Thursday, December 19, 2013

Merry Christmas!

So I have started this letter no less than a half dozen times. Should I go traditional? What about trying something a bit more creative? People receive SO many of these letters each year around Christmas time.... Do they REALLY read them? Last year we sent our cards without a letter, and boy did we hear about that! I guess people really DO read them. Chances are, if YOU are here, you are one of the ones who gets really serious about these letters since you actually had to make your fingers take you here.

So... Get comfortable.

Grab a cup of coffee and one of those homemade cookies out of the tin that the neighbor left at your door step.... Read on about the Gray family and our highlights (and some low) of 2013.

Luke played JV baseball for his high school team this past spring. He had a great season, with lots of great plays and hits that earned him the position of one of their top performers. The coaches came up with some great nicknames for him, and even some names for the plays he would make at third base. Unfortunately, his season was cut short due to his hand getting broken at one of their practices. He impressed his team, his coaches, and most of all his parents with his remarkable ability to pick up the pieces and keep going. He attended every practice and game, even with a cast up to his elbow. At the end of the season, Luke walked away a better person, and he even earned himself the coaches award.
Lucas turned 16 this year. You know what that means. Car keys... Insurance rates going up... Mama's nerves being shot more than usual. Ugh. He has been quite busy saving money for a long time, and it paid off. He bought his first car (actually, a truck) just two short weeks before he acquired his license. Our little boy has become a man.

Colby started high school this last fall. We were so proud of him as he went out for the high school soccer team, up against a record high amount of other young men. He made it onto the team and had a great season. It was quite a huge deal to begin playing high school sports and start high school all at the same time. He did remarkably well! This spring, he will be playing golf for the high school team. For the first week or so, he followed close behind big brother, but it wasn't long before he spread his wings and found his own"people" to hang out with. Colby continues to do well in his academics. He studies hard and earns the respect of his teachers. We have also witnessed Colby becoming stronger in his faith as we started attending a new church that has a fantastic youth program that Colby has really sunk his teeth into. We learned just today that a friend at school who is not a believer texted Colby to ask him to pray for him as he is going through some tough things. God is using this boy of ours... Just like I always knew He would.

Caleb is in the sixth grade this year. He is actually one of my students. Before I took the full time position, I made sure to ask him how he felt about having me as his full time teacher outside of home. He welcomed the idea, and he tells me almost daily that he's so glad that I'm his teacher. Mmmm... my heart purrs. Caleb played baseball too this year. It had been many years since he had played this sport, but he made the decision to come back to it, and he did GREAT! He played the regular little league season, and he also played during the fall season. We were glad for the opportunity for him to "catch up" a little before heading into another spring season. The highlight of Caleb's year was becoming the proud owner of a new puppy. "Chief" joined our family in June. Caleb saved his money, searched Craigslist and ultimately "reserved" his new dog all on his own.  Chief and Caleb are inseparable. It's true what they say.... There really is nothing else like the vision of a boy with his very own dog. Very sweet...

Jason and I are doing well too. We celebrated 21 years of marriage in September. Actually, due to busier lives, we REALLY celebrated in November since that was the first weekend we had to get away. We went to one of our favorite spots at the beach and just spent time being together. You know that you're married to your best friend when you truly enjoy just sitting in the car alone together through bay area traffic! In September we lost a very close friend due to medical complications. It was an unexpected death, and it was extremely hard on all five of us. God uses these times though to strengthen our love for each other, and to remind us of what is important, and what is not. Being parents to three young men presents many occasions to speak into their lives about just that... Especially in these days of social media and areas that used to be black and white becoming more grey. Since there is no manual, I am happy to have this man by my side to make decisions with and offer support. God willing, we will be buying our next home this spring. This will begin a new chapter in "us", and we are both excited to read it's pages.

All in all, we are blessed. We are blessed by relationship with each other, and we are blessed by the love and friendships of YOU! We hope that during this special season of celebrating the birth of Christ, you are also feeling genuinely blessed. There is always much to be thankful for....

Warm wishes
and hugs,

Jason, Tami, Lucas, Colby and Caleb

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Piece of Me

I have been reminded lately that I don't write here anymore. At least... Not very much.

Yesterday I took a few moments and went back to read a couple of old posts. I told J the other night that I need a "billboard" regarding some hard issues right now. I remembered that I had thought that very same thing in the past, and I wrote about it here. I searched and found the post. In the midst of doing that, I read through a few other old posts. As I read, I felt like pieces of me were finding their way back to me. I don't write much anymore, but not because that instinct in me has changed. I just haven't made the time to.

God has blessed me with the opportunity to teach a whole class of 5th and 6th graders this year. In addition to that, I am continuing to teach 7th and 8th grade Language Arts. I am enjoying what I'm doing, and finding the rewards almost every day. I won't lie though. It's been difficult to learn the art of balancing it all. Recently, I have felt like I found that balance. Until I read those posts yesterday.

Writing is important to me. It has been a big part of me since I was 13 years old. I still have every handwritten journal that I ever wrote in before I started to type here six years ago. Writing helps me focus my thoughts and process what's going on in my mind and heart. Without putting all of my thoughts into paragraphs, the thoughts stay inside my head and float around all messy like. They clutter me until they spill. Sometimes they don't spill in a way that I {or anyone else} find a positive way. I guess you could say that writing has been cheap therapy for a long time. That is why I must make my fingers familiar here again. The piece of me that wandered off found it's way back yesterday, and I feel the words coming to my fingers faster than I can possible type.

We are just a few short months away from buying our next home. The thought stays close to the front of my brain, but I am not obsessed with it the way that I thought I would be by this time. That surprises me, and yet it does not. We moved down the hill almost three years ago, and God has taken me places that I remember asking Him not to take me, but He did anyhow. Why? Well, as I read the story of Ruth and Naomi this morning to my class of 5/6th grade children, I was reminded of why. The Lord wanted to show me that I was capable of walking into my new home three years later not as a bitter person, but as a woman of great faith. He knows what this new home will be like. He knows where it will be, and He knows the day that I will open it's doors with my own key for the very first time. I know none of this. When I began this journey three years ago, I began it with faith, but if I'm going to be honest, I will tell you that a great deal of bitterness crept in along the way. There were days when I was screaming {wailing} inside because it hurt so much. The fear of the unknowns have at times crippled me. God is good though. He has always provided. He has always been faithful to show me the gifts along this road. He has grown me in areas that were needing Him to come in and do a complete renovation job!

This next gift of a home will be so sweet. I cannot wait to record here all of the thoughts and emotions that our family will experience as we take this next step. For today though, I am glad that God has brought me back to these pages. I am grateful for the growth that I have felt from the beginning of this journey until THIS day. I am overjoyed that God wiped my heart clean of bitterness and filled it instead with a sense of anticipation of what He will do next with my life.

My heart has always been one that longs for home, but over these past three years, my heart has found it's "Forever home" in Christ and Christ Alone.