Well Friends, I've got about four unfinished blogs in my draft file, but unless I get a week's vacation in some quiet mountain retreat by myself I don't think I'll have the time or space to work on them for some time. Letting God create margin in my days is on the top of my list for contemplation when Ken and I take a day off to plan out 2011. In the meantime I thought I'd share this year's Christmas letter (just in case I don't actually get it mailed! I kid - I'll mail it. Really.)
I want to be a “returner” - one who practices going back to the one who enabled them to go forward. That’s really what Jesus was talking about when he asked the one leper who returned, “Where are the other nine?” (Luke 17:17). I recently heard Andy Stanley say that gratitude unexpressed is received as rejection. Gratitude closes the loop. Gratitude nurtures humility and protects against arrogance. This year I’m writing a Gratitude Return instead of a Yearly Reflection. These are my words, but I speak from the heart of the Benton home. I’m grateful for people to share it with.
Ken ~ completed his internship year in DC this May and assumed command of the 86 MUNS Squadron at Ramstein, Germany in June. I’m grateful for the years of mentorship he’s had from family, friends, bosses, and so many who invested in the leadership gifts he is blessed with. I’m grateful for his example to me, his children, his friends, and those he works with, for the man knows the meaning of integrity, excellence, and service before self. I’m grateful he belongs to God and knows it.
Emily ~ is enjoying her Sophmore year at UW and works as an RA in her hall. She’s now majoring in Psychology, minoring in Music and is interested in pursuing Music Therapy in graduate school, with a desire to work with children. She’s an amazing woman whose gentleness and ever-present smile spoiled us while she lived at home and whose presence is sorely missed now. I’m grateful for a daughter-becoming-friend who shares the shape of my heart, a sister who helped mold the hearts of three young men, a daughter in whose smile her father delights. I’m grateful she belongs to God and knows it.
Thomas ~ is a senior this year in his fourth high school and plans to enlist in the Air Force upon graduation. He shares many of his father’s gifts, those of service, loyalty, and compassion. He wants a job with the fire department or security forces and plans to work towards special forces in rescue operations. I’m grateful for a son who never gives up even when life is hard, who looks for a way to explode pain into joy and focuses on what there is in life to laugh about. He thinks like me when no one else does and makes me laugh with his father’s humor. He’s patient with our impatience as we navigate teen years. He spends amazing amounts of time with little tag-along brothers and will leave a gaping hole in our home next year when he goes “off into the wild, blue yonder.” I’m grateful he belongs to God and knows it.
Benjamin ~ is in 6th grade, enjoys school, piano, swimming, legos, drawing and making comic books. He is part of the junior high youth group, in a boys Bible study and really loves hanging out with friends. I’m grateful for a son who always gets my door, isn’t afraid to hold my hand or hug me, is gentle, kind, and is a peacemaker. He delights in young children and displays great tenderness and patience towards them. He is tenacious, has an amazing memory, and loves fervently. He forgives easily and is patient with parents who sometimes still want to call the man-child a “little.” I’m grateful that he belongs to God and knows it.
Samuel ~ is in 4th grade, loves school, reading, geography, history, piano, swimming, stuffed animals and sledding. He’s so happy we’re getting snow already! He strives for his best in all things, is strong and determined and values honesty in himself and everyone else-yeah, he’ll call you out on dishonesty. He loves his family, honors his parents, and misses his family and friends. He keeps everyone’s presence very alive in our home, like a lit candle he makes sure TX, IL, WY, NC, UT, and DC flames burn continuously. I’m grateful for the love this boy-baby of the family has for us all. I’m grateful he belongs to God and knows it.
Me ~ I’m grateful to be alive. For parents who loved through frailty and success and gave me what they had to offer, culminating in great love and friendship; for siblings who gave me an instinctive desire to love greatly; for a husband who shares my life, my dreams, my past, present and future and does it sacrificially; for children who will carry my heart forward in the greatest legacy I will leave; for friends who are my brothers and sisters and love deeply enough to share life and death with me; for community in times of feast or famine; for my immense wealth-clean water, warm clothes, heat, food, books; for suffering, pain, mistakes; for forgiveness, people who have granted it and people who have closed the door on it; for breath and heart beats and health. I’m grateful for my story, an awareness that you have one too, and an embarrassing, compulsive, over-the-boundary-lines freedom to be “real” no matter where I am or who I’m with. I’m grateful I belong to God and know it. I’m grateful you belong to Him. Knowing that or not doesn’t change the fact that He loves you unconditionally, just because you belong to Him. I’ve tried in this writing to return to the ones who have enabled me to go forward. I didn’t mention you by name, but you are known. But in all things I return to the One who enables me to go forward. And with that, I close the loop on 2010. Thank you.
We love you and are grateful that you are part of our story. Merry Christmas and Happy 2011