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Thursday, February 6, 2014
Saturday, December 15, 2012
It's the end of 2012. We've blown through another 365 days. We've got a reel of new memories and flashbacks and quotes and nostalgic feelings to show for it. The girls are 5 1/2, our boy is 3 1/2, and Jason and I are...not 40 yet :).
If I could condense down what this year was about, it would be how we balanced rejoicing and grieving. Look around at the people our hearts love and even those we are getting to love, there is just constant gaining and losing, enjoying and mourning, good news and heart wrenching ones, receiving and giving away, blessing and waiting. If we were going through one, another family or friend was going through another. I feel like we have had to learn how to ask the Lord for his heart in this. Because on our own we're just awkward and lacking a perfect love. How do we fully embrace gratitude for the tiniest of joys to the most extravagant, and nearly simultaneously learn how to throw our hearts and arms around hurt and pain. Yet all of life is both! So I guess I'm saying something to you all, not just about it. If you're year has been full of joy, and we watched you bask in it, we have rejoiced with you. We have smiled upon you and been thankful for mercies and graces. If this year has been unbearable for you, and we knew about it, I want you to know we've been pained with you, as much as our hearts knew to bear it. We prayed for you and we held out lots of hope for you. Especially that the God of all comfort and Father of all compassion would meet you like we couldn't. And we didn't do it perfectly, and I pray we didn't fail you, but we were learning how to walk with you. And we'll keep trying. This fallen world has its brokenness in all of creation and in each of our hearts, and also has the light of God's graces, ever evident and shining down in the rays of his goodness over all that he has made. I have to say I feel I have only fumbled through that balance this year compared to the grace with which Christ did this on earth. We will keep learning, we will keep throwing ourselves into the tumble of following the example of a perfectly loving God, and also accepting the relieving truth that he offers us grace, hope, and HIMSELF to keep going. There isn't a better offer out there.
When the girls turned 5 this year it felt like a big deal in my heart. Not just because our "lady babies" were a giant number like FIVE. But also because I felt like Jason and I made it. I felt like celebrating with him that we had come a long way. When I was puking my guts out til 18 weeks in the twin pregnancy and two weeks later was flat on my back for the remainder of the pregnancy being taken care of by everyone who knows me (and doesn't know me!) and scared to death we'd lose both girls, we never saw their 5th birthday coming. We couldn't see it through all the preemie struggles and growth struggles and then our son being born while the girls were still just ONE and all the days we carried our "velcro" boy around in a carrier because he never wanted to be apart. We never saw the growing coming. We just saw what they needed, what we needed to be for them no matter the cost, and how we had to keep growing in love. Our minds convinced us it was 5 million years to get to five. They were sweet years and I miss the "tiny" years like crazy now that we're in the "little" years, but it's a season that in some ways feels like you're the one family that will actually just keep cycling through that three hour schedule and never spin out into the current. So Jason and I celebrated. We loved those days and we love these days. Because all of it is who they are - and we love who they are. And...we made it. And not in a way like, "thank goodness it's over" because MASSIVE places in our hearts miss the "old them" each day. We have an odd, constant, and fairly emotional awareness that each inch they gain means loss for us. Yet we celebrate. It's been an honor and a joy. (Can you imagine how I will write then they graduate? Oh the day. Somebody catch me.)
This summer kind of felt like a big three month party to me. If you don't live here in the outrageously beautiful northwest, well, allow me to tell you that it's 99% likely to be terrible october 1 til july 4th, and then you have this glorious window that the whole world should envy intensely if you have any adoration at all for the beauty of creation. Because for that window, not only is the weather just perfect, but God just decided from the beginning that this place would be a display of his splendor. Feeling like I had three "big kids" we took on the Seattle area and said yes to pretty much whatever fun idea came our way as long as it was OUTSIDE. Just put on the sunscreen and sleep later.This was the first summer we went camping as a whole family, so we went twice - once to Mt Rainier and once to our new favorite spot for this - Deception Pass. Now we're counting the days til we can buy them backpacking gear. That will be the best. I know I will look back and see the rarity of this time. Because they are old enough to be able to do everything, yet so attached to us as their parents and curious and goofy and inquisitive and uninhibited. And I'm writing things down like crazy.
