A Christmas Letter ~ 2015

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O little town of Bethlehem,
    How still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
    The silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
    The everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
    Are met in thee to-night.

And what a year it has been. So much hope. So much fear. Dreamless sleep and all.

January always begins with Azrielle beginning a new chapter in her life. It also met us with the closing of the book regarding her wierd episodes that later that month we determined were seizures…likely caused by the UTI that she had experienced in her second year of life. Infection can cause all sorts of long-term issues – seizures being one of them. If you ever need to get to UMass Worcester, we can show you the way! So many specialist, so many appointments…ruling one thing out and then another. We had an in-hopsital EEG done, and then an at home “walking EEG’. Both tests came back showing no signs of seizure activity. As long as she made is 6 months without experiencing another seizure, she should be fine. The human body is an amazing work of art that God created. And finally this medical chapter in our life was closed.

February and March dragged on as winter did not want to leave us this year. March also met us with a new milestone – Kreade sleeping through the night! And finally the happy boy we always dreamed was inside him began to emerge.

O morning stars, together
    Proclaim the holy birth!
And praises sing to God the King,
    And peace to men on earth.
For Christ is born of Mary
    And gathered all above,
While mortals sleep the Angels keep
    Their watch of wondering love.

And there was peace in our corner of the earth. And finally some sleep. April rolled around and the emerging happy boy turned 1. We celebrated with family and moved on to enjoy Easter. With Kreade becoming increasingly happy, I began to start thinking about graduate programs. Something just kept tugging on my heart to continue my seemingly life-long college journey. But God puts dreams in our hearts for  a reason, and after a few months of trying to ignore the longing, I gave in to the dream and began searching out colleges and programs. Graduate programs are  hard to nail down! Perhaps it’s just that my undergrad work is in psychology – which offers a variety of graduate options. I prayed everyday that God would help me to know which program was “the one”. My mind kept going back to one: Southern New Hampshire University offers and online program specializing in Child & Adolescent Developmental Psychology. Yep. Right up my alley. So I applied, and was accepted, and we began to plan for the start of my first course.

May began with the ending of my school year and the beginning of our camping year. Both of the kids just really LOVE camping. We are so happy to have our camper, and thankfully God allowed us the use of a truck as we had sold Klayton’s earlier in the year. Yes, May was good.

How silently, how silently,
    The wondrous gift is given;
So God imparts to human hearts
    The blessings of His Heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
    But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still,
    The dear Christ enters in.

But alas, the goodness never seems to last. Towards the end of the month, Kreade caught a mild cold. Well, that mild cold turned into something much worse: croup. Which apparently is common in kids his age, Ellie never really even had a cold, so I never imagined. We were on the phone with the doctor in the middle of the night, in the office the next morning, beginning a steroid that same day. Spent a night and a day at home, and ended up in the ER on Friday afternoon. Meanwhile the chickens were getting huge and needed to be moved to their coup, which still needed renovations, spring yard work was piling up since winter had lingered so long, and the to-do list was mounting in its usual fashion. About a minute after walking in to the ER we were quickly given a room. About a minute later there were 2 doctors, 2 nurses, and a respiratory specialist in the room with us. Poor buddy boy was having great difficulty breathing, had chest retractions, and was a congested croupy mess. We ended up staying the night in the hospital. Another kind of steroid later, home we went. It took about a week for the croup to completely go away…and we were very tired of ER trips and doctors appointments and worrying about sick kids.

And then one morning Kreade woke up crankier than ever. He began vomiting and had a diarrhea diaper just about every hour. I took his temp and it was 104.5. Yep. Time to freak out. The doctor didn’t even give me an appointment. They said to just go. Go now. A dose of Tylenol and ibuprofen later his fever came down to around 101. We spent a few hours just sitting at the doctors office…watching. During that time we noticed there was blood in the diarrhea. Great. Well, lets run some tests and see what could be up. Home we went. Only to end up the the ER the next afternoon because buddy boy was crying and no tears were coming out of his sad little eyes. He was so dehydrated! But we just couldn’t get him to drink anything; never mind eat. He slowly began to improve. The ER trip was on Wednesday. I remember where we parked. On Sunday, we got a call from the doctor. Kreade had salmonella. All I could think was: how?! We were at the doctor the next morning.

The following Friday, Ellie had an interesting bowel movement. Black and sticky. We didn’t think much of it until we noticed blood in her stool the very next day. She had a low temp on Sunday, and we debated another trip to the ER. Our doctor advised us to monitor her, and told us to come in first thing Monday. I love our doctor. As my sister says, she is seriously the bomb.com.

