The 2017 Anthony Family Christmas Card

And now… the Christmas Card!

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This year has been pretty rad.

We moved to a sweet neighborhood and scored a new house as our rental!  We even have a backyard and awesome neighbors.  Plus, we’re not too far from the property!

This summer we drove to Wyoming,

IMG_2877Colorado, Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons.  You can read about it hereIMG_2554IMG_2516IMG_3396

Staying on the National Parks theme this Thanksgiving, we headed down to the Grand Canyon on our way to Arizona where we spent time with family for Thanksgiving and Celebrated Christmas at bit early all together.  It was 90 degrees and the kids swam every day in the pool.

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But there was no swimming anywhere near the Grand Canyon… It was FREEZING!

It was also the first real vacation that actually felt relaxing.  This wasn’t a trip with kids as I’ve said in the past… it was a VACATION!  I don’t know if it was all the prayer (probably) that went into this trip or if the kids are finally at a fun age where Davin and I are not full time on all day keeping them safe (#dontouchthat!), but Davin and I actually felt relaxed!  He went mountain biking with Eli and Jake, I played ping pong with the kids and took them on bike strolls through the neighborhood to see the Christmas decorations.  They splashed grandpa in the pool.  They made their Granna laugh and smile.  We watched movies and ate food.  And even though Evelyn wasn’t feeling well we knew she was in good hands with an Aunt Keeli the ICU nurse while we were out of town for two nights in Sedona.  Also, Keeli and Jake have the gift of hospitality.  Her house was FULL of our stuff, kid stuff and everything in between and she and Jake were like, “oh hey, do you need anything?”  SO CHILL.  She had our towels wrapped in cute jute string and a welcome note when we got there.  If I can even host half like she does in my life, I will have accomplished something.  We loved our trip with our family!  And we look forward to more trips with all of our family in the future.

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“Evelyn was cold”

We have two 1st graders a kindergartener and a toddler.  And while homework is relatively simple… no one prepared me for the extravaganza of it all.

We have to do homework individually in a quiet space so that no one compares reading levels, math abilities etcetera, all while Evelyn toddles around and pulls papers off the table and I keep the others from chaos.  It’s like standing in the middle of a popcorn maker trying to thread a needle and do long division in my mind.

Homework is my frenemy right now and dinner doesn’t make itself and well, the kids want to play outside, which is super important to their growth and development but they can’t watch themselves because they are still little so I have to sit outside in the cold and I feel like I lost my rhythm once the time change happened.  I had one, but now it’s dark and freezing at 4pm, soooo.  I’m at a loss and high frequency words don’t just learn themselves people!

Our house is coming along.  If you ever wondered what it’s like to build your dream house, I can share my experience thus far.  It’s AMAZING.  It’s so fun to dream and plan, and decorate in my mind and choose all the things.  So it’s so far not stressful because we are waiting on all the paper people to finish their paper jobs:-)  Also, Davin has become a bids babysitter.  We request bids, he checks on them every few days.  We finally get the bids, we make decisions.

Davin and I celebrated ten years of marriage this year!

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It’s going better than I thought it would when we first were married.  That sounds terrible, but at the time our new love felt so full of life and magical, it was hard to imagine it could stay that good for so long.

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Hello freedom! I’ll see you again in 18 years…

portrait photography by www.majestyphoto.com

I guess I was naive enough to think that the beginning was the best.  And although it was great, I had no idea what four kids would be like.  They have grown and matured Davin and I into such better people.  We have had to become less selfish and work A LOT harder!  Plus they are all just so cute with their different personalities!

Eli is 7.  Every year he turns a new age, it becomes my new favorite.

