Saturday, December 24, 2016

Family Newsletter, 2016

Merry Christmas from the Paxton family!!

Christmas 2016 finds us still in Massachusetts.

We have enjoyed a busy year with many milestones.

Frances transferred from CIU, to Liberty Online, to Gordon College, where she continues towards her goal of finishing school sometime before she is eligible for retirement.

Jon is still in Virginia Beach, currently working full-time, but was able to make the trip up to visit when his sister graduated....

Heather graduated from high school (YAY!), and is working part-time...and trying to "find herself" (...think the parents can help with that!!).

Justin is a Junior in high school, and has been able to take part in several theater productions, thus rendering him unable to keep up with school work or have anything resembling a social life.

Leah is a Freshman in high school, and was also able to take part in the school's fall musical. Her social life is only moderately busier than Justin's...for which the parental units are immensely grateful.  

Katherine is adjusting to being the only sibling still going to school on base, and is 7th grade.  The adjustment to being the last Paxton to enter adolescence has taken her parents by surprise with her ease of adjustment, and their shock that they are old enough for their youngest (!) child to be this OLD!!

Jason has stayed busy with work, which has included several out-of-town trainings in the past two months, as well as having made a trip to SC for (allegedly) his high school homecoming....which was henceforth cancelled due to an alleged hurricane.

Laura started back to work after a significant break (ahem...close to 10 years?), this time working in the field of trauma therapy, and attempting to keep up with her level of Facebook posts and associated game requests, while maintaining a messy house, and staying consistently behind on the laundry, as well as starting back to school AGAIN, writing mediocre papers, and staying irritated about group projects.

Again, Merry Christmas!!  Prayers from our family to yours for a Peaceful and Joyful 2017!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Happy Birthday, Frances!!

Today, you are the age I was when I got married.
Today, you are the age your father was when your younger bother (ahem, brother) was born.









You share your birthday with some famous people:
Samuel L. Jackson
Kiefer Sutherland
Ray Romano
Jane Fonda
Natalie Grant
...and a whole lot more that I don't recognize, but you probably would (at least some of them!)...




From the moment you entered our lives, you have made us better people.
You have chipped away at our pride, and polished away blemishes, and helped us focus on things more important than we could have known at the time.








Thank you for your love of God, and your love of learning, and your love for your family!!  We're so very glad that you are part of our family...that God chose to put you here with us!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A work in progress

I started writing this post on August 28.

This post has been rolling around in my head for a while.  It may still take a while until it is fully formed and ready to be read, but I have to start, at least.

Please be aware that I will probably step on some toes here, if you consider yourself a Christian.  You are warned.

Yesterday, we delivered our eldest child to college where she will begin the year as a transfer student from one of the schools that my husband and I claim as our alma mater (yes, we are professional students...I claim 3 schools, he claims 7).  It was my first visit to the campus, though my husband and daughter had been to visit several times between them.  We also have friends and staff members at our church who have attended the school, and are on staff at the school, too.  It is a very good school, solid theologically, and well-established.  It doesn't hurt that the campus is beautiful.  Of course, in my mind, I started comparing the two schools...the campus size, the buildings, the layout, etc.  Finally, I got to the underlying theological structure, and culture of the school, and this is where my mind went a'wandering.

This school that our daughter is attending is a Christian school.

The school she transferred from is a Christian school (which both Jason and I also attended).

Another of the schools my husband attended is a Christian University.

The last school I attended is yet another Christian University.

You could say that we have a bit of experience in relating to Christian-based institutions of higher learning.

Additionally, we have lived and attended churches in all four quadrants of this country.  Our foundational years, and longest number of years, were spent in the Southeastern states.  We spent a couple of very short years in the West, and four years in the Northwest.  Now we are living in New England.

Over these past 16 years of living in different parts of the country, we have experienced many different churches.  We have attended little bitty churches that met in schools, medium-sized churches, and a couple of really large churches with lavish buildings and lots of staff members.  We have experienced acceptance and rejection in equal parts in those churches.  We have been part of the inner circle, while also being excluded.

