Posts tagged Christmas
THE GIFTS OF GRIEF

I remember my childhood excitement when Christmas drew near. Like all young ones, I anxiously awaited that special toy I’d long wanted and wondered what other gifts lay in store every Christmas morning. Mitch loved Christmas a great deal, too. He loved the magic of it all, but most of all, he loved the giving more than the getting.

I search for light in the darkness, for patterns that offer perspective and peace, and I practice an examined life.
— Christopher M. Jones | Mitchell's Journey

When he passed away, Mitch still believed in Santa and tried so hard to be a good boy.

As his father, I always noticed how hard he tried to be good – and he was good. So, on that cold winter night, when I tucked my sweet boy in for the last time, I wanted Mitch to know one last time that his daddy knew he was a good boy. The only gift I had left to give him was my eternal love. With the tenderest of tones, I told him what a gift he was to me and his mommy. I whispered how proud I was of him and that I would spend the rest of my days trying to live up to his sweet example. With a soft kiss on his face, I pulled Mitchie’s blanket over his chest – his heart beating faintly like a flickering candle about to go out. No sooner had I gone to bed than I was awoken by my grief-stricken wife. Our baby made of sand crumbled and slipped through our fingers – never to return.

That sacred night, my heart suffered a mortal wound. Losing my son, who was a most tender gift, broke me in more ways than I have words to describe.

What gift(s) can possibly come from such a loss? Surely there are none, one might think. I know nothing so cold and lonely as suffering the loss of a child. Yet, even in that hell, there are gifts and spiritual treasures to be found. Their discovery doesn’t come easily – which comes as no surprise. Nothing of any value in life or the universe comes easily; as with all things, the greater the value, the greater the price.

I am still a toddler in matters of grief – but I am learning new things every day. Here are a few things I have learned about the gifts of grief, so far:

Grief, a Teacher
I have learned not to run from grief, as though it were my emotional enemy. Instead, it has become my tender teacher. I am a student of grief, and I’m learning new things every day. Grief, a gift? Yes, grief can give us the gift of a softened heart, a more empathetic soul, and can teach us the value of a moment – because, in the end, we’ll never have now again.

Making Time and Space for Grief
At least for me, I’ve found it helpful to make time & space for grief. I’ll schedule it, even. It’s like a therapy session with myself – wherein I am the doctor, and the patient rolled into one. It’s a time for me to meditate, to practice the art of stillness, then examine my sorrow and begin to make sense of suffering. Making time for sorrow a gift? Yes. By making deliberate space to do the work of processing pain, we learn to process our greater selves, too. We will work on grief the remainder of our lives – but, in time, we’ll learn to work on other parts of ourselves, too.

In the Darkness, We See Stars
Perhaps the greatest gift can be found in the very thing we’re most afraid of. Darkness. The moment I began to realize that it was often in emotional and spiritual darkness that I began to see little flecks of light if I allowed my spiritual eyes to adjust. Each point of light, a tender mercy, a gift from heaven that was always there, but I didn’t have the eyes to see them. Once I recognized those blessings and learned to connect the dots, I started to see I was never alone in the dark and that there is a greater work in progress. I have built a workshop around this very theme – to help people identify their own points of light. It doesn’t matter if you believe in God or gratitude, it’s a profound experience for both the individual and the group.

Those are just three gifts of many that I have discovered in my struggle. I miss Mitch. I would give anything I have to get him back. But that isn’t possible, and wishing won’t make it so. Instead, I search for light in the darkness, for patterns that offer perspective and peace, and I practice an examined life. Three gifts I didn’t expect to discover on my journey with grief.

Tonight, under the quiet of a winter sky, not too different from the night I tucked him in for the last time, I will thank my Father for the gifts my son left behind – the gifts of faith, perspective, compassion, and love.

Perhaps the most tender and ironic gift was my son; a beautiful soul who left my world profoundly empty, yet strangely full.

