Christmas, Family, Uncategorized

Our Family in 2016

Dear Family and Friends Everywhere!

I’ve been mulling over the past year wondering how it ended already. I wonder if I’m dangerously close to standing in a blurry spot. That spot where life races and you’re head down trying to stay one step ahead, but you’re the girl in the kitchen behind the party and you just may have missed the events. The kids have sure grown like weeds. I haven’t missed that! Maddy is 11 and in the 5th grade. She grew three inches this year and stands at 4’11! Ben has admitted to confusing the two of us out of the corner of his eye on more than one occasion. I realize the high likelihood of looking her directly in the eye in another year and am grateful that her chocolate brown eyes are usually so kind to look into. She is doing very well in her schoolwork, and still finds time to read a stack of books every week. We redid the guest room last Christmas and moved her into it, so her favorite books and trinkets are now in her own space and the boys are much less likely to destroy her set-up. It definitely felt like we had literally moved Wendy out of the nursery‼ I didn’t understand how apron strings can get loosened and how a bit dizzying that can feel. Some of you are nodding and giving me the ol’ “Just wait!”. I know. But I’m grateful for the girl she still is. I love the girl who studies hard and works hard. I love how she hangs long across her bed and reads into the night. How she loves all things horses. How she loves downhill skiing and snowmobiling, but is happy to leave organized sports to Brett. I love how she offers to bake cornbread to go with our chili and how she volunteers to dress Judah on Sabbath mornings when Ben’s showering and, honestly, I just want a dress that fits! I love all the good that she is and is becoming!

Brett is taller too. Just turned 9, and in the 3rd grade. He’s stronger and smarter and has taken to sports with an overwhelming leap! Suddenly his body and mind put all the rules and moves together and his high energy and need to move took over and the old farmhouse feels too small to contain his run. It doesn’t hurt that he has a high level of competition flowing through his veins. I love what a big picture thinker he is. I love how fast he gets his chores done, and how he insists on memorizing every new piece of music the piano teacher gives him. I love how he loves to go to the coffee shop for a hot drink, a fresh pastry, and a moment of my full attention. I love that he’s already planning next summers fort in the woods and I so admire his forward thinking. I don’t know what company he’ll run one day, but I’m almost certain he will.

Judah is 3 and my most independent kid. He lives in a complex world of wanting to play hard, but never quite keeping up with the older two. He still requires a nap every day and loves sharing a room with an older brother. He pushes his way into Maddy & Brett’s chores, into their piano practicing, and into their board games determined to take over or at least be included. It all sounds brash, but really, with his shining blue eyes, soft sweet dimple, and his seriously infectious giggle, it’s hard not to want him around. He’s easy to entertain. A few Hot Wheels cars, a couple of books, and some music and/or musical instruments, and you’re set for hours. It also doesn’t hurt to include the great outdoors and his little Strider bicycle. The kid is an adventure just to watch and be around. We love him like crazy and wonder how our lives ever spun without him.

Ben and I spend a great deal of our time parenting these three with less sleep, more grays, and an endless supply of God’s grace. On top of that, Ben is still a devout entrepreneur. He is still building custom homes here in northern Michigan. We also have seen huge growth in the custom cabinet business, Stillwater Custom Cabinetry. He also continues to be heavily involved at church and still finds time to work around the farm, pull kids around the lake behind the boat, and camp a handful of weekends during the summer months. I love his passion for both family and work and how he prayerfully moves both forward, taking us where only God could reveal.

And as for me? Well, most of you know or can at least guess at what I have spent this last year doing. Three kids growing, learning, and playing, and I watch them and guide where I can, teach when their listening, and pray without ceasing. I teach them school, taxi them, tickle them, and time their math fact sheets. I read them great books, feed them bread for their bodies and their souls, and I pray feverishly that I won’t completely mess them up. I also try hard to grow edible things in our garden on a hill. I preserve, freeze, and dehydrate fresh foods while the dryer spins, balls bounce high, and the piano pounds loud. And in the midst of all that, I make time to love my husband and serve my church and write.

