So this CRAZY idea jumped to mind: What if I wrote a blog (with the inherent object lessons which I hope accompany my usual entries) as a “year in review” holiday e-card I could share with my family and friends? Kill two birds with one stone, so to speak.
Brilliant, you say? I thought so, too.
We found ourselves at the beginning of last year enjoying a wonderful family vacation in Mexico. Sue and I were celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary, and the kids had been asking to go to Mexico, so we made it a family event.
Blessings abounded. We had a great time and created memories to last a lifetime.
Speaking of blessings, one of the first church services of last year had us pulling a star out of a basket that had a word on it. This was to be our “word of the year”, on which we would contemplate and then put into action. My word was “Blessings“, thoughts on which I put into one of my first blogs of 2017. Feel free to read it, but to encapsulate, we are not blessed for our own good alone; we are blessed so that we, in turn, can be a blessing to others. Always. Every time.
Allow me to count some blessings from 2017.
I am blessed with a wife of 21 years – years with many more ups than downs, but some “downs” nonetheless. Together, we have learned to look at some of those “downs” as blessings in themselves (I’ll get to the broken Christmas ornaments eventually – promise). She is God’s perfect gift for me, and by “perfect” I don’t mean flawless; I mean she is a perfect “fit” for me, and we walk the road together. The road we walk is hers. The road we walk is mine. The road we walk is ours. But most importantly, the road we walk is the one God lays out for us to follow. We make the road by walking. We watch diligently for opportunities to bring our experiences into our communities (church, neighborhood, school, work…) and hopefully allow some of the “breakage” we’ve been through to bless others. And God is faithful. If we watch, God works. I have recently started meeting with a “writers’ circle” which I am hopeful will help me transform some of our journey into something that will touch and bless others. Blessings and breakage. Breakage transformed into blessings.
We are blessed with two fantastic, adorable, infuriating, soul-filling, life-lesson-teaching children.
Emily is 12 and in 7th Grade. In September, she got taken out at the knees by a kindergartner, precipitating ACL surgery on December 18. The first couple days were ROUGH, but she has quickly returned to her fantastic, adorable, infuriating, soul-filling, life-lesson-teaching, pre-teen self. Every day is an opportunity for all of us to grow, and with God’s help, we do so as graciously and grace-FULLY as we possibly can. Blessings and breakage.
Benjamin just turned 9 and is in third grade. If you’ve spent much time with a 9-year-old boy, you will know the mixed bag of blessings and breakage they are – literally and figuratively. He is generally pedal-to-the-metal energy from sun up to sun down, at which point he generally, blessedly, falls quickly to sleep. He has been active with Cub Scouts this year, which has made Eagle Scout dad pleased and proud. He’s anxious to get on with doing older scout “stuff” (knives, guns, fires – I swear most boys just come with that built in), and because he is one of only three Wolf Scouts, they are often folded into the activities of the older Webelos’ activities, which I think is a good thing and will keep him interested.
All of our parents are well.
Sue’s parents continue to amaze – Mom Mueller turned 88 and dad turned 85, and they continue to drive all over the country to visit family and enjoy their golfing at their timeshare in Tennessee in June each year. They celebrated their 60th Wedding Anniversary in 2017, and we are blessed to live nearby them and have many opportunities for our children to build memories with them. They are also still pretty amazing child/dog sitters as well as on-call chauffeurs when needed. No breakage to report here – just blessings, for which we continue to be thankful.
My mom and step-dad split their time between their beautiful lake home in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and their warm, dry, desert home in Yuma, Arizona. They’ve slowed down a little with some chronic aches and pains but still stay amazingly active. In the summer, they garden, fish, continue to improve/add-on to the house, and entertain as many visitors as they can fit into the summer. Last year we spent 4 days there along with our best friends, Alex and Kelly Parsons, whose kids are close in age to ours and have a great time together. We also spent a day exploring Fayette, an iron-producing ghost town in the UP, where I had a blast taking a bunch of pictures. I’ll include one here I’m especially fond of.
My dad and step-mom have started regularly splitting their time between north and south as well. In the summer, they are in Grand Rapids, where they stay very busy with church activities and Habitat for Humanity. They are especially tuned in to where they can reach out and help internationals who are building new lives in the US. In the winter, they spend a couple months in Florida’s panhandle, where they enjoy the warmth, always make new friends and find new adventures, and dad gets a lot of golf in. On their way down this year, they took time to visit Selma and Montgomery, Alabama, where they got up close to the racial struggles of history which, while paving the way for civil rights, now also stand to remind us we still have so far to go. Blessings and breakage.
Which brings me to my overarching “Blessings and Breakage” lesson.
The main photo for this blog is the clean-up process of broken ornaments I managed to kick down the stairs at about 11:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Allow me to share the photo DIRECTLY before this one on my camera roll:
All is calm, all is bright, right? I gotta tell you, we were feeling pretty good about ourselves. Everything was wrapped BEFORE we went to the Christmas Eve service (a feat heretofore unaccomplished), the kids were sleeping (visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads, no doubt), and we were about to call it a night. A perfect Christmas Eve. Blessings upon blessings. Just one more gift to carry down: Emily’s reptile habitat kit (most of which was an unwieldy 20 gallon aquarium tank) for the soon to arrive bearded dragon (his name is Jeff, and he’s pretty cool). As I was carrying it downstairs (after a masterful wrapping job by me, I must admit), I kicked a box of ornaments that had not found space on the tree, and down they went with a crash. You’ve seen the picture, and, as you know, a picture says a thousand words. You can use your imagination to decide how many blessings I was counting at that particular moment.
Fortunately, nothing was broken beyond the ornaments and perhaps a bit of my pride, but the idea of “Blessings and Breakage” got into my head in that moment, and here is my Christmas wish (admonition?) for all of us:
Blessings and breakage live perilously close to one another.
At times, blessings and breakage intertwine, to the point where you often can’t tell one from the other, if, in fact, they are not already one and the same.
Count your blessings. Hold them close. Enjoy them. All of them, for they are always in abundance, in every life.
Be ready for breakage as well. A perfect Christmas Eve is one kick away from a box of shattered ornaments.
I don’t say this that we might live in fear of “what if” – rather, I say it so we will cherish the “what IS”.
And, I have found, with few exceptions, if we are thankful enough for what IS, when the IF comes (and it will), we will be in a much better place to take the brokenness (of our things, of our lives) and turn them back to blessings. And to bring things full-circle, we should never store up those blessings for ourselves. My prayer for myself, for my family, and for you, is that in 2018, we find the blessings with which we are already enriched and turn them outward, blessing those around us.
Oh, and if you’re wondering where to direct your blessings, look for breakage. They sort of go together.
Happy New Year to you all.