More appointments. More blood-work. More tests.

By July we had met with a pediatric GI. Ellie did  a clean out, and we began a maintenance dose of Miralax. Thank God, she was finally passing her stools without pain, and we didn’t notice any more blood. After a couple more appointments with the specialist, she felt confident that Chron’s or colitis were unlikely. Finally, nothing but well-child checks for 6 months.

In between doctor appointments, we went camping. I think it worked out something like ER one weekend, camping the next. And we camped about every two to three weekends. We so enjoyed these trips! My mom and sisters were even able to come along to Cape Cod with us. We traveled to the White Mountains, to Old Orchard Beach, and several other lovely places.

Where children pure and happy
    Pray to the blessed Child,
Where misery cries out to Thee,
    Son of the Mother mild;
Where Charity stands watching
    And Faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks,
    And Christmas comes once more.

Meanwhile, I had begun my first graduate course. It felt so good to resume learning. I so just love school. And thank God for Klayton’s job. Seriously. I don’t know what we would’ve done without it. So many times when I needed to get to the ER, Klayton was only five minutes away and able to come with me. Other times when I had to take one kid for a last minute appointment, the other kid was able to go and hang out with daddy at work. We prayed a really long time that God would show Klayton what he was supposed to do for the rest of his life, for a job that was family friendly, and something that Klayton enjoyed. Well, I guess good things really do come to those who wait. Klayton is going on a year and a half at Triumph Interiors, and neither of us could be happier. We are really both so grateful for his job, and the Christ-centered workplace that it is.

Finally, around September, Kreade’s bowel movements resumed normal toddler consistency. We had been having him tested routinely to monitor the salmonella levels, as it can be carried in the gut and stool for a month to a year. He carried the bacteria for a good four and a half months. And finally it was gone! Truly, the dark night wakes and glory breaks.

I went back to work just before Labor Day, and began what has turned out to be a rough year. So much heartache and so much pain – the world is just so full of hurting people and children. It feels like whatever I do, it is never enough.

Klayton has been oh so busy. We really fell behind with the to-do list that life produces with so many sick kids and ER visits. And then the engine on the new-to-us truck went in July. On 495. On our way home from the Cape. Extra bills means extra work, and poor Klayton has been so busy. We just kept trying to remind ourselves that God has a plan, amidst the sickness, and with the truck.

After Thanksgiving, Ellie had another x-ray just to make sure that her bowels were working the way they should. Well, they weren’t. In fact, her colon was so full of fecal matter that there was no room for free air. I almost cried when the doctor called me to let me know. She had been having a bowel movement every day! Why, why, why? We did another clean out and see the GI in January again.

And here we are.

December. Christmas.

I love looking back.

I did one of those “your most used words” on Facebook. You might have guessed, it was DOCTOR. It seems like the story of our year. Literally, I don’t think a month went by, never mind a week where we weren’t at the doctor.  From seizures, to salmonella, and digestive issues – we’ve done it all.

And yet, I wouldn’t trade any of it. Well, maybe the salmonella. That was horrific.

Life is hard people. Life is really hard. It’s stressful. There never seems to be enough money. Trucks break. Kids get sick. The to-do list never gets done. You forget to have your car inspected. Forget to pay the cell phone bill. Don’t remember the milk when you go grocery shopping. I guess life is just full of crap sometimes – in our case, one of us is literally full of crap. Yes, life is hard.

But it’s when you’re in the depths of despair, when you think that you can’t handle one more doctor appointment, one more bill, one more trip to the grocery store…and God finds you.

O holy Child of Bethlehem,
    Descend to us, we pray!
Cast out our sin and enter in,
    Be born in us to-day.
We hear the Christmas angels,
    The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
    Our Lord Emmanuel!

This year, looking back, I am struck by His faithfulness. His provision. His deliverance. And even though life is hard, our hearts know the love that was born in us. Today, and everyday, we live in the promise that the Christmas angels told…He has come to us, he abides in us, our Lord Emmanuel.

Yes. God is with us. Everyday. Through it all. And He always will be.

And even though it has been a hard, hard year…we know that He was with us, and will be forevermore.

Praying that your hearts accept the holy Child, and allow Him to cast out all sin and enter in so that He can abide with you too. And if your heart already knows the faithfulness of our savior, remember, the great glad tidings tell. 

Merry Christmas!