Through all of these experiences, my thoughts about how we do church have been evolving.

I love observing people.  I learn a LOT from them.

One of the interesting things I have observed throughout our times in different churches is that *most* have an attitude of "our way is the RIGHT way" to worship, to "do" church.  This has been true of the very VERY conservative church in which I grew up, of the slightly-less-conservative church in which we were married, and to varying degrees in every church where we have had the opportunity to worship over the past few years, with very few exceptions.  This seems to be a thought process that happens across denominational lines, in almost all churches that would be considered Protestant.  It does not seem to matter how educated or cultured the church leadership or members are...this thought process still seems pretty deeply ingrained.

I also have been watching what my friends who claim Christ post on social media.  Election cycles are always interesting and eye-opening.  And my Evangelical Protestant friends seem to been some of the more polarized, evangelistically preachy political people I have ever been exposed to.  Also, every new issue that comes up tends to draw out more polarization and anger.

Trump vs. Clinton
Bathroom wars.
Breast vs. Bottle (aka, Mommy Wars)
War, military, government, etc.
Yoga pants. Leggings. Skirts.  Jeans.  Dresses.
Gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, Paleo, you-name-it....
Spanking vs. not-spanking
Homeschool, public school, private school, unschool....
Vaccines vs. no vaccines

Almost any contemporary problem you can think of stirs up anger, contention, and polarization in the greater Protestant community, and to some degree in all of our society.

As a student of people, all of this anger concerns me on many levels.

It concerns me to see people in the church claiming something is "God's way" to do things, which in fact are treating people in decidedly ungodly ways.

It concerns me that this show of anger is really a symptom of other, underlying concerns, fears, and frustrations that are not being addressed because the anger is more urgent.

It concerns me that our Western churches are so distracted by things on the self-esteem level, that we no longer feel like there is any need below that.  In a word, we are blinded.

WE ARE BLINDED.

I am reminded of the Biblical account of the wealthy young man who came to Jesus asking how to attain eternal life, but didn't like what Jesus told him to do.  (Mark 10:17-27) I am afraid that we as a Western church have gotten to the place where we are unwilling to give up our comfort to help others, or even to help ourselves.  We are blind, and we are selfish.

WE ARE SELFISH.

We go to our comfortable churches with others who are as comfortable as we are, or who hide their discomfort well because it is not acceptable to talk about at church.  We don't see it, so we don't think it exists, and thus we deny the need to fix problems that we think are non-problems.

In our selfishness, we see no need to give up anything in order to be able to reach out to others.  In our selfishness, we refuse to budge from our places of comfort to even consider that others are hurting, are in need, are oppressed, are worthy.

WE ARE FEARFUL

This may seem not to fit with the two points above, but I believe we have let our fears get in the way of doing almost everything we have been asked and/or told to do in Scriptures.  I see paranoia robbing God's people of peace, of friends, of a witness, and of ANY credibility.  I don't think we're the only paranoid ones, but when God gave use a command for each and every day of the year to "FEAR NOT", it is time time recognize that fear should not be running our lives.

As a part of being blinded, we must remember that we cannot see what it is that we cannot see.  We do not know what it is that we do not know.  For that, we MUST be willing to learn from others who are different from us.  We must be teachable.

I am afraid that part of the blindness of the people I know in the Church is (in part) from the leadership.  In recent years, I HAVE seen a few brave and bold leaders who are stepping out to make a difference in their churches.  I applaud those leaders.  Sadly, they seem to be few.

In business, if there is a problem or something to be investigated, the main thought-process is "follow the money"...where is this flowing FROM?

Most pastors and others in leadership positions would often say that they are following what Scriptures teach.  I would challenge them to examine themselves and their teachings from a different perspective.

