Sitting on the hard tile floor playing board games as a family. Laughter, a turn goes well and one rejoices. The tide turns quickly as realization of impending loss flickers across her face and she runs off up to her room rather than finish. I flashback to my own childhood and a monopoly board spread across the dining room table. I can actually feel her emotions in my own heart as I was the one storming off (or maybe my dad sent me off as I was storming there...)
Lighting the candle each night to sit in only the flickering light of the single candle on the table and the lights from the tree in the background. The kids are so proud they can light it themselves. It's a trade-off between lighting the candle and eating the chocolate from the advent calendar. Next year Ty and I get our own calendar! Faces scrunched up thinking, expecting and excited at where the story goes next. Each night we go further into the story of God's world but each ends with anticipation still for the One who was promised but was not yet come. Time stands still as we sit together at the table. Frustrations of the day, things to do, angry words spoken hastily all forgotten momentarily as we sit and advent together.
The gift of bronchitis-a full 4 days home in bed. Most hours of day and night spent sleeping, but this was not only for my body. A gift to my mind and emotions to just sit and be still: time to be raw and reflect on truth, which doesn't always feel good and is usually not easy. Recharge time for 3 straight weeks of company.
Early morning and late night runs to the bus station and the airport to pick up friends was just one of the crazy logistics we worked out. 5 concerts in 6 nights. 21 people around the table (or tables) in our dining/living room which was filled to the max! Prepping veggies together with friends from around the world-some old and some just newly met that day-these are the moments memories are made of. Escaping the cleanup and conversation that lingered around the tables, I sat upstairs with the kids to watch a bit of a movie. E climbed in my lap and told me movies are so much better watched with me. When did this baby turn into a big girl? We celebrated her birthday with many friends and I'm so blessed to watch so many lover her so well. I often question how to love her myself. God gently reminds me he chose her to give into my care, so I know how, even if I feel so inadequate. Watching her reduce her daddy (and surrogate uncles) to tears at her party as Ty called her "baby girl" then corrected himself saying she now was our "big girl." Her joyous and innocent response of "you can still call me baby girl daddy, it's ok I'll always be your baby girl" was incredible. That our friend happened to be playing with his video camera and catch it is beyond exciting.
Watching E prepare and then be part of a Christmas play at a friend's church. She actually memorized her lines all in Dutch and was so stinkin' cute. That she understood the story and message made it even more wonderful. Watching her confidence grow is like watching a shaky young horse test out it's legs. She's wobbly and not sure she really wants to walk but she is only moments away from galloping off across the fields! Her teacher and I both see this at school too. God has sure blessed us with amazing adults to pour into her and love her and draw her out. My heart bursts with joy over it. It's not pride for I know it has absolutely nothing to do with me, and yet I can't quite put my name on what it is. I'm overjoyed for her! I know she battles some major things and seeing victory, well it's like seeing a bit of heaven on earth!
I looked at my son the other day and saw the little man he's become. Hair shaggy, teeth a little too large for his smile, needing a shower-it all says boy in the awkward growing up phase. I hear his thoughts though, the way he's begun to pray in Dutch and how it just flows out of him. I see his eyes which are always observing and discerning and perceiving. I watch his strong sense of self as he runs and plays and how confident he is and how many abilities he has. I see him struggle with his will often and exclusively. I also see him gentle and patient with his younger sister. I see how he includes her almost always and how he and she are best of friends. I hear his frustration at language because he "has deeper things he wants to tell his friends about but doesn't know the words yet." I see him grapple with fears that grown-ups can't conquer and sometimes he stares them down and marches right over them. Our tiny 5 pound baby with the wrinkly skin that wasn't at all filled out has grown into a man-boy. I can't stop it and so I have to drink it in and love the moments.
I miss my sisters and my nieces and nephew. We have "family" here and having the girls over is as close to having my nieces around as I get being so far from home. It makes my auntie heart happy. It also makes my auntie heart ache as I miss my own blood relatives-but I love seeing their "aunt" friend back home post pictures and my heart is thankful for this dear friend who can be what I long to be!
A trip to Germany for work with my husband, beauty in ruins of castles and hills nestled in foggy valleys. New friendships based on commonality of being part of the same living, breathing body. An unplanned train trip home give hours to talk together. This man is a good man. I want to walk by his side the way he's stuck by mine. He makes me long to be better, be more like Jesus.
Friends of different colors and languages, different personalities and ages-for this US raised girl who has been exposed to much propaganda and fear tactics I have to laugh sometimes at the rooms of people I find myself in. Language class provides even wider diversity of people-here too we are finding friends in unlikely pairings. Groups of moms from school invite me into their circles. We prayed for this and longed for this-and never in a million years pictured it this way. It's beautiful and complex and oh so unfamiliar. It forces me to run into my Savior's arms and cling to him alone for wisdom and grace in those relationships as I know that I know so little.
Sitting here with my cup of fancy US Christmas blend coffee that our amazing friend sent over with her sis-in-law this week, I'm content. It's blustery and cold out, well ok, it's not that cold compared to many of our friends and family in the arctic front this week but still it's not suntanning weather! As I type out this list I realize these are only a fraction of the moments that are blazed into my heart from just the past weeks. I see God all over the place in them. They aren't all happy, in fact, they invoke a wide and varied group of intense emotions. My heart and my soul are well though for they rest in our great and mighty and personal God who came down to meet me here on earth. That is what is getting me through January. He truly has come for us and he is here, now. That makes this a very holy moment!