Saturday, November 30, 2013

A few of my favorite things.....

Being that tomorrow is December 1st, I thought I would share a few of our favorite family traditions. Let me preface this post by stating that most of these traditions have been started within the past 6 years or so...however, all of them are things that both Joel and I wish that we had done from the time our children were babies in order to help them understand the true meaning of Christmas and to keep things in perspective.

Our oldest and one of my personal favorite traditions is Jesus' stocking. This is actually one that we did start when Hannah was still a baby and although we have changed the way in which we do it the idea has remained the same. This burlap stocking is for Jesus...each year we either share out loud or write on a paper and put in the stocking something that we would like to "give" Christ for the upcoming year. Things that have appeared in his stocking have ranged from my love, a good attitude, a quiet time, worship, my heart, my toys, my time, etc. It is a special time each year for us as a family as we remember that Christmas is really Jesus' birthday and we need to give him the very best gift that we can give each and every year. Even as little children, our kids knew that it was important to take time to give Jesus a special gift.

Another favorite tradition that we have and has become a very fun one for the kids - even as teens- but also has significant meaning. On Christmas morning, Baby Jesus is often "missing" from the nativity scene. The kids have to go looking for him to place him back in His rightful place. Although a fun game - we take the time to remember that the reason for the season really is Jesus and without Him - Christmas is empty and not complete. We want our kids to know that Jesus is the essential part of Christmas.

In order to gain control of the number of gifts we give each child and again to keep the focus of Christmas exactly where it needed to be - I found this creative idea several years ago in a parent magazine and have come to absolutely love it!!! Each of our children get three gifts - no, this is not for financial reasons although that definitely does help. Instead - each of the gifts represent the gifts that Jesus was given at His birth; gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The Gold Gift: This is something that they have asked for. It is simply something they want but it has a $50 limit to it. Again - Christmas is not their they are not "birthday" size gifts.

The Frankincense: This is something that they wear. It is usually an article of clothing but can include perfume, cologne, etc. This reminds us of the cloths that Jesus was wrapped in.

The Myrrh: This is something that will help them grow in their spiritual walk. It is always something to point them to their Savior. Things that have been given in this area - Bibles, Devotionals, Journals for quiet times or sermons, CDs with music, or books to help them grow spiritually.

Our kids have all gotten to where they anticipate their gifts and sometimes give us ideas for each area - not just the gold thing that they want. It is always a special time for us to talk about the significance of each gift in the Christmas Story as we open the corresponding gifts around the tree!

For many many years - actually since I was in HS - our family has participated in Operation Christmas Child with Samaritan's Purse. This amazing organization sends shoe boxes to children all around the world who are impoverished and in need. When the boxes are delivered the message of Christ is shared. Our whole family enjoys putting the boxes together and packing them! We have tried - although didn't succeed this year - to save our shoe boxes from shoes purchased throughout the year and pack that same number of boxes. The theory is that if you can buy a pair of shoes, you can pack a box!!!

Although this particular basket is new this year, the tradition that we do with it is not. Each year, as we receive Christmas Cards we place them in this basket. Beginning on New Year's every morning at breakfast, we will take turns pulling out a card from the basket. We will talk about who that person or family is, how we know them, and what is going on in their lives now. Then, we join hands and pray for that individual or family - a special time for all of us! So, know that when you send us a card - you will be prayed for in the coming days!!!

Of course, a long time tradition is the reading of the Christmas story. We have tried to alternate which Gospel we read it from so that we can get a full picture of the events of that first Christmas but it is always a part of our Christmas tradition. Depending on what our plans are with extended family we have read it on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day....

Brand new this year to our Christmas festivities....a Christmas Tree decorated in burlap!!! This idea originated from my friend Tina Barnwell whose family are missionaries to Europe. Doing Christmas on a budget, she creatively decorated most of her home in burlap a year or so ago. As I looked at her beautiful photos - I was reminded that burlap was more representative of the first Christmas and so I began thinking of the concept of decorating in burlap. Joel was enthusiastic about the idea and so we began this fun tradition! Kestra and Hannah helped make some burlap ornaments from pinterest ideas and of course Hobby Lobby was a huge help in getting the needed materials!

Another fun tradition - is simply family time! We love to play games as a family and just enjoy the presence of one another. It is always filled with lots of fun, laughter and a good time! Looking back on my childhood - it isn't the presents that I remember but more the memories made by spending time with family - and this is what I want to pass on to my kids as well!!!

