Thursday, December 25, 2014

You've Got Mail: 2014 Herrington Christmas Card and Letter

Happy Holidays from the Big Apple!!!

Oh friends, this year has been a powerful one. It’s been a transformative year for our family and we’ve seen God’s provision like never before. We’ve seen beauty in places we were afraid of, we’ve seen growth in areas where we were weak, and we’ve seen love in a degree we never could have imagined.

Truly it’s next to impossible for me to write our letter this year. Even if I had the space of an entire memoir (which I’d love to write one day) to share my experiences and emotions from this past year, my words could never do it justice, I‘m afraid. And of course, this being a Christmas letter, I’m only giving myself a small amount of space to share our joys and struggles from the year. It’s a daunting task and one I feel ill-equipped for, but I’m determined to try.  

We started 2014 rather abruptly. On December 31st of last year, in the very early morning, the children and I dropped Peyton off at the airport, knowing we wouldn't see him again until he found our new home, I loaded up all our junk, and I flew twelve hundred miles with both kids and away from everything I had ever known to be home. Graves was super sick and it was a really hard day. To be honest, last December was particularly excruciating. There was just a lot of fear and I was incredibly overwhelmed thinking about our new life. We were so close we could almost touch it and a lot of days I was paralyzed by fear thinking about it.

January actually ended up being a very special time for the children and me. I missed Peyton deeply, but I bonded so much with them and it was a beautiful time of growth when I did a lot of things I didn’t know I could do as I parented by myself for a month and ran the house as best I could. I think it prepared me a lot for what was in store.

Peyton spent the better part of a month looking for the cute, quintessential brownstone with a stoop on a sunny, tree-lined block. Ultimately, we gave it our best. We basically tried every listing for a brownstone in Clinton Hill/Fort Greene and even allowed ourselves to expand our search outside of the neighborhoods we had loved and been devoted to since our visit the previous August. And we were met with resistance at every turn. Finally, Peyton signed a lease at the Clinton Hill Co-Ops, a huge brick complex that peaks above the rest of the skyline in our neighborhood. I was convinced it was an eyesore. As I look out my window tonight, I see the first snow of the season lightly frosting the ground and I see a beautiful Candy Land rainbow maze of lights stretching the entire large courtyard of our complex that my husband and I had no part in stringing. And I feel such happiness. Shortly after we moved,  I realized God’s provision and how significantly more manageable our lives were living in an elevator building with extra storage and a laundry room on the premises (NOT common in Brooklyn) even if it wasn’t what I’d envisioned.

Exactly a month after Peyton moved up, on January 31st, the children and I boarded a plane and flew to meet Peyton in Brooklyn. Again, that flight gave me a lot of courage for what was to come.

The Lord was gracious to us and, despite a lot of delays with movers and being without most of our things for about two weeks, we all adjusted quickly and the transition was as seamless as is possible for a move twelve hundred miles across the country with two small children and two indoor/outdoor now exclusively indoor cats. I discovered that I enjoyed the walking, that the cold (at some points dipping below twenty degrees) was bearable, that I rather loved my eight hundred square foot apartment, and that it was incredibly liberating to be free from the obligations I had committed to at home. I also discovered that my husband seemed much happier and more content in our small home with fewer outside obligations and that our children were thriving. Spring had it’s tearful homesick moments, but it was beautiful and amazing as we took our first trips to Central Park, joined the three museums we are members of, attended fascinating events at the Brooklyn Historical Society, explored our neighborhood, and found our communities of faith. I attended a really powerful Christian conference that I just stumbled upon (if you believe that- I don’t!) and it led us to a church in the city that was like a wellspring of life pointing me to the resurrected Christ and teaching me to experience grace and the Gospel as never before. We also started attending a church plant that launched in a very diverse neighborhood. The church launched on Easter Sunday and because of the big focus on social justice and racial reconciliation and ministering in the city, we felt a huge tug. We are still worshiping at both churches (which makes for busy Sundays!) and these faith communities have grown us in inexplicable ways. We also became involved in a ministry in the South Bronx and have seen such beauty and hope and love in this “forgotten neighborhood”.

