Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Year in Review

Today all of the Christmas decorations went back into the attic, and the tree is naked in the backyard. Evidence that this is the end of the year. You would think that the calendar would be enough evidence, but, for me, the end of the year is usually marked by putting away all the Christmas stuff. It made me think through the past year, and I realized that a lot has taken place in these 12 months. Here's a recap.

1. We moved. Not far, but the moving did happen. And our new house is fantastic, even if we did give up our beautiful lake view to get it.

2. Lily turned into a little person. It has been so much fun (and exhausting) to watch that toddler grow into a chatterbox of a little girl.

3. Compassion happened. I'm not really sure how else to put that. We added a little Guatemalan princess to our family in April, and things just steamrolled from there. I'm so glad we were obedient in that rather small thing that led to three more children in our family and a little advocacy with the organization, too. I wouldn't give up my four far away children for anything.

4. As preschool ended for Kayla, we opted to homeschool for Kindergarten. We haven't regretted it at all. It has been amazing to watch her eyes light up when she realizes that she's learned something new, and I can't imagine letting a stranger have those moments.

5. In July, we celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary. Date nights have happened more regularly and communication has flowed better than ever. This year of marriage may be the best yet. Not sure what that itch is all about.

6. We lost Sonny's grandfather this year, and that was the hardest thing of the year. It was hard all on its own, knowing that no one is going to see this amazing man on this side of Heaven, but it also led me to grieve again for the grandparents we have already lost.

7. There was an amazing and relaxing vacation in September where we went to St. Augustine and watched tortoises everyday and I even got to feed a dolphin with my Kayla Roo.

8. After all of these years, I also finally read through the Bible. As a word of warning, reading all of the Word will lead to things like point 3. There were a few months when I completely fell of the wagon, but I did manage to finish.

I'm generally opposed to New Years resolutions. They tend to be a setup for failure for me. I do have a few aspirations and things that I feel like God is working on with me. I feel like 2012 will be a year for me to love more. There's to be less complaining, judgement, and criticism and this needs to start right here in my house and work its way outward. There will be more and deeper Bible reading with more fasting times, too that I am convinced will help with the loving part. I think I want to take a day at the beginning of each month to evaluate how things are going instead of just letting myself get into "survival mode" where I just try to make it through. During these times, I plan to ask myself what I'm doing to love more.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Celebration Envy

I have a confession to make. I'm a little bit of a Christmas junkie. All of it. Well, most of it. I'm not into the whole "no presents if you're naughty" threat, and we've tried to make Santa seem a little less like a deity. But other than that, I eat, sleep, and breathe Christmas starting sometime in November and ending whenever Sonny decides that the tree must come down, usually around New Year's Day. I love buying presents, decorating the tree, setting up nativities, listening to nothing but Christmas music (as long as I get to pick the songs), stuffing stockings, baking Christmas goodies, finding Christmas lights, watching Christmas movies, and advent calendars. The whole nine yards. Therefore, it shouldn't surprise you that regular schooling, whatever that is, has been interrupted around our house. We've talked about different aspects of Christmas since the first week in December, and we will continue through next week.

This week we've been talking about Christmas around the world.We started with countries that would be significant to Kayla, Guatemala, the Philippines, and Ethiopia. Kayla's favorite thing about Christmas in Guatemala was that, while some children do receive presents under the tree, others find gifts under their pillow. I mean, she liked it to the point that we will be doing it this year! My favorite part was that in the more country regions, families take Mary and Joseph figures to different houses starting around December 16 and ending on Christmas Eve, when they usually have a big celebration and add baby Jesus to their creche. So cool. Here are some other things that we found.

- the Philippines - There's church at midnight on Christmas Eve and a big feast after where the grandparents, Lolo and Lola give gifts to the children, instead of Santa.

- Several countries we've talked about set off fireworks, including China.

- In the Congo, children make Christmas gifts for Jesus. Then during the offering time at their Christmas church service, they march around a table and lay their gifts there. That was my favorite thing this week.

- In Saudi Arabia, where Christianity is not celebrated in public, Christians celebrate with their families. On Christmas Eve, one child will read the Christmas story from the Bible while everyone else holds lighted candles.

- In Ethiopia, Christmas (or Ghenna)  is a huge play day. The women all gather and cook big breads where they also have time to laugh and talk while the young men play games. My favorite part is the high regard they give to the wise men, since it is believed that one of them was Balthasar from Ethiopia.

And we still have other countries to read about over the weekend. Kayla and I have loved it. However, it has given me a good bit of envy. Most of these countries celebrate Christmas in ways that seem much more . . . celebratory, for lack of a better word. It doesn't seem to be all rush and wishlists. Don't misunderstand me, I'm a fan of the wishlist. But it seems like some of these countries are celebrating the birth of Jesus in ways that make a lot more sense than the ways I celebrate the exact same thing. I really didn't bargain for learning this much during my second round of Kindergarten.

Monday, December 05, 2011

But even if He doesn't . . .

I've finally gotten to the book of Daniel in my Bible in a year plan. One that I'm quite far behind on, by the way. Months behind schedule. I'm always struck by Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego's statement to the king when he's threatening them with the fiery furnace.“King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18) I thought about that and wondered how many times I've prayed that way. I don't think it's been often. I'm pretty sure any prayers that even resemble their statement could be easily counted on one hand.

Then there was a scheduled well child check at the doctor's office and a scheduling of the test that little kid nightmares are made of. Adult nightmares, too when you've been in that radiology room before and had a horrible experience. Well, today was the test. I felt prayed up and prayed over. And truly loved on, even when I didn't know that I needed or wanted it. And I really did believe that the medical issue that necessitated the test would have resolved itself in my delicate little five-year-old girl's abdomen. Still, I kept thinking, "But even if you don't, you're still God." The problem is still there, and God is still over all. He's over misshaped ureters and little girl fears. He's over Mama and Daddy anxieties and radiologists and wonderful nurses who remember Webkinz's names.

And even in undesirable results, he still showed off. Forgive the red-eye.
You see that panda? That's all she cares about tonight. Not catheters or strangers holding her down or giant x-ray machines that cover her from chin to shins. What you need to understand is that pandas are her favorite animal. Over every other animal ever. And that's what this sweet hospital social worker handed to my baby today. And God showed off for my girl. And he told a disappointed mama that even if the medical concern still exists, he's still God and he still loves me. And he sees my girl and she's important to Him, too. And I haven't even gotten started on how he's showing off with the sweet ladies that he's put into our lives that went with us today. There's not even time to even get started on that tonight