Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Christmas Life

Greetings to all! The stockings are hung by the chimney with care and thoughts of sugar plums will soon dance in my children’s heads. As I sit here on the eve of the birth of Jesus Christ I am reflective on this holiday season and also on this past year that will soon come to close next week. I have never really been the “Christmas” type, I don’t like large crowds of people, traffic, Christmas Carols, or elves, they kind of freak me out. On the other hand, I married Ms. Christmas, I believe that if you tract Ali’s genealogy that she is distantly related to the Clauses. She loves to decorate, she loves to have Christmas music on in the house, and her little heart goes pitter patter when the Egg Nog is put on the grocery store shelves in November. As the years have progressed I have made small steps to partake in my wife’s Christmas joys, more for her than for myself. I try to do things that let her know that what is important to her is important to me.

This year has been different for me. This year I found myself turning on Christmas music and singing along. I noticed just the other day as I strolled along a shopping center sidewalk doing a little Christmas shopping I caught myself whistling the tunes to popular Christmas Carols. I even succumb to my wife’s pleas to get the kids two kittens for Christmas. I am not sure what has happened to me this Christmas, especially with the year we have had. This Christmas season has had a real longing to it, there have been many tears shed between Ali and myself over the “missing” of our sweet Cate. But even with the “missing” there has been a lot of LIFE in our house. This morning I was thinking about Christ’s humble entrance into the world and how His life has brought us ALL the opportunity for real, true, and lasting life. Isn’t that was Christmas is about? LIFE!

Today makes six months since our precious Cate departed from this earthly life and began the celebration of her eternal life. It has been a painful six months yet even with that pain there has been so much LIFE brought into our family. There have been so many little “Christmases” in the past six months. Some small and some large instances where so many of you have humbly brought Christ into the life of the Cantrell family. So, as we approach tomorrow and the celebration of our Savior’s entrance into the world, my heart is grateful to all of you who have realized that Christmas is not something that we celebrate one day a year but something that we actively live.

There have been countless examples of how you all have brought the life of Christ to us, whether it is through your financial generosity, dinners you have dropped off at the house, gift cards so that we could take the kids to McDonald’s, Masses that are being said for Cate or our family, gifts that have been sent to our houses from you the readers that we have never met, and how after I wrote the blog about Ali and I liking La Crema Pinot Noir, you all brought bottles of La Crema to the house (I am thinking about mentioning in my next blog how I like beach houses, just kidding), or the group of anonymous women who have somehow banded together from around the country and world to spiritually carry my wife with prayers, cards, flowers, and gifts. You women whoever you are have touched my heart so deeply. I love my wife with all I have and I think she is such a special person, so to know that she has touched you in such a special way and that you all love her and are so committed to her means more than words to this humbled husband. I get emotional as I type this just thinking about how much of the life and love of Christ has been poured out on our little family. All of you, our family, friends and complete strangers have made this challenging time just a little easier. You all through your acts of kindness and generosity have truly decided whether you realize it or not to LIVE Christmas.

You all have inspired, encouraged, and challenged our little family to realize that once the carols have all been sung, the presents have been all unwrapped, the food has all been gluttonously devoured and the tree has been taken down, that Christmas does not end. Christmas is to be lived everyday in our hearts and in our actions. You all have shown us over the past six months that the opportunity to birth Christ into the world everyday in small ways and sometimes in big ways is always there. We do not have to wait until the toy drives or the giving tree in our Churches go up to bring the life of Christ into the world around us. Everyday there are opportunities to reach out to family members, neighbors, or in our case, as some of you have done, to complete and total strangers.

Maybe this year instead of New Year’s resolutions, which we don’t keep anyway, we can have “Christmas Decisions.” Decisions that we make as individuals and/or as families to not let Christmas be one day, but instead, be a lifestyle. On this eve of the birth of our Savior know that the Cantrell’s will carry you all in our hearts as we celebrate with our family this tremendous and spectacular event that happened so many years ago and that Christ continues to let happen through each one of us. From our family to yours we truly and whole heartedly thank you and wish you a Merry Christmas YEAR!

Much Love,

The Cantrells

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Snowmen Chalkboards

Greetings to all. Wow, it has been a long time, I know. The months immediately following Cate’s death were very slow, painfully slow at times. Our weekends were not committed to anything or anyone just because we could not make commitments. Well, as we have begun to make our re-entry back into society our calendars and lives have filled up rather quickly. It has been nice though to have “stuff” to do and to interact with other families. I feel as though I have been in a place of progress, moving forward, not moving on, simply moving forward and in a good way. I found that I had not been crying as much, yet still missing her. I truly believe having my counselor to work through these issues has been very helpful.

