The Unabridged FamiLee Holiday Letter

Dear Fam,

We cheaped out on the Christmas holiday letter, reserving only a few lines on the glamour card for an update, so I thought I would harness the economy of this world wide interweb for the purpose of updating you on the FamiLee goings-on here at fiscal year-end. Do you like how I just referred to our family unit like it’s a limited liability corporation? Do you think we should probably get a tax cut? Do you think I can write off my blog for these purposes? I have questions.

But before Kanye grabs the mic from me, I want to first say very emphatically that the best album of the year was Lady Gaga’s Joanne (Deluxe)” Buy. Listen. Love. For best books, I’m putting Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body and We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy as my favorites. The latter I have not yet read but I ninja-dropped it into my dad’s basket when he was buying Christmas gifts, so I’m sure I’ll love it. For movies, pssh. I paid to see “The Emoji Movie” so you should for no reason be taking film notes from me.

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Now that we’ve got that out of the way, the news.

In the early part of the summer, we joined John’s family in Vancouver to see his grandma who is 90 years young. If you want the curated version, see my Instagram feed. If you want what really happened, you can consult my Google searches during that time. They include:

“MY+KOREAN+IN-LAWS+ARE+DISAPPOINTED+MY+KID+WON’T+EAT+RICE+AND+WHAT+TO+DO+ABOUT+IT.”

“I+JUST+REALIZED+I’M+A+DIVA+IN+CANADA+I’M+SAD+NEAREST+SUPPORT+GROUP.”

“DIRECT+FLIGHTS+VANCOUVER+TO+CHATTANOOGA+THIS+AFTERNOON.”

After we returned to Tennessee from the trip, the kids spent two weeks at their grandparents’ homes in Ohio. It was epic! We missed them terribly but are so grateful for Grandparents Camp because it allowed John and me to pack up our earthly possessions for the big move.

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That is probably the biggest news bulletin–not in the world obviously because North Korea is up to somethin’ and obviously Chip and Joanna Gaines are in their last season so the world might actually end any second now–but in our world, moving back to Boston has been the biggest news.

Especially since it doesn’t make a whole bunch of sense. Why would we leave Tennessee where we both had great jobs that we loved, where the kids were in a great school, and where we didn’t even need to own a snow shovel? Well, my friends. Like Al Gore gesticulating the ebbing of global climate change, the Lord moves in mysterious ways. We moved back to the same street we used to live on, not far from the house we had to short-sell because we thought we were going to be in Tennessee until the Lord returned or until “Fixer Upper” stopped releasing new episodes. So here we are back in a city that we adore, where we get to show the kids things we’ve already done with them, of which they have no memory of doing the first time. It’s like that part in “National Lampoon’s European Vacation” where they keep circling Big Ben except our kids are legitimately impressed to see Big Ben again. We found an apartment in the Athleisure Capital of the World. Even the yoga pants are fancy here. It is exciting to go from renting in ruralburbia to renting an apartment just steps away from Dunkin’ Donuts. John’s working as a counselor at a boarding academy for which people seem really interested to know the tuition. I guess that is more important than whether or not he’s happy. Ohh! Burrrrn! The answer to tuition and happiness, though, is the same. A Lot. I’m doing the freelance thing. Mostly putting the “free” into freelance but having fun as I write with my calligraphy pens or this here laptop.

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As for the kids, they are mostly amazing and teaching us about resilience through this transition. We lost a hamster just as school started, and the kids showed us that we had not failed entirely as parents, so we were grateful for that outcome even if we the kids miss Doris something fierce. RIP Dodo.

Madigan, 9, is still the delightful optimist you remember, now with tween mood swings! She has not had an easy adjustment to school. Going from a small Christian school where she knew everyone to a much larger public school has been overwhelming at times. We think this to be true, but obviously, she is a tween so she only answers in one-word answers like “cool”and “good” and “maybe.” We are proud of the way she is staying on top of her studies and making kind friends, too. She started guitar lessons this past fall and she has better musical timing than I could hope to have. Again, I paid to see “The Emoji Movie” so my artistic opinion is null and void but really, she is good.

