A little life update from the Tietjen's

So... I never send Christmas cards. Even though I love getting them, but we haven't ever actually sent one out. And now that its WAY past time, and I couldn't even write a Christmas blog, I just decided to give a little family update here. And NOT call it a Christmas card. or an epiphany card, or whatever else. Just a simple, "Hey, here's what the Tietjen's are up to!" kind of card. I mean post. 

I am also including the photos we had taken of our children FOUR months ago and only now just got around to getting together. I mean, these beautiful faces have been locked in the computer for months. They aren't online, or printed or nothing. Nope, this girl right here actually convinces her housemate to take his nice camera, do a quick photo opp with the kids and then sits on it for months. Because yeah, I am apparently that lazy? busy? unmotivated? tired? feel like the pictures are for me so who really cares anyway? Who knows, it's probably a combo of all the above. But here they are, and who knows, now that I gotten this far, I MAY just be motivated enough to get them printed. 

Did you know we don't have any pictures printed and framed in our house of our family? Seriously, I am the worst. 

And these kids should live in a frame. They are the pieces of my heart that live out loud in the best way. They are uncontainable in their passion, fierceness, ideas, creativity, demands, energy, and kindness and frustrations (mostly at each other). You never have to ask them what they are thinking or feeling, they share it all with essays of words. (You can't have two parents who communicate as much as Paul and I and not grow three kids who are just as passionate at communicating.)

Paul and I continue to grow as parents (and spouses) in our knowledge, understanding, learning from mistakes, insight and time with these kiddos. They keep us challenged and humbled. Noah is the protector of the bunch, Caleb the inventor, and Lu our helper. Their hearts are big, their minds are always wondering and their bodies always wanting to explore. For us, we find it critical to learn how to teach them good practices that will help them stay that way. How do you care for yourself and others in a way that respects all life and gives glory to God? This is a guiding theme for us. 

Oh Noah. He is known among his friends as the "Hype Man". His passion serves him in uplifting his teammates, classmate and friends. He is a fierce lover of reading, football, baseball, basketball, legos, spoken word, hip hop, and his family. I can't believe he is 11 and in the 5th grade at Yinghua Academy, which he LOVES. Noah thrives with the Chinese language. Noah's football team also won the championship this year and it was well celebrated. He continues to grow and yet still remains this sweet, innocent young boy who loves to be silly, snuggle and cook with me in the kitchen. 

Aaahhh Caleb. Where I find it easy to describe my other two children, this one just can't be defined in any one word. He has this natural ability for learning, knowledge, reading, math, science, foreign languages, creating and inventing and basic athletic skill. He is wise beyond his years, has a voice that can be heard across town, loves to laugh and play. He makes difficult tasks look easy, he forgives faster than anyone I know, and wants to know everything. Caleb also played football for the first time this year, and also joined the baseball and basketball team. 

Both boys play for our neighborhood leagues and also participate in the local Boys to Men Club which give them a space to hang with their friends, learn life skills, earn some money and volunteer in the neighborhood. 

And then there was her. Eleanor. She is so goofy, and incredibly kind. I have never met anyone who is so concerned for the well being of others quite like this little one. She loves her stuffed animals, her brothers, reading, puzzles and all things artistic. She hasn't started any extra after school activities, but her time will come. She is thriving at Yinghua and loves speaking Chinese. This spunky brave little girl is growing at a rate I am not completely happy about. While I can't wait to see what an incredible woman she will be, I am taking every opportunity to sew, color, do puzzles and snuggle with this little bean. 

Paul and I continue to do what we do. We still live in our little bungalow on the bluffs of the Mississippi with our community garden project right next store. Paul is in his sixth year at Ameriprise which affords him the ability to travel with his band 100 White Flags. This past year Paul also started his three piece blues trio, GOBO which has played a few local fairs around town. He also took the time to help coach Caleb's football team, and assist with Basketball. And for Paul it was a year unmatched as both his Bronco's and his Cubs won their championships in 2016. Needless to say, sports took over a bit over here. Whoa.

I continue to travel and speak. This summer was full of great gigs including the National Youth Gathering, Luther Hour Ministries, and the adult gathering on Mackinaw Island. I love writing for Gatherhaus, an online community that promotes intentional living through simplicity and purpose, and our local paper. I am also working on two new book projects which will hopefully final first drafts this year which I will pitch to publishers. I started working at the kids school two hours a day to bring in a steady income. It's not much but I can't believe how much it eases the pressure of my works of passion. Writing is not a lucrative career, and the anxiety of turning it into one was too much for me last year. Now, I am able to approach my work with the question, "What do I need to say?" NOT "How can this make money?". This distinction is critical to my creative process and the integrity of my work. I have already discovered profound peace in my work with this shift. 

And though the Garden may appear to by my project, it really is a family/community investment. I am honored to be apart of it, proud of what it is becoming, and love my time in that space. We strive every year to grow and improve our outreach and effort. We hosted multiple events last year, grew a TON of food and experienced high community engagement. We are confident this year will be no different.

Thank you all for doing life with us. For following us on this journey. For your interest, your kind words, your time in the garden, showing up for the kids games, donations to our ministry, and booking either Paul's band, or me to speak at your event.  No man is an island, and what good is our heart and soul if we can not share it with each other. 

May we all continue to grow in knowledge, wisdom, understanding, love and compassion. And hopefully in that, be challenged to participate in the restorative and justice work of humanity showed to us by Christ Jesus. 

Happy New Year!