Love,

Klayton, Alicia, Azrielle, and Kreade

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A Christmas Letter ~ 2014

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For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 
Isaiah 9:6

What. A. Year.

Really that short description sums up our year. Honestly it doesn’t seem as if the year should already be drawing to a close. I feel as if it has just started…and yet time flies, so they say. At this point, I surely agree. It is amazing just what journeys you embark on in a years time. Each year  you start out full of hope and promise for the “wonderful” year to come…and I’m not saying that you get let down by what the year really turns out to be…but it usually is not how you imagine it. But who can know the plans that the Lord has in store for them?

Certainly not me. In fact, my plans pretty much never turn out in any way that resembles what the Lord has in store for us.

January found us preparing for baby boy…mister K.A. Stenersen. I was working teaching preschool while Ellie spent her days with her aunt and grandmother. Klayton was busily working framing, and I was slammed with taking classes to finish up my bachelor’s degree. Ellie turned two in January and we celebrated with a Minnie Mouse birthday; pink and purple tutu and all. And while things were going along quite well throughout the remainder of the winter and into the spring I cannot say that our lives were fully experiencing the plans the Lord has for us or the peace that He brings. Klayton really did not want to be working in construction, but reality deemed otherwise and left this as the only choice. I was tired of being pregnant…having contractions for nearly two months with no getting anywhere basically has ruined the small bit of the enjoyment-of-being-pregnant that I had. Probably the only one who was experiencing the Lord’s plan and living in His peace was Ellie…but she is two so what else would you really expect?

But some things take time. Even the Lord’s plans.

Finally, a week past my due date we discovered that I had been leaking fluid and I was induced…at 6 o’clock on Monday…right before April 1st. Great. Looks like this baby is going to be an April Fool’s day baby, much to mamma’s displeasure. Sure enough on April 1, 2014 Kreade Aksel Stenersen was born into this world.

And every semblance of peace was sucked from our lives.

The irony is, Kreade’s middle name , Aksel, means ‘the father is peace’ in Hebrew.

It has been an interesting, long, stressful, depressing, full-of-crying eight months. Right from the beginning Kreade was a challenge. He vomited TONS, which resulted in changes of clothes for him, me, and cleaning for the couch and floor surrounding us. A 7 pound baby shouldn’t vomit THAT much. He lost a pound in the first week and wasn’t gaining very well. There were concerns about his stomach because of the not gaining and vomiting. And still he cried. All. The. Time. At one of his doctor appointments our doctor asked Ellie what she thought about her baby brother, her reply: “him just cries.” Yep, that pretty much sums it up. Her coping method was to loudly start singing “Let It Go” or “Thrive” whenever his cries turned to screams, which was pretty much all the time. Sometimes I just cried along with him. We spent  most of the summer rocking on the porch, or around the house or yard bouncing and shushing baby brother. It is hard to form an attachment to a baby that cries all of the time. He would hardly let Klayton, never mind any one else, hold him.

This was certainly not the baby that I had planned. But God’s plans are not mine…so we lived on.

My sister was married in the end of May and Ellie was quite an adorable flower girl in her white and burlap tutu dress. Although she never made it up the aisle and Klayton missed the ceremony because we was walking around trying to calm two crying children. Ellie recovered enough to enjoy the reception and take some beautiful pictures!

Amidst the cries and screams we somehow communicated enough to allow us the opportunity to purchase a camper trailer…only a week after Klayton was able to buy a truck!

Ok, so I guess some of God’s plans are the same as mine. There is no other way that this plan worked out except from the will of God as the camper was quite a deal. And though Kreade still insisted on being held and sushed by only me, he loves to be outside, so we spent many wonderful weekends camping. My mom and sisters were even able to join us in Maine for our 4th of July trip! Ellie fell in love with camping, as we knew she would since she loved tenting last year. At night she would pray “thank you for our camper, and ours truck, and Pa and Nina’s camper and Pa and Nina’s truck, and ‘Turk and Heidi’s camper and Jax’s truck”… It was great to be able to go camping with family and cousins and friends.

As August wore on and came to a close our world was filled with anything but peace. Klayton was without a non-construction job and I was going back to work and Kreade still wasn’t taking a bottle. Again, Ellie was the only one that seemed to be doing half-way good.

