Letter #687: Death at Christmas

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Dear death,

Few things in life are certain. You are one none of us can avoid. It’s simply a matter of how long each of us gets before your impending end to life on earth.

This week has been a week filled with you. Several dear friends of mine lost loved ones as well as my own Grandma Rother. According to Hollywood and our unrealistic expectations, Christmas is supposed to be filled with carols and cookies, family and friends, not the details and decisions that come with death. Reality is that life keeps happening whether it’s the week of Christmas or not.

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The last family photo with Grandma…Christmas 2015! We were also celebrating her 88th birthday!

Regardless, we can all agree that Christmas is a magnifying glass. Right or wrong, the sweet moments shine all the brighter and sorrow seems to be felt a little deeper. Whether it’s death that happened this week, this year or 20 years ago, people all around us are feeling the emptiness of a seat at their holiday table. Celebrate big this Christmas, but also don’t miss reaching out to those around you who just need a moment to grieve.

A week ago I received a phone call that my Grandma had passed. Death is never easy, but she had lived a beautiful life. Naomi Rother was the mother of 9, grandmother of 29 and I’ve lost count on her great-grandmother number! Wife, mom, grandma, great-grandma, friend and so much more, she had 89 years of a life well lived. It was her time. Alzheimer’s had gotten the best of her in her latter years, but through it her smile remained!

grandma-rother

A few days ago we had the opportunity to celebrate her life. I’m not the most emotional, but as I sat surrounded by a hundred of my aunts, uncles and cousins (yes, when you have 9 kids the result is 115 and counting immediate family members!) emotion flowed from every direction. Whether it is somebody’s time to go or not, watching the men you’ve grown up looking up to your whole life grieve the loss of their mom is a moving moment. Thankful for the legacy my grandparents created to make family a priority. To this day, the entire family still gets together a couple times a year…all 115+.

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Grandpa and Grandma with their NINE kids! My dad is the oldest (top left) rocking that Indiana t-shirt…he probably lived during the actual Hoosier days!

I was also reminded of the power one life can have. At this particular funeral, the family remained seated while the rest of the church filed one by one to the front to pay one last respect to my Grandma in her casket. The way my seat was positioned, I had the chance to meet eyes with every person present as they departed the church. As I watched people of all ages, some who knew my Grandma and others who know her kids, pass by, all I could think about was ‘the power of one.’ Death is the ultimate end we will all face, but life is a gift we’re all given. We get to daily choose how we position ourselves. I won’t be at my own funeral to know what it’s like, but I sure want to live my daily in a way where I steward the life I’ve been given to positively impact those around me. Death is coming for us all, but life has the ability to ripple through other’s lives well beyond a person’s time here.

Death is certain, but so is life. We can’t number our days, but we can know the God who does. We can’t determine our circumstances, but we can trust the God who does and find hope through Christ despite them. We can’t know the day of our departure, but we can live with purpose and in a way that impacts the people around us long after we’re gone. Death is coming, but when there is genuine surrender to Christ, life after death is eternal. That’s the life I was reminded that I want to long for even more than this life here on earth.

So while Christmas magnifies the sweet and the sorrow, I pray it would also magnify the Savior we all need. The Savior that brings eternal perspective to the sorrow. Merry Christmas can be true this season no matter the circumstances. For this, I am thankful!

Lindsay

Letter #646: Merry Christmas…

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***Meet the Rother’s…I was charged with writing the family Christmas card this year. It’s a little long, a lot of sarcastic and an attempt to sum up 11.5 members of one crazy family! Enjoy!!***

Dear friends,

Let’s be honest, Christmas cards have evolved quickly. What once was a cheap card celebrating the coming of our Savior with a quick hello has turned into a money-making scheme for holiday industries. The card must be creative, cute and cool so people think highly of our family and how we’ve raised our kids, who if we’re honest aren’t the perfect angels we paint them out to be.

Then there’s the whole letter thing. How can we inform people who truly care about family updates and don’t already know from social media without airing too much dirty laundry and bragging too much?

