Praying the "magic" of the manger never grows dim in our hearts or in yours!
This was truly a magical moment for us this year and I felt so blessed to capture it on the camera. We started our advent reading and the first reading was about how Jesus is the Light of the world. In Homeschool Bible time we are studying the book of John and the kids made the connection to John 1:4 that we had memorized last month. As we were singing a song I had the idea of throwing some Christmas lights into this basket and asking the kids to pretend that the true light of the world had just been born into this cradle/manger and they were the first to see and worship him. It was a "magical" moment for all of us!
The sound of the entire lego bucket being dumped onto the floor and then the sound of little feet running back and forth in between bedrooms coercing siblings to come and play and build lego mansions and castles and things of gigantuous proportion are the sounds that wake me on this rainy, contemplative Saturday morning. I can’t remember the last time I woke to a “quiet” Saturday morning, but I wouldn’t trade the loud Saturday morning ruckus we have goin’ on here or any of our loud and busy days for anything.
The days are long and loud but the years are flying by quickly and quietly. This week the kids and I took a walk down memory lane in our photo albums and I saw the last 12 years of my life slip by in the 30 minutes of reminiscing through pictures. The roses, the ring, the proposal, the romance of those early days brought tears to my eyes and gratefulness to my heart. Then there was the white dress, the first kiss as husband and wife, Riviera Maya, Mexico and those silly monkeys at our resort. Our first house, first Christmas, the day we told our family we were expecting Abby, and the precious baby pictures anniversaries, birthdays and vacations and it truly seems like yesterday I was holding my first born and rocking her to sleep at night, I blinked and she is almost 8. Where did 8 years go? To be honest looking back through the last 12 years, the moments I have craved daily are the quiet moments but the ones I couldn’t live without are the loud ones.
My silly son at 2 years old climbing up my bookshelf, "Look mama, I spiderman.", The silly youngest putting a bucket on his head and walking around bumping into everything and making us laugh, the sound of my “Mommy” name being spoken in 3 different voices and in various tones and at various times of the day, the squeals of Christmas morning delight and so many more. . . so I am retraining my thinking and re aligning my heart to long for the loud, lego bucket dumping, dinosaur roaring - super hero flying- ballet and dance music cranked loudly kinds of days because it’s not the quiet I really want more of. . . it’s the loud.
“Look mom! Look at me!”
The cries ring out at the apple orchard for me to see their bags of apples and hearing their cries for my attention I am immediately back to the heat of that sultry hot July afternoon and the lesson that God spoke to me from the pleas of a 2 year old on that day.
The sun beat down hot that day and tiny beads of sweat roll down his chubby little cheeks. He prepares himself to jump into the swimming pool like his older brother and doesn’t want me to miss it.
I look and I see a little boy trying hard to impress and astound me, and I am not at all a stranger to this feeling and behavior. Don’t we all want to find our “place” in this world? Don’t we all want to “impress” or make another proud of us? I wonder for a moment if he really knows how astounded I am at just who he is and who is becoming.
He musters up enough courage and jumps in. Water splashes up, I see his orange Hawaiian swim trunks bob up and down. His head emerges and his eyes dart to me to see if I was watching, to see if I saw how much courage it took to get his entire head wet in that one big boy jump. We make eye contact and he knows.
I clap furiously and immediately swim to him to hold him and look that little boy right in the eye. I search for the right words to say, “Look at me buddy. . . THAT was amazing! YOU, Levi James Hunt, are amazing!”
I see him now – smile as wide as the sea, wet hair dripping down his cheeks and the pride of knowing he is loved for exactly who he is beaming from his head to his toes and I know on an emotional level that this is what I have been searching for and maybe you too? to know that we are loved for exactly who we are. And this love is found in our Savior, friends. We are loved perfectly for exactly who He made us to be.
On this fall day I am at the apple orchard with the kids and reflecting on this truth as I hear those words, “Look at me!”
I tip my head up to the sky, feel the sunlight warming my face and I realize that I am. . . you are. . . each one of my kids and my little Levi James IS truly the apple of His eye! And it is this truth that is found in these simple little words, “Look at me!.”
