+[winter walk]+

I walked only steps behind him this morning, but in his footsteps.   Two hours worth of sunny, snowy trails surrounding us with silence.  I memorized the tread of his prints, the cadence of his gait - concentrated fully on him.  At times he reached back to hold my hand, always removing his glove.  He has walked many a trail with me in these 16 years of marriage.  Many.

The nature of being me is that those who love me most travel both the highest trails and the lowest as well.  Doug says my life has colors that most never know, on both ends of the spectrum.   I do not know any different, I know only what I know - am only who I am.  What I do know is that my extremes are, at times,  exhausting for others, and for me. 

His words from a couple of days before came back to me.

"There is always change ahead.  You dont have to look far to see evidence of that promise."

I held the words closely and kept pace as we wandered.

As we walked, we talked of favorites experienced in 2012.   The mental journey through the months spurred me to collect the thoughts here today.  The year has held much.

January 2012 found us living in a new state, a new home, learning a new life of sorts.   Our 11th move in 16 years of marriage.  Yeah.   Doug was unemployed at the time, our home had zero furniture and we had no idea how we would complete the move of our belongings, which sat in storage in Minnesota.   God provided.  A family we met in Minnesota called to say they wanted to pay for a truck to move everything for us.  Amazing.  Still makes me stop breathing.  Days later a job was offered at Compassion.  Talk about watching the Hand of God move.  All those days of Doug praying over us, for the Lord to not let us go up from this place (MN) unless His Presence went with us (Exodus 33) rang in my mind night and day. 

February held the beginning of new co-op classes for the girls, integration in a moms group for me, also the building of neighborhood friends for me (two women over age 60!) and the arranging of our nest.   After living with only a suitcase each for 5 months, I suddenly felt heavy with the "much" that had arrived on our doorstep.  Savannah reluctantly began meeting with a group of 10 girls for bible study every other Friday.  Today they are her closest friends in this state.   And after having to take our first Weimaraner (Atticus) back to the rescue from which we were fostering (he was growling at the girls and overall not stable), Rugby came into our home. A perfect match for us, Pup (as we call him on a daily basis) brought with him a load of life and laughter we had not known since we had never before shared life with a dog.

March, with Doug integrated into his new job and our school year in its rhythms, I began to settle into a daily motherhood and wife routine once more.  Sounds odd, but for months we were in survival mode, which is a very different kind of mothering and partnership with your spouse and children.  Daily luxuries like cooking for pleasure, meal planning with forethought, fieldtrips for school and date nights once again entered our life.     Doug turned 43 and with it began to dream new dreams.  I remember this as the month when we all began to let down a little bit, to really grasp ahold of the newness of everything surrounding us.  Savannah began to play soccer once again and at that point our family schedule began to feel very "us" ish.

In April we opened our home to the first Ethiopian graduate of Compassion.  He had just spoken on Capitol Hill and was in process of speaking at various Compassion events in our area.   A survivor of childhood disease, he now fights the Ethiopian government with the company he started to bring safe, effective and affordable pharmaceuticals to the Ethiopian people.  When he was ill his Compassion sponsor flew medications to him 4 times, which ultimately saved his life.  Thus his life mission was born.  I cant quite express how rich it was to have him in our home.  Flowery house slippers (not kidding) and all!   Easter, that month, was truly a time of recognizing Redemption in our home.  And as if all the other Provisions weren't enough, my parents came bringing us their car to keep as long as we needed it.  They stayed a week, which was a time of great calming to me.  The road had been rough and their presence and encouragement of both me and especially of Doug made such a difference in our emotional well being.

In May the extensive flowers on the land surrounding our home began to bloom.  Everyday was a new experience, a reminder,  in our out of doors.  Soccer games, get togethers with new friends and weekly farmers market visits became our regular rhythms.  Not to mention our first family camping trip of the season (the first since the girls and I returned from our September through October trip the fall before).  Boulder became a weekly weekend experience for us, something we had pined for in those 10 years we were not living here.  Impromptu picnics in the mountains, competitive traveling soccer tryouts for Savannah and yet another Provision (Camp being covered for both of the girls) surfaced in our day to day life.  School came to a close for the year and I wondered how in the world we had made it through - especially with Savannah somehow ending the year with enough credits to skip her freshman year altogether.    More Provision.

