Thursday, December 24, 2015

You've Got Mail: 2015 Herrington Christmas Card and Letter

 Happy Holidays from the Herringtons!!! 
The past year held so many things for our family- some hard and discouraging, others beautiful and restorative.

Knowing they were our last ones in Brooklyn, we spent the first four months of the year trying even harder to “suck the marrow” from the city as one of our friends there phrases it. We FINALLY made it to the Bronx Zoo and experienced deep regret we hadn’t done it sooner. We rode almost all the above ground subway lines because Annie loved them so. We re-visited our favorite museums and parks and restuarants and squeezed in some new ones. We took one last very cold, windy trip to say goodbye to Coney Island and we spent our very last full day there enjoying the sunshine and the bagpiper(!?!) and the wonderful flavor of the city in our precious Fort Greene Park. Then we loaded up several weeks worth of stuff we hadn’t put in the moving cubes, two cats, our children, and ourselves and drove (over two days) nineteen hours HOME.

It was everything I had hoped it would be and all the things I had missed were at once mine again but there was a gaping hole in my heart that caused a degree of pain I never anticipated. I turned thirty and I felt thankful for many things but I also felt  a significant ache for the city we had grown to love and it took me a good while to feel resettled (sometimes it’s still a deep hurt).

Also, before we moved home Peyton revealed something to me (something he has since revealed to most of our friends and loved ones). For years (the entire time I’ve known him) Peyton has struggled with spiritual doubt and this really came to a head in NYC. Because I find it pretty difficult to articulate it any better than he did, I’m sharing what he wrote on my (our?) blog over the Summer-- “[T]his brings me to introduce the place where I am presently. I am not a Christian. I am not an atheist. I am somewhere in-between and really I find it rather uncomfortable. I’m rather tired of searching only to return to the exact same place. So, for the present time, I’ve stopped pursuing the larger questions that most belief systems try to answer (metaphysics, etc).”

This Summer was, to be honest, a season of deep grief. I’m thankful for the pastor and friend who gave me permission to use that term. The grief was twofold- as I said, I missed New York much more intensely than I had imagined I would. I also really had to come to terms with a different reality- one in which some very foundational aspects of mine and Peyton’s relationship ceased to be.

However, I found that many of the lessons learned and many of the sanctifying things experienced previously in our marriage to be helpful in that context. I learned (and am learning) a lot about rest, about letting God carry me, and about trusting His timing (which we know that a thousand years to us is like a day to God and the excruciating moments that seem to last forever are just a blip in the span of eternity and even the span of mine and Peyton's lives). I'm learning that when my anxiety is managed, I give Peyton space to think and grow rather than exacerbating the problem and putting pressure on him to be something he can't be right now. Most importantly perhaps, I’m learning more than I ever have before in my life, what trusting in God’s sovereignty really looks like.

Over the Summer I listened to a sermon given by our beloved priest in New York, one that was so incredibly transformative for me. In this message, he said "The profundity of the Christian message is not your experience. Because at the center of that story is you. Our story is "I am weak. My life is a disaster. Let me tell you where my strength is found- in God's grace". Ultimately, I can still find a lot of joy if I remember that I'm not at the center of this story. Just a few weeks later, at the church we (the children and I) are currently attending, the pastor preached on David and his sin with Bathsheba. What if David was at the center of that story? It would be an entirely different ending, yes? Praise God he is not! Even before Christ was born, He was at the center of the story of this distance ancestor of His. And praise God I am not at the center of my own story, nor is Peyton. Jake (the priest from New York) ended his sermon by saying "All of us have wounds that are gaping, but Christ promises to be sufficient." Jake's favorite word, I think, is "profundity", and if that's not a profound word I don't know what on earth is!

I’m trusting more than ever before in the sovereignty of the Father and the sufficiency of the Son. And I’m assuming the Holy Spirit is the one that’s making any of that possible =)

I’m also immeasurably grateful for the time we had in New York, specifically at the church we attended in Manhattan- Calvary-St. George’s. I tell people often that had this news come before our move, and before our experiences at this church, I think it might well have broken me. But, the truth is I am (most days) in a pretty good place. That is what a Theology of the Cross will do for you. Years ago, I think I would have been much more angry and anxious. But these days I have a “lower anthropology” as one of my favorite priests/authors/speakers, Paul Zahl, likes to talk about. In other words, I am less concerned with what Peyton (or I) do, think, or say and more concerned with Christ’s work on the cross. I heard an old song on the classic rock station (how I love having my car radio back!) that says “there ain’t no good guy, there’s ain’t no bad guy…” and more and more I’m convinced we’re ALL the good guy and the bad guy, all in need of the Cross so much more than we know.

