Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Letter 2014

I have to admit.  I feel a bit old-fashioned when I sit down to type out a Christmas letter.  Is it me or is it the letter?  A dinosaur? Extinct?  Or how about a Black-footed ferret?  They’re cuter anyway and aren’t completely extinct.  So outdated or not, I embrace it all- remembering bits of our year, wondering where it went, sharing it with you like a visit I’d much rather have in person. The only thing that would make this deal better is if you’d write me back.

Julia will be 13 next month and I wonder, did someone come during the night and switch out my child with a young lady?  It was SO fast. And here we are— blazing new trails in parenting. I am very thankful for her sweet, patient demeanor {mostly—-she does have a little brother} and her willingness to help me with just about anything.  She continues piano lessons and ballet.  She had her first ballet recital “en pointe” this year as one of the Indians in Peter Pan.  We heard the drum beat in our heads- or our chests- for weeks.  A few of her favorite things are reading, shopping, family dates, and being with friends.  She tends to be our saver {of money} but she’s caught the clothes bug. {I had nothing to do with that.}  She’s also learned the thrill of a bargain. {I had NOTHING to do with that either.}

Brighton just turned 11 in October and his neck has been hurting for about six months. If you have an elementary boy, you know exactly why.  Yes— the hair.  Swooping that hair over “just so” has given him chronic whiplash.  Raw evidence that even boys suffer for beauty.  He continues to bless our family with enthusiasm for life and his unique words of affection for each of us.  His desire for fun every minute of every day doesn’t mix so well with school but somehow he manages to make it through. Alive.  However, sometimes that puts me on the phone with Jeff on the floor of my closet eating chocolate.  Brighton continues piano lessons and plays whatever sport is in season.  A few of his favorite things are, well, all of Julia’s EXCEPT reading and add video games. {I gave it my all, people.}  And yes, shopping. The boy can spend some money.

We are grateful for the 400+ Reading Coaches working through Tarrant NET with Read2Win!  The coaches are blessing the first graders in the Fort Worth school district by helping them master their reading skills before second grade.  We started our 3rd school year in October and are super encouraged by the results and feedback from the schools.  Our prayer is that the schools will feel loved and cared for by the churches in their communities by being served in this and other ways.

We celebrated my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary this year and that was such an amazing weekend seeing my parents being loved on by so many special people— many of whom are reading this letter.  Thank you for being such great friends— and family— to my parents.  Way to go, Mom and Dad!

You are kind to read because it means that you care about my family and that’s something.  A BIG something.  I don’t take that granted so thank you.  Thank you for your kindness and generosity in the past, through the years and for right now.  I am blessed to know you.
Merry, merry Christmas.

Truly He taught us to love one another, His law is love and His gospel is peace!

Behold your King!  Before Him lowly bend.

O Holy Night,  O night divine!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Parenting: My Apples, His Basket

Happy Almost Christmas Break!  Counting down the days over here.  I started this post LAST week and well, you know, it’s December.  I put it aside to feed my family or something important like that, I am sure.  I am SO enjoying getting all the cards in the mail, seeing everyone’s photos, how the children have grown and the creative ways we are wished a Merry Christmas!  The mailbox is NEVER as much fun as it is during the month of December.  I got mine out over the weekend— a homemade job with a tripod and a remote control.  I really TRIED to have a bonafide photographer to “make” our picture {that was for you, House Full of Boys}, but I really just waited too late.  I debated on the letter but that argument in my head will probably happen every year just like it has happened every year before this one.  As the kids get older, the harder the letter is to write.  There is a fine line between “Read how incredibly awesome my kids are” and “Read this completely boring update on my family”.  Maybe the line is not so fine— but it’s hard to fall somewhere between “sleep aid” and “informative, not braggy and worth the read”.  Anyway, it’s out there and of course, after I’ve sent out “x” number, I begin to second guess even the smallest lines in the letter.

