Christmas

Christmas, as well as the rest of the holidays ended up less difficult than I expected. But, in retrospect, I’m not surprised. When it comes to the grief, it’s more about the loss in my normal daily routine, and less about a day or two out of the year that was out of the ordinary. Granted, it’s still not easy, and there are a lot of special memories tied to Christmas due to the specialty of those days, but I think I probably already dealt with a lot of those feelings before the day came.

However, I am less than satisfied with the amount of preparing I feel like I did. I’ve had a lot of people asking me if we started any new traditions or things like that. I’m sad to say that we didn’t start anything that I think will particularly “stick” in future years. I feel like I didn’t give it enough thought and in some ways want a do-over.

What we did do was to attempt to read the Christmas story out of the kids’ Bible and then talk a little bit about Mommy. The kids were so distracted, though, it was more a practice in patience for me as I talked about Mommy through misty eyes. I then lit a candle to represent Mommy’s presence as we opened presents. Thanks to a suggestion from someone, I was able to designate a couple gifts as coming from Mommy, which I think is a fabulous idea that I plan to use in the future. The “Mommy” gifts this year weren’t purchased with that in mind, unfortunately, so I think that lessened the meaning it had for me; and the kids didn’t really connect with the sentiment, which doesn’t come as a surprise to me.

I guess to think about it now, I realize how disappointed I am in myself and how much I don’t stack up to Stephanie. She was always the one to plan all the gifts and she planned things out so wonderfully. She had a great gift idea for nearly everyone on our list and she would wrap each one with such care and beauty and personalize it in some way. I know there’s no way I can match what she did, but I really feel like I dropped the ball on Christmas.

I know I might be expecting a lot from myself less than 2 1/2 months after my wife died, but I know myself and can’t help but fear that I won’t give it my best if I don’t expect a lot from myself. I don’t want to take the chance of getting into a habit of doing the bare minimum. And I want to honor Stephanie and try to carry on her legacy. I don’t feel like I did that this Christmas, that’s for sure.

37 thoughts on “Christmas”

  1. Well Brad, I can only speak from my point of view, but I think you did absolutely marvelously on Christmas. I was so completely blessed when you not only came over for the Hnat Christmas with Brady and Halle, but also spent so much time, and got into the festivities so well (Listen to me). Seriously dude, I have done nothing but brag about you and how you made sure you honored us and the traditions as they were. Brad, you were and are true to who you are, plain and simple, and that is a most wonderful thing. What a gift you gave all of us on Christmas, and continue to give us day after day.New traditions? Those will come and on their own way and in their own time. Some traditions have developed out of the simplest of actions and have become almost required in our celebrations. I'm sure you can think of one that is way too silly, yet way too fun, and that one developed quite by accident.Again for my part, I love Stephanie, who she was and what she brought to every one and every occasion. Equally I love you for the exact same things. You are a most marvelous man, and a blessing to me. I know we harass each other mercilessly, but I have always bragged about what a blessing you are; how fortunate we are to have you in our family; and how perfect you were for Stephanie. You are the perfect father for Brady and Halle as well. I have and do see that each time I see you. Are you Stephanie? No, but I don't believe anybody ever asked that of you. Brad, just be you …. a good, kind, loving man and the blessings will continue to flow from you as they always have and always do.Okay, now you can forgive me for that unusual bit of sentiment. I know that does not become our relationship. ;) Of course, it might even make you think that I love you or something. SIR

  2. Brad,I can't help but chime in here and give you credit for even having the desire to celebrate Christmas, and make it the special time that it was for Brady and Halle. God has created you to be the unique man that you are, just as He created Stephanie to be your helpmate, with each of her unique qualities. God, in His infinite wisdom, for whatever reason, has now chosen that you will walk this path without her. He doesn't however, expect you to become both her and you. Allow God to continue to work through you, as you have done so wonderfully up to this point, as a man, and as a father, and God will fill in those gaps. Rest in the comfort, and the knowledge that you gave your children a wonderful Christmas, first by honoring Christ, then by honoring their mother, and by giving them the opportunity to experience God's love through you, and the families that God has blessed you and Stephanie with. Please don't look back, continue to look UP.