Every single person approaches life from a unique perspective.  Our views are tainted by how we were raised, the community we currently call home, the friends we have made, the education we have received, the privilege under which we operate.  This biased, tainted perspective is no less true for pastors and church leadership than for their church members.  What we have received is not something we can change, but it MUST be acknowledged before change can happen.

Which brings me to my next thought.

The education we receive plays a HUGE role in our perception of the world.
Our parents educate us before we even know we are being educated.
Our siblings, our grandparents, our neighbors, our pets, our schools....all contribute to our education.

If you have had the opportunity to attend college, you are among the privileged.
If your education was at a Bible college or Christian school or university, your education is a rare thing indeed.  The privilege to learn about the world from a Christian, hopefully Bible-based perspective is not something to take lightly.  I am quite certain that my friends who are educators at Christian universities and colleges feel the weight of the job set before them of imparting a unique perspective through which to view the world.

Many of my online friends hail back to our years together at a Christian school, and many other Christian schools and universities are represented in my friend list.

Given the vast number of my friends who have roots in a Christian education in some format or another, it always surprises and saddens me to see Christians misrepresenting the God they claim to love.  I know I have seen others do it.  I am quite sure I do it.  I am human.  We all are.  This is NOT intended to cast stones, or to point fingers.  We are all just as guilty in one way or another of blindness.  We all need others to help us see our blindness.

Education does NOT eliminate that need.  Frankly, I believe it makes that need even greater, because we tend to get lazy with time, and with others lauding our learning.  Like any other profession, there is an incredible need to stay current with our study...of Scriptures, of current events, of how God is working in our world, of the experiences others have, of the traumas they face, of the needs they may have that we do not have.   It is so tempting to look at others from the comfort of my privileged position and to judge them based on my experience.  BUT, based on my experience, there is NO WAY I can fully understand their perspective.  I need to get down off of my self-constructed pedestal, and walk a mile in their shoes, see life from their perspective.  

Since I am posting this in December, we all know the results of the election have been more polarizing that ever, and I believe we need this reminder even more now, as we embark on an unknown future...may we place our unknown future in the hands of our known God, and allow Him to guide our responses.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Exhausted, but life is good!

In the past two weeks, our household has experienced a LOT:
May 26: Jason's parents came into town, I worked. 
May 27: Leah and Katherine went with their school choir to Canobie Lake after their final performance for the year.
May 28: The whole family went on a fun historical excursion in Boston.
May 29: We went to church, and had a fun cookout in our cul-de-sac with our wonderful neighbors.
May 30: Jason's parents flew home, and Jon arrived. I worked.  
May 31: Leah did a presentation at school on inequality. I worked.
June 1: Leah and Katherine were in their first school play.  I worked.
June 2: Family pictures and Heather's Graduation, and All-Night-Grad-Party. 
June 3: Justin and Heather went to a graduation party for a friend on base.  I worked.



By Stephanie of
Sunflower Portrait Studios
June 4: Jason had drill, Jon flew back to VA, I got to have a lovely brunch to say farewell to a beautiful friend, I shopped with Leah to get things for her upcoming 8th grade trip...
June 5: Jason had drill. The rest of us went to church. Frances had a meeting for her upcoming ministry trip to Guatemala. 
June 6: Leah left to go to Gettysburg, Washington, DC, and other tours with her 8th grade class.  Everyone else went to school and work. 
June 7: We finally got a new dryer.  Everyone went to school and work.  Leah is still out of state.
June 8: Everyone is in school, or work...Leah is out of town still. 
June 9 (TODAY!): School, work, Leah gets home (between 10:45 and 11:00 pm)!! Katherine went on a field trip. 
(can life return to some resemblance of normal now, please?!?)
Also, in there, I spent 2 weeks washing clothes here, and either hanging them to dry in my basement, taking them to the neighbor's house, or Frances taking them to the base's laundromat.  Additionally, there was physical therapy, two trips to a car dealership, additional trips to church, and to the grocery store. 
To top it off, I fell today, in the MIDDLE OF THE ROAD.  My stupid weak ankle gave out (twisted) and I landed on my left knee and left hand. Yes, it hurts, but it is more embarrassing than anything else. 
I'm tired.  My ankle is swollen.  I have awakened with headaches most of the last two weeks.  My authorization for PT has run out.  3 clients cancelled on me today.  My beautiful lovely amazing neighbor moved to Ohio.  Did I mention that I'm tired???  Life needs to slow down.  And now we prepare for school to finally end (June 20th for the middle schoolers, and June 17 at the High school...Heather has been out for 3 weeks now), and gearing up for VBS, Camp, ministry trips...and no vacation for mom and dad. 
Some days, adulting SUCKS.
**One final note. Something is weird with Blogger. None of the spacing is working right, and I am tired of fighting it. You're just going to have to forgive the mess. I'm tired.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

