Sunday, December 25, 2011

the better part

Warm, positive words.
Sacrificial acts of service.
Physical closeness and affectionate touch.
Quality time.

Every person feels loved more by one of those five "languages" of love than by the other four. We each love - and experience love - differently. Jesus is a person. He speaks His love most eloquently in sacrifice and service - but it seems that the love He desires most to "hear" is the language of presence. We think perhaps that He wants us to love Him through our behavior to others, our sacrifices for Him, our generosity to others - our acts of service. And He does - the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, the Anointing at Bethany, the Washing of the Disciples Feet..... And yet, when the Martha in us bustles about trying to do for Him, He states that "Mary has chosen the better part" by choosing simply to be with Him. She gave first priority (amidst all the bustle) to sitting at His feet and gazing at Him with simple love and undivided attention. She gave Him her time - generously - even under tremendous pressure to be "busy".

 It's His birthday. No matter how crowded the party, no matter how busy the day, no matter how much work must be done to pull it all off, no matter how many other tasks and guests pull at us, no matter what the expectations of those around us, make time for Him today. As Mother Teresa said, "If we're too busy to pray, we're too busy." Don't just squeeze Him in at the beginning or end of the day, don't just pay Him a half-distracted visit during Mass or services - really make time for Him. Ironically, God is perhaps the hardest Person to fit in to this busy day. We don't have time to pray today - it's Christmas! Ironically Christmas can be the most difficult day for finding time and mental space to deeply connect with Christ. If you drive over to your church after all the services are done for the day, chances are it will be empty. You could catch Him alone and really visit - the way it's hard to visit when there's a room full of people. Whether you pay Him a solitary visit today at His home - or invite Him into yours for some uninterrupted one-on-one time together - make that the most important item on the day's to-do list, even if the visit only lasts as long as the standard "quick coffee date". And don't feel pressured to chat His head off. Enjoy the comfortable silence of God. Those closest to us don't need a steady stream of conversation. Even if we don't feel "close" to Him, He knows us better and loves us more than those we do "feel" close to. So just be still - and know that He is God. And anyway, He's just a baby today. Newborns don't mind silence. They don't mind just being gazed at. Today, He is a baby. Don't let Him lie all alone in the crib in his first hours of life. It's for you that He was born! He's your baby. Truly. He's yours. Pick Him up. Hold Him. Look at Him. Tell Him He's beautiful and I love you. He's an awesomely tiny, wrinkled, sweet smelling newborn today. He's all peaceful slumber and bleary innocent eyes and helpless grimaces. Choose the better part today. Go be with Him. case anyone needs help 
remembering how ridiculously disarming
newborn babies are.....
how little.....
how sleepy.....

 ....or how awesome it is 
to spend time in 
silent adoration of an hours-old wrinkled infant.....

.....& how very, very weak and helpless they are....

...Or how they make faces like this -
 (perhaps even for Mary, Joseph & shepherds...
perhaps even for angels.)

The Mighty Jesus was once a somewhat goofy newborn. 
Tiny. So very sleepy. Oblivious.
A real, honest-to-goodness newborn. 

Not just the alert "infant" we see
gazing at us intelligently in the creche, 
or the Dignity holding up a steady head in His mother's arms -

but a floppy, deep sleeping, bleary-eyed newborn. 

O come, let us adore Him!

Friday, December 23, 2011

happy birthday Jesus!

"Long lay the world
in sin and error pining
till He appeared 
and the soul felt its worth"

Merry Christmas.

May you be blessed with deep joy,
profound peace and every needed grace
this Christmas. 
May your prayers be fruitful
and your awe and love for God increased. 
May you know yourself surrounded by love!

O come, let us adore Him!

Rich and Kelly

Monday, December 19, 2011

the grinch gripes

"The world is too much with us; late and soon,

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers"

Never do I feel the truth of the words above as crushingly as I do at this time of year. As I sat praying last night, the first words of that sonnet came to me: the world was far too much with me. Advent, Christmas, the seasons I wish most to consecrate to simplicity, peace and all things spiritual, instead are in constant danger of being consumed by the superfluous, by overstimulation, by all things material. I had hoped this would be different in New Zealand - but it's not. 

