Saturday, December 29, 2012

Christmas bells for 2012

So Christmas came once again. This year was a mixed bag.

We were happy to all be together. The newly weds surprised us all by showing up. 

Very Cool.

God answered our prayers in a way that we hoped and allowed Benji and Cindy to come home from Riley for Christmas.

Super Cool.

It was also pretty heavy because we knew that 3 days later Benj and Cindy would be moving to St. Louis until Benji can have the lung transplant. 
All the Cousins. With Grandpa and Grandma... and Dale. 

We had Fondue. One of my favorite traditions my mom  had started  when I was just a girl. About 5 years ago we decided it was a little too much. With this large of group it had become kind of a big deal so we did some other things in its place. But this year it got picked back up and the kids were happy, happy, happy. (excuse the Duck Dynasty expression, we may be a little obsessed in this house)

And I must admit... I loved it too.

And with Christmas this year comes the promise that our 8 month project of building and 13 month project of selling and moving is coming to an end.
We are in the last quarter... That's what I keep telling my kids.
It's like the last 4 minutes.  Hang on just a little longer.

They have helped so much over break. We filled nail holes and ran caulk around all the windows doors and base board one day. It was a long day and they did so well.

Jason has been working a ton on the house. He is AMAZING!!!!!

I keep dreaming of the day I can swing that door open and invite people in to sit. And eat. And do whatever we want to do without thinking of work.

We plan to move the middle of January. 

Before I go I want to tell you about this guy. He's my Favorite dad. He has blessed us by coming over practically every day for the past months. He just shows up, picks up whatever needs to be done and gets it done. He's always been that kind of dad. A worker. A steady plodder. I feel overwhelmed with gratitude for the tremendous gift he has been for many more reasons  other than just these past months. I could ask for no greater gift this Christmas! Thank you dad!

As I write tonight my feelings can be summed up in this...
Truly I can say, My cup runneth over.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

My Favorite night of the year

So do you sense a theme in my past few posts?
You're so smart!

Yes that's right, "these are a few of my favorite things".

Before I start I wanted to ...Thank you, thank you for all your sweet messages over the past few weeks. Your phone calls, face to face conversations, emails and comments and  inbox's through Face Book have been so encouraging. Sometimes I wonder why I am compelled to write something and than one of you happens to tell me how something touched your soul and I seriously am humbled that God uses my weakness and glorifies himself in it. I am thankful he uses each of us to serve each other in many ways. You have been the gift of encouragement to me!

This morning I want to blog about one of my very favorite night's of the year.

This year I wasn't sure how it would all work out. Christmas is tricky when you're trying to build and move into a house. Many of you ask if we are about ready to move in. Yes we are. The end is in sight. In fact Jason is setting the Kitchen today! It's a beautiful day!!!!

I always like to have a pajama, polar express ride sometime in December. We surprise the kids with where we go and which night it will be. It's gotten a little harder as they have gotten older.
Back in the beginning we punched little pretend tickets, drove to town, got donuts and looked at lights. But each year we switch it up.

This year we gave them the PJ's (which now only consist of bottoms because no one seems to wear their shirts, and  they are a little past footie pajama's.) So on their beds we lay a wrapped gift. They open it up pretending to be surprised.
 And then we load up.

 I decided to make it about good grades.
We have some good students so we often get little free pizza coupons... which we always forget to use. By now, we have accumulated quite a stack so we used those for free pizza tonight.

Next we loaded up and headed 30 miles away.

A small journey. But we used the time to sing Christmas Carols.

We ended up at this place. 
Where the sign was on. HOT NOW! Oh my! Free donuts! They call them doughnut samples which confuses me... Usually one is a serving for me. But when they call it a sample it feels like I should have 3 or 4 more. 

We watched the donuts get glazed and boxed. The boxer was trying to keep up with the hot donuts that were making their way down the conveyor belt, which reminded me of the Lucy and Ethel episode where they are trying to keep up with boxing  the Chocolates! :0 I laughed reminding the kids how they stuffed those little chocolates everywhere to keep up so when their supervisor came in and saw they were keeping up she sped the machine up.