So, we're a Military Family. So what?

Example 1 of a military family...with 1 child missing.
Photo by Jimmy Sadler
I follow a lot of online magazines and bloggers that write about life as a military family, and I live the lifestyle, so sometimes I forget that a lot of people don't understand how different life is for people whose life revolves around the military.

To gain a little perspective, it is important to realize that less than 1% of Americans serve in the military.  In 2013, that meant that there were 3.1 million military personnel.  Attached to those personnel are 2,988,895 family members (spouses and children), as well as about 12,000 other adult dependents (usually parents or siblings for whom the service member provides).  (source)

Suffice to say that the 1% of Americans that we are still are made up of a LOT of individual lives influenced.

So what, you ask?  What is so different about a military family's life?  I'm so glad you asked.

WE ARE DIVERSE:
I know this seems like a given.  Of course, we're diverse...military members come from every state in the Union and ALSO include people who are not citizens yet, but are working toward that goal.  We don't eat the same things (well, most of the time...), we don't all talk the same way, or think the same way, or vote the same way, or drive the same way.  Our backgrounds and experiences are all different.

WE MOVE A LOT (or not):
One thing military people can USUALLY count on is regular moves.  How often and where is dependent on the military member's job, and where they are needed next.  Our family has lived in 5 different states, in 8 different houses, in 16 years.  That doesn't mean that every military family will have that number of moves.  I know families who have spent 20 years in one location, and I know families who have moved MANY more times than we have.

LIVING ARRANGEMENTS:
Some live ON a military installation, some life OFF of military installations.  On-base/on-post living feels safe, and secure, and is often more affordable for a family than housing off-base/post may be. Some military families prefer to be in the community, away from the people they work with.

Our family has been in "base housing" in 3 different locations, but only one of those has actually be within the gates of the local military installation.  We have rented, we have bought, and we have been in housing provided by the military.  Where we are currently, it is MUCH less expensive to be in on-base housing.

I joke that we live in a "gated community"...it IS gated, and there ARE armed guards.  But when there are scary people targeting "gated communities" such as ours, the reason is because it is affiliated with the military, and the particular targets are military members or their families...which is when things get really strict in our neighborhood.

Our children appreciate living among other military families, attending schools where the unique challenges of military children are understood, and having many friends who are living the same experience.

SOME FURTHER THOUGHTS:
As someone who is immersed in military life, it is difficult for me to look at my life and clearly see what makes it so different from others who are not attached to the military in some way.

I see our healthcare and insurance as pretty similar to other healthcare and insurance plans.
I see that we cannot afford *not* to have two incomes...oh, we can survive on one...but it is HARD...for many it is often close to or below the poverty line.  Many military families are on WIC and food stamps...not because they are poor managers of their money, or because they have large families, but because they have to be in order to survive, to feed their families.

Think about the young military family, just starting out...which is already hard...and then they are moved FAR away from the comforts of home, and the ready support of immediate family.  Then the military member is deployed, or off on one training after another, and what is the other spouse supposed to do?  How are they supposed to care for their young children and work when they know NO ONE, and are new to the area, and can't find a job that will allow them to be the on-call parent 24-hours-per-day?

