As you have probably come to expect by now, I typically do a blog post every year on my Christmas decorations. As I am putting them up, I am always pretty reflective on my life, and how all of these ornaments and decorations came to be a part of my life. As I am un-decking the halls tonight, I am taking time to pay particular attention to this little tree. It's my "angel tree".
The reason it is called my Angel Tree is because it is put up each year to honor and remember a special little angel.
That angel would be 11 years old on the 31st. Every year when everyone shoots fireworks and celebrates, I always just imagine that the whole world is celebrating Jake and his awesome life.
I now see people who lose loved ones, and I have a new "answer" as I try to console them. They may or may not like what I have to say, but after losing Jake, it became very, very clear to me.
God KNOWS the length of your days. He knows the length of your loved ones' days. He knew that Jake would live four years. He knew that he would touch millions of people with his story. He knew that his legacy would help other kids with cancer all over the country.
And He knew that how we, his family, chose to deal with his life and death would be a huge testimony to many.
So, when others are dealing with loss, I try to explain to them, that God KNEW this would be the day that their loved one would end their time on earth. It came as no surprise to Him. Only to us. And we can rest in the realization that God's timing is perfect. And then, hopefully, we can find peace and with reflection, also purpose in that life that God sent to the Earth to grace ours and to enrich all who came to know them.
And so, this is my Christmas tree that most helps me remember this great kid.
I have angels of all types. This lace one is from my Nannie's tree. She made them herself. She used to go to the nursing home very regularly and visit with the residents and do crafts with them. I remember vividly going with her.
I have collected angel wings over the years to go on this tree as well to represent those who are now in Heaven.
Ironically, I can remember the Christmas before Jake went to be with Jesus that he helped me decorate this little tree. It was shorter than my others, so he was able to help me put the ornaments on it.
I had been receiving these Lenox ornaments for years from my dad and stepmom. Each ornament has a date on it.
For instance, this angel says, "2004". Each one is given to me and Todd on our anniversary in September.
Here's 2005. I just love this tradition.
Apparently, 2004 was the year of the angel, because I have two ornaments from that year and they are both angels. It is also the year Jake was diagnosed with cancer. Coincidence? I think not. Again, God knew what the plan was.
It was just our role to live it out. To live as boldly and confidently as we could and to shout to the mountaintops that we were Christians and that we BELIEVEd in God's healing, no matter what form that would come in.
Don't you even think I don't LOVE this one!
I have little photos of Jake all over this tree.
And awesome messages that help me know that he is ok.
I threw in a few of my angels on earth too! This is Ellie when we first moved into this house. She was 3 years old.
Coach, possibly our favorite dog ever, (even though I don't think we should really have a favorite.... our pets are like our kids... except poor ol Tarzan!...but Coach was our "first born"), is the topper to this Angel Tree.
Here we have 2012.
And my favorite dated one, 1996. It is the year we got married, and the first one we ever received.
I kept several of Jake's armbands from St. Jude along the way. I am so glad that I have these. I sometimes cant' believe that these were actually on his tiny little arm. This one was one that he wore on 10/10/2005. He had to wear one every single day that he entered the hospital.
Here's my other little angel.. she is on loan to me too. Just like Jake was on loan to Staci. We are just the chosen ones who get to be called their mamas until Jesus calls them back. Gabbi was two in this picture. Just a tiny little thing.
And as I pack them up, I reflect on every year. This was 2002. Todd and I were actively going through aggressive fertility treatments. WHo knew then that all of those shots and drugs, and 4 hour round trip trips would be futile! And God also knew that we would be needed to help with Jake's siblings as he would be moving several states away with their mama the in the next couple of years.
Again, God's timing is perfect. He knew that Ellie and Gabbi were heading my way.
Another one from 1996. It also says, "Our First Christmas Together". WOW! How far we have come. I remember hanging this on our first tree. Todd and I were 27. We are now 43.
So much has happened in our lives together, just as I am sure it has in yours. It's sometimes crazy to just stop and reflect. I am so blessed. God has been so good to me!
This was our mantra during Jake's illness. It is still seen on the windows of cars and trucks all over our hometown. I really love to see it when I am out of town, knowing how many people were praying and loving Jake and reallly all of us as they Believed with us during his bout with cancer.
And HOPE was the word that St. Jude uses on all of its promotional material. It will always be a special word to us as well. In fact, Staci used it as Madison's middle name. St. Jude was, is and will always hold a very, very special place in our hearts.
ANd then when I was just about finished, I found this one... "It took the heart of a child..."
"to reach the soul of the world." I realize this ornament was made to represent Jesus, but I can also see a parallel with these words and Jake. His little warrior heart, refusing to quit, refusing to be beat down, and refusing to lose its spirit of wonder and play and happiness, really did "reach the soul of the world".
He was an awesome kid.
And tomorrow we will celebrate his birthday. My kids certainly know all about Jake. They know that the word "Believe" represents Jake in our house. They know that we wear lime green when we want to remember him (Ellie has already told me, in detail, her plans for her outfit for the big celebration later tomorrow night). They know that he lives in Heaven, and that we send balloons to him when we miss him or want him to know that we are thinking about him. They know that we will see him again someday.
I am so blessed to have known him. I have spent the last year really committing to learning more about spirit, soul, religion, God, and LOVE and how these things are the same or different.
I am confident that Jake had a very specific purpose to his life. He had a mission which I feel he carried out with perfection.
I feel his spirit with me often. I feel his soul continues on...and is very close to me.
I am glad that I had the privilege of being his aunt. I am thankful that so many people prayed for him and believed in his healing, thus believing in the power of God. I think he taught many people about LOVE.
And now I have the honor of raising my own two precious little ones, with wisdom and a different perspective that could have only been gained by knowing Jake.
Jake, we love you and miss you. We are richer people for having known you.
I hope you'll send up a balloon, a firework or just a prayer tomorrow in celebration of Jake's life.