What else, though?

So much!  After we moved back, Peyton adjusted his schedule. He is now working four days worth of hours in three days and obviously getting paid for four days worth of hours (he's home with us Monday through Thursday and Friday evenings). Four days worth of hours in three days because we've both decided we like the marathons better than the sprints. Four days worth of pay because Peyton *loves* this stage the kids are in and I don't think it's fair that I get the monopoly on it. So we decided that as long as he's eligible for FT benefits, nobody actually needs to be working forty hour weeks. We don't need that money and we want to prioritize time together and time to pursue (all four of) our interests. We totally realize (like with Brooklyn) that we are in a unique position, but it's also amazing to see the wonderful opportunities our approach to finances and simplicity is bringing.

Also, my car broke down and in an ongoing effort toward a more simple lifestyle, we just have one vehicle now (well, and we ordered a bike trailer). This required me to learn to drive standard and being a terrible driver anyway, the learning curve was STEEP (pun intended, I had a good handful of cries at stop lights on hills). But, like giving birth naturally and navigating public transit in a city of eight million people, it’s being amazing for my confidence.

In October, I wrote daily about “Ordinary Wonder” and in November, per usual, I documented my Thankfuls. These small disciplines simultaneously really helped my mind to feel more open and my heart to feel more full.

Ann Peyton and Graves have both adjusted really well to being back. While they talk about their memories from New York constantly (something I’m so thankful for) they are quite happy to have been reunited with their grandparents and friends.

We are homeschooling again and I’m happy to announce that, halfway through first grade, we have a true reader on our hands. AP devours books and spends many a night reading to her brother in bed for as long as he’ll sit still. Math is a bit of a different story! Besides reading, her interests include bird watching, playing in the backyard, light hiking, and coloring and crafting. She’s got just the right amount of spunk and recently she decided she wants to go by Annie. Although I love her double name, I think Annie is about the most precious name in the whole world and am happy to go with that.

Graves continues to be one of the kindest, most considerate, and most selfless people I know. Which is to his benefit, because he’s got ants in his pants, is such a typical four year old boy, and drives me up the wall on the regular. Just the other day, in an interaction with his sister, Peyton had to remind him to “treat himself fairly”. He’s so much more likely to look out for others than himself. He changes clothes about twelve times a day, he’s recently been introduced to action figures and is captivated, and he loves to eat nuts, cheese, and bananas. His true joy right now, though, is his bicycle. We recently acquired it when a neighbor put it on the street and with a new tire and some duct tape, it was as good as new (or good enough). I have never seen him take such enjoyment in any one thing or be so dedicated and focused. He will ride for ours in the morning and then hours in the afternoon if we let him. I’m sure it won’t be long until we shed the training wheels!

Oh, and some more big news- we will be welcoming a new baby this Summer. I found out I was pregnant at the very end of September and it’s been by far my hardest pregnancy but I’m so glad we get to start all over again and this time we have two other people along for the ride who are very cognizant of what is going on. Graves is convinced that this is “his baby” and that it was “his idea”. He’s very protective of him or her and is always making sure that “his baby” doesn’t get too much Coca Cola or candy (usually by finishing off my glass or piece for me!). Annie is less overwhelmed with emotion (which is the case in almost every situation with them) but is also excitedly anticipating who she hopes will be a sister.

I love being at home with these guys but another great perk of Peyton’s schedule is that it’s allowed me some time to sub and it’s been a delight to be back in the classroom several times a month while still being confident of where I want to spend most of my time.

As we wrap up the year, I truly am grateful for it all. Brennan Manning, another favorite, challenges us to “Each day, take a little time to pause and pray ‘Jesus, I thank you for everything’ (emphasis mine). He goes on to say “in this simpler prayer, there is humility, a deep trust in his love, surrender, and thanksgiving. It glorifies Jesus and pleases the Father. It is a cry of abandonment”. I am slowly learning to lean into this way of thinking and feeling and praying and truly be thankful for everything, trusting in His perfect plan and knowing that He loves and cares for my best people more than I ever could.

With Love,
SD, Peyton, Annie, and Graves

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