Jesus must be really excited.

Caleb has known, since he was little, that Santa does not exist.  We still joke about Santa, and pretend he’s real, and it has become a fun joke/game between him and I over the years.  That is, until last night.  Caleb, for the first time, sat on Santa’s lap.  There was a special Christmas party at JS and this church brought in a Santa.  Caleb was devastated that we had to leave for church before Santa made his appearance.  I don’t know what it was…I mean, he’s never sat on Santa’s lap before.  He’s seen it in the movies and the kids we live with have been talking up Santa’s lap big time.  So he’s had more exposure, for sure, to the idea of Santa this year (than in years past.)  It seems, though, that Santa means something different to him this year.  It’s as if he needs something magical to be true, and for him to see that with his own eyes, for him to have hope and be happy.  You all know that he’s been going through an extremely sad, depressed and difficult time these past months.  As his Mama, my heart breaks for him and for the sadness that is so deep inside him…that I can’t fix.  Most days I don’t recognize who my son has become, since the move, and I’m not sure he’ll ever know just how much I hurt for him.  In light of this, back to Santa.  When I told him we had to leave, as I said before, he was devastated.  I have never more in my life wanted to change a decision I’ve made.  Some friends of mine were there as we were walking away, and they saw it too.  I told them what happened and how I’ve never wanted more to skip church…for some reason Caleb just needed this.  It was so cool, one of them went and spoke with the people in charge and hatched a plan.  They took Santa into a separate room and Caleb was invited in for time with just him and Santa.  I know it must sound dumb but Caleb was speechless.  I even teared up because I saw peace and joy in my son, something so rare for him these days.  He sat there just staring into this man’s eyes and whispering to him what he wanted for Christmas.  Everyone standing around was tearing up as well.  I’m not sure exactly what happened but I think the Lord impressed on their hearts, in those minutes, how much Caleb needed to feel hope and how sitting on this Santa’s lap did that for him.

“How did he know my name, Mama?  I should never have told you, Mama, what I wanted for Christmas.  I should have only told Santa and then I would have known on Christmas morning if he is really real or not.”

We rushed off to church, cleaned out the car and then headed to bed.

Tucking him in, just before he fell asleep, he turned to me and said “Mama, Jesus must be really excited.  His birthday is only 9 days away.”

That wasn’t prompted by me, in any way, and I was overcome with such thankfulness, peace and hope for what God is going to continue doing in our lives.

Jobs, relationships, finances and piles of dirty laundry and dishes can create such chaos.  When I get the glimpse that God has not cast Caleb and I to the side it’s…well, so hopeful.

There’s such shit all around…ex husbands at JS have been showing up trashed and drugged, threatening all sorts of garbage.  The kids are out of control doing all sorts of crap imaginable.  Not to mention the horrors that have been going on in our country – and everywhere.  Syrians are standing at the Turkish border, not being allowed in, dying every night because they’re sleeping out in freezing temperatures with no tents.  Kids in Romania in an attempted suicide cycle these past couple of months.  Just so much.

In light of it all I’m just thankful for our family.  Thankful that we will almost all be together very soon.  Thankful for something so simple as Grandpa’s boat, for Caleb being able to sit on Santa’s lap last night and that Jesus’ birthday is just 9 days away.IMG_0630



Christmas memories (and 3 Cadillacs)

Christmas memories (and 3 Cadillacs)

Christmas time growing up was a pretty low key affair. I can’t even remember if we had a Christmas tree each year, although I suspect the answer was yes. I always knew Christmas was on the way, though, when my dad would pull out the step ladder and screw in about 20 full sized color light bulbs in permanent light bulb sockets he had wired in along the front of our house on Fairway Dr. In this, as was so often, dad was typical and predictable: rarely going for the flashy production, always looking for the best value (in this case, value = lower electric costs). That’s why, for example, he started driving Cadillacs. He believed a 2 year old Cadillac was a better value than a new Ford. 1963 was a special year for a kid enthralled with cars of any sort. A beautiful white 1961 Caddy sat in our driveway and I’d go out just to run my fingers over the chrome edged fins. Quite a step up from the ‘59 Ford. From there he went to a 1963 (baby blue) and a gorgeous light yellow 1965 which spoiled us with our first factory air conditioning.


