Dec 18, 2009

Pink Saturday/Spiritual Sunday - Family Tradition...What's Important?

Don't forget to stop by How Sweet The Sound to read about lots of PINK traditions on December 19 and lots of inspiration at  Spiritual Sundays on December 20!

Christmas is my favorite holiday of the year, always has been.  First of all, I am a Believer, that is I believe in Jesus Christ as my Savior, so Christmas is valued the most as the day Jesus was born on Earth in order to die on Earth.  I've always loved Christmas trees and lights and just the excitement and cheer surrounding the holiday.  But the older I get, the more I appreciate it for the right reasons.  Sometimes you learn the most valuable lessons through experiences you believe at the time to be the most terrible losses.

A tradition my husband and I had for many years was our Christmas party.  When I was a young wife and mother I was a perfectionist work-a-holic.  I kept a spotless house, I volunteered for every committee and job I could find at church, and I was a maniac at entertaining.  Let me just say, not to blow my own horn or anything, but a party I could give, and lots of them!  Our Christmas party was attended by about 100-120 people every December.  I prepared for months.  I started cleaning at Halloween (even removing the light fixtures to clean underneath!) and I started decorating for Christmas before Thanksgiving. Then I
baked, packaged, and froze from Thanksgiving until the party date.  I always served hot and cold hor d'ouvres, then a hot buffet, followed by a dessert buffet - I always baked 12 dozen cookies, plus tarts, cakes, cheese cakes, and candy.  Of course in addition to the entertaining, I shopped and did all the family preparations for Christmas as well.  I LOVED working and cleaning and ironing.  I know, weird...maybe even a little crazy!  I prided myself on my clean house and my organization.  Plus, I worked full time as an administrative assistant.  I could out work any woman I knew.  But most of all, I loved entertaining.  Our Christmas party was just the highlight of my year and Christmas holiday. 

Our Christmas party was just the highlight of my year and Christmas holiday. Hmmm.  What's wrong with that statement?  Didn't I start by writing "I am a Believer, that is I believe in Jesus Christ as my Savior, so Christmas is valued the most as the day Jesus was born on Earth in order to die on Earth" ???  Why, yes I did.  So what happened to remind me of what I should really value?  I got sick.  I do not believe God punishes us by making us sick or allowing bad things to happen.  But I do believe that God allows us to learn valuable lessons enabling spiritual growth through some of life's most traumatic events.

About fifteen years ago I began to develop some weird illnesses out of the blue.  I was hospitalized multiple times for odd ball serious things like meningitis and unusual pneumonia's.  I developed arthritis.  I developed an overwhelming fatigue and was almost never well.  I eventually had to quit my job and I could no longer work at home as I always had.  I saw doctor after doctor but it was only 4 years ago, two days before Thanksgiving, that I received a diagnosis.  I have a very rare white blood cell abnormality which effects my health and energy in general.  The silver lining in this storm cloud is that there is a treatment.  The unpleasant part of the treatment is that it is an IV infusion at a chemo clinic every three weeks.  Every three weeks of my life.  As long as I live.  So long, party queen, hello 110 year old hag.  That's how I felt when I got this diagnosis.

To make a long story short, I had a chest port implanted and I have been receiving infusions every three weeks for almost four years.  I hate every minute of every treatment and I resent the intrusion in my life.  But having said that, I know how blessed I am.  There is a treatment for my disease and it is working.  Is life the same as it used to be?  Nope, far from it.  The treatment itself often makes me sick for days.  I have about two good weeks out of four.  Even with the treatment I still get sick a lot.  I still have arthritis.  I have a 400 times greater risk of developing lymphoma than people who do not have my disease.  Life is very different for me and for my family now because of this hateful disease, but has it ruined my life?  To the contrary, the lessons I've learned these last four years have blessed my life.

Priorities.  Don't we all want to set the right priorities?  I know I did.  And I thought I had.  But really, did I need to remove the light fixtures from the ceilings in order for guest to enjoy my Christmas buffet?  Did my kitchen floor really require a toothbrush scrubbing so 120 guests could walk over it during a Michigan winter?  And did my guests actually notice that every room in my house had at least one Christmas tree - each one following a perfectly matched theme?  Did our extended family members appreciate the elaborate hand made gifts I created for them each year or the packages wrapped as if they came from the finest shops?  Did any of these things hold a fraction of the importance I thought they did?