I’ve been charged with this task. If you’ve figured out a way to do this well, let me know. I’d love to file it away for next year. Until then, here’s my best attempt (brace yourself because the sarcasm will run heavy 🙂 ). And since most of you don’t really know me, I’ll start with me.

Many receiving this card have either never met me or at the very least remember the tomboy, sports playing, Lego building Lindsay. Well, I’m not quite who you remember anymore. I’m 26 now and thankfully no longer rocking the bowl cut! I live in Branson, MO and have my own comedy show on the Strip”…call me and I’ll get you tickets! Totally kidding, but I do live in Branson. Weird, I know, but I love it. I’m a director at Kanakuk Kamps, a Christian, sports camp where it’s our goal to develop Christ-centered leaders. We do this through sports, activities and a ton of fun as well as by hiring “cool’ college students to show kids we can be different than society. A big part of my job during the year is traveling to campuses to interview summer staff”…we hire about 1,700 students, so it’s a big job! On top of fun and college aged role models, there’s also a spiritual component. In a society continuing to shun truth, we stand on The Truth, Jesus and the Word of God, and teach campers about character development, decision-making, independence, peer pressure, eternal life, relationships and so much more through a lens centered on the Gospel. I LOVE my job and believe in what I do. I’ve learned this is vital, and I’m thankful to enjoy my job. Besides work, nothing too much has changed for me. I know you’re all wondering”…there isn’t a wedding coming anytime soon. I’m single and embracing it. I tell my family all the time I’m open to when the Lord opens the relationship door in my life (tall, truly knows Jesus, hard-working and someone I respect”…that’s what I’m waiting for!). I’m going to Zambia (I’ll help you out”…that’s in Africa!) to help put on camp for orphans the day after Christmas. I’ve never done anything like this and couldn’t be more excited! Seriously, if you’re ever in Branson, let me know!

Enough about me”…let’s get to people who are actually interesting. My bigger sister (no I don’t mean fat, just older) Dana is doing well and rocking life. Her and Ryan live in Tulsa and both have learned a ton the last 20 months on how to balance career/life with parenthood. They would never say this, but I can”…shhhh”…don’t tell them, I don’t want them to get a big head”…they’re doing a really great job! Ryan has a major hand in building very large projects in the Tulsa area with Manhattan Construction while Dana is the Assistant Vice President of Marketing at Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Tulsa. They’re both doing great in their jobs, but the thing I’ve been most impressed with is how they’ve been able to both take a step back from their jobs, still be successful and make their family priority. That being said, the first “Haynie’ grandson will be 2 in April. Harrison’s the sweetest, most observant, joyful little guy I know in all of Tulsa! He has a baby brother brewing too”…arrives April 2014, and in basketball terms I couldn’t be more excited to round out my starting five with this new addition!

My biggest sister (again, no she HASN’T gotten fat either, she’s just the eldest!) Jamie is rocking life as well. It’s been a roller coaster couple of years for Jamie and Chad’s family”…but much like an actual roller coaster, when you get off of it you look back and even though the ride was wild, you’re glad you did it. The Smith family has grown to five. In November 2012, Emerson Knox entered the world earlier than expected. After open-heart surgery, four months in the NICU and a rocky entry into the world, we just celebrated the 1st birthday of a healthy and extremely happy boy. And in case you don’t know, Emerson has Downs’ Syndrome. We won’t know the severity until he gets older, but regardless he is the most laid back, smiley baby I’ve ever met. The epitome of unexpected circumstances turned blessing”…but isn’t that what God specializes in?! Kaedyn’s almost 9. He LOVES Legos and has recently become interested in golf and tennis. We’ve been pleasantly surprised getting to see his loving side as he assumes some big brother responsibility with Emerson. Paxton is 5 and a half. He’s super playful and really funny. He’s playing basketball for the first time and simply loves emulating Kaedyn”…hopefully this can be channeled well! Chad is delivering like it’s his job…because it is! For real, he’s an OB/GYN at OU Health Sciences Center and just assumed a new role as the Medical Director of Perinatal Safety for OU physicians. Jamie is no longer teaching and now has the privilege of staying home with the boys”…I don’t have kids, but if I’ve learned one thing in all my babysitting and aunt duties”…it’s a full time job!!! Let’s just say she’s the Smith Household’s CEO!