THEY THAT MOURN

I dropped by to see little Mitch this morning and discovered 3 notes left at the base of his headstone, each bearing the hashtag #lighttheworld. I was so touched by the compassion of those anonymous souls who seemed to understand grief lasts as long as love lasts. These handwritten notes wished our family peace during this season. Peace ... that is to say rest from the ongoing labor of grief, is a beautiful gift.
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I think I’m beginning to understand the deeper meaning of the scriptural passage “Blessed are those that mourn, for they shall be comforted.“ I have discovered a special kind of comfort and spiritual understanding that seems reserved for those deep mourning. Mourners aren’t blessed because they hurt, they are blessed because they can have access to a unique form of peace and comfort known only to those who mourn and seek spiritual relief.#mitchellsjourney

8 WAYS TO MAKE LASTING CHRISTMAS MEMORIES

How often do we look back on the holidays with a sense of nostalgia and a longing for warm memories?  Chances are your best memories come from spending time with the ones closest to you.  The truth is, sometimes we get so busy finding and wrapping presents, we forget to treasure the best gift of all - the gift of time and attention.  Here are 8 things you can do to make lasting Christmas memories with your family.
 

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READ CHRISTMAS BOOKS AS A FAMILY

With so many forms of entertainment these days, the magic of reading books would seem to be in jeopardy.  Yet there is more magic that comes from the words of a book than all the special effects on earth.

One of our favorite holiday traditions has been to read Christmas books and allow those touching stories to play out in the theater of our minds.

HERE ARE A FEW WE RECOMMEND:

 

WATCH HOME MOVIES & PULL OUT PHOTO ALBUMS

When I was a young child we used to watch our old 8 mm family films on Christmas Eve.  I remember sitting by a roaring fire in my Christmas pajamas while our family laughed at old, grainy footage of a time long gone.

By spending time as a family enjoying old memories, we were reminded that the best gifts we could ever hope for weren't under the Christmas tree, but sitting around it.   

Try to watch home videos as a family.

If you can prepare some old video footage or photos in advance, you will be surprised how much your children will enjoy seeing themselves when they were younger - or when you were a child.

 
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SECRET SANTA

You're never too old, or too young, to serve people in secret.  In fact, anonymous acts of service often bring a joy to your heart that lasts far longer than anything you can buy with money.

This Christmas try to do one or more of the following:

  • Search for a family who may be struggling and drop a box of gifts at their doorstep.
  • Find a way to pay a utility bill for someone in need.  
  • Leave a note in someone's mailbox with an observation about something you admire about them.

There are so many ways to serve others. The important part is doing something special for someone, unnoticed.

 
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LOCAL HOLIDAY PERFORMANCES

If available in your area, find local Christmas plays or performances to attend. High school plays, musical performances and other theatrical presentations are all ways to support your community. You can also search your city's listings to see if there are any special performances you might attend. As you invest your time enjoying various art forms for the holiday, you will find yourself being swept up in the best parts of the season.  

Some classics are:

  • The Christmas Story
  • The Nutcracker
  • A Christmas Carol
 
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12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

During Mitchell's last Christmas, two separate families decided to give Mitch a 12 Days of Christmas surprise at our doorstep each night.  Little Mitch had so much fun learning about the new surprises.  Each gift was thoughtful and had a special meaning to our family.  

It wasn't just the gift that was special, it was the special care they took to be thoughtful that made it amazing for our family.  As you think of families you might serve in this way, take a close look at their family dynamic and try to give them gifts that celebrate their family and create bonds between them.

Read this essay about Mitch and Secret Santa:  http://mitchellsjourney.org/essays/2013/12/24/a-gift-twice

 
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CANDY MAKING AS A FAMILY

Make candy as a family!  You'll be surprised how fun it can be.  Don't worry about making a mess - just have fun doing it and let your kids express themselves.  Take photos while you're at it.  You'll thank yourself later.

If you don't do candy, make cookies - but experiment.  Try something you haven't done before. 

If you don't have kids, invite a neighbor family over to participate.  Or just do it yourself. 

Find someone special to share your candy creations with.

Here are 17 Recipes you can try.