In all things, I'm trying to recall that the prevailing culture does not have to dictate how I live in the privacy of my home. I can choose to do things differently (no matter how odd that may make my life appear to others - and I am fully aware that odd it does indeed appear to some!) But this endeavor of trying to live simply in a culture governed by the code of materialism is the most challenging area, I find, for trying to keep the pervasive mentality of the world out of my home. Partly because I've been formed by the culture and forget to even question bits of it. Also partly because trying to break with it is a ton of work, requires constant vigilance and often creates awkward situations. And I'm not even touching upon the criticism and harsh judgments this attempt invites from others.... nor the niggling fear: What if all those people are right? What if my children DO grow up to be culturally awkward technophobes who can't cope with modern existence and resent my brainwashing parenting until the day they die? 

Truthfully, with sufficient reflection, creativity, courage and humility, I'm sure it can be done beautifully, but it's a work in progress still for this little family. The hardest bit is the part about humility. I'm awesome at reflection, creativity and courage. I completely stink at humility. Not "humility" meaning "poor self esteem" but authentic humility - self-forgetfulness, detachment from both praise and criticism, ease with the full truth about the self, gentleness. I strive to do this simplicity business - and all business - with a gentle spirit. If I can't, I might as well not do it at all. And I do mean that. 

Also ongoing is the fight for freedom from the paralyzing grip of caring so much about what others think about me. Not so much the people who already think I'm odd - I'm talking about the people who up till now have more or less accepted and perhaps even admired me. I still have a foot in each world - determined to shape a life that runs against the norms of the culture in which I live, yet also fearing friction and the disapproval of others, Christian or no.  In particular I feel far too psychologically vulnerable to the censure of others regarding my parenting choices. Disapproval may not stop me but it certainly haunts me. I guess that's partly because even I have no idea how it will turn out. I'm trying to give my children the most pure, free, joyful childhood I know how. Every mother tries to give her child the best she can and I am no different. But sometimes I look like a real Scrooge. Take for example this week. I was walking down the street with my daughters when a gas station employee (a stranger) dashed out of her store with little wrapped presents for the girls. She looked at me for permission first (oh, how I truly appreciate that courtesy that so few think of!) and I gently shook my head no. She melted away. The girls were oblivious to the whole thing. 

Why not let a total stranger give my children a crappy little plastic toy or a bit of cheap candy? After all, 'Tis the Season! (Actually, 'Tis not the Season - for 5 more days - but that didn't factor into my decision.) One of my top priorities is to preserve my children's appreciation for simplicity - to guard against "spoiling" - so that their lifelong capacity for happiness is preserved. This requires often saying "no" even when I want to say "yes" - starting with my own desire to lavish little treats upon them for that momentary flash of excitement and love. I'm only egged on by all the Laura Ingalls Wilder I've been reading with Maria. I love how Laura gets only a plain tin cup and a penny for Christmas one year and she exclaims retrospectively, "Was there ever such a Christmas!" She was so unspoilt that the ability to appreciate and rejoice in simple good things was completely alive in her. I was lost in the image of her joy in that gift - because there were few gifts, simple gifts, quality gifts - she had such intense pleasure in each. She hadn't been desensitized all year by the constant bombardment of little bits of plastic junk. In all her childhood, she owned one doll. One. Her Christmas was not defined by an overwrought frenzy of unwrapping followed by a day-after slump. As I was reading this chapter to Maria the doorbell rang and an acquaintance stood bearing a wrapped present. I had no idea what was inside but I was so relieved when she announced that it was not for us - she simply wanted us to act as courier and get it to it's true recipient. In stark contrast to little Laura, I realized then how world-weary and jaded I have become with all this excess. Do others sometimes feel this way with gifts? Oh no. What is this going to be? I didn't get her anything. Should I now? Will it be too obvious? And what am I going to do with this? Of course, it's the thought that counts and it was a nice gesture. But still.....    Well, Laura didn't. Ever. 