This has been a cool year for Jason. He has a small handful of things he absolutely loves to do in his spare time and one of them has been hibernating for about ten years because of a shoulder injury. But finally, he's taken up kayaking again. Along with mountaineering, Jason seems to come alive when he goes kayaking. I like seeing him enjoy something he has loved for so long in his life and we are working to make it fit in our schedule. Jason is enjoying his job at Microsoft and is also enjoying ministry at Mars Hill. As his wife, and a fan of his for the past 15 years ;), I just enjoy seeing him caring for people the way God has equipped him, especially in teaching and leading. We went a marriage retreat this fall and I think we're just thankful because though we've been through rough seasons of growing and changing, this year we feel this gratitude of progress and closeness between us. I really love having Jason as my best friend and this year was evidence you can keep growing with best friends. Thank you God. On a silly note...Jason is officially a cowboy. Yee Haw! Well, from the knees down. He loves boots. And he has made me his cowgirl. Now we just need some more land. :) Grace would say, "And horses." Salem would say, "And dogs." And Kanah, though a little allergic, would say, "And lots and lots of newborn kitty cats." (None of their requests will ever be realized, especially the cats, ever. But please have them over if you have any of these :) And if you have land, we'd love to tromp around in our boots on it). Personally I think the boots help me cook better from Pioneer Woman's cookbooks. Especially the chicken pot pie. Hm.
Salem. Jason and I still write in the kids' journals that we started when they were born and the first thing I wrote about in Salem's journal for 2012 was how this year he has earned the nickname "comedian." He makes all of us laugh so hard and he has really become good friends with the girls. This year buddy started preschool which was just about indescribable as his heart heavy parents. I think our favorite, besides his exquisite handsomeness of course, was how this silly wild man was just quietly confident going in that morning. He wasn't scared but he was just so chill and barely spoke. When Salem's not in school, he is obsessed with his sisters. He loves what they love, especially if it involves dress up or being rowdy. Salem spices up everything we do and we couldn't thank him more for it. When we embrace the added Salem-ness to our life, it's always bound to be better than not. He's our snuggly, comedic, forgiving, thoughtful, and entertaining buddy man. To finish writing about Salem, please imagine him signing off with a wink. His "first wink" was a few months ago. I was stopped at a light and turned around in the car and winked at him. He kept a straight face, put his pointer finger to one eye and pressed it closed like he was pushing a button really hard. This made me laugh like crazy and my heart burst open. And I also wanted to check to make sure his eye was ok.
Last year, the girls were in preschool while I had Salem a few mornings a week alone.I loved that buddy time in a way I can't convey. It was such a gift to just get out of the car, throw one kiddo on my hip and walk into a store. Without multiple walks around the car, without a diaper bag, without a complicated stroller. Just buddy on my hip. Such a fun gift and a gracious answer to prayer from a season where I was trying to love all three well but wanted them alone too. But this fall, while Salem was off to school this year for preschool, I kept the girls at home with me and so now we're flip flopping the mama time this year. We've decided to have our ladies in our home another year and have them start kindergarten next year instead. I have been so pleased with this idea, because I truly feel like this is the first year with them that I have gotten quality girl time (as a sane person who doesn't just have pj's on). I love teaching them, getting to know their minds, being challenged to get creative with them, and just simply throw it out the window and have mommy dates with them. I know next year and every year after will be a different story, but I can't think about that yet. I only want now for now.
Kanah. Though fairly quiet around most of you, Jason and I have the real treasure of just staring adoringly when this little passionate heart talks and talks about what's going on in her head, even about God and faith. She has discovered that she can make phonecalls whenever she wants if she just asks. When she calls someone, she is so cool about it and just walks around the house while she chats. Thirteen, just hold off a little longer. Recently she was walking around with her leap pad videoing all her favorite things saying, "I want to take pictures of my things so my kids can see what I was like when I was little...Hm, what else can I show them..." (Maybe she'll have mama's heart for legacy). She is very articulate and emotional and expressive and I'm praying the Lord can capture this exactly in our hearts forever, since video just truly cannot. Kanah is learning to read and write well. She loves sign language and singing very, very loudly from the back seat. She's really getting into sports, especially from doing t-ball at camp this year, and basically wants to do all of them. She didn't think she'd want to do ballet with Grace until she tried on ballet and tap shoes and then we were buying two of all it within minutes. Next she wants to try karate. She will try and do lots of things in life. That's Kanah! And she teaches her mommy to want to be like that too and I thank her for it.