For our donuts this year we got almost 2 dozen free donuts. It pays to have good grades.

Did you know you can take your kids report cards in and they will give a free donut per A  up to 6, on a  report card?  Isn't that awesome? So between the free samples and boxes of donuts we walked out of there with 30 free donuts. Gracious!

After purchasing some coffee we headed over to see the lights. Which the kids actually were looking forward to!

And then we headed home to watch the polar express. Snuggling in with new jammies and soft blankets was the highlight for me. I don't think many of us made it through to the end of the movie, but mostly it was just being together. Laughing, telling riddles, singing songs, and talking of Christmas past.

It certainly is one of my Favorite Night's of the year!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

My favorite uncle

We call them disabled.
Or handicapped.
Downs syndrome.
Intellectually  handicapped.
Maybe you have found yourself in situations that have made you uncomfortable or anxious  around a person who is different than you are.
I know I have.

But today I want to talk about someone who has had a tremendous impact on my life.
He has taught me so much.
He processes differently than I do.. but I'm glad.
He's my uncle.

His name is Dale and he was born with Down's Syndrome.
My Grandma was in her 40's when she gave birth to him.
Whatever we may say about the past being so much better than today. In light of how the world handled anyone who had any disability or mind disorder I would say...
 "We've come a long way baby!
In the 50's and 60's a Down's baby was still thought to be a burden  to society. Because of heart conditions and lack of care babies were often given a life expectancy of about 20 years.

When Dale was a boy his father died, leaving my grandma to raise him all by herself. This caused a lot of anger in Dale. My dad was often his disciplinarian. Dale was  16 when I was born. And he usually just scared me. I thought of him as an adult but he really was just a child in his mind. I had trouble understanding his outbursts and when I would stay with my grandma overnight he would get jealous and yell for me to "go home".  A bit Unnerving to hear in bed at 11pm, especially at the tender age of 4.
As I got older I learned to appreciate him more. I never remember feeling embarrassed by him. Even when people would stare. I just usually wanted to tell them to mind their own business or something like that.  We were all very grateful that he was hard to understand for those who don't talk with him very often, because he loved to "share" in sharing time at church. His ramblings would often include our names and we would cringe hoping he hadn't overheard something that should not be said in a microphone.

When my Grandma died 15 years ago Dale went to live with my parents. Who have faithfully cared for him ever since. He has become such a dear part of our family I don't even like to think about the tremendous loss it will be when we have to say goodbye.

I have learned so much from my uncle.  He is one of the friendliest, non judgmental,open-hearted, hysterically funny, and generally good natured persons I know.
One of Jalen's teachers recently told me that when she walks into a school basketball game she can always count on Dale to wave and make her feel so important." He's so happy to see me". She said. So I started doing the same thing to her when she comes around. Who doesn't want a greeting like that?! The last time she came in Dale told her to "Sit here". And pointed to the spot beside him. I love that.
This fall I was in a Diner with him. It was one of those mom and pop places where the tables are close and everybody knows your name..... Some new faces walked in and my Uncle was the first to jump up and go greet them at their table. Which clearly made them a little uncomfortable but I was touched. He didn't care, he just stuck out his hand and introduced himself, me and my mom all in 3 seconds. He then told them that his mom had died and Betty(my mom) was his sister.
Another moving moment for me happened this past month. He had come to Micah's basketball game. At the end we had him pose with Micah. Since we had won the game  We told him to hold up one finger for #1 but instead he said "No 2 fingers...Peace!" Which was just so sweet and lacking in the competitive spirit we with the average amount of chromosome's  get caught in.

I love his sense of humor and trickery. His hugs and sweet words of love for many are inspirational.
Opening gifts takes him a long time because he enjoys the moment, the spotlight, the suspense. HE always reminds us of his birthday coming up. Even on our own day's he makes sure we know he has one too. :) So on his birthday one year we sang for him over and over all day long. He would be back in his room doing his favorite thing... Cutting out pictures. And as soon as heard us sing the song he would appear with a great big smile and thumbs in the air. Sometimes taking a bow afterward and thanking us. It's a precious memory.

