Monday, December 31, 2012

The Best Thing I Ever Did in 2012 (besides make a baby)

On January 2, 2012, I started something I'd never done before. Inspired by Ann Voskamp's book, “One Thousand Gifts,” I began writing out a list of gifts that I'm thankful for. The goal? To make it a daily practice so as to have a list of “one thousand gifts” by the end of the year. Honestly, I kind of expected this to go the way of all my other New Year's resolutions and peter out somewhere near the end of January.

But here's what happened instead. The more gifts I penned down, the more I wanted to do it. It's like eating homemade guacamole. Once you start, you gotta keep going back for another dip and another dip. Only instead of ending up with that bloated shouldn't-have-done-that feeling, I felt an overwhelming sense of wholeness and satisfaction, an awareness of completeness. Now, when I miss a day (or two or three), I feel a sense of loss. Because I've surely missed some gifts, and now they're gone into the abyss of my forgetfulness, passed by without a whispered “thank you for this.”

But the gifts that I do capture onto paper, they have become my treasure. On this, the last day of 2012, I penned down my one thousandth gift.  It reached the bottom of my fifty-third page.  Before all this, if you had told me I'd type anywhere near fifty pages of anything this year, I'd have laughed, out loud. Ain't nobody got time for that! But turns out I did, with just a few minutes each day.

It is my thank offering to the Giver of all these gifts. And as the Giver does, he gave back beyond my expectations. This list has become a journal of sorts, a record of our year, a remembrance of all the little things that have touched me deeply and made 2012 what it was. So as a recap of our year, here is a smattering of excerpts from my one thousand gifts.

4. The silkiest softness of my son's white blond hair. Jan 2

10. The longing of hearts apart. Aaron in Thailand for three weeks of classes, my heart missing him with a longing that hurts. Jan 2

38. Ellie still asking for her bedtime song to be “Hark the Haver Angels Sing.” Jan 4

60. A gift in the mail, precious people wanting to tangibly show that they believe in what we're doing. Jan 10

95. Aiden toddling along outside, soaking in the world, when suddenly, urgently he turns back to me and shouts, “Mama! Kiss!” My heart is a puddle on the ground. I bend to touch lips to his puckered fish mouth. Jan 30

107. Aaron: “Come here, birthday girl.” Ellie: “You can call me 'Princess.'” Feb 12

113. A short night, a long week ahead, meeting my love in the kitchen for a soothing embrace. Feb 13

167. Swelling with new life. Baby bump for all to see. March 13

196. A fro-yo date with my daughter. April 2

212. A husband who knows when not to go the extra mile in his homework so he can be there for his family. April 20

228. Making birthday cake art for my two year old, him shouting in delight, ““Beeball! Bootball! Babeeball!” April 26

276. My truly gorgeous sister, radiant as a bride. June 8

291. There was no confusion that first night of big boy bed-ness. No, “Hey, I belong in my baby bed.” Just pure confidence that he had entered big kid-dom. When I went to cradle and coo my nightly song to him, he shushed me with an emphatic finger over his mouth as if to say “I don't need that baby stuff now.” June 13

342. Our family on two chairs, snuggled under a blanket watching the sky light up with American celebration. July 4

439. Ellie spooning ice cream into her brother's eagerly waiting mouth. Aug 7

441. My children's endless enthrallment with sand and waves. Aug 7

453. An empty baby bed next to mine, just waiting to be filled. Aug 13

478. The moment I grasp my slippery new son to my skin. Aug 16.

484. The shocking tininess of a newborn diaper. Aug 16

496. Each day the bond growing stronger.  This little one that was unknown, becoming known. Aug 19

499. Friends and family around us, graciously giving and serving. Aug 19

532. How Aiden says “mamich” for “sandwich.” Sept 2

575. Dinner on the edge of the sea, celebrating 8 years of this soul bonded life. Sept 18

594. Hearing my grandma's last words to me, “I love you.”

672. A husband that took care of the 4am sickness while I slept through Oct 16

692. Hearing the story of our Chinese friend. The father who threatened to disown her and the mother who threatened suicide if she was baptized, are now paying for her seminary study in America. Oct. 20

774. Flying round and round on spinning swings with my daughter, our arms outstretched, heads thrown back, shouting wild and fearless and free. Nov 12

814. Kissing my baby's pillow-plump cheeks, him giggling with glee. Dec 1

 925.  When Mary and Joseph enter the stage, cradling the baby in their arms, Ellie whispers as loud as can be, “I WANT TO SEE BABY JESUS' FACE!” People all around chuckle.  May you never, ever lose that desire, baby girl, to see Jesus' face. Dec 24

929.  The first Christmas with my family in 9 whole years.  Dec 25

956.  Ellie: “Daddy’s always joking me. It dangs me crazy.” Dec 27

985.  Reflecting on the goodnesses of this year, and feeling that my eyes are more opened, my heart more tender for all the gifts, both sweet and hard that will come in the year ahead. Dec 31

1000.  Penning down my one thousandth gift and knowing I have only just begun.  Dec 31

And now I say a whispered “thank you” to YOU, dear ones, for being among my one thousand gifts. Thank you for journeying alongside me this year.  Thanks for letting me speak a bit of my life and heart to you.  Love and blessings to each of you.  Happy New Year!    