He’s the best!  He is kind.  I tuck him into bed and he asks me how my day was.  Now, he’s probably just stalling out bedtime as long as possible but it’s sweet and thoughtful and he listens intently as though what I have to say is important and we have interesting talks.  The other morning he said he felt like the Lord spoke to him.  He said he heard his name at night and almost came to our room but remembered the bible story where God calls Samuel’s name and instead Eli replied, “yes Lord?”  I was intrigued and asked him what he felt like the Lord said and I asked permission to share.  He said the Lord told him four things:

  1. Don’t say, “I’m the worst.”
  2. Help my family
  3. Be kind to my friends
  4. Set a good example at school

I watched him that morning love and serve his family and I teared up thinking God may have spoken to my son and helped me out a ton!  He even made lunch for his sisters and asked, “what can I do for you Mama?”  Mama’s (and Dad’s) if you pray for your kids – God actually LISTENS!!!  I’m still in awe.

Dani is our quiet calm.  Having her in the house just brings so much peace.

She’s able to ruff and tumble with her brother, playing all sorts of games that they come up with and then switch to an incredibly gentle and kind older sister to her younger two.  She loves Ellie with such grace and generosity, I watch her and it reminds me of Jesus.  She’ll often see me frustrated in the day, come up hug me and and say, “Let’s pray Mama!”  She loves her littlest sister with such big sister sweetness.  Before school, she is often the last one out of the car, and her and Evelyn have a thing where she asks Evelyn, “What’s this?” and she picks up her foot and then kisses it.  Then she grabs her other foot, hands and eventually her forehead asking the same question and giving each of them kisses.  All the while Evelyn soaks up every second and kicks her feet in delight.  Dani is a delight.

Ellie is a joy.

She is learning so much and becoming such a mature big girl.  She can organize her room, sweep the kitchen and is an unstoppable helper when she wants to be.  She loves to lead and is learning to hone that gift in amazing ways.  Ellie daily makes us laugh or smile.  She is also five, which we often forget, lumping in her behavior expectations with her older brother and sister.  She keeps up most days with them, but I sometimes have to stop and remind myself that she’s only five and to parent her with a bit more grace.  Ellie loves to dance, sing and dress up.  She adores her friends and will play and hug them as much as we let her.  Fashion just may be one of her gifts, as she’s always adding an accessory to her ensemble when permitted.  Ellie is a delight.

Evelyn, our sweet youngest.

She and I get to spend most days together, just the two of us.  It’s the dream I always thought I missed out on when I first had twins!  She in the stage where she loves to try everything herself first: buckle her carseat straps, crawl up into her high chair and put on her boots.   Most days we find ourselves smiling in awe when she uses a big word correctly or speaks in complete sentences.  Some days Davin and I get to have lunch with just her and we’ll both grin at her and she’ll smile and close her eyes and turn her head, pretending to hide and be shy from all the attention.  She loves to play with her siblings, our neighbors, and her cousins are kind of celebrities in her world.  “Sadie go wiff me to Peets?”  On the drive home from Arizona she counted to eleven all by herself and the car erupted in cheering and clapping for her.  She can sing her ABC’s by starting at the beginning, picking up around Q and finishing it from there;-)  We think she’s just about the smartest, most adorable two year old ever!  Evelyn is well loved by all!

We are grateful this year for our amazing family that we enjoy and look forward to spending time with.  We have super awesome neighbors that we enjoy doing daily life with, a church we feel at home in and group of friends who bring life, light and encouragement to our lives.  Family and friends are truly our greatest treasure – as a kid I’d read that and think, “whatever, that sounds like a Christmas card!” but in all reality, our family and friends are the best gift from Jesus.  Aside from Jesus himself, obviously;-)

portrait photography by www.majestyphoto.com

Thank you.  Thank you for being family or a friend in our lives, we are richer for it and treasure you and the memories we have, our relationship and days to come Lord willing with each one of you.

May you be richly blessed this season and year by our Lord Jesus Christ, the best giver of all the gifts!

He loves you and don’t you forget it!

Hugs,

The Anthony Family

 

Colors

It’s Christmastime!  I went a little over the top this year with Christmas.  I put up our decorations towards the end of October and pretty much had all gifts purchased and wrapped before November 1st.