Today, I stopped and listened. Listened to a million things that I hear every single day but often times I don’t take the time to really listen to what I hear. I heard the sound of my children laughing and playing and pretending and I made a mental note to not forget that sound. I heard the sound of dishes clinking as they were being washed, and the quiet whirling of my front load washing machine. I heard the demands for this toy and for “what is mine” and “what is yours.” But I also heard the resolutions without my interference. I heard peace. I heard the squeals of delight wrapped up in the words, “DADDY’S home!”, I heard my own voice loud and soft at different times throughout the day as it encouraged, loved, comforted,corrected and disciplined each of my kids at various times. Then I stopped and I wondered what they hear daily. What do these sweet, little beings hear all day long and more specifically, how do they hear my voice? Sometimes, I hear it encouraging. . . do they hear it that way? Sometimes I hear it correcting. . . do they hear it that way? Do they hear patience or do they hear frustration? Do they hear love or do they hear hatred? Do they hear joy or do they hear self desire? Then I wonder how these daily voices they hear will paint a portrait in their own minds of who they are and what they are capable of as the years unwind before us. For a moment I am overwhelmed with sadness at what they might hear and then I hear another gentle voice whisper to my heart, “It’s all grace precious one. “ I am reminded immediately and I am choosing today to embrace this truth. I will never live a perfect day on this earth as a wife, as a mom or as a human being. It will simply never happen but the grace of God which has been extended to me as His child covers me and it stirs in me a desire to love Him and them even more. So it's with this in mind that I silence my heart before my Heavenly Father and I listen for his voice.
What a blessing to have a special lunch with Karen to begin her birthday celebrations! A special day all 3 of us girls will remember forever!
Abby was so delighted to get to share her love of American Girl Dolls and the cafe with her Mimi! They got to have lunch together at the Mall of America AG Cafe complete with a birthday dessert and pink lemonade (even for Lydia her "me doll")
Departing was the hard part for all of us! We had such a fabulous time together- even though it was so short. But memories were made and celebrations had that we will never forget. Abby was blessed to get a McKenna doll before we left as a special gift and was so excited to have them both on the airplane trip back.
A tiny ray of light sneaks it’s way through the curtain illuminating a portion of my bedroom. I squeeze my eyes tight, snuggle under the covers and into the cradle of my husbands embrace a little bit more and think to myself how good sleeping in my own bed feels. I have been away for a week and having just returned home at midnight just 6 hours earlier, I’m grateful for these 6 hours of jet lagged sleep before my 1st day home begins. A few minutes later I hear the sound of bare feet hopping out of bed and the pitter patter of tiny feet coming down the hall as they cover the distance of the last week and the 100 meters between his tiny preschooler sized bed and mine. He leaps up onto my bed in a single bound throwing his tiny 5 year old super boy body completely into this hug, wrapping his arms around my neck and after a few minutes of complete silence he says, “You are the most amazing thing I’ve seen all week long!” and my heart melts right here. I hear more pitter patters of feet and a tinier face emerges with squeals of “MOMMY! I want up on your bed too!” More hugs and kisses and immediately I feel welcomed home by all of my boys and I know clearly and deeply that I am loved.
My mom and I September 2012
My sweet Abby and I on the same trip September 2012
My sister and her youngest September 2012
And the 3 girl cousins unite!
It was SO refreshing to be in the MN fall foliage! SO refreshing!