I’ve had this conversation with a handful of friends over the last few months and I was thinking of those when I put in my letter that as Julia reaches being a teenager, we are blazing new trails in parenting.  Not that parents have never raised teenagers before- duh— but that as parents in 2014, the smart phone era, high heels in the children’s department {thongs (!!!!!!!??!!} among other things}, the ever-expanding social media creature, Wifi access everywhere we turn and on and on and on— I FEEL like we ARE blazing trails never trod before— and NEXT year will look different from THIS year.  I’ve spoken with parents not much farther along than we are who really can’t speak to the decisions we have to make regarding JUST social media.  Even Instagram isn’t what it was just a year ago.  Obviously, different parents will make different choices for their kids — that will always be— but I can’t even seem to find a small consistency among my favorite parents, like a pattern or a trusty formula.  {Formulas are so comforting but SO NOT good in parenting.}  So this post is not about “8 things to consider before giving your kids a smart phone or high heels, or wear makeup or play popular video games, or have an Instagram account, or have Wifi in their rooms or watch a certain show or read a certain book series— and a gajillion other things ” because, you know what?  That wears me out and my energy needs to be spent elsewhere.

Their hearts.  That’s where.  That wellspring of life King Solomon talks about.  {“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” Proverbs 4:23}  What springs up from that well today and 5, 10, 30 years from now is a REALLY big deal.  I don’t know about you but it’s so much easier to just tell them to stop— because it’s annoying- or just say “No” to whatever it is they want— because it’s, well, annoying  —rather than engaging their hearts to find out what is really going on and from where the desire is coming or from what does the disobedience stem?  Who has time for that during the school morning rush, or between afternoon activities— or who has the energy for that after dinner is cooked and the kitchen is clean or after the game or practice or at bedtime?  But that’s the work of parenting, yes?  It’s those moments- when I know it’s a heart issue- that I have to “self preach” and remind myself that I signed up for this and investing the time in conversations that make a bee line for the heart COULD be a game changer.  Every time I stop and do MORE THAN just put an end to a behavior, more than just dole out a consequence for disobedience or more than attempt to suppress an unhealthy desire will NOT make difference, but some stops will.  The ones that touch the heart will.  {Just a little pressure to always be on our A-game, right?}  How about, instead, a little encouragement for dependency on Christ 24/7?  And that’s where I am today— trusting in my Savior to do His work.  I can’t make them see how the gospel intersects their lives EVERYDAY.  I can’t change the heart.  I can’t form repentance.  Oh, but He can and I am counting on Him.  All my apples are going into His basket.  {I am self preaching, here, in case you were wondering.}

I remember moving out of the rental house on Clover and being MOR.TI.FIED at the amount of stuff under Julia’s trundle bed.  Oh, yes, there were onlookers.  Mounds, I tell you.  I am not sure how it all was under there but in the midst of the plunder/trash, I saw my handwriting— lots of it on a couple of sheets of paper.  It was a letter I had written to her in response to something hard she had shared with me.  Friends— this letter was a spectacular parenting moment— I mean, right up there with the likes of James Dobson or Vicki Courtney.  I nailed it. Thought so anyway.  And that day, it was trash under the bed, most likely, never to be read, or thought of, again.

It reminds me of HOW dependent I am on the Holy Spirit’s work in my kids’ lives.  I blur the lines so often— trying to BE the Spirit for them, attempting to change outward behavior, pushing them towards the Word—not that we can’t, as parents, encourage our kids to read God’s Word, but one day, I trust I will see them HUNGER and THIRST for His Word from their own soul.  Not mine. All on their own.  His Word can do the work we, their parents, cannot even fathom.  Greater.  Higher.  More profound.  Gentler.  Kinder.  Stronger.  More beautiful.  Bolder.  More fruit than we could ever ask for or imagine.  To HIM be the glory and honor.  He is good.