Grace. Little Grace is growing and learning, finding confidence in who she is and in her unique personality. She is especially finding her niche as a dancer. She is so lovely when she dances and I just think she will always do it in some form, because it just seems to be a natural gifting. We are excited for them to begin to learn who God has made them to be, that they might slowly figure out how to walk in their abilities and later, through similar trial, their callings and convictions. The girls especially beginning to walk in this. Grace continues to be a mix of giggly, sweetly sensitive, sympathetic with others and quick to learn. All things GIRL are on her radar more than ever, with her browsing through American Girl catelogs, making cards for her "best friends" and changing her dolls' clothes continually. She has made so much progress with reading and writing and articulating herself this fall at home with mommy. I just feel so proud of her for all of her work with me, and I feel blessed I have gotten to be her teacher and the one who sees this progress as it happens. Grace is a GRACE!
Me. (Kelly). My life is both complicated and simple. Complicated by my responsibilities and simple in that I still like the same things. Give me coffee, a girlfriend to ponder with, a journal to tinker with and a hike stretching out in front of me, and I am quite a happy creature. I am always learning to be comfortable in my own skin and to walk about in the joy of what God has created me to be and to do. The Lord has been teaching me patiently and graciously for a long time now about gratitude and I'm still on that journey. It keeps me from despair, self-centeredness and selfishness. I feel like this year I am learning all over again what it means that Christ is my confidence. I am enjoying the dignity of being a mom, wife and homemaker. I am enjoying writing again, though somewhat secretly (=empty blog). I have had the honor of getting to use it on a project this year and though challenging, I was thankful to be broken and put back together again for that work. I'm helping with the women's ministry at church again and reading a book called Instruments in a Redeemer's Hands has been transformational in teaching me how to reach hearts like Jesus does. It has made me cry at times because it hit so deeply with a counselor heart I have had in me all along but haven't known what to do with like I want to. I don't feel like I've figured it out. It feels more like a spark. And though small, ALIVE in me, and with a strong indication there is a fire to come. So there is a real excitement about that in Christ. I have been working on my hobby of being behind a camera and capturing all I can of my kids and our life as we walk it. And, when weather.com allows, I just eat up hiking and wildflower hunting, and sun basking and stomping through creation, in order to enjoy the ever shrinking places of QUIET in this world. I wonder why I might like that? :)
We wish you a Merry Christmas. We hope that you met the wonder of Christ's love in Christmas. It's the best story. It's full of magic, wonder, and truth all at once, which is the best kind. Thankful.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
thy everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight
Jason, Kelly, Grace, Kanah, and Salem
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
I was talking to a friend the other day who had had a conversation with someone who was kind of anti-Christmas letter and cards. To her they seem pretentious and say, "hey look at us and our perfect family." Part of me understands, because we mostly all send pictures standing close, happy and smiling with the glossy print shimmering off the pages. My friend simply responded that she liked getting them and sending them because she looked forward to seeing pictures of her family and friends, whom she loves and enjoys. I liked her simple answer to why we like to send them. Enjoying one another. And though I know that some send cards and updates without a thought, and some even send them to put their best on display, others send them with a tenderhearted intent to cheer and send their Merry Christmas greetings to those they truly hope enjoy the joy of the season. I believe that is our intent and as I write on behalf of our family in order to give testimony to our lives and also give our thanks to the Lord, who has graciously led our rambuncious clan another year with his kindness. So with that thought, I write on about the lives of five people who have lived and breathed and laughed and struggled through and embraced another 365 days of the gift of life.
Jason and I have the great honor of knowing, enjoying, and parenting Kanah, Grace and Salem. In the Bible, the apostle Paul refers to people in the church as "my joy and my crown, my glorious ones in whom is all my delight." God has given us these little people to love and steward and lead and we are to lay our lives down for them. Taking care of them IS our joy, our reward, our delight. They are that special. And on days I totally forget that, the Lord is gracious to eventually remind me again and bring me back to gratitude for them and all He gets to teach me because they exist. I never knew that more than just being thankful to the Lord for what I am learning by being a parent, that I would also be thankful TO my children, for how I get to grow and who I am becoming through the refinement of each and every day. We can either live in such a way as to embrace this change the Lord purposes, or else we can just sort of get through it and avoid the painful, intrusive growth. By his grace we are learning, and there is so much joy in that.
