Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Our Story: Celebrating 15 Years

Wow! I look at that picture to the left and marvel at the story it tells and the story that waits to unfold for those two college seniors. Tim and I started dating prior to our last semester at Carson-Newman, and by the time we graduated, we knew with certainty that this was more than a college romance. Our courtship continued long distance for the next year and a half, as Tim pursued further degrees at Tennessee Tech and I worked for an attorney in LaFollette. Then finally, on a very cold New Year's Eve 1993, we married.

Today Tim and I celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary. We've truly grown up together during these past 15 years as we've walked hand-in-hand through both the joy and sorrow of life. And while I don't have enough words to tell you how fortunate I am to have Tim as my husband, partner, and best friend, I sure want to try. For each year that we've shared:

15. Let me start with this one: Tim is a genuine guy who is modest about his many wonderful qualities. He will find this post terribly embarrassing. (Sorry honey.)

14. When Tim tells me that I am beautiful, I know he means it. He not only esteems my outward charms, whatever they may be, but he sees my heart, and he finds it beautiful.

13. Tim loves our sons, and he seeks to be fully engaged as their father. With every word, every hug, and every moment he answers their question: Yes, they have what it takes.

12. My life has had a constant undercurrent of peace, despite the inevitable busyness and chaos of this age, because of Tim's calm and steadfast nature.

11. When I look at Tim, I see the same man that I see in this photograph: a man of conviction and devotion. He is steadfast in his love of God, his love of others, and his love of his bride.

10. I am blessed with a husband who is curious about this world. Whether we're meandering on a backroad, exploring a city, or dreaming about places we want to go, it's a wonderful journey.

9. Tim is a man of his word. I know when he says something, he means it; and when he makes a promise, he will keep it. There's great peace in living with such a man.

8. I am thankful that I have a husband who loves to read and who appreciates a good book. I'm also blessed by how he encourages me to write (but maybe no more after this post).

7. Tim has been by my side during the greatest joys of my life and during my greatest sorrow. Despite the rushing tide of these moments, his strength and support never waivered.

6. I am certain of Tim's commitment to our marriage, his devotion to me, and his desire to walk through every step of our lives together.

5. How wonderful that Tim gets me: my sense of humor, my wit, my sarcasm, my melancholy, ... even my fascination with slogans on church signs.

4. I love (and laugh at) how Tim engages life as an engineer. If assembly time is three hours, Tim will take six. He's thoughtful, thorough, and exact. Even though it drives me crazy at times, I truly appreciate how he does a job well.

3. Tim desires that his gifts and abilities be used by God, and he has pursued how he can unite his passions for God's glory. It has been a blessing to watch this unfold and is a joy to imagine how it will continue to do so.
2. I love that my husband is living in the Larger Story, that his sights are set on the Kingdom, and that together we walk and live in FREEDOM in Christ. Thank you, Jesus.

1. I am thrilled that this is just the beginning of our story, and I cannot wait to see what the next 15 years hold for our journey. (Now, dear blushing Tim, it's over. You can sigh with relief. Oh yeah, one more thing ... Happy anniversary. I love you.)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Many Homes for the Holiday

Our Christmas was probably a lot like inauguration night will be for President-elect Obama. With 10 balls to attend, he will eventually fall into bed, reflecting, "Boy, that was a lot of fun, but I'm exhausted!" We returned home last night after visiting all of the family for holiday festivities, and it was great but also exhausting.

We started our holiday tour with four days in LaFollette with Mom, Dad, Beth and Barry. This always feels most like Christmas to me, as my parents still live in the home where I celebrated my childhood Christmases. Thanks to MiMi and her delicious cakes (coconut, red velvet, apple stack) and cookies (too many to name), I know what one of our new year's resolutions will be!

Next, we returned to Knoxville to enjoy Christmas eve and Christmas day at home. Christmas eve we were fortunate to have lunch with our dear friends, Joe and Amy Coker, and their sons, Layton and Connor; Doug and Lea Voiles, and their precious baby Rachel; and Tim's college roommate, Steve Garland. Since the Cokers now live in Texas, it was a real treat to enjoy some time with them.