But some things take time. Even the Lord’s plans.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. And just like that His plan’s come together. Days before I went back to work Klayton found a job that offered basically everything that we were looking for. And less than five minutes away from home at that! Kreade started taking a bottle and we found a babysitter that is really good with him and his needs. Kreade began improving…and slowly the tears and screaming subsided. He even began to allow other people to hold him. And finally we all started to form an attached relationship with him. It wasn’t until he was about 6 and 1/2 months old that he seemed to turn into a “normal” baby and spent more time smiling and being happyish rather than crying. He no longer vomits or spits up, and his horrifically loud burps have diminished. I guess it just took a while for his poor little digestive system to fully develop. I look back at those colick filled months and wonder how we ever survived.

The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger; In all our trials born to be our friend. He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger. Kreade was definitely not the baby that any of us wanted or imagined, but we loved him nonetheless. And through those colick filled times he was there giving us just what we needed in order to get through.

Yes, it was a long summer. Filled with uncertainty and desire for things to be different. But our plans are not the Lord’s. And sometimes you have to experience not-so-fun things in order to be ready to accept the plans that He has for you. Though I would rather that Klayton found a job before summer and Kreade stop crying before he was nearly 7 months old I definitely learned a lot through those times.

Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace. Love is holding a crying baby even though he keeps crying. Or the four of us walking up and down the road a hundred times because it makes the crying baby stop crying. Love is singing songs to try to drown out the cries, or shaking the car seat as you’re driving down the road to try and prevent the baby from crying. It’s packing the camper in the thirty minutes that the baby actually sleeps and toting around 15 pounds in a front pack while lifting a two year old onto the uneven bars at open gym.

But the key here isn’t the love that filled our year, it’s the peace. Because amidst the circumstances that were anything but peaceful I can truly say that our hearts were at peace.

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, Let all within us praise His holy name. Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever, His power and glory evermore proclaim. 

So this year many things took place. Kreade was born…Ellie was potty-trained…we had several trips to the doctor for UTI’s and ear infections…Ellie took part in the end-of-year gymnastics show…Klayton got a truck…we all got a camper…Klayton got a great job…I went back to work…Kreade started taking a bottle…Ellie moved up to the preschool gymnastics class…I completed my bachelor’s degree in psychology…we almost sold our house…we had fantastic camping trips…Kreade stopped crying all the time… And though this year was filled to the brim with events and circumstances the thing that is most obvious to me is the peace.

Because even though the world around you is chaotic and stressful, there is One who can fill your heart with peace.

“…and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

This year, we pray that you feel the peace that only He provides and join us as we praise His name forevermore.

In His Love,

Klayton, Alicia, Azrielle, & Kreade

A Christmas Letter ~ 2013

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“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Christmas. It’s that time of year when the end draws near and my contemplative nature kicks into high gear. I love to think back. It is always easier to see the past clearly than to view the future with ease. I’m not sure what it is about this time of year, perhaps it is the natural closing of one year’s chapter and the opening of another, but the season practically inspires retrospection. And so I look back.

There is that smile again. That boundless zeal for life. So many pictures capture Ellie’s enthusiasm. I just love that look. Our year started out with her first birthday. It is amazing how much a little person can grow and change in three hundred and sixty-five days. We thought that she would be walking by age one…but when spring rolled around and she still wasn’t walking the doctor picked up on her flat little feet and sent us off to a specialist. We were told not to worry, just to keep an eye on them as she grows; most toddlers have flat feet. I would’ve totally preferred not to have to see a specialist at all; but God has a way of testing our ability to trust Him time after time. Well, once she started walking it wasn’t long before she was running. She is such an outdoors child; the first day that we set up her swing set she was outside in the cold dark night testing it all out. She is such a climber, I call her my little monkey; her aunt takes her to gymnastics once a week and it has been so good for her! She is always talking about ” ‘nastics” and her “leotard”. As I said before, Ellie’s enthusiasm is an inspiration on the difficult days. And the meaning of her name has helped me to remember just Who the Lord is even in the midst of difficulty. God is my helper. 

I wish I didn’t have to gain a  whole new perspective on this truth about Him this year. The fact that so many would rather avoid and chose not to acknowledge is that life is not easy. I don’t mean to be all depressive and sad this season; I know for many it is a time to focus on the blessings and happiness. But really, life is not happy all of the time. If we never acknowledge the difficulties of life, how can we appreciate the positives? There are things that we walk through we would never chose for ourselves. But how else are we to learn Who He is unless life teaches us?

