When Pain Mocks the Song – Even in the Christmas Update Letter

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! As I debated on what to write for a Christmas Letter to Lindsey, I thought the actual Brady family update letter might be appropriate…in case you didn’t receive it in the mail yet. 🙂 I changed it a little, but the message is the same: from our house to yours, Merry Christmas!

(If you prefer to skip the personal update and get to the meat of the message – skip down to “Life’s Railroad and the Train of Time.” I won’t be offended. Sometimes I save the Christmas update letters for after Christmas too.)

Dear friends and family

I wanted to give you a joyful update – about Casey’s college choice, Chris’s new position: you know- the “norm” of decking the halls with boughs of blessings – or is it boughs of bragging?

But, it didn’t seem right, and almost seemed fake, since that would allude to perfection that 2014 did not necessarily hold. It just seemed that hiding the struggle wouldn’t give honor to the ones I lost – or those who are in the middle of strife right now.

So here goes: 2014 was an up and down year.

On January 2nd Chris took a new position at our company – a major adjustment in imagesfunction, but not in purpose. The new role brought a massive change to close relationships – like getting on a ship to a new destination, knowing it was directed by God, but bringing tears as you lose sight of the shore.

January 15th was when the call came that Terri’s mother had suffered a heart attack and stroke. We rejoice that she recovered with minimal permanent damage.

Seven days later, on the opening night of Christine’s youth theatre musical another call came from Colorado, this one telling the shocking news of the loss of Terri’s younger brother Mike. Terri spent 10 days in Colorado with her parents, and Chris was able to fly out for the funeral.

A few weeks later, barely out of sight, grief struck again with the short illness and passing of our dear friend and business co-founder, Jackie. Staying for that snowy funeral in Michigan clearly took precedence over our family’s trip to the Cayman Islands, and it was rightfully cancelled. April brought a trip back to Colorado to celebrate Terri’s Uncle Buck and his presentation of WWII Legion of Honor medal, as well as to be introduced to Adelyn, the first great-grandchild for Terri’s parents; Mike would have been a proud grandpa!

June was triumphant as Nate was selected to play Academy level soccer, and Casey’s team took the N.C. state champ title – finishing 2nd in the region in Baton Rouge, LA.

July 25th marked the 98th birthday for Terri’s grandmother in Kansas, now a great-great-grandmother of two 2014 babies! She has 5 “kids” in their 70’s!! Must be a record!

Our summer was filled with lake time. J.R. wowed us with his wakeboard abilities between his Lego masterpieces. Christine showed us that artists could handle the waves as well. Visitors to N.C. were plentiful – friends from Michigan and Florida; family from Pennsylvania and Colorado. We even had a 50th wedding anniversary celebration for Chris’s parents held here! We joked that our guest room needed a revolving door! And we were blessed by all! (Although when Terri’s mother fell down the stairs and broke bones in three places, she might not have felt like a blessing.)

Autumn brought news of Casey’s decision to play soccer for college in South Carolina next fall, paying his own way with athletic and academic scholarships. Wow.

Life’s Railroad for the Train of Time

I used to think that there were years on mountains and years in valleys. Of course now I can see mountain hours, separated by valley hours, or even a joyful mountain moment in the midst of the depth of sorrowful valley moments. I like it best the way author Kay Warren says: “Life is like a set of parallel train tracks, with joy and sorrow running inseparably side-by-side throughout our days.”

Yet, all the while, the train of time still carries us down the middle of the rails toward our destiny.

Often Christmas cards come (and I have written many!) with the updates – telling the joys of the year. But this year, as you can see, had such HIGH highs and LOW lows in the parallel tracks, it seemed strange to only share one side. I am guessing that most people have had years like that. Many are on the “low” right now – not ready to even celebrate Christmas, wondering if there will ever be happiness again. My prayers go to them.

I mean, really, when you look at the news of 2014, it seems odd to be celebrating anything doesn’t it? My house was not the only one who experienced pain – and by far not the worst pain compared to others I know. Many have lost loved ones, received dooming medical news, had diagnoses since last Christmas that ended life before this Christmas! There are words on the TV that don’t necessarily scream “JOY!” : Ferguson, Isis, North Korea, Ebola. You know the list could go on and make a railroad track far worse than my own. But suffering is not a competition. The Lord knows and cares for each inch of the tracks of life that have been laid and knows and cares for how we handle each inch of that track – since everyone handles it differently.

