Saturday, December 22, 2018

The Thrift Store Miracle (A True Christmas Tale)

Something my brother Rick has always enjoyed is browsing through thrift stores. Well, some of us would call them junk shops. Let me tell you, though, he has found some pretty neat things through the years, but nothing like the tale I'm about to tell you.

Up and down the aisles he travels. Occasionally something fun or of particular value to my brother surfaces. Perhaps a neat toy still in its original box for one of his children, or some type of really cool antique item discarded by someone else as nothing of value but certainly worth something to him.

Today as he headed toward the back corner of the store, his eyes fell upon a huge Christmas wreath on a shelf. "Hmmm, that's funny," he thought. "It looks like one that my dad made." He pulled it down and almost dropped it as powerful feelings washed over him. "It IS my dad's wreath!"

Our dad was an avid crafter. He had an idea one year with all the pine cones lying around his yard to begin making little trees and wreaths with them. We gave many of his gorgeous finished products away to friends and family.This particular wreath was made for a festival several years back. It took first place in its category and won a ribbon. Also, people bid on the items at the festival, and someone had chosen this wreath. I imagine they had enjoyed it through the years, and who knows why it had been discarded, but I have to tell you how much it meant to us to find it at this particular time.

We both have been missing our parents more than ever recently. It will be our second Christmas without them. The holidays were always so special for Dad. He used to take such time and care in decorating the house and making handmade items. Rick has taken over our father's role. He tries to make Christmas so special for everyone. He replicated an item for me recently that Dad made a long time ago that I'd misplaced through the years. He's surprised me with little trees just like Dad would have made, knowing it would bring joy and bring Dad just a little bit closer.

My brother prayed a few days ago that God would allow him to hear from our parents somehow before Christmas. That he would either dream about them, or see something that could only be a gift from God and a sign from them.

What are the chances that he would be in a store where someone had left this wreath? The chances he would find it days before the holiday? The chances it would still be intact because it is a big, cumbersome thing, and somewhat delicate? The chances that someone else didn't purchase it first?

There are miraculous stories during Christmas and other times. And this tale will be our own small miracle to tell through the years. For I believe the Lord let my father make himself known to us. To let us know he is alright, and that everything will be fine. He's close by, and near to us for Christmas. I'm still shaking my own head in wonderment. That everything lined up just perfectly for this to happen in the way that it did.

I can imagine Dad giving God a big wink right about now.

Two of the items Rick made me to replicate crafts like Dad's.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

A Look Back

I know what it's like. I know what it's like to grieve; to face the approaching holidays with trepidation. I know what it's like to have health issues, or to watch a loved one going through some of the toughest times of their lives. I, too, have been where you are; wondering if the next day would bring more of the same sadness or another hardship into my life. I've prayed over situations and not felt the answer at all. I've cried out to God in the deepest darkness of the night, and wondered where He's gone.

BUT: I also have known great joy. I've learned lessons along the way, and become a better person for it. Have things happened instantly? No. But in God's timing, His favor have become beautiful gifts for my soul.

Looking back over the last three years, losing my dad in 2016, and then Mom in 2017, watching my husband struggle in giving up his alcohol addiction, I realized that some of the moments of this year were like presents to savor and unwrap. God did reward faithfulness, He did send beautiful reminders of His love and presence.

I have family that are close, loving, and real. Not Hallmark movie cookie-cutter types, but flesh and blood, each of us with our own issues and good hearts. I know I can count on them.

I've had some amazing things happen this past year. I got to see Eagles flying above me with good friends:

I still have a beautiful cardinal that waits for me and comes right to my porch after two years:

I received an email about a small blurb I'd written about my mom's love of the actor Gregory Peck from his daughter and then got to meet her!

Dear Karen,

I’m Cecilia Peck, Gregory’s daughter, and I run the website I got very behind on posting memories of my dad but I put aside time today to go through submissions and post. When I came across yours I had to stop and read it a few times. I just want to say how much it touched me that you would share this story, and that your mom’s relationship to my dad and his films brought her comfort in the last years of her life. I lost my mom six years ago and it’s been 15 years now since I had my dad, and every memory and every moment with them means so much to me. Thank you so much for sharing your touching, humorous, deeply moving story. It’s up on the site now in case you want to see it there, and I’m so sorry for the delay.
With kind regards to you and yours,


Several of my articles were picked up by different Guidepost magazines and published:

You see, to steal a line from a movie: "I really do have a wonderful life." And so do you, though it may not feel like it right at this moment. Take those little reminders of God's love and blessings and let them nourish your soul. Savor tiny moments, and the grander ones that come along and almost bowl you over in their awesomeness.

I found an old blurb I'd written last year and thought it would be appropriate here:

I walked up my stairs with the overnight bag clutched to my side. Not the type to leave it on the bed and wait to put things away, I started the task of filtering through dirty clothing, and travel-sized miscellaneous items. Each had their own little "home" and I quickly placed them where they belonged. As I picked up the bag and began placing it underneath the bed in the guestroom, a wonderful thought came to me: This is a happy moment. I've come back from a trip, of doing something fun. How many times last year was the old overnight bag hastily stuffed as I received yet another phone call about one of my parents? Another hospital visit, another emergency... The bag and I had been through many such trips. Some of those trips had been made with such panic and anxiety, with the unknown of so many health issues of elderly parents.

But today, when I came home from an enjoyable evening with my husband, the sun sparkled off the fresh, white snow. The vibrant red cardinal I've affectionately named Freddy flew to my porch railing making tsking sounds as if scolding me for missing his morning breakfast. Where were you earlier? he seemed to ask. I apologized, but brought him crusty bread. I thanked him for being with me during those harried visits last year, and the good one recently. For he is my welcome home most every time.

May you see your own moments often my friends.

Merry Christmas and a truly Happy New Year to you!