We've had a ton of fun this December doing our Christmas traditions. The children were thrilled to go through our Jesse Tree/Advent Calendar again this year. We also built a gingerbread house and spent a night driving around looking for the best lights so the kids could leave their 'awards'.
|many hands make light work :)|
|this house gets an award almost every year|
We also had our annual Christmas party with some of our favorite friends. This year it was a bit lower key; we had everyone over for lunch and played a Christmas movie afterwards for the kids. As we were waiting for some of the kids to get situated for the movie Jeremy led them in singing "Angels We Have Had Heard on High". It was such a beautiful moment- these sweet kids, who I've come to care about almost as much my own, cuddled up next to each other singing. While the kids watched the movie the parents got a chance for some quieter fellowship - it was a simple but happy day.
I've mentioned it before but we always have three Christmas: just our little family, one with my side, and one with Jeremy's side. So far we've celebrated with just my family. Tomorrow we'll do our Christmas and then we will trek down to Indiana to see Jeremy's family.
Seeing my family is always bittersweet. There has been so much healing and growth. There, however, are also scars and even though they are old they still sometimes ache.
My dad who's always been in and out (mostly out) of my life seemed to have made progress. His health is failing and it appeared like he wanted to build a solid relationship. He made it known that he wanted to see us (he's also two of my siblings' Dad) for Christmas. When he canceled on the first plans we were flexible and made new ones. We clarified two hours ahead of time...then he didn't show and his phone started to go straight to voicemail. I had hope that he'd follow through but it was also tempered with a bit of cynicism. My older brother Matt though, who is developmentally delayed, still has a touch child's innocence about him. To him, no matter what happens, Dad will always be his hero - simply because he is his Dad. We tried to make the most out of waiting; we watched a silly movie and played Settlers of Catan. Matt was on my team and we totally dominated!
Matt is one of the reasons family moments are bittersweet for me. We joked and laughed - we had a wonderful time! It was happy and full of joy but in those moments there was also a deep dull ache. Even though he's my older brother Matt has always looked up to me. In the last few days I lost count of how many times he reminded everyone that I was the smart and tough one. Maybe I was/am but there is a sadness there because I wasn't smart/strong enough to protect him or my sisters. I let fear of the unknown keep me silent about abuse for far too long. I was foolish enough to think that I could control/maintain it. I know, I was also a kid, that guilt is not something I should carry, but I still wish I could go back and change things - that I could ease some of the turmoil they went through.
It's hard. As we sat up late last night playing games and talking, though, I was amazed at the grace and perseverance that's been poured out on me and my siblings. That we were able to find humor at some of the appalling situations we'd been in together. That surviving it together was enough to redeem it. That our love for one another brings us together even if it means a scab will get peeled back.
This visit was the most at peace I'd ever seen Matt. He's happy in his small residential home, he likes his job, and his medicine finally seems to be right.
My younger sister Sarah fills me with pride every-time I see her. Our paths are a bit different, but both of us our doing our best to set a new legacy for our children. Watching her and her husband, James, sacrificially and unconditionally love their three girls is one of the greatest gifts I'll every receive. They also rock the Aunt and Uncle gig. :)
My youngest sister Angel has just finished her first semester at ISU. She has big dreams and a strong drive - I'm so excited to see where life takes her!
|one my favorite gifts: a frame painted by my sister Angel, |
it says: "sisters are like fat thighs, they always stick together"
It's not perfect. Truthfully, I still have some anxiety. The path of my other two siblings is still unclear and seems rocky at best. I pray constantly that all my siblings will find joy and peace. That something will excite them and drive them forward.
Despite the uncertainty and messiness that still exists, I'm going to choose to be grateful for the growth I've seen. To trust that God's faithful love far exceeds mine. I've experienced it - I know He can rebuild, even if the pieces are broken and warped.