Christmas is a time of joy – when we celebrate the birth of the Christ child. Yet I recall that the promise of joy AND sorrow met in the manger that first Christmas. The promise of redemption and eternal life rested in that baby, … yet the sin He would carry away was in the forecast. While He slept beneath the famous guiding star, His future of being mocked, scourged and publicly executed by crucifixion rested in that bed of hay. The miracles making the lame walk, the deaf hear and the blind see rested in that manger…as did the weeping over the loss of a friend, the anger needed to turn over tables and the prayers so strong to cause sweat as drops of blood. I suppose it’s the moments when sorrow’s side of the track seems to be leading that make us truly recognize the value of its parallel Joy if we can see it.

I recently read that the hymn, I heard the Bells on Christmas Day, was written by Longfellow after a not-so-perfect year. Already a widower due to an 1860 fire that took his wife, he found out weeks before Christmas of 1863 that his eldest son was nearly paralyzed at the hand of an enemy in the Civil War. The song’s words weren’t written as the happy song I sing today. They were penned in the agony of grief, on Christmas Day, 1863.

And in despair I bowed my head:

‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said,

‘For hate is strong and mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good will to men.’

 Though I did not walk in his shoes, I can relate to pain that “mocks the songs”. So I hold his next words dearly:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;

The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,

With peace on earth, good will to men.’

Whether you have had a perfect year, or less-than-so, may you follow a star that leads you to the only “perfect” there is: Christ. Let us bring our gifts, our sorrows, our whole selves, because that is all He asks. May you make room in the inn of your heart in which He may reside forever. And may you know that the destiny at the end of the tracks is in His arms: the Peace that Passes Understanding.  The true JOY of Christmas is knowing that the destiny at the end of the tracks is HEAVEN. The no more crying heaven…The no more darkness heaven…The no more imperfect moments, days or years heaven. But alas, I cannot waste my days on earth – I want others to know!! And hence I write Christmas Update Letters so they will know the reason for my real JOY this Christmas and always!

Blessings to you and your family, Merry Christmas!   

Chris, Terri, Casey, Nate, Christine, and J.R.

2 Cor 4:5-6 For what we preach [should be telling in our Christmas letter] is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord… For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

– THAT is the best Christmas update letter there is!!

“Behold! I bring you good tidings of great joy – for unto you is born a Savior who is Christ the Lord!” 

Related Posts

Auto-correct Your “Self”

One letter certainly can have an impact on texting:

  • “We stayed in our couch for two weeks.”
    • (Although, there probably was a “couch” in the “coach,” of which she was speaking.)
  • “My dear previous friend…”
    • (Luckily, she was “precious” enough to see through that auto-correct.)
  • “Fool!”
    • (would have been more encouraging with the “C” in place of the “F” as I had intended!)
  • “My dead husband…”
    • (sent by a “dear” wife.)

I recently got a new iPhone 6. It amazes me how young kids automatically notice I got a new phone, whereas I am still trying to figure out what the difference is. One youngster in the back seat for our carpool said, “By the time my parents ever let me get a phone, it will probably be an iPhone 23 or something!!”

“Poo” thing! 🙂

Each time I get a new phone, it has to “learn” me. It is SO impressive that it can figure out what I mean to say and eventually say it for me the first time. However, my newest phone changes my name “Terri” into “Terrible” every time.

Dear iPhone, “Why ya gotta be so ruuuude?”

It also changes “love ya!” which seems to be a favorite closing of mine to “love yam!” I have nothing against the orange vegetable but I don’t think that detail is necessary in all of my texts.

Additionally, and perhaps the worst yet, is my last name, “Brady” which it transforms to “rash”.

I do not text my last name often – solely when I am introducing my phone number to someone new in my texting world, so I text, “This is Terri Brady.” Imagine getting a text from an unknown number, and it says, “This is terrible rash.”

Yep. That’s me.

I guess the phone’s algorithm works by assuming I want words that I have frequently used in the past. I cannot verify, but it seems like the word “Brady” should have been used more frequently in my texting than the word “rash.” I am beginning to suspect the programmers are playing a joke on me – like a new Revenge of the Nerds.

It strikes me that my name “Terri” and the word “terrible” are only three letters apart. However, my name “Terri” and the word, “terrific” are only three letters apart too!!!! So why doesn’t it substitute “terrific” instead? I mean, surely I have used that word more often in the past than “terrible,” right?! It should know by now!! Just when I finished that thought, I realized that signing my texts as a “terrific rash” is not any better.