In myself I find that fevered impulse to buy and give - it's not just coming at me from the external world. And actually, I think it's a good impulse - but undisciplined, it easily runs amok with the excessive availability and relative affordability of things in our given culture. Rich and I bought the girls only a very few small, special gifts this year and agreed not to get each other anything (or poor Joseph). Richie's South Island trip was a birthday/Christmas gift anyway and I'm not at all greedy for gifts (in case that hasn't come across). But I truly love to give gifts. To offer this desire an outlet, I'm trying to redirect the impulse away from the mall & Amazon, and towards the homemade & nonmaterial. [I know "homemade" sounds like the worst adjective to apply to the noun "gift", but two of the most wondrous gifts that have come through the door this week were homemade: our most old-fashioned teen gave us some strawberry jam she made from scratch and Rich's aunt sewed the girls breathtaking child-sized, pink & white striped, eyelet-ruffle-trimmed aprons - with pockets....(perfect for playing Little House).... So "homemade" can be done - and beautifully.] Despite my Handmade-Or-Nothing Pact with Richie, this week I thought of an awesome gift for him. A store-bought present. I thought how surprised he'd be on Christmas morning and how excited he'd be and the radiant pleasure it would give him and how much he'd love me for it.  Those emotions would definitely last for at least an hour! Impulsively, even frantically, I decided to buy it. But then Christine - a true kindred spirit to me - sagely advised me otherwise. When I asked her opinion, she gently said that she admired the original decision we had made and she thought it would be good to stick to it. The feverish feeling subsided and clarity dawned anew. Discipline. Prudence. Simplicity. The integrity of Christian life - even on Christmas. Especially on Christmas. 

Remember how the Grinch hears the Whos singing on Christmas morning "without any presents at all"? Only then does he finally realize "Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more". I don't know that I could ever be a true Who, sounding merry, if I woke on Christmas to no presents, no tree, no wreath, no stockings, no food and even no heat.  Clearly for those little Whos, "the tags and the tinsel, the trimmings, the trappings" were neither the cause of their joy nor a distraction from it. Maybe they were just really empty-headed little ditzes, but I prefer to imagine that their celebrations bubbled out from the excess richness within, based on profound delight in the true meaning of Christmas and the implications of God becoming man. I like to think that their presents and roast beast were external manifestations of an authentic Christ Child joy that came forth from deep inside and sought outward expression. Their joy expressed itself in tags and tinsel, but was at the same time utterly independent of them. Man, do I want that!

Why do so many atheists and agnostics join in the tags and the tinsel at this time of year? Faith is "idiotic" to them, but the trees and the gifts and the feast seem able to actually stand alone. Why would unbelievers insist upon the right to join in the celebration of a feast they despise (in theory) unless it's become completely unmoored from its foundation? Something has gone terribly wrong when most nonbelievers can celebrate a Christ-less Christmas with ease. It's like trying to pass a plop of frosting off as a cake. A gift exchange around a tree is just frosting. The huge family dinner is sprinkles. Baby Jesus is the cake. A Christ-less Christmas ought to be as ludicrous and unappealing as a big blob of icing called "cake". Christians must review this Day and what - or rather, Who - alone makes it worth celebrating. That may involve tweaking - or totally reworking - how it is celebrated - beginning with Advent. The cake perhaps has been obscured or lost under excessive frosting. So much so that a growing demographic believes that the cake need not be there at all. The birthday party must go on - but  the Guest of Honor may be refused admittance. I don't want to say that behavior is idiotic, but it's certainly neither intelligent nor classy. 

How can the trimmings and trappings be incorporated in the Christian home so that they elicit and express rightly ordered joy - helping us to achieve the proper spirit - rather than distracting us and obscuring it? How can we appropriately celebrate with great joy the birth of a One who taught only loving poverty and humble discipline? As I am supposedly concentrating on humility these days, I wish to stress that I'm neither preaching nor pressuring any one particular answer. I had a very good friend laughingly tell me this week that she wants to raise her kids almost the same way I raise mine "except for the way you do Christmas!" I appreciate that each Christian family can reclaim Christmas in their own beautiful manner. But in order to do so, it must be thought through - every detail of it - nothing accepted automatically from the hands of a materialist culture that can celebrate "Christmas" utterly without Christ - or "Mas(s)" - or any other expression of worship. When our Christmas joy is finally so obviously independent of its worldly trappings, perhaps then in the secular world hearts will "grow three sizes that day". Big enough to fit in baby Jesus. Perhaps then it won't look so odd and repressive and fanatical to keep Christmas focused squarely on Christ. Perhaps. Stranger things have happened. Just ask Scrooge.  

