Wishing You Good Cheer

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Happy New Year from Atlanta!

I wanted to write my first ever Christmasey newsletter to stay in touch with those of you whom we love but are far away. With all of our moves I've asked God to open my heart to each new city...to put room in there for more changes and more ways to love. If I think too long about how many pieces of my heart are scattered in cities and houses and friendships, I’ll cry. So just know that I miss you people dearly and that I'm grateful for the chapters in which our paths intertwined.

We count our blessings as 2014/2015 were hard years for our family. God, in His providence, has sent a beautiful new city to embrace, a community of dear believers to strengthen us when we are weak, and children who remind us that we need Jesus. Every. Single. Day.

Our vivacious Emma Claire turned 7 and still maintains those sparkling green eyes and scattered freckles across her smiling face. Like a true firstborn, she likes to plan out everything on papers or notebooks and everywhere we go she is asking, "What's next?!" We enrolled her in the German language immersion program at a local charter school in August. She is thriving with the busier schedule, her new friends, and the challenge of becoming bilingual.  Steven and I have considered moving our family overseas eventually, so we have attempted to make the language a family affair by posting vocabulary words around the house and speaking simple phrases to baby Hugh. This makes for interesting stares at the makeup aisle in Target when Hugh grabs something and the kids yell "NEIN!!!!" in unison.

Always sensitive to spiritual things, Emma accepted Jesus as her Savior this year and we have seen the Holy Spirit at work in her little life. One day she told us that she was going to bring in a book (Jesus Wants Me for A Sunbeam) to school for show-and-tell and sing the whole song for the class. I winced inside thinking of all the possibilities of the kids laughing or worse, the teacher telling her she couldn't read that in a public school. When I picked her up later I asked her (nervously) how it went and she replied, "Great!!!!" I was so scared that my hands were shaking, but mom. I just stood there and sang the whole thing anyway." There are so many things to be proud of with that girl, but this. This is what makes my heart swell with joy.

Our sweet and sensitive Shiloh has revived the meaning to her name - PEACE. When she was a newborn she screamed and terrorized every store we entered and I would have never guessed that she would be our calm diplomat who shares the odd numbered item to make everybody happy. Being the middle child of the stair step three, she loves to be noticed for her good deeds and always says things like, "Mum, you look beautiful!" or "I love God!" She turned 6 right before school started and entered the Kindergarten French track at the same school that Emma attends. A couple months into the year, with teacher changes, and student shifts, it became clear that she was not coping well with all of the changes and we decided to homeschool for the remainder of the year. Shiloh was so thrilled she would pull random Target employees aside and tell them, "She. Was. HOMESCHOOLED." Can you tell we're at Target a lot?!

The new pace of teaching at home has been really good for our mornings. Shiloh is the child that needs extra time with me and reading on the couch, learning science in the kitchen, and taking field trips in the city has made her thrive again. Plus, she loves getting to be with her baby Hugh all day. That photo above perfectly depicts their bonded relationship. He is getting way too big to be carried by her, but she considers it such an act of love that we can't put a complete stop to it...yet. Of all her many qualities, I am thankful for Shiloh's calm and loving heart, for she reminds me to slow down, breathe in the life around me, and tell someone I love them through a hug or a compliment.

Our Keller is 4, and we're constantly reminding ourselves not to treat him like he's older. On the top of the growth charts for everything, he is (ironically) our most laid-back of the four with a deep husky voice, a dry sense of humor, and thick blonde hair needing to be trimmed every other week. We joke that he is our boy/man. We already have to go to a special shoe store to find shoes that will fit him! I am homeschooling him with Shiloh and although he loves to learn and is quick to grasp concepts, we noticed he seemed to have difficulty hearing. With a degenerative ear condition on my side of the family, we took him straight in and were relieved to find out it is just fluid built up and his mild hearing loss should be regained with ear tubes. We have been administering medicine for the past few weeks and notice no change, so we are hoping for surgery in January and him being able to hear again!

