Wednesday, December 24, 2008

the christmas letter

Sim"pli*fy\, v. t. to make simple; to make less complex; to make clear by giving the explanation for; to show an easier or shorter process for doing or making.

interestingly enough (considering we added a human being to our family this year), our 2008 can best be summed up by this word: simplify. i have attempted multiple times to type this letter, but every time it has grown into a monster as i’ve tried to explain the simplicity that now governs the milthaler family. so, basically, i will not go into a diatribe on that topic. suffice it to say that, following our first visit to the mcmiller cabin in hocking hills in august ’08, our lives changed forever. i will attempt in one paragraph to put it simply…

silence. i honestly had no clue as to the lack of that thing in our lives until the time we spent there. family. we laughed, lived, loved; we cooked, ate, played, existed quietly together without distraction. nature. we hiked, camped, the boys slept in a tent!, and gazed in awe at God’s wondrous world in a way none of us had (at least for a very long time). the cabin made the world more silent and the living grow louder. we don’t know exactly the when, where, or how, but there is a cabin in our future.

speaking of the how: dave ramsey! I don’t know how many of you have experienced his teaching but we are in it up to our knees (or ankles, not exactly sure yet) and already experiencing the change. it will not be long before we are debt free and on our way to living like no one else! that is a big part of the simplification in our lives: that first, as dave says, we must “live like no one else.” it is exciting to pair up his expertise with God’s desire for us to be financially accountable so that we can live freely and bless others. I can’t wait to see it all come to fruition. (which is partially why i’m saying it out loud… accountability!)

now on to the personal updates. first and of course foremost: introducing harrison wayne milthaler. born june 6, he is our second boy and now I know for sure what it means to love and love and love and not have any idea how there could possibly be that much of an emotion. harrison is a jolly little baby, and very very physically active. he is much the same as his big brother in size and look. although, much to mommy’s dismay, he does not have the striking blonde hair of her firstborn. (not exactly sure where the plan went sour…but then again she was certain her children would all be blonde and blue-eyed…that dream died with the turn to hazel!) harrison loves his brother the most. he lights up when he’s around and laughs most heartily when reagan is laughing or playing with him. he doesn’t have the same issues with reflux that reagan had, making it a little easier this time around. however even in the first few weeks we learned that this would indeed be the most difficult job we had ever taken on (being parents of two!). we have adjusted, and divide and conquer has never meant so much. anyway, about harrison: his most recent feats are eating baby food, rolling all over the floor, slobbering incessantly, and singing, cooing, and giggling until every heart near him breaks. I treasure and cherish every single time I hold him in my arms, because I know (or, at least am pretty sure) that he is the last baby of my own I will ever hold. he is the sunshine of our lives and let me just say that 6 months is the greatest age!

speaking of big brother: reagan (age 3) took every fear I had of bringing a crying, selfish little human being into his life and threw it immediately out the window. from day one he has loved harrison deeply. I honestly would not have believed it had God himself told me, but I do believe that reagan loved harrison with an immediate and fierce love that only a brother must feel that superseded (and continues to) any selfish emotion he could ever have toward his new sibling. I never really had the opportunity to know that emotion, and matthew was 8 years older than his sister, so it’s not exactly the same. but I knew reagan was smitten for sure the day we told him that we’d sent harrison back to the hospital and reagan burst into tears crying, “no! you can’t! he’s our baby!!” anyway he handled the addition of this little screaming thing with grace and a heart bigger than I’ve ever known. (furthermore he immediately corrects anyone who attempts to correct harrison! he is already his staunchest ally and greatest defender) I am so proud of my little man. and I mean it when I say he will always be my first little boy.

reagan self-entertains more these days (some of it necessary, unfortunately) and when doing so he loves playing with his thomas the train set and watching (lately) the wall-e movie (at least 2 times per day). he also goes to sunday school every week (and now loves it) and enjoys being babysat every now and then when mommy and daddy get a night out. he does want to (constantly) PLaY and asks us to do that every waking moment. he has an unstoppable imagination and there is never a dull moment when he is around. he is so incredibly smart. this year he flew for the first time on an airplane (actually 4 by the time it was all over) when we went to florida for cousin suzie’s wedding. daddy bought an ipod touch so that “reagan could watch movies” (haha). well to our amazement that 3-year-old boy has mastered the device and now plays games, watches videos, and can even zoom in and out of pictures without help. we think he’s going to be the brains of the operation: and harrison is just going to hit people.

matthew is in his third year at the vineyard community church in cincinnati. he loves it there. this year they saw the completion of their building project the student union. finally teens who come there have a true place of worship that they can call their own. the coolest thing to happen this year was that matthew and his co-workers got haircuts! if you will recall, my last Christmas letter mentioned the fact that there would be no cutting of hair until the vcc youth program reached 600 students per weekend for two weekends in a row. it took them 14 months of dedicated effort and now, 600 is their average. the growth will only continue. I am so proud of my husband and his undying heart for God’s future generation. he stared in a movie project ( and actually received IMDB credit. he is now four degrees from kevin bacon.