We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

how NOT to fool a teenager

One of the finest pieces of parenting advice I ever read was something along the lines of: You will get unbelievable mileage out of the word special. This advice, however, must expire sometime after the 4th birthday and before the 18th. Now, it's still working great with my kids. Just this week, I served roasted potatoes for dinner. Maria hates them. She always has, for over four years. She's not a picky eater - white potatoes are probably one of three foods she doesn't like. But last night I briskly spooned some onto her plate and - as soon as her lips curled in disgust - I quickly announced, "And these are some special french fries!!!" Then I covered them in ketchup before she could really make out anything more. She ate three servings. And announced that "special french fries" were her new favorite food.

But perhaps I've become a bit too dependent on the word special - especially in a pinch. See, earlier in the week it came slipping out of my mouth so fast that I barely had time to register that I was speaking to a young woman, not a four and half year old. I was hiking with the girls group, Joseph in the Ergo. It was rainy and cold. The lithe, nimble youth scampered merrily up the long and steep ascent. They chattered and laughed carelessly. Christine and I lagged behind - far behind - lamenting our comparative out-of-shape-ness. She struggled under the soon-to-be dead weight of 35 pound Bernadette, who was trying to sneak in a nap. I had only 6th percentile Joseph as my pathetic excuse, so I searched for a better one. It occurred to me that the girls trotting so effortlessly up the dreary, wet mountainside were aged thirteen to eighteen. The youngest ones were exactly twenty years younger than me.  I felt so much better about myself that I cheerfully informed poor forlorn Christine that she was ten years older than the youngest hikers.

Papamoa Hills on a sunnier, warmer day

Finally we reached the summit. The two eldest girls had mysteriously gone up ahead and were awaiting us in surprise costume - Santa Claus and the Cowardly Lion. We all had a good laugh and then headed back for the cars to escape the rain and biting wind. Santa and the Lion are heading off to NET with Christine next month, so the rest of us had a surprise goodbye party awaiting the 3 of them back at the church. But suddenly I worried that the Cowardly Lion was going to go directly home without swinging by the church first. Brilliantly, I announced that we were all going to reconvene in my living room for our last group photo. But the darn Lion said, "I have a camera with me - we could take it right here." I forgot I was in "Youth Minister" mode. I slipped automatically into "Mother of Toddlers" mode, where I spend 98% of my life. I blurted,"Oh, yes, ok, but I have a special camera at home that I'd like to use."

In my car, we laughed hysterically the whole way back to the church about the special camera faux pas. We thought  the cat was surely out of the bag. Certainly it's ears and whiskers had peeped over the top, but I found out later that Santa and the Cowardly Lion had driven back pondering, "Do you think maybe she has a Polaroid camera that she wants to use?"

Maybe the "s" word still had a  tiny  bit of power in it after all.

view from summit
(we actually forgot to take that group photo)

Post Script - The school year has finished up here and the youth are on Christmas and summer holidays now. While we'll still get together randomly with them for board games, movies and beach frisbee over the summer, there will be only a few proper "religious" events over the next two months. I share this by way of explanation of why the "ministry" news has trickled off and the blog will blob along into a  disproportionate share of "madness" and "musings"

Other random bits....Joseph is doing well - we get asked so often by so many people in both countries who tell me they are still praying for him daily - THANK YOU SO MUCH! His liver continues to slowly improve and while he is not exactly taking the 9th percentile line by storm, he has steadily inched above the 2nd percentile line for weight on the WHO chart. He even has a few fat rolls on the wrists and dimples in the elbows, thanks to Ice Cream Therapy. (I love Ice Cream Therapy. One bite for Joseph, three bites for Mama.) Other than monthly blood tests and a monthly exam, the doctors have pretty much left him alone. He'll be 9 months old on Christmas, has 7 teeth, is almost crawling and is a pretty decent sleeper. He thinks feet, piglets and things falling down are hilarious. He screams when he's happy and is hypnotically cute. His favorite games are Itsy Bitsy Spider and shaking his head "no" - and if he's noisy at Mass, blowing gently on his hairline will generally distract him for up to three minutes....enough to get through the Consecration. Bouncing him up and down quite boisterously can get him through the entire Liturgy, but then Fr. Michael is beset after Mass by worried grandmotherly types who beg him to have a word with us about the fact that we are possibly injuring his brain and/or spinal cord. By "we" I mean Richard. Ever since he left for the South Island, I think the 80-plus crowd feels a bit more relaxed. Richard, by the way, is loving his trip and intends to WRITE HIS OWN POST when he returns! I will be glad for it because, although I have managed to find time to write three posts in his absence, I will have far less opportunity to write once he's home. While he's away, my evenings have been luxuriously long -let's just say that I do not share my husband's hang-ups about putting kids to bed before 6pm.  Actually, I think the second best piece of parenting advice I ever read was that children are happier when they have very early bedtimes! ....Or maybe it was that their parents are happier? Maybe not the parents that like to sleep past dawn, but all I know is that if I'm going to be awake nursing Joseph by 6am, I might as well have the girls up also. I'm enjoying these sweet early mornings when the girls sleepily stumble into my bed to quietly snuggle with their brother and me. 
 I'm sure Richie will come to see the beauty of it all.
 But, to be safe, I might preface the news by telling him that the girls have a special new bedtime.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

