Well, nothing like getting a digital Christmas card out late on Christmas Day. ;)
As I think back over this last year there are several moments that stand out. The biggest has been this dream of building our home and watching it come to life. We are thankful that we are not in a hurry and as hard as it is to be patient at times, we know that God's timing will be the best timing and we are learning so much along the way. We can not wait to show you pictures of the finished product. :)
We also bought a building in downtown Springfield and obtained the loft above Hook and that has been an incredible blessing this year as well — https://www.westbrickloft.com
In August we were able to go on vacation for TWELVE days! That was a huge blessing to our family. It is so hard for us to get away from work since it is so easy to bring it home, or to even step away from the "to-do" list, so our getaway to the beach and Orlando is just the right distraction we need to cultivate some quality family time and fun together. It was the first time in years that Josh was really able to feel like he could disconnect from work for a bit.
Homeschooling is going well in general. Adding Lila to the equation this year has proved to be a bit challenging at times, but overall we have enjoyed great field trips, reading books, learning together and challenging each other. Most days I feel as though our biggest lesson is in character development. ;)
Oh, my sweet kids. Look how much they have grown! I am noticing a big transition from baby/toddlerhood into full-blown kids. They are keeping us incredibly busy as you could guess with sports and activities. Jude is head on into almost 2 sports at all times. Hockey is still his passion, but he loves baseball in the summer and is getting ready to embark on playing a season of basketball. We will also graduate from his music program in February— I say we because I would argue that I probably have put in just as much time trying to learn music theory as he has. ;)
Lila has developed a love for the stage, but easing into it as her personality will allow. She did a Christmas play at grandma's church and took it very seriously and was so adorable and proud!
Gwyn is the sibling cheerleader for right now. I know it won't last forever, but she holds the position well.
All of these things are great and we feel incredibly blessed (not to sound too cliche, but truly). I am always thankful for health. Three healthy kids are all we could ask for, but I hold fun and charming memories of everyday life so close to my heart. I think about family time spent driving back from Florida, or spontaneous trips to the Zoo or Arkansas. I think about our adventures on the trails or family soccer and basketball games at our home. Those moments that just happened spontaneously make 2017 golden in my eyes.
Christmas Eve was our calm before the storm. We enjoyed going to church and then taking the rest of the day to cook, bake, eat a Christmas meal together and play some fun family games before getting ready for bed (all in our matching pj's none the less). The setting was just perfect for what you might imagine as the ideal Christmas. Cool crisp air with a hint of snow on the ground, the fireplace going, excitement in the air, the smell of turkey and gingerbread cookies as well as a yummy stove top potpouri and then the reading of the birth of Jesus in Luke 2. I know this story can get monotonous if you have grown up listening to it each year, but this year, there were a few verses that stuck out to me.
As I think about my most treasured moments of the year, it reminds me of why I was caught in awe by a couple verses in Luke 2, take a look with me:
"Then an angel of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, 'Don't be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.' Suddenly there was a multitude of heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying; 'Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to and good will to men!'" (Luke 2:9-14)
When I look at these verses, I see a few shepherds who were unexpectedly surprised by an Angel, who came with news that was good and for all people. Then after explaining the good news, a multitude of heavenly hosts surrounded them (an army of angels) and began to praise God. One study bible version of "good will to men" states this as God's ready, good, infinite and gracious favor towards men.
In all that, my hearts pounds with thankfulness and excitement to think of all the days that could be just ordinary days. Christmas could be just another day, just the same story you have heard for years and years, but I can not shake the resounding emphasis this message brings. This message that is for you, me, my family, my friends, the people I come into contact with every day. A Savior was born for you.
So when I think about our year and the times that stick out the most. I remember those unexpected moments. Moments that brought great joy.
I can not help to think how exciting it must have been to be one of those shepherds. Just an ordinary night and then an angel appears, with a MULTITUDE of heavenly hosts to proclaim the news that this baby came to save you and me and God's heart is for us to experience peace on this Earth and His good and perfect will toward all men. His ready, good and gracious favor is ready to be poured out to those who walk with Him here on Earth.
Does that give anyone else chills? Oh how he loves us. Somehow as undeserving as I am, this year He has poured out his favor on our lives graciously. Every bit of praise belongs to God.
God is faithful. He is steadfast, loving and gracious beyond measure so I know 2018 has great things in store. I pray that you and your family find yourself resting in His presence and full of His peace during the holidays and all throughout the year.
We had some family pictures taken back in October so I thought I would share some of my favorites with you.
Merry Christmas from our family to yours.
—Josh, Bre, Jude, Lila and Gwyn