In June we headed to Texas.  I left running, honestly.  Wrestling deep darkness for so long, being unsettled and unstable for so long, having no idea what was around the corner for our family and having to trust the Lord to lead through my husband had left me raw and ragged in countless ways.  And renewed in countless ways I could not then see.  I ran to the arms of dearest friends and family, and to the joy of serving at Camp Peniel alongside my sister.  I ran to rest and in that rest began to remember, recollect and see the beauty of all that was transpiring.  Savannah was crowned Princess at camp, their highest honor.  5 years of very hard work and diligence led to that crowning.   Just behind her Peyton was crowned Dutchess, the step needed to begin the final ascent to the Princess level.  Hundreds of hours of readings, projects, memorizations and learning led to that awards ceremony.  Few finish the work needed for the crowning.  As I watched Savannah address the crowd  and publicly answer countless questions from the Camp Directors, I couldnt help but cry in Thanks for this constant in their lives, Camp Peniel, and how it has taught them.   The Lord pursued me there...and He has pursued each of them there as well.  It is their favorite place to be in the world, mine as well.  I told Doug today that perhaps that ceremony was my favorite moment of the entire year - so much represented.  When we came home to Doug in early July, we came full in heart and spirit.

July held camping trips, sleeping on the porch, ice cream making and countless trips to the mountains; an overall bountiful celebration - just what summer should be.  Each morning I could be found at a coffee shop watching the mountains and reading, writing and praying.  Resting.  My sister came to visit, another of my favorite memories of the year, and we launched Doug on his lengthy trip to Rwanda.  This morning he unhesitatingly said that was his favorite part of 2012 (his Rwanda trip) - that and working at Compassion on the associated projects.  In July we danced.

In August the girls and I traveled Colorado as Doug worked and learned the Rwandan culture.  We knew as we let him go that his time there would ultimately change something within him, and it did.  It was a gift in so many ways.  Such Provision in so many ways.  August also held the beginning of a new school year - 7th grade for Peyton and 10th grade for Savannah.  And my 5th year of homeschooling them!   One of the biggest gaps in homeschooling for us has been community.  Private school offered community which we had taken for granted.  In homeschooling we have found it much harder to find groups with which we felt connected, like minded and interest similar.  Peyton in particular has struggled in this area.  But not anymore!  August was the month she started at her new school.  An all day academy which she attends on Thursdays each week, she is in a class of fifteen 7th grade girls (shes delighted there are no boys) and loves, loves, loves it.  There she takes Classical Literature, Latin, Apologia Science (though it is a charter school?!?!?), Art history and Composition, Readers Theater (Shakespeare), has Gym class and Government.  She also is part of a Business Studies group there which began a mock corporation.  Oddly that Business Studies group is her very favorite part of the day - besides lunch when she can talk freely with all of her friends.  She beams each morning when she gets out of the car to enter school and is beaming each day when I pick her up.  Ive asked her many times why she likes it so well and her answer remains the same, "I can be with and work with friends and be challenged by other teachers, then come home and enjoy my life while completing my assignments, just being me with zero peer pressure, and concentrating on my other studies here with you and Savannah.  Its the best of both worlds Mom!"  Oh how long we waited for her to find community, and now she has!  In addition to her weekly classes we decided at the beginning of the year that we would hold a monthly party at our house for her classmates.  So far we have had a potluck/game night, a pumpkin carving party, a fall firepit party and a Christmas cookie exchange.  Next semester the parties scheduled for her class are Winter Movie Night, Valentine Making, Spring Tea Party and a Mission Impossible night in the woods behind our house.  Having these parties at our home has allowed us to get to know the families of the girls in her class as well (they hang out during the parties as well), which has been delightful!

September found us in full swing with the new fall schedule.  Savannahs competitive traveling soccer schedule combined with her AP art class, taught by two Yale professors, had her time more than spoken for.  We had a few weeks of wondering if this was the right path for her.  The increased academic demands were honestly overwhelming - mainly I speak of Art, which at one point was requiring upwards of 30 hours per week for that one class alone.  I chose this AP (Advanced Placement) Art Class for her due to her love of Art and Architecture and her desire to attend a university (most likely Stanford) at which she could study both.  I emailed with these two professors for near 6 months before deciding to go forward with their agenda for her advanced studies.  It was a hard call.  Many, many a night of rethinking it all occurred for me, and for Doug.  She truly was pushed to her limits (and beyond) as deadlines came and went for this AP Art class. (If you want to know how it all turned out read here).   In addition, weekly travel was occurring for soccer and my demands of her literature/writing studies increased at home, while her tutors for Biology and Spanish II still had their requirements to be met.  Not to mention her dads Algebra II lessons!  It was as if she were already in college!  But just this week her semester grade came in - an A- in that AP art class, a grade they rarely present.  It is INCREDIBLE to see how much improved her work, her vision, her project management skills and her overall grasp of ideas has grown in this short semester.   Her professors said that, "if the students enrolled in their class made it to the mid semester, it would be the single hardest academic/creative endeavor of their young lives."  They weren't kidding, but In Savannahs words, it was "more than worth it." 