christine's link & some critters

Although I'd infinitely prefer to keep little Christine locked up safe in my living room
for the next five months, it's nearly time to send her forth
 to Australia's deadly snakes and lethal spiders.
Since much of my readership knows Christine and/or is actually her blood relation, 
she'd like to invite everyone to take a peek at her brand-new website. 

Please pray for Christine. 
By the time her NET mission period is through, she'll have been away from all that is "home" for almost as long as Richard and I have. Unlike us, she'll be rooming with five strangers and will be thrown into the complete unknown. When Rich and I set out, we had each other - and we had Fr. Michael to answer our detailed questions before we got here and to care for us when we arrived. Christine won't even know where she'll be placed until she completes her six week training in Aussie. She could be stationed anywhere in Australia - a country roughly as large as the Continental US.  She has to pack without the faintest clue about the climate in which she'll live. Furthermore (and this would most certainly be the deal-breaker for me!) she'll be living in country that boasts the most abundant and diverse deadly creatures in the world.
 I'm not sure that there are even ticks in New Zealand.
 The worst pests here are possums. Seriously.

Okay, okay, I know, he's kind of cute. But sometimes they can be a little scary. For example, the wee fellow below is doing his best to show the intimidating side of possums.

Christine could have stayed in this tranquil possum-infested haven. Or she could have returned to Pittsburgh's deer ticks and armed drug dealers.
But, for love of Jesus, she's braving all those terrifying Australian critters. God bless her.

All joking aside, please pray that Christine would be given great strength to endure enormous change, huge challenges, certain loneliness, much uncertainty, intense personality clashes, aching homesickness, overwhelming stress, scarce privacy and a jam-packed schedule of very hard work for the sake of the Gospel.
AND please pray that her guardian angel would stay EXTREMELY vigilant against
scorpions, snakes, sharks and
  enormous, gigantic, hairy, beady-eyed, poisonous

christine's website:
(at which no one will be subjected to any more spider photos)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

second annual alternative infancy narratives

Mary, baby Jesus & the lesser known archangel Gloria

Maria's preschool held their annual Christmas pageant this morning. Originally cast as an angel, she promoted herself to archangel. She did not, however, wish to be a boy archangel like Michael or Gabriel, so in a burst of uncharacteristic radical feminism, I sort of invented/discovered a hitherto unknown archangel named Gloria. Perhaps taking these liberties with the religious education of small children accounts for the following exchange that took place between the girls a few minutes before we left for the pageant. 

Maria and Bernadette are playing "Annunciation". In full costume.
Maria is a very no-nonsense Gabriel. Bernadette is allegedly Mary, but without the grace and total fiat that one typically associates with the Mother of Christ. 

Gabriel: Mary, you must have a baby in a stable. 

Mary: Okay. (sounds more like "O-tay")

Gabriel: You must name him baby Jesus. 

Mary: No. I want to name him baby Stawbewy Sort-tate. 

(Now ensues a lengthy and heated argument between the Blessed Virgin and the Archangel Gabriel. Luckily, it does not come to blows. Not really bad ones anyway. Finally it subsides into a negotiation of sorts, however Gabriel does not back down one inch. Mary soon has to give up all hope of compromising by naming her baby Baby Jesus Strawberry Shortcake.) Even though Gabriel has won, he rubs it in a bit by repeating his demand one last time.

Gabriel: You must name him only Jesus. 

Mary: Okay. 