he is talented beyond measure and I am not afraid to tell my students at kings that every single unique (a/k/a good) game, warm-up song, or fundraising idea I have pretty much comes from him. he is also the all-american daddy and, although reagan makes it a nightly joke to leave daddy out of his “thank you God for ____” prayer, the boys behave differently when he is around. they need him on a level that I could never satisfy. from wrestling to tackling to tickling to heart-to-heart manly talks, he is the true leader in our family. I absolutely adore being the female on the sidelines watching it all take place. I thank God constantly for blessing me with the boys I dreamed of (all three of them).

the other really cool thing about matthew is that this year he has rediscovered his manhood. it all started with hurricane ike (yeah people, we had hurricane winds 80mph in ohio. I lost my favorite tree. it was truly phenomenal to hear and watch.). he organized a block party where we all brought our perishables and fired up the grill. he made coffee each morning using our chimenea and took it around to neighbors who had no way to make it. he fed us using camping gear and it was truly delicious. it was also tremendously fun to exist together in a survival situation and find that not only could we do it, but we could actually grow closer together through it. he demonstrated God’s second greatest commandment (love your neighbor as yourself) in a way I’ve never seen before and in a way i’m certain our oldest son observed. our neighborhood became more like a family in those four days without power, and it was greatly because of him. I am a blessed girl to be his wife.

I am in my fifth year at kings high school by kings island as the high school choral director. this year I also lead the seventh grade girls’ choir (something I never thought I’d say I loved…but I do!). I have found a new joy in this life: the joy that comes from knowing your job inside and out and therefore being able to let go of the details (because they come naturally) and just enjoying the people you interact with on a daily basis. I have made it my goal to, although I teach in a public school, show (and even on occasion, tell) the love of Christ to my students. I have seen that it is happening, in that they come to me and enjoy my company. I have fallen in love with them in the last couple of years and know that this job is instead a calling God has on my life. I always thought that it was about me loving music and therefore needing to overcome the burnout and stress in order to use the talents God gave me. now I know that it is much greater than that, and that I was selfish to ever think otherwise. I adore teaching them to be amazing music makers and also to live and love life to the fullest by being more than just typical teenagers. this week I watched them come alive while caroling to neighborhood families, sick people, and old folks’ homes. the students beamed when the old man with the banjo asked “what church are y’all from?” and they got to respond: “we’re from kings high school.” this spring I get to take them to Gatlinburg for their first choir trip ever. funny how I’m certain singing with banjo-picking old men for old ladies who can’t sing “silent night” because of their tears will far outweigh any experience we might have at the smoky mountain music festival. and boy is it fine by me.

mom still comes to our house and babysits the boys every single day that we are both at work. so 4 days a week she gives of her time and energy to give the boys a one-on-one special care they could get no where else. to say that sets a mommy’s mind at ease doesn’t come close to the way I feel leaving my house each morning. it, in a nutshell, means that I can keep working. period. thank you mom. (the kicker is: she thanks US.) dad is still working! and both are blessed with amazing health. they continually put others before themselves and seem to exist for that very purpose. I will always be a better person because of that kind of love for others. we have FOUr little ones in the family this year: reagan and three others! harrison, liz’s new baby Dylan (who was born only 3 weeks before harrison…what a joy it was being pregnant and mommies together!), and miles’ little girl Madison. Christmas is going to be the most fun ever this year!

of course the milthaler family is still mourning the absence of grandma argabrite. grandma monroe is still hanging in there although she is spending her days at an area nursing home. it has been a very hard year for mom & dad m but they are trusting in God’s provision and supervision in every decision and aspect of life. we are thankful for their daily demonstration of faith to us and to our children. karly is 6 now and is turning in to a darling young lady. most importantly: KrIStY IS ENGaGED! phil proposed at a “surprise party” for his birthday. what kris didn’t know was we all knew about it and that the surprise was on her! that was in november and the wedding date is set for august 1, 2009. I was thrilled, surprised, and completely honored to be chosen as maid of honor. I will perform the role to the fullest, it is a promise! we are so happy for kristy and phil and karly and the entire family is overjoyed to watch them all become one in the eyes of God and family. yippee!

i believe we can say that our family is thriving. for some, life is financially difficult in these hard economic times. for some, relatives are failing and growing older. for some, physical pain is present making daily life a trial. but you know we still all have each other. the older I get the more I know that this one thing is the most important thing there is. over money, over success, even over health (although we are incredibly blessed in that category as well). like part of the definition of “simplify”: to make clear by giving the explanation for. the explanation of life is loving each other. as long as we have each other and can hug and kiss good bye or good night, all is well with the world. we all are praying for each of you and your families this christmas. we hope that 2009 brings love and laughter and strength and peace to you. you all know how I love to speak of our friendprints: we got to add texas to our path this year (howdy, steurnagels!). may God’s love and blessings flow forth and embrace you all across the miles. we love you! merry christmas and happy new year!!

love matthew, hope, reagan, and harrison

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i love what you had to say about reagan and his big brother tendencies. i'm one of 5 kids, and so much of my joy has come from seeing my siblings succeed and be such amazing human beings. there is nothing like a strong sibling relationship, and i'm just crazy about mine. you are doing a great job raising such phenomenal kids!!! :)