Thursday, January 02, 2014

A "Limited Edition" New Year

We made it through the holiday season, and as I sit here on a bright and clear Thursday morning, the house is extremely quiet as every young person still slumbers after several late nights in a row...just because they could stay up late!  What fun it is to watch movies and play games until the wee hours, when you have nothing you have to wake up for the next morning!

Nap Time for the Birthday Boy!

Our New Years was a quiet one this year, which was perfect for the mood we were all in.  New Years Eve day was Ice Skating Day for Josh's birthday!  We took he and a couple of his buddies to the next town over and went ice skating.  Well, the kids went ice skating...hahaha!  Dominick and I both abstained, me because I am the klutziest person in all the world and don't need to hurry along that broken hip I know is in my future, and Dominick because we are always extremely cautious of his activities and don't need a broken leg or wrist to keep him from working.  We all had fun though:

The one time everyone was upright! Haha!

Oh I love I love seeing you mature into a fine young man, and it is not too soon to call you that, for you really are a young man these days.  Still have those adorable dimples high on you cheeks! :-)

Kenny wasn't nearly as tentative this time around!

Twin Set 1 - Matt and Olesya 

Helping one another remain on their feet...

Or Not! HAHA!!!!  Poor Olesya spent more time on her bottom than on her skates!

Twin Set #2!

Yea Matt, no one's ever done that before in a photo!

We spent New Years Eve with friends playing games, singing a little karaoke, and catching up after a long year of work and distractions.  We headed home by 10:00 pm, considering ourselves having celebrated righteously as it was officially New Years Day on the East Coast.  It was a good thing we did, because Dominick got a call New Years morning requesting that he come to work on his day off because someone was ill.

We have spent our week off just hanging out, being quite lazy which is unusual for us, though we still took our shift at the food bank and as I am typing this were phoned and asked if we could come in today, which we will.

Something felt like it was missing though, despite what a calm, restful time we have had.  It just didn't quite feel "finished" in some way.  We had all been together, playing and hanging out, but we hadn't really stopped to reflect on much.  Deciding to fix that, I went to Walmart and bought a couple bottles of sparkling cider, and a set of new wineglasses, which for some odd reason the kids all seem to love.  Last night after dinner, we turned off all the lights, lit a few candles, and gathered on the couch.  By flickering candlelight, we snuggled next to one another and reminisced about all that had happened in 2013.  One by one we each offered what we thought was the hardest moments of 2013...the split of our church, the difficult decision to leave money behind and strike out on our own with homeschooling, the stress with work that Dominick has experienced this past year.  It was a year filled with "Stepping Out On Faith" moments, something we thankfully have a lot of practice at, but it still is fear inducing at times.

We then went on to talk about what was terrific about 2013.  The subtle glow from the campfire-like flames lit the faces of each of these dear, precious ones, and having boxed up the sorrow, grief, and fears of 2013, we shared our joys from this past year.  One by one, we recalled the tender moments, the blessings, the exciting things.  Surprisingly, despite how hard 2013 was, we quickly saw how God had provided so well for us, had carried us, and how the year had been filled with wonderful times to cherish.  Josh spoke first and spoke of how happy he was that our family has great friends, and some of those friendships had grown deeper this past year.  Angela reminded us of the fun times we had on the road, exploring new places.  Olesya was glad that we had changed school paths, as it was more relaxed and a richer experience because of it.  Matthew quickly added that Sharing Ministries Food Bank had become a big part of our lives and he was glad of that.  Kenny was happy we had the chance to try riding ATV's, and that we laugh more than any family he knows.  We went on and on, naming so many things that were our "wealth" this past year.  There was far more to celebrate than there was to grieve.  Success came in big and smaller ways, even if not readily apparent to the outsider.  There were failures, too, but somehow they were overshadowed by all that was good.  The main thing was we saw how we really and truly do have "enough", even when our culture tells us we should desire more, even when we might perhaps want more ourselves.

The one thing that came out strong and true was how this was the year that we all came to really understand how fortunate we are to be together as a family.  I don't know why, but there was something that triggered a heightened awareness of the blessing it is to be part of Team LaJoy.  Maybe it was going through a really rough time together with kids old enough to know what was going on.  Maybe it was their ability to now look around them, listen to the news, and see that what we have is indeed rare.  We spent quite a bit of time talking about how being a connected family that is present to one another doesn't just happen, it takes work, it takes everyone participating and not settling for less than respect for one another, emotional honesty and openness.  That may sound like a weird conversation to be having with your kids, but I think it is awesome that they treasure what we have just as much as Dominick and I do. A while ago the kids came up with the label "Limited Edition" for our family rather than "weird", "unmatched" or Angela's favorite, "Uniquely Developed".  They joked a lot about that and have asked if we could get someday get TShirts with that on it, they like it so much.  None of us take what we have for granted, all of us know what it is to live without it, and maybe that alone makes all the difference.  All I know is I sat there sensing God's presence smack dab in the middle of us, blanketing us with something new as we approach the flipping of the page on the calendar.

We aren't a family with young kids anymore, those days are behind us now.  We have reached a different stage as Josh just celebrated his 11th birthday and the other four are 14 and 15.  We are in a new stage, where we are measuring and comparing, assessing who we want to be as we move gradually toward adulthood.  As talk around the couch turned to the difficult financial times we are in, what 2014 might hold for us, the futures that are unforseeable and somewhat scary seemed much less so when we know we will face it together.  All the kids talked about knowing that we will all somehow make it if we stick together, that none of us will fall if we share the load.  Angela talked passionately about being so lucky to have such caring brothers and sisters, and how she hopes that as they grow older  that never changes.  What was even better was the sense that no one is going to settle just for "making it", but that dreams are going to come true because hard work will make them possible.

As we raised our glasses to toast the New Year, we resolved not to make any resolutions, other than one...we will each take a day of the week and be aware of what is happening that day, and recording any "Happy Moments" that occur.  We're going to fill a jar with them,and next year on New Year's Eve we will once again sit by candlelight, and relive all the good things that came our way in 2014.  Sure, there are bound to be some less-than-stellar moments, and perhaps even some downright awful ones...though we sure hope not...but being intentional about looking for the blessings in every single day will help us keep our priorities straight, and our hearts open to all the good that happens around us.

So here's to 2014!  May this coming year be filled with learning, growing, and caring for every single person around us.

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