Christmas always delivered a great treat right after our kids’ Christmas program at church. Every kid who braved the rehearsals and Sunday evening play/songs/scratchy costumes walked away with a large red mesh Christmas stocking stuffed with all sorts of delightfully cheap candy-the kinds that look great and deliver far more sugar than flavor. It was more candy at one time than I ever had, including Halloween (your mom had far better Halloween hauls in Temperance). Usually, I rode home with the beginnings of a noteworthy stomach ache, I’d jammed so much candy down before mom or dad could intervene.


2 childhood gifts really stand out and both had to do with trains:


1st grade, I received a wind up train that travelled around a flexible wire track. It was the most amazing toy. I took it to school for show and tell, I was so excited about it. I wonder if mom knew I was taking it because it was a lot to juggle.


4th grade I spotted a box on the mantle (not under a tree, which is one of the reasons I think we didn’t have a tree every year) with my name on it. The size was a bit suspicious…just about the right size, I thought, for an HO engine and a couple of cars. My cousin, a quarter mile away had received one for his birthday for I had plenty of up close time with his set. Never mind that I had an American Flyer train set (still have it too). Everyone was getting HO train sets. Christmas day, practical and value won out again at my house, as I opened up a new music stand.




That is the one word that gets me through most days.  Why do I drive to Detroit every Monday before the sun rises, and wake up at 4:30am every Tuesday?  Freedom.  Freedom from my past, freedom in the present, and freedom for the future.  I stumbled on this verse while doing my homework today

For freedom in Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery – Galatians 5:1

I have fought God every step of the way on this new beginning but He has been holding my hand every step.  I have seen God come through in unbelievable ways, doors opened without questions, finances provided, work productivity and awards appear out of nowhere when it should be dropping, and 2 great female friends that are both strong believers.  I have received much more than I had hoped for back in September.  I’ll admit I am exhausted, it takes me 2 days to recover from living waters, I’m sick of driving to Detroit every week and spending 2 nights in beds that aren’t mine, sick of working out of a different office, and sick of losing a full day and night with my son.  But I keep going and won’t stop because what I’m getting is FREEDOM in Christ.

I read this verse and I was so overwhelmed by it, For our sake, he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God – 2 Corinthians 5:21.  JESUS BECAME SIN for US, why did I never read that before and get that Jesus actually became sin?  I was so angry when I read that and felt as if I had been robbed of such a fundamental piece of information.  What matters now is not that I felt robbed of that information but that it happened, that Jesus became sin for us.  It amazes me and renders me speechless (that’s a first ha!)

In October I found this quote:

To want God means above all to know with one’s whole being that HE IS, that outside of Him there is only darkness, emptiness, and meaninglessness, for in Him and only in Him is the cause, the goal, and the joy of all existence

-Alexander Schmemann

I love that – it speaks perfectly to my life, what it’s been and how dark and devoid it was.  So where am I going with all of this?  I don’t have a great answer, I was really missing every one – yes every single person in the family, today and I know that I haven’t had the opportunity to really share what I am going through and where God is leading me.  I am pushing through and I have seen God come through in ways I could have never imagined, and I don’t take that lightly.  I’ll leave you with these few things:

This song really spoke my heart for a long time and the lyric “hold on to what you believe in the light when the darkness has robbed you of all your sight” still resonates deep within

This book is what I’m working through outside of Monday nights


We have a Charlie Brown tree this year and Dax loved every minute of decorating it


And, I’m so close to winning a trip to Atlantis, who wants to be my +1?


Circa 1991

One of the depressing joys of opening up a Thrift Store is going through the emotional trauma of your younger brother donating all of his childhood items to said Thrift Store.  These being the same ones that Mom and Dad so generously drove out to Kyle via their basement via Michigan; just a 19 hour drive.  I’m thinking the 25 cents we’re charging for this squirt gun needs to be higher considering the transportation effort.