Before I get started with what I want to share with you all today I want to tell you a funny story. Living here in South Louisiana our winters are mild. We will get a few cold days here and there but rarely see snow. I remember growing up it snowed once when I was eight or nine and there was only enough snow to make a pathetic snowman about two feet tall and that took every flake of snow that had landed in our yard. Well, we had a strong cold front come though two nights ago with a lot of precipitation. Last night the weatherman they said that there would be a possibility that we would have some flurrys in the early morning hours before sunrise but nothing would stick because the ground was too warm. Around five o’clock this morning my phone starting beeping like crazy with text messages. It was friends and neighbors sending me messages to tell me that it was snowing. My first thought is WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE! and then I quickly fell back asleep.

Well, when Dude and I rolled out of bed a little after six thirty and I looked out the bedroom window and sure enough it was still snowing. There was snow on the ground and snow on the rooftops. As Dude and I stumbled our way downstairs I told him that it was snowing outside he quickly slide down my arms, ran to the front door and pulled the curtain back. He stood at the door just staring out at the white world that he had never seen before. I told him that if they wanted him and Ella could put there shoes on and go in the backyard to see the snow. They started screaming as they franticly ran around the house looking for their shoes. They located their shoes, half way put them on, and headed for the backdoor with lighting quick speed and in a single motion that I couldn’t stop Dude ripped his diaper off threw it on the kitchen floor and ran out the back door into the snow covered yard. As I watch my half naked son and my beautiful daughter experience snow for the first time I knew that it would be a good day. Boys, what do you do with them???

Now, on to why I write today after a long hiatus from writing. Over the past few weeks I have noticed a regression in my feelings about Cate’s death. I feel like we had been moving in such a positive direction for quite sometime but over the past few weeks I feel like I have been taking three steps back. I find myself sad more often and missing her almost every minute of everyday. As Christmas quickly approaches as Christians we find ourselves in the season of Advent, a time of expectant waiting. Unlike the season of Lent where we take an active role in offering sacrifices, Advent is simply a time of waiting. I think that is exactly where my heart is right now, it is in a time of waiting. I am waiting for the pain to subside, I am waiting to find the new “normal” that we are now beginning to get glimpses of, I am waiting on the day when Cate will be reunited with our family and we will be whole again.

Waiting, it is such a hard thing to do when we desire something so much isn’t it? As Christmas gets closer Ali keeps asking me what I want for Christmas and honestly there is nothing that I want that anyone can buy. What I want cannot be bought, it must be given and there is only one person who can give it to me. What I want does not come in a pretty box with pretty paper and it does not come all at once. It is a big gift that comes in many small and often inconspicuous packages over time.

As I read the readings from daily Mass the other day it talked about the gentleness of our God. All I keep hearing in my heart was, “Charlie, be gentle with yourself, I am being gentle with you.” In a culture of cell phones, drive thrus, and microwaves, waiting is not something that we do very well and gentle waiting is not even in our vocabulary at times. Gentle Waiting is what I want for Christmas. I want to gently wait as my wife and children’s hearts mend and I want to gently wait as my own heart mends. Just as the Jewish people waited and longed for their Messiah, I too wait and long for my Messiah’s healing touch. There was nothing they could do to make Him come any quicker and there is nothing I can do to make this come any quicker. There was already a plan in place, a plan that God knew from the beginning of time. I know that He has a plan already in place for me and my family, the question is will I gently wait on Him? It is so difficult not find comfort in the things of this world but instead to say, Lord, I know your word is true. I know that you will be faithful to your people and I WILL wait on You.

Unlike the snowman chalkboard that hangs in our kitchen counting down the days till Christmas there is no chalkboard counting down the days until healing, wouldn’t that be nice? All of us are waiting on something, whether it is healing with our parents, reconciliation with our spouses or children, the healing of past hurts from friends, the healing from the death of a loved one, or the healing of our 401K, just a little economic humor for you. We all find ourselves in our own personal Advent. We all find ourselves waiting just as the Jewish people did over 2000 years ago. The question is how will we wait? Will we wait with an eager gentleness or will we grow weary and simply give up and give in. I want to choose to wait with that eager gentleness but I need help. I ask that as the holidays grow closer and we prepare to celebrate them minus one, that you, our many, who Cate has brought into our lives pray for our family, that we continue to gently wait on the healing touch of our loving God and as we wait on that special gift, that we be gentle with ourselves and each other as our God is gentle with us.

Much Love,
The Cantrells