Weeks in Review: 2014 {Weeks 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, & 52}

Here we are. December 29.  The year is almost over.  The past few weeks have been….interesting.  They’ve been crazy fast and unbelievably long.  It never really felt like Christmas and yet Christmas is over.  We celebrated three birthdays, and also enjoyed several Christmas celebrations since I last reviewed.  Time flies.  Except when it doesn’t.

Early November brought the return of Matt and Emma from Haiti and led straight in to planning and preparations for birthdays and Christmas celebrations.

We celebrated Ellie’s birthday first with the Pinterest fail of the year.  I was attempting to make a rainbow cake.  It didn’t work out so well.  (hahahahaha)

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Next up was Thanksgiving and some wonderful celebrations with family (and a few exciting games of Nerts here at home).

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Grace adopted a bunny.  His name is Timothy.  And he’s quite possibly the cutest thing ever.

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We celebrated Emma’s 13th birthday.  She opted to make her own cake.  I have no idea why?!?!?!

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We wrapped up the kitchen project, 98% of the way anyway.  Which, if you do many DIY projects like this, you know that’s as far as they ever get until it’s time to move.  The transformation is unbelievable.  We’re even a little shocked when we go back and look at pictures of what it was just three months ago.

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And then there was the #TeamNovember party for the Haiti team.  Ugly Christmas sweaters abounded.  As did food and laughter and friends new and old.

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Then we hit the final week of school, and crunch time for Christmas prep and shopping.  Up to this point we had been in kitchen and party mode 110%, so ten days out from Christmas I had done next to nothing in that department.  So, a day at the coffee shop to think and browse and organize uninterrupted, plus the magic of Amazon Prime and Christmas went off almost seamlessly.  (One child’s gift to me didn’t make it until the day after Christmas, but such is life.)  The girls and I celebrated the end of shopping and the end of the semester with cupcakes at a local shop.  Hurray!

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Last, but not least, we celebrated Matt’s birthday over the weekend.  He and I snuck away to Kansas City overnight where we talked about the past several weeks and looked ahead to next year.  We met some dear friends for late night refreshments and came away from the weekend feeling more connected to each other than we have in weeks.  He ended his birthday with an exciting case of the stomach flu (along with two of our girls; another one had had it two days before Christmas).  Fortunately it was fast moving and everyone was well again by the next day. I am beyond blessed to be married to the man that I am, and the past several weeks have reminded me of that.

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The beauty of the last seven or eight weeks have been heavily clouded by the return of a very dark season for me personally.  The sun, I’m pretty sure, didn’t shine at all for several weeks, and that never helps.  But some personal struggles in our home opened my heart and mind up to a season of confusion and doubt that I haven’t experienced in a very long time.  The Lord used my time away with Matt and some of our conversations, along with the prayers of a few dear friends, to lift that veil and peace and joy have returned to my heart and mind, and for that I am endlessly thankful.

I will close with the gifts I have listed over the past several weeks, along with another picture of Timothy, just because he’s so darn cute.

3081.  75* —> 35*; goodbye fall, hello winter

3082.  strange, long weeks; wrestling with attitudes and self-doubt; my God who is greater than all of it

3083.  soul baring talks on date night

3084.  raking leaves in the snow

3085.  bread and wine, laughter, prayer, and friends

3086.  blankets, heating pads, hot coffee – warmth on bitterly cold days

3087.  Timothy the bunny

3088.  a heart that longs for more

3089.  my big, big God

3090.  hard weekends, long talks, relationships restored

3091.  my Ellie turning 9

3092.  kitchen mess that means kitchen progress

3093.  nights to lie awake praying

3094.  Thanksgiving celebrations – food, family, laughter

3095.  words of grace, hope, and courage on a Monday morning

3096.  feeling tired and empty, running to Jesus

3097.  reconnecting with old friends

3098.  “Friendsgiving” and laughing til our sides hurt

3099.  a God who knows how my heart aches and is worn and weary and who folds me in His love

3100.  Emma turning 13 – the gift of her

3101.  a tree, lit and decorated

3102.  our 12th annual company Christmas party

3103.  continuing to wrestle

3104.  finally laying it all at God’s feet

3105.  peace

3106.  a good week

3107.  the end of the semester

3108.  the start of something new

3109.  celebrating the birth of Christ

3110.  answers to prayer and conversations that finally bring peace, restore trust

3111.  celebrating my beloved

3112.  the grace of God and essential oils that held off the stomach flu (for some of us at least)

That’s it for us right now.  I pray that your New Year is wonderful and filled with joy and hope.  But even if it’s not, we know that God is faithful and He is good.