I am so grateful my grandma gave birth to this "disabled" baby. He has been a tremendous gift to this family!
When I hear someone talk about their family member who has special needs I hear it in a different way. I recognize the specialness of the human they are referring to. I also know that there can be some tremendous pressures and extra care that comes along with caring for people who can't care for themselves.
 But mostly I think of the person as a unique opportunity to see past oneself into a world where normal is overrated and  the ultimate belief that this soul is  made as much in the image of God as you or I are.

 My hope is that all people will one day be able to see the tremendous gift that life is.

No matter if the person behind the eyes has difficulty understanding things that may seem simple to us, or their body doesn't function in the way that others do, or perhaps they were given only a few years to leave their foot print here on earth.
All life is Sacred.
All humans have value.

In the words of Tiny Tim. The Handicapped son of Bob Cratchit, In Charles Dickens famous book, A Christmas Carol, 
"God bless us EVERYONE".

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

My favorite Guest Blogger

Today I am introducing you to the young lady I have the opportunity to raise.

I can't tell you what a privilege it has been to call her my own. I know we are all proud of our kids and happy to see them succeed so if you would could you humor me today and let me show her off?

Malaina is 17 and is starting to seriously look at colleges and careers. One of the things Malaina was born with was a pen in her hand. She loves to write. Story after story she has written throughout her childhood. When she was 13 she wrote a little play scripted for her cousins to act out at a Summer Camp. I am sad I can't find it. :(

In the wake of last weeks tragedies she wrote her feelings about the shooting and the Innocence of Life lost. I asked her if she would want to share it on here.
She said yes.

So here she is.

Memorial of Twenty-Eight

     The black type-simple enough-carries great power against the white page. It cuts into the heart of every American. It brings tears and frustration, anger and hopelessness. The United States of America bands into one group ready to fight.
    But who are we fighting?
     Millions of comments have been posted on twitter and facebook, millions of angry conversations have taken place. But how could we have known about the impending evil? What person could have stopped the twenty-eight fatal bullets? And what can we do now? People are donating, sending letters, trying to change laws. But none of us can rewrite the past. We cannot spark those victims with the life that they had twelve hours ago. We cannot stop the coward who snuffed out these vibrant lives.
     The death of children. It could’ve been your sister, your nephew, your grandchild. That child laying in his own blood could’ve been the little boy you babysit or the seven year-old girl next door who is always on the trampoline, perfecting her flip. When someone asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up, they had the confident answers that children do, untainted by the fears and doubts of tomorrow.
     Their eyes shown as they chattered on about becoming astronauts, firemen. She wanted to make clothes, and told you about every single drawing in her notebook. He wanted to test video games-because ‘That would be the funnest job in the world, right?’ The boy and the girl who grew up next to each other would never get married, never start a family of their own. None of them had the chance to make their own decisions, go to college, become successful and fulfilled. They never got to play a game of basketball, never again watched their big brother’s choir concert.
    A million little moments were stolen from these precious children, and all we could do was sit back and watch.  The terrified children of the school were sobbing, whispering “I just want Christmas...I just want Christmas.”
    In memorial to the children who were executed in a place of safety, and to the adults who sacrificed their own lives to protect them, let us be changed. Let what happened hurt you and make you angry. This is personal. America must stand up together, ready to help, ready to make more little moments possible for the children who are left.

    And to those little children who are running into the arms of Jesus right now, let me say that you will be missed. The impact you would’ve had on the world is unknown. But your short lives were a gift, and I can’t wait to meet you some day. I want to shake your hand and apologize for the world that you found yourself in those moments before you were so brutally murdered.
              May you forever rest in Peace, Joy, and Love.

Just one other note... She held her first piano recital in our living room this week.
8 of her 9 students performed. It has been so neat to see her start with her sister Sophia a year ago and grow her business. She loves her students and talks positive about each one. I love to hear her interact with them and patiently show them how to play.

