Tuesday, December 22, 2015
Keep your lamp trimmed and burning.
Dear friends! I hope you are having a lovely holiday season. As my friends and Instagram followers know, our family has had a sad loss - we said goodbye to Steve's dad, our beloved Grandpa Frank, last week. After a short illness, he passed away peacefully on Tuesday night with his children gathered around him. I want to thank all of you who have prayed for us and kept us in your thoughts these past weeks - I appreciate your kind words. We are doing okay. It's good to have kids at a time like this - they keep us grounded in the present, and their joy and excitement about Christmas is irresistible.
While Steve was in the hospital, the kids and I stayed home, waiting for news. Maggie caught a stomach flu last week and we didn't want to bring that to Steve's family - later Joe and I caught it as well, so this was a good decision! Those days of waiting were anxious and stressful, but I passed the time by working on several Christmas projects. I made stockings for Steve and my brother, to complete our set. I still have the stocking my grandmother made me as a child (below, far right) and I made stockings for the kids last Christmas (shown here). So this year, I made stockings for the grown up guys in the house.
I used simple stripes of Christmas fabrics for Harpal's stocking. I printed out his name in large, bolded Courier font and sewed felt letters onto the cuff by hand. When Harpal would ask me for a small favor or try to rib or tease me, it was fun to respond "oh don't mind me, I'm just painstakingly sewing your name on your Christmas stocking by hand, it's no big deal." How many sisters make handmade stockings for their brothers, I would like to know? I will milk this for all that it's worth, naturally!
Since my stocking doesn't have a name on it, I decided to leave Steve's blank as well, and go with a simple patchwork pattern. I like the simplicity, but compared to the others, it does seem like it's missing something. I may go back and add a cuff next year, we'll see. I am glad to see everyone accounted for his year! I trust Santa will not disappoint this year!
It was a dreary and sad day, with Daddy gone to be with his dad at the hospital, and the kids and I had been moping and/or acting out a bit. So we decided to go get a tree and get it all set up to cheer ourselves up and surprise Daddy when he got home. You may laugh, but it felt like a big deal to take the kids to get a tree and get it into and out of the car all by myself, and set it up in its stand! I have grown to depend on Steve to do all of the tree hauling and wrestling! Joe and I were quite proud of ourselves (and pretty dirty!) when we got it all set up. The kids also picked out some decorations while we were out, including that blingy gold and red ornament wreath (I tried to talk to them into a more natural green wreath, but they weren't having it!).
Joe, our budding engineer, took responsibility for testing all of the lights to see which strands still worked (why, oh why, do I pack the broken strands away with the good ones every single year? I have problems!), and both the kids helped me string them on the tree.
The kids were so helpful and excited about Christmas and we all had a really nice time. Seeing their delight over all the ornaments and lights filled me with joy as well - it was truly magical. I will always treasure this somewhat sadsweet memory!
In days that followed, knowing that our dad and grandpa probably wasn't going to make it, talking about end-of-life decisions, and then finally hearing that it was all over, I stitched this little ornament from Alicia Paulson's Winter Cabin ornament kit (the kits are sold out but you can buy a PDF pattern and source the supplies yourself). I haven't found a good way to transfer markings onto felt, so I had to eyeball the embroidery design and it is quite a bit more homely than the original, but it was a soothing activity during a hard time.
While I was stitching and waiting, I kept thinking of the song, "Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning," (there are many versions, all based on the imagery of the Parable of the Virgins in Matthew 25, but this bluegrass version performed by Hot Rize is one of my favorites). "Trouble and trials are almost over ... see what my Lord has done. Keep your lamp trimmed and burning ... see what my Lord has done." I know this ornament shows a candlestick, not an oil lamp, but the symbolism is very similar.
Even on the darkest nights, there is always a little light. That's the whole point, isn't it?
Happy Solstice, my friends!