For His Glory ~

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When you just need to embrace the struggle….

It’s five days til Christmas.  One Christmas movie has been watched.  Our Advent calendar sits, lagging chronically three days behind.  So does our Ann Voskamp Greatest Gift book.  We haven’t baked a single Christmas cookie or even thought about a gingerbread house.  We’re probably skipping the church light show.  The presents are just now bought, wrapped, and under the tree.  And I’ve barely played any Christmas music.  Pinterest and the competitive moms would say I’ve failed.  Some days it feels that way.

For my whole life it seems, Christmas has been my favorite holiday.  The lights.  The joy.  The wonder.  The gifts.  (Gift receiving is a love language.  Just ask Gary Chapman.)  But the past three Christmases I have learned the beauty of the struggle that surrounds the season.  That all isn’t merry and bright, but Jesus came to bring light and be light in a dark and lonely world.

But there is part of me that wants to skip it.  Just skip the season all together, like I want to skip January every year.  To just keep rolling along with school and business and life.  To not stop and see how perfect everything could be and realize just how imperfect and broken it really is.  Because the imperfect and broken just hurt.  And who wants to hurt during the most wonderful time of the year?

But this tension, this struggle, if we yield to them, they can open our eyes up even more to Jesus and the reason we celebrate the season at all.  We can lean hard into Him and lay all of our burdens down.  And He will meet us where we are and whisper truth and hope and good news.

And as I sit here, five days before Christmas, alone in my kitchen quiet, I can dwell on the darkness that has been the past seven weeks. I can focus on the lies that Satan speaks in the dark and the truth he doesn’t want us to see.  I can look at all the things undone, unsaid, forgotten, because when do we ever get it all right.  I can dwell on how my heart aches some days or how far away God can feel.  Or I can fix my eyes on the soft glow of the lights, the lights that twinkle hope and point us to the Light of the world.  I can fix my eyes on the tree that reminds me of the wood that made a manger where my Jesus was laid and that one day made a cross where my Jesus died.  I can fix my eyes on the beauty of the gifts all around me.  Not just the ones under the tree, but everywhere, the gifts that He never stops giving, if only we will open our eyes to see them.  And I can remember that just as a baby is not born without struggle, without pain, Christmas brings its own tension to draw us closer to the Jesus that we struggle to celebrate.

For His Glory ~

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Thirteen: Take Two

Ten days ago she turned thirteen.  We celebrated the gift of her with cake and song and laughter, but I never celebrated with words.

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Emma Joy is a blessing to our family.  A true second born, she is often striving to differentiate herself just a bit from everyone else.  Her passions include soccer, the Kansas Jayhawks, Doctor Who, 80’s music, and baking.  Her dry, witty sense of humor is often unexpected, coming from this seemingly quiet, reserved girl.  She excels in the kitchen with anything involving the words “bake” and “dessert”, and she even volunteered to make her own birthday cake.  (Which isn’t all that surprising, considering the Rainbow Cake fiasco.  More on that another time, if you missed it on Facebook.)  She rocked that cake and I decided I will never bake again.

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This year brought Emma’s first opportunity to travel to Haiti and she worked hard and the Lord provided as she raised money (by baking) to pay her way.  I was so encouraged as her Mama to watch the Lord bless her efforts and watch her rise to the challenge.  And since then, her own outpouring of generosity has shown God’s work in her heart.

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Emma is steady, but in a different way from her older sister.  She is becoming very good at finding hidden things that need to be done.  Trash taken out.  Stray items picked up.  A sister read to.  She is reliable and another girl I can depend on to get things done.  She is such a gift and continually becoming a true “joy” to me.

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Happy thirteenth, Emma.  Welcome to the teen years.  May God richly bless you and may you continue to seek Him and follow hard after Him in all that you do.

Love,

Mom