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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Our December

I've been thinking lately about December and the significance this month holds for our family.  My husband and I started dating in April and while I'd love to say it was love at first site and all roses and rainbows from our first kiss on, it really wasn't.

I was a young single mom with two small children.  My whole world was wrapped up in those two and my general stance on dating was that if I could someday fit a guy in to that equation, then great, but if not, I did not "need a man." Baggage, I had.  A divorce, an ex-husband, ex-in-laws, a bankruptcy, trust issues, and a little bit of a chip on my shoulder. Enter this 25 year old guy who's only real-life responsibility at that point was a truck payment, and my situation looked pretty scary.  He was concerned with making sure his truck didn't get dirty while I was concerned with feeding two kids on a budget and securing a job with good benefits for my family. 

I saw back then in him all the things I still see in him, but I tend to see things in people before they do sometimes.  While it took me only a few months to realize my heart was already in too deep for my pride to ever again triumph, it took Trav a little bit longer to decide if he was "up to the task." I never asked for him to be a dad - after all my kids had a dad and they were not Trav's responsibility, financially or otherwise.  But knowing the man the way I do now, I understand he was unwilling to do it half-way.  He was either going to be my husband AND a dad to them or not at all.  After a little breakup and a lot of discussing, it was December of that year when he finally decided he was "in."

It was December of the next year when he asked me to marry him.  There was nothing flashy about the proposal.  None of the "smoke and the lights" (Pure Country reference) you see on TV. He asked me in the living room of my little apartment.  The same room where he first kissed me (on the 2nd try), where he first told me he loved me, where he would let our oldest stay up late and watch TV with him while I got the little one to sleep.  I know all my life I thought I wanted smoke and lights, but nothing could have been more perfectly suited to me than a quiet, intimate proposal chocked full of nostalgia as he talked about all the memories we had shared in the place where he sat on his knees, holding a tiny ring box. 

Two Decembers later, he stood in a Court room and gave my children his last name.  There was nothing showy about it.  He left work and stood in front of the judge in his insulated work overalls.  As if it were the most natural, commonplace thing he could do, he took legal responsibility for two kids for the rest of his life.  The thing about it was that he'd already done so in his heart - this was just a formality.  Although, you can tell he's pretty proud in the pictures.  In fact, his face looks pretty similar to the way it looked two weeks later when we brought our youngest in to the world.

It's been a decade now since the first December we spent together, back when we weren't quite sure if we would make it or what the future held.  Things are still not "roses and rainbows."  But, I'm still amazed at the love and security we found in each other.  I look at our life and it feels like this living picture of the most beautiful answer to a prayer my heart held in the deepest, most obscure parts of my heart.  I so often find myself in utter awe of what God has blessed me with.  So often overwhelmed, with tears barely at bay.  And, Trav: he is just the most extraordinary man I know - in the most natural, commonplace way. 

Which, reminds me of the whole reason we celebrate December.  An extraordinary, royal man was born in the most commonplace way.  He lived and died to save mankind and took responsibility for all our sins as if it were the most natural, commonplace thing he could do.

My cup runneth over. Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Passing down Christmas

For a moment in time, I'm a kid again.  I'm in the car, bursting with anticipation.   The car ride (a little over an hour long) feels like an eternity to my child's heart. 

The picture in my mind of pulling up to that familiar house is always drenched in sunlight. I can see the brick, the motor home in the driveway, the unlit Christmas lights on the trim,  and the little covered walkway to the door.  The door that opens to one of the warmest, most sacred places in my childhood memory - Christmas at Grandma's and Grandpa's. 

If only just one more time Grandma could open the door and let us in.  I can hear her laugh, remember how she'd hug each one of us and kiss us on the lips and then make sure we hung our coats in the coat closet instead of laying them around the house.  I can see Grandpa standing in the kitchen, cooking and talking with everyone sitting at the table.

It smelled like food and coffee in that house.  And possibly smokey hints of fireplace and pipe.  It sounded like a bubbling mixture of familiar voices, laughter, and football games on TV.  There was always a big Christmas tree with a hodgepodge of different ornaments and fake icicles adorning it. 

The best thing, though, was being there in that place as a kid.  A kid surrounded by more love than you could measure.  We were kids who were untouched, that far,  by things like failure, loss, divorce, or grief.  We were in a warm house where at every turn was someone who loved us deeply.  Whether they were scolding us or holding us, any given adult at that house had our best interests at heart.

