December had alot of things stirred up for me; it started with the Jen Hatmaker conference in Tupelo. Goodness, God uses this chicky to mess with people. She was talking about stepping out in faith to be a disciple for Him & what that looks like. And that service for others may be awkward at first because we don't know what we are doing, but God uses all of it.

 So I got to go with the loverly ladies from my church-so glad we got to hear this together. Laugh together & get away from our children. Tim was warning me about potential icy conditions in Tupelo, he could have been speaking Japanese for all I know-I was not listening, nor cared. I was going.

And after I returned home, I sent out this picture and text to my fellow sistas. 

 And literally 20 seconds later, I got this email from our new Chinese friends-2 students here for a year studying at local JSU. She asked if she and friend Caroline could possibly stay with us for 3 weeks while their dorm was closed down. So after a quick convo with Tim, and a laugh to God-I replied YES. God had laid the groundwork to say yes. Within this time keeping the girls, they have been in 3 other homes other than ours. I love hearing about their observations of their host families and their houses. They are so perceptive & don't miss much.

God put international people on my heart about 10 years ago. I began helping teaching ESL at a local Presbyterian church. And truthfully, the only reason I did it because I realized how skimpy my volunteer work was when the ad agency I used to work for put my "new hire" headshot/blurb in the business section of the paper. I had nothing to ad besides where I went to church. So I didn't really do it because God told me to, it was mostly selfish motives-I realized I wasn't doing anything & wanted something to tell people that I did. So I went through the motions for the first year or so, but then God started to soften my heart towards these sweet ones who are in a strange new world. And God used Corinne & David Bradford (who totally get international missions) & my partner in crime Emily Boling Giffen to spend alot of time with international people-loving them, being loved by them; sharing the gospel with them in my clumsy, unsure way. But once the kiddos came, I had to phase out of this ministry-it was pretty hands-on. But a couple of years later, I started working with a ministry in my own church-which pairs families with Chinese students who are studying at JSU for a year. What precious people I have met. It is hard telling them goodbye after the year, because I'm pretty certain I won't see them in this life again. But I think I told you about one of girls from last year-Ting. She because a Christian while she was here & being able to hug her goodbye-knowing for sure I would see her in heaven was the sweetest feeling.

Not sure why you needed to know all of this, but it came out. I'm glad God continues to want to use me even though I feel like I don't know what I'm doing most of the time.

So our December has been partially skewed because we have been seeing it through the eyes our sweet Chinese friends: Berlin & Caroline (see these cute things above!). They have heard the nativity story for the first time this Christmas. And after observing December for a few days in our house, they asked if Santa was in the Bible. At first I was surprised by the question & wanted to laugh, but then I looked down at my advent candles & TELF (our elf) was straddling one of the advent candles. And then that was funny & their question made perfect logical sense. If Christmas was the biggest Christian celebration, Santa must be in the Bible. It made me kinda sick. BTW, they were astonished and somewhat horrified that most kids believed in Santa until about 9 & that all the grown-ups were in on it. They asked…aren't they sad when they find out. YES, honey-it is one of the saddest days of a child's life when they realize Santa is not fo real. I'm sure I will always struggle with the balance of Christmas-not letting presents, Santa & that Elf take over. (See Santa picture below).

Christmas Turkey hands. Christmas come on fast, was Thanksgiving even over???

Christmas lights in Canton.

This is a weird picture of us but really perfect. I feel like my nose keeps getting bigger. I have heard cartilage expands with age (NOTE: old men with big ears & big noses).
So we all needed to go to WM, & don't judge-but I split the girls up among my kids, we each got a kid. Poor girls, they got conned into buying Lucky Charms, oreos, a huge container of tic tacs & other treasure I keep discovering in my pantry.
Post-walmark trip. I personally think WM takes years off my life-Max does too.
I've been looking for Mistletoe everywhere-or a batch of it I could reach. We found some that had fallen. Lucky Tim.

A visit from Tim's parents. This was PJ day for Henry at school. We usually have to peel him out of bed, but this morning he woke up on his own at 5:45. 

Lemons Henry painted at school. He was so proud of them. After the picture, he screamed at Ruthie: You didn't paint these lemons, get out of my picture. Henry is such a chilled little dude, but Ruthie pushes him to his limit. I get it, man.
Time with Santa.

Christmas Night: Berlin & Caroline being very kind & gracious listening to dad tell a story that I'm pretty sure they didn't follow. I can barely keep up.
The grandkids (minus Polly's crew) with their stockings.
Christmas Eve over at my sister Kathleen's. Max mad at group pictures.

Some peaceful time at a lake near my parent's house.

Max mad at the horses.
Mom & son (taken by Ruthie Largen). I got most of your head, mom.
Cousins playing a new board game.
Max mad at the beautiful sparkly tree.

We took the kids (and Berlin) to skate. Oh my. Ruthie was like a squid on skates-no bones. I didn't have the heart to crop out this cute thing on the right. She's not with us, but wish she was-she was funny.

Proud mama moment-Ruthie making her own sandwich for her school lunch.
Lift up Berlin & Caroline (and me). Please pray that God uses this time under our roof for His good. They go back to their dorms Jan. 8. Berlin (on right) goes back early to China January 15. I want them to know that: God wants them as His own, He loves them & He will always follow after them.

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