Many years ago I gave up sending Christmas cards before Christmas. Too stressful for this unorganized mama. These days I wait until the Christmas ornaments have gently come off the tree and the twinkling outdoor lights are carelessly crammed in tubs before attempting to pen a New Year's letter. With today's technology, my husband wonders the point. Does anyone really care to read about our family in a letter? No one writes Christmas letters anymore. They live on Facebook, so what is there to write about?
But I don't live on Facebook. I'm way too undisciplined to have an account. And I'm old-fashioned, so I still, still, still write a Christmas letter. Each year I love thinking on my family...remembering moments in the year...envisioning each child and who they're becoming...who we're becoming as we get older. We are changing...all of us. The letters are sent snail mail to friends that live far and I'm sure only read to see if we are having another baby, but it's worth it for me to take the time to summarize our year. I recently found a folded copy of one of my letters written back when we had only our two small boys. I wrote in the innocence of being a young mama...hopeful of days to come...exhausted from sleepless nights. I read the letter and laughed out loud in annoyance at my talk of tired...if only I would have known that fourteen years later, I'd still be exhausted from sleepless nights. And what in the world did I have to be so tired about back then? Anyway, our 2015 letter finally was written and sent. It seems to get later every year.
Happy New Year 2015!
One hundred shoes pile beside our back door. Two hundred hairbands fight for a home (“on the floor” Preston says). Eight voices layer the air each trying to outtalk the others. Twenty-eight “one on one” relationships must be maintained within our walls. The constant hum of life never quiets. One begs for more freedom; another demands continuous monitoring. Two crave constant cuddles; two tolerate our hugs. Three love organization; five evade orderliness. When things are good, they are very, very good. But when things are bad, they are MAGNIFIED! We can go from gentle to nasty in 0.7 seconds. Gracious to offended in 1.3 seconds. Loving to hateful in a single breath. It’s truly impossible to find one moment when “all is well” with everyone, yet somehow in the midst of the highs, the lows, the lovely, the yucky, the teenagers, the sleepless nights, we can say confidently…ALL IS WELL…simply because we know Jesus.
Six years in Missouri is starting to feel like some roots. While we miss the mountains of Colorado, the warmth of our desert assignments, and the adventure of Germany, there’s beauty found in the accountability that comes with stability. Well, and there’s always fabulous Lake of the Ozarks that proves to be our family’s favorite weekend spot through the summer. There are moments, though, when Preston and I look at each other and say, “It’s time to move. People are getting to know us too well.” Our weeks blur to months as we train kids, cheer at sporting events, spend precious time with extended family, love on friends, serve at church, run away to the lake, and try to gracefully and purposely manage this one life that has been given to us.
We are the McConnells…so often lumped together by our good and bad, it’s easy for us to parent our kids in a herd-like manner, demand the same from all, and miss the individuality of each person in our family. While we are all undoubtedly part of the same family, our strengths and weaknesses differ dramatically and I love to introduce our dear far-away friends to each one individually each year. Once a year, the kids get six lines to themselves J.
Zach…the gift of example. Whether he wants the role or not, God chose him to be first…and God knows best. He loves his siblings; cares for them; demonstrates mostly wise choices (maybe a handful unwise) all while acknowledging that he’s the object of his parents’ inexperience and needs extra grace J. He continues to enjoy football, swimming, reffing, school, guitar and tackled a new role this year in helping behind the scenes with the set of the school play. His favorite milestone came with his driver’s license even though his car boasts two carseats (keepin him humble!) AMEN to a third driver! Given a choice, he would probably prefer solitude (impossible in this house,) but he fights his preferences (with some promptingJ) and stays engaged.Josh…the gift of loyalty. There’s freedom found in Josh’s relationships with all of us because he will always defend…always stand by the object of parental or sibling wrath. While he does his own share of quick-spoken words, he’s quick to ask for and bestow forgiveness. His hits on the football field can be heard in the stands and he has quite a knack as defender in soccer. Josh tackles his school work and piano with focus and looks forward to going to high school next year with his brother. (I already miss him!) He energetically balances the world of teenager and kid by enjoying his friends, but also playing Legos (and light-saber battles) with his little bro.
Madelin…the gift of presence. She stays when everyone else disappears…to help with chores, to give words of encouragement, to lighten the mood with a funny comment, to eavesdropJ.Her presence calms our chaos and she works behind the scenes to help make everything work. She’s crazy fast on a soccer field and beautifully graceful in ballet. We can’t bear to make her choose one because she’s just so lovely at both. We tease that her OCD tendencies have been curved by both her big family and through sharing a room with a free-spirited sister, although she regularly begs everyone to do a “five-minute” clean up just so she “can think.”
Savannah…the gift of compassion to our family. She both exhibits great love for others and requires enormous love from us. She needs us…all of us. God nestled this tenderhearted one in the midst of many to assure her, love on her, encourage her, cheer for her, and of course, discipline her. Soccer and dance are her loves and she dives into every activity and every emotion she feels with all of her heart. Our walls, fridge, baskets, overflow with her drawings, letters, and homemade cards professing her gigantic love and saying we are the “Best Family Ever” (these often follow “discipline.”) She quite possibly will have a dozen children as she’s begging for us to have twins (ummm…no. NO.)
Noah…the gift of passion to our family. Noah’s in constant conversation, story-telling, asking questions, sharing family secrets, and teaching us a better way to do things. “Dad, I’ve been playing soccer all my life and this is how you kick the ball,” so we remind him that being five doesn’t equal “all-knowing.” (”Of course, those sixth graders want to play soccer with me, Mom.” And strangely, they do all love him.) His rebellious streak has led him to favor the Kansas City Chiefs over the Broncos and to favor baseball over all other sports. The Royals had no greater fan than Noah during the World Series and he loves to run bases at our closest park. It’s a heart-tugging sight to see this little boy in a baseball cap lovingly carrying around a glove.
Hope…the gift of unconditional love. Aside from magnificently kissable cheeks, she’s done nothing to “earn” love except to want to be loved by us. She’s our reminder that God simply loves us…just because we are…not because we can ever work for it. Hope Selah celebrated her 1st birthday on Christmas and she serves as our go-to girl when we need unity---we might not all like each other at any given moment, but we always agree on our adoration for this yummy baby!
Preston and I have quit chasing after quiet this year and we are learning (always learning) to find stillness within the noise. Our greatest purchase was our twelve passenger van (I love it!), which now drives for sporting events, youth events, girls’ night out, and family road trips. Oh, what joy we find in seeking Jesus in this overflowing, unpredictable life! Colonel rests on Preston’s record, waiting for him to decide if that’s the road for us. Our prayer-“Lord, can we have both Colonel and Lee’s Summit?” It looks like we can’t (but we pray for it anyway), so we wait, knowing that our two oldest kids want a vote in this. Perhaps, the career has moved over and no longer gets the biggest say and maybe, just maybe, our abundant life in Lee’s Summit is worth turning it all down and staying a while longer. ALL IS WELL…even in the not knowing.
We pray you find 2015 a year full of amazing love, abounding wisdom, and overwhelming peace! Love to you always!
The McConnell Family