Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

Wow, it's been more than a month since I've posted anything here. For those of you who know me well, you know why. Just after Thanksgiving my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and it's been a whirlwind of a month. We did our best to pretend we hadn't found out this news for about a week or so, since I was having a big craft sale at my house the weekend after the news and my mom was in charge of all the food for our church's Advent Brunch that same day :: a traditional Swedish brunch meal for a couple hundred women . . . she sure is exceptional, that lady!

Since then our family has had Christmas programs, concerts, a HUGE snowstorm and now we are somehow at Christmas Eve already. My mom had a mastectomy on the 13th of December. The surgery went well and the initial results from the lymph nodes they are testing looked good, but we still don't have the complete report on that yet. She is looking as fabulous as ever and is up and around quite a bit. She walked her Christmas packages in to town to mail, has babysat my kids a time or two, braved a couple trips to the mall, attended Christmas programs and went for a long (and painful :: lots sibling bickering and one particularly grumpy Stoll kid who was pretty much set on ruining everyone else's fun) drive last night with us to look at Christmas lights. The lights were beautiful :: our favorites were the Lake Phalen light show that runs from 5:30 until 10 from now until New Years Day and this super cool, enchanted forest-type property on S. Owasso Blvd. It is the very coolest private lights display I've ever seen -- we discovered it probably almost a decade ago and have driven by at least once a Christmas season since then. Last year (or was it 2010?) they didn't do it and we were afraid maybe they'd sold their house or had just quit, but we were thrilled when we drove around the corner and saw it all lit up last night! There may have even been clapping and cheering -- which further irritated the scrooge in our midst!

The day after my mom's surgery our nation (and the world) shared in some deep sorrow at the news of the Connecticut school shooting. That news, too, hit extra close to home for our family because my dad attended Sandy Hook Elementary School when he was about the age of a couple of my kiddos. I don't know that that connection makes it any more devastating for us than it is for anyone else, but it does hit a bit closer to home for us knowing that my dad walked those same halls as a little kid and learned in those classrooms -- we were looking over his Sandy Hook Elementary report cards (I don't know how my Grandma managed to save all that stuff -- as a fellow mother-of-6. I don't know that I could even come up with the current year report card for all my kids -- let alone have them all organized 50+ years later :: although I guess she only had to keep track of them for about a decade, and then my uber-organized mother took over the job of keeping track of them) the Sunday after the shooting when we were over at my parent's house for lunch. My dad has always been a very intelligent, academic, studious type and that was reflected even in those early report cards -- with the exception of music, in which he got a C. So my lack of musical giftedness is a genetic "gift" from my father and any gifts my kids have in this area are not genetically linked to their Grandpa Carlson, I guess. Although we will credit him, in part, for their intelligence, skill in visual arts and love for riding a bicycle.

So, it has been a month full of regular December craziness coupled with a lot of extra emotions, information and doctor appointments. I have been so thankful for friends (and mere acquaintances) who have gone above and beyond the "I'm so sorry" to really reach out and encourage, support, pray for, cook for and give practical help to us during the past few weeks. God is so good and so are his people.

Even during this hard month, we have found many, many things to be thankful for. Even more of them, I'm certain, than we would have found without this cancer diagnosis in our family this month. Most days I (and I can only speak honestly about my own feelings) have felt very peaceful, hopeful and optimistic about this whole thing . . . but there are have those other-end-of the spectrum moments that have been hard and I've cried (sometimes in the middle of the Costco aisle) and wondered why her. I adore my mom. She is wonderful and I couldn't love her more or imagine a better mom. She is probably the healthiest person that I know (she eats great, is in fabulous shape, exercises, and I can't think of a single vise :: she doesn't smoke or drink -- no alcohol, pop or even coffee). Not that life is fair, or cancer is fair. I know that it isn't. But it just seems even a bit more unfair that it would come to her. I think that the hardest part, for me, of this whole thing was telling the news to my kids (and I didn't even tell them, Kirb did. He's my hero.). They adore their grandma and she is such an integral part of their lives. Overall, they took the news well, but I thought I had them pegged as to how each one would respond, and they surprised me. It was harder on a couple of them than I expected, and the 1 or 2 that I was most worried about did better than I expected. Thankfully, we had oblivious Sara, dancing around and singing, as the rest of us were crying, to lighten the mood a bit! I have been so grateful to Kirb through all of this. I know he loves my mom so much too, but he has been strong for me and for the kids and has pretty much done everything around here for the past month -- which, if we're being honestly, isn't that much different than any other time.

This feels a bit disjointed to me, but I want to close by wishing you a VERY Merry Christmas and a New Year filled with blessings.

The Stoll Family 2012 :: taken on Thanksgiving Day

 So, here is an excerpt from one of my very favorite books, The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones (pick one up if you don't have it. Yes, even if there are no children living at your house!). It is her paraphrase of Isaiah chapters 9, 11, 40, 50, 53, 55 and 60.

Dear Little Flock,
You're all wandering away from me, like sheep in an open field. You have always been running away from me. And now you're lost. You can't find your way back.

But I can't stop loving you. I will come to find you. So I am sending you a Shepherd to look after you and love you. To carry you home to me.

You've been stumbling around, like people in a dark room. But into the darkness, a bright Light will shine! It will chase away all the shadows, like sunshine.

A little baby will be born. A Royal Son. His mommy will be a young girl who doesn't have a husband. His name will be Emmanuel, which means, "God has come to live with us." He is one of King David's children's children's children. The Prince of Peace.

Yes, Someone is going to come and rescue you! But he won't be who anyone expects.

He will be a King! But he won't live in a palace. And he won't have lots of money. He will be poor. And he will be a Servant. But this King will heal the whole world.

He will be a Hero! He will fight for his people, and rescue them from their enemies. But he won't have big armies, and he won't fight with swords. He will make the blind see, he will make the lame leap like deer! He will make everything the way it was always meant to be.

But people will hate him, and they won't listen to him. He will be like a Lamb -- he will suffer and die.

It's the Secret Rescue Plan we made -- from before the beginning of the world!

It's the only way to get you back.

But he won't stay dead -- I will make him alive again!

And, one day, when he comes back to rule forever, the mountains and trees will dance and sing for joy! The earth will shout out loud! His fame will fill the whole earth -- as the waters cover the sea! Everything sad will come untrue. Even death is going to die! And he will wipe away every tear from every eye.

Yes, the Rescuer will come. Look for him. Watch for him. Wait for him. He will come!

I promise.

Love, God


  1. Dearest sweet Shana, I can't imagine a better Mom either, Cancer and random shootings are NOT fair but I know that God is in control always. I love you and are so happy that you have her.Merry Christmas to you. Love Dawn

  2. Beautifully written, Shana. What a month for all of you!
    p.s. I love the Storybook Bible too.

  3. Oh Shana....I LOVE that Storybook Bible that you/your mom bought for us (Ikey) a few years back! And that is such a great page and letter. Thank you for sharing. Your mom and family are in my prayers. Merry Christmas. Miss you friend!


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