It's taken me four years to get to a place where I can say that I am truly more content than I have ever been in my life.  For me, it took a serious illness to teach me the truly valuable things in life.  I still like a clean house - even sick I can out work half the women I know!  The difference is, I don't have to work until one or two in the morning to feel ok about myself.  I am still a perfectionist, but now I usually know when to stop.  I'm ok with a store bought gift just like every body else and this year I don't even have bows on my packages!  Yikes - I can't believe I said that!  I don't spend sleepless nights making mental lists of things I need to do the next day.  I can enjoy watching a movie sitting down rather than only while doing dishes or ironing.  Most importantly, I spend time of true worship and prayer during each day.  I can allow myself to drop everything and leave a job half finished to spontaneously go to a movie with my husband or babysit my granddaughters or sit down and really enjoy a guiltless phone conversation with my daughter or my mom or a friend. I see the value in things I used to view as wasted time.  This Christmas Day my husband and I will sit around our family room with our son and daughter-in-law, our daughter and son-in-law, and our two granddaughters.  We will go around the room, each one opening one bowless gift at a time, lavishing in the joy of the moment.  There will be no rushing to pick up wrapping paper, no obsessive gathering of coffee cups and cinnamon roll plates.  This family tradition will add new pages in our book of cherished family memories. 


When I learned of my diagnosis and the nature of this progressive disease, I thought my life as I knew it was over.  Well, it was.  But what I thought was going to be the most terrible loss of my life has turned out to be one of the greatest blessings of my life.  Don't misunderstand me, I really wish I didn't have this disease!  But that's just the way the cookie crumbles.  I do have it and I am doing just fine.  Better than fine, I have learned to trust God with every aspect of my life.  God never fails and He never makes a mistake.  He knew exactly what he was doing when he made me with too few white blood cells.  And He also knew I wouldn't be happy about it!  He knew He was going to help me see beauty in a more simple life and He knew I would see more opportunities to praise Him and to witness for Him. 

I'll finish this post with some pictures of our home decorated for Christmas.  We're not having a party, but we are celebrating.  It's almost Jesus' birthday!

I am wishing each of you a blessed Christmas with those you love and a new year filled with joy!


Blondie's Journal said...

This is a very powerful post, Kathy, and I am sure it wasn't that easy to write. But you amaze me. In telling your story, you have made me take an inward look at myself and what the season truly means to me. On one hand, while you may have felt that you did too much, sometimes I feel I do too little. But neither matters, as long as our minds and hearts and faith are in the right place.

I wish you peace, joy and good health this Christmas and always!


ceekay said...

Your home looks perfect! Love your decorations. I remember those days....and they were good....but these are good too!
Anxiously awaiting Jesus' birthday also!!

Shelia said...

Oh, Dear Kathy! I'm so sorry to hear you're going through all of this, but like Jane has said, it's made me think too of what's really important! You're a blessing and I know this post will minister to so many!
I wish you a wonderful Christmas and yes, our focus is on our dear Savior.

Be a sweetie,
shelia :)

Shelia said...

Oh, I wanted to come back to say - your home is beautiful! I love all of your pretty decorations!
Be a sweetie,
Shelia ;) I have bowless presents too! :)

Grace said...

I was on Facebook earlier and a male friend said he doesn't do "Giftmas"! So I said oh so you go t ochurch with your family and your new little niece and celebrate the birth of Jesus. He said "NO"! I got a little twisted and just opted not to reply and frankly don't know if i will again and i know that is not a good action for a good Catholic girl but...I love everything about the Holiday Season. I am enjoying visiting everyone's blogs and traditions and I hope you have a glorious Holiday Season!

Susie Jefferson said...

That which doesn't break us only makes us stronger - and all power to you for not giving up and not giving in. I love your Christmas decorations, so pretty - I'm afraid we no longer have our traditional ones (when we moved house, the entire box went missing somewhere, somehow) so I had to start again. As I'm now 57 with bad hands, I'm afraid they are the UNtraditional, unbreakable sort! Bah!

Happy Pink Saturday, and Happy Christmas in advance.

bj said...

G'morning, Kathy,
Thanks so much for this lovely story. Let me just say that i admire your strength and courage. And, most of all your attitude. What a sweet spirit you have. And your love of our sweet Jesus Christ has carried you through some hard times...and wonderful ones, too.

Your decorations are so so pretty. I especially smiled big at the little angel with the crown of sweet...

