Thursday, December 26, 2013
Dear Friends & Family,
We waited until today to send out our newsletter because we wanted to give you time. We wanted to give ourselves a little margin this month. November and December are always full, full, full as we struggle to balance our own family traditions and celebrations with the biggest season for selling The Haitian Bead Project jewelry and also for connecting with partners for Christian Friendship Ministries.
In November, we took a short trip to Haiti with three friends: Nancy Willey, her granddaughter, Zoe Casperite, and Regina Gleaves. Our focus for this trip was to work on some new products with the artisans in The Haitian Bead Project and to spend time with the children in the orphanages. The trip was truly brimming with blessings. Some of the highlights included: listening to the women lift their voices to heaven during our devotional times with them, a Movie/Game Night we had with the orphanage kids even when the power went out, when our friend Dartiquenov would come to the house to tell stories about Grandma and Grandpa Bell, Ericlee train the new coaches for the athletic gym we’re building in Pignon and Regina meeting the little girl her family is hoping to adopt.
After our trip, we flew home and a swirl of activity began for the holidays. Dorina and the Bead Project were a part of 10 holiday events in the last two months. Ericlee hosted the 4th Annual Haiti Decathlon with 75 competitors, raising more than $5,000 at CrossFit Combat Fitness gym. Our Zayla turned two on November 19, and we slipped a little birthday party in there with a monkey theme.
One fun addition this December was a little project we did with our girls. Each year we have allowed them to choose a gift from the World Vision catalog to give to a family or child in need somewhere in the world. This year the girls wanted to get involved with raising the money. They put their heads together with Nana Maria and did a cookies fundraiser. We hoped to raise $60 and sell about 12 dozen cookies. In the end, they filled orders for 56 dozen Italian pizzelle cookies and were able to buy a goat and chickens through World Vision. Admittedly, it was hard work but such an amazing lesson for Meilani and Giada to see how God does immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine especially when we choose to BE the gift to someone else!
This Christmas we had the special gift of celebrating in Fresno with Dorina’s whole family (parents, sister and kids from Seattle, brother and family from Los Angeles) and Ericlee’s parents. It’s been chaotic, loud and fun to stay (and eat!) all together. We have loved making memories and upholding traditions like attending Meilani’s winter program at school, walking Christmas Tree Lane, caroling and delivering treats with our life group, performing our own version of the Christmas story on Christmas Eve, making homemade ravioli with the family for Christmas Day, blowing out candles and singing Happy Birthday to Jesus and much more to come.
Next week we are headed to San Diego for some much-needed respite with our kids. We skipped presents this year and instead found a great deal to take them to Legoland/Sea Life Aquarium. Some dear friends are allowing us to “house sit” for them so our lodging is free! Please pray for us to have some true rest and quality family time next week before we launch into a new year of ministry.
We leave you with this reflection: It’s the Day after Christmas that we all really have to choose to open The gift. When scraps of wrapping paper litter the floor, the branches of the tree droop a little, the thrill of the kids first opening their gifts has worn off; when you wake up scratchy-throat tired and you find yourself digging through the refrigerator for leftovers and staring down the bills, that’s when you really have to decide. That’s the moment of truth when you have to choose to believe in the Greatest Gift of Christmas. Otherwise, it all just passes quickly into a new year. The excitement of Christmas fades. There is no fulfillment after the pomp and circumstance unless you choose to call Christ your King.
We wish each one of you a meaningful Christmas and a blessed New Year! We are grateful for your continued prayers and support as we serve in Haiti and in Fresno.
Wrapped in His Grace,
Ericlee, Dorina, Meilani, Giada and Zayla
Friday, December 20, 2013
Let’s be honest: Christmas is hard work for mamas. There’s cleaning and baking and wrapping. There are family photos to arrange, cards to write, school and church programs to attend, those elf and Santa traditions to keep straight. There’s the organizing, the crafting, the hiding of gifts and dressing of trees. Not to mention all the awkward family dynamics, the carting of kids from one house to the next, the sugar highs and then crashes.
In the midst of all that work, where does a mama meet the Savior? Where can we possibly find a silent night for just meditating on His birth?
I don’t know about you but sometimes I find myself just waiting for “that perfect moment.” I dream about the house being clean and quiet. I fantasize about our family sitting on the couch blissfully reading an Advent devotional before the twinkling lights of our tree. I long for that perfect Christmas moment to meet God.
The reality is that “perfect” moment may never come for busy mamas of preschool and elementary-aged kids. I was reminded today that Mary didn’t have “that perfect moment” either.
I am sure that the mother of God had some plans and dreams forming in heart before she birthed the Son. I imagine as she and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem that she fantasized about the ideal place to birth that baby. Maybe she even prayed in her spirit for God to provide the perfect place for birthing with a comfortable bed, the right music and the best midwife to help her along.
She had none of these.
A stinky, loud, cold stable. A bed of straw. Her legs spread out before the world. That was the God-chosen perfect moment for birthing the God-child. It’s pretty miraculous to think about. Jesus, the Son of God, the Prince of Peace, the Almighty, the Light of the world, was born in a messy stable.
A beautiful, messy stable.
And that stable, that manger where He laid His holy head, has become a symbol of Christmas, a picture of peace. It’s ironic. Ann Voskamp says, “Simplicity is a matter of focus, not circumstances.”
This Christmas as you are facing your mile-long to-do list, your family drama, I urge you to press in face-to-face with the Savior. I invite you to unwrap the simple, yet most profound gift of the season. The baby. Hold him close. Rock him in your mama heart.
Even as the holiday mess swirls around you, seek Him.
Even as the holiday mess swirls around you, seek Him.
**The above is re-posted from The Bridge MOPS Blog, where I share stories and encouragement for mothers twice a month.