Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Looking Back and Looking Ahead

Happy 2014 Everyone!

A long time ago I quit mailing Christmas letters and started emailing them instead.  Then we moved to MS and decided to add a family year-end video with the emailed Christmas letter.   The past 2 years I haven't done either...just didn't, for lots of reasons.  BUT I am happy to report that the Livingston Family Year End Video will be posted later today, and here I am, summing up the past year for you.  I bet you're breathing easier now, feeling that all is right with the world!

I think everyone we know knows that we made a big move this year from Jackson, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee.  I have wanted to write about this for some time but just couldn't.  It was quite a difficult decision to make and then acting on it was even harder.  We've been here 7 months today and I think it is safe to say that I feel like I'm on the downhill side (which is the good side) of the 'transition' way of functioning.

Most of you know that I moved every 3.5-4 years as a kid as my dad was in the Air Force so I am no stranger to a nomadic existence.  But we had put roots down in MS, our kids had grown...quite a bit, in that house.  They had only been in school with those kids.  They had only been loved by that church family.  I had grown into a rather busy PTO participant.  Eric had matured as a minister with love and care from those at Meadowbrook.  Blessings abounded for us in MS.  Our family had thrived.

As I walked home from dropping Jaylie at school on the last day in May, I cried and cried.  I think what it boils down to, for me, is being willing to stand and acknowledge the ways--all of them, big and small--that we had been blessed in that place.  Stand in gratitude and thanksgiving for the path that led us there...and then turn my face to a different path in the absolute belief that the Lord will do it again for us here, in a new place.

He has.  He is now blessing us in our new home here in Middle Tennessee.  We're coming off of what may be one of the top 5 Christmases in my book.  All of my immediate family were seated around my table(s) last week.  Mom and Dad drove a short 17 minute drive from their new house in College Grove for Christmas dinner.  Dawn and Brad and my nieces, Audra and Carmen, drove about 15 minutes from their house in Brentwood.  Eric's parents drove about 30 minutes from their house in Thompson's Station.  My brother Jason came with my folks but he had driven 20 hours to get here from Lubbock the week before! (We're working on a job closer to us once he finishes his dissertation.)  So yes, this alone is the blessing I wished for my entire life.  To be near grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins.  I only saw mine once or sometimes twice a year.  Now, this has become the reality for my children and I am immensely thankful.  But we also had 2 additional people at our Christmas table.  These new friends from Otter Creek represent the way the Lord always has people for us to love, and people who will love us, no matter where we are.

So here's what we've been up to:

Isaac has just turned 13 (gasp!) and wears a size 13 (double gasp!) shoe.  He's much taller than me and can rest his chin on my head, which I find both endearing and unnerving.  He's in 7th grade at Sunset Middle School and is making friends steadily.  He's got several school friends who live here in our neighborhood which is a welcome change.  He is 1st chair saxophone in the 7th grade band and continues to do well in school academically.  He absolutely loves the middle school youth group at church.  The OCYG has been a lifeline for him (us) as we transitioned over the summer.  David and Susan Knox do a fantastic job and we are so thankful for them both.

Ethan is 9 and in 4th grade.  He is a San Antonio Spurs fanatic!  As I write this, he is wearing his #21 Spurs T-shirt (Tim Duncan's number) with his Spurs basketball shorts and his Spurs ball cap.  He also got 2 Spurs posters for his room.  He has plans to be in the NBA as an outside shooter a la Danny Green.  He plays basketball every single day.  (I am not exaggerating)  Ethan also has several school friends right here in the neighborhood.  There is always a boy his size to play with.  He is doing well in school and has had a bit of a harder time than I expected with all the changes at his new place.  Things are definitely smoothing out though and we're looking forward to a happy 2nd semester.  There are an abundance of 4th grade boys at church (some even go to school with him!) to hang out with and we're so thankful for that.

Jaylie turned 8 in September and is in 2nd grade.  Her age and her social demeanor has made the school transition easiest for her.  She has 2nd grade girls from school all over the place in our new neighborhood.  Most special is Savannah, whose family (who is awesome and we love them!) goes to Otter Creek with us, and who lives 2 doors down from us.  Jaylie can stand on our deck and see Savannah in her back yard.  She absolutely loves her teacher and her classmates. She is doing great in school and has fun everyday.  Jaylie has lost 4 teeth since we've been here and currently is missing the top 2.  No, she didn't get her 2 front teeth for Christmas.

Eric is finding his feet at Otter Creek as the Community Life Minister.  Mostly that means that he is the architect of the Life Group ministry and also coordinates the adult ed. ministry as well as all other non-Sunday-morning-worship adult gatherings.  So, this is a much different role than he had at Meadowbrook but he is excited by the challenge of it and the goal of it: to connect people to each other as they walk with Christ.  Life is easier when it is shared.  Eric is also currently coaching both boys basketball teams in the local recreational league.  He is sharing that responsibility with a friend from church, and also in the neighborhood and school (love when those circles overlap!) who has boys both our boys' ages.  The Hawkins family is a blessing to us.

I am finding my way.  I love Otter Creek and the many ways to serve there.  It's a bit overwhelming sometimes, but in really good ways.  I am starting to participate with the praise team and got to offer my first benediction in Vespers!  Eric and I both led the communion time a few weeks ago and that was monumentally meaningful to me.  A very new thing for me is willingness (on my part) to serve in the Middle School ministry.  I had always believed that I had very little to offer this group of humanity :) But God has opened my eyes to the ways I can speak to them.  I have become a Huddle Group leader of 4 absolutely precious 6 grade girls.  These girls are not at all what I expected them to be and I'm so glad I was wrong. Turns out, middle schoolers are pretty great and exciting.  I went with the Middle School youth group on the fall retreat in November which was awesome.  And no, I don't think Isaac minds this at all.  He mostly ignores me :)  The biggest difference in my new life here is the lack of school involvement.  I sincerely miss having that other sphere to function in.  That just takes time, though, and I am trying to be patient, and available to the opportunities.

Middle Tennessee is a beautiful place.  Hills and hardwood trees, horses and cows (and even 2 zebras on one road we drive!) are everywhere.  We have been so thankful for those of you who have stopped in on your way someplace else:  the Lynns, the Tollesons, the Partridges, the Hales and the Neills.  We do have a guestroom so please let us know if you're ever in the area.  Even if it's short notice (right Carrie Partridge?) or just for a short time.  All are welcome in our house and at our table.

May Peace and Love find you this year.  May you look around you and see, everyday, how you are blessed and loved.  You are each a reminder to me that God does great things because He made each of you.

With love
Eric, Dixie, Isaac, Ethan and Jaylie.