In October we once again had found our schooling groove.  Part of homeschooling is that once you find your groove, you know you're not far from having to find it anew.  Such is most every area of my life.  But the time in between finding grooves, we have learned to take in fully.  So we did!  More classical literature shared as I read to them, more Christian hero studies, more time studying in coffee shops and more time in nature.  We also found time to sketch the galleries of museums (a longtime favorite endeavor) and even took a weekend fieldtrip to Santa Fe as a family for further studies on how WWII affected artists and the community there, not to mention fabulous food and gallery hopping.  Peyton, continuing with violin studies, was requesting more symphonies in our schedule so she and I began attending the Denver Symphony Orchestra series as well.  We managed to fit in a few more end of season family camping (or cabin) trips on the weeks Savannahs games weren't played on Saturdays,  and even took a rental car up on the scenic byway to experience the change of season Colorado style.  True to a 5 year tradition, we also held a pumpkin carving at our home for all our friends and enjoyed Halloween night with treats and a bonfire in our yard, welcoming all the neighbors.  Savannah also took a trial run at the PSAT test (it only counts when you are a junior) and qualified as a Merit Scholar!

November held Doug and my 16th wedding anniversary, which we celebrated in Austin, Texas (the town where we fell in love and he proposed).  That time in Austin was preceded by a week of volunteering at Camp Peniel with the girls as they prepared for Thanksgiving Camp and the hundreds of people who descend to that hill country land for the yearly holiday tradition.  (I attended it yearly with my family as a child!)  The girls loved the time there (as I wrote before, its their favorite place on earth) and loved equally getting to go to my parents house after Camp while Doug and I celebrated our marriage for 4 days alone in Austin.  My sister also joined us at camp for a couple of days, which made the time all I could have hoped for.  Upon leaving Texas, we stayed at my best friends house so I drove home once again full from the life and love of being with those we hold most dear.

December then met us with a change of schedule as classes began to end for the semester.  Each week another class or so came to a close.  My 42nd birthday came, followed a week later by Peytons 13th.  We celebrated that significant event with the Coming Of Age traditions we first began with Savannah.  I took Peyton to high tea, just the two of us.  Then the next day Doug took her out for a day of rock climbing and talking through this next phase of her life.  Obviously the rock climbing (her FAVORITE thing to do with Dad) provided the perfect backdrop for his discussions.  Afterwards they got cleaned and fancied up and headed to a special dinner where he presented her with her purity ring and talked more with her about womanhood and the mantle she now will wear.  Then the next morning I took her away to Beaver Creek for a few days of alone time to celebrate this crossing over from childhood to womanhood in her life.  Doug and I believe that leaving childhood behind means both more privilege and more respo0nsilbity so we enjoy taking the time to mark that crossing as significant.  Upon returning from Beaver Creek we had only 48 hours before my parents arrived for their Christmas stay with us.  It had been 6 years since we had spent Christmas with them (or anyone) and we were SO excited to have them.  The time with them was wonderful in every way.

And now the year is ending.  We are looking both backward at forward at once.  As I have outlined each month and all it held for our family, I can more clearly see the Provisions of God at each turn of the calendar.  Can you (physical, relational, spiritual)?  We, as a connected family, continue to seek the Lords Plan for us.  Doug continues to pray through his leadership and direction of what and where we need to be, stating over and over again, "that 2013 is going to be very different for us."  Savannah continues to balance the looking forward and staying present in her own life and dreams, while Peyton learns what it means to become all she was designed to be.  And I am learning (learning!) to find Sabbath in it all. 

I do not know what next year holds. But it was reported to me that as I was volunteering in the kitchen at Thanksgiving Camp, and the Thanksgiving worship celebration was going on outside, attendees were asked to stand and share what the Lord had done in their family life over the past year.  Apparently Doug stood.  He talked of a family who left a life which looked fine to most, a family who left everything in seeking the Lords Plan for them.  He talked of an understanding which he holds that next year will present new things for this family in many ways and how thankful he is to be exactly where we are.  I was not there as he spoke these words.  I was making a pie or basting a turkey.  But I had heard the words already.  My children and my parents had not.  And they watched as this leader, their father and son, stood and spoke.  The Lord knows the Plans He has for us and this new year we enter simply resting in that Truth.
"There is always change ahead. You dont have to look far to see evidence of that promise."

Happy New Year to each of you.  Thank you for sharing my life with me.  This blog is a place for me to share my cluttered mind and Im so glad to have visitors who come back to sit with me again and again.