Saturday, December 29, 2012

My word for 2013

"We delight to look down a long avenue of trees. It is delightful to gaze from end to end of the long vista, a sort of verdant temple, with its branching pillars and its arches of leaves; even so look down the long aisles of your years, at the green boughs of mercy overhead, and the strong pillars of loving kindness and faithfulness which bear up your joys.  Are there no birds in yonder branches singing?  Surely there must be many, and they all sing of mercy..." Charles Spurgeon

Normally I search and pray and wait for my word for the next year.  It just takes a while to come to me, usually.  But this year I found it without even looking.  My word for 2013 is ANTICIPATION.  I am anticipating the goodness of the Lord this next year, and I know I will find it.  He is ever faithful and with Christ there is always goodness just ahead, even if in heaven.  I am so excited for the year and all that it holds.

Looking forward to looking backwards at this past year, as well.  So much has happened in 2012.  SO.MANY.CHANGES!

 Anticipation (2013)

 Catechesis (2012)

Delight (2011)

Peace (2010)

Satisfaction (2009)

Courage (2008)

Christmas bulletin board

When I began thinking about what to put on the bulletin board on my room, I had one criteria: I could spend $0.  I had just bought a pre-lit tree, garland, and other decor for the classroom, not to mention presents, etc.  So I decided the budget was nonexistent.

I decided to use tissue paper, poster board, and cotton balls from the supply closet.  The trees were made by cutting poster board into simple shapes, and then adding squares of overlapped tissue paper (glued with Elmer's).  I made the trees various sizes.  Then I used yellow boarder and gold and black letters to simple say, "Joy to the world!" because the colors made me feel joyful.  I stapled everything onto the bulletin board, except the cotton balls.  They were hot glued.  This bulletin board took me several hours to create, mainly due to the trees.  But it cost nothing!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

When our celebrations are pathetic

I had just started a hot shower after a quick pick-me-up, phone conversation with my best friend.  Someone needed to console me.  Yesterday was Christmas and it was not a good day.  It was actually a really gloomy, disappointing day.  I am a busy Mommy who is learning for the first time since my oldest was in utero how to balance work and motherhood.  It's hard and exhausting.  And so I had big hopes for fun, sweet family time this Christmas.

December has been filled with more juggling than even the more-than-full average month.  Since December 3rd, someone in my family has been in the hospital or sick every day.  In fact, I have only slept one full night due to the needs of the four precious ones who I share my life with on a daily basis.  Major back surgery, the stomach bug, and now the flu.  It's been a difficult and exhausting month.  It was a little funny when I was Christmas shopping at midnight the night before each family party (and waking up at dawn to wrap those gifts).  It was a little funny when I had to put mind over matter and pretend not to be running a fever when my children and husband were sick and no one else could take care of them.  It was sad, but still a bit funny, when my oldest son wore underwear so tight (because it was his little brother's) to a Christmas event that he walked with an uncomfortable gate.  (This is what happens when laundry has been neglected for 10 days.)  I could go on and on with all the mishaps of December.  The stomach bug alone could fill a page of craziness and chaos.

Little ragamuffin running a fever, but still excited.

We finally got Beatles Rock Band and instruments.  This game and the Wii U kept the boys busy for a LONG time!

Of course, Jack's favorite gifts are books.  He will have them all read before school starts.

Josh wanted this game for long rides home.  He gets to play his Nintendo DS for 30 minutes a day.  It's a big deal.

We read Luke 2 and sang Christmas hymns.  Lydie fell asleep singing Silent Night.  Poor baby. Temp of 104!
But when Andy and Lydie came down with fevers around the time we should have been leaving for the candlelight service on Christmas Eve, well, I didn't laugh.  Not at all.  And when the boys spent hours playing video games without a mention of Jesus hardly at all, surviving on a cheese ball and hot dogs, while I cuddled and tried to minister to my sick daughter and husband on Christmas day, well it was just too much.  And then when we found out the tornado was headed this way and we might spend Christmas night in our storm shelter in the yard, I completely fell apart.  When will it end?

In the much needed, hot shower, God finally spoke to me.  I heard his clear voice in a simple song on Pandora.  I cannot remember the title, but it sweetly reminded me that I belong to him.  I am His.  And He is mine.  I belong to Jesus Christ.  And some how that simple phrase allowed me to let go of my expectations and just relax.  Because of the indescribable grace of God our Father who allowed His Son to leave His perfect home and come to save a dying, sinful people, now I belong to Jesus.  And I love and trust Him.  And Hope shines through.  He always teaches me the meaning of Christmas, one way or another, in new and rich ways!  This too is His grace.