I heard a song by Ed Cash the other day that reminded me of Salem so much called Firecracker Boy. Here's a piece:
He was a fire cracker boy. Dreaming about all his new toys
And the love his family had
A fire cracker boy
Surrounded by tremendous joy
Shining eyes were in this lad
When our kids go to bed at night, we're so tired. But then minutes later we're talking about them and soon we're peeking in on them and staring at their sleeping, wondrous faces. Salem is so full of life and energy and muscle :). We do not think he knows how to walk; he can only run and dart and spin. He is so silly and funny and goofy even at 2 1/2, making the girls laugh and mommy shake her head continually. Jason hopes one day that the kids will want to climb mountains with him, but I am pretty sure by 3, Salem could dart up a moutain side with just his milk sippy cup tucked in the back of his pants and some goldfish in his pockets. His naps are long gone now and so apparently he was made for long days of fun and playtime, because he has not looked back to his baby days. He thinks he is a triplet with Kanah and Grace (and because he's gaining on them in height, I have actually been asked that multiple times). He surprises us because he also loves coloring every detail of a page and doing puzzles, often requesting help to do difficult ones with my help even though they are way over his head. He is confident and fearless. He is Salem the brave. Jason and I pray for Salem, that the Lord would use him as one who leads in humility and truth and love. We love our firecracker boy and he is a glorious instrument in our lives to keep us young and passionate for life and off the couch in general.
When the girls were babies I could barely envision them being two, much less having long legs and hair down their backs and putting clothes too small for them in boxes that I never thought they would be big enough for in the first place. The other day Jason called me from Target double checking what size Christmas dresses he should get, and I realized he was shopping in the girls' section, and not in the toddler section. I was dumbfounded when he got home and they actually were the right size. They are 4 1/2 and they can wrap their legs around my back and seem long when I snuggle them and do many things on their own. They take their dishes to the sink, they wash their hands, they help clean up, they fold and put away their own clothes before bed (I am wondering how long they will ask to do that...) and Kanah even helped me put all the address labels on the back of our Christmas card envelopes. They remind me of things and help me find things and help their little brother get his shoes on and cross the street. Young Girls. We have girls who are speaking like we do, they are learning to write, playing elaborate pretend, socializing, and are participating in conversations over meals with us. And now they are in school. They have so enjoyed their class, crafts, music, chapel, and gymnastics. My little darlings are not early risers so on preschool days when I have to awaken them at 7:15, they are just completely OUT, but they have not once said that they do not want to go to school as I move them along to get ready. They love learning, love their teachers and enjoy community. A memorable moment this year was the first week of preschool, when Grace said to me from the back seat "I have a friend at school!" (Enter the feeling of the sweet heart pains of a mother's heart) and then the next week to seem shyly greet their new friends at school while they hid by my side. We enjoy the fellowship of these little creations who are no longer babes in any sense.
Grace is as lovely as ever. I still feel that the Lord knew that her name was perfectly suited to her and we would never have been able to guess "who" was Kanah (whose name reminds us of Jesus' miracles, as is she, and the word itself means 'of a humble place') and "who" was Grace (whose name means 'undeserved gift'), but the Lord enabled us to name them as he made them. She is so kind and gentle and out of all of us, she BEST teaches the rest of us in the family how to be gracious, patient and loving. I learn from her quietness, the way she allows others their turn, and how she is aware of their needs. She is usually the first to run get the blanket and stuffed animal of a sibling crying from falling down. She's helpful, running this and that upstairs for me, and responds with only a gentle rebuke because her heart is pierced easily. We have learned to be different with her, to meet her with a softer tone, and to keep our ears open for her voice over all the noise and commotion. Her preschool teacher told us at the conference that when Grace talks she has learned to listen, because when she does choose to speak up she has something important to say and you need to stop and listen to her. This is true. And speaking of her voice, she just has the most precious little voice and Jason and I just treasure up her little girl way of saying everything and I mourn the day already when she doesn't sound like this anymore. You will generally find our lovely Grace trying on dress up clothes, dancing, stealing away to play pretend with a small stash of tiny ponies or critters, or coloring princess pages for hours at a time. She prances around the house and is forever asking you to draw her something in her sketchbook. Grace is a delight and we feel honored to not only know her, but that we get to be the ones whom she looks to for all of her love and affection.
