Tuesday, December 24, 2013

All is calm. All is bright.

Christmas Eve.

Its my favorite night.  Its that moment where it feels like the world slows down to a halt.


I remember one night a few years ago.  It was the storybook Night Before Christmas.  The kind of night that Christmas cards are made about.  The stockings were hung, the children were nestled, and it snowed.  I stepped outside for a moment.

One moment.
To pray.
To honor.
To remember.

Christmas is something different to everyone.

To some, its about family.
To others, its about tradition.
To the young ones, it can be about the gifts.

I am blessed with so many treasured memories of Christmas.  Baking with mom.  Christmas PJs.  Luminaries at Austin Road.  The reading of the Christmas story.

But nights like tonight, there is only one thing on my mind. 

The Star.


On nights like tonight, I long to take a moment from the shopping, baking, wrapping and celebrating to follow the calm, bright light leading to our savior.   It doesn't seem that complicated.  After all, I imagine there was chaos during the time of his birth.

Overtaxed People.

I can't imagine the pressures of their time were less than those of ours.  And yet, they paused and followed the light.

I missed the luminaries at Austin Road.  I didn't get to bake with my mom.  And its still Christmas Eve.  Its a little harder to celebrate without the "comforts" of the season, but its still Christmas.

There is one thing that must be present for Christmas to occur.  On this night, our savior was born.

One moment.
To pray.
To honor.
To remember.

Take a moment to remember the reason for the season. 


Look for the star.  Jesus, Lord at thy birth.


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Merry Christmas with Love ~ Our Christmas Letter

"The greatest of these is love."

I remember when this was read at our wedding.  As a 27 year-old young woman, love meant something totally different than it does now.  2013 has brought wonderful memories and even some difficult ones.  With each of them, his love has never been more evident in our lives.  I am thankful to experience love everyday.  As I reflect on our year, I am amazed at the simple things that have shown me love and made this year complete. 

I love when Robbie kisses my forehead.
He has done this since we were dating.  It makes me feel loved and safe. After 12 years of marriage and two kids, we have to steal moments. One of my favorite "stolen moments" was this summer on a convertible drive up the river.  With no words, wind in our hair, and a great summer playlist, I was reminded how valuable these simple moments are.  Since we don't get them often, I cherished the moment to save for later.  I couldn't imagine sharing this life with anyone else.  He is the perfect partner for me.

I love holding Tate's hand.
In the car.  Watching a movie.  Walking out of school.  This boy is a hand holder and I love every single minute of it.  He is our sensitive one that always acts in kindness and love.  Speaking of love, he has found a few.  He has extended his love of art and auditioned for his school show choir.  Imagine our surprise (since we don't have a singer in the family) when he actually made it!  Spend 5 minutes with Tate and you quickly know his 1st love.  Sundays at our house have turned in to SportsCenter.  I treasure watching my son and his daddy sitting on our deck talking about "The Game".

I love the sound of Lily's laugh.
There is no question about it.  This child loves life.  Whether she's helping me cook in the kitchen or twirling around at basketball practice, Lily is light and airy about everything she does. She is a self-proclaimed "Teacher's Pet" and has found her way back in her old Kindergarten classroom reading.  My favorite Lily moment this year was when we introduced her to Ginger Bean, our new boxer pup.  The sound of her squeals is something I will always remember. Simply stated, Lily oozes the love of the people she's around.

I love having dinner with my family.
For the first time in several years, I sat at a table and dined with my parents and brothers.  We are a close-knit family, but due to logistics, our time together, as a complete unit, is limited.  What better reason to dine together than Rev and Red's 40th wedding anniversary?  We took our 1st Willemsen family vacation in over 20 years to Punta Cana and enjoyed many meals, and even more laughs together.  The time together was long overdue and will be something I cherish my whole life.  Even more fitting, mom and dad renewed their vows, officiated by Tate and Lily.  There wasn't a dry eye on the beach that day.  I am blessed to have such an amazing model of unconditional love.

I love hearing teenagers sing their alma mater.
They are the reason I do this job and every 3rd quarter when they sing the alma mater, I am reminded of that reason.  Cleveland High School continues to be a perfect job for me.  The principal job will never be easy, but I am blessed to work at a place that makes it a joy.  This year brought a state title in wrestling, almost 300 diplomas presented, our first Hall of Fame ceremony, a new freshmen class of almost 400 students and a semi-final finish for our football team.

