Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Review

If not for anyone other than myself, I like to reflect on the previous year. I spent some time this morning looking back at my recaps from the past few years. Michael and I often say we've packed a lot of life into just a few years. The front of our Christmas card this year had the word "Blessed" across our most recent family photo. It wasn't meant to proclaim abundance, wealth or any type of prideful expression. In fact, it is meant to stand as a testament of the blessed redemption our lives represent. Our smiles are genuine. The photo shoot was the second attempt at getting that one amazing shot I had been hoping for. It represents truth and reality, just the way our lives bear testimony of the good, the bad, the painful, the hilarious and everything in between.
We started 2016 with a one month old baby and the year that has unfolded for us as parents has been nothing short of chaotic and amazing. We were blessed to stand before our church with family by our side to dedicate our sweet daughter to the Lord, our commitment to raise her with an understanding and knowledge of the Lord. I can't help but pray over her heart and ask for her to know the amazing love of our Savior and how He's orchestrated our family.

This year can be summed up with two words for Violet: milestones and moments. She's had a big brother to keep up with so she crawled at five months, walked at 10 months and has been on the go most of her life. She chose me and only me which drastically altered my original plan to go back to work after 12 weeks off. Instead, I would find myself working three hour stints and racing to get back to nurse my daughter. To this day she still won't take a bottle, despite being able to drink from a straw for months, and she won't have anything to do with any kind of milk in a cup of any sort. And yet, these moments mark the memories of this year. The times I've held her, consoled her, rocked her, watched her explore, witnessed her affection for her brother... Oh the bond they have! These two are simply inseparable and the feeling it mutual. My heart could nearly explode at their relationship, her "bubby" as she calls him. Life with two kids has certainly been challenging and exhausting and yet our family feels all the more fuller and complete. 

We enjoyed a visit from Poppy for several weeks in April. We didn't know then that it would be our last. Just three days shy of the new year, the Lord would call him home. Looking back at these pictures and the times we had with him those weeks are now precious memories. 

We were yet again blessed to visit Michael's parents in Florida and spend a fun and very hot week in Orlando during the summer. It was just the beginning of "Mom's Summer Camp of Fun & Learning" where my best laid plans to fill my children's summer with activity, learning and fun proved to be quite a challenge with two kids at such different stages. It was, however, one of the most wonderful opportunities for me to spend quality time with my E, learning, studying, and entering his world. It was ground-breaking for us both. 

Eli turned 8 in May and started 3rd grade in August. It turned into a turning point for his education with new accommodations and breakthroughs that have proven to be helpful for him both at school and home. So many of you have offered prayers, support, encouragement and advice and for those of you who know what it's like to advocate on your child's behalf, I simply couldn't be prouder of how far he's come and the progress he's displaying. He is a caretaker of his sister, an inventor of all things, creator, lover of outdoors and master negotiator. This year has shown so much of these qualities as his personality and God-given talents continue to develop and emerge. 

As I've gradually stepped back into work, my role changed with the addition of my mom taking on the Marketing at Chick-fil-A. If I can camp here for a moment, this is yet another example of God's redeeming work in my life. When I hesitantly but willingly stepped out on faith to walk away from leading the Career Center, I knew the Lord was leading me yet I felt as if I was leaving my true "niche." God has abundantly provided for me to fulfill this role now working for Chick-fil-A by providing professional development, career training and strategic planning for our leadership team - all while allowing me to maintain my priority as wife and mom. I simply stand in awe of Him and how He's provided!

We celebrated Violet's first birthday, we've enjoyed the wonder of our children at Christmas and even now as we still grieve the loss of Poppy, I cannot deny the outpouring of God's grace on us this year.

It's been a year of firsts, a year of blessings, a year full of family and memories, and now a year of saying goodbye. I'm turning the page on 2016 and excited to share (later) how I feel the Lord leading me for the new year to come. 

For Poppy

April 14, 1934 - December 28, 2016

They say it's what happens in between the dash that counts and for Anthony Frederick Laurie, better known as Poppy to me and many, the in between is certainly what is remembered. 

It's been a week filled with loss as the country mourns the death of super stars. For our family, we've only been concerned with the loss of one man who never had his name in lights but certainly was the light for all of us.

How do you recount the 82 years one man has lived? It adds up to the memories, the moments, and the impact he has had on all of us.

I often think about how different my life and upbringing would have been had both sets of grandparents not given their lives to the Lord as married adults. For Poppy, it was a transformation that altered the trajectory of him and his family. It now stands as the testament of who he was and is to our family. Our fervent prayer warrior, seen every morning at the kitchen table with his open bible and prayer list. For the past eight years, he's kept a picture of Nanny, his beloved bride of more than 50 years, as his bookmark. How he missed her so but how strong he was to carry on for eight more years after she went ahead of him. His faith has never wavered. His devotion to prayer stands as a pillar of strength to those of us who know all too well that his countless prayers on our behalf have provided answers and miracles we may never know this side of eternity.

It's hard to watch any loved one go, knowing each of our days are numbered, yet selfishly desiring to continue the memory-making and time together here on earth. We had planned to share Christmas with him. It was something our family here had been planning and looking forward to for months. Instead we're now honoring his life, recounting the memories and celebrating the amazing man we still hold dear. 

He was a dedicated and devoted husband. Oh how he loved Nanny, treating her as a queen and serving her in every way imaginable. He was the baby brother and youngest son of five and proud of his Italian heritage. The father to three, grandfather to four and an honorary grandson, plus eight great grandchildren, we're all grieved by the gaping hole he's left behind. Yet we do not mourn as those who have no hope because we know his eternity was secure. As a young married husband and father he met the Lord and gave his heart and life to Christ. He spent the rest of his years living out that commitment and allowing us to be a part of his legacy. 

We each have our stories. We all have different memories of him. The dash in between the years God has given him goes down as the irrevocable tribute to a life committed to his Savior, his selfless love and service of his family (even in his dying breath), his dedicated work ethic, and his gift of music. We're celebrating through our tears, knowing he has met his Savior face-to-face, singing about the joy that comes in the morning - the joy we have despite our mourning - because of the life he lived, the love he's given each of us, and the hope of his eternal rejoicing.

We love you, Poppy. We miss you more than words can explain but we will find peace in knowing you now have eternal joy!