in some ways it raced by.
like a glimpse of the sun
right before it sets.
then there were other days
slow, painful, heartwrenching.
joy was had in that year.
so much joy.
growing in knowledge.
growing in faith.
growing in prayer.
growing in love.
growing in God.
growing in gratefulness.
For my birthday one year ago, my husband surprised me with a trail ride by horseback with my beautiful Bri. After the ride, we decided to drive around and look at real estate (we had been looking around for a couple of years). We drove past a charming house on a beautiful street with a large lot and a barn when he said "I could live in that house". Mind you, it was not for sale. It was not for sale, and if it ever was for sale - it would not be affordable to us. It was the only house he made that comment about. Less than one week later we received a phone call from an acquaintance/agent who knew of a house we might really like in that same town. It was about to go on the market. It was the very same house. It is the house we now live in one year later.
Early February brought heartache to our home, our family and our school community. Maya lost a friend and classmate on February 5th very unexpectedly. A tragedy so hard to understand, much less, explain. Four days later my grandmother passed away. It was a difficult week...month...year as we navigated the new territory of grief and loss. That same week, Maya's hand slipped while climbing up a metal slide and she got a pretty good shiner. A really rough week. Then along came Valentine's Day. A reminder of why we are here....to love one another in all of life's grit. We took a trip up north to my mom's house. Grandma Irene was remembered with laughter and tears. Horses and tractors were ridden. The cowgirl boots came out. Nature, beauty and life was inhaled once again.
By the end of March escrow had closed on the home I never imagined we'd own. Maya performed in her first school musical (The Three Bears). Bri was posing for senior photos and graduation was around the corner. My Mr. and I went on a little getaway to the most beautiful ranch on earth.
April found us looking at colleges in San Diego, where our beautiful Bri now attends school. It was a month of change and heartache for Bri as she ventured into womanhood. She had much to digest and decide upon. We had a quiet celebration for her 18th birthday as our jaws dropped at the reality of being the parents of a teenage adult...whoa! Matt & I attended one of many dinners where he was acknowledged as a guest of honor to celebrate his award as fireman of the year. We celebrated our first eight years of marriage...Joyfully. Oh, and I found a monster sized lizard hanging from my kitchen curtain...that was a little creepy.
May was the beginning of preparing to move. Landscaping was made beautiful. I found myself asking, "why hadn't we done this when we could actually enjoy it?" Lesson learned. Mother's Day was sweet...just me and my girls at the park. Little Miss went to a school dance dressed in a sixties gettup. Cute as she was, I realized afterward that no 6 year old needs to be at another social function, where trying to fit in with "the crowd" is the priority. Nor did she need to be dancing to any song by LMFAO. Call me old fashioned. On a more age-appropriate note: Bri draped herself in a beautiful turquoise gown for her prom. She was stunning. May was decision month for Bri. College was coming fast and a choice had to be made. We were shocked a week before the deadline when she suggested moving to Michigan for school but she chose to stay closer and well....all's well that ends well. Of all the events in May, the most beautiful and sweet memory was my baptism with my little miss a week before her birthday. It was a moment that I will always treasure.
Fresh veggies from the garden. Celebration. Graduation. Magna Cum Laude. Joy. Pride. Admiration. Prayer. Hopes. Desires. New Chapters. Sadness-Emptiness-Worry. Prayer. Father's Day. Family. Laughter. A patchwork quilt for the warming/healing of deep wounds. Of life lost. Prayer. School's out. Summer fun. Hooray!!! Cleaning house. Packing. Moving.
July brought beautiful weather, a spectacular Independence Day and moving day for our family. Beautiful sunsets cast vivid colors as we soaked up the newness of home. Little naked bodies ran through sprinklers. The slip'n slide summoned the children-at-heart. Chickens were chased. A lawnmower became the toddler's riding toy of choice. In the same month, Bri took flight in an unexpected direction ~ heading north to meet with her biological father. Following her trip, Matt & I found ourselves struggling with disappointment, sorrow, incredible pain & worry...but God was and still is faithful. He took us through some serious valleys that grew us in knowing His loving kindness as He will often do making beauty from ashes.
August was warm. It was joyful. And then......just plain gnarly. The month started with a sweet gathering of family at our home. But after they left, serious conflict found its way into our home. It came. It dug its ugly heels into our lives. It even separated us from our beautiful Bri for a time. But it did not prevail. Love did. We headed south and helped our beloved Bri get settled in to her new dorm room.
It was a very difficult month.
Life was newly different without the spirit of our eldest beauty in the house. We began our first year of homeschooling...kind of. It was a very slow start as we crept into the life of "educating" our daughter. This is still (and hopefully always will be) a learning experience for us as much as for her. We went on our first field trip to the butterfly exhibit at our local museum after eating lunch in a rose garden whilst my sunshine girl made her first journal entry about a snail she found and studied. That first month of homeschooling we found ourselves doing lots of nature studies right around home.
Fall showered us with a snippet of rain. The little miss ran her first lemonade stand and enjoyed the friendliness of neighbors and passersby. We made our first family trip down to visit our favorite college freshman and meet her new friends, had our first "Ojai Day" experience and went on local hikes through creeks and valleys. The local pumpkin patch drew us in to search for the perfect squash and we celebrated our first harvest festival where the girls dressed up....miss sunshine as little bo peep (a staff and sheep included) and our smallest lovebug was a buzzy bumblebee.
November was full. Mr. man grew out a mustache for the month. Kissing was scratchy and less appealing. It got shaved off early. We cooked and baked (miss sunshine is now the official pancake maker -from scratch- for our family...and they're delicious:) Camping at Big Sur was a huge highlight finding us hiking, playing at the beach and eating supper in the rain. It was a fun adventure. A craigslist trampoline made its way into our yard and we still bounce nearly every day. A new swing was made and hung in the front yard by Mr. N. Maya was in her first theatrical performance, The Jungle Book. It was fun to support and encourage her in this way. The costumes were amazing and the kids had a good time. Our littlest peanut turned two. Her favorite gift was the balloons. Thanksgiving was celebrated the day after in our new home surrounded by family. Bri was home. It was wonderful. A pizza party for little peanut finished off our adventures for the month. So much to be thankful for.
Christmas month. Oh....I can hardly describe the fun I had decorating our new home for Christmas. The lights, the nativity, the tree, the ornaments. I delighted in every bit of it, well...not every bit. The talking and singing Santa's just had to go. Santa got the boot this Christmas and I'm not even a little sad. This Christmas was not our usual rushing, scrambling, hurried season. It was JOYFUL. No gift, big or small, could change that for me. What could be more satisfying than the fullness of joy? It was beautiful. No family came. No friends. Just us. I found myself taking in the simple moments of life that I can often take for granted.....the laughter of my children, a healthy family, the feeling of peace residing in our home, sitting by a warm fire, having pancakes made by my seven year old, feeling the warmth of being held by my husband, taking in his bright blue eyes, listening to his soothing voice, the trees outside our windows, napping, breathing in life. Gratefulness can be overwhelming when you sit still long enough to count the gifts that are given each and every day.
Looking back, it was an amazing year.
It wasn't always happy.
It wasn't always easy.
But it was blessed through the tears and the joy.
And I give thanks for it all.
God is good.