Today is a new day.  It might bring more sickness or tornadoes.  My plans (and there are always plans!) might be dashed.  But may I never forget that He holds me lovingly in the palm of His hands, the palms who tasted death so that I could be spared and loved.  And He is more than enough!  Praise the Lord!  Merry Christmas, friends!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus
Vast, unmeasured, boundless free!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Lots of PARTIES!

We had something for which to look forward every week, multiple times a week, the entire month of December!  We are truly blessed!  And unfortunately we had to miss several parties- our church party, an Open House at a friend's, my Aunt Charlotte's party, my niece's birthday party, and Jackson's Masquerade dance.  Too much illness to make them all, although the kids went to some without Andy and me.  Here are a few memories to cherish of the ones we did get to go to this Christmas season:
One of my sweet students enjoying our edible Christmas trees!

Joshua's class party

Lydie at her party.  On the last day before Christmas break we have "Christmas attire day".  The kids love this day!

My Dad's side of the family celebrating at my Aunt's house.  The kids look forward to all these fun family get togethers!

My husband's family at Mimi and Papa's house.

It was a quiet night- good food, good fellowship, tired adults!

The kids, minus cousin Clay who was passing out gifts.

Papa and Jackson.  I love this picture!

Mimi gave the girls a special gift.  She made them a necklace that holds flowers from sweet Granny's funeral.  Granny was Andy's maternal grandmother and our last living grandparent.  With her passing, our parents became the oldest living generation in our families!  She passed away peacefully this past fall and we all missed her this Christmas!

The six grandchildren on my parents' side of the family at Nana and Poppy's house on Christmas Eve.  We have a pajama/brunch party every year.  The kids looks so precious in their pjs.

Joshua really wanted the new Wii U and he was thrilled when he opened it.  It was his only gift from my parents, but he couldn't have cared less!

After three years of asking, Jackson finally got the Beatles Rock Band game and instruments.  So.Much.Fun!

Lydie got a new American Girl Doll, Kit.  She also got her bed and dog, and the McKenna American Girl movie.  She was beginning to get sick, so it's hard to tell how excited she was!  Her Aunt Kim made her American Girl doll clothes and she asked that I immediately go to the car, find them in our luggage, and let her doll change clothes.  This was the Auburn dress and bow Kim made.  So cute!

My honey in his new hunting gear.  Whatever floats his boat!  Ha!

We are very blessed to have such precious family.  These pictures are only a few snippets of the parties we attended.  I am thankful for every one, both with friends and family.  Both sides of the family have three boys and three girls, which makes for a great time!  I love our time together and love living close enough to enjoy family more often.  Even though we were battling the flu, unbeknownst to us, I still enjoyed the days together!

The BIG day and the challenges thereafter

On December 4rth our family entered a big day.  After years of chronic, daily, often debilitating pain, my husband decided to have back surgery.  We were all so thrilled with the prospect of easing his pain and improving his daily life!  But also, I was a wreck on the inside.  It's never an easy day when you know a surgeon will be operating millimeters from your husband's spinal cord.  We both talked briefly about the dangers, but prayed and followed what we felt like the Lord wanted us to do in spite of our fears.

Andy had a big handful of things wrong with his back.  He was born with spondelolesthesis.  It causes the very bottom vertebrae to be malformed.  He also had several herniated discs.  His spinal column shifted and had a piece of floating bone in the middle, due to a car accident several years ago.  He also had places where the spinal column narrowed and really compressed on nerves.  The doctor said that he has an unusually think spinal cord, and because of it, he was able to walk without dragging one of his legs. 

This past fall has been the roughest time for him, physically, ever.  He had many episodes where he was laying flat for over a week.  It became obvious to us that something needed to be done, and we shouldn't put off surgery any longer.  So we visited several neurosurgeons and found one that we trusted.  As impressed as we were, it did not make the weeks between scheduling the surgery and the big day any easier.

The day of surgery I was blessed beyond my wildest imagination.  The children were cared for for a couple of days by my parents, and life went on as usual for them.  I was able to be at the hospital for the first 48 hours without the children missing a beat.  And it was a good thing, because Andy needed extra care.

The surgery was supposed to last 2-3 hours.  But it was a 5 hour surgery.  When the doctor asked to see me in a private conference room, after a long 5 hour wait, I almost became sick to my stomach.  My brother in law went in the room with me to receive the news.  Thankfully, it was great news.  The surgery went very well, and all was repaired.  I was so thankful for the company of Andy's parents and brother, his cousin and uncle and aunt, and our dear elder and pastor from church.  Looking back, the good company was literally the presence of God for me, as I was really nervous and uneasy. 

