Happy 2017! It’s THAT year…the year on Zach’s letter jacket---I just knew Jesus would come back before now (there’s still time!) You see, we are almost professionals at adding babies to the family…but letting one go? Not sure how to do that. We are only Day 20 of this year and 2017 already seems uncomfortable. Not "bad" uncomfortable just "cracking my illusion of control" uncomfortable. Two kids enrolled in public school as of two weeks ago (don’t ask), a three-year old who is NOT potty training herself (I thought she was smarter than this), Preston serving the role as interim head football coach (plenty of time??), three college choices still on the table (why won’t he just go where I tell him?), and a bulging schedule that works perfectly for two children (which four kids should we give away?) Is it too shallow to pray that God teaches us to be comfortable in our uncomfortable?
"Shall we accept the good from God and not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10). Layered…our conversations, our emotions, our schedules. Our giggles and tears intertwine...our fears and courage waver…our triumphs and failures rise and fall. It’s all there held tenderly within the boundaries of 2016. Our year held unique highs and lows…a new permit driver (less cautious than the firstborn), a breathtaking homeschool ballet performance, state quarterfinals in football, a totaled mustang, several ER visits (we ER hop now to avoid investigation), and three hundred (million) soccer games. We had a Royals foul ball “caught” by one happy 6-year old, church camp, plenty of lake weekends, Camp ThompConnell, an ambulance ride, sweet moments mentoring young girls, a week with family at Disney World, a promotion (followed by the grief and contentment of turning it down), and 365 days worth of more. In October, God graciously allowed us to make it to Georgia in time to be with Preston’s mom, Mama V, before she surprisingly passed away. No one was prepared and while her family sat planning an unexpected funeral, the sweet noise of her grandchildren playing baseball outside filled the grieving room. Life. We celebrated her life (and wept at our loss of her) in Georgia one day and the very next day celebrated a conference championship win with our football team. Odd. Life lived in the midst of sorrow…just as she would have wanted. Celebrations and tears; mourning and then the relief of morning; and then all those in-betweens where we are building our faith to accept whatever the Lord brings…the good and the adversity.
Zach, the energetic senior, is a college t-shirt hoarder and has fully enjoyed a year of college visits. (Now decide already!) If Hogwarts really existed, that would be his first choice. Knowing his love for children and the sciences, he envisions his future job will probably be something combining the two (he says pediatric oncologist or fudge-maker.) He enjoyed a senior mission trip this summer working with underprivileged kids, a week at Boys State studying government (he absolutely does NOT want to be a politician), and an amazing football season making All-State receiver with over 1500 yards. What a joy it has been to watch him mature in the Lord and even if he’s 10 hours away next year (BE STILL MY HEART), we will always (be able to find him with FIND MY IPHONE-what?) be thankful that God picked him to be our firstborn.
Josh—the studious sophomore, generally works through his homework before he does his fun. He loves structure and thrives when he knows exactly what’s required of him (“tell me the rules.”) He does every sport ALL OUT. This year brought him an assortment of different sports braces and wraps (and his own bottle of Advil) collected through several frustrating injuries. A high ankle sprain plagued the early part of his football season and Preston encouraged him saying “Be patient. Athletes get hurt.” I encouraged him, “Slow down. You won’t get hurt if you don’t go full speed.” Josh loves math, choir, and socializing. He still plays the piano for our youth worship band (thankfully we have one that practices music) and he uses his humor to lighten up our tense moments (“the doc can’t believe with these muscles I’m not on steroids”).
Madelin, the artistic 7th grader, loves pointe shoes and soccer cleats. We can’t decide if she’s a soccer player masquerading as a lovely dancer or the reverse. When she asks to do some new activity, we say “NO!” because she loves every new thing she tries. She just got braces (her fingernails get a break!), and has coped with this change by perfecting ridiculously silly faces. She thinks Pinterest is straight from heaven and loves to create new things. She’s mastered the art of quietly blending in with the purpose of overhearing EVERY private conversation had in this home. She loves FINALLY being in youth group and helping me (she’s a baby hog) in the church nursery. Her persistence in her quest for an Instagram is impressive, but to her dismay, we still have enough energy to say no.
Savannah, the event-planning 4th grader, uses every emotion and event as an opportunity to celebrate (or “at least give me a cuddle night.”). Soccer gives her a chance to display her competiveness and ballet gives her a chance to practice some graceJ. She’s our hand-made gift giver and regularly hides notes for her brothers in their lunches. They repaid the favor with a lunchbox note on her first day of public school and you would have thought they bought her the world. Her awareness of other people is a gift and she loves to love others in tangible ways. Oh her sweet emotions…if we had a quarter for all the hurt feelings her college would be funded.
Noah, the conversational 1st grader, might just be the quarterback in our family (if only he didn’t like baseball more!). His soccer coach nicknamed him the “Little General” because he loves directing people (the kid does have some good ideas). He’s only been in public school for a week, but we assume he’ll be voted First Grade Class President by the end of the month. Outgoing Noah loves to lead people, loves the outdoors, loves baseball, and loves conversation. He’s masterful at word usage (with passionate expression) so we see him as a future lawyer, politician, or game show host. He loves going to school and told me he’s sorry he doesn’t miss me but he just forgets about me during the day.
Hope, our delight, turned 3 on Christmas and she has no idea what it’s like to not be completely smothered in love. There’s always someone to entertain her, to dry her tears, to tickle her, to love on her. We might be either raising helpless or royalty. Actually, she really is quite independent and probably our biggest daredevil. Her trusting heart believes someone will always be there to catch her. She can carry on full conversations with adults and explain why she likes to potty in her pants and why she has coffee breath (“my mom lets me drink her coffee.”) Her favorites are “chokers” (Jolly Ranchers), lip syncing to Trolls movie songs, anything pink, and dancing. Each sibling has a sweet relationship with her--a special “fin, noggin, Dude” handshake with Zach, chasing games with Josh, airplaning with Madelin, and playing, playing, playing with Savi and Noah.
We are learning that uncomfortable is a gift…a good gift from the Lord. As Elisabeth Elliot writes, “Circumstances are an expression of God’s will…the secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.” There’s sweet freedom in relinquishing the need to see what’s next. We don’t know how to do 2017, but God knows how to do it and He will give the grace and wisdom for the moment. Our prayer is to have a heart that says “It is well” to whatever comes from the Lord's hands this year. We pray that for all of us that 2017 is full of all the richness of life.