SWEET '16 – PART I
Happy New Year from our family to yours! Christmas cards are a big deal in our family. There is always a theme, a topical tie in and a poem. Every year we think, "Maybe this year we won’t do it," but then it always comes together at the end, and we end up sending one out. This year, we KNEW we needed to send one out, and of course it had to be a New Years card. This New Year marks the end of our toughest year to date. We wanted to ring Sweet 2016 in right, starting with our annual family card. This card is the manifestation of how we kept dancing through the holidays, and how we will continue to embrace this year ahead with joy and no fear. We also knew how sad the card would be. Not having Jules actually a part of the planning is sad. The whole idea of sending a card out with a picture that doesn't include Julia is sad. But we continue to carry her mantel of bravery knowing she would want us to share what we went through this year and how we are continuing to find joy in the midst of our tragedy.
The front picture was taken at a Great Gatsby birthday party 4 days before Julia passed away. Our last family photo. The inside picture was taken the day after Thanksgiving when we went to Malibu Wines (part of our new traditions). True to form, Dad wrote an incredible poem that is included below:
All that “important stuff” can immediately mean less
When you’re going through some unimagined stress.
On July 7th this truth was especially brought home,
As we listened to a late night call on the phone.
Jules was in an accident was all they could say.
We needed to come quick…come what may.
With dread in our heart we traveled the road,
Knowing that the time of night was a heavy forebode.
Our fears were confirmed in a little side room.
After listening to the news, wailing was all we could do.
The trip home in the dark had no previous rules.
It was the agonizing beginning of a life without Jules.
So many people gathered, prayed and showered us in love.
All those amazing prayers were directed from above.
Jules was remembered for her wit, cool, loyalty and no fear.
We were comforted by everyone who, with us, shed a tear.
Her 30th birthday was celebrated with lots of prancing.
Great food, music, drinks, balloons and of course…dancing!
She was one of a kind and we miss her with our entire heart.
But God is good and without Him we’d fall apart.
Life is precious as we love one another each day.
Along with loving God, what else matters anyway?
This card is kind of maudlin and being uncool we have no cure.
We don’t think Jules would have mailed it, actually we’re really quite sure.
She would have used her time to help others find their dream.
And for her, “I keep dancing” would be the best theme.
So the website “ikeepdancing.com” keeps Jules spirit alive
And even in severe difficulties, can provide hope to thrive.
So please check it out when you’re thinking of Jules.
She would be the first to say, “Start dancing back to school!”
We are blessed by you all and thankful for the love you bring.
Love is what we all gained by the birth of our King.
God wrote himself into our story so we will persevere
And we pray you and your family have aHappy New Year!
The Gardner family
As we look forward to 2016, we share some thoughts below:
To put it mildly, 2015 was the most painful year of my life so far. I don't want to say "worst year," because through this pain I've experienced many beautiful moments, and have found strength that I never knew I had. I'm still putting back the pieces, and in many ways each day is harder trying to figure out who I am without my sister Julia on this earth. But I'm thankful for my faith, family, and friends who have helped to pick me up when I didn't want to move (special thank you to my husband Ben). I don't know if 2016 will bring joy or pain, probably both, but I'm not afraid to face whatever is coming, and I'm thankful for being here to experience it! Every day I'm learning to embrace my fears and choose to dance through a new year whatever it may bring.
I always make New Year’s resolutions. Examples include, but not limited to, going to the gym three times a week, eating salads every Wednesday, reading through the whole Bible in a year, creating x amount of paintings in x amount of months... I can’t tell you any goal that I actually achieved. They are all so lofty!
Last year on New Year's Eve, Julia, Katie and I planned a party at my parents' house with our whole family and some friends. It was one of my all time favorite New Year's. At the end of the night, tired from dancing and still a little tipsy, we all went around the room and said our New Year's resolutions. Jules said she wanted to work really hard in school and focus on learning more about wine. Katie and I were reminiscing about last year's NYE at this year's NYE, and just felt so joyful knowing that Julia actually achieved that! She worked her butt off in school, and she was continuing her wine education. She got a new job at the amazing restaurant Ecco, and was the happiest we had ever seen her. Her goals were practical and tangible, and have inspired me to make some of my own this year.
My thought for Sweet 2016 is to be more resourceful. To use what I already have and get rid of things I don't need: clothes, food, gadgets, kitchen stuff, etc. When you go through tragedy, especially losing a loved one, death is all too real and the "things" of this life don't really hold weight anymore. With that being said, I haven't changed many habits of mine, and clutter still continues to rear its head. This year, I want to shift my mindset to live with less and simplify my possessions.
I am reading Maria Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing”. Since Julia’s accident, I am very aware of what brings me peace. I seek it out. First, it is getting deep into God’s word and having morning prayer and meditation. Second, it is a peaceful, uncluttered, organized house. If my house is clean and peaceful and tidy, I am peaceful and have less anxiety. Since I work from home, this is even more crucial! With this book she lays out simple methods to not only clean your house one time, but how to keep it that way.
For once my resolution isn't an unattainable goal that make me feel like a failure if I don’t achieve it. I am praying this year brings peace in the midst of chaos, and that we enjoy all of our sweet time with family and friends! Yay for Sweet 2016!
Look out on Thursday 1/7 for Sweet '16 – Part II that will include Stephie's reflection on 2015 and thoughts about 2016.