December 18th was my wedding anniversary. My husband and I would have been married forty-six years. Sounds like a lifetime to most people I talk with these days. Turns out…it was. Tom died three years ago from injuries he sustained in a bicycle accident. Many of my readers know that. What you may not realize is that he died only weeks before our wedding anniversary. But this isn’t a story about loss. It is a story about gain. About resiliency. A story about love, and care, and friendship. A story about connecting.
|My wedding anniversary is exactly|
one week before Christmas.
The Palm Tree
Three weeks after Tom’s death, my oldest daughter and I went to a “grieving through the holidays” session at a local church. A woman there offered to pray with us. We held hands and she prayed. As she neared the end of her prayer, she asked God to bring an image of a palm tree to us whenever we were hurting. Allison and I glanced at each other. A palm tree? Even the woman who prayed couldn’t tell us where that came from.
We got in the car and laughed out loud. A palm tree? How silly. Allison told her sisters about our experience and for Christmas that year my tree was decorated with a wide variety of handmade palm tree ornaments. Okay, a few looked more like telephone poles, but the sentiment was there.
A strange thing happened. Palm trees seemed to show up everywhere. We didn’t take them as “a sign” or anything, but they were certainly great conversation starters.
Then a year and a half ago I heard a message about the palm tree. The minister said we need a “palm tree kind of faith.” I grew up in Florida. I knew what he meant. A palm tree is deeply rooted. It has an almost cable-like network for a trunk. When hurricanes come through Florida, it’s not unusual to see a palm tree bend almost completely over in the high winds yet never break.
That’s the message of the palm tree. We need to be deeply rooted in the Word and we need to be strongly connected to others who believe. Then when the storms of life come at us, we bend but we don’t break.
|The precious people I have met in Kosovo|
have embraced me with such a fierce love, I never feel alone.
So what does this have to do with Kosovo?
That first year after losing Tom I recognized our anniversary by having some of my dearest friends over to Christmas carol at my house. Now it is a tradition. My friends have been there with me through so much and I love them.
This year I received messages from some of my American friends along with emails and texts from my family as that special day drew near.
They were quick to connect because I am living in Kosovo now, some 6000 miles from home. I wasn’t sure what I would do on December 18th this year. In the end, I decided to keep the tradition. I opened my home to some of my newfound friends.
It was wonderful.
These precious people have embraced me with such a fierce love, I never feel alone.
They brought food.
My friend brought her cello.
We all sang and laughed and ate the evening away.
I shared with my friends the story of the palm tree. And I shared with them the newest ornament for my collection.
|Grace made this ornament for my tree.|
Now that is a good friend.
One made by my friend and colleague, Grace.
|My friend, David Hargrave arrived in Pristhtina|
just in time for the party! What a blessing.
Of course he's here to see his family, but the timing was perfect.
Dave has yet to miss one of my caroling parties!
Join me as I spend these next months in Kosova (the Albanian pronunciation for Kosovo) in Southeastern Europe. Each week I share my experiences. Leave your comments and questions below. I’ll try to address each as best I can.