As for Mama and Papa Roth (i.e. Sam and Linda), they are living the grandparent dream right now! Does life get better than being healthy enough to make unbelievable memories with your grandsons but also get to send them home to their parents when you need a little break?! They are the best MiMi and PoPo too. I didn’t understand it when I was a kid, but selflessness oozes from these two”…the way they parented us and now how they spend time with their boys. Besides grandkids, Dad’s still in the business of softening hard water at Culligan. They absolutely LOVE living in Edmond and have found great community there. The one thing they wish was different about their lives: all three of their girls living in the same town. Regardless, they are the best at supporting, encouraging and giving us advice while always allowing us to be our own people, make our own decisions and spread our wings to fly. We tell them all the time they need to take advantage of their health and travel now, so I’m hoping a few trips to see places they’ve never seen are in their near future! (Mom, you can pay me later for this line 🙂 ).

Well, hopefully you feel caught up on the Rother’s world. So often I don’t stop long enough to realize how blessed we are, but stopping to write this was a beautiful reminder of how much we have to be thankful for. And no matter what the circumstances are surrounding any of us, may we all be reminded this holiday season that it’s Christmas, the time when Jesus, also known as Emmanuel (literally means God with us) became flesh. 30+ years later He surrendered His life on a cross to pay the penalty for sin that we all deserve. He is the HOPE of the world. No matter the circumstances, Jesus is real, alive and the hope we all need. God, thank you for sending your Son”…may our adoration toward you this holiday season be our best because that’s what you deserve. Whether I know you directly or not, I’m thankful for how you’ve played a role in the development of my family.

Merry Christmas friends!

Lindsay (Sam & Linda’s youngest)

P.S. if you’d like to stay connected year round (specifically to me, but sometimes with my family as well), I also do a little blogging on the side. Letters for Lindsay has become a fun sounding board for me. Check it out here: www.lettersforlindsay.com.

Letter #574: Magical Christmas

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Dear magical,

I don’t use you much, but there is only one way to describe Silver Dollar City at Christmas: MAGICAL. Last weekend, I finally got into the holiday spirit after visiting ‘the city’ in Branson! Four million lights. The highest level performances in Dickens’ Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life. Christmas parade. Roller coasters in the dark with the best view of the lights. Delicious food options. Seriously, I’m convinced it’s the most ‘magical’ Christmas destination in the U.S.!

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Every street is lined with lights like this if not even more!
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A Dickins’ Christmas Carol…seriously, Broadway level performances/some of the best shows I’ve seen in all of Branson!
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My SDC exploration friends, Jennifer (check out her DIY blog here) and Susan!

Again, I don’t use you in my vocabulary, well ever, but you are the only proper description of the SDC experience. I also don’t highly recommend many things in life, but Silver Dollar City during the holidays is a MUST. Everybody needs to visit in their lifetime and celebrate the holidays in Branson! Plus, as long as I live there, you can come visit me too!!

Amazed at their boldness to elevate the true Christmas story of Christ in their park,

Advocate of Silver Dollar City

Letter #571: I Love Rehabs

Dear learning,

There are a few things in life I strive to obtain. One of them is to always be a learner. There are so many things I’d love to have even a basic understanding. The only way to ever even remotely learn is to be willing to sit beneath people who are experienced and learn from them. Every facet of life is set up this way. Children learn from parents, players from coaches, entry-level employees from people who’ve been around for a while.

If you look closely, life is filled with avenues to learn from others. However, we live in an era where we don’t want to be told what to do, long to be our own boss and operate out of pride rather than humility. I long to be the opposite of this. I’m clueless in many areas and long to glean as much wisdom and as many skills and tips as I can in life.

Sunday I capitalized on my quest to learn and assisted in a kitchen backsplash tiling project. I grew up helping Papa Roth with things, but I’ve never tiled before. What a great skill to have”…what if I want to renovate my house one day??

No bigs, just cutting some tile. Don’t mind my awkward leg straddling!

A few years ago my friend, Jennifer, who happens to also be from Lawton and a fellow Kanakuk director, started doing projects to update and renovate her home. Slowly, her and her husband discovered something they both enjoyed and were good at. They’ve done a complete facelift on their own home and have even flipped a house or two to sell. One of the many things I love about Jennifer is that as she’s gaining skills for herself, she loves to teach others. One of her favorite things to do is go into friends’ homes and help them with projects. This is where the backsplash comes in”…she taught Beth and I how to tile as we renovated Beth’s kitchen!

Are you kidding me?!? I helped achieve this!!!

After realizing the life and passion doing these types of projects gave her, Jennifer started a blog to share her DIY tips and tricks with everyone else. I Love Rehabs is filled with unbelievable ideas: space-saving Christmas trees to tutorials on all sorts of projects to wedding decorations. You name it, she’s probably done it. The best thing about you finding out about her blog now”…FREE STUFF. Everyday from now until Christmas, she’s giving away something free. Some are accessible to every viewer while others only one lucky reader will win. I have the inside scoop of what some of the prizes are, and trust me when I say you’ll want to come back each day”…and today’s is solid!!

Seriously, Jennifer is one of the most talented people I know. She is able to put new life into things everyone else sees as junk. The thing I love about her most is she doesn’t just do this with home renovations and old furniture. She sees the good in people, comes alongside, invests and pulls the good out. She lives her life with vision and inspires and challenges those around her to be better. She is incredibly well rounded, a vault of knowledge who contributes vast amounts of information to every conversation. Over the years, she has become a dear friend, but also a person in life I willingly look to, learn from and laugh with. Trust me when I tell you to check out her blog. You will not be disappointed.

Longing to always be a learner,

Huge fan of @iloverehabs

Letter #432: ‘Wish[ing] YOU a Merry Christmas’

Dear December 25th,

You’re here!!! I’ve been reading tweets about Christmas music and hearing it in Branson, the mecca of Christmas, for two months. Today I will write through all our favorite Christmas songs!

As they say, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!’ I’d like to begin this letter by wishing all my readers to “Have [Themselves] a Merry Little Christmas!’ It doesn’t look like we’ll be walking in a “Winter Wonderland’ here in Oklahoma this year, but after last year when they “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow’ all the way to a blizzard, I’m ok with this!

Santa, “Frosty the Snowman’ and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ have all become staple figures during Christmas time. All these guys have sure done well making you even more fun! We dream of “Santa Claus Coming to Town,’ pray we never see “Momma Kissing Santa Claus’ and long to hear “Jingle Bells.’ We sing about “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire’ and “Deck[ing] the Halls’…does anyone know what either of these really mean?! Regardless, we sing!

In the midst of you, it’s sure easy to forget the true reason we celebrate. Long ago in “O Little Town of Bethlehem,’ a baby was born. Not just any baby, or “Santa Baby,’ but the one that would change everything. The people cried out, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,’ as they longed for the Messiah to come be with them. Oh and He did!!! “Mary Did You Know?,’ you would birth the Savior of the world? Jesus: Emmanuel, which means God with us. On what was likely not a “Silent Night,’ Jesus became a man in the form of a baby. Emmanuel, God with us.

Had the true Christmas story never happened and Jesus never come to earth as a man, His death and resurrection would never have happened either. Because He came to earth, He was able to take my place on the cross in a death I deserved. I’m the sinner He came to save as are you. Much like the magi, the only reasonable response on our part is to fall on our faces in worship, give Him everything and trust in Him as our Savior. Today we celebrate the birth of a Savior, the One who brings ALL the “Joy to the World!’

“Wish[ing] YOU a Merry Christmas!’

Rester in the fact that Jesus is Lord, Savior and Emmanuel…He is with me (and you!)

Letter #429: Christmas Posts

Dear Christmas,

I wish I had some really profound thoughts on you today. The truth is I don’t. Last night I went through some of my old posts and came across all your posts from last year. There’s nothing I have to say this year that remotely rivals last year. Thus, I’d simply like to share a few of my favorite posts I wrote concerning you from last year! Rereading these was super refreshing and a great reminder of why I blog.