Experiencing the holiday with Seth and Reed is always magical. Seth especially had trouble sleeping this year, and he was in our bed by 1:30 a.m. When I realized he had no intention of falling back to sleep, I sent him to his own bed where he could wait the six remaining hours until morning. (Thankfully his need for sleep finally overcame him.)

The day after Christmas we left for our holiday celebration with the Tuckers and the McCalmons in Chattanooga. And then, we headed to Nashville, where we enjoyed a night with my sister Beth and brother-in-law Barry. A special treat was indoor rock climbing while there.

Despite the hustle and bustle, we enjoyed a wonderful Christmas, and we hope the same is true for all of you. I'd like to end by saying that today we took it easy and rested, but I can't. Tomorrow is another celebration (our anniversary), so there were chores to be done. Oh well, it is at least nice to sleep again in our own beds.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas Greetings

Dear friends,
We've never been a family who includes a Christmas letter with our annual card. I don't really know why, given how much I like to write. So, I thought I'd at least post a holiday greeting on our blog.

We hope that this year has been filled with many blessings, much love, and great joy. Ours certainly has been. As with every year for the past nine, a highlight of our days is watching our boys, Seth and Reed, grow in every way imaginable. They continue to amaze us with their sweet spirits, huge hearts, and unique gifts.

The boys transitioned to a new school this year, and they did it with a great attitude. Thankfully this has been a wonderful move, and they are thriving at CAK. Reed is enjoying first grade, and he is becoming quite a good reader. It is a joy for me to watch a love of reading blossom in him. Seth is in fourth grade, and he does well in every subject. Math and science are his favorites, like his Dad.

Tim continues his work at KUB. He's now been there for eight years! I manage to stay busy while the boys are away each day. This year I began volunteering in the library at CAK, and I am really enjoying it. I'm surrounded by books -- what's not to love?!

Our year has been filled with many memorable moments, but Tim and I have a couple that stand out. A highlight of Tim's year was traveling to the Dominican Republic with One Vision International just last month with several friends from our church. A highlight of mine was traveling to Colorado in March to once again serve on the work crew for the Captivating retreat. A special blessing this time was making the trip with my friend Jenn.

We count these blessings among many, many others. Good health, amazing friends, an incredible family, a wonderful church...our list goes on and on. But, we know that all good things are gifts from God, and we count the blessing of His love and His grace and the gift of His Son as the greatest of all gifts. We pray that this holiday season you experience the goodness of His love and the sweetness of His grace as you celebrate the birth of Christ.

Merry Christmas to all.
The Tuckers

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Holiday Must-Read

On the last day of fall semester finals during my senior year, my creative writing professor read us a short story during our exam time: "A Christmas Memory" by Truman Capote. I will never forget it.

It is a beautiful and beautifully-written story about a little boy and the two older women who are raising him, and it takes place obviously during the Christmas season. I remember listening to Mr. Marion read the story aloud, his soft, gentle voice unfolding the tale.

Perhaps my memory of this reading stays with me because less than an hour after hearing it, I learned that a dear friend of mine had died that morning. The story of love and loss that is "A Christmas Memory" is ever woven with my own experience of love and loss.

A few years after Tim and I married, I found a copy of "A Christmas Memory" and bought it. We began to read it aloud during the holiday season. Each year as the story draws to its close, I still cry. The beauty of this simple tale still moves me.

If you enjoy a good story, then look for a copy of "A Christmas Memory." Read it this holiday season, and as you do, remember those people who have loved you well.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

And the Stockings Were Hung...

As Christmas comes each year, I am reminded of my childhood Christmases and the things that made them special. The nativity set painted by my mother. The late-night Christmas Eve service at my church. Boiled custard and homemade cookies.

I remember waking my sister early on Christmas morning (or her waking me), tiptoeing down the hall to peