Seeds of Thankfulness

“Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:7


Seeds of Thankfulness – Week 4 ~ December 21, 2013

If I tell you that Christmas is four days away, does that stress you out? Do you start thinking of all the things you still have to do? Are your lists getting longer and longer, instead of shorter and shorter? Do you think of all the things you wish you had done, but just didn’t have the time for this year?

Two years ago, I would have answered ‘yes’ to all of these questions. Christmas has always been a favorite holiday of mine, but has also been very stressful. I tried to do everything, even before I had children. While I enjoyed Christmas Day, the days leading up to it felt like a big rush and the day after often left me feeling like I didn’t get done everything that I had planned.

Last year, I was doing good just to show up to Christmas dinner. We bought the boys presents, but did not do much else, at least not compared to years past. Minimal decorations were put up and we took the boys to see Santa, even though Rodger and I didn’t necessarily feel like it. We didn’t even go to Christmas Eve service at church. I put all of my energy into making sure the boys had a good Christmas and that it was not ruined by my sadness. Last Christmas was a success for them, but not so much for me. I came out of it thinking, “Surely this is not what Christmas will be like forever?”

This year, I have found what I believe is a good balance between the two extremes. One thing that Kyleigh has taught us is just how important time is. We thought we had a lifetime with her, not just the nine months that she was in my womb. I am putting that into action with the holiday season, not only this Christmas, but hopefully every Christmas from now until I am reunited with Kyleigh. Marking things off my Christmas list before I even wrote them down this year was a good way to start. I got rid of the things that I was doing for myself…the things that I felt like I had to do to keep up with the Jones’, so to speak. Next, I simplified many of the holiday activities that we like to do as a family, but caused stress or took a lot of time planning or prepping. Making sugar cookies from scratch was not very family friendly, especially when all the boys want to do is decorate them and eat the icing! Buying premade dough is much easier and still allows us to have fun decorating. I am trying not to get stressed out or upset if something falls through the cracks. Oliver and I spent a few nights this week making bookmarks for his 20 classmates, but failed to make cards for his teachers. He was having fun and was excited to make something for his friends. I wasn’t going to rush him and make him upset just so he had time to make a handful of cards, too. The last thing we have changed as a family this year is sitting down each night to read our Advent book. It has helped to keep us all focused on the real reason for the season.

We bought our Christmas tree off a corner lot vs. driving over 30 miles to the tree farm. I found a pre-assembled gingerbread house at the grocery store bakery that only requires the addition of red and green candies. Spending all day baking and assembling a gingerbread house is not worth the tears it inspires when it falls to pieces. Instead of buying unnecessary gifts, we adopted a family and gave to others this season. We have enjoyed hearing the boys sing in their school Christmas programs, but have said ‘no’ to attending other holiday events. We have spent our evenings watching Christmas shows and driving around to look at Christmas lights instead of fighting the crowds at the local holiday attractions. My list of Christmas must-do’s has shrunk significantly. It may sound like we are still doing a lot, but I assure you, it does not feel like it.

The important thing about this list of Christmas activities is that we are doing them together. We are taking the time to spend with each other. We have been able to slow down and enjoy the Christmas Season, not just the day. The quality time that we are spending together as a family is what my boys will remember about Christmas, not the hustle and bustle of getting things done.

So for those of you who answered ‘yes’ to any of the beginning questions, I challenge you to take a look at your Christmas to-do list and start marking things off … permanently. If an oversized list is keeping you from enjoying time with those you love, or even from the Christmas season itself, it’s time to reevaluate. Keep the items that mean the most to you and your loved ones, especially the things that you do together. Get rid of the items that you are doing only for yourself or the ones that stress you out the most. I promise you will feel a sense of relief and a new found sense of Christmas joy!

I am thankful that God uses Kyleigh to teach me the simple lessons in life ~ the importance of quality family time.

Seeds of Thankfulness – Week 3 ~ December 11, 2013

On November 25, 1993, Rodger and I stood outside in the cold night air, waiting to see the Christmas lights turn on at the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City. It was Thanksgiving night, and we had hitched a ride with my sister. Looking back on it, I’m a little surprised that my parents let me go. Rodger and I had both just turned 16, so maybe the catch was that we could go, but weren’t allowed to drive ourselves. Anyway, Rodger and I had met just a few months earlier when we were both 15, but he would not ask me out on a date until he had his driver’s license. I am a month older then him and he was not about to let me drive on our first date. At some point, we went to Perkin’s for dinner. I do not recall the date of this first dinner and if it was between his birthday in mid-November and Thanksgiving night, or after November 25th.

All that I remember is November 25, 1993, is the date that my husband asked me to be his girlfriend.

We have known each other for 20 years and have been a couple for nearly 19 of that. That seems a little crazy, but when you start dating at sixteen years old, it’s very possible at our age. Twenty years ago, we were sophomores in high school and had two classes together: Marching Band and Chemistry. We had been in classes together in previous years, but never paid much attention to each other. It happened to rain one morning, so we were inside for Marching Band practice. For whatever reason, we were all sitting around with nothing to do, so I walked up to Rodger and started talking. I think he was a bit shocked by it. Calling him to ask for help with Chemistry homework was my second move. Yes, I just admitted that I made the first moves. Despite the fact that I was not allowed to call boys, I was able to talk my mom into letting me call Rodger only for the purpose of homework. She knew what I was up to, I’m sure. From then on, we sat next to each other on the bus to and from band competitions and he was the reason that I passed Chemistry.

At the beginning of our senior year, we did break-up. It made for a rough senior year, but on my birthday the following year, Rodger called me from a payphone. We agreed to speak to each other and work towards becoming friends. Five months later, he asked me once again to be his girlfriend, with the condition that we stay together and get married. On November 6, 1997, we got engaged. After the longest engagement ever, we finally got married in June of 2000!