You are coming quickly! Hope everyone’s shopping is nearing the end and that you’re gearing up for relatives’ arrivals.

Thankful for memories and truth that don’t change from year to year,

Christmas Reflector

Letter #427: 88 and Counting…

Dear family,

When I talk about gatherings involving you, people don’t believe me. Why would they? Christmas in a basketball gym in order for everyone to fit. Tables upon tables of food. Multiple Dirty Santa games. A visit from Santa. Name tags passed out at the door in order to remember who’s who…oh wait this doesn’t really happen, but I’m thinking of suggesting it because I can’t keep all the great grandchildren (my second cousins) straight!

Some of the largest and dirtiest Dirty Santas to ever be played!
Sisters...Sisters (insert White Christmas scene here!)

Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to introduce you to the Rother clan! When I tell stories about Rother get togethers, I promise I’m not lying. This is us. 88 and counting…five buns in the oven…readers under the age of 50, this means five babies on board! If we’re not careful, we’re going to be at a hundred by Christmas 2012!

Portions of the prayer circle!
NINE children...bless this woman!!
5 Pregnant Cousins!

When I really stop to think about my dad’s side of you, you’re actually quite amazing. You see, my dad’s the oldest of nine. The odds of nine children turning out to be productive citizens isn’t high. They all made it. They’ve all established great families, can support themselves and are just all around good natured folks. Nobody’s in jail. For the most part, people get along, and everyone shows up. You, family, are a priority.

The highlight of the afternoon...Santa's visit (i.e. my dad's youngest brother...and people say the middle child is mistreated!).
Never too old for Santa...

Sure most of us don’t see each other too often. Christmas and weddings are as much of reunions for the whole clan as a celebration of the actual events, yet the connection of you remains. In the midst of the current, broken state of you we see in our world, it’s refreshing to walk into a basketball gym to celebrate Christmas with 88 people who all answer to the same name…family.

88 and counting,

Appreciator of you

P.S. In case you missed it, click here for the post updating you on the $200 giveaway along with four outstanding causes you could help me contribute to. At least check it out.

Letter #426: APT Decor

Dear APT,

You’re looking mighty festive these days if I may say so myself! We’ve been able to up our game just a bit since last Christmas…Considering all we had was our version of the Charlie Brown Christmas tree last year, upping our game wasn’t too difficult!

The stockings were hung by the fire….well, at least they were hung! Nearly every piece of decor was either given or loaned to us! Love seeing people’s generosity. We acquired the tree last year, Mama Roth sent the Country Cousins nativity set (the childhood collectibles my sisters and I loved collecting!), Val’s family sent the wreath and greenery and Val purchased the stockings. You were decorated and ready for Christmas for nearly free! That’s what I’m talking about!

I love Christmas decor, but I’m not in the stage of life where I want or need a full sized tree and super elaborate decorations. In my opinion, you are perfect. Quaint. Simple. Cozy. This is the exact feel I long for in you. Now, if I could just buckle down and finish decorating for everyday life and achieve this without Christmas decorations, you would be perfect.

Welcome to Christmas in the APT

APT dweller

Letter #421: Easy Treats

Dear easy,

When it comes to cooking, I’m always looking for you. Well, you and good, not just you! Judging by the number of these I’ve eaten this weekend, I think I’ve found both!

Pretzels, peppermint Hershey kisses and M&M’s. That’s all you need. Place on a cookie sheet as seen below. Place in the oven at 350 for about three minutes or until they start to melt. Place an M&M in the center. Put in freezer or fridge to cool. Donskie! The result: YOU and delicious!

This weekend resulted in a ton of baking, wrapping, shopping, decorating and homemaking. I look forward to sharing more holiday tricks between now and Christmas, but I figured why not start with the easiest first. Enjoy!

Good tidings (insert snacking here!) they’ll bring to you and your friends,

Easy cooking master

Happy Monday friends! It’s December 12th…Christmas vacation is almost here!!!!