "fix" people. No matter how much I wanted to, I couldn't save Bryan. Only He can. Only He could. I know that. But we can be the hands and feet and hugs for Jesus to a hurting world. This year, in honor, as a tribute to my brother and his huge bear hugs and bigger grins, I will spend my TIME looking for ways to love those the He has put in my path. Tomorrow isn't guaranteed to me. Or you.
224. praying out loud
225. forgiveness--sapping bitterness of its power
226. fires in the fireplace
227. cuddling around the fire with cozy jammies, pillows, blankets, and love
228. studying girl without any prompting
229. telling the truth even at great personal cost
230. true repentance from 8 yo
231. pleading for wisdom and receiving it
232. clean hair
233. meredith's tortilla soup
234. little hands "creating" even if it means stepping on tiny pieces and damaging soles of feet
235. sobriety, even for a few months
236. answered prayer
237. lost moments redeemed
238. lost souls saved
239. lost hope restored
"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
1 Thessalonians 5:18

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Rejoice Always

The reason I didn't post my Multitude Monday list is because our dear friends (we LOVE you guys, Deanne and Brian!) surprised us by taking us to a Todd Agnew and Building 429 concert last night! We were thrilled! But that meant no blog. So first you have to read my excuse (it was a good one) and then I will add to my list!
Ever since we heard Todd Agnew for the first time at Spirit West Coast 2004, Bob and I have been fans. Back then, Todd was barefoot, simple, and truly worshipful. Having an awesome fiddler and cellist with him on stage sealed the deal. He hasn't changed a bit--still barefoot and honest with moving worship. So even though I have heard Building 429's music before, I was mostly excited about seeing Todd in concert again. Another surprise was in store for me last night!

For my record here, Bldg 429 gets it name from Ephesians 4:29:
"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths. But only what is helpful for BUILDING others up according to their needs, that is may benefit those who listen."

I was so pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the concert of these four younger guys. They were encouraging! Their rendition of "O Happy Day!" was terrific. Too bad they didn't include it on their new album. I wasn't prepared for the wallop from their song, "Always". I have the song playing now on my playlist if you want to check it out. It isn't the same as listening to it with just piano accompaniment and a room full of other people--but it'll do. At least if you sob, no one will see you! Here are the lyrics that moved me:


Building 429

Friend I don't know where you are
And I don't know where you've been
Maybe you're fighting for your life
Or just about to throw the towel in
But if you're crying out for mercy
If there's no hope left at all
If you've given everything you've got
And you're still about to fall

Well hold on, hold on, hold on
'Cuz I believe always always
Our Savior never fails
Even when all faith is gone
God knows our pain and
His promise will remain
He will be with you always
He will be with you always

As I was listening to the lyrics, I was telling God in my heart, "I am holding on to You, God. I am!" And I sensed His reply (not in words--how could I hear it over the sound of those speakers!) was, "No, I am holding on to you!" God spoke to my heart last night. Has He been speaking to yours?

I sometimes wonder what He was saying to my brother in the last days or hours of his life. This time last year, Bryan was on the fast track to physical peril, and ultimately death. It was a scary thing to witness; athough he did not allow us much opportunity to see him. But I cling to the belief that Bryan was His, and He was with him. Even at the end.

Since the gal who inspired this newly formed habit of mine--to list what I am thankful for on Mondays, to count my blessings, to be mindful of His movement in my life--I have had no trouble adding to my list the easy stuff, the good stuff, the fun stuff, the yummy stuff. But I have yet to include the ugly stuff, the hard stuff, the painful stuff, the confusing stuff, the inexplicable stuff. If you read here, you remember that our family has been reading Pilgrim's Progress, an old tale written centuries ago but still so relevant, so true to the path He has me on this year. I said I couldn't wait to read what John Bunyan's solution was for Christian being entrapped in Despair's Dungeon.

Well, the answer, the key, the way out was to REJOICE! In ALL things, despite our temporal, this-side-of-heaven view of our circumstances. To thank Him and sing His praise. Even when we don't feel like it. And with that obedience, Christian remembered the key of Promise, which opens any door in Doubting Castle! And he was free. Since I want to be free, and I want to obey, I will add some ugly things to my list today:

191. missing brother

192. no pumpkin seeds

193. one less person who will STAND with me here in the battle

194. crying momma

195. crying daddy

196. aching heart

197. missing piece of long-practiced traditions

198. songs that make me sob

199. missing socks

200. quarreling siblings

201. failing again

202. missing the mark, again

203. crushed little heart by my less-than-gentle response

204. mounds of laundry

205. piles of dishes

206. lost history book

207. lost notes with important numbers

208. lost shoe

209. lost library book

210. lost mind

211. lost moments

212. lost family

213. lost friends

214. lost neighbors

215. missing bear hug

216. hungry children in faraway places

217. little girl paralyzed

218. friend losing home

219. husbands struggling to provide for their families

220. lonely, hurting, despairing people alone at Christmas time

221. family celebrating their first Christmas without their beloved Marilyn

222. one woman, the weight of the world--so many burdens for Suzie, all at one time

223. little boy who tries so hard but just can't

"Lord, bring beauty out of these ugly things, somehow. Give me eyes to see Your beauty in them. If not here and now, then someday when Your "I'll Explain Later" becomes NOW. "

Monday, November 2, 2009

Monday, Monday

I like having something sweet to do every Monday. I am so glad for this new "tradition". Thinking on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, excellent, and praiseworthy makes Mondays much more manageable! We had a jam-packed weekend of fun and fellowship and instead of being rested and ready for the start of another week, I was tuckered out. Then I spent some time on the front porch letting the kids jump rope and play while I made my thankful list.
161. a merry heart makes good medicine-proverbs 17:22
162. moving stories; He speaks to me in Words
163. Hope
164. the Holy Spirit--the Hound of Heaven who pursues relentlessly because of Love; He won't let me remain unchanged
165. the smile of success--when student conquers a challenge
166. maples with leaves on fire--Oh the colors of Autumn!
167. clean sheets
168. newlyweds, the bliss of witnessing life begin as One
169. heartfelt talks with friend who cares; no drive to fix or understand, just listens. even sequestered in the office. Thanks Deanne!
170. second-chances for forgetful tooth fairy; thanks for forgiving Aidan
171. reminder notes taped over tooth fairy's pillow
173. races to check the mail first
174. clean car--purely hypothetical here. it has been ages since i haven't referred to my vehicle as the "junk mobile"
175. front-yard baseball: 3 brothers-style. until one gets "out" by being beaned in the head with a whiffle ball. there HAS to be modified rules with only 3 players!
176. early morning scavenger hunts
177. cooperating siblings! jumping rope
178. brown-eyed baby in big brother's cowboy boots
179. peals and squeals of laughter, children enjoying each other
180. Fall Back--an extra hour to get ready for church!
181. gracious friends who open their homes to families with lots of mouths! thanks Limons, Smiths, Hubbs, and Campbells! can't wait to repay the favor
182. computer-savvy friend who volunteer to help me w/my first ebay purchase. thanks sue!
183. knobby knees poking through holey jeans
184. sipping tea on the porch in the shade during PE for the kids
185. baked goods--with PUMPKIN! i love pumpkin!
186. husband's hands in dishwater--sink full of dishes I DIDN'T clean
187. watching grown men conquer the wii, with an audience of teens!
188. homeschooled kids at "Presentation Night", making mommas proud and reassuring daddies that they really are learning something
189. the smell of fresh herbs in the garden
190. good old fashioned cry--cleans the soul

WARNING! Tissues Required-Video Slideshow of Bryan's Life-Sorry the music was muted!