Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Wrapping it up

Do you ever get to the end of a season, and find yourself quite glad it's over?  Yeah, me too.  I think I'm feelin' ready for something a little different...
Kenny and the four older kiddos are in Kansas City for a worship conference.  I have been thoroughly enjoying a simpler pace with only my six youngest.  Yes, it really does feel like a very small family right now!!  We made ourselves a New Year's feast fit for a King.  Or maybe not a King. Maybe more like a tired single Mama and her party-ready un-picky children!  We had all kinds of finger foods and some very loud tooters, much to Michael's dismay.  He is catching on as I type, however.  And I think I hear the Spanish radio station blaring  amidst their yells and laughs right now...I suppose our construction workers are leaving more of a mark than I thought!
Throughout the meal tonight, I asked questions about this last year.  What was delightful? What did God teach you? What was exciting?  And what was hard?  Their eyes met mine at that last question, and I reassured them that even the hard seasons are worth living through. The year was full of blessings, no doubt, but they did not stand alone.  They were intermixed with burdens, pressures, grief, uncertainty, weariness, and fear.  'Because He Lives' is a hymn I grew up singing again and again in my Nazarene church.  
Because He lives
I can face tomorrow
Because He lives,
All fear is gone
Because I know
He holds the future
And life is worth the livin'
Just because He lives.
This past year I  have watched my husband take his post in a more intentional way, and I have observed his ways in dealing with new roles in fatherhood.  I have inwardly carried the burdens of my older boys, watching them wrestle with manly things. I have seen their discouraged eyes, listened to their tough questions, and prayed endlessly for Him to cause them to choose Him in their trials. I have spent a number of nights, sitting in the car with my beautiful 14 year-old daughter, listening to her tearfully try to sort out who she is as a Godly woman in light of her fast changing friends and world. I have started to catch the signs of a rapidly changing 12 year old boy, who is quite ready and willing to plunge into manhood.  And I have basked in the innocence and simplicity of my five youngest children.  I watch them play with the same full heart I did their older siblings, but I hold on longer in my mind, because I know this will not always be. 
Last spring, I wore my fingers to the bone packing, cleaning, arranging, fixing, and painting our sweet home in Castle Rock.  I carried the hurts of my children as I watched them say goodbye to much of their childhood at 170 Johnson Place. I forced myself to smile and keep the family going while living with friends, as I attempted to hold up my children who felt lost and couldn't stop the tears. I made a decision, through God's strong leading, to support my husband better and let him lead when I was sure I knew a better way. *Ahem*...And when I thought I was done, finished, completely worn out and could perhaps start to settle and move forward, I fought my husband inwardly but followed him outwardly, and bought tickets to Africa.  It was well worth it, and I am so happy that I went, but it took every. last. ounce. I had!

And yet, at the end of the day (or year, as it may be), what would we have gained had 2013 been a walk in the park? Certainly not the growth that comes from the hot sun calling us upward. Certainly not the closeness that comes from sharing trials. Certainly not this bigger home and acreage and our beautiful views. Certainly not the meetings with Egide and our other Rwandan brothers and sisters!  Certainly not the strength we didn't know we even had, to persevere. Certainly not the outpouring of generosity from our friends and family, as they all helped us to move and settle in. Certainly not a fresh assessment of our marriage, as it lay weather-beaten and needing care. Certainly not the faith to know the Son is still shining when the clouds have covered our vision. And certainly not more hope in Him, as we realize how our struggles can become that extended hand and word of encouragement when others come behind.

I just finished reading Marie Monville's One Light Still Shines.  Marie was the wife of the man who shot the Amish children in their schoolhouse in 2006.  Her writings have inspired me to look for Him in my days more.  To expect Him to speak and provide, because He does.  To not stay but to walk forward with the hope that our God reigns.  

I am thankful for this past year. I am thankful that my children are choosing God. I am thankful that my husband loves me and is always learning and walking. I am thankful that our extended family has supported us and been friends with us. I am thankful for this home and the neighbors we have yet to know and the beauty around us that calls us to see Him. I am thankful I get to homeschool my children. I am thankful that I am not bound by my mistakes. I am thankful for new beginnings.  For my friends who walk next to me and 'get it'. For my husband's employment.  For the One Who is Worthy.

Whatever may come...

He is faithful!!!!!

Happy New Year to all of our wonderful family and friends!  May the Lord richly bless you all as you seek Him.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Late Night Musings and Sugar Cookies

Not quite sure where my head is these days...Still thinking occasionally of our friends in Rwanda, quite glad to be over the strangeness of jet-lag, and now finding myself thrust into the holidays, baking cookies and reading Advent stories with my beautiful children.

My mom flew back home yesterday, after staying with us for a month.  I have a room full of my young adult children tonight; they all want to talk.  About their fantastic night helping out at Operation Christmas Child.  About their job. About college plans.  About how printers are still as lame as they always have been.  The contractors will be here this week, to hopefully start on the drywall.  We have lovely snow outside, and it's been really cold.

Hoping very much for a bit of normalcy in the next season of our lives.   I don't really know what that means, but it just sounds really good to imagine life outside the whirlwind for a bit! No selling houses, no moving, no remodeling, no international trips. Not for a while, anyway.  Please say yes, dear husband?

Here are some pics from our super-fun cookie decorating day.  I remember when my older children were small, and I most assuredly had an infant and another baby on the way. Oh my goodness, I would make a different Christmas goodie with each child.  All in one day.  And then I would leave the dishes in the sink and drag myself up to my room and play dead for a long, long time.
But we learn, don't we? I'm smarter now.  Only one kind of Christmas goodie at a time!
We like our sugar cookies extra soft around here.  I got this recipe from allrecipes.com

My 76 year-old mother, making the 'pretty' cookies that we'll save for later.  We'll eat the 'creative, interesting, and well-intentioned' ones now!

Emma, in the hat she just knit, with the cookie she just decorated but is about to eat.

We felt sorry for these clowns, so we let them in.

Beautiful Hannah got quite creative this year!

Doesn't this picture just take you back to elementary school?

My quiet watcher, Ellie, ready for Mommy to put down the camera so she can eat 'the prettiest one'.