2013 is a year I will always remember as a year of love.  I hope each of you will take time out this holiday season with those you love.  But most importantly, our wish for you is that you find HIS love in your life.  It makes all the difference.

Peace. Joy.  LOVE.
~Autumn, resident writer for Robbie, Tate, and Lily (and Max & Ginger too!!)

I also LOVE writing!  To keep up with our family escapades, check out www.lilytate.blogspot.com

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Snow Shoes

I love this picture.  I like the contrast of black to white.  I like that the snow looks untouched.  I like that the feet belong to me.

I've always hated the snow.  I remember many cold years of carrying firewood into the house.  I would, of course, put it off until the very last thing, and would end up stumbling through the cold, blowing wind with several armfuls of wood.  In the...Pitch...Black...Night.

I guess thats another reason I love this picture.  The snow seems different from what I remember as a child.  It seems light and airy, rather than dark and cold.  I'm sure it has something to do with the fact that I'm not carrying loads of wood into an already cold house.  Oh, and that I'm no longer a teenager.  We'll call it an attitude adjustment.

Its as if my feet have a clean slate.  Any direction they walk, they will be the first footsteps.  I like that idea.  Its bold and a little unconventional.

It's been a long time since I've been home for 10 days.  Its been even longer since I've been home for 10 days, NOT playing the role of wife and mom.  It feels different this time.  I think I know why.

I left New York over 21 years ago and never moved back.  The interesting part to that story would be if there was some twisted reason behind my relocation.  Its not about wanting to "get out of this place".  In fact, its really more about the person I am because of this place.  

It wouldn't be an accurate reflection unless I started at the beginning.

The Rev and Red #1 are the perfect parents for a girl like me.  Growing up was WAY tougher than I would have preferred.  I thought they had too many rules.  I was a little "bold and unconventional" and thought I knew better.  They had this amazing grace that reflected his love and mercy over my life, no matter how hard I pushed.  They are truly the definition of servants for the kingdom.  They would do anything, for anyone, at any time and I love that about them.

You read all about this guy earlier this week.

Since I usually have my own husband and kids when I'm here, I rarely get any QT with my brother and his boys.  I truly love the one-on-one time with each of them.  And yes, they are as crazy as they appear in the picture.

And then there's my great big Dutch family.

Quite simply, there is no place in this world that feels more like home than at The Willemsen Homestead.  I posted about Austin Road earlier this week.  My dad's brothers and sisters are eclectic, fun, and always make me feel so special.  I am blessed to have distinct memories with each one of them.    I am eternally grateful to my Uncle Brian for keeping the Homestead in the family.  It will forever and ever be my home and a place I cherish.

Coming from a large family on both sides can be crazy and unpredictable.

Look at this beautiful lady.  This is Catherine, my mom's mother.  She is a woman of strength, raising 5 daughters and one crazy son.  Those 6 children each have children of their own and those children have children (you're seeing a pattern here?).  Its a great big ole family with a ton of STRONG women.  You get my point?  There's drama.  There's care.  This family fights hard and loves harder.  Its hard to get everyone on the same page, but you undoubtedly feel their affection from miles away.

I believe the term "family" refers not only to those who share similar DNA.

I have many friends.  I don't say that to brag.  I am blessed and wouldn't ever take it for granted.  There's something about friends that have known you most of your life.  They remember every heartbreak, every dumb decision, and every bad hair style.  They remember everything and they love you regardless.  It would be easy to say thats why we're still friends, but it wouldn't be true.  Of course the past is a great foundation, but its those moments where you're faced with the real adult things.

The loss of a child.
Marriage frustrations.
Financial woes.  

Its during those times, you know this isn't a junior high friendship.  These are real "big girls" problems and they need "big girl" support.  I sure do have it with these ladies.

After a week in New York, I feel like I've been staring in the mirror for days.

The image in the mirror is new, but still the same.  Its a collection of all of the people and places that have touched my life.  The people who made me who I am. 

“Home wasn't a set house, or a single town on a map. It was wherever the people who loved you were, whenever you were together. Not a place, but a moment, and then another, building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go.” 
― Sarah DessenWhat Happened to Goodbye

Until next time,