In the next few weeks, Christmas cards and letters from friends far and near will descend on our mailbox. Memories will resurface from a lifetime ago. Unfamiliar faces will appear in pictures, as marriages have dissolved and new covenants established. Successes, trips, achievements and well wishes will be touted, and all along, I’ll wonder, “How are they really doing?”
It’s been years since I have sent out family Christmas letters. In fact, 50 copies of our 2005 family picture still line the bottom of my desk screaming, “You are the Queen of Best Intentions.” In a new season of life, I will re-establish that reciprocal “exchange of cards” tradition, with the desire of getting re-added to the list of the numerous families who have given up on me, but also in hopes of sending a card that would get to the heart of the matter.
2015 (we’ve gotten the same picture for nearly 20 years)
Here’s my real family Christmas letter. (I shared this a few years ago at (in)courage and have added in a few 2015 updates.)
Dear friends and family,
I can’t believe I am wishing you all a Merry Christmas. Wasn’t it just yesterday that the Lord graciously ushered in last year’s “card”? I need to just make it through one more week and then I can slow down, pause and truly reflect on all that He has done in our lives this year.
We’ve had a host of new experiences for our family, all divinely appointed, but some filled with heartbreaking challenges. The older I get, the more intimately I am aware of my need for a Savior. (2015 – oh yes, more and more as the kids have gotten older.)
Our five children still fill the majority of my time, although they are no longer the stair step toddlers I just birthed. Our three little boys are practically grown men, and attempting to feed them creates challenges of their own. Our eldest turned eighteen last week (with our youngest just eight), and it aroused such a myriad of emotional mommy moments. (Now, he will be graduating from college this spring 2016. I blinked, friends, and he’s almost on his own.)
Do you remember when you were 18? So much potential, so many admirable leadership qualities, and yet 18 year olds truly believe they are “so wise in their own eyes.” (That 18 – 19 year a challenging year, but wow, this conversation made it worth it.)
As I mother, I continue to grow and learn more about myself than I care to know. Often though, I realize I am just a mess – a mess that is fully loved and accepted by a Savior who calls me to this most sacred occupation. My desire is to just love my children like God loves me, and continually pursue their heart. I want no regrets, yet often I am just exhausted. One child said to me, “Mom, you just care too much. Other parents just don’t really ask these kinds of questions.” (In 2015, we continue to struggle with this. It’s just different children. And while I don’t want any regrets, I do have a few, yet we continue to press on, pouring in and loving no matter how hard situations get.)
As we engaged in this heart to heart dialogue surrounding tough issues, I shared that as I stand before the Lord, if He states that my worst mistake was caring too much about the core character and heart attitude of our children, then I’ll take it, but I doubt it will happen.
Child rearing calls for such a delicate balance – that giving of freedom, while nurturing, correcting and discipling. Even with our 12 year old daughter, I pray incessantly that the Lord will reveal to her who she is in Christ. She is a dream child – obedient, hard working, responsible. She even cleans and organizes without being asked, yet I fear there’s a tendency towards self induced perfectionism. I want her to know His freedom. My desire is for her to understand the precious, face of grace, and the full life of abundance that He offers. (Still pouring in this desire. She’s 16 now and there’s still that tendency to measure worth by actions. It’s a fine line.) But, I’m sorry, enough about the kids.
Two years ago today, our family struggled with a year long period of unemployment that I coined our God Watch.
Now we are so grateful for a new job that my husband loves, and doubly blessed as I attempt to navigate the waters of a blog turned into a work at home business. While I am fortunate to work doing something I love: encouraging women with creative, money saving ideas for their home, sharing free gifts like my Conversation Starters and Christmas Coupon Book, I still struggle to balance meal time mountain, housework, homeschooling, and time with my husband, not to mention cultivating friendships. Sometimes I feel as if I am not doing any of them well, but am grateful for people in my life who keep me rooted. As my hubby works long hours and I do the same, our date nights have been far between. Our marriage is solid and our communication is good, but we know that we cannot forsake prioritizing our time together, which we have done too much of this year. I marvel at his unconditional love for me. He treasures me and doesn’t even care that I have gained over ten pounds this year and admittedly, does not want to work out (but I am getting there.)
This past July, a sandwich competition afforded our family a trip of a lifetime. For a long time, our prayer has been that our kids would experience firsthand the kind of poverty that only occurs through a third world environment. So not only did the oldest four children take their first ever plane ride, but they took it to Guatemala, where our family worked in an orphanage and surrounding countryside. Their eyes were opened to the toiling work of the native villagers, and I prayed for softening of hearts. It happened, but I guess I don’t know what I expected after that week, maybe that our children would come back, sell all their worldly possessions, commit their lives to full time ministry and never bicker again?
Well, that didn’t happen. (In 2015…still hasn’t happened.) Nope, not even one of those things occurred, but His plan is bigger than ours, and I know the seeds planted in the country village side of Guatemala will come to fruition in His timing.
Well, that kind of sums up our 2011 in nutshell. Besides the new batch of puppies, football, basketball, golf, praise team, blogging, extended family time, and the continual bedlam moments that our family shares, it’s been quite uneventful.
So as I pause, amidst my “uneventful” bedlam moments, what I really want to remember is Christ in the every day wonder of this Christmas season.
I remember Him when precious prayers stir my heart from the innocence of our youngest. I remember Him when I’m folding laundry and gratitude stirs for the dryer that eased my work load. I remember Him as I stub my toe, lose my patience, and recall this agony as nothing.
I remember Him for the sacrifice of what this season cost.
Merry Christmas, from our home to yours,
Jen Schmidt (just a messy Child of God trying to balance beauty and bedlam in her chaotic world)