Monday, December 31, 2012

family - more than blood

the welcome table at Saturday's open house
the welcome table at Saturday’s open house
The past few days have been a whirlwind of fun and celebration; far too much to detail properly in a single post.
Saturday 125 people showed up at Maul Hall for an open-house introducing Andrew’s fiance, Alicia, to just a few of our friends. Sunday morning at church was moving and powerful. Then, Sunday evening, we headed to Orlando to hang out with Rebekah’s Alexander siblings.
I’ve already reviewed 2012 in my “Newsletter-ish post” last week. So I think I’ll let a few photos from the sibling festivities wrap things up for this most singular 366 days.
Alicia, Grand-Myrt and Andrew
Alicia, Grand-Myrt and Andrew
INTENTIONALITY: What I admire about Rebekah’s family is the way they make the conscious choice to “do family” and nurture “the ties that bind.”
The five siblings (Roy, Rachel, Rebekah, Joe and Jesse) are spread out from Virginia Beach to Tampa, and – for the most part – they all move heaven and earth to get together whenever possible.
The Orlando gathering – hosted by Joe and Cheryl – featured four of the five siblings, five of the ten cousins, and Grand-Myrt; it was a great opportunity for Alicia to see the family at its most natural.
Joe and Cheryl hosted
EXPLOSIONS: Of course Joe (pictured with Cheryl), organized some back-yard fireworks and somehow managed to avoid incinerating the neighborhood, but not for want of trying; food was plentiful; and, best of all, love and generosity were rampant.
These gatherings are not just family get-togethers, they are community-of-faith events.
Lindsay and Jordan
COUSINS: Sibling geography may pose a challenge, but it’s even harder to gather cousins who now range in age from ten to 31, and we now have two more slated for college in 2013. Jordan and Lindsay (pictured right) are both super-smart and highly motivated. It’s going to be interesting to see where they end up and how they navigate the next few years of their lives.
DSC_0051GIFTS: We always do the traditional “Chinese Gift Exchange,” you know, the one that involves taking numbers and then stealing from one-another. It was my fourth exchange of the season, and while I always have a great time I’ve been left holding fairly uninspiring gifts absolutely every time.
Jesse, as you can see, was pleased with his uber-cheesy “Merry-Okee” device. Fortunately for me we also gave one-another real presents. Rebekah and I shared hand-carved olive-wood mementos from our Mid-east excursion and I was able to bring home an assortment of creative, thoughtful gifts.
Jesse and Heather
Jesse and Heather
PICTURE-PERFECT: I could post a dozen more great photos, but the point of images in a blog is simply to help tell the story and you’ll have to check my facebook page for the complete set.
I’ll leave with one more (below), featuring Rebekah and her sister, Rachel; they’re actually posing for a camera other than mine, but the image does a great job of representing what I’m writing about this morning.
Rachel and Rebekah were already talking, sitting close and being sisters. So when Tom said, “Hey, look over here” he wasn’t asking them to pose so much as to help tell the story of a family that is intentional about being a family.
DSC_0083I know it sounds like a “duh,” “no-brainer” thing, but it’s not. People lose each other too easily and too often; and typically they lose their family an inch at a time rather than via some traumatic or divisive event. So we chose to be a family.
It’s a new year, people; why not determine to make 2013 a year where your family makes many such positive choices?
In the hope and the promise of Christmas – DEREK

Saturday, December 29, 2012

boxing day

DSC_0098theUletterUtoday’s post is simple and to the point. Logistically, family get-togethers are near to impossible to pull off. This year has been no exception. The Naomi/Craig/David Connecticut family will be here in the New Year, but the traditional Maul family “Boxing-Day” celebration simply ran out of time and opportunity for everyone to enjoy.
Alicia & Haley
Alicia & Haley
AWESOMENESS: We did manage to postpone the – as Andrew put it – “Awesomeness that is Boxing Day” until December 28 (officially it’s the day after Christmas). That way Alicia was able to experience her first “Grandma Grace” post-Christmas event.
We really missed our Connecticut family, but they do arrive in Tampa on New Year’s Day, and of course we really missed my brother, Geoff – but there was definitely a sense of the communion of the saints in the air.
BOXING DAY 101: Here, then are the essential ingredients:
  • Christmas Carols
    Christmas Carols
    Liberal amounts of family
  • Liberal amounts of love
  • The pulling of “crackers” (some refer to these as “poppers”)
  • Silly paper hats (my mum still has one on in the picture)
  • Cold left-over meats from Christmas (ham, turkey, etc)
  • Hot potatoes, stuffing/dressing, British pickles (Branston,Piccalillli, saladcream, pickled onions etc.), veggies
  • Endless supply of hot tea
  • Christmas pudding, mince-pie, custard, Christmas cake
  • More hot tea
  • Gift exchange
  • Parlor games
  • The singing of carols
  • More tea
  • Prayer
GRACE and GENEROSITY: The wonder of it all, this year, is that my mum and dad still managed to pull it off, at their home. Everyone was impressed.
Hudson & Haley
Hudson & Haley
Here’s the point. Christmas is a celebration. The coming of Jesus was the entry-point of love beyond love into this dark and broken world. Our family is rooted… grounded… anchored in both the experience and the expression of that love. We are so deeply blessed.
“Boxing Day” is all about that – DEREK

Friday, December 28, 2012

middle-aged and still having kids!