If any Winters fam is thinking they’d like to make “Kelsey’s Learn about the Winters Family White Elephant Extravaganza” a repeat for this Christmas as well, just give me the heads up.  (Since it had such rave reviews last year.)  We can start with this squirt gun.  I’m sorry I’ve run out of DC Talk and Audio Adrenaline posters to wrap up.  No more pins for Hershey Park or Owen J Roberts MS and HS paraphernalia either.  Such a bummer, I know.



Why is the Winters family Christmas worthy of a blog?  We aren’t sure that it is.  Maybe you can be the judge.  But Mom wanted it.  That’s for starters.

I would love for us to have a family Christmas blog or something like that where we can post a little something each day during advent..but I have no clue about setting up something like that..but it just seems like it would be a meaningful way to connect with each other as we approach Christmas…any takers???

That comes from Mom.  Here is a picture of Mom. 

Mom is the one on the right.

Mom gets the first response from Arwen:

FYI I’m in the process of changing my flight home so that I will get back to Kalamazoo before 5pm so I don’t have to give up a night with Dax. Ill keep you guys posted, I am going to rent a car in Denver provided that I can use my liberty mutual discount I should be able to get one for about $350 for the week and that’s an SUV so should help out. I can just stay at a cheapie hotel at the airport Saturday night take a shuttle in the morning.

Food cheap and easy is fun, presents hopefully nothing big I’d rather not have to pay for 2 bags  

Sent from my iPhone

Here is a picture of Arwen.

Arwen is the one on the right.

The more astute among you, dear readers, will note that Arwen completely ignored Mom’s request for blog-setup assistance.

The next response to Mom comes from Benj.

Anna and I are checking to see if we can use a friend’s car in FC for the week.  If that works out, you should only need to rent one SUV.  Between the Denver Winters contingent there are two cars only half full.  One SUV and two half-full cars would be enough to fit you guys, Arwen and the LaFountains.  If our plan works out, we will take the shuttle from DIA to FC and pick up the car, then drive to Estes from there.  So you don’t need to factor us into your DIA-Estes vehicle planning.

Unless I am remembering wrong, there are not too many reasonably priced restaurants in Estes so we will probably want to stock the kitchen.  I am sure Joshua Station would be grateful for any leftovers. 

I am completely blog-illiterate.  Someone else will have to speak up for this….

Here is a picture of Benj.

Benj is on the right, on location in an Israeli police station.

Note that Benj hands blog responsibility to someone else, citing incompetence.

The next communication comes from Kelsey.  Kelsey actually goes through the trouble of starting a new email chain, subject line “Winters Take on Navidad”, and includes general instructions for setup and a proposed schedule for family participation.

Here is a picture of Kelsey.


Kelsey is on the right, of course.

Arwen promptly informs the family:

“I don’t have time to do this, sorry!

Sent from my iPhone”

And if we were all being honest, we would probably respond similarly.

So why am I posting right now?  Because I am tired of dealing with USAID implementing partner politics in Rwanda, and the Ministry of Health in Zambia is wearing me out.  I want to be with my family.  My family, of course, wears me out as well.  Sometimes more quickly than sub-Saharan African governments.  But it is a family type of worn-outness.  And I miss that.  I miss the simultaneous feelings of love and frustration I get when hanging out with the Winters clan.  The back-and-forth swings between the hopefulness of talent and self-induced failures; exhortation and destruction; love and jealously; what could be and what doesn’t happen….

It is chaotic and unnerving, but it is family.  And paradoxes be damned, my heart longs for it.  So we’ll be putting up our posts over these next few weeks.  Probably no one will read it outside of our little cohort – if you are outside the cohort and do find yourself reading this, have a little grace for our dysfunction and clunkiness, and be mindful that you are peeking into our own little private narrative for the season – but that isn’t the point to begin with.  The hope is that we can build a little monument on this blog, as raw, unpalatable and dislocated as it may seem to the outside world; a monument that can store some of these homespun paradoxes well past the Christmas season.

Here’s to it, Winters fam.  Throw yourself out there and let’s see what comes of it!

(Arwen, it takes less time to post here than it would to type an iPhone refusal email.)