Finally - although I didn't really have a photo to represent this tradition - Joel's favorite and yes I like it too...we always try to be sure and give more than we receive each year. This is either done by providing gifts for others or by finding ways to serve during the holidays. We want to always keep Christ's servant heart at the forefront of the Holidays!!!

So...there you have it! These are a few of my favorite things about Christmas. We wanted to take the time to share them with our friends and family so that you can be a part of our Christmas traditions! If you see an idea you want to start with your kids or grandkids - go for it! No matter their ages!!! It's never too late to share the true meaning and heart of Christmas with your family!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Letter to Sherri...Nov. 3, 2013

 Nov. 3, 2013


Hey there...well, today is the day I have been dreading for the past 2 or 3 years. Today, I have officially lived as much of my life without you as I lived with sum up how I feel about that - it stinks...ok, it really sucks and it pretty much isn't fair! I can't believe that 19 years have passed since the day we learned that you had left this Earth for Heaven.

Don't get me wrong, I know where you are. I know that you are with the King. I wouldn't wish that away for anything....however, the fact remains, I miss you! I wish you were here to share life with us, to know your nieces and nephews, to teach them all the amazing things that only you could have shown them...yeah, I really miss my sis!

Anyway, in thinking about what I would write or post this year I decided that I would tell you the highs and lows of the past 19 years. Ok I am not totally naive - I know you won't read this (ha you never liked reading anyway!) but it's a record for me to share in the only way I can with you. Not only that, some day-maybe- my kids will read it and know that I longed for you to be a part of their lives even if only through a letter.

1994- The year we lost you. I also started dating Joel (you know that, I remember telling you!). He was amazing during this time by the way - definitely God's timing that we were together! I was also blessed by some very dear friends at Wayland that helped me and stood by me during this time.

1995- I got married!!! I know you would love Joel, although I am sure you would have given him the third degree before hand! Ha ha!!! Also, I lost a sweet friend this year - Anita. I know you had met her at Taylor. It was tough losing her only a week before the one year anniversary of losing you - still remains the toughest week of the year for me as I miss you both a lot! Not to mention my LEAST favorite holiday falls in between the anniversaries...yes, those close to me know that I do not like the week of Oct 28 to Nov. 3 but even in the midst of it all - God is always faithful to give me a highlight every year during the week.

1996 - I graduated from Wayland with a degree in Business!!! Yes - I made it through MATH!!!!Joel took his first job as a youth minister this year as well!

1997- Hannah Marie Arrington was born. Of all my kids, I think she is the most like you. They all have some traits that make me think of you but she has a lot! She loves to be by herself and doesn't care for the social scene of any type. She is sensitive and smart. Oh and get this...she is TALL!!! Yes, your shorty sis has a tall daughter - go figure!!! Hannah loves to write - she contributed to a teen devotional that was published.

1998- Malachi James Arrington was born! Yes...I can hear you now..."Another one?" Ha ha! Malachi is like you in that he has a tender heart for others. He borders a little on the clueless side, but we love him anyway! He loves card tricks and magic tricks and most of all he is great with would have loved his laid back personality and I know you would have taught him a few of your own tricks and pranks!

1999- Kestra Nichole Arrington was born! She is our little fireball of energy! Although more like me in her personality - Kestra reminds me of you academically. She has the same learning disability that you had - it's genetic - who knew? Yet, like you she works hard and wants to do well in school. I never really understood what it was like for you until I had her. She has made me understand just how hard you had to work to overcome the challenges of school - I am WAY proud of her AND you!!! I also have to appreciate how much mom and dad had to advocate for you in school - whew gets hard at times! She loves social She's your gal! Oh yes...she does love fashion and bling and pink! Ha ha - I think she would have won you over though!

2000- NOPE...didn't have a kid this year! Ha ha! I know you would be like "Whew!" This was the year everyone thought computers and technology would shut down because they couldn't handle the new was crazy! People were stocking up on fuel, groceries, supplies, building solar would have laughed so hard because you were all things survival! Funny thing - it was rather anti-climatic, not much happened!!!

2001-Tyler Bay Arrington was born! Yes...another one!!! His middle name is after Bay Forrest. Tyler is a lot like you in that he LOVES animals, the outdoors, fixing things...he eats it up! He has had a lot of health problems and has hearing loss - as does Malachi but Tyler's is worse. He also has learning disabilities and really struggles in school. However, he has such a servant's heart! He loves to help people and serve people...such a gracious and loving young man!!! Of all my kids, he is the one that I can see in the hayfield with you, or out feeding livestock with you - he is Dad's shadow when we are there, but I know if you were around you would be his role model for sure!!!