Before picture, ready to roll!
Andy's recovery was difficult the first two days.  The first night his lungs had trouble waking up after so much anesthesia.  So his pulse ox dropped into a dangerous range all night long.  There was talk of putting him in the ICU.  But instead, I watched the monitors and reminded him to breathe and rubbed his chest all night long.  He needed reminders about every 5-10 minutes for the first 12 hours.  Once we got past that obstacle, he began to run a fever.  His fever lasted for the first 3 days, even after we went home.  We don't know if it was from the "trauma" of the surgery or if he had a virus.  But I am sure that trying to recover from major surgery with this fever must have been miserable. 

Once we got past the fever, he recovered so nicely that first week.  He was walking before leaving the hospital.  He had virtually no back pain, just residual leg pain, which is normal.  Unfortunately, we got the stomach bug the week after surgery.  So the week of the 10th we all were sick except for Joshua.  Poor Jackson had it twice!  Because this was such a set back for us, we stayed with my parents the first two  weeks of December.  Finally we got better and came home on the 14th.  Jackson missed 3 days of school in December and I missed 5!  But in the end, I found wonderful substitutes and he made up all of his work.  No harm, no foul.

Oh, one more thing about recovery....when it came time for Andy to have his staples removed we were all a big mess of sickness.  So I removed them myself!  It was one of those moments like when your baby has an explosion diaper or vomits on you that you just pretend like you are somewhere else, suck it up, and get it done.  I HATE to care for wounds.  Oh, I hate it.  I would make a better rocket scientist than doctor.  But I googled it, found the tools, and did it with no problem.  Learn something new every day, right?

During the week before Christmas we were at home.  Thankfully we had decorated the house for Christmas during the Thanksgiving break.  Unfortunately, we had very few Christmas presents and we were all completely exhausted.  But somehow we finished school that week, celebrated my brother's birthday, and went to three family Christmas parties between the 17th and 25th.  Of course, there were school and faculty parties, too.  For most of these parties we were stopping on the way to buy and wrap gifts.  We were burning the candle at both ends trying to keep up with all of the festivities.  And just when it was all over on Christmas day, we came down with the flu.  Golly bum!  I am sure we were just really susceptible due to lack of sleep, busyness, and poor diet.

No matter, we were home and it was time to rest, any way.  December was a challenge!  But good, too.  And blessings always abound.  Looking back, I think I probably did many of these events with the flu, unknowingly.  How can you tell if you have the flu when you are that busy and exhausted?  But this Christmas break will finally bring a full night's rest and some down time. 

We are so excited that the surgery is behind us!  Andy has worked his way up to walking 1.5 miles a day.  His goal is to be at 2 miles by January.  His back is really healing perfectly and we have hope that he will be able to maintain all of his regular activities in a few weeks, except with less or no pain!  It was a rough month, but so worth it!  We are home now, getting well, and he is healing with a "fixed" back.  What a blessing!  Ready for January!

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Children's Christmas Program

The kids' program at school was absolutely beautiful.  I loved the headmaster's narration, the outfits, and especially the worshipful music.  All the classes worked long and hard to produce a special night, and it showed.

Lydie's class sat on stage the entire program in their angel costumes.  She took her role very seriously.  After waving and smiling at her, she finally looked my way and returned the smile.  Angelic!

Both kindergarten classes on stage.  Lydie is somewhere on the top right row.

Our very witty, very godly headmaster narrating.

Singing to Jesus! Oh, these darling babies!

Joshua's class wore red and black.  He is on the far left, bottom row.

Nothing like hearing children praise the Lord!

The second and third grade classes wore white and black and sang, "Glory to God".  I created hand motions, which of course included "jazz hands". Ha!  They sounded beautiful!
This program was so worshipful and such a blessing to have at the beginning of the Christmas season!  Praise God for the gift of Jesus!  (Thank you Aunt Chelle, Nana, Gigi, Papa, Anna, and Greyce for coming to our program! Next year we look forward to having Daddy and Jack well and having them there, too!)

O, Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name.  For in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things, things planned long ago.
Isaiah 25:1

Sunday, December 02, 2012

We are watching them cruise down hill! Ha!

Both of our brothers and my sister-in-law all turned 40 recently!  Wow, I cannot believe we have come to this new chapter already in our lives!  I do believe fiercely that 40 is the new 30, and hold on to all the courage it gives me to do so!  Really, it's not that big of a deal.  They still look fabulous and we have more fun than ever.  I think now that our kids are growing up and there are no babies or toddlers to fret over we are beginning to loosen up and enjoy life a little more.  It's all good!

Happy birthday Uncle Rick!

Happy birthday Uncle Ben!
Uncle Ben with his cheese crickets.  Ha!
Happy birthday, Aunt Chelle!

We are so blessed to walk through life with you!  You are each extraordinary!! 
P.S. How does it feel to be the BIG brothers now?  Haha!