Specifically so we could attend church, I gathered the courage to attempt public transit by myself with the children (for the most part, we  stay home and do school on Peyton’s work days and have our “adventure days” on his days off). Transit has probably been the single hardest thing for me in the city (aside from missing home). It’s physically challenging with both children and more than that it gives me a lot of anxiety with Graves who is still very busy and rambunctious and not always great at listening.  It’s actually very comparable to me with Graves’s unmedicated birth. Both involved a lot of fear and now both have given me a new sense of confidence in myself and what I'm capable of. If I gained nothing else from this year, it is a stronger faith in a God who empowers and a deeper sense of what He can do through me if I listen to Him instead of the voices that tell me I'm not strong enough for this.

Summer came finally and was amazing. Winter is beautiful here, but it’s truly draining. Summer was vibrant and easy and by far my favorite time here. We spent nearly every Friday night at Coney Island enjoying the spectacular free firework shows, we went to the flea market a few blocks away, and we enjoyed ferry rides and street fairs and ice cream trucks and new park and al fresco dining. We got cheap fresh produce and on the days Peyton worked I took the kids to our neighborhood playground each afternoon. But more than that, I saw the city come alive. A new fascination of mine is culture- urban culture, specific racial and ethnic cultures, church culture here- all different kinds of culture. And I think in the Summer, we are better able to observe that. A few years ago, I would have been a little surprised if you told me that I'd be living in a very urban, very diverse neighborhood and I would have laughed in your face if you told me that a part of me would smile when Summer came and the rap music (which I mostly have a strong disdain for) got turned up and the cars bump-bumped a little more. As I bee- boped down the street with my tiny people, it gave me a little thrill because it seems so indicative of our new place and I love that there's a soundtrack to our lives even if it's a different soundtrack than the one I’m used to. The children loved Summer because it meant sprinklers at every playground and we indulged in those a lot.

Speaking of the children, they are amazing little humans. Annie is quite sensitive and introspective and although she’s incredibly emotional, I’ve watched her learn to manage her emotions after years of helping coach her. She’s observant and bright and a joy to hold a conversation with. One particularly fun quirk is her fascination with the subway. It will be a delight to tell her one day that she learned to read an MTA map at the exact same time she was learning to read. She came to understand the many colorful lines covering the boroughs about as quickly as I did. It was kind overwhelming for a chick who is more used to kudzu as a covering. Homescholing this year has been an absolute joy and a privilege. She is the kind of student who is eager to learn and anxious to work hard.

Graves is equally special. He is the most affectionate person I’ve met in my life (to be fair, his papa is a close second). He loves to hug, kiss, hold, and snuggle. He also loves to sing and dance and is full of abundant energy. He has the most mischievous smile, which is fitting because while he’s almost never defiant or disrespectful, he’s often “naughty”. He’s not only a huge flirt, but a huge tease. He has a much more mature sense of humor than his sister and has already figured out how to play tricks on her (and his papa and me). He reads emotions well and is very tender. If someone is sad or hurt or angry, he picks up on it, empathizes, and consoles.

Fall brought my sister’s wedding and a three week trip home to Mississippi. The wedding was gorgeous and perfect and will be something I cherish always. And our trip was incredible. It revealed just what I needed it to- how much we miss (our first) home. It confirmed our decision to move back in late Spring and it made other decisions easier to make.

But Fall hasn’t been without heartache. At some point, most every day, I either feel homesick for Mississippi or heartsick for the city we will be leaving. Or both. The days I have to navigate both are the hardest. But it’s a good problem to have. To have people- and places- in our lives so incredibly worthy of being loved on this level.

This year in Brooklyn has not always been easy, but it’s brought about great transformation, it’s taught me so much, and it’s given us precious relationships that we will cherish always.. As excited as I am for what the next chapter will bring, I’m so thankful for the many gifts the Lord has given us in this city. I will forever be grateful!

It is with so much love and joy that we wish you a Merry Christmas and happily anticipate 2015 with you all!

the Herringtons

2009 Card and Letter
2010 Card and Letter
2011 Card and Letter 

2012 Card and Letter

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