Gabriel: And He will be holy above all names. 

Mary: Okay. 

So Maria's got it pretty straight and she's quite rigid about how it all goes. Perhaps she's missing a wee bit of the spirit of the whole thing though. Bernadette needs remedial catechizing. Just this week we were cuddled on the couch and she saw a little illustration of the Trinity. I asked her if she knew who all the figures were and she correctly answered, "Dod, Deezus, anda Howee Spiwit." Then I asked her if she knew where they live. I was expecting "Heaven". I would have also happily accepted "Church" or "My heart." Instead she said, "Pennsylvania." I laughed. I hugged her. I very half-heartedly corrected her. She's not even two and half yet. If she wants to picture God living in Pennsylvania, well, she wouldn't be the only one here to occasionally take that liberty. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

busy...VERY busy

The unintended side effect of being present to the present moment is being absent from the blog. There's been a lot to be present to. It's the end of the school year in New Zealand, with all of the attendant drama that accompanies wrapping up a year of youth ministry. Plus it's hot, it's humid, it's Advent - and yet I still haven't even processed our pseudo-Thanksgiving. Yes, we did try. Sort of. It was no improvement on last year's attempt at Thanksgiving, but the upshot of it was that we decided to use "Thanksgiving" as a possible theme for youth group meetings when we start up again in 2012. This will include introducing our hapless Kiwi youth to American classics like pumpkin pie and proper turkey stuffing. But shhhhh - don't tell them - it's a surprise!

Also keeping us busy: we have another Sealy under our roof right now. Rich & Christine's sister Karen has been visiting her siblings, nieces and nephew for ten days, taking in the sights of New Zealand and semi-seriously pondering the idea of selling her return ticket -to me. [Just kidding! Sort of! Rich and I have purchased our own return tickets and will be touching down in LAX in late May 2012. I've been singing the Star Spangled Banner & America the Beautiful to the girls as lullabies ever since....] We've been the nice kind of busy as we attempt to cram as much of this beautiful country as we can into Karen's ten days. The bonus prize is that the kids are totally worn out and have gone to bed early since she arrived!
no visit to NZ is complete until this happens....

Besides ministry and guests, we're all quite busy with "side projects". A brief overview of these:
Christine has her hands full 

Christine is busy preparing for NET - she's getting her Australian visa paperwork squared away, getting her fundraising efforts off the ground and setting up a blog. (It sounds so familiar...almost like I've done all that before in another life.) I'll be posting a link to her blog once she's all set up. She leaves in just one month and I'm trying to figure out what on earth I will do without her once she's gone. The whole rhythm of my day has now become intertwined with her presence. The little ministry that I do (mostly just girls group) is possible only because of her assistance. There's a young woman waiting in the wings - or so I believe - and I will write more about her once it's official. But whether there are ten women waiting to step in and help - or none at all - I'll be missing little Christine more for who she is than for what she does. Please join me in praying for a fruitful and grace-filled mission experience for Christine.
she's leaving all this beauty....
for spiders the size of DINNER PLATES

my husband

Richard's preparing for his ten day exploration of the South Island, which will reunite him with his beloved family hours prior to Christmas Eve. He has two friends going with him and they have the most vague plans in the world  - something about renting a car (which they will sleep in) and an unwritten "list" of possible sights to see - maybe. They are keeping very busy, meeting regularly to ensure that these plans stay as vague as possible until the absolute final moment.

the last time Richard left home for a few days, 
let's just say that Maria was a little upset.... this time I have some more uplifting art projects planned

I'm realizing that Christmas tree ornaments made from red construction paper are really not acceptable - even though we sunk that low last year. Since all our festive decor is half a world away, the kids and I have been working on creating some meaningful and delightful substitutes - from homemade playdo - which everyone knows is a huge step up from construction paper. I have no idea what on earth else I am doing that is keeping me so busy but I presume it mostly has to do with the short people. We've been visiting the library quite a bit - bringing home an armful of books every week - including many beautifully illustrated stories of the upcoming Nativity. And I guess in my own heart, there is a peaceful kind of bustle....trying to make room for a Little One. I pray that all of you, who have so generously loved and encouraged and supported us over the past two years, enjoy a peaceful and grace-filled Advent season as you prepare to receive a Little One!

even I have no idea what I was doing
(but it looks neither graceful nor peaceful)