So I’ll admit. This year was hard for me. My school closed early this year as it faced large budget cuts; I spent the whole summer trying not to worry about not having a teaching job to go back to. I didn’t know for sure until August…so it was a long summer of attempting to avoid my anxieties and fears, which for me is not easy. My middle name should probably be Anxious. Klayton was back and forth between several jobs for the first part of the year, and even though that didn’t bother him it stressed me right out! I like consistency, I like security, and Klayton doesn’t seem to be bothered about either. He is much better at trusting His plan than I am. I had been planning on starting graduate school the summer of 2014; but for multiple reasons I’ve had to let go of that dream for now, which was very hard for me. And just when things seemed to calm down…they stopped. There are some things that I wish nobody ever had to live through. Watching a parent walk out of a marriage is one of those things. And so the theme of my life has become one that is lived in continual forgiveness, loving as He does, and resolving to not allow myself to become depressed by the brokenness that surrounds me. God is my helper. Through the situations you never want to be a part of. In dealing with the change and the unknown He is my helper. Constant in the trial and the change, this one thing remains- Your love never fails. So even in the midst of heartache, I chose to focus on the truth. No, this year has not been easy. Yes, I will hold fast to the truth that no matter what God’s love exists…and I will continue on in this knowledge. Acknowledging the difficulty makes remembering the positives so much sweeter.

I asked Klayton what his greatest and worst parts of the year were. On the top of his list were the two weeks we spent in Washington followed by finding out that Ellie wasn’t going to be an only child. He said that his worst were that he still works in the heat of summer and cold of winter; but that seems to be God’s choice for him for now. We truly had a busy year. It seems like even now we never really stop going…there is always something that needs doing, someone that needs helping, things that need fixing…but we hold the hope within our hearts that someday He will return and we will have all of eternity to rest in His goodness. For now, life goes on around us. Amidst the busyness there are always those days that come just when you need them. We took Ellie to the Ecotarium this summer and it was a nice little adventure. We also spent a day at the ocean, which Ellie greatly enjoyed. We spent time with friends and family, took a couple of camping trips, and enjoyed our beautiful yard (and all of the yard work that comes along with it). And while it doesn’t seem like any of these things are extraordinary or exciting, that is life for you. Sometimes it just is.

Amid all the trials, big and small, I am constantly amazed by the consistency of the Lord. He never promised us that life would be easy. I never thought that I would say this, but really, I am glad for the struggles, for the trials…because they cause growth and change. And while change is certainly not easy, the troubles of life shape and form us into the people that God wants us to be. Still, He continues to shape. This year I have learned more about the provision and love of God than I would have if we had never experienced any of the hard things. Though my attitude through it all has not been  perfect, and I haven’t always trusted as I should God has a way of taking our weaknesses and turning them into strength; and so through His strength we are perfected. Looking back. I can see the beauty now.

Yes, what a year it has been. Not an easy one, but as I said. That is life. Klayton and I both have jobs, we have a home that we love and work  hard for, we have family and friends who love us through our struggles, we have cars, and food to eat, the ability to take our daughter camping and on fun little trips… A perfect year? Absolutely not. But a good one even still. And perhaps the greatest part of the whole year is being able to experience it and live through it together, with our Ellie. Never would I have imagined just how your entire perspective on life changes when you become a parent. But seeing the world through the eyes of a child has been an immense gift. That smile of hers. It reminds us of the hope that God has promised us. And soon we will have two of those smiles to remind us every day of what really matters. Ellie is just catching on to the whole “brother” thing instead of “baby sister”. While Klayton was super excited to have another baby, I was not excited about being pregnant again. Don’t get me wrong, I love kids. But being pregnant with Ellie was not what I would call fun. This time though, was so much better, much to my relief. I was half as sick and half as depressed and anxious as I was the first time around. But with all of the heartburn and skin breakouts I just had a feeling that it wasn’t a girl this time…and I got my wish! Just about three months more and baby boy will be here. Now we just have to teach Ellie his name 😉

Perhaps it is partly the season, but reflecting on this past year I am impressed by the peace that has surrounded us even through the hard parts. And so, even in all of the struggles and trials I find myself resting in the peace that only He provides, this season, and every season. We pray that you too will know His joy and peace through the hope that only He provides.

Wishing you a wonderful Christmas and a year abounding in hope through the Holy Spirit; with love,

Klayton, Alicia, Azrielle, and Baby K

(Advent)ures of Christmas

“How many observe Christ’s birthday! How few, His precepts!” 
– Benjamin Franklin

Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.  -Laura Ingalls Wilder

 

Some say that it’s the most wonderful time of the year. Others, the most stressful. To me, it is what you make it. Having an almost-two-year-old this year has certainly helped to make this season wonderful. While moments of stress certainly do occur when I’m trying to wrap presents and Ellie insists on adding her own bazillion pieces of tape, overall having a young child brings a certain joy to the season. You see the world through their eyes and are caught up inn the wonder, adventure, and excitement of it all. 

