The time has so swiftly arrived for the annual Christmas greetings that I have been caught off guard. Literally! "So soon?" I stutter and scramble to assess all that the year has held and given and taught. Each year I choose a new word, a special word to guide me through the year to come. Unlike resolutions that get laid aside quite quickly, this word floats along atop the many waters I navigate each day, hour, moment which add up to a year. 2012 became my year of "Celebrate" and it has proven to be a year chock full of parties and guests and opportunities to ring the bells of joy. Tears and trials mingled right alongside the luaus and vacations making for a memorable and busy year . . . like all the rest. 2013 will be the year of "Cultivate."
I have planted the seeds of so many hopes, dreams, and wishes over the years and those require tending and nurturing to bring about fruit. This year I set aside to truly dig deep and wide and lovingly into some of those things that have yet to blossom or sit ripe for harvest. My biggest project these days involves teaching the girls a college-level course in world literature. My many years of study and preparation in this area make it a joy to read, write, and discuss the best the world has seen in written words. The diversity of languages and cultures and beliefs conveyed through words makes for a banquet of choices. Though the girls have read and studied practically their whole life, this is a time for us to line up "The Greatest Hits" of Shakespeare, Chaucer, Milton, and so on. We find it stimulating, interesting, and often times quite unusual as we follow the footsteps of readers of all times. We meet at a local Starbucks coffee house and mimic the days of Samuel Johnson, when coffee, friends, and ideas naturally flowed together. Though the internet has expanded our access to knowledge and virtual relationships, we are trying an experiment in reaching out to those right here in our midst for the formation of groups of people discussing life and all it entails. Each week as we select a coffee or tea paired with a tasty sandwich we strike up a conversation with somebody new. When we seat ourselves amongst bags of books and notepads, we catch the eye of those around us and receive curious smiles or questions. Few people today actually read the classics, it seems, but they all acknowledge the "coolness" of doing so. Last year as the New Year rolled around I hatched this idea of meeting in the coffee house just to see what would happen. It took some time to get the whole thing going, but we are fast becoming a fixture in the place and may be expanding our size as others have expressed interest in forming a once-a-month writing club. You can't imagine how many people dream of writing a novel or memoir or screenplay. Being a dreaming writer myself, I have taken the step to form a club and see what happens. Of course, writer's block set in almost immediately for me, but then that's all part of the purpose of a club -- to encourage us to tackle the trials as we seek to leave some sort of legacy of hope and love in a world so tragically in need of a touch . . . a hug.
The world news leaves me frightened and stunned. Pick a nation, ANY nation, and you will find poverty of pocketbook or spirit. Pick a people, ANY people, and you will find evil in the midst of good. I weep as I read and then I fall to my knees and implore the Lord to make people behave better; sadly we have the gift of free will and we can choose. Why choose evil? Why not choose good? Why not choose The Best? I have taught my children manners and morals and stressed compassion and love, as have parents the world over. I hold to the hope that good triumphs. Recently we had a friend with us for dinner. He is a World Vision Philanthropy leader. He travels the world over giving aid, seeking, aid, reaching out with love in the form of food, supplies for relief or farming or education, and most of all sharing a vision that each person CAN make a difference. The hours he spent with us encouraged and inspired us, as he always does with a simple message: Love without counting the cost. I asked him many questions about China and the people he has met with. He smiled and told of all the "regular" Chinese folks he has been blessed to meet; and he happily shared that the people of China, like Americans, Norwegians, Egyptians, and all the rest, value their families and children and parents more than any form of government or power-play or material good. Chinese parents strive to provide the best life they can for their children in this crazy, mixed-up world of ours. As the carols played through the air and the candles burned low we reached out and prayed for each and every mother-father-child-friend-neighbor in hopes that joy, true joy, would be felt round the world.
As my children grow and take on their own direction in life, I find myself Celebrating and Cultivating more than ever. Matthew, now 24, lives a home-based life with as many choices as he can handle. The special little boy side remains with him, but an even more special and delightful young man has blossomed. He continues to grow and learn and be himself in the most beautiful way. Only God knows the whys and hows of all the trials and challenges each one faces, but God is faithful to supply comfort and joy in all cases. Elizabeth is now 23 and quite the busy young woman. She has much to fill her time with socially. She hosts the college/career group from church at our guest house each Sunday. A great group of young people meet, eat, share, laugh, learn and encourage each other to step up to the plate and share their gifts with the world. Come January, she will be attending a local college with courses in business and accounting, in addition to the Literature studies here at home. She dreams of running her own business someday. Currently, she works with Gary assuming many of the assembly and inventory tasks, as well as taking on outside projects, like being the chairwoman of our annual Christmas Tea event at church -- 300 women gathering for a full tea and a special program takes A LOT of planning, and she did it magnificently. She has dreams that call to her and she keeps seeking the fulfillment of them. That's an exciting thing to stand by and witness. I think her 2013 promises to be very busy/exciting/wonderful.
My "little ones," Lydia and Rachel, are no longer "little." They both stand eye-to-eye with me (with Rachel continuing to grow taller than all). Good genes and nutrition have benefited them. I am surprised how small so many of their peers are. I think we have a nutritional crisis in this land of plenty (but that's a whole different rant). Lydia graduated from high school a year early and has begun college studies in writing and Literature here at home. She pursues her harp as a career, but her heart hopes to be a writer. Local restaurants and cultural events at home and in the community provide ample opportunity for her to share her gift of music. Rachel, now 14, is also beginning to perform on the piano more regularly outside our home. I am encouraging them to write music for Harp/Piano duets as they are nonexistent. So far they are in the "working-it-out" stage. There's always a new project or challenge around here. Rachel continues her studies, though she has completed most of her high school requirements already, mostly in Math and Science. She will begin Latin and Astronomy in the New Year. Her goals are quite unique from her older sisters' and that makes me smile. The greatest joy in life is pursuing what you love. We follow our dreams around here and we continue to find ourselves in some pretty amazing places!
Gary continues to develop new projects for the company in Southern California and, surprisingly enough, our small manufacturing business has remained vital despite the poor economic climate and the stiff competition from Chinese products. Because our product is designed and manufactured here at home it costs far more than a Chinese import; but we have managed to harness a niche market of custom-laser needs that continues to order specialty items of higher quality. What a blessing! Gary is also pursuing his dreams of exploring/inventing new things with magnets and power and LEDs and all sorts of ""weird" stuff. Scientists dream just like writers do, except they speak an entirely different language. We have a houseful of dreamers with ideas in all shapes and sizes.
And so I arrive at the end of another busy-exciting-exhausting-hilarious year here at Wisteria Cottage. I continue to explore cooking and writing and gardening and hospitality and teaching and on and on goes the list. I am BUSIER than I have ever been, but thankfully I enjoy (almost) every minute of it. The ups and downs of life take my breath away, bring on tears, break my heart, and warm it all at the same time. Life confuses me even as it delights me. I have hope that as I grow in age I grow also in wisdom so that I may be able to encourage, nurture, love, and cultivate the very best in my life so as to have the very best to offer up to those around me. The beauty all around at Christmas time never fails to call me to a better place in my thoughts, hopes, and dreams. Christmas began centuries ago in a stable ripe with the sights, sounds, and smells of animals unaware of the magnitude of the blessed gift of hope that Mary laid in the manger of scratchy straw. We have wrapped the idea of Christmas into sparkly presents and lavish feasts and blinking lights, but we can never deny or obscure the naked Truth that came to life that night so long, long ago.
I hope this letter finds you well and blessed and full of good cheer this December time.
Debbie and family