Saturday, December 15, 2012

Most Likely, Definitely, Unapologetically the longest Christmas Letter Ever 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 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? :)

Well, that's all of us. The title didn't lie did it? If you stuck with me, you like us. Thanks for liking us.

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