2002- Can't think of anything too major this year. We lived in Pagosa. Loved being there.

2003 - BIG change for us. We moved back East to Tennessee! It was a crazy thing and actually a short stay. We learned a lot through it. At the end of the year we moved to the Dallas area and got to live by Scott and Michelle. That was fun!

2004- We lived in the Dallas area and quickly began to realize big city life was not for us! This was a rough year for us - we were struggling spiritually and financially  and weren't really where God wanted us to be. However, we grew through it and became a lot stronger!

2005 - Another big move, this time to Arkansas. This was the year that Tyler was diagnosed officially with hearing was a HUGE adjustment! I learned so much about the ear, hearing loss, audiology, etc this year!!

2006 - Nothing too major in this year either. Although, I worked with an Army ROTC program! That was way cool and you would have loved the stories! Working with the cadets always made me think of you...all their survival training and emergency classes totally up your alley!!! I also got to go flying with them!

2007 - We moved back to Colorado, this time to Bayfield! I know I know - the rival Wolverines!!! It was wonderful though! Community of Bayfield will always be a home to our family. We have many dear dear friends there. This is also the year that Grandad passed was hard for me since only the day before he passed I was with him! He even beat me at Rummy that surprise there!!!

2008 - Still in Bayfield. I went on a trip to Mexico!!! It was an experience to be sure. Hannah was old enough to go with us - her first real mission trip! Also - there was A LOT of snow this winter!!! It was great...okay, the playing in it was great - the shoveling not so much!!!

2009 - Lived in Bayfield and went to work for Dad and it wasn't even just to clean the shop!!! Ha ha!!! It was great...although keeping Dad in line was challenging as you can imagine!!

2010- I went on a Mission Trip to Zimbabwe Africa!!! Seriously!!! Never would have thought I would but I did. So much to say about that but the part you would have got a kick out of - I spent TWO WEEKS in a tent!!! So there!!! Your girly sis roughed it for two weeks!!!

2011- BIG change for us! We moved to Borger Tx and Joel changed directions in ministry...he went from youth ministry to children's ministry. It was an adjustment in so many ways! However, we met some wonderful people there...cherished friends for sure!!!

2012- Ok...seriously you will not believe this one! I actually HOMESCHOOLED! Scary right? Yes, I homeschooled Hannah and Malachi. They both had some peer issues in school and just needed out. So with the help of an online program - I had them at home for a year! It was an experience to say the least! This was the year that Hannah began writing for the book too!!! We also went to Disney World! Now that I KNOW would not have been your thing but we loved it - it was our first big family many memories were made!

2013- This year another move - to Levelland Tx. yeah, we have moved a lot. It's been an adventure and yes it has taken a toll on us all. However, we are so thankful to be here and know that this is where we will be for many many years - we both have a peace about that. Another big change this year - I am working full-time again. Haven't done that in several years. I am thankful for the income and that I have a great place to work - however, I miss the flexibility that not working has to help at church and in the schools. For now though it is what needs to happen.

Reading over this I realize that there is so much that I would have longed to share with you...I wish you were here to know and teach my four kids, I wish you were here to talk about work and life with, to spend vacation with....a sister shouldn't have to write about her life to her sister.

Yet, even as hard as it is I know that God's timing and will is perfect. I still question why...but then I have to remember all the people that we as a family have shared your story with. So many that I can honestly tell I know what they are feeling...then I have to wonder how many have come to know Jesus because of you. Mom and Dad did a great job of making your memorial service very evangelistic - the Gospel was shared.

So...yeah, besides maybe the first year, this one is hard. It's hard because I don't want to think about the fact that now I will have lived longer without you than with you. It's hard because I realize that so many people who I am close to don't even know I have a sister in Heaven. In some ways - it's like two different lifetimes. However - God is faithful! He has brought comfort and peace through it all. He has allowed me to truly relate to others who face loss.

As I close this letter - know this...there hasn't been a time or event in my life that I don't wish you were a part of it. My kids do know you through the stories and pictures we share with them and they know that their Aunt Sherri was an amazing person. I love thankful that saying goodbye here is only temporary - we will meet again!