So here is her first little group of Piano Players.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

When Evil Wins

Undoubtedly 12/14/12 will be a day none of us will forget for a very long time.
We don't have to know anyone in Connecticut to feel the sting of the cruel acts of horror that was thrust upon the innocent. Babies and the teachers who care for them.

When I first heard the news I was at work. My coworker was looking at her phone reporting what was streaming in. As I checked my own computer I saw faces of sweet children and distraught parents and friends. My thoughts went to my own connections at school. I have been in my children's classrooms and schools many times over the past 13 years or so. Those faces flooded my mind. Faces of my children and their little friends running up to hug my legs. So happy to see me. Playing on the playground or calling me over to look at what they had drawn.
My eyes filled with hot liquid as I breathed a prayer for the souls left to mourn the precious ones who were snatched from them in such a horrific fashion.

 My heart breaks as I hug my own precious ones thanking God for another day with my own while grieving over children I never knew.

Later that day I had a discussion with several of my children individually over the events. I knew my 13 year old would have heard about it in his current events class that morning. I asked him for his thoughts. Without hesitation he asked... "Why does it feel like evil is winning?"

And I concur.

It does feel like that most days in this world of sin and corruption and violence and catastrophic events. I don't think I have ever seen days that were so unsure and scary. I have never felt so compelled to pray for the rapture. Or to wonder why I'm planning for any future because it appears to be so uncertain.

I read. Sometimes. When I'm not building a house. And when I read historical events I realize that scary and evil actions, and bad governments and crime, and families that were messed up, have been around since, well, the beginning. Like when Cain became jealous of his goody- two shoes brother who always did what God asked him to do. He hated that brother of his with a horrible kind of wrath, so he killed him.
Killed. Him. Dead.
This was before evil influences such as bad movies and violent video games. (Not that I think either of these are helping our country in any way) My point is simply, he didn't need anyone to give him the idea... Hatred  already existed  in his heart. And he wanted his brother out of the picture.

And evil appeared to win.

Maybe we could look at David's family and see the dysfunction there. Many people today would have pointed fingers at David judging the permissive, inattentive methods he used as he raised his children. The rape, and incest, and murder that occurred on his watch as father and king was Ugly.

And evil looked like it was ahead.

How about we move to Christmas. The baby Jesus born in a manger. The king in power was scared out of his ever livin' skin that this little baby would take his throne. So He killed ALL the babies 2 and under.
Evil at it's darkest.

But Jesus was protected by those who cared for him including his angle.  He was moved to Egypt and later when it was safe returned to Nazareth where he grew to be a man. He was flawless, without sin, having no blemish. He, the perfect Man, walked with his created and loved them and healed them, drove demons out of them, gave them instructions on how to live life here on earth. But the evil that surrounded him by his enemy who used  man's hands and blackened hearts was his demise.

The hands that healed many were nailed to a tree. The blood that poured from him ran down in a messy and horrific way. The crime scene was so gruesome he was unrecognizable.

He gave his life for his world. But to the naked eye Jesus had just been murdered for no reason.
And it looked like the evil one had won for sure.
From all appearance He had killed creations crowned jewel.

But evil never ultimately wins.
Because God always has the  last word. And no evil can be found in Him.

3 days passed and I'm sure those who loved him thought that surely this time evil had triumphed. But as he promised Jesus tore open the doors of death and rose from that prison cell.

And so, I think my son, the answer to your question is found here.
It is simple.
There are 2 kingdoms.
Good and Evil. Everything you do, read, watch, play, hear, speak, and meditate on is coming from one kingdom or the other. Is everything a moral issue? No. But all morality is rooted from one kingdom or the other. And if you are careful you can be wise in discerning this. Do we always get this right? No. But hopefully we get it right more as we grow in our understanding and follow that star wise men still search for.

And just as in any game where the opponent pulls ahead and looks to have schooled you...
This game is not over.
And we are not defeated. 

There is coming a day when this game will end. All we see will be no more. And I want to be on the side of good. I want you to be with me. Because good is the final winner.

If you are looking for hope this Christmas I have some good news.
Evil loses in the end.

And  That Christmas Miracle?

He wins.