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1 day: the Christmas card dilemma

December 24, 2014

We have very simple Team Stevens Christmas traditions. Tonight, my kiddos will open new pajamas, and receive another bird ornament to add to their collection. Every year, our children get bird ornaments of their favorite birds. Someday when they have homes of their own, they will have a tree decorated beautifully with their bird ornaments from us and the Hallmark ornaments lovingly mailed each year from their grandparents.

The bird tradition started quite by accident when the boys were very tiny, and it actually started because of one of Sawyer’s godmothers gave him the most beautiful cardinal ornament that year for Christmas. Reed was so enamored with it we decided to try to find an ornament for him as well, but of his favorite bird, the blue jay. Every year since then, each child receives their chosen bird as an ornament.

My last elf workshop project this Christmas was to make their ornaments. Some years are store bought, but earlier this summer I found these adorable patterns and knew these were exactly the perfect gift.

 bird ornaments

Notice I still make or buy Reed an ornament each year. I just cannot bring myself to not do it. My heart would ache too much. I face the same dilemma when making Christmas cards. How do we take a picture knowing that he cannot be there? Some of our friends who have lost children simply choose not to send cards because they cannot bear to not put their child’s name on the letter or card. If I have said it once, I have said it a thousand times: the saddest day will be the day when no one says Reed’s name again.

We have the best friends in the whole world, and while that fear has a small flame flickering, my heart knows that all of the people in our lives would extinguish that fire with showers of love. And if we really keep our eyes open, the veil between heaven and earth is lifted just for a moment, and we have a God whisper right in our mist.

We wanted to do something kind to give back for all the kindnesses given to us in 2008. So we had these cards made to tell of just one of the encounters our family has had when heaven didn’t feel so far away.

The cardinal is a beautiful bird with a gorgeous red plumage and an equally inviting song. There is an old legend that says that the cardinal was once a white bird, in fact as white as snow. The cardinal came to the cross on Calvary’s hill and sang to Jesus at the base of his cross. The cardinal sang with all its might to his Maker and Master. During his song, Jesus’ blood dripped onto his feathers, and henceforth the male cardinal has been his brilliant red color.

As many of you know, our children have received every year a bird Christmas ornament. Each of the children receives a different bird that has some significance to their lives. Reed received the blue jay because he loved to watch the blue jays eat sunflowers outside his bedroom window. Sawyer has the cardinal because he received a gift from his godparents that had a cardinal on it, and he loved it. Erin has the chickadee, because Kandy was so excited to have a little “chick” in the house. Cloie gets the American goldfinch because while pregnant with her a goldfinch came to the family’s feeders for the first time. Each of the children’s birds had visited our feeders except for the cardinal. No matter how many different ways we tried, we just couldn’t get a cardinal to our backyard.

So then the most unspeakable horror happened to our family. We were deep in the midst of our grief when the most improbable and impossible thing occurs. On exactly one month following Reed’s death, a male cardinal landed in our backyard tree (with no feeders filled) and he started singing the most beautiful song our ears could hear. But it took the faith of a young man to realize what miracle has happened. Sawyer realized that it is a message from Reed to tell us that he is doing just fine in Jesus’ arms. See Reed knew exactly which bird to have Jesus send to get our attention. He also knew how deeply hurt Sawyer was at that point in our journey and he knew which bird would be the one, that above all other birds, Sawyer needed to see. (It probably didn’t hurt that he sent a bird that was his favorite color.) Well, some may call it coincidence, but we choose to

Believe in Miracles!

Thank you for being a special part of our family this year!

Ever since that first appearance, the cardinal has become our family’s connection to heaven. He also seems to appear when our friends and family need him as well. We have countless stories, some we have told and others we have not, where the cardinal has visited us when we needed it the most. Each one buoying our spirits and regenerating our hope in God eternal!

It took us a while to decide what we wanted to do for the picture this year for our family Christmas card. Faith – Family – Football is more than a motto. Truly the way we live our lives; so in honor of Sawyer’s last year of competitive football as a player, we chose his current and former #74 jerseys.

The best laid plans are often waylaid by weather on the prairie. Once we made up our minds, we had to wait for a semi-decent day to take the picture. We waited and waited . . . for what seemed like weeks. When the moment arose, we had to sneak away from unexpected company to snap a few shots before the last of the remaining sunlight faded away.

laker fans

Then it happened . . . heaven’s veil was lifted yet again.

Stepping out into Reed’s garden, we decided that was the best we could do to include him. We would take the picture on hallowed ground where Reed once had grand adventures with his siblings. When we set up to snap some fun pics of our favorite player and his fans, the plumage of red feathers came zipping by. Their faces were priceless! Mom, did you just see that? The tears streaming down my face was all the answer they needed. I continued to shoot their pictures while the cardinal zipped in and out of where they were standing.  Just like that, we were bathed in the wonder and amazement of God’s creation and love.

We needn’t have worried at all! He is always here, mostly in our hearts and memories and on a few very beautiful, God-breathed moments in our midst.

flying cardinal

A friend sent me this picture. I wish I could find the original source to credit the photographer.

Even all these years later, we are still choosing to believe in miracles!

May the Miracle of Christmas capture your heart now and forever!

With love from all of Team Stevens

  1. Kathy Olson permalink

    I love this story and BELIEVE that Reed is reminding you of his and God’s love for you whenever you are in need! Thank you for sharing and blessings to your family!

    • Thank you, Kathy! I agree wholeheartedly! It is such a blessing when we use our eyes to see those tiny little messages of love!

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