So, what are your questions about the lifestyle of the military family?  Maybe I can answer some of them....

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Cognitive Dissonance

http://delucainsight.com/category/menopause/
When none of what I'm reading makes any sense any more....this would be how I respond...






If I believe everything I read on my Facebook page...
~Donald Trump is going to destroy our country.
~Hillary Clinton is going to destroy our country.
~Bernie Sanders is going to destroy our country.
~Maybe President Obama wasn't so bad after all.
~President GW wasn't so bad, was he?
~I miss President Ronald Reagan.
~Hillary really screwed up by attributing anything to FLOTUS Nancy Reagan.

~Male Gamers are sexist pigs who abuse women who dare try to enter "their" world.

~Catholic students are anti-Semitic.

~Only people who battle cancer are heroic.
~Only people who battle child abuse are heroic.
~Only military members and veterans are heroic.

~People who harm animals deserve to die.
~People who perform abortions are providing a service.
~People who perform abortions deserve to die.
~People who perform abortions need to be shown how to get out of that industry.

~Legalizing marijuana use is only logical.
~Legalizing marijuana use is the first step of a slippery slope.

~Time-change is stupid.
~Time-change is logical.

~Food...
~Food...
~Foooooood....

~Movies...watch them all.  They're all good.
~Movies...don't watch any of them.  They're all bad.

~COFFEE!!

~Kittens are cute.
~Sea creatures are fascinating.
~Elephants are cute.
~Dogs are cute. And also stupid.
~All animals deserve to be pampered.

I think I'm tired of the negativity, the trumped-up drama, the highly inflaming headlines, and especially politics.

I am also tired of city-raised people who don't understand how farms work, and how life is for farm animals.

I am immensely tired of people who think that all animals should be treated like pets, but are okay with babies being killed, and don't see anything dissonant about this thought process.

I think it is time for me to take a Facebook break, before I start running people off....because I can't handle much more cognitive dissonance.


Monday, February 22, 2016

Bucket List

What exactly is a Bucket List?  From the Urban Dictionary (UrbanDictionary.com), the idea is a list of things one desires to accomplish/do before they "kick the bucket", hence, bucket list.  

I have never been enamored of the whole idea...probably because it was popularized in movie form, in the 2007 movie of the same name, and movies tend to turn me OFF to ideas more often than not.  

I do, however, think that a list of goals for my life is a good thing.  
I don't want money.  
I really don't want fame.  
I am a low-maintenance person, for the most part, so many things just are not terribly attractive to me.  

I do have a few things I think would be interesting, which MIGHT fall into the realm of a "normal" bucket list.  
I LOVE to travel, to see new places, and experience historical sites.  
I LOVE to read...biographies, mostly, but also academic literature.  Yeah, I know I'm weird.  

Other than that, I really can't think of much else that would fall within the normal frame of a bucket list.  In thinking this through, though, I came up with some other things I'd like to do.  

In my travels, I want to work in missions.  
I want to minister to refugees.  
I want to experience The Church in all of the corners of the earth, in different languages and cultures.
I want to see families living and loving and growing and worshiping in cultures other than my own.  
I want to write about what God is doing in people all over the world.  
I want to walk alongside the missionaries and ministers and their families in the hard places.  
I want to help others experience freedom...emotional, mental, and especially spiritual freedom.  

Above all of those things, I have only one other desire.  

I want my children to see and know me for who I truly am, a daughter loved by the King of Kings, and to not consider me a hypocrite.  If I can accomplish that, none of the rest of the list matters to me, in the long run.  

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Precious Lord....

...hold my hand.

This morning we heard and sang along with this amazing song at church.  I was struck, yet again, with the depth of the hymns and spirituals that have gone out of style in our modern worship.

Because this week we celebrate the birthday of an amazing man, I want to post a clip of Mahalia Jackson singing this song at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s funeral, in 1968.


