Tuesday, December 21, 2010

'tis the Season...

...Birthday season, that is.  In our immediate family, birthday season extends from late November through April, leaving us all confused for those six months as to who is what age, and then when the six-month season is over, the kids are back to their every-two-years pattern, making my job much easier ("how old are they?" "...ummm...let's see..."). 

Of course, each child will gladly correct me when my aging, overworked brain gets it wrong...again... 

With this one, however, there is no mistake.  She's my oldest.  The one we've learned on.  The easiest first child you'll ever meet.  She's smart (really...I know I'm biased, but she IS smart) - working on 4 different languages right now (Spanish, Arabic, Italian, and German), and wanting to have MASTERED those and two more by the time she finishes college.  She is smart.  She is talented, playing the flute and piccolo in marching band and wind ensemble...and wishing she had time to play in the jazz band.  She is beautiful, inside and out.  Her heart is to serve others.  She loves her Lord, and wants to do what He wants her to do...even when it is hard and pushes her outside of her comfort zone. 






Happy Birthday, Baby, Sissy, Ducky....Frances.  I love you and thank God for you regularly!!  You amaze me and I am so very proud of you!!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Letter 2010

Please bear with me...this one's gonna be a little hard for me to write and will definitely be different from my usual Annual Letter.  If it seems like I'm rambling a bit, please forgive me...

The Paxton family has had a very eventful year this year, and all of it seems to have been bunched together in about 2 or three months of the year. 2010 started off rather unremarkably, with nothing to set it apart too much.  The kids all finished up the 2009-2010 school year well, and were looking forward to a fun, if quiet, summer.

Jason was due to get new orders, with the possibility of heading to Afghanistan.  In July, those orders came through, with him scheduled to leave in October.  Or maybe that was November.  Or possibly not until February.  Thanks, Uncle Sam.  We appreciate the effort.

Also around that time, the opportunity arose for us to get out of military housing, and move into a house that we would be buying, but the financing (which we had been working on since sometime in March) still hadn't come through.  Nevertheless, we moved into our new house in August. 

Meanwhile, plans were moving right ahead for Jason to be leaving his current command, and to report to his new command for training in October, to be headed out to some vague place known as "The Sandbox" in early November...vague because the orders said one place, but were not quite sure.  At least we knew it was not going to be in Virginia.


In September, the kids started back to school (mostly in new schools), and Laura started her new adventure in graduate school at Regent University, studying Counseling.  Jason was finishing up his final classes for his Masters in Theology.  He was also able to take several weeks to spend with the family, and preparing things like legal paperwork and the cars for his being gone for a year. 

October saw plans for Jason's leaving to really start falling into place.  We had a HUGE party with lots of friends coming by (sure wish EVERYONE could have been there!!).  We had a photo shoot with a GREAT friend (Thanks, Jimmy!).  (Didn't he do an amazing job?! - most of these pictures are from that shoot)  We spent lots of time shopping for things for him to take, and spending time with friends before he (or they) left.  We also spent a lot of time unpacking the house, getting settled in, and doing things like getting TVs mounted.  Jason was scheduled to report for the drive to training in South Carolina on Saturday, October 16, so the night before we went out to celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary, and had a really good evening talking through a lot of details.  One of the best parts of the night was finding out that Jason was going to be going to a "vacation spot" for this deployment, and would be there with a wonderful friend from a previous command.

As I write this, we are just over a month into Jason's actually being off of American soil.   After Jason left for training, the financing for the house finally came through, and I got to do the closing by myself.  Yeah!!  We're home owners!  We had a quiet Thanksgiving, and are looking forward to Christmas spent with family.


Frances has had a good year, though one without any answers to the medical issues plaguing her.  The neurologists have given up on finding an answer.  I believe they are still convinced that her issues with numbness are psychosomatic, which other testing has proved wrong.  Meanwhile, she stayed busy this fall with Marching Band, a trip to William & Mary for the Model UN, and in the spring she was able to go to New York on a trip with the band.  As she is a Junior, we have started the process of looking at schools and (!) pricing class rings.  One of the highlights of the year has been getting to know her boyfriend, as he has joined us for quite a few evenings. 
Jon's year has been one of growth - literally - as he has shot up and passed me in height.  He has also matured as an individual, taking on more responsibilities at home and at church.  He is playing the trumpet at school, both in the eighth grade band, and in the jazz band, as well as taking part in the Rhythm Project through the school, which he enjoys immensely. 


Heather has entered the teenage years .  She is in seventh grade this year, and is enjoying being in band, playing the flute for the seventh grade band, and playing the alto saxaphone for the jazz band.  This year her birthday was on Thanksgiving, and we celebrated on the Saturday following, with a few friends coming over, but the birthday party came to an early end when Heather fell at the park and hurt her arm...and was followed by a trip to the emergency room,with a diagnosis of a broken bone in her left wrist. 