Abby is learning some photography skills in 2nd grade! :)
She grasps my hand tightly and looks up at me with those beautiful brown eyes decorated with the long dark eyelashes her daddy gave her. She squeezes my hand and snuggles in for another chapter in her American Girl Doll book. I give her a motherly wink and our hearts are connected and engaged in the story within minutes. It is moments like these that I cherish, that I hold dear and I’m so very grateful that my 7 year old is being given a childhood, a “real” childhood. There are a lot of children in the world who are not. A lot who are not given a childhood, not given a chance at life or at freedom. I just finished reading a heart wrenching book on the “4-14” window. “4-14” refers to the children of the world between the ages of 4 and 14 years old. I have three kids but two are in this category. 150 million of these precious children are forced to labor as slaves. Many of them sold into a form of slavery and child prostitution, sometimes by the very woman who bore them. Their childhood. . . stolen from them and their innocence and hope along with it. There are no tender moments with their mom or dad reading books or playing games. The only intimacy that they know is vile. I read and wept over stories of children intentionally maimed and disabled in South East Asia so that they would attract more pity and therefore more pennies while forced to labor on streets for their “pimp” who holds them in bondage to an ever increasing debt they can never repay. But the last sentence on page 76 is what I can’t erase from my mind and which is causing my heart to beat right out of my chest. . . and the mama Lion in me to rise up ready to pounce on the enemy of these kids. Yohannan wrote on page 76, “close your eyes and just imagine it was your child who was gagged and bound and whose eyes were blinded by boiling oil. Picture your daughter trapped in a cage with lines of men outside.” Even as I type those words out. . . I am enraged. . . furious. . . and ready to pick up a sword. I look down at her brown doe eyes and sweet smile and I vow to the God I love and serve with everything in my being. . . that I will be a part of bringing this atrocity of modern day slavery and exploitation of children to an end! One step and one child at a time. Who’s with me?
The door closes with a thud – not a nasty slam but it might as well have been because it feels that way in my heart. So this is how we are spending our Friday night. He in there and I in here and this here distance between us is so wide and vast that it feels like we will never find a bridge. It started innocent enough just talking and then before either of us knew what was happening we were thinking mean thoughts and then saying them out loud. What started out as a fun Friday night on the couch turned into him in there and me out here wishing for a “do over”. I close my eyes and bow my head and I know on the other side of that wood door that feels like a brick wall separating us, he is doing the same. We made this promise on the day we wed to never let the sun go down on our anger and this is not the first night nor the last that we will have to draw upon that promise and make good on that promise both at the same time. Eleven years ago and many late nights later, (including one when we saw the sun rise before we resolved) and yet here we sit on our Friday night. I remember as a new bride thinking what a great idea this promise was and I actually thought it seemed easy. But within the first year I found out the sacrifice this promise truly was but what glue it would be for our marriage. We can love and hate all in the same day but the crucial piece has always been ending and beginning our days with love and true reconciliation. That is one thing I know beyond anything else about that man and about our relationship – when it’s all said and done there will be peace. There will be love. And there will be “us”. The door slowly opens and I hear, “You ready to talk?”. . . I nod my head and I wonder if we will put on a pot of coffee before the night is over.
“just focus on something. . . anything.” I barely hear my inner voice telling my real self these words of advice above the sound of my baby crying and crying and pleading with me as he asks me , “Please mommy, please take me home!” The smell of sweat and tears and blood and flesh fill my nostrils and I can barely see through my own tears to focus my heart on anything. If I can just focus my eyes on something, then I won’t have to look at the pain all over my boys chest and I can comfort him better when I'm not crying too. "Focus Tammy! Focus!" Ah, there it is, a clock on the wall with a United family hospital emblem on the top. That is where I fix my eyes and try with all of my might to hold my little guys arms still, sing his favorite lullaby and settle my heart. But my heart is too unsettled. I am holding him now while they swab, clean and bandage up the wounds on his chest all the while I am filled with regret! A hot noodle soup bowl, a hungry 2 year old and a turned back for just a split second had brought us rushing here through the screaming and the frantic and the tears of confusion and fear from the older siblings. Oh, to go back and make peanut butter and jelly instead. . . oh to go back and to see him slip quietly into the kitchen instead of to the bathroom to wash his hands where I thought he was. . . if I had only seen him. . what I wouldn’t give right now for a “re-do” of those 2 minutes of my day. . . but it can not be re done. . . it can not be changed. . . and the pain he will go through now can not be relieved.
