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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

I've looking backwards today.

I'm looking backwards today, reflecting on what has transpired in my life in 2013.  It's easy to list what we've done in the last year.

Stephen and I spent a few days together in San Francisco.
Schroeder turned four.
Stephen turned thrity-one.
I turned thirty-two.
I stayed pregnant for 43 weeks and I was cared for so wonderfully by so many.
We celebrated our tenth anniversary on the same day we welcomed Etta Penelope May into the world.
We sold our house in Texas.
The company Stephen worked for, ExactTarget, was acquired by a company called Sales Force which we benefited financially from.
We took a trip to Destin, Florida.
Penelope and I travelled to Texas to photograph a friend's wedding which allowed me to see old friends and even preach at my old church.
We refinanced our Indiana house.
We re-DID our kitchen.
We bought my parent's van and sold our old one.
D'arcy turned nine.
Maggie Lu turned three.
D'arcy started 4th grade.  Julian started 1st grade.  Schroeder started pre-school.
Julian turned seven.
We travelled to Florida with my family to visit Disney World.
I had thirty-two photo sessions.
I photographed four weddings.
Stephen left ExactTarget and started working for Sendgine.
We purchased a 1972 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia to help Stephen get back and forth to work.

It's harder to take stock of what we've learned, how we've grown, what has hurt or scarred, and how this list of events has molded and shaped us.  Our faith asks us to praise God in the midst of this big stuff and invite him to guide us, shape us, and protect us through it.  That requires us to give time to praise and think and pray and read and reflect and listen, a Christian discipline.

Maybe, 2013 should be remembered by what we did in between these big events.

We went to church which was just hard this year.  It wasn't the getting there that was hard but the being there.  Just because it was hard doesn't mean it wasn't important.
I spent so much time this year snuggling and nursing a baby.  For the most part (definitely for the first five months of the year), where I was, she was.  If I wanted to hold her or she wanted to be held, I didn't talk myself into being productive.
I tried to find joy and fulfillment in rhythm.  Life is not a task to complete.  No matter who you are, life has it's daily tasks.  For me that looks like housework, figuring out what's for dinner, a lot hugging and disciplining and cleaning and playing with children,  occasional errands, spending time with Stephen, and a little photography.  I did a lot of laundry this year folks, but I haven't been able to check that one off my list.  I have to figure out a way to take joy in the process of life and not the projects.
I spent time with friends,  lots of coffee dates and MOPS meetings, games with my siblings.  I realized at the beginning of the year that a couple of desires I had for friendship had sort of surprisingly and unexpectedly been met.
I read books, Colossians and the AutoBiography of Malcolm X, books by Shauna Niequist.  I'm finishing the year by reading The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King.  Oh, and I've watched a lot of episodes of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.  He makes me laugh.

We didn't send out very many Christmas Cards this year.  I've been working on a project for First Friday in February that I felt needed my time.  We hope everyone had a Merry Christmas, though.  Looking forward will commence in twenty-four hours.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Let earth receive her King.

During November, I eagerly began buying my children's Christmas gifts.  Like previous years, I'm purchasing the majority of my gifts online.  I'm using Etsy, Amazon, and, this year, one gift for each of my children from Worship Woodworks.  I'm experiencing a little guilt thinking of all those Amazon workers who can't bring their cell phones into work, don't get appropriate breaks, and will get the boot come January 5th. 

I'm following my pattern of three wrapped gifts per kid and a stocking with three smaller items.  I really love planning and buying Christmas presents for my kids.  I look forward to seeing their excitement.  Then around Thanksgiving, I started seeing blog posts like these that sort of killed my buzz; "Why I Took My Kids' Toys Away"  and "The Gift of Not Giving a Thing".

A lot of people are thinking again about what it means to live more simply.  This has extended to mothers in my community and seems to be a theme of many conversations I have had this year.

I desire simplicity.  These ideas resound in my heart and head.  I want my kids to value relationships and experiences over stuff.  I want them to be free to think, explore, and create.

Goodness, their rooms would stay cleaner if they didn't have anything!  Our house can look more like a pottery barn catalogue with less effort on my part.

Whenever I go down this road, I start to look at every item I encounter with suspicion.  I find an innocent toy on the floor.
Grrrr...All I do is pick up after little people.
How often do they really play with you, anyway?
Less than five times a month?
We would all be better off without you considering you are plastic, made in China, and are sucking the creativity out of my kids and killing their attention spans.
I potentially place the toy in our seemingly never ending pile of stuff to take to Goodwill.
How much did I spend on you?
What could that money have gone to?
I could have put this money into our kids' college fund.
Or I could have bought it and given it to a child in need of more plastic toys from China that can suck out their creativity and kill their attention spans.
One way or another, I'm not being a very good steward of our money.

At the end of each suspicious encounter with the toy or piece of clothing or whatever item it is, I find myself discontent.  Discontent in our abundance.  How ridiculous.

Not many weeks after reading those blog posts on simplicity, I see another blog (which is to say I don't tend to read more than the first paragraph of these things) (so if you get to this point in this blog post you've exceeded my expectations) has countered their point with a post entitled "Why I'm Buying A Lot of Presents for My Kids".

So, now, whichever way I decide to go, I have other mothers on my side.  Win-win.  

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Kids say the darndest things...

My sweet friend Melissa Rhoads who worked with me at American Funds in San Antonio sends each of my kids a letter from Santa every year.  They enjoy receiving them even if we don't officially "DO" Santa Clause.  Julian says, "Mom, I know this letter is definitely not for real.  You know how I know?  It says that I have been really good this year."  Chuckle.  "I've been pretty bad this year.  I would totally be on the naughty list."
I found myself getting a little defensive.  He's talking about my son!  Are you attacking my parenting skills?  "Well, Julian, I think you have been pretty good."
"Not really.  Didn't you just see me throw my backpack at D'arcy's head?"

Julian made a face at me and I said, "Oh, you look just like your Dad."
Julian says, "No, I don't look anything like Dad.  I look like Penelope."
"Well, then who does Penelope look like?"
Julian looks at me like I'm crazy ridiculous, "Me."