Aside from asking,"What?" all of the time, Keller is obsessed with Legos, riding his bike, and silently annoying his sisters. Whatever he does, he likes to tell me allllllllll about it and I'm thankful he wants to include me in practically everything. Ever since my miscarriage, he has been a constant source of companionship and quick to sense when I need a hug. I thought that as he grew up that would fade away, but it continues and is such a gift. He recently has started telling me at the most random times of the day, "Mommy. You're beautiful." when I've got my hands deep in dish water or I'm in the middle of changing a dirty diaper. I laugh a little inside. God is unspeakably good to us in giving us these little people.

Hugh. Oh, Hugh. Just writing his name gives me a sheer wave of exhaustion. We have spent so much time at the doctor's office trying to figure this little guy out that I have wished he could talk and just tell us what is going on inside of his little head! It started with allergies to milk as a newborn and now at 15 months old he has shown some developmental delays with his hips, legs, and feet. We are seeing a physical therapist once a week, but have concerns about his left foot that turns in and his seeming inability to put weight on it. We have been slow and thoughtful to react knowing that kids progress at all different paces, but we now have enough concerns that we are exploring other possibilities. Please join us in praying for answers.

He continues to be feisty and opinionated about everything and for scooching around on one leg he can get into a surprising amount of trouble. While I'm cleaning out a closet, he's throwing folded clothes out of the laundry basket and covering the bathroom floor with tampons and toilet paper. We have all but given up on eating out as a family or sitting in a church service with him on our laps, because he takes these situations on as personal challenges. I swear you can see the steely determination in his eyes when he lets out a hearty yell/scream in the middle of prayer.  Wherever we go, people comment on his toothy grin, winsome face, and determined spirit and I think we're all just a little bit proud of that big baby.

Steven has had an adventurous career year, adding several more stamps to his passport and a few projects to his resumé. November and December are always the hardest months in his line of work, but now we add January to the commitment calendar with his involvement in the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. I am always so proud of him and what he has managed to build of his little FedEx airport job at 2am so many years ago when we were dating. As Ben Carson said in his book Gifted Hands, “Success is determined not by whether or not you face obstacles, but by your reaction to them. And if you look at these obstacles as a containing fence, they become your excuse for failure. If you look at them as a hurdle, each one strengthens you for the next.” 

I love that I'm married to a man that has done that with his life.

Steven turns 30 this year, so we can maybe stop getting shocked looks when people ask how many kids we have and how old we are. We may steal away to one of our favorite places - Rosemary Beach, FL - or lay in bed for 4 days eating popcorn and watching SNL reruns. Both sound equally appealing. I think a lot about Steve during years like these and how I hope they have birthday cakes in heaven and window holes to peek through and somebody he can say, "That's my son." to.

Because we're all so dang proud of him.

I am finishing up a year of a self-induced sabbatical. I don't know of people who do that, but I did. I got really good at saying, "Not this year." knowing that eventually I would come back to the land of the participating but that I needed to know what it felt like to not wake up at 4am and do things purely because I felt bad. I said 'no' to extra curricular activities for the kids and handed partial schooling responsibilities over to someone else. I got a pedicure. I ran a half marathon. I bought all new underwear. I ordered books off of Amazon and I read them. I got rid of Facebook for months at a time and I think it's official - I'm done with that scrolling newsfeed forever. I went to counseling. I cried a lot. Me and Jesus got to know each other on a whole new level. I watched Donald Trump on YouTube. I looked at pictures of Syrian refugees. I prayed for Paris. I learned how to make a cup of proper tea. I celebrated my birthday dinner with girlfriends who know how to get in the trenches with you. I got to know my husband better. I got to know my kids better. I got to know myself better.

So 2015. You seem like a year of sunlight extended hours and while I know the tan is worth it, you aged me with your lines of wisdom and your creases of grace. I look in the mirror and see so many things staring back. But mostly, a woman who is changing, a family that is growing, and a savior that is gracious indeed.

Am I glutton if I ask for more of the same in 2016???

Wishing you love and good cheer in the year ahead,

Mary Beth

Mary Beth