 
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PLAY IN THE SNOW

Seriously.  Play.  In the snow.  

  • Make snow caves.  
  • Build jumps for sleighs.  
  • When you go sledding, bring hot chocolate with you. There are new vacuum-sealed thermoses (Yeti & Takeya) that can keep hot chocolate piping hot for 12 hours.
  • If you can, bring a Bluetooth speaker and play Christmas music in the background.  It really adds to the experience.
  • Be sure to take photos of your snow play, too.

 

 

For Mitchell's last Christmas, we made a special effort to play in the snow - and looking back, we're so glad we did. 

If you live in a warm climate, just play outside!

 
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REMEMBER

With all of the fun and exciting ways to celebrate Christmas, remembering the reason for the holiday in the first place is the most important thing of all.  Take time to connect to the spiritual aspects of Christmas and the Savior's sacrifice.  

There is nothing wrong with the commercial aspects of Christmas, like Santa & sleigh bells, just remember the reason for the season.  

 


 
 
 
5 THINGS MY SON TAUGHT ME ABOUT GIVING

 “Daddy, wook at dis” little Mitch said with enthusiasm.  He just discovered a leaf covered in a fresh blanket of snow. In his young mind, he thought he discovered the only remaining leaf on earth – for the rest had disappeared in a wintry wonderland.   

My little boy didn’t have much time to live – only a few years, in fact.  He was diagnosed with a fatal disease – so my wife and I learned, in a hurry, the value of time and that each moment was a gift beyond price.  So, when my little boy handed me this leaf as if he found a treasure beyond measure, my heart melted, and I was reminded of 5 valuable lessons about the gifts of giving.

Start with the Heart

It wasn’t the leaf that was special, but instead because it came from the heart.  Most often, the sweetest gifts in life are felt with the heart, not with our hands.  A smile, a gentle compliment, or the recognition of a positive change are sometimes the sweetest gifts we’ll ever give or receive.  When we share our hearts with others, our own heart enlarges.  A simple, snow-covered-leaf held gently by a tiny hand became a beautiful gift.

 Little Things Are Big Things

Isn’t it interesting that when we forget the little things in life, we begin having big problems?  The little things make or break relationships, bank accounts, and personal well-being.  At the same time, the little things have the potential to make beautiful outcomes.   Often, it isn’t the big gifts that make a difference, but instead the accumulation of little ones.  I’m not talking about earrings and other things – but instead the gentle acts of kindness that keep our relationships healthy and strong.

A Thoughtful Gift is a Gift Twice

Little Mitch taught me the most meaningful gifts aren’t really about the thing itself, but instead the meaning or intent behind it.  A thoughtful gift is really an evidence of our affection; a way of saying “I understand you” or “I care.”  A thoughtful gift is a gift twice.

When You Give, You Get

There is a heavenly paradox that when you give to others, you always seem to get.  The sweetest memories in life often come from the times were losing ourselves in the service of others.  I could tell by the look on my sweet son’s face when he handed me this leaf; he got more out of giving than he got from keeping.

Moments Over Material Things

Perhaps the greatest thing I learned from the life and death of my son is that moments are far more valuable than material things.  I’d give everything I own away for just one more day.  Yet, when I think back on my time with my son, those moments that mattered are gifts I can hold near to my heart.  This photo is one such moment.

This holiday, as we think of giving gifts to each other, we have an opportunity to make this Christmas extra special.  Yes, there are gifts sitting patiently under the warm glow of our Christmas trees, but perhaps the greatest gift we can give our loved ones is a chance to step outside our routine and experience the joys and gift of giving to others.  We can make memories, which are the most beautiful gifts of all, by finding ways to serve others.

Join Mitchell’s Journey this holiday season to discover the beautiful Gift of Giving. Attached to this article is a free program that will schedule a seven-day task list into a calendar.  This tool will give you prompts and ideas on ways to love and serve others. As you give back to others, you will find your holidays enriched, and you'll have experiences to last a lifetime. I promise. 

This is your chance to let your light shine and give to others.

 

 
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