Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010: The Year of "What the____________?"

We've been in the United States for nine days.  We've been sick for eight of those days.  To say that's not exactly how I expected our time back with family and friends to have rolled out would be an understatement of epic proportion.

Completely and utterly not what we were expecting and certainly not what we were planning.

And yet as I sit here click clacking away on this keyboard I'm forced to smile as I think of how perfectly a "quirky," "life-of-its-own" Christmas break sums up 2010.

As I think back to this time last year, I have to laugh, dig my fingers through my wild curly mane, find my head and scratch it.

I'm sure I was busy making plans, looking ahead, and dreaming of all the "new" and "good" 2010 would hold.

It's only now that I see the humor and can laugh at myself.

It's fun sometimes to sit indian style, knee to knee with the truth and look it right in the face.

The truth whose knees I touch has told me this...on the eve of 2010 I had no way of knowing that we'd stick a for sale sign in the yard of our dream house.  This was the home we were going to grow old in.  The house we had bought with sweat and hard work as we flipped house after house, moved several times with small children (nightmare!) to finally attain the perfect home in the perfect neighborhood.

Who would have known that 2010 would be the year God pried my death grip off my dreams?

At the starting line of 2010 I had no idea that I'd have to put my stuff in boxes, stuff I loved.  My favorite hand painted furniture, the rocking chairs I nursed every one of my babies in, the school table where my boys colored, painted, and sat learning about molecules and Martin Luther King Jr.

Who knew that 2010 was going to be the year the Lord stood over me and declared "freedom" as I cried and cried and cried while I packed up my wooden crates, my beloved quilts, not knowing when I'd ever see them again or have a home that felt like home.

On December 31st I was not aware that we'd have to kiss the faces of the ones we love...sob...and say good-bye to our tight, ever so tightly knit community.

Right after Christmas last year I could have never known that what 2010 had hiding behind the curtain was a move to another country.  If we had played "Are you Smarter than a Fifth Grader" on New Year's Eve and the question was, "Haiti sits nearest to what continent?" I would have probably said, "Africa" proving that fifth graders are indeed smarter than I am.

I had no way of knowing about the mountains of fear I would face this year.  Fear that my kids would die.  Fear of earthquakes, malaria, all the multiple opportunities Haiti generously offers a family to kick the bucket.  That fear woke me up sweaty in the middle of the night, causing my sheets to smell like Doritos.  I would pant out the "What if this"..."What if thats..."  This time last year I was completely oblivious to the hard cold truth...I did not trust that God was God.  I did not trust Him at all.

As I was putting away the Christmas tree last year I could have never imagined, nope...not in a hundred years that 2010 would give us the label "missionary family."  I had never contemplated moving to another country.  Not ever.  Not once.  To be a missionary you have to have clear skin, enjoy camping, never complain, never worry, be care-free...easy-going, and trust and know Jesus in ways that the rest of the world only wishes they did.  I'm thirty four years old, have six...count them....six zits on my face right this second, hate camping, am a control freak, am not at all go with the flow and doubt Jesus is real some times on a weekly basis. 

I'm realizing that I could have planned all I wanted, and those plans would have never included one fraction of the beauty, pain, and joy that this year actually brought.

2010 seemed to bring a surprise every other day.

I sit here today a recovering planner, admitting that God is weird yet holds all of our days in His capable hands.  He writes words like "Haiti", "Heartline,"  "Freedom," "Healing," and "Faith" into our story when we're too cowardly and faithless to do it ourselves.  He upholds friendships.  He maintains them.  He weaves new people into our souls and makes beautiful additions.

I have nothing to say for 2011.  I confess that I can't predict what this year will bring.

As I say good-bye to 2010 I will hug it hard...that slow, stand there for awhile, let it linger and allow our eyes to fill up with tears kind of hug.  Not because I will miss it.  I won't.  But because 2010 brought so much healing.  It was hard and kind at the same time.  It patiently and gently taught me the most meaningful lesson.

God already has a plan for this new year. He had a plan for last year too.  His plan for 2010 was way better than mine...and not because it was easier or more comfortable than what I was busy planning.  It was better for reasons that words can't describe.  Just cries and groans and smiles can speak to the struggles and strength that were handed to our family this year.

I sit here with a baby napping, big kids roaming this farm, my hot tea and this computer in my lap...waiting with expectation as I think about what God has on His agenda for 2011.  Surprisingly I feel eager to open each one of those gifts knowing some will be lovely and some will  surely be wrapped in painfully ugly paper...but 2010 has taught me that even those are blessings.  Each one...a gracious gift.

Because I love you...each one of you...the lurkers, the dear friends, the people God has lovingly wrapped up in our story...my wish for your 2011 is this one...

May it be unexpected.  Richly and wildly unexpected.  May God write fantastic words into your story this year.  Words that would terrify you if you heard them today...words He is powerful enough to speak into existence and powerful enough to sustain.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Seven Seems Too Big

Seven years old today.

Yesterday you had a fever and were snuggled up with your trusty, plushy Boo-boo.

