51 / 52 – Traditions
Dec
24

51 / 52 – Traditions

Branden and I have this tradition for the boys.  It started the first Christmas we had them both.  Silas had just turned two, and Ethan was only 9 months old.  We were young (and tired!) and didn’t really have money to get the boys presents, so we made them something.  Branden built them these small hand puppets and I crocheted them little toys – a robot for Silas (who he named Zombie!) and an octopus with dangly legs for Ethan.

The next year we still didn’t really have a lot of money for presents.  Branden shaped and painted wooden blocks and I crocheted two more toys.  The next year we had a little money, but we made them something anyways, just because we wanted to!  Each year since, we’ve given them a handmade gift for Christmas.  Now there are toys that they see in the store or see commercials for, but they usually ask what we’ll be making them :)

This is Branden finishing up this year’s handmade gifts at 1am this morning!  They’re now nestled among the other packages beneath the tree, waiting to be unwrapped.  We always try to do a lot of fun activities to celebrate the season, but making the boys a present has become one of our favorite ways to celebrate Christmas.  I’d love to continue this tradition forever!  I’m not sure what we’ll be making them when they’re 30 with families of their own, but I guess we’ll take it a year at a time!

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Here’s what I’m thinking about traditions:

  • They require consistency – you have to be present and intentional!
  • They usually require you to give of yourself for others – time, energy, money, attention
  • They become tied with an occasion – holiday, birthday, even a place
  • They become part of what makes something what it is – “For my birthday, we always…”
  • They connect people – Most traditions are people doing things together.  They require people and those people are what make traditions special!

I hope this season finds you celebrating, in your own special ways.  And if you’re away from your people, I hope you find that there’s still much to celebrate (and maybe new ways!)  I am thankful for this truth:

“This is how God showed his love among us.  He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.”  – 1 John 4:9

Happy Christmas from the Emerald Isle!

48 / 52 – New Seasons
Dec
02

48 / 52 – New Seasons

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Magical things are happening at our house :)

I love Christmas time!  I’m not great at decorating (actually I’m finding just how little I know about it with this new house and all it’s blank spaces!) but I do love the Christmas tree!  A few years ago, maybe four now, I decided to make all of our tree decorations.  About halfway into this endeavor I realized I was way in over my head, but by then it was too late!  I remember staying up late night after night, cutting stacks of felt sheets, collecting pine cones, sewing garland, even recruiting Branden and his trusty glue gun.  Eventually, somehow, it did get done!  We put our tree together that year, carefully dressing it with our crafted ornaments, and I remember stepping back and having this great feeling of satisfaction.  Seeing all the pieces put together – it had been worth it!

When we were getting ready to come to Ireland, there was a good while where we didn’t know how much we could take with us. We sold our tree at a garage sale.  I remember a man standing over it, the branches all boxed up and sitting on the sidewalk.  He asked how much I wanted.  I gave a number.  He bartered.  I compromised.  He paid.  And just like that, I had sold Christmas!

I know that sounds dramatic, but at the moment, that’s exactly how it felt.  Like this thing, our Christmas tree – Christmas and all the sweet, warm, happiness of it in our home, was maybe gone!  What would our life look like in the future?  Would we have a house?  What about our decorations?  Everything, not just Christmas things, was up in the air.

I decided to hang on to the decorations we’d made, at least until we knew for sure we couldn’t take them.  As we moved closer to our time of departure, we figured out the cost of extra suitcases and even shipping things.  I consolidated all of our ornaments into one small box.  They would come with us :)

We do an advent calendar with the boys, basically something Christmasy every day in December as we countdown to the big day.  The first day’s activity is always decorate the tree!  We bought a tree from a second hand store a couple weeks ago.  I didn’t realize how big it was until Branden put it together!  Eight feet high and dozens of unfolded branches later, it was ready for our decorations.  Layer by layer, the four of us circled the tree, carefully nestling each piece into its place.  Gone are the days of little ones proudly clustering all the decoration on one low bough.  Now the boys talk about making triangles with each color, placing ornaments in relativity to each other.

Three hours later (why do I always forget how long it takes?!) our new tree was finished.  Pushed back into the bay window, lights all aglow, it’s now the centerpiece of our sitting room.  And I’m realizing that all the pieces, along with their up in the air feelings, were not overlooked by the Lord.  Handmade tree decorations are not a necessity, but God still gave attention to them. And to my heart that loves this season and wants to make a home for this family.  He is so faithful!

Nov
28

47 / 52 – It’s good to be alive!

So Thanksgiving was a little different this year :)  This was our first major holiday away from family and we were in a country that doesn’t really celebrate it!  We are getting ready to kick off some big things for children’s ministry here at Calvary Cork, so we had a Thanksgiving/Servant Appreciation/share what’s up ahead dinner!  We are honestly so so thankful for those serving in the children’s ministry here.  The need in our church is great and growing and there’s a lot of hard work that goes into serving and teaching kids every week!

I’ve never hosted Thanksgiving before, never had the pressure of preparing the big meal.  Normally we’d be at my parents’ house or traveling to see Branden’s family in Wyoming.  Both places are always filled with good food and great company!  Food prep meant hours in the kitchen, working alongside other women, talking and laughing and just being together.  And Branden would have me add that football would be on!  This year I cheated and had everyone bring food :)  I think it’s actually the best course of action with a meal that size!  Of course I made candied sweet potatoes because they’re my favorite.  I also tried my hand at homemade cranberry sauce.  If you usually buy and slice from the can – STOP!  It’s so easy to make yourself and tastes a million times better!

The house was warm and full.  There’s something about eating with people.  The idea of breaking bread.  You’re sharing something – necessary and basic, but sitting and looking at and sharing conversations with people – that basic need becomes vital.  Relationships grow over good food and conversation!  And the Irish would say, also over tea :)

For this week’s project 52, I decided to ask my fellas what five things they are thankful for.  Here’s what they said:

Branden:

  1. Our family
  2. Our church families, both in the States and the one we’re becoming part of here in Cork
  3. For God’s grace
  4. For His provision
  5. Opportunity to serve the Lord in ministry

Silas:

  1. God being alive
  2. Me being alive
  3. Mom
  4. Dad
  5. Ethan

Ethan:

  1. God giving us a house
  2. Family
  3. Friends
  4. Having a church
  5. Being alive

And I’m really thankful for:

  1. Jesus, that He loves me and gave everything to be with me – so humbling and incredible!
  2. This family that I get to live and grow and serve with
  3. Our families back home that would, at great cost to them, support us in this calling
  4. Friends and those who have become like family in the States, praying for and supporting what the Lord is doing here in Ireland
  5. For new relationships in the Lord, for the families and kids of Calvary Cork, to be a part of the body of Christ alive today!

I love that my kids are both thankful to be alive!  I have worried about them as a mom, moving them across the world and plunging them into a new culture, a new place and people.  I have seen them grow and there have been moments of just facing reality and learning to trust the Lord together.  But they are alive, not just in the physical sense.  They too, even at this young age, had their days, this season, appointed and purposed by the Lord.  There is no greater life than one lived in faith, following Jesus!  I’m thankful to be living that life together.

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