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Tatum, 7, is still the goofball you recall, now with a whole suite of fresh dance moves. He is crushing the first grade and is taking karate. He has a vast knowledge of YouTube Gamers, so if you were ever wondering what kind of hypothetical Minecraft moves you could make over the course of the next seven lifetimes, just give our boy a call.

As we settle in to Boston Life the Remix, we miss our Tennessee church most of all. We are a part of a body here in Boston and we are trying to find on-ramps for involvement, but it is not the same. We are grateful for the experience we had as part of a healthy church family and are using that experience to help us believe better things are to come. I think this is a sound reminder of the way our Savior came to earth: vulnerable and with parents in transition, cloaked in beauty and filling us with hope. We remember Jesus who came and saw and loved and conquered and we are encouraged to do the same.

Wherever this holiday finds you, in a place of landing or a season of transition, we pray that peace will reside within you, and wish an abundance cookies, covfefe and good cheer to you and yours.

Love,
Kendra…and John, Madigan, and Tatum

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Exhaling with a sigh

My old man, who ran for judge as a Republican once in one of the most Democratic counties, kept sighing. He and my stepmom took turns. One would sit down in a reading chair in our rented beach cottage over Thanksgiving and sigh. The other would nod and shrug. Then the other would read something or remember the impending doom and exhale with another sigh.

It was comical but then the shtick became something of a default, a modus operandi.

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We are still exhaling with a sigh in this house as we consider January’s inauguration, and the requisite exit of beloved leadership. It is with a sigh we concede that the electoral process has wrought what it has wrought. We sigh because our resignation feels like all we can offer to the universe, for if we allow the anger and the feelings of betrayal to rise too forcefully to the surface, they may consume us.

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Yet here we are in the season of Advent, lighting the candles of expectation. Here we wait in this lobby, not just paging through a tattered back issue of Good Housekeeping, but sitting reverently as we ponder what it must have been to wait for the Christ child’s arrival. We think about the thousands of years when creation ached for a Savior who would set all things right. “And the government will rest on his shoulders.” All the earth groaned with expectation.

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I consider that sighing is not the motion of the expectant, the hopeful, the conquerors. Sighing is the reflex of the resigned.

Christ offers us so much more than a lobby for the lukewarm to wait out a president. He bids us come and rest awhile, but also to serve, to go into all the world and make his name known.

Am I mixing my politics with my priestly priorities? I hope not. I believe in rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to the Lord what is his in kind. But I also believe that one can apply a particular philosophy to a number of life’s endeavors. So I endeavor for my citizenship to be one that, like love, believes in all things, hopes in all things, and, in the way of love, never fails.

May our resignation turn to resolution as the new year offers so much hope.

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All the pictures we did not take

We rented paddleboards on the Tennessee River this past weekend and there are no pictures to prove it. We took the kids and we met up with dear friends, but you won’t see any selfies of our imperfect formation in the wake of a passing motorboat. We traded kids and played in eddies and explored McClellan Island. We balanced and wobbled, we fell in and then we dove in. But there is no hashtag #riverlife to accompany the nonexistent Instagram post. We didn’t have our cameras. We didn’t bring anything save for our sunglasses and our holiday spirits.

Here in this digital space, The Blog or whatever is most en vogue to call it, I purport to preserve life’s moments and lessons. But this all is a pantomime, a chasing after the wind with a plastic bag from Tarjay. I am merely a scribe pressing key to pad, uploading and downloading, but never truly etching anything of real permanence. Nothing is solidified in amber here. There is no fire to singe or moth to destroy this album. There is also no firewall strong enough nor anti-viral software to guarantee its immortality.

 

This past weekend, we smelled all the seasons of putrid sweat that our life preservers absorbed. And we tried to absorb the life that we could not preserve.

There was no perfect filter to best capture the glistening waves, the silhouette of the Market Street Bridge.

No likes, no faves, no hearts, no mentions; only the feeling of total insignificance against nature’s majesty. And the wonder of having captured nothing but being filled up full of every good thing.

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