They are finished for now and I see the doctor’s face and I hear his words, second degree burns, a % was mentioned I didn't understand, protecting against infection is crucial. Levi is gripping me so tight right now, I can tell he is still terrified of all of this and then suddenly as if all is well he hops down and in this cheerful voice he turns and first he thanks the doctor for helping him and then he thanks the nurses for helping him. I am stunned. Still in a sort of shock from the hot soup water and the screaming and the sores and. . . from all of it and then there he goes thanking everyone he sees for fixing his “owie” and for the "bandaid". We leave and head homeward and I am still stunned that within seconds of enduring so much pain at the hands of the doctors and nurses working on him he could offer up a word of thanks to them. He sleeps now in the backseat. I drive. But my heart is heavy and feels dark. I sense the Lord telling me to offer up a word of thanks to Him and I can not. My lips will not move and my voice will not speak except to argue in prayer. . . I tell him with the utmost respect and honesty that I can not thank Him, that I can not comprehend how last night my friends gathered around me on my birthday and prayed a prayer of blessing and protection for this next year for me and my family – how could He allow this just hours after so many saints beseeched Him on our behalf? The Sovereign One scolds me not but I feel held and understood as if in a tender embrace as I pour out my complaints before Him. He is no stranger to the parental agony of seeing your son in horrific pain and knowing that from this moment on. . . the only way is to go through it. Then, I hear Him speaking to my heart. . . He asks me to submit my heart, my will, and to offer the praise of thanksgiving just as did my son minutes ago. Initially, I refuse again, but finally relent to submit more out of “ought” to than out of “want to” but I start with a very simple prayer of, “I thank you.” As these words, in faith, barely audible, squeeze their way out of my mouth suddenly words and emotions of thanksgiving are tumbling their way out not waiting for the last to finish before the next begins and finally I am focused, and I am filled. . . and I have learned the secret to a focused heart is through offering thanks to the Sovereign one. The thanks does not nullify my pain in fact my heart still aches for the boy in the backseat but I know and I trust the One who loves him even more than I and who understands his pain and my own.
Well, it is SO hard to believe that 5 years ago my baby boy was brought into this world! I still remember how his eyes were the color of a Colorado blue summer sky and how he slept 6 and a half hours that first night and never once has he slept less than that in a night - not even when jet lagged. MY what a gift that has been to this mama who does not do well when extremely sleep deprived. I will never forget how he discovered twizzlers shortly after turning 1 and how they are one of his favorites or how when he was 2 I found him climbing up on top of a huge cabinet - right on up the side and how as I walked into the room he said "Look mama - I spiderman." I will never forget how tender and sweet he was and is with his little brother or how he taught himself to ride a 2 wheel bike at the age of 3 and a half. I will not forget his strong, healthy hugs and how he has loved to snuggle up with a book on my lap since the time he was barely walking. I will never forget how difficult it is to keep clothes on him all day long - why the boy loves to be naked or half naked, I will never understand. I will not forget how he streaked through the hallway completely naked and threw himself down in a crucifixion pose and ordered his sister to "crucify him quick before mom comes and stops it". . . or how he loves to "get the bad guys" and sometimes likes to "be the bad guy". I will never forget the intensity of which he does life or the gentleness with which he uses with little ones. I will never forget how he would streak around without clothes on and when I asked him to put clothes on he insisted that he had put clothes on - the kind of clothes an ancient man would wear since he was pretending to be an ancient man on that day. I hope he never loses his love for people and his bright shiny smile. He can make someone feel loved and cared for faster than anyone else in the world I'm pretty sure. I love how he loves to wrestle with his dad on the floor at night and then crawls up into my lap to tell me how much he loves me. It's the day after his birthday and he celebrated in true Hudson form - wiped himself out completely! He fell asleep tonight at 6:15 after celebrating his birthday like an Olympic hero! Explanations of the pictures will follow.