I hope your Christmas is merry and bright and most of all, blessed.
xo bj

Suzie Button said...

What a beautiful post! I was reminded of what I, and probably most women, suffer with, the need to please and impress and overdo! You're right, we do need to remember the importance of it being Jesus' birthday and that our family themselves are the gift, not the stuff! I hope you have a beautiful Pink Saturday! Suzie

Couture de Papier said...

Blessings and Happy Pink Saturday beautiful Xmas pretties...Denise

The Quintessential Magpie said...

Kathy, I hope and pray they find a cure for this disease. Yesterday, I was starting to get stresssed with everything going on, and last night, when I started blogging and reading stories, I felt myself calm down. That's the way I feel when I'm in the Lord's presence, and you're right in saying that his presence is what we should all seek during this holy season.

Happy Pink Saturday and blessings to you...


Sheila :-)

Gabriela said...

Happy Pink Saturday!

Wonderful post!
And I love all your photos.

~ Gabriela ~

Connie said...

I have to say a COUPLE of things here, sugar. First, that was a very heart touching story. I do understand what you meant. At almost 70 years of age I know what it means to "have" to slow down a bit even though my mental energy never ever stops unless I'm sitting down to read a book.

Second, God allows us to go through these trials for a reason: to make us stronger. Also, to show us what is truly important in our life.

Third, you are one of the most stunning women at 55 I've ever seen, so don't be telling me anything else, chickee!!! You look d i v i n e !!

I wish you well in your journey but I doubt you have anything to fear; God is watching over you well!

xoxo and Merry Christmas, sweetpea,

My Crafty Little Page said...

Our house was on tour this year for Christmas...I can't imagine doing that every year!....which is basically what you did. Crazy cleaning and decorating and it does exhaust you. What a great outlook you have and how lucky there is treatment for for disease. I, too, have relaxed a lot of what I used to do and the family likes it better! Have a wonderful relaxing restful Christmas!
xoxo Nancy

My Crafty Little Page said...

Our house was on tour this year for Christmas...I can't imagine doing that every year!....which is basically what you did. Crazy cleaning and decorating and it does exhaust you. What a great outlook you have and how lucky there is treatment for for disease. I, too, have relaxed a lot of what I used to do and the family likes it better! Have a wonderful relaxing restful Christmas!
xoxo Nancy

Yvonne @ StoneGable said...

Kathy- God has blessed me today through your post. Thank you for sharing this important and personal lesson.
Your home looks beautiful, but your heart looks even more so!
Christmas Blessings!

Kathi said...

Kathy, I came by and read your post last night and did not get a chance to comment so I am back.

Thank you for sharing your heart and being honest and real. I too, have had times of being fixated on other things that I thought were important, when the Lord is Whom I should have fixed my thoughts.

I'm so sorry about your illness. The Lord is using you through it and I pray He will keep your strength up and perhaps heal you soon. Thank you for giving me some things to think about in my own life. May God richly bless you. Kathi

Kathi said...

Oh, and Kathy, I forgot to mention how lovely your home is, along with your sweet spirit. Kathi

A Hint of Home said...

Hi Kathy,
Your post hit home to me. I used to be more of a fanatic than I am now. Still like everything in it's place but don't do the crazy things I use to. Ask Carolyn. AT 8 mos. pregnant and 2 in the morning I'm still cutting mirror tiles to get a room completed. Not anymore. I enjoy my time so much more in so many ways.
I guess wisdom does come with age.
Your home looks beautiful.
Merry Christmas.

Marydon Ford said...

What a wonderful write! May you be blessed. You are amazing. Your pics of your home are lovely ...

Merry Christmas,
TTFN~ Marydon
read/follow @ new blog

Bobbi Jo said...

Kathy what a great post. You have shared so much. You will be in my prayers and thoughts.
Thank you for visiting my blog I hope you will come back often.
I am loving your blog and enjoying reading on the past posts.
Merry Christmas! Hugs, Bobbi Jo

Cottage Rose said...

Hello Kathy; Reading your story was like reading something I felt and would have written... It is so amazing how our Lord works to show us a different path to walk on.. I Praise Him each day for that... I love your Feather tree so pretty,,, as well as all the rest... Happy Pink Saturday,,,

Merry Christmas;

claudie said...

