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."

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