So this Christmas, between all the busyness of the season, we want to stop and slow down and see each of you for who you are. We want you to know that we’re rejoicing over here about this baby Jesus. This Son-King. We’ve been reading for Advent the story of the family tree of the Christ Child and how it grows in the most unexpected ways, and we feel the same about our family. We also look at each of you and see the special way you’ve each woven your way through our family and how only a God “who holds the wind in his fists, who wraps up the oceans in his cloak, who has created the whole wide world”* could have done all that. Please know that we Browers want to wish you the very Merry Christmas that you deserve. Because He came for you. Special you!

With love,

Ben, Kathy, Maddy, Brett, & Judah                                  *(Proverbs 30:4 NLT)

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Uncategorized

When Your Thankful And Your World Knows It

It’s no secret around here what school day is their favorite. I squeak the bedroom door open and the big boy rolls over and cracks out, “Is it Thursday?”. I say good morning and yes, it’s Thursday and I can hear him in the dark. Hear him stretch full length and tighten muscles for the shift to standing. Thursday’s seem to be the only school day he’s actually WILLING to get up for without a wayward groan. “Oh good. We have thankful journals today.”

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I never knew that when we started these Thankful Thursday’s over five years ago, that it would stick. How does one come up with that many things to be thankful for? Seems like the basics would have been met by now. The first year was easy. They were little and I allowed colored drawings to go along with what they were thankful for. I treasure those first journals like only a Mama can. Stick figures and wiggly, misspelled letters. They’re enduring for all the innocence they represent.

But the second year came and after the first 6 weeks of school, I knew they were going to be a lifeline for us. Our unexpected baby was born so tiny he was not given more than a one percent chance to live and suddenly every breath was being counted. We packed the kids and their school things up and moved into the hospital three and a half hours from home. And I tucked those thankful journals and shortened colored pencils into their backpacks. It became intentional not to miss a Thursday. A weekly habit of being thankful.

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There’s all kinds of data out there for how long it takes a person to form or break a habit. I don’t know numbers. I only know that when your very life depends on habit, you form a new routine, and I know that those around you begin to notice it. Two little kids living in a hospital with a plastic isolate for a baby brother was their reality, and they learned all the ways to be grateful in those moments. I noticed. I cannot tell you the number of days I listened and watched them and was awed by their resolve. Not a Thursday got missed, and those thankful journals kept filling. That habit became something we really did wear.

More people began to notice it. Nurses, respiratory therapists, interns, physical therapists, nutritionists, social workers, family life specialists, pulmonologists, the entire Neonatal ICU Physician team. They all noticed. Several chaplains came in to lift us in prayer and more than one photographer asked our permission to capture these kids managing a difficult situation. And tiny Judah, I am convinced, was part of that gratitude habit. He had his own numbers all over that hospital room, and when we lifted his tiny body out of that isolate to tuck him into our very skin, he slowed those numbers. His body would still and his heart would even out and his oxygen needs were dialed right down and his dad and I witnessed the birth of his own gratitude journey.

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Dorothy Thompson, who was an American journalist and radio broadcaster in the 1920’s and 30’s is most known for her interview with Adolph Hitler in Germany, and wrote a book about her experience entitled, “I Saw Hitler”. She was kicked out of Germany for her remarks about him. Through her experience she says this, “Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live in every experience, painful or joyous, to live in gratitude for every moment, to live abundantly.” Her words were a small key to unlocking a prison of gloom and fear I may have once been in.

If you haven’t yet been in a painful experience, you will. This is for sure. But just like the joyous times, when it’s easy to write down all those things we so love, I encourage you to write down the good even when the good looks and feels really hard. Because it’s the habits in life that bestow the good blessings. Even in the rocks, the wildflowers grow, but you’ll miss them if you don’t note them. And your world around you will notice. Gratitude doesn’t hide well. Joy bubbles out of that, and where there is joy, true worship forms.

“Come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come to him with thanksgiving. Let us sing psalms of praise to him.” Psalms 95:1-2 (NLT).

 

I also want to take this moment and thank each of you for allowing me into your space. I don’t take this lightly. We are a busy planet and I know your mailbox, inbox, invoices, and voicemails are all pretty full. So I appreciate your listening ear and your precious time. Thank you!
In pure gratitude,
~kathy b