Justin is ten years old this year, and in fifth grade.  He is taking part in several different things at school, including studying up for a Geography Bee, playing football at school, and is looking into alternatives for middle school, considering the two magnet schools here, with advanced programs available for gifted students. 


Leah is eight years old now, and in third grade, and doing very well.  She is an amazing kid who loves the animals in the house, sometimes to the point of torture of them.  She is enjoying the new house, and especially the new neighbors.


Katherine has grown to be an amazing little girl.  She will be seven years old this month, and is in first grade, and loving it.  She's smart, and she's a good kid, and loves to learn and grow.
 



And so our family has had a good (if a *little* busy) year.  We've all grown, and we are all learning, and it has been an amazing ride.  Here's hoping the next year slows down just a little!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Happy Birthday, Baby Girl!!

I don't care what anyone says.  She is my baby.  She will always be my baby.   And it's not fair that they grow up so fast!! 


Today is Katherine's 7th birthday.  Seven years ago was a Saturday, and we were in Montana.  Jason was supposed to be running sound and lights for a Christmas Dessert at our church, and we were at the hospital.  Around 5:00 pm Katherine Louise was born, and by 5:30 Jason was on his way over to the church, which thankfully was only a couple of blocks away.



Happy Birthday, Baby Girl!  I love you!!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

CHRISTMAS BLOG CARNIVAL: Day 7

Today's challenge was to talk about refreshing our faith at Christmas.


How does your faith refresh at Christmastime?

 Confession time:  I am not a shopper.  I *hate* shopping - with a passion.  Which has not been too much of a problem pretty much since we got married, because we've never really had a lot of money with which to shop.  These two facts have made our Christmases minimal over the whole of our marriage.


That said...I LOVE Christmas.  I love the excitement building...the pretty lights...the yummy desserts...the get-togethers.  But mostly, I LOVE the music, the plays, the retelling of the story every year.  I am refreshed every year by the freshness of the story - the wonder of the new baby and the amazement of what He came to do for us.  Each year, hearing yet again the story reminds me of the amazing love my Father has for me...and for those who don't yet know Him.

Go enjoy more bloggy Christmas carnival fun with us at Wives of Faith. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

CHRISTMAS BLOG CARNIVAL: Day 6

Today's challenge was to post about what might be different about Christmas in a military home. 

You Might be a Military Spouse at Christmas if...


...you can't find anything similar about any of your Christmases since taking on the military lifestyle.  Every year is different with no continuity from one year to the next. 

My husband has been active-duty for 10 years now, and we have lived in 7 different homes in 4 different states during that time.

*This year is the first time he's been deployed over Christmas.

*Last year (2009) was the first year we ever did lights outside.

*The year before (2007)was our first year in Virginia...and we knew almost no-one.

*The year before that (2006) was the year our marriage was restored (BIG God-story!), and our last year in Montana.

*In 2005 we had no new babies...every year prior we had a baby under 2 years old at Christmas.

*In 2004, we got a cat for Christmas.

*In 2003, we had just moved, had a new baby (on the 13th of December), and knew almost no-one.

*2002 was our last year in Texas, and we had just experienced our first deployment...with all of the accompanying gremlins.

*2001 was Jason's first year on active-duty, and our first Christmas away from family.  It was also our first year to deep fry the turkey.  YUM. 

Then again...maybe there is something consistent about our Christmases...the fact that they are never the same!!

Go enjoy more bloggy Christmas carnival fun with us at Wives of Faith. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

CHRISTMAS BLOG CARNIVAL: Day 5

What Christmas Means to Me
 
The challenge for today was to tell what Christmas means to me.  

Christmas is one of my two favorite times of the year (the first being Thanksgiving).  Christmas has always been about family to me.


Growing up, we used to always travel for Christmas to the mountains of North Carolina, where my grandparents lived, and spend time with the whole extended family there.


This together-time meant presents, yes, but more than that, it meant big meals around the extended table, playing with cousins, doing puzzles with aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and our immediate family.



It always means long phone calls with the family that can't make it to the gathering, and walks in the cold with the ones who needed a chance to digest before the next round of dessert.  

But my favorite part of all has always been the time when we sit down together as a family and listen as the Christmas story is read aloud, as a reminder that there is a greater reason for our celebration than just the presents or family time...that we have been given a gift, one that affects our whole lives, and THAT is what we celebrate at Christmas time.

