Tuesday, December 31, 2013

As 2013 Ends....

I'm feeling a bit contemplative today as I reflect on the year 2013. It has been an incredible year. Possibly one of the best of my life. I am beyond grateful to God for being with us through the many hard years that led to this year which was so good.

I am not completely sure whether or not our circumstances have changed, or whether it has just been me who has changed. Probably both. It's kind of a "did God calm the storm or did He calm his child" question(thanks Scott Krippayne). I think the answer is both.

Because it hasn't necessarily been an easy year. We began November of 2012 with only three kids living at home. Leon, Wilson, and Dominyk were all in school and life was very peaceful. By November of 2013 we had 8 of our kids living at home. It kind of went like this. In November of 2012, Tony and Mercedes moved back home (Sadie completing Job Corp, and Tony getting his GED but being "kicked out" before a graduation ceremony could take place). In March, Salinda and Gabby moved home where they were about half the time (going back and forth between our house and Gabby's other grandparents' home). By July Tony had moved out to live with birth family but Sadie's then boyfriend moved in in August. In September Jimmy moved home as did John after he finished court ordered treatment. Mike moved back home in November. Last week Salinda moved to Iowa with Gabby to live with her new boyfriend who is a D League basketball player, and Sadie got an apartment with another girl. The numbers of who stayed with us went up and down many times.

2013 is also the year that my Daddy went to heaven. I think about him every day. He was 90 and in a great deal of discomfort, so it was selfish of me to ask him to stick around -- he had more friends in heaven than here on earth anyway. But it is still hard not having him a phone call away.

But regardless of the negative, 2013 has brought a lot of positives as well. My mom came to live in an assisted living facility near us. Aiden's mom moved to the Twin Cities and she brings him to church every Sunday that she isn't working and then has dinner with us. We have gotten to see Isaac nearly once a week as his mom is faithful to bring him to visit. Silas entered the world in June and it's so cool to see Kyle as a Dad and watch him and Christy be such good parents.

This year was also a great year for us here at the Minnesota office of Bethany. I invested a great deal of energy into building an amazing team of dedicated, professional and fun women who are kicking butt when it comes to providing good services to families and expectant parents. I am so incredibly proud of the work that they are doing. I also have been able to make connections with some amazing people that include those at the national office, my supervisors, and donors, board members, volunteers over the last year. I asked God to steal my show (thanks, Toby Mac and He has done just that.

On a personal level, I must say that I love our church and the people there. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting involved in the musical groups (praise band, choir and bells) and our women's group. There is so much potential there and I am excited to see what God is going to do in our midst. I really figured that somehow by the time I got to be 50 I would have figured everything out, but I am realizing that I am just beginning to understand huge concepts like grace, unconditional love, mercy, peacemaking, and compassion.

Isaac's mom Courtney put something on her facebook a few months ago that I actually liked (sometimes her stuff is NASTY, but this one was great). It asked the question, "What would life be like if you woke up tomorrow with only the things you thanked God for today." I have spent a great deal of time thinking about that and have been careful to daily thank God for the basics in my life -- food, clothing, and shelter -- but more importantly for the incredible tapestry of people who make up my life.

This Christmas was the best one we have ever had since Bart and I got married. Our children were respectful to one another and to us, they were appropriately grateful and they were generous. At the end of the night, Bart and I happened to be sitting alone at our dining room table and I looked across the table at him, and with tears in my eyes I said, "You know what? We did good." It was a great feeling of satisfaction that our children, even with the rough starts they have had, are doing as well as they are.

So I have my family -- my kids and their kids, their significant others, the parents of my grandkids and their families, my kids birthfamilies that we have connected with, my mom and the constant positive presence that she is in my life, Bart's family -- I'm surrounding by a unique group of interesting folks who makes sure my life is never boring.

And I have my coworkers, that I mentioned above. They are also a very rich part of the tapestry of my life. Daily interracting with them never fails to make me smile.

And finally, I have my friends. Through Facebook and in person, I am reconnecting with folks who have been a part of my life since I was born. Friends of my parents and their children, friends from high school and college, friends from my years in Brookings when I got my masters, and from years in Mexico and Bartlesville when I was working in higher education. And then the countless adoptive parents and professionals that I have met over the past 17 years. And now the friends that I have at Brunswick who have been so incredibly supportive.

The support system that I have in my friends has gotten me through the worst of times and the best of times. Because of Bart and a handful of close friends, I am able to do everything that I do. I want to make sure that I never take them for granted.... they are the reason I make it through each day. God has blessed me and uses my relationships with people to keep me going and do all the things He has given me the privilege of doing that result in children finding homes.

I realize that I have rambled ... but maybe that's because my mind is rambling right as I think about this last year. But I want my ramblings to always end with gratitude.

We had a lot of very very hard years as we parented our children. But 2013 wasn't one of them. 2013 was a year where we got to see a glimpse of reward in the midst of it all.

I look forward to 2014 being an even better year and want every breath I breathe to be one of breathing in his grace and breathing out his praise (Thanks Matt Redmond)...