Since the above is only a short clip of this amazing song, I am also including a version with the whole song, and lyrics:


Monday, January 11, 2016

Finding my Footing

Every move feels like a climb.
A long, slow, exhausting climb.
Dragging my whole family, and all of our worldly goods behind us.

The move itself usually goes pretty smoothly...after all, we've done this a few times, and know what to expect (the unexpected!!), so we're prepared, for the most part, when things happen.

The sequence of events is something like this:
We get orders, usually about six months before the expected move, and start preparations.

I start dumping things...things that have accumulated because of where we are (the snow shovels from Montana would NOT be needed in Virginia Beach!), things that have accumulated because of how long we have been in one place (the stuff expands to fill the space available...NO we do NOT need 11 bicycles!!), and all the papers.  So. Many. Papers.

We plan the date for the movers to come evaluate the household goods.

We plan the date for the movers to come pack the household goods.

We pack beloved things that we fear may be broken (or stolen!) to carry in our personal vehicles.

We plan the clothes we'll need for the transition period, until our household goods are delivered.

With the last move, there was the extra step of preparing the house to sell, and selling it.

We get the vehicles ready for the long drive.

We gather medical records and school records and veterinary records.

The movers come and pack the household goods.

We pack all of the rest of it into our personal vehicles, and stuff the children and the dog in there, too.

Somewhere in the midst of this, Jason is checking out of his command, there are farewell parties, and dinners, and last-minute get-togethers.

And suddenly, it is all over, and we are driving out of the town/city we have grown to love, and are off to a new adventure in a new place.

For a little while, the new is good...there is excitement about new schools, and new jobs, and figuring out a new house, and a new community, and finding a new church.

Then the reality of the newness really sinks in, and every one of us starts to miss the friends left behind, and the feeling of familiarity that helped us feel comfortable in the area, and suddenly the new is hard.

And the hard doesn't go away, and there is no way to make it easier.  Making new friends, and finding one's way around a new community, and learning cultural expectations in a new place are always a process, and they just have to be lived through.  There is no skipping over them.  So, everyone just keeps going, and keeps doing, and tries to make the best of the hard, dark middle, recognizing that there WILL be light...hopefully sooner, rather than later.

And then one day, after months of climbing, and slipping, and sometimes falling, suddenly we find ourselves getting to an easier part of the climb.  We can see light.  We have friends again.  We have found our way around town (without the GPS!).  We know how to get to the grocery store, and the mall, and the doctor, and the dentist...and we realize that the climb has gotten easier, and we can actually see something besides the trail in front of us.

And this is when we find our footing again.  For myself, for a lot of this past year, I have felt like the whole climb has been up a muddy, slippery slope, and I just couldn't get a grip, or find any toe-holds.  This part of the climb has been spent staving off depression, and loneliness, and anxiety.  Feeling unsure of my footing, or of my future, left me fearful and served to emphasize other difficulties we were experiencing at the same time.

Now, I can feel the fog lifting, and I can see the horizon.  I look down, and I find solid places to put my feet, and I know that the climb has been worth it, and we are coming out the other side...stronger, steadier, and hopefully growing through this long, hard climb.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Story of a Military Family (Chapter 5)

NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY, MANAMA, BAHRAIN
2010 was a challenging year.  Jason changed commands.  We moved, and bought a house, and I started grad school, and Jason left for a year in the desert.

On January 1, 2010, I posted that I was researching graduate school programs.  It was scary, and I wasn't sure how I was going to be able to do it.  I was working as a medical transcriptionist, and attempting to keep up with all of the kids' school activities, as well as the dog and cat and the house.

On August 1, 2010, we moved out of military housing into a house that we were working toward buying.  I also took the GRE that day.  We also found out in August that Jason was going to be going to Bahrain for a year.

In September, I learned that I was accepted into the Masters in Counseling program at Regent University, and classes started on September 18th.  The kids all started at their (mostly) new schools on September 2nd.