You said things like, "I know why I have a fever...because I got too close to that fire.  It stuck on me."

But today you are seven...and that seems too old.  too grown.  much too big.

Ashton, you are loved.  Deeply loved.

There has always been this soft, kind-hearted, sensitive way about you.  Easy going.  Flexible.  Go with the flow.  Easily entertained.  Easily comforted.  So very easy.

I love that home is where you love to be...and that your family is your bestest friend.

If I want to make your ever-lovin' day I can simply hand you a cupcake.

Happy Birthday precious one.  You bring steadfast sweetness into this family.

We pray God blesses you this year and reveals Himself to you in fresh ways that only a seven year old can understand.  May you grasp better and better God's great love for you. 


No.  That is intolerably too big.  I'm going to shake my head all year long.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

You've Got to be Kidding Me

We had a whole list of things we wanted to do as soon as we got to the States.  Hang out with friends/family and eat until our pants got tight were at the top of the list.

Within 12 hours of landing in Texas, the stomach virus hit our house.  My sister-in-law and Anson were violently wiped out. 

Normally, for a family this size we have a very strict protocol when a virus hits the house. That's a nice way of saying that I turn into a lunatic...a mix between a drill Sergent and Monk.  We try our jim-dandyest to contain the wretched stomach bug and contain it, allowing it to claim minimal victims.

Under normal circumstances I'd never want our infected, disgusting family around anyone else's family.  That's cruel.  I'd only wish a stomach virus on someone I didn't care for (like the mean lady on the airplane who sat in front of Ashton).  Even if I couldn't stand someone I don't think I'd wish a stomach virus on an entire family.  I'd fear for my soul.

But what are we to do with a stomach virus among us and only a couple weeks in the States?

A stomach virus would normally put a huge damper on hanging out with friends/family and eating like fatty fat heads.

But not this week.

We're eating anyway.  No matter how nauseous we feel.  Even if we throw our food up.  We're eating all the foods we have missed.  Grapes.  Apples.  Cuties.  Big piles of meat.  Cheese.  Bacon. Organic yogurt.  Milk that requires refrigeration. Fajitas.  And more bacon.

So far out of the 12 of us (5 Kramers, 6 Hendricks, 1 aunt) five have had stomach issues.

But instead of quarantining the sick-o's we're hanging out and trying to enjoy each other as we wait with expectation for who will drop next. The watching and waiting part sort of goes with our advent theme.

Even though we feel gross and look a little green we still managed to...

fly kites with G-paw

eat apples

Hayden ate an apple so passionately he lost a tooth.

hang out by the fire

And when I say "by the fire" I mean far away from it.  It's not even cold here today.

sit on each other and kiss the faces of the ones we love (and we don't even hold our breath.)

We ate root beer floats.  Even though we're pretty sure we'd see them again soon.

And I sat with my super sick sister-in-law most of the day and talked and talked and talked.

Take that stomach virus.  Take that.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Oh Beautiful for Spacious Skies

After a marathon of airplanes and airports

I have on my long pants

and the boys have their cousins.

We're soaking in each other,

 clean, crisp air...

the outdoors

Earth's gifts to us this season...

the wonder...

and the beauty.

We have missed this farm and the family that comes with it.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Gingerbread Girls

We had our church Christmas brunch today. So many people I love in our house.

It was an extra special day because the teen moms were here.  We all go to church together, and they were excited to hear there was a party.

There was this moment during the brunch when I looked around...surrounded by these young mothers and I thought...I tried to think of where they would be today...on this Saturday morning...if they weren't here...with us.  I had to shake my head and admit I could never imagine what their lives would be like or what they would be doing in this very moment if they weren't here...safe and sound...their babies playing sweetly on the floor...as their mothers listen to the Christmas story surrounded by people who love them.  Oh how we love them. I don't know what they would be doing today if God had not mercifully intervened, but all I knew in that sweet moment was that I'm grateful...so grateful they are here instead hearing about Immanuel, God with us....God with them.

One of the ladies from church brought all the fantastic fun stuff to make gingerbread houses.  This was a first for our teen moms, and it was one of those times when we all could have sat back in silence and simply watched these young women be swept away into the magic of this messy activity that for them was so immeasurably meaningful. They were creative.  Expressive.  Timid at first...unsure...and then determined to build a house that would stand.

Not gonna lie...there was lots of talk about building a sturdy structure...supporting it well...using the good rebar...things that may not be talked about where most gingerbread house construction is taking place.  But this is Haiti, and you can't hardly build a house (even ones made of crackers and gummy bears) without words like "earthquake" and "re-enforcing walls" being spoken.  One of our ladies was proud of her outside bathroom she constructed on her house.  I'm just guessing...but that's probably only something that happens in gingerbread house parties in a third world country.

my middles got in on the action

Don't you love the look of a boy who is busy building?  

 and then we got a little silly...cause...well...there  was candy and icing...and faces so....


Thank you for helping us love these girls and get their non-gingerbread house ready.