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At first I thought my exuberance for Christmas  was because we are celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas with Davin’s family over Thanksgiving break and I needed to be ready.  However, I realized that’s not it, because we’ve done that in the past and I remember Davin hinting that we had Christmas garland and what if he helped me put it up, and how about those stockings come mid-December?

I think it’s because last year at this time, we were in the hospital with Evelyn.  Last Christmas, although we absolutely had a million reasons to celebrate, last year was different.  It felt rushed and when we were in the hospital, Christmas the way we knew it wasn’t a given.  Neither was Thanksgiving.  Yes, the days would come but at this time last year, we didn’t know where we’d be celebrating them as a family.  As we walked the hospital halls grateful for the beautiful garland and decorations, we wondered if we’d be home to celebrate together.

We were up some of those nights praying that Evelyn would be well enough to celebrate at all.

So, perhaps my exuberance is an effort to make up for last year.  To really have as many days as possible listening to the music, making the cookies, seeing the garland light up on my own banister and not just the hospital hallways.  And I am so making up for it!  I wanted us to feel the lightness of this Christmas as opposed to the uncertainty and coldness of last year.  Which I have yet to fully write about.  (Another time!)

In fact even a month ago, I was still broken inside from what had happened to our baby.  My voice was still laced with an icy, angry tone that I tried to hide from myself when I talked about Evelyn not being fully healed yet.  I would notice tears that I would push back into my eyes, choosing to instead smile and reply, “It’s okay, it’s not what I want but at least we have her with us”.  But it didn’t feel okay.

Bible study came along this fall and the same group of women who’d prayed for us, brought us dinners and watched our kiddos last year asked, “How’s she doing?”  and I’d share honestly, “Well, she has to take daily medication right now, and I’m kinda mad about it.”  My heart each time I said it feeling betrayed by the Lord.  Trying to smile and be strong on the outside, but internally dialoging with God:

“You said she’d be healed.  THIS isn’t healed.  This is DAILY reliance on medication.  Haven’t we been through enough?  Didn’t we go through it right?  Didn’t we trust you!?  We had nine months of no medication, thinking she was healing fully on her own only to discover that she hadn’t.  She wasn’t well enough.  She wasn’t fully healed.  I don’t like that she has to be on medication.” 

I was SO angry and disappointed about it.

And those same women wrapped their strong arms around me while I cried in the school pick up line.  And my family came around me with encouraging words, prayer and support, and my friends all listened while I shared and everyone prayed with us for her full healing, each one still trusting God.

I’d say in my head as they prayed such sweet prayers full of faith and love,

“Well, it’s good YOU’RE praying for her healing, because I’m done!  At least someone believes she’ll be healed!”

I was a bit too mad to trust God that he had any further healing for her.  If he had, I figured he would have done it by now.

I believed the lie that God didn’t love me enough to heal my baby.

That he didn’t love me enough.

Even though I was being covered in love.

Maybe you’ve believed this lie before too.

A few weeks ago, one of my good friends, Melissa, sent me a voice text with a prayer and attached a song.  I had to run and hide upstairs in my closet just to hear the prayer because Evelyn was yelling for things downstairs and chasing me.  She found me just as the prayer ended.  Over the voice text Melissa had said that she could see Evelyn was in God’s care, she could see her so bright and full of color, right before God and that she was safe.   Yet, I was back, behind my friend in the shadows, lacking color.  That I was the one who needed prayer, not Evelyn.  She wasn’t sure what was shadowing me, but she prayed for Jesus to lead me out of the shadows.

And I knew her words were true.

Evelyn and I walked into her room and I turned on the song my friend had sent.

 

“Hold you?  Hold you?” Evelyn requested as she grabbed her blanket.

