2014 Christmas Letter

(Picture gallery at the end of the letter)

Change is an interesting phenomenon.  I have come to think of it as an old friend.  Sometimes you don’t hear from it for a while and things just sort of chug along.  Then it is back in your life and you remember all the old times you have shared together.  2014 has been a year of massive change for us.  We came here almost 12 years ago to help with a church and a school.  In God’s wisdom, we are at a new church and the children are at a new school.  We would never have imagined that two years ago, but here we are (more on that later).

In the middle of all that change, we have been reminded repeatedly, of what matters most.  Our strivings, and efforts, while important, are important only in how they affect the eternal: people.  We are grateful for all of you, some near, others far; some recent, and others from times gone by; some we have known forever, and others we have not even met yet.  All of you, are what truly matters, and it is my honor to share a bit about God’s work in our lives this year.

Pooh Bear (2 Years)

Our little man has been the subject of many posts this year.  He continues to grow and become more of his own person every day.  It is truly amazing to watch his little personality expressed in new ways every day.  He clearly has his preferences.  In fact, he is probably the most opinionated young man, I have ever known.  He knows what he likes, and he knows what he doesn’t like.  At the same time, he is generally a very happy boy.  Beautiful and I are regularly asked if he always smiles.  Let’s just say that we are glad you are only blessed to see his happy times.

The boy is an incredible athlete and he loves to get into with Thunder and I.  If he sees us doing something with a ball (which is frequent), he has to get in on the action.  He also discovered Cars this year.  We feared for a while, we would never get him to watch anything else (yes indeed he is that much of a boy of habit), but he has finally branched out.  Now he will also watch Cars 2.  Okay, he will watch a bit more, but he clearly prefers Pixar animation over anything else.  Of course, he also loves to play cars and read about cars and whatever else involves wheels or balls.  Yep.  Definitely a boy, this one.  He recently developed this little growl when he is not pleased with our interpretation of his request.  It isn’t an animal growl, just sort of, “I am so exasperated with what you thought I said, I don’t even know where to begin,” growl.  It is actually pretty funny, but not particularly helpful, so we are looking forward to when he is past that phase.

Bright Eyes (5 years)

Bright Eyes is full of life and our little purple tornado is still at it.  She is a girl who lives on extremes and I believe that will be a trait that marks her life.  She speaks her mind all of the time and it has led to some very interesting conversations with adults.  You always know where you stand with Bright Eyes.  If she is happy with you, she will give you the sweetest compliments.  You would be tempted to think she was getting them from a secret stash of Hallmark cards, but she is just a sincere and sweet little girl.  Of course, she can  be just as creative with her words if you should upset her.  She is still cuddly and is very sensitive.  Her older siblings get a bit frustrated with what she finds frightening (two kitties duking it out, would be scary in her mind), but that is part of what makes her such a kind-hearted little girl.

The transition from pre-school to Kindergarten has been amazing.  Her teachers have embraced her and her challenges with great enthusiasm.  We frequently get to swap funny Sarah Grace stories with them.  It is a huge blessing to us to have her somewhere that recognizes and loves the broad spectrum of children that are part of God’s big world.

Portable Circus AKA P.C. (7 years)

P.C. has had a great year.  He continues to amaze us with what his mind comes up with.  He is definitely not a conventional thinker.  That is both a strength and a challenge for him.  There are times, as all of us must do, where he has to focus on something mundane.  This takes a tremendous amount of personal energy for him.  On the other hand, if it is a subject he is interested in, the house could be on fire and he wouldn’t notice.  His teacher has been fantastic at working with us and him to maximize his learning experience at school.  Once again, this is a huge blessing to us.

He played baseball in the program that Thunder has played since he was 6.  It is one of the best programs in the country.  While he loved the uniform and the equipment, his favorite position was botanist.  Needless to say, we are looking at other activities for him.  He enjoyed a basketball camp this summer and has decided that is his sport.  He informed us, there is no waiting in basketball.  This might just be right up his alley!

Curly Girly (9 years)

Curly Girly had a fantastic year in 2014.  She really emerged from the extreme quiet and shy girl that we saw two years ago.  Her teacher has worked with us and with her to provide the right challenges to grow her without overwhelming her.  The immediate result was when her sense of humor began to show again and she began to participate in her schoolwork with renewed enthusiasm.  She was very disappointed when we hit our first school holiday of the schedule.  She loves school that much.  While it may seem odd to say that it was heart warming to see my daughter disappointed, if you understand what that represents, you would understand.

She has also started to emerge in her play.  This is also represents tremendous growth.  In the past, P.C. used to imagine and guide all of their play.  Curly Girly loved to participate, but now she also leads.  Watching her confidence begin to blossom in tangible ways in something that we pray for all of our children.  We are blessed to see it happen a bit more every day.