  3. I think you're always hard on yourself Brad. But, when I got to thinking about it and my daily job of working with kids…I've learned that if you want someone (or yourself) to perform at a certain level, you have to actually ask for levels way beyond that in order to achieve your original goal. I think that your mindset is great, and your kids have a Dad that only wants the very best for them. I love the traditions that you have started already in Stephanie's memory. Stay salty.

  4. Kathy, I don't know you, but let me say, that was beautiful and very well said. You have a gift of encouragement ~ absolutely beautiful…and​ Brad, I say ~ what she said!

  5. Brad, I know that often times we are our own worst enemy…I think that what ever you did was perfect…and as the Lord builds up more emotional strength you will be able to add to your celebration in ways that will be so meaningful…yo​u kept Stephanie as part of the celebration which is the most important. Right now breathing in hope might be it….and that's ok…trust that Jesus knows how your heart is breaking over the big and the small…..He is the only one who can bind up the brokenhearted..​..and He is faithful…..it​ was great to visit with you and your children…and don't forget I have an invitation from Brady to watch "Finding Nemo" I'll bring the popcorn…love,​ sue

  6. Brad,

    I know how important it is to you to honor Stephanie and to keep her memory alive for your children, and I think that’s important, too. However, I also believe that being true to the man you are is also very important. I think you have to remember that the man you are is pretty special and amazing to your children. You’re Daddy! That’s the world to them, and from what I can see based on what you’ve written here, you’re doing an AMAZING job with your children. They are so blessed to have you as their father.

    I agree with what was said above–just be you. I don’t believe for a second that anyone is comparing how you do things to how Stephanie did them, nor do I believe that anyone expects you to do things in the same way. God doesn’t make us to be the same as one another; He gives us all unique talents, gifts, and abilities. I know it’s difficult, but remember that your talents, gifts, and abilities aren’t necessarily the same as Stephanie’s were. Give yourself permission to be yourself and try not to be so hard on yourself. Use what you’ve been blessed with to continue to be the most important thing to your children right now. From what you’ve written here, they obviously love you very much, and it sounds like you’re doing a marvelous job with them!

    You and your children are in my prayers,

    Denise

    1. That’s very true about us all having our own talents and abilities, and I agree completely. I suppose, as I think about it, I very well might even want that in order to make myself feel like she’s still with me; and even to make others feel like she’s still here. Thank you for your encouraging words.

  7. Hi Brad, My heart ached after reading your entry today. I think you did wonderfully through the holidays. Don’t lower your expectations for yourself, just be yourself! You are not Stephanie, so you cannot expect yourself to purchase gifts, wrap and decorate like Stephanie did. Men think and act differently than women. Your children will learn to adjust to your style! I bet they love to wrestle and rough house with you. A dad is so special at that! We moms don’t really excel at those kinds of things. You will have and make special moments with your kids, just by being you. Your kids are so blessed to have such a wonderful dad and I pray for you and your family so often. Wishing you peace and joy in 2011.
    Barb

  8. Brad,

    You did a wonderful memory building for you and your children. A candle lit and gifts from Mom.

    It was all from the heart.

    Bob

  9. Brad, I know that often times we are our own worst enemy…I think that what ever you did was perfect…and as the Lord builds up more emotional strength you will be able to add to your celebration in ways that will be so meaningful…you kept Stephanie as part of the celebration which is the most important. Right now breathing in hope might be it….and that's ok…trust that Jesus knows how your heart is breaking over the big and the small…..He is the only one who can bind up the brokenhearted….and He is faithful…..it was great to visit with you and your children…and don't forget I have an invitation from Brady to watch "Finding Nemo" I'll bring the popcorn…love, sue

    1. I like what you said about me being able to do more as God builds up more emotional strength. I hadn’t really thought about it much that way, and that gives me hope. I guess I vaguely felt I would just do better over time, but your wording made it more poignant somehow. Thank you.