However, it is also a season of choice. The age old religious debate: to Santa Clause or not? I grew up “believing” in the Jolly Old Fellow. As a child, my extended family were all “believers” and so it was really inescapable. But Ellie is blessed with an extended family of those who believe in Him who began this yearly tradition with His lowly birth. And so, we decided not to encourage the whole Santa Clause story. In my opinion, this is easier! Not having to try to convince and keep convincing my child that this man in the North Pole is real is way less stressful than focusing on the Truth of this season. Don’t get me wrong, I am by no means condemning any Christian who chooses to embrace Santa Clause with their children. My husband and I have simply chosen a different perspective. 

And it really has been quite an adventure.

During Thanksgiving I figured that if we were going to to this, we were going to do it right. It’s basically the only way my mind works. There is a right way and a wrong way and major anxious meltdown if things don’t go the “right” way. But anyways, that is a different story for a different time. So, luckily my mom had given use a great little curriculum of sorts to celebrate Advent. So we decided to go ahead and use it with Ellie. This Advent curriculum contained a story book and 12 ornaments for the tree. Each of the 12 lessons focuses on a name of God; which I always find to be so encouraging. I thought it might be a little bit over Ellie’s head, but hey, why not go a head and give it a try? Unfortunately, this awesome Adorenaments curriculum is no longer available through Family Life; we were so lucky to have my mom pass it on! 

So try we did. And she fell in love. The first ornament was the Baby Jesus…day after day she would run over to that Christmas tree and stand there and say “Hi Baby Jesus.” When she went to bed at night it was back to the tree for “Bye Baby Jesus, love you!” So we continued reading each devotional about the meaning of the names of God and how they relate to Christmas and Ellie would excitedly hang each ornament on the tree. Of course, who knows how much she is really taking in and understanding. But hearing your not-even-two-year-old talk about baby Jesus brings so much hope to your heart regarding their future relationship with Him. Besides, as an early childhood educator I believe firmly in the importance of early experience in shaping a child’s life. It is never too young to begin teaching, and you never know just what children are “catching” …until they spill all that they’ve been absorbing in a breathtaking display of their new-found knowledge. 

Through the eyes of a child…you feel that wonder and excitement to learn about the One who created you, that thirst; even at almost-two. Ellie practically begs to “read Christmas story, dad?!” every day. It’s beautiful. Instead of learning a story about someone who doesn’t exist and will let her down…she is learning about someone who is the Truth, who will never let her down, and holds her life in His hands. These are her first experiences grasping just who He is. And it’s beautiful to watch.

Not only does it melt your heart to see your nearly-two year old embracing Jesus and God and the Christmas story, but it has challenged my husband and I. It has always been important to us that Ellie grow up seeing what it means to be a Christian. But with both of us working full time, me in school, the demands of being homeowners…honestly we haven’t been the best example. Sure she sees us working through problems in positive ways, yeah we bring her to church, yes mom goes to women’s group, we live our examples at work and the list goes on. It is easy to justify the fact that we really don’t take much time to sit down and read God’s word. But the fact remains. This is an area in our relationship with Him that needs a bit of help. 

And this adventure with advent was apparently just what we needed. I wondered aloud the other day what we were going to do when Christmas was over and we had not Jesus story to read; perhaps we should look into getting another devotional to do with Ellie. And when Klayton told me that he had been thinking just that it was quite obvious that this was what God had been planning. So trusty Amazon yielded some great results; I found a book of five-minute devotionals and a one year book of devotions. Although if you think about it too much it seems a little sad that our toddler gave us the kick we needed to get into the habit of diving into God’s word, I suppose it could be worse. 

I hope that continuing to explore who God is with Ellie helps us to gain a new perspective of Him. Afterall, being a child is a theme throughout the New Testament: “Assuredly I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3-4). While these verses probably have some deep spiritual meaning, for me they are confirmation that we all could stand to be a little more like Ellie. So embrace that desire, embrace that excitement and wonder, and bounce up and down with excitement as you open your Bible in your adventures of knowing Him more. And Ellie, I pray that you never lose your excitement for “Baby Jesus”, and that your heart continues to be open to knowing and loving Him…through all of your life.