The auto-correct function has added quite a bit of humor to our lives. I like that rose among the thorns. However, even the term “auto” correct puts a little truth into the way our lives tend to auto-correct. The term “auto-correct,” I assume is a shortened form of “automatically correct,” which is such a great idea at the start. However, when we look at the root, “auto,” it originates in the Greek word, “autos” meaning, “self.” When I look at “self,” and its sinful nature, I see why it is not the ideal aim! Truth be told, whether or not I texted “terrible” more often than “terrific,” I have definitely “automatically” thought “terrible” more often than “terrific” thousands of times!

For example, it is a beautiful day today here in North Carolina: 75 and sunny; yet I have had to “correct” myself to simply enjoy it and stop thinking about the cold front coming through tomorrow. Maybe I AM terrible!! If you have read other Letters here, you have seen my focusing on thorns instead of shade, or having to force a thank-you amidst the dead bird on the hockey table.

For example purposes, we could take this to the dungeon. Too often, I see people leading their lives as a terrible rash. They get gloomy about one thing and it feeds another and another until the sky is seen as the coming gray and the thorns overshadow any roses.

One such letter would summarize the thoughts:

Dear Me, IMG_4871_2

I can’t believe the debt

I feel like such a failure

I can’t do it anymore

I dream of material things

I don’t want to be married

anymore. Parenting is not for me

No one owns me

I can’t imagine there is a God

I feel like I am

defeated!

Nothing will

make a difference

Signed,

Me

 

That letter breaks my heart, because I know many people who could write those words right now. It is so true that the dark side works that way. The bad wolf in our thinking chinks away at our outside until we open the gate to our heart. Then, it feels virtually impossible to think any differently, and the thought that was sown yesterday reaps a belief that lives today. Terrible!

If you could have written that letter today, please know I am praying for you. I know there are brighter skies ahead, but I pray that you know that too. The heaviness of thoughts like those are too much to bear alone.  I think the Bible’s Psalms were probably written by people who could have written that above letter…and had to “correct their thinking.”  “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in Thee. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can [mere] man do to me?” –Psalm 56:3-4

There is good news though. Lord willing, we ARE able to correct our thinking: Auto-correct it. As Martin Lloyd Jones says in his book, Spiritual Depression, we need to “stop listening to ourselves and start talking to ourselves!” I have noticed, that just like my phone’s algorithm starts to “learn” what I meant, so can my “self.” I can actually start forcing right thinking …and the saying or acting improves based on those thoughts.

The Bible doesn’t say, “Run the race, because you are going to lose.” It doesn’t say, “Set your mind on things below where you are.” It’s not, “Jesus died so others might wallow.”  NOOOO.

But the Bible does say:

  • I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. (Phil 4:13)
  • Set your mind on things ABOVE. (Col 3:2)
  • Run the race as if to win. (1 Cor 9:24)
  • Jesus died that we might LIVE! (1Pet 2:24)

But it takes self-control to think the way we ought. It takes discipline to block the negative from getting into the gate.

Changing the word from “terrible” to “terrific” requires purposefully deleting some things and then purposefully adding some others. And so does life.

What if we auto-corrected that letter above? Write the second half and make sure they never separate again*.

IMG_4871

Dear Me,

I can’t believe the debt I can now get rid of.

I feel like God created me for a purpose and if there’s

such a failure in my path, I can learn and get better.

I can’t do it anymore without telling others so they can improve too.

I dream of helping others.

material things don’t control me; I control them.

I don’t want to be married to my debt or my job

anymore. Parenting is not for me to leave my kids for others to raise.

No one owns me except my Creator!

I can’t imagine there is a God who loves me THIS MUCH!

I feel like I am not able to be

defeated!

Nothing will stop me, because I have self-control to

make a difference in my life and the lives I touch.

Signed, with full-hearted belief,

Me

 

Don’t grow weary in well-doing, my friend. There is too much ABOVE waiting on us!

Love yam! YOU!

Terrible Rash Terri Brady 🙂

“So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.” –Romans 8:6

“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” –Deuteronomy 31:8 

 * I must give credit for the note idea to “Max” who wrote his newlywed wife “Stefanie” a two-part note like this. I found it cleverly humorous, but the online versions included controversial topics unworthy of my linking. Last names were not included in the posts.

Related Posts

Why is There a Dead Bird on the Air Hockey Table?

Dear Lindsey,

I got off to a start this morning. My oldest drove himself to school. The next three kids and I loaded into the car before Chris was even downstairs for breakfast. Off to the appointments we headed when I got a text from Chris that changed my day:

“Why is there a dead bird on the air hockey table?”photo_2

Stopped at a red light, I read the text aloud to the kids in the car, sure that my backseat held the culprits.

