2012 In Review (aka – Our yearly Christmas letter)

Dear Family and Friends,                                                                   Christmas 2012

I began this years’ letter at a place of fullness and joy!  Nothing short of good things have been given us this year and each of you are included in that.  Where would we be and who would we be without so many of you to help shape and form our memories and experiences, which in turn, shapes character and culture?  My mind spins back month after month and, what feels like a short year, begins to stretch out realizing how many of you we saw and spent time with, or how many of you we spoke to on the phone with miles and miles of God’s rich earth between us.  Letters float from mailbox to mailbox or spin through emails cyber world, and text messages ring through our phones and light up empty spaces.  However we choose to communicate, the threads of our relationships remain intact and grow richer with age.

Ben and I continue to spend the majority of our time and attention focused on our kids, striving to raise them with strong character and the ability to re-center on Christ while dealing with conflict, scheduling, and the modern turbulence of the twenty-first century.  It takes diligent intent on our part, but the rhythm of our home seems to flow more smoothly, our interactions with each other becoming less flawed while we learn more about each other.  Discovering the personalities of our kids, beginning to glimpse who God has created and given to us, is an adventure all in itself.

Probably the biggest change for us this year was our decision to home educate our kids.  I’ll admit, when the Holy Spirit first whispered in my ear, I balked.  It took months of sleepless nights, prayerful searching of scripture, and a constant trembling of self-doubt.  But over and over, God guided, and the path was laid clear, and I have discovered joy I never knew existed.

Madelynn is 7 and in the first grade.  She has an amazing mind and rises to any challenge. When asked what her favorite subject is, she’ll say math, but consumes books far above her 7 years, jumps at the chance to try a science experiment, loves origami, has begun to play the piano (with lessons), delights in her weekly art class with her Grandma, memorizes scripture, cooks a few things completely on her own, and can’t wait to start ski academy in a few weeks.  It sounds exhausting when I type it out, but she is able to self-balance.  Her only real problem comes at night when her brain won’t shut off.  We’ve helped still her mind by letting her read at night, at which point she settles into a biography of her choice and then has something (somebody) to dream about.  The girl is amazing!!

Brett is 4, and as he is rounding the track towards 5, his thought process deepens.  I laugh at the length of time he can fill with words, and also admire the depth of what comes out of those hours of chatter.  He’s not afraid to ask the hard questions.  He doesn’t necessarily need to take our word for pure truth, he wants more than the surface explanation, and Ben and I are learning to reply open-ended, delighting in watching him work through to his own answers sometimes.  He’s young, and guidance is still absolutely necessary, but we continue to try to help him form the habit of searching.  No one fallen being will ever have all the answers, the path always leads back to a God who created all things and knows all things, and through it all, offers grace upon grace.  This is the only absolute truth I CAN offer him.

Our other change this year was adding a puppy to our home.  “May” was adopted into our family in the spring and I couldn’t have prayed for a more loving, obedient dog.  The kids have giggled out loud through all her silly expressions and body twisting yoga moves she is constantly performing, and it gives a Mama some ease to have a dog tramp after them when they go hiking through the woods in our back property.  The thing that truly makes my heart smile is the relationship that has been formed and grounded between Brett and ‘May’.  All the stories you’ve read about a boy and his dog have blossomed in truth between those two.

Ben’s business(es) continue to grow with 19 now on the payroll.  The custom cabinet business has been able to corner the market in specific areas and his large warehouse is completely rented out with one portion days away from being sold as a condo unit.  He has two general contracting projects currently underway with another starting in the spring and several other potentials in process.  It takes long hours to keep it all going, but God blesses, and I’m proud of, not just the juggling job he does, but the solid reputation now formed throughout the northern Michigan area that he has established.

Christmas brings reflection, so in the quiet of a backseat, I stop to remember all of you, I stop to remember how our lives have grown and changed over the last year, and I stop to remember why Jesus had to come in the form of a babe to intentionally build relationship and show us what God is like.  I also stop to remind myself why we, as a family, have chosen to believe and search for meaning in our relationship with a God rendered small.  Because we look like Him, and He is all we need.  He put His heart in these tiny images of himself and offers us hope and comfort.  We are grateful for this time of year to draw closer to Him.  And while He celebrates us, we, in turn also celebrate each of you.

May you be richly blessed throughout this Christmas season and in the New Year!

The Brower Family,

Ben, Kathy, Madelynn, & Brett

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