On October 5th, we had a fun photo shoot at the beach, with our favorite photographer and college friend.

On October 15, Jason and I went out for dinner, to celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary.  After dinner, we finished up some last-minute shopping, and came home to attempt to fit everything into his seabags.  The next morning, I drove him over and dropped him off to catch a bus to Fort Jackson, in South Carolina, where he was to go through desert training.  Several weeks later, I was able to drive down and spend the weekend with him before he finished up and flew out to Bahrain.

On October 25, I went to the lawyer's office, and signed Jason's name to all 50+ pages of the paperwork to buy our house.  It was official.  We were homeowners!!

The year that Jason was stationed in Bahrain was challenging and interesting.  I was stretched in ways I didn't expect.  The things that normally kept the two of us running were more than I could handle on my own.  We had six children in three different schools, I was in my first semester of a challenging graduate program, and still doing medical transcription.  We decided that I needed some help to keep up with transportation for the kids, and fixing meals, I found a college student who was a HUGE help!!

Thanksgiving was different...we invited another grad student to spend the day with us, and Skyped with Jason when he got up the next morning (Thanksgiving evening for us).

We also had a birthday party for Heather, with 4 or 5 friends, and they walked down to the inlet down the road.  While there, Heather slipped, and broke her wrist, which ended the party early, and ended the evening with a trip to the local ER.  At least her cast was as colorful as she was!!

Christmas was also challenging.  The kids and I travelled to South Carolina, to spend time with our family.  We were able to Skype with Jason, which was nice, but served to emphasize (to me, at least) that he wasn't there, and what all he was missing.

After Christmas, the next exciting event was my Spring Break, which meant a vacation for me!!  I had already gotten my Passport, and I was able to go visit Jason in Bahrain for a week!!  It was great to see him, and to experience the very different culture of that island kingdom.

I flew back and headed right back to school and work, and we all finished out the school year with a HUGE sigh of relief.  I was able to get four of the kids into an Operation Purple camp, put on for children of deployed military, so two weekends in a row saw me driving to western Virginia to take the kids to camp and pick them back up again.

Jason was able to make a visit to see us TWICE during that year...one was a surprise visit in March, when he came for a training class.  The second was for two weeks in July, when he was able to be home for R&R, and we were able to take part in the wedding of some very dear friends.

The next school year started in September, and the time began to drag.  It wouldn't be too much longer until Jason was home....but first, another trip to Bahrain for me, this time a chance to celebrate our anniversary.  On the return trip, I brought back one suitcase that was filled entirely with books....Jason had been busy doing grad school work while there, and shipping books is expensive, so I brought them back as one of my checked bags.

FINALLY, November 5th, 2011, he was home!!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Christmas Letter, 2015 (July 15-Dec 15)

JULY, 2015
Our visit to South Carolina for the Fourth of July week is always fun.  This year was no different, with time to get together with friends, mostly around FOOD, and spending time with family.  We did family pictures with Jason's family, and went out on the lake, swimming during the day, and watching the fireworks from the tri-tune boat at night.  I went and visited with my parents for a few hours in order to fill them in on what was going on in our lives.

And we got to go to church at St. Andrews Evangelical and see many friends from across the years and from around the world.  As always, the time went to quickly, and we left to head back to Massachusetts.

Soon after we arrived home, Jason flew to Washington, DC, for a meeting with the Chaplaincy Board, in hopes of being selected as a Chaplain in the Navy.

That same week, the four kids and I went to Camp Pineshore to begin the first of three amazing weeks of camp.  I was the resident Professional Counselor on staff, all of the kids attended at least one week, and we acted as photographers for all three weeks of camp.  It was an amazing three weeks, relaxing, and getting to know some really great people.

Leah, Katherine, and a friend had fun creating costumes in an effort to nab free food at our local Chick-fil-A...the same one where Heather was already working!!