  10. Well Brad, I can only speak from my point of view, but I think you did absolutely marvelously on Christmas. I was so completely blessed when you not only came over for the Hnat Christmas with Brady and Halle, but also spent so much time, and got into the festivities so well (Listen to me). Seriously dude, I have done nothing but brag about you and how you made sure you honored us and the traditions as they were. Brad, you were and are true to who you are, plain and simple, and that is a most wonderful thing. What a gift you gave all of us on Christmas, and continue to give us day after day.New traditions? Those will come and on their own way and in their own time. Some traditions have developed out of the simplest of actions and have become almost required in our celebrations. I'm sure you can think of one that is way too silly, yet way too fun, and that one developed quite by accident.Again for my part, I love Stephanie, who she was and what she brought to every one and every occasion. Equally I love you for the exact same things. You are a most marvelous man, and a blessing to me. I know we harass each other mercilessly, but I have always bragged about what a blessing you are; how fortunate we are to have you in our family; and how perfect you were for Stephanie. You are the perfect father for Brady and Halle as well. I have and do see that each time I see you. Are you Stephanie? No, but I don't believe anybody ever asked that of you. Brad, just be you …. a good, kind, loving man and the blessings will continue to flow from you as they always have and always do.Okay, now you can forgive me for that unusual bit of sentiment. I know that does not become our relationship. ;) Of course, it might even make you think that I love you or something. SIR

    1. Well, SIR, I’m not sure how to follow up such beautiful words. For one thing: thank you. I’m so glad to have been a blessing in the lives of you and the family. It pleases my heart to hear you say that I’m true to who I am. It’s the only way I know how to be, and I’m just glad that it’s evident (and perceived as a good thing, as a messed up world doesn’t always see such things as good). You make a very good point about new traditions, that they are not always planned and come from the simplest of things. I want to respond to everything else you said, but I don’t know how. Just know that it meant so much to me, and I really appreciate it.

  11. Brad,I can't help but chime in here and give you credit for even having the desire to celebrate Christmas, and make it the special time that it was for Brady and Halle. God has created you to be the unique man that you are, just as He created Stephanie to be your helpmate, with each of her unique qualities. God, in His infinite wisdom, for whatever reason, has now chosen that you will walk this path without her. He doesn't however, expect you to become both her and you. Allow God to continue to work through you, as you have done so wonderfully up to this point, as a man, and as a father, and God will fill in those gaps. Rest in the comfort, and the knowledge that you gave your children a wonderful Christmas, first by honoring Christ, then by honoring their mother, and by giving them the opportunity to experience God's love through you, and the families that God has blessed you and Stephanie with. Please don't look back, continue to look UP.

    1. Thank you for such encouraging words, Kathy! It will help to remember that God knew this was coming all along and that He made me unique and some of the qualities He gave me are probably for this very purpose and time in my life. Thank you for the kind words about me regarding my celebration of Christmas (and not forgoing it altogether).

  12. Kathy, I don't know you, but let me say, that was beautiful and very well said. You have a gift of encouragement ~ absolutely beautiful…and Brad, I say ~ what she said!

  13. I think you're always hard on yourself Brad. But, when I got to thinking about it and my daily job of working with kids…I've learned that if you want someone (or yourself) to perform at a certain level, you have to actually ask for levels way beyond that in order to achieve your original goal. I think that your mindset is great, and your kids have a Dad that only wants the very best for them. I love the traditions that you have started already in Stephanie's memory. Stay salty.

    1. I was really glad to hear your understanding of me being hard on myself. I expect a lot from myself and certainly try to reach those expectations, though I know they’re likely impossible. But, I have to keep trying and aiming high.

  14. Try not to be so hard on yourself, Brad. It really has only been a short time. They say the first year is the toughest so remember, there’s always next year. And the children a young enough you’ll have lots of years to make up for this one if you feel you need to. I don’t know you personally but I know of your situation and pray everyday that God’s grace will be sufficient for you. I’ll keep praying for you and the children.

    1. Regarding the first year being the toughest, I’ve heard just as much that the second year is even harder. That’s probably part of what has me concerned and so determined to have done this year so well. If I don’t this year, and next year is harder, then I won’t next year. And after that, I worry it would be too late. But, the kids are young, and I’m glad for that and hoping to be really ready over the next couple years.