“[silence]”

Suddenly, the 13-yr-old in the front seat was stifling giggles that refused their restraint and started sneaking through his pursed lips in bursts.

Shocked, and trying to be strict, I subdued the humor of the text – but my own choked laughter (holding up my cup to hide my smile) led to the coffee-down-the-wrong-pipe-choke, so I prayed the light would stay red for a while as I tried to get oxygen.

That’s when the back seat spoke with remorse:

“We felt bad it died yesterday in the back yard, and we were going to bury it…”

“…But the dog was going to eat it…”

“… we couldn’t find the shovel…”

“…then Nate asked if I would throw football…”

“…and I didn’t want to have a funeral without people…”

“…and then we left for evening church in a hurry…”

At eight and ten-years-old, their voices are undistinguishable, so I couldn’t tell which Dead Birdone was talking when (and I was seriously just trying to breathe again), but I got the gist of their story. I only wish that Chris had not been the first to find the carcass: a messy house drives him crazy! Although I can’t think of too many people that are happy when they find a dead bird on the air hockey table.

Irresponsible!

They are not getting this “pick up after yourself” thing that I have been teaching since before they were born!

Oh my…I cannot put into words to even speak to these two right now. They know what they did was wrong!

That’s when my thoughts of frustration were interrupted by a protective (or perspective) mechanism:

  • Thank You, God, that we found the dead bird on the air hockey table today, and not next week when guests are here.
  • Thank You, God, that my kids have good hearts that had compassion for Your creation. (I am glad they were not ruined by my roadkilling a few years ago.)
  • Thank You for a 13-yr-old who was mature enough to see it wasn’t a life-threatening, eternal consequences moment (but that he stifled his laughter until the lesson was taught).
  • Thank You that they put the thing in the bug cage, so at least if it had bugs on it, they were contained in the cage…and I hope that means they didn’t actually touch the dead bird.
  • Thank You for creating the birds that we could fall in love with, even when we don’t know them.
  • Thank You that I didn’t choke to death. (And thank You that the choking reminded me to say thank You that I don’t have a brain tumor…as it always reminds me now.)
  • Thank You that my children will never bring a dead bird in the house again. (I believe.)
  • Thank You that I have children.
  • Thank You for the dead bird on the air hockey table that reminded me of so much for which I can be thankful.

I think it’s ironic… I was trying not to get too bent out of shape, so I made a list in my mind of what to be thankful for (my normal redirection mechanism), and I ended up being thankful for the exact thing I was trying to reframe: the dead bird on the air hockey table.

When Bad Things Happen

I think the point here is that this mechanism is applicable to bigger issues than dead birds on the air hockey table. When I go through bad times (This began during my years of massive headaches while I had young toddlers!), I have a protective mechanism of listing things (at least three each time!) for which I am thankful. It is ironic to me the number of times when I am listing thankfulness to distract me from a problem – and give me perspective – that the list goes all the way back to thanking God for the exact problem with which I started: the dead bird on the air hockey table.

I suppose one of these days, I will be able to skip the “Why?…” part and get to the “Thank You, God for even this,” faster.

A friend, Jane Zempel, spoke at my church recently about “contentment.” She told a story of figuring out what one thing is so bad in life that you would want God to change. What one thing would you get rid of? If you were granted only one thing about yourself you could change, what would it be?

“Now thank God for that one thing,” she said.  “It’s amazing how when I did this, I had to force the words ‘thank You,’ but once they were said, enough times, I realized I could believe it.”

She went on to say that when we believe that God is sovereign over all, we can say thank You for even the things we don’t want, because we recognize God has a plan in even them.

When her son came home from school in tears (again) at age twelve, being teased as a “retard” for having Down Syndrome, she taught him this lesson of saying, “thank You,” even for Down Syndrome, because God had a purpose in his life. She saw that purpose thirty years later when her son told a doctor what a “blessing” Down Syndrome was to him…and it changed the doctor!

When things are rough….

When we can’t change it all…

or when we can’t change even one thing…

Let us give thanks.

Make the list now. To what do we owe God “Thank You”?

What if you woke up today with only the things for which you said thank You yesterday?” – Peter Bonner

I am thankful for you!

In love,

Terri Brady

“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” – 1Thes 5:18

“But godliness with contentment is great gain.”  1Tim 6:6

“I thank my God every time I remember you.” Phil 1:3

Related Posts