Thunder –  (14 years)

Thunder, or if you prefer Brute Force, also had a great year.  He received some disappointing news earlier in the year (at least at the time it was).  He learned that he was probably done growing in height (5’ 10”).  Now that he has adjusted his expectations, he has come to love the news and the way that God made him.  He is still built like a line backer, and he is getting stronger and faster every day.

He had another great year playing baseball and has turned an important corner.  He used to coast on his talent alone.  This year he has learned to work hard with that talent.  He was able to see very clearly that when you combine incredible talent with significant effort, magical things happen.  Thunder has enjoyed the transition to High School.  He misses his friends from his old school, but he has made plenty of new friends as well.  He definitely likes his new school better and he also has started to emerge as a solid leader.  Like all of us, he has set backs, but his general progress from boy to man continues and it is a blessing to watch.

Princess (21 years)

Princess has always been a blessing, but this year she took it to new and glorious heights.  Not only has she been an incredible help at home, she was able to get a clearer picture of where God would have her for now.  It has been fun to go through this time of great growth with her.  I cannot say enough about how much we all enjoy her sunny spirit in the home.  We are enjoying this time and treasuring it as much as we can, because I know the Lord could have her minding her own household in a metaphorical blink of an eye.

She completed her CNA studies and certification, but didn’t find any open doors with that skill set.  This Fall she found  her current calling.  A non-profit organization, Together We Rise,  that serves children in foster care by raising awareness and meeting various needs, needed an intern in our area.  Princess was the perfect fit and has been faithfully serving ever since.  This year for her 21st birthday, instead of having a party, she hosted a party for 10 children in foster care at Build a Bear.  One of the children, an 7-year-old, had never had the Happy Birthday song, sung to her.  Princess has since made the party a monthly event.  Each month, something as amazing as the first happens.  I wish that each of you could attend one of these parties as they are truly moving events.

Coco, Sweetness & Little Buddy

Coco and Sweetness just celebrated their first anniversary, but honestly it feels like they have been together forever.  They are such a good fit together it is hard to imagine or remember when they were not.  We have all been blessed by their joy and dedication to each other.  As you can see in the family picture, they are also expecting Little Buddy soon.  We are all looking forward to meeting him and seeing what the Lord has for him.  They all live fairly close so we are blessed to be able to frequently enjoy their company.

Coco is enjoying his job writing software for one of the truly innovative companies of our time.  Sweetness has stepped right into being an amazing homemaker.  She is clearly a natural, but she has also had a great example in her own mother and it has been a blessing to see that love of family and home carry from one generation to the next.

Beautiful and I

As I noted at the beginning, this has been an amazing year of change.  I always thought that if big change would come, it would come in the form of a new job because of the unconventional arrangement.  However, that is more solid than ever as the work we are doing together remains incredibly exciting and the people are phenomenal.  It is truly one of the those rare organizations that produces amazing results while simultaneously valuing its people as people. This has drawn more great people and so the firm continues to get better everyday.  It has been an easy thing to turn offers aside when I consider how great our firm is.

While we loved the children’s old school, it was no longer a good fit for our children.  I cannot begin to describe how painful that decision was to make.  But, as I have noted in other posts, love, requires that you do what is needed by the beloved, not what is convenient or acceptable to the one doing the loving.  We are relieved and the soundness of our decision is affirmed every day as we see them flourish in new and inspiring ways.  The church was a similar, unexpected change.  This one was an even more painful decision as we specifically moved here to help get the church going.  We have literally seen many of the young people grow up before our eyes, and the adults grow old…wiser.  However, the Lord is bigger than any person or organization.  The church is in a different place and its needs are different.  While we will always be connected to and love the folks there, my efforts were no longer needed.  The Lord, in His wisdom brought us to a new church plant in the area that not only benefits from our family significantly, but also benefits our family significantly. That symbiosis is amazing and difficult balance to achieve.

Amongst all of that change, Beautiful and I have started a new venture.  We have seen first hand the benefits of solid therapy for children that come from hard experiences early in life.  As we thought about how to bring that to more children, the ideas began to coalesce into a solid vision.  That vision into a plan and the plan is starting to grow legs in reality.  We don’t know yet where this will go and what it will look like over time, but the entire family is excited to see where this will lead.

Blessings!

While our family celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ we remember that greatest act of sacrificial love.  It reminds us again of the things that matter most: each and every one of you.  We are blessed to be a small part of your lives.

We pray that the Lord has kept you and your loved ones close to His heart this year, and into the New Year.

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