I found myself thinking back over the year when I wanted to write a Christmas letter to my grandma and I concluded that it was a year of tender mercies… every morning new, just like my fresh cup of tea. The tea was tangible, but the mercies less obvious until I started to think of what could have been.


Looking back over the year, I feel the wonder of ordinary life going on day by day. We have friends whose lives were irrevocably changed by tragic loss of loved ones, by brain tumors, by the bad choices of other people, etc.  Here we are, mostly unscathed; it isn’t fair. There is a liturgy where the responses of the congregation are only four words repeated, “Have mercy upon us.” I have pleaded this for our friends many times.

I find myself with fewer answers than ever as to why tragedies happen, yet I know with more assurance than ever that God is good. This is not to say that I never question His ways, but He remains good. Like breathing, I live in this confidence. There are aspects of faith that remain mysteries, yet are evidence, just as real as actual substantive things.

We grew this year. What is the point of living if we aren’t learning? The children show the most evidence of this. It’s astounding to look at photos just 12 months ago and see what all those green beans and peanut butter sandwiches and cups of milk have done to them physically. We find ourselves on the edge of parenting adolescents and I am scared spitless. The threes and fours and fives are familiar territory, but this teen thing looks like a different ball of wax. Did someone mention relationships?  I  anticipate a steep learning curve through this phase of parenting. Like the insatiable desire to be treated like an adult while still having the liberty to act like a little kid whenever that desire dictates… What is up with that? I distinctly remember that mixed up feeling when I was 12-13, so I can appreciate the justice in experiencing the parenting end of the stick. I am sorry I ever rolled my eyes at you, Mom.

We have found our preferred style of vacation to be camping, (4 times this summer) particularly in those nifty cabins at state parks. Perfection for me is a book, a chair beside a campfire, a mug of coffee in hand. The children only want monkey bars, bikes on trails, snacks, frisbees, soccer balls, food cooked on sticks, late night stories, more snacks, early breakfasts, hikes to look-out points. Obviously, not all of us can have our way. Either they have perfection or I do, and since I can’t beat em, I join em. (Why do they never beg their father for food? Hmm?) I can’t believe how often kids from other campsites join ours to play for hours without their parents even once coming to look for them. Probably they are reading beside their campfires…

We are getting better at the packing of stuff when we go away. Each child gets a backpack of their own along with a list of non-negotiable items. What doesn’t fit doesn’t go along. I have to check Rita’s pack for stray fabric scraps and a funny ratio of 5 undies to every play outfit. The boys tend to forget things like towels and toothbrushes, but they never go anywhere without pocket knives and flashlights, paracord bracelets and lighters. Yup, we are learning.

Speaking of paracord, we bought a thousand foot roll of it to use in constructing teepees or clubhouses or in tying down loose stuff. Seems you can never have too much rope or string. It has been a lot of fun for the boys to do youtube tutorials for weaving the cord in compact ways to carry it along outdoors “in case of emergency”.  Alex has devised a way to weave 12 feet of cord into one monkey paw keychain. That is the one I want with me in the quite unlikely event that I will need to hang my game high in a tree in the woods after I used the cord to snare it.

If you have ever read The Hatchet, you can only imagine what Brian would have done with a paracord bracelet, especially if he had the kind of clasp that contains a piece of flint. 🙂 I do love my boys.

We got exactly half way through school before our break for Christmas. Both boys prefer reading to all other subjects and they were wallowing around in self pity over their math lessons this morning. Olivia likes math because reading is still pretty hard work for her and Rita is buzzing along in her Kindergarten stuff. She vacillates between speedy efficiency and leisurely putting along, but it is all easy for her. I kind of wish I had put her into the same grade with Olivia to save myself a bit of work, but she is still a dreamy little girl, so I guess we will continue to pace her slowly.

Addy insists on doing “real school” so I looked for some official looking books for her to learn numbers and shapes. She is affronted when I hand her a simple coloring book for school. Part of her growing up this fall included the stowing of the toddler bed. She insisted on the top bunk while the other two girls share the bottom. It actually seems to cut down her night-time ramblings, since it takes a lot of effort to climb out of the bunk in a sleepy state. She just hollers when she has a dream instead of coming to our bedroom to sleep on the floor. Last week one night she was crying in her sleep about stinkbugs, one of the few things in her little world that terrify her.

Since we got our puppy, it has really helped to get the children outdoors. Always Gregory is up first in the morning, so he takes her out of her kennel for a potty break. Sometimes I see him sitting in the backyard, all bundled up, still half-asleep while Lady cavorts around him and licks him excitedly. She has a way of looking soulfully in the door when she is on the deck and we are eating. Gregory says she is being “wismal” which is a combination of dismal and wistful. It describes her expression perfectly. She just cracks up with joy when they take breaks to play with her. I have been pleasantly surprised at how quickly she is being trained. Springer spaniels are very tractable and love to please their masters. We got the right puppy, thank the Lord! I am really glad Gabe researched for weeks, because I would probably have just gotten something free off Craigslist. 🙂

We have learned a few things about washers and the problems that crop up when you fix your own. After Gabe replaced the transmission and I rejoiced that it was humming along again, it worked perfectly for 2 loads. Then it began to drop the spin cycle, after which it refused to rinse. I am currently using three cycles for every load of laundry. One: wash. Two: rinse. Three: spin. It works except for when the lid locks and refuses to open for a whole day, like it did the day after Christmas and I had 7 loads to wash. For your information, it may or may not help to pound on the lid in exasperation. It opened. Who knows why?

Isn’t life just like that? In the impossible circumstances as well as the minute irritations we say, “Have mercy upon us.”

I pray for you a new year full of confidence in that merciful Love!



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