The music plays softly and he holds his hand out gracefully for me to take. He doesn’t use words to ask me this time, I know simply by his gesture what he is saying. The exhaustion of the day has consumed me though and the last thing I feel like doing is dancing but he takes my hand in his anyway and pulls me in. We dance silently at first and then heads tilt back laughing at the sky and the funny things that happened under it in our lives today; the funny, naked antics of our 4 year old son, the sweet tenderness of our 7 year old and the 2 year olds funny declarations at dinner tonight. The music plays and we dance. My mind drifts back to 12 years ago when he held out his hand just like he did now and asked me to look at the stars with him that night . His eyes had a special sparkle that hinted at what was to come, later that night he was down on one knee with that shiny diamond telling me how he loved me with a forever kind of love and he asked me to journey through this life with him right into forever. Looking up at him tonight, I remember how I felt 12 years ago and realize how our love has matured through the trials and triumphs of life but like the diamond, it has not dulled in it’s essence. Three beautiful children and one we never met later, thousands of miles journeyed across the oceans together and apart, through joys and losses, hello’s and goodbye’s and memories that fill and some that break my heart. It seems hard to recall a part of my life without him. Graceful, I am not. I recall too many harsh words spoken and moments when I have been too quick to anger. But he has been full of grace and quick to forgive. . . so quick to forgive. His memory for my faults has been short but his memory for my strengths has not failed. If there is anything that he is and has been it is grace-full. He has been full of grace and forgiveness when it really counts. As the music comes to a stop, we keep dancing and I am thankful for more than just the invitation to dance tonight, I’m thankful for the invitation to dance with him right into forever. There is no one I’d rather be side by side with in this lifetime or the next. Let the music play on. . . and we will dance.
Just wanted to add a few more pictures of our homeschool room for the grandparents who are dying to catch a peak. There will be more of the kiddos in the full swing of school time soon including pics from their Chinese school. Today was their first day of Chinese school for all 3 of them (yes - my little guy is going to get some language time too).
Today was the Hunt's Homeschool Open House day. The kids started their Open House/ get familiar with the classroom, materials, teachers, rules, behavioral management system day with their morning phy. ed class led by their awesome dad! They got to explore the homeschool room, their materials, practice rotating through their centers, color a special paper, participate in a little rhythm/music class and start our Five in a Row book of the week. We finished the day with some read out loud time with an amazing book that is like a modern day "Little House on the Prairie" book. It's written by a New Zealand author and titled "Where the Lions Roar at Night". The kids LOVE this book. Even the 2 year old was begging me for "just one more chapter".
Someone once said, "God puts salt on our tongues that we may thirst for Him. Sometimes it is tears which carry the salt." A single tear finds it’s way down my cheek, I taste the salt and I quickly wipe it away. The lump in my throat is the dam that is stopping up the rushing water and one tiny drop has sprung a leak. But it is dark out and we are walking and I don’t think she notices. A few minutes ago I heard my very own voice ask the dreaded question, “So how are you really doing? Do you feel ready to go?” I listened quietly as we walked the perimeters of our complex and as she talked about the “game of life”, the wine burgundy car that can seat 7, the official closing on their new house and good friends she’ll be reunited with when they finally make their way to Orlando. But it’s here as we walk and talk that the reality of the changes that are to come to our little community and to our friendship are really settling in. This one single tear is just one of many shed as I’ve processed and grieved the loss of their move. Through the last 12 years we’ve shared a lot of things (laughter, tears, celebrations and loss- a lot of memories) although I knew this change was coming, knowing about it has not made it any easier on my heart.
I follow the paper trail of cut up pieces of paper across the kitchen. . . into the living room. . . and I can feel my heart start to beat faster and my cheeks are getting flushed. I just finished cleaning up the house on my Friday cleaning day and there are tiny scraps and pieces of paper scattered all over our main living space. Somewhere deep down the anger begins to boil up as I see there is a definite trail that, if I follow, will lead me to the paper cutting criminal. Within a few seconds I can clearly discern that the paper trail leads into my daughters room and I follow it. Her door, left open just a crack allows me to see in and I can see her with paper and scissors still busily cutting something. I take a deep breath and intend to go in and discuss this mess and a million other things and as I take a deep breath in and prepare to open her door, the Holy Spirit nudges me or I guess I should say kicks me in the gut. I pause and I watch her, she is absolutely beautiful to me!