(3 Things about this pic:  1.  Yes, that background is for real.  2.  Sorry you don't get to see Titus' face 3.  Yes, Aiden is trying to make me eat my own hair.) 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

"Guns Don't Kill People" and Other Lies We Believe

On December 14, not one, but two crazed men placed their hands the door knobs of kindergarten classrooms.  Both men are the definition of sick and wrong, both bent on the destruction of innocence.  One brandished in his hand a gun, the other man a knife. One in Conneticut, the other in China.  Today the loved ones of 26 Americans are preparing for funerals.  In China, the parents of 22 children are nursing stab wounds.  Wounds.  Not deaths.

We all deal with grief in different ways.  Me?  I hurt and ache and hold my children tighter, and then...I get mad.  And I want to fix it.  I want to just STOP hearing of yet another mass killing.

Did you know that in the last two decades America has had 62 mass murders carried out by firearms?  And, read this slowly, more than three quarters of these guns were obtained LEGALLY.   

Dozens of assault weapons and semi-automatic handguns were legally placed in the possession of psychopaths who turned and sprayed bullets into humans. 

Now, I fully understand that killers will find ways to kill.  There's no way around that.  However, with what ease can they obtain an object that with one flick of the finger obliterates a life?

Guns don't kill people, people kill people.  Right.  Why don't we say, "Bombs don't kill people, people kill people"?  You got a bomb in your basement, you can guaran-dang-tee no one is going to say, "Hey, that's your right, pal." 

Now, before you go calling me a crazy, get this:  Here in the land of the free and the home of the brave, I do believe it IS our right to bear arms.  However, have we ever stopped to think that maybe, just perhaps, we should willingly give up our rights?  In the spirit of the one who gave up his rights of heaven for the sake of those that could not save themselves?     

I can responsibly handle owning a gun for purposes of entertainment or protection or whatever.  But I happen to live in a world of weaker brothers who cannot handle that same ownership.  And for their sake and the sake of their victims, I'd give up my right of ownership in a heartbeat. 

I know we don't often go looking at China as a model in policy making.  All I know is that having lived there for five years, I felt much safer there than I do in America, knowing that it is extremely difficult and illegal to obtain a gun.

Again, killers will find ways to kill.  China has had it's own host of violence and school attacks.  No guns does not equal no murders.  But legalized guns do equal more murders.  Don't take my word for it.  Take Harvard's.   We cannot stop madmen from killing.  The question is, "What tools are available for them to commit their crimes?"  Guns are the most efficient legal means for killing in America. Without those efficient tools available to the general public, lives will be saved.

But let's be realistic and acknowledge that all this talk is probably for naught.  We already can own guns, and we're all not going to give them up in a beautiful drop-your-gun-off and sing "kum by ya" with us campfire.  Ultimately outlawing guns would lead to a search and seizure scenario that would violate the Constitution, culminating in a Civil War or at least the cessation of Texas. 

But perhaps all this talk and all this grief will spark something in someone smarter than I, who will step up with some genius policy making.  And perhaps all this talk and all this grief will move us to actually going along with it.  One can hope and dream.

Other than that, we are left to weep with those weep and to echo long and loud, "Come, Lord Jesus, come.  Put an end to all this."  

Friday, December 14, 2012

Pure Charity

Did you even know such a thing is possible?!  It's true!  A percentage of money that you're already spending can go to a charity project of YOUR choice.  I had no idea.  But I know now.  And I think it's pretty amazing, so I'm telling you. 

It's called Pure Charity.  And it's pure genius, I tell you.  They have partnered up with a bunch of major retailers, places you shop, like Target, Walmart, Apple, Best Buy, etc, and arranged for a percentage of your purchases to go into your own personal giving account at Pure Charity.  Then you get to choose which charity project who want to apply your funds to.  Add your own cash at any time.  You can even apply to have a project added to Pure Charity. 

It's socially networked so you can rally your people around a project of your passion.  I'm not a prophet, but I'd say this is the future of charitable giving. 

So how about it?  I'm trying seriously to think of one valid reason why a person shouldn't do this and.....nope, can't think of one.

Might I suggest a particular project for you to back?  It's called the Legacy Project with Help One Now.  They are building a school in Haiti for an orphanage and it's surrounding community.  I'm a firm believer in using education to break poverty cycles.  This organization?  They've done their homework.  They are committed to empowering nationals for long term sustainable change, not just feel-good projects that can have a negative domino affect on the community. (I could write a whole series on this.)

Check out the project, and if you have some charitable giving to do, consider helping them out.  They are already in phase 8 of 10, and their goal is to complete it by Christmas.

Wouldn't it be great to know that the rest of your shopping this Christmas is ALSO helping orphans in Haiti?    

So here's what you do:
1. Go to and create an account
2.  Register your debit/credit cards
3.  Back the Legacy Project
4.  Network - invite and follow friends
5.  Install the web browser plug-in so you know when you're online which merchants partner with Pure Charity.

And then let's offer up three cheers for those revoltionary thinkers that are using their genius to change the world!