And then there were cousins! Built-in friends who were bound by blood to love you and accept you no matter what.  You could drop all the pretenses and be unabashedly yourself with no regard for what your cousins thought of you.  After all, we were made of the same stuff.

The day spent there was always magical.  It was warm and safe and joyful. We would open gifts while my dad passed them out with a goofy hat on, at Grandma's feet as she laughed and joked with us from her chair. 

I spent the evening with my Grandpa the other night.  He's my only living grandparent now.  I caught myself watching him, noticing how quiet he is now and how his face seemed to light up while watching his great-grandchildren laugh and play.  I found myself wanting to hang on his every word and it was hard to hug him and leave for the night.  I realized as we drove away from MY children's Grandma and Grandpa's house, that I don't remember the last time I left that house from my memory.  The last time I sat in my parent's car as they backed away and watched the family waving goodbye under the lit Christmas lights, without a care in the world besides wondering when I'd see my favorite cousin again. 

My hope is that my children experience the same magical Christmases I did.  One of my deepest griefs is the thought of so many children who've never known that kind of love.  Because as much as my memories are attached to a house, the magic of those memories are the love inside it.  Love that, no matter the hardships of life, no matter the people who have gone away, will always, always be in all our hearts.  I hope those of us lucky enough to have been built by that kind of love will share it most frivolously at every Christmas season!

Friday, December 4, 2015


I love flying.  However, it is still always a little scary for me.  So, every single time I take off, I pray.  I pray for God’s protection over the plane and the pilot.  Today I was about to take off from Vermont and I was admiring the mountains in the distance.  You couldn’t see them well because it was so cloudy, but they were still magnificent. The whole 3 days I’d been in Vermont it had been overcast and wet, and being there for work, I didn’t get much sightseeing in.  But, humming down the runway, getting ready to take flight, I got an up close view of  some of nature’s biggest masterpieces.  As I gazed at the view beside the plane, in sort of a half prayerful state (I’m in that state with God a lot in my head – not an official prayer, just sort of a running dialogue), I thought to God, “How can anyone look at this and think it is all just here by chance?”  Then, my mind went all sorts of places as the human mind tends to go that can sometimes lead to little slivers of doubt that creep in.  I thought about how difficult it is to sometimes have the faith it takes to believe in things unseen – magical, mystical, spiritual things.  And, then, as the plane was gathering speed to launch in to the air, I prayed, “God, show me your majesty right now.”  The plane rose in to the air and as we flew over lakes, rays of sunshine filtered through the clouds over the water in just the way that always makes me think of my God.  Tears welled in my eyes, because I could feel all through me the way He loves me.  The way He was honoring the request for Him to show himself to me in a tangible way.  We ascended in to the clouds and I couldn’t see anything but white mist for a little bit.  I imagine Him looking down on me as I fought tears, silently thanking Him, and saying, “Oh, child.  I’m not finished yet.”  As we broke through the clouds, the sun was suddenly so bright I couldn’t even look out my window.  When my eyes finally adjusted some, we were on top of all those clouds and it was the most magnificent airplane view I think I’ve ever seen.  Mind you, I’m no stranger to an airplane view, either!  Being up in an airplane never ceases to amaze me, though.  Every time I watch our little man-made world of houses and cars and pools and roads start to get further and further away, it reminds me how small we all are.  As I ascend above it all  - above the clouds, it reminds me there is more than what we think there is.  Our world seems so big to us as we work our way through life down in the middle of it.  But, stand next to a mountain or take a view from a plane and it will make you seem so insignificant. The most amazing thing to me is that as small as I am, God sees me.  He takes an intimate interest in me.  He manipulates the sunlight to shine a certain way through a hole in the clouds at exactly the moment He knows I need to see it.  Not everyone believes that, I know.  To some it sounds trite and silly and archaic.  And, I would never try to force someone to believe what I do or think less of them because they don’t.  But, I’ve had too many very real, spiritual experiences with my God than to ever be able to not believe He created all this and longs for us to see Him in moments like these.  That He longs for us to seek Him out and want him – He never forces Himself on us, either.  He gives us the choice to be with Him or not.  I look at Earth’s majesty, I feel His spirit moving within me, and my choice was clear long ago.  Our physical time here passes swiftly like a vapor – but ask me if I believe our spirits move on after our bodies are finished here, and I’ll tell you every time, YES.  I can’t look at this view and not believe there is more.  It isn’t something I’ll ever be able to rationalize for you or explain to you logically. It’s something I know in my soul.