Go enjoy more bloggy Christmas carnival fun with us at Wives of Faith.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

CHRISTMAS BLOG CARNIVAL: Day 4

My Grown-Up Christmas List

Based on the song by Amy Grant, the challenge was to come up with my own grown-up Christmas list.  

1.  Our Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen would all come home, safely, in time for Christmas.
2.  Healing for all broken people.
3.  No more pain inflicted on children.
4.  Jobs and homes for my friends who have lost both.
5.  Forever-homes and families for all of the orphans in this world.

Go enjoy more bloggy Christmas carnival fun with us at Wives of Faith. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

CHRISTMAS BLOG CARNIVAL: Day 3

Worst Christmas Song EVER...



Why?  Can you think of anything less Christmas-like that the lyrics that say "What a gas it would have been, if Daddy had only seen Mommy kissing Santa Claus last night"?  

Okay, so I know this won't bother everyone.  Maybe it is just my sensitivity to potential family-breaking issues.  I think this is TERRIBLE.  I know what it is *supposed* to be.  What kind of image does this portray to our children? 

And the assignment says to find one redeeming factor about this song.  It is a very catchy tune.  It is fun.  And it portrays an innocence in children that is hard to find these days.

Go enjoy more bloggy Christmas carnival fun with us at Wives of Faith.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

CHRISTMAS BLOG CARNIVAL: Day 2

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without...

...Christmas plays, cantatas, and caroling. 

God currently has us in a church where the focus is a bit different that the churches we have been a part of in the past...which means no Christmas plays, no cantatas, and no caroling.  And I have discovered that I am very sad about that.  So this year, while my husband is away, we are going to go experience some of the joy of Christmas with other churches. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

CHRISTMAS BLOG CARNIVAL: Day 1

My Favorite Christmas Ornament/Decoration

At the top of our tree (circa 2009) you can see my favorite Christmas decoration...a tree topper I won off of another blog carnival in 2008. 



I  LOVE this tree topper! 

Friday, December 3, 2010

Learning about ME

nar·cis·sism [nahr-suh-siz-em]
–noun

1.  inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity
2.  Psychoanalysis . erotic gratification derived from admiration of one's own physical or mental attributes, being a normal condition at the infantile level of personality development.
  
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.  (Romans 12:3, NIV)

So many times on blogs and Facebook we seen lists of random information about people (I have even done it!).  We *tag* our friends, wanting them to read about our lists about ourselves.  We take hundreds of pictures of ourselves, and post them for the world to see our levels of obsession with ourselves and how we look, and what we think about ourselves.  As a culture, we have bought in, hook, line, and sinker, to the notion that it is all about #1 - I am *THE* single most important person in the world.

That idea, of people being obsessed with themselves, to the point of not recognizing that we are hurting others or of seeing ourselves as the center of the universe used to be recognized as either a stage that every child grows through and out of, or a diagnosable mental illness.  No more.  In the latest evolution of our obsession with ourselves, we have so far removed our society from health that now narcissism has been removed from the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (D.S.M.-5) as a diagnosable mental illness. You can read all about how upset clinicians in the field of mental health are about that removal.  That is not my point.

There ARE times when we should become more aware of ourselves, of how we look and act.  We definitely need to take time each day to have a look in the mirror - if for nothing else, at least to make sure we didn't leave traces of breakfast smeared across our face.  Figuratively, we also need to do daily checks in the mirror to evaluate how we look to others, in our character, how we are responding to circumstances, if we are becoming more Christ-like, or if we are allowing ourselves to become more and more selfish.  Self-evaluation is not a bad thing.

In fact, I would venture to say that we *need* to self-evaluate on a regular basis in order to be growing and maturing.  It is very easy for me to get stuck at a point, in my head, where I either did something *right* - "way to go, Laura...good paper!" or where I completely blew it - "Laura, that was SO stupid!  How could you?!?"  When I get stuck at those points, I am not doing a healthy evaluation of either those circumstances, or of my own self.   When that happens, I need a healthy dose of reality from people around me, helping me to see my pride.

So, this challenging time in my life has been prompting me to do a lot of self-evaluation, and some of the things I am learning about myself are just plain painful.  I don't *like* having my inflated views of myself deflated.  I don't like to be challenged to view myself as something different than that person I think I am, somewhere deep in my head.  The self-evaluation has also meant dealing with some issues that were buried deeply so that I *wouldn't* have to work on them.  More pain.  Did I mention that I don't like pain?!?

One of the things that this time of self-evaluation has done is prompting me to see myself through someone else's eyes...specifically, through the eyes of Someone who loved me enough to die for me, and who still loves me, despite my shortcomings.  Being loved so unconditionally has an amazing affect on my view of myself!!


I John 4:19  "We love because He first loved us."