We sat down in her bright white rocking chair.  With her blanket in hand and thumb in her mouth she thumped her head against my chest.  I held her and we rocked together and listened to the song.  I thought about my friends prayer, as I wondered at the shadows she spoke of.   Rubbing Evelyn’s back I silently prayed,

“Lord, I don’t know what the shadows are, and I don’t know how to come out from underneath them.  It’s not like I’m trying to be miserable or doubt you.  We’re still friends, I’m just mad every time I think of how things aren’t going my way.  I don’t know how to get out of the dark shadows, to be bright and colorful again, but you do.  I don’t want to feel let down and mad at you but I do.  I need you to fix it, because I can’t.”

“Again mommy, again?” Evelyn asked.  She was so still, it must have been a miracle.

I hit replay and she rested her head back on my chest, even though we were no where near nap time.

I looked over at her bookshelf, and I noticed the penguin her aunt Keeli gave her when she was in the hospital, remembering how it sat in her dark metal hospital crib every day, brightening up the dull, cold space.  Pink and black and wearing a hat.

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I glanced up at an owl another family gave her just days after we were admitted, when we were so scared and unsure of the future.

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At that time, we were watching our baby grow closer to death each day right in front of our eyes and praying for a miracle.  And yet, I have a picture of her sleeping peacefully on Mr. Owl, smiling, bright white, yellow and gray.

 

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Evelyn was starting to nod off to sleep now and I could feel tears starting to rush behind my eyes.  I pushed them back, trying to hold back crying and waking her.

I glanced at her colorful books all lined up on the wall.  My brother Aaron and his wife, Christie gave her a giant set of board books for us to read to her in the hospital.  My dear friend, Kia even gave us a recording book to play for her.  Evelyn especially loves books.  Bright blue, yellow, pink, green, orange and red.  So many colors.  So much color and life in this room made just for her.  So many memories of the ways we were loved by others.

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I thought about how I decorated Evelyn’s room when we moved into this rental, trying to use Ellie’s pink pale decor but attempting to make her room look bright and colorful as opposed to the muted pink I had chosen for Ellie.

I thought about how fortunate we were that we needed to decorate a room for her in the first place.  That the reason for this bright colorful room was resting here in my lap.

All the books, animals and toys… all the colors in this room were for her.  For Evelyn.

Because she is still with us.

Because God took care of her.

It didn’t have to go this way.  Her life wasn’t a guarantee.  It could have gone a very different way.  I started to cry.

We may have never had the chance to decorate another room for her.

As I rocked her, I reminisced about all the people who loved us so well when she was in the hospital.  Some friends showed us love by faithfully visiting and sitting by our side at the hospital, others came and prayed over her, over us, others brought us meals and activities for our kids, others picked up our littles from school and babysat, others did our grocery shopping.  Tears were filling my eyes again, but for the first time in a long time, they weren’t angry tears.

They were different, they were grateful tears.

Grateful tears that God saved her life.

That she was in my arms, now asleep, safely resting and breathing deeply.

That God took care of all of us, as a family.

That God loved us through others.

I pulled softly on one of her blond little curls damp with her sweat, I felt her breathing in an out gently and as I stared at her dark eyelashes draping across her closed lids I felt so incredibly grateful for this little life.  This little person.

The song played,

“Take courage my heart.  Stay steadfast my soul.  He’s in the waiting.  He’s in the waiting.  Hold on to your hope, as your triumph unfolds, He’s never failing, He’s never failing.”

But she isn’t healed yet…

“And you who hold the stars, who call them each by name, will surely keep your promise to me and I will rise in your victory.”

“He’s in the waiting.”

“With the Lord a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day.” 2 Peter 3:8

We have our Evelyn, and I have his word that one day she will be healed fully.

She fell asleep on my lap as I cried and listened to the song on repeat.  It was a healing moment from the Lord.  The one my friend had prayed for.  The one I had said I couldn’t do on my own.

The Lord doesn’t always answer our prayers in our own timing.  He answers them in his timing.  And I have to trust him and believe that what he said he’d do, he will do.

“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.”  Hebrews 10:23

I am grateful for all the color he has brought into my life because of her.