When I think of Kanah, I hear Jason singing his song to her in my head. "Amazing Kanah, my sweet little girl. Amazing Kanah, my sweet little bug..." I love that Jason has come up with songs for each of our little ones and they love the songs so much that I find them singing them to themselves sometimes. Last night Jason and I were talking to Kanah on the phone, since she was spending the night at her grandparents' house, and she Jason and I could not stop looking at each other, laughing, because she was responding to us like a 15 year old. "Hi dad...Yeah...Uh huh..." She is such a little love, and at the same time gives us flashes all the time of her going from 4 to 14 in a blink and all we can do is laugh and gobble her up while we can. Kanah is truly amazing and gifted. She puts forth a confidence that I myself pray to possess about what she thinks she can do. She just loves with a ferociousness in the same way that when she squeezes her lamby lovingly, I think the stuffed animal is going to burst into a thousand pieces. She is just so passionate! I love how when she is trying to respond to Salem's 87th request of "Kanah, look!" she just says, "That's cool Salem" and goes on with what she is doing, sometimes not even looking at him. I love how she leads, herding all of them into games and pretend playlands and into running games around the house. She is anxious to help Salem with his puzzles and to show him how to do things. I actually even enjoy her darling face when she cries (no, I am not cruel :P) because she just looks gorgeous even then and it also reminds me so much of her face when she cried as a baby girl. She is most precious lately to us when she is singing songs or when she is praying. All the kids are learning to talk to God with Jason at night and also with me at breakfast, as we have a calendar with tiny pictures of our friends' and families' faces so that we can remember them daily. Her little voice and things she says to the Lord are so sweet and she and Grace both make me tear up often, just listening. Kanah is our snuggle girl and we just are so blessed to have her precious presence in our arms and our lives.
On motherhood, I could write about 10 more pages. But I will spare you and just mention that I read a great book this year called Loving the Little Years and came away with a verse that has motivated me to write a mission statement as a mom. It's Ecclesiastes 5:19-20
"Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil - this is the gift of God. For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart."
I read this verse so slowly. This truly is a verse to etch onto my memory, to write on the tablet of my heart, to feed upon as my daily bread. God has given me great wealth. A faithful, godly husband. A job for my husband that literally provides all of our needs as well as a future. A little Cowan clan of three who are terribly adorable and intimate in relationship with me. And a home in which to carry out my dignified job of wife, mommy, and homemaker. This is great, great wealth. And God also gives the power to enjoy this wealth as I do two things: Accept my lot. This must mean that I am not just given this life, but I also wrap my arms around it. I open the package. I receive it. I accept my lot, even and especially the parts that I don’t feel like opening. And two: Rejoice in my toil. Rejoicing in Scripture is something we choose to do. It is a chosen heart response. Accepting my lot and rejoicing in my toil actually feels impossible on some knarly, head knocking, back arching-tantrum days. But thankfully my eyes rested in the words, “this is the gift of God.” The POWER to enjoy my lot is the gift of God. So through his grace I am able to accept my lot and rejoice in my toil. This has been a vision, a word, to me this year...and also a relief.
In a recent sermon, our pastor was talking about the difference between a biography and a testimony. A biography is about you and all you have accomplished. A testimony is about God and all he has done. There is a powerful verse Jason and I clung to before girls were born, when everything felt out of control as I lay on hospital bedrest for three weeks. It was Isaiah 26:12
"Lord you establish peace for us; all we have accomplished, you have done for us."
That is what I mean to say in this letter. I see his work all around us, in each of our lives. But it is not a biography about us and our greatness and what tremendous citizens and and human beings we are. It is a testimony of God's grace to us, his mess of a group, and of his ongoing redemptive work in us, making us into new creations for the praise of His great glory. I have enjoyed chewing on Christmas carols this year. Letting a line linger here and there. And Joy to the World repeats THE WONDERS OF HIS LOVE again and again. I was just kind of thinking about what that means. The wonders of his love are all the graces he gives us. And they are a wonder because we don't deserve them, didn't ask for them, we didn't ask to be pursued, but in our ill deserving state, in our ignorance and even our indifference, Jesus came for us. He knows our greatness needs, to our weakness he is no stranger. This season is about beholding the wonders of the most humble of Kings who is jealous for our hearts and who delights in us. This is very good news and the best testimony, which gives life and joy and meaning to our smaller testimony. Merry Christmas.
Jason, Kelly, Kanah, Grace and Salem