My apples.  His basket.  Absolutely.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Stay With Me

There’s a little private mourning going on over here that Thanksgiving week is over.  It’s a highly anticipated week in our home-- a break from school for ALL of us, Funday Monday, Operation Christmas Child shopping, no bedtimes, hosting neighbors for the Caramel Apple Party on Wednesday night, friends around our table for Thanksgiving, thankful cards under our pillows, Georgia/ Georgia Tech game and decorating the house for the most significant birthday ever!  We played all week and by Saturday night, we could barely keep our eyes open past 9 o’clock!  And it’s over.  Sigh.

Decorating on Friday, the day we FINALLY get to turn on the Christmas music, I was amped up for it because Julia was ready to help me-- once she made it out of bed.  After about 2 hours, I felt I was moving in molasses.  I had no zip in my zap.  Nada.  We decorated last year after being in the house for 3 weeks but expectations were low on my end so we just put stuff out and we were just thrilled to be decorated.  This year I needed to do it right- to figure out where our favorite things would go.  Molasses.

Then Saturday came-- the day we put up the tree.  The day we consider easy and fun.  All yuletide merry came to a screeching halt. I think it’s fair to say I started testing sections of our pre-lit tree around 12 {about half time of the game} and after a sort of diffused argument, pulling out a gazillion bulbs with my thumbnail, a few tears in the bathroom- no child needs to see their mother CRY over Christmas lights, a horrible Bulldog loss, a phone call to an Christmas lights seasoned friend, a trip to Home Depot, it was all lit by 6.  Can I just say I have a whole new respect for my husband?  After switching out fuses-- which NEVER works-- and even changing out plugs-- yes, with bare wires and electrical tape-- he comes home with something that looks like a cross between a glue gun and a pistol, we were able to RE-light all three of the four sections.  It’s called a LightKeeper Pro.  Oh. My. Gosh.  It solved all of our problems.  Tedious work but it eventually found the culprit and voila!  Light!  A Christmas miracle!  I kissed him after every strand came back on.  LightKeeper Pro.  Husbands, be the hero and go get one now.

But that drama stirred me up.  I cried in the bathroom, people.  Over lights.  A new perspective needed to be birthed!

You know the little move with your two fingers pointing at your eyes and you go back and forth between yours and the direction of someone else’s -- well, if it didn’t seem irreverent for Jesus to do this, I think that’s what He’s doing with me this first day of December-- reminding me He sees me {and my lists} and not to lose focus over the next 25 days-- to “Keep it right here between you and Me.  Stay with Me."

It’s every year.  These lists.  This messy calendar.  The shopping.  The weird things we cook.  Time spent.  Money spent.  Lalalalalalalalala--people write about this all the time.  But don’t we need to be reminded all the time?  We are celebrating HIS birth, HIS coming, God’s putting into motion His rescue plan for all of mankind.  God knew the rescue plan since before the foundation of the world but we celebrate Luke 2:6, "While [Joseph and Mary] were there, the time came for the baby to be born.”  THE time.  It was THE time for His plan to be revealed.  We get to relive it and celebrate it!  God had been silent for so long and then Gabriel surprised Mary that day with such mysterious news  and then Zechariah in the temple that day with news about his son, John.  It’s such a wonderful story to tell, to hear, to ponder.  Every. Year.

If you haven’t started anticipating His arrival with your family, I encourage you to do so! Grab an Advent book or look up Scriptures that foretell His arrival.  Louie Giglio’s “Waiting Here for You: An Advent Journey of Hope” or “Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus” edited by Nancy Guthrie.  Ann Voskamp just came out with a beautiful one for children, "Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas”, and then there is Elyse Fitzpatrick’s "Counting the Days, Lighting the Candles: A Christmas Advent Devotional” and a favorite, “The Advent Book” by Jack and Kathy Stockman.

Make the most of this Christmas season.  Whittle it down as much as you can.  I’ve missed Him before and I don’t want to miss Him again.

I bet just like with me, He’s saying to you, “Keep it right here between you and Me. Stay with Me." When December is over, you’ll be glad you did.