This year, there is no Christmas letter or seasonal family photo ready for mailing. Having just finished my last final on Friday - and immersing myself immediately into Christmas shopping, cleaning, baking, party hosting and touring lights - I have not yet successfully switched back into non-tasking wife and mother.
You know, the one who would lovingly gather her family for a fun photo shoot (where no one raises their voice, cries, or refuses to participate) and then follow it up with an annual letter detailing everyone's accomplishments.
I have no idea where that woman is!
I do, however, have some thoughts on our year that I don't want to forget, so I'm going to attempt unwinding and reminiscing...
This year brought about changes and adventures that I never imagined.
Zachary is blossoming into quite a competitor. He has loved soccer since the very first season, but this fall he has really wanted to learn and excel. He is always kicking the ball around our living room, and watching YouTube videos to learn more "moves". Of course he would like for his team to win more than they lose, but more than anything he cares about improving and doing his very best. We are so proud of him!
Luke was once regularly referred to as strong willed or determined, but these days it's "self starter". I never expected to say this....but he's an easy kid to have around! (I think he kind of owes us this, after all those years of not-so-easy Luke.) We don't have to nag, repeat or give specific instructions to Luke - he's easily motivated and quickly responsive. He's also an excellent rule follower, making him...like I said...very easy to have in class or over for a play date. And, thankfully, he's still hysterically funny, ornery, creative and spirited!
Even though the economy is in the tank and Bryan's job is the type that sees a good deal of unemployment, I don't think we ever really expected that we would ever see a year long lay-off, but this year that's almost what we got! Eleven months. That's how long we went without a real paycheck. I am so impressed that we didn't once lose our cool, and there was no marital strain or desperate worry - that is a testament to growth! Our wonderful boys never once complained about not being able to buy something or go somewhere. There were times that I semi-complained about not taking a vacation, but our children were amazingly content with the pools, parks, museums, play dates, and other free outings around town. Even though we didn't travel this year, we found a different, special, kind of magic during this time of unemployment and shoestring budgets... I have a husband - and my kids have a daddy - who is not above any kind of work that will help make ends meet for his family. And, as it turns out, running a nighttime paper route frees a man up to spend all day, 7 days a week, with his family! In those eleven months, our family spent more time together than many others will in an entire childhood. We will forever cherish the time that we were able to spend together as a family this year.
Bryan's lay-off also led to amazing challenges and considerations that we'd never been open to before. Bryan didn't really believe that he was qualified for any other job, and now he is leaving his options open for anything. He has even wondered aloud, "Is there more to life than this? Is there something else I should be doing?" In the asking alone, my amazing husband is becoming even more amazing! And I would never have considered a move before, but now I will go wherever we feel God is leading us. We are finding that it is very freeing to say "You lead, I'll follow" than to dig our heels in and shout "OUR WAY ONLY!" God is faithful; he leads.
And, of course, my return to school was completely unexpected. I had to walk away from the sexual abuse recovery ministry at church for the semester, but found that God has an incredible ministry and countless lessons for me at school. I was able to write or speak about sexual abuse in all five of my classes this semester (even PE Strategies!), and that is very exciting for me. Next semester I will be taking a mass communications class which is taught by the person who oversees the school newspaper - I just realized that yesterday. Just imagine... Might I be able to write for the school paper? Or will he teach me how to write better, reaching more people? I am supposed to be preparing to be an elementary school teacher, but I keep finding that my classes speak to me about my ministry. I don't know what all of this means, but I am so excited to see what God does with my life.
And, finally, one last amazing thing for the year came in the form of a LifeGroup. We have been in groups off and on for the last seven years, but were not at all looking for a group when one found us. The study focus was to "Live Like You're Dying"; living life on a mission. I would say that I am really pretty good at that, but there is always room for growth...and grow we did! I found that I'd become a little stale in some departments; losing traction and no longer moving forward... We rediscovered our focus and passion for God's children, and are committed to filtering decisions through the right lens and not our own. We have inked out goals for 2011 and we look forward to seeing how God brings it all together.
As always... God has been incredibly generous and ever-present in 2010. We praise Him for his goodness and mercy!
"I have come that they may have life and have it to the full." John 10:10