NOTE: Today’s post is not unmindful of the pain and grief too many parents know (some for long years), and these thoughts are offered in the loving memory of lost children (kids, young people and adults) such as Greg, Geoff, Nicholas, John, the twenty in Newtown…………
Andrew, Alicia, Naomi, Craig
Andrew, Alicia, Naomi, Craig
“On the fourth day of Christmas my true-love gave to me…” Today I’m thinking about four unique gifts Rebekah and I cherish; they are such amazing blessings from God. Their names are Andrew, Alicia, Naomi, and Craig; they are our children.
Yesterday evening, just before midnight, Andrew and Alicia (The “A” Team) flew in from Italy and the Ukraine (by way of Michigan, where they spent Christmas with the Pashby family). Rebekah and I first met Alicia at the big Virginia wedding six months ago, but we’ve been looking forward to having her in our home for a long time.
arrive late last night
arrive late last night
CHILDREN: Official wedding dates and celebrations may go into the history books and state records, but – so far as Rebekah and I are concerned – we’ve had four children since the day Andrew and Alicia’s engagement was announced.
When they’re growing up, children are this continuous  (twenty-four/seven) overwhelming outpouring of time, attention, energy, knowledge, teaching, resources, hopes, dreams, focus, prayer, and everything imaginable. But then, in the twinkling of an eye and the passage of two short decades, they are gone, launched into the world as fully responsible, self-sufficient adults.
The happiness and fulfillment of our children is the most beautiful miracle to witness. Sometimes it all comes together the way we imagined from the beginning; sometimes it seems an impossible dream; sometimes it is a bittersweet story of stumbling, hope, redemption and promise; sometimes it sneaks up on you by surprise.
The happiness and fulfillment of our children is the most beautiful miracle to witness. Sometimes it all comes together the way we imagined from the beginning, sometimes it seems an impossible dream; sometimes it is a bittersweet story of stumbling, hope, redemption and promise; sometimes it sneaks up on you by surprise.
Summer 2012 - Andrew, Alicia, Rebekah, Derek, Craig, Naomi, David
Summer 2012 – Andrew, Alicia, Rebekah, Derek, Craig, Naomi, David
BLESSING: I cannot speak for all parents, just for myself and for Rebekah. And so my witness to the Fourth Day of Christmas this year is maybe more personal than the majority of the blogging world cares to enjoy. But here it is, regardless. Our joy is beyond containing, and we are blessed beyond measure.
Peace, hope, grace and promise – DEREK

Thursday, December 27, 2012

2013 - contemplating the road less travelled by

Wallace Nutting Photograph
Wallace Nutting Photograph
img-thing‘ve always liked pathways. Roads, lanes, avenues, trails, footpaths. If you look through my photo albums you’ll see examples from almost every place we’ve travelled. I tend to favor those that wind a little, lead the eye around a corner, or disappear over a rise.
I’m also drawn to gates, and doorways. But they’re best when they’re open, even if only a crack.
These are simply images that catch my interest; I’m attracted to the form; I like the way paths and gateways lead my eye, and my imagination, into the image – and beyond. But I’m also certain that it’s the undiscovered story that draws me in; the unspoken, the unfinished, the unrestricted invitation to journey and to take the road less often travelled by.
IMG_3012NUTTING: That’s why Rebekah’s special gift this Christmas resonates at such a deep level. She knows I love pathways; she knows I love photography; she knows I love stories. So when she ran across this image by famed photographer Wallace Nutting (1861-1941), she knew she had the perfect Christmas gift and she knew she had scored in a huge way.
Nutting, for the uninitiated, was a New England minister and photographer who employed colorists to hand paint his photographs. He could stand in the same spot as a hundred other people and be the only one with the eye to frame the perfect photograph. My Nutting is unique in that it is signed both by the photographer and the colorist.
The pathway in the picture, a wooded lane framed by tall birch trees, tails off invitingly around a subtle turn in the road. To me, it beckons, “Check out this road… grab your camera, put your backpack over your shoulder, lace up your hiking boots, and see where it leads….”
DSC_0130INVITATION: For me, 2013 stands as an open invitation to do just that.
The New Year is a great, uncharted landscape of possibilities. This life continues to be a great adventure. But we’re not stepping out blind, or unreferenced; because, “God’s Word is a lamp that helps guide my feet, it’s the illumination of truth that sheds light on all my pathways…”
How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
 I gain understanding from your precepts;
therefore I hate every wrong path.
Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path” (Psalm 119:103-105)
Then, from Judges 18:
Then they said to him, “Please inquire of God to learn whether our journey will be successful.”
The priest answered them, “Go in peace. Your journey has the Lord’s approval.” (Judges 18:5-6)
Peace, promise, and joy on the journey – DEREK