  15. Dear Brad,

    First “everything” is hard and sometimes it is okay to just go through the motions. Try to live up to God’s expectations and not your own. You hurt and the pain is raw. As God heals you will see things that fit you and your kids and things that are okay to let go of. I thought when my husband died that I had to be everything to both of my kids, but God still just expects me to be me and love my kids the best way I know how. He will take care of the rest. Next Christmas will be different. Not that it won’t still hurt, but it will be different. You have weighed heavy on my heart and I am continuing to pray for you. You will continue to see God’s graceful and loving hand upon you.

    1. Thank you so much for your words, Kelly. It helps to remember that God will take care of the rest and fill in those gaps that I can’t cover. Thank you so much for your prayers and encouragement from someone who has been there before.

  16. I am SO glad to read these other comments, and I am in complete agreement… PLEASE don’t be so hard on yourself! It will only discourage & break your heart even further. You are not Stephanie, you are not a woman, you are a not a mom. No one (God & your kids included) expect you to be any of those. You are Brad, you are a man, you are a dad. And you do those things very well! There WILL be gaps, because as we know all too well, the Lord did intend for children to need both a mother and a father. HOWEVER, He is certainly not surprised by your situation. Heartbroken, yes, I’m sure of it. Surprised, no. GOD is the father to the fatherless… and, I am certain can be assumed, the mother to the motherless. He can and will fill in the gaps that you will inevitably leave. And here’s the thing… there are ALWAYS gaps. We can NEVER be perfect, not any of us. Even children with both a mother & a father still desperately need the Lord, because people cannot meet all our needs. It’s ok. So next time you start to feel this way, take a minute to remember that there is STRENGTH in your weakness, and it is an opportunity for the LORD to shine through.

    By the way, I see your facebook posts. I don’t always comment on them, because I realize that I am but a stranger. But you can count on the fact that I pray for you when I see them.

    1. Thank you, Sarah. I really appreciated what you said about being a dad and not a mom, and a man and not a woman. I’m not sure how much I’ve thought about it like that, but it’s a reminder to keep thinking that way. And He will fill in the gaps. I have to think you’re right that God will be the mother to the motherless and will take comfort in that. It’s good to remember that He’s not surprised by this, either, and He’ll take care of my kids in those respects for as long as they only have a father. Even already, I have seen how many countless women in my life have been around for my kids (and how much they enjoy the presence of a woman – how could anyone willfully choose to deprive their kids of that through divorce?). Also, you’re not a stranger – you’re a sister in Christ and none of us are strangers in this family.

  17. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Your world is askew right now. Your children will one day reap the benefits from knowing that even though we may do things differently, doesn’t mean that it is right or wrong. It just means we’re different and they won’t be so quick to judge others. You didn’t drop the ball, you’ve had to begin a whole new game. Some days we can’t even do our best, we simply ‘do’! It’s O.K. May God continue to bless you and your family and light your path. I remember when my kids were small, my husband asked how I knew I was doing things ‘right’? I responded, I didn’t think of it that way. I followed my heart, instincts, call it what you want, and was doing it ‘me’.

    1. You’re right. We never do know if we’re doing it “right.” We just know our heart and try to keep it in line with God’s. With all the prayers, I just hope He covers me.

  18. Dear Brad, I don’t believe anyone’s story has touched me like yours has. This is so heart wrentching and painful to read yet we can feel the love. You continue to expose your raw heart to family, friends and strangers. God is working through you to touch so many lives. You may not feel like you did “Christmas” right. There is no rule book for life. We all try to do the best that we can in everything we do. Some times we are successful and sometimes we fall short. You are honoring God, Stephanie’s memeory and loving and caring for your children. We can all feel that love that you have for Stephanie and your children. Whar more could you ask for? Your children were thrilled with their Christmas gifts and I read gifts from Mommy…. That is priceless. A friend just told me “God will not lead you where He won’t provide for you” We all wish we could make things better or easier for you and we will continue to pray for you and your family. Love to all of you

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