Hi Kathy
WOW you have a lot on your shoulders..but all will make you stronger. I hope for a cure.
I remember visiting you last year at this time, and asking you about your pink tree in the bathroom, remember? Well, I have the same ornaments as you, yup got them at Zeller's like you said. I love all your decorations, especially all the little trees in different colours.
Happy Pink Saturday Mimi
See you soon

Queen of Dreamsz said...

Hello Kathy,

I totally enjoyed reading your love to talk as much as I do..hehe :0) I can soooooo relate to how you once were and how things have drastically changed.

I was always on the neurotic side of *everything in it's place* when I was much younger...I live with chronic pain from bone spurs in both of my far nothing has helped and I've exhausted all paths to find a solution. So I've learned to live with the pain but it has pulled down my energy level to an all time low..very frustrating but I know that I'm blessed beyond measure. I finally found the love of my life, we have a lovely mountain home and I get to create everyday to my heart's content...but I do struggle with the low energy and pain and that's a constant mind game of reaffirming that I CAN get this done!! What ever it may be at the moment..

So thank you for sharing your life's journey..I do relate to the path that your health has taken. Thank you for sharing that with me.

And thanks so much for visiting me! I'm always so happy to see the sweet comments. I truly am a cyber's been a blessing in my life to have so many lovely ladies to talk to since I can't *run the roads* the way I once could. :0) I truly am a homebody and dearly love it!

All of your Christmas decor is just lovely!

Scatter Bliss...

Bernideen said...

Wishing you a Wonderful and Merry Christmas..and rejoicing with you at the birth of our Saviour!

Robin said...

Your post really spoke to my heart. Time...Love...Family. These are the three I have come to also realize are most important. Kathy thank you for sharing your story, it has blessed me. robin

Charlotte said...

Oh, Kathy, I'm so glad you shared your beautiful life with us. You are so right. Sometimes it takes something terrible to make us realize what is really important. Reading your story has been so inspiring to me and I know it is to many others. Thank you for sharing.
Blessings and Merry Christmas.
Oh, and I love your decorations and Christmas has always been my favorite holiday too.

Self Sagacity said...

Ok! I love glitter and sparkles! So...I was mesmorized by your beautiful pictures. Thank you for your visit and will be back soon!

Denise said...

Awesome post.

{Bellamere Cottage} said...

Hi Kathy...

What an inspirational story....I can sooo relate.....I have a story of triumph tooooo....

Your home looks soooo wonderful...I love all of it!

Have a wonderful Christmas and thank you so much for coming to visit...I'll be back to see you again.

Warm Christmas hugs,

Vicki said...

Thank you for sharing your story with us. I, too, am trying to focus on what is really important in life and at Christmas, of course, the birth of our Savior. Your positive spirit has been a blessing to me. Your home is beautiful. Love all of those gorgeous decorations. Merry Christmas! Vicki

fitty's pinky rose cottage said...

oh my.. what a lovely party.. just by reading your post, I can already taste all the delicous food.. what a great tradition.. Merry Christmas and Happy PS

My Carolina Kitchen said...

Your home is gorgeous and you really have a flair for decorating. Thank you for sharing your life with us. You are a very strong person to live your life to the fullest and I know you've become a better person for it. Pain to your body can do awful things to your mind and it looks like, pardon the expression, that you've got your head on straight.

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a healthy new year.

Lynn@ The Vintage Nest said...

Thank you for sharing your story. And your home is just beautiful anyway. :) Happy Pink Saturday. xo Lynn

SmilingSally said...

Kathy, I've learned the same lesson that you just shared. I now realize that I'm not superwoman, and I cannot do it all, so I've learned to be content with less. That's why I have no tree and not too many decorations this YEAR OF THE MOVE!

We're in our home, and we've been blessed with an abundant supply of good helpers, but we've still much to do.

the wild raspberry said...

i so appreciate this post about appreciating life and embracing the important...we are going through a lot of that this christmas.

happy holidays to you~

Ginger said...

Kathy thank-you so much for sharing your heart with us. I think also the older we get we realize that it's not important to mop the floor before company. I pray all the time about contentment, it works!
God Bless,

jeanne said...

Dear Kathy, your story is a compelling read. Your are a remarkable person. We realize life is always changing but yours was monumental. You are blessed and the biggest blessing is you know it.

May Peace be your gift at Christmas and your blessing all year through!

Christmas love, Jeanne

Miss Rhea said...

Amen !! We are beyond Blessed by Our Lord !! :) Merry Christmas and a Happy Belated Pink Saturday !!! :)