Engagement Photo - Rodger & Leann, 1999

Engagement Photo – Rodger & Leann, 1999

I used to say that if it weren’t for us breaking up when we were 18 that we would have never gotten married. I don’t believe that anymore. Whether we had stayed together during that year, or spent that time apart, I believe that God placed us in each other’s lives for a reason and that reason is for us to be husband and wife. There are many circumstances that could have kept us away from each other and obstacles that we both had to overcome, but in the end, I truly believe we are meant to be together.

I could sit here and type all night about our 20 years together. Instead, I’ll reminisce to myself. I will say that it seems like a lifetime ago that we met. I hope I get a lifetime with the one I love.

I am thankful for my husband, Rodger. He loves God, loves me unconditionally and loves our children with all of his heart. Thank you, God, for giving me the man that You knew I needed!

Seeds of Thankfulness – Week 2 ~ November 21, 2013

Music has always been a part of my life. At the age of four or five, I learned how to play the piano and continued lessons all the way until I graduated from high school. My childhood piano sits in my home today and on occasion I will sit down and play a tune. I tried to teach Rodger how to play once. Oliver has been inquiring about learning to play, so I think I will give that a try soon. In the 5th grade, I learned how to play the flute. Again, I took private lessons and played until the end of my sophomore year of college. Marching band was much preferred by me over concert band. I was never quite good enough to be chosen for symphonic band in high school or college and that’s okay. I played for the enjoyment of it, not the competition. Throughout my childhood and teen years, I sang in the youth choir at church and also played hand bells for a few years. Music was definitely my choice of activity over sports.

One area that I never excelled in was voice. I cannot carry a tune and never have. But it is one thing I wish I could do. I love listening to music and going to concerts, but you’ll never hear me sing along. I don’t even like singing nursery rhymes or songs to my children. It’s embarrassing to me and even though I know my boys don’t care, it makes me feel uncomfortable.

My boys however, love to sing out loud. They sing along to the radio, make up their own songs and often repeat the songs they learn at church and school. I love this about them and I hope they continue to sing out loud!

The radio in our kitchen is on pretty much all day. If it’s not already on when I get up in the morning I turn it on and often it does not get turned off until we go to bed at night. I leave it on when I run errands during the day so the dogs have something to listen to. We eat our meals with music in the background. We turn it up when we hear a song we love and change the station when it’s a song we don’t want to hear. We listen exclusively to Christian radio and we love it. K-Love is our station of choice, but we switch between two others on occasion. My boys know nothing else, except for the occasional Disney song, Veggie Tales or other children’s C.D. and that’s okay with me. I know it won’t stay this way, for as they grow older and are exposed to more and more of the outside world, they will be exposed to other flavors of music, some more acceptable in our home than others.

Every year, K-Love does a Thirty Day Challenge where they challenge people to listen exclusively to Christian music for 30 days. At the end of the challenge, people call in and tell stories of how their lives have positively changed since they started listening to Christian music. Some of the stories you hear are life changing … families reuniting, couples reconciling, illnesses cured, drug/alcohol addiction overcome. I’m not saying that by listening to Christian music you will be free of all that ails you. I still suffer in my pain and grief. What I am saying is that it brings HOPE. It brings joy, love and hope to your life. If I go a day without listening to Christian music, I feel different. I feel discouraged. Hearing the promise of God’s love through beautiful voices and instruments lifts my spirits, brings me joy and challenges me to be a better person.

I challenge you to spend 30 days listening for God’s love through music. If you don’t know where to start, ask me, I will help you.

I am thankful for the joy, love and hope that I hear daily through music inspired by God.

I leave you with the song, “The Hurt and The Healer,” by Mercy Me. This song was played at Kyleigh’s Celebration of Life and is so very important to me and my walk with God.

Seeds of Thankfulness – Week 1 ~ November 14, 2013

Kyleigh's Gift sleep sack

Kyleigh’s Gift sleep sack

The past few weeks have been stressful around our house. Rodger has been out of town for 12 out of the last 18 days. I acquire a whole new perspective (and a lot of respect) for single moms when he is gone. Whether it was him leaving right after we got back from our own weekend getaway, or the hustle and bustle of Halloween, I’m not sure, but I struggled more with this trip then I have in a while. It’s mentally and physically exhausting to be the one doing everything. To read a little bit about his trip, click here.

Throughout the time that Rodger was gone, I experienced a handful of unexpected blessings. All of them were related to Kyleigh, which always makes me stop and thank God, for it is these unexpected blessings that show me that Kyleigh is not forgotten. Two of these blessings came by email this week. I was contacted by two separate women who had read about Kyleigh. One is a bereaved mother herself, looking for someone to connect with in the loss of her baby boy. The other is a nursing student, looking to use Kyleigh’s story and our positive experiences with our nurses in a presentation that she is doing for class. I have communicated with both of these women over the past few weeks and have found healing for myself as I shared details of Kyleigh that I hold so close to my heart.

The other big blessing this week was receiving the above photo. The sleep sacks are one step closer to being ready to give to newborns at Liberty Hospital! The Foundation received this sample and sent us a picture for our approval. We love it! The next step is to submit the first order and hopefully have them ready to hand out in January. We also received word that the LH Foundation is introducing the Kyleigh’s Gift Fund to all hospital employees through their Employee Giving Tree Campaign. This will give employees the opportunity to make a financial contribution to the hospital community, which includes Kyleigh’s fund. A lot of great things are starting to happen with the Kyleigh’s Gift Fund.

I am thankful for God’s unexpected blessings during the stressful times of everyday life.

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  1. Pingback: Seeds of Thankfulness | Kyleigh's Gift

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