We also enjoyed a GREAT visit with some friends from Virginia while they were traveling back from Maine.  It was GREAT to sit down and have some coffee and conversation with them!!







AUGUST, 2015
This month saw the last two weeks of summer camp at Pineshore, Katherine taking part in Starbase Flight Week, and Leah going away to the Summer Stars program, as well as marching band uniform fittings, and a visit with a friend from college days!!

Katherine was part of a program on base during the school year, which then offered her the opportunity to take part in a one-week STEM camp.  As part of Starbase's Flight Week, she ended up on the front page of the base's paper!!

Leah was also afforded a great opportunity to take part in a performing arts camp called Summer Stars.  This happened at the beautiful Northfield Mount Herman School, which was founded by D.L. Moody, in 1881.  She had a great time, and learned a lot!

Preparations for Marching Band is always a part of our summer, and this year was no different.  Justin had to be fitted for his uniform, and Leah got her flag for the color guard.

I was so happy to learn that a friend from college days lives about an hour away from us, and she was able to come visit for an afternoon in August!  It was wonderful to spend some time catching up!!

Finally, school started.
Katherine started 6th grade, and Leah moved into 8th grade.

Justin moved up into 10th grade, and Heather is a Senior.










We also learned in August that Jason was NOT accepted for the Chaplaincy, which was disappointing, but we KNOW that God has a plan.  We are waiting to see what He has in store.

SEPTEMBER, 2015
In September, we all adjusted to the school routine, while still enjoying the comfortable temperatures and changing colors.

Heather went to Hampton, NH, and had some more Senior pictures made.  I'm having a hard time believing that she is graduating this year!!




OCTOBER, 2015
October saw a LOT of changes.
Frances unexpected came home for the school year, which meant a rearrangement of bedrooms, and the acquisition of some more furniture, as well as jobs for her at Chick-fil-A and Lindt, and starting online classes through Liberty University Online.

Then in late October, my maternal grandmother passed away, and I made a trip to South Carolina.  While there, I finished cleaning out Frances' dorm room, and packed up her car to drive back to Massachusetts.

NOVEMBER, 2015
Monday, November 2 was my grandmother's memorial service in Montreat, NC.  I was glad to be able to be there, and to see my family.  My grandmother was an amazing lady, and saying goodbye is always difficult.

While in the area, I was able to catch up with a couple of friends...one from high school days, and one from college.  After some relaxing time with them, I left to drive back to Massachusetts.

Thanksgiving was different again this year...last year we spent it in South Carolina with family, and this year three children had to be back at work at the mall the next day.  We enjoyed sharing a Thanksgiving meal with our small group at our home the Sunday prior, and had a quiet and restful day on Thanksgiving Day, in preparation for the hectic nature of the month to come.  I experimented with gluten-free pie crusts (yum!!)

We also celebrated Heather's 18th birthday on the 25th.  She and a group of friends enjoyed an afternoon of bowling at the alley on base, and came back to the house for movies and pizza afterwards.

DECEMBER, 2015
And....we're full-circle.
After a year in Massachusetts, I am starting to feel more balanced, not so much out-of-place.  We celebrated another round of the holidays without Jon here, which makes me sad, and we're far away from the rest of the family, which is always hard.  But we know that God is working, and we are where He wants us to be, so we're attempting to bloom where we're planted.

We love our church, and are deeply involved.  Jason is doing sound.  Justin is playing in the orchestra.  Frances and Heather help out with the children's ministry.  Everyone is involved in a small group.  And the Christmas services were AMAZING, yet again.  I was blown away, again, by the fact that the Father sent His son to us, as a baby son of a teenaged mother, in a backwoods town, and that before very long their family was Middle Eastern refugees, fleeing certain death at the hands of a tyrant.  What an amazing lesson for us, and an amazing and awesome gift.

Thank you to all who have prayed for us this year.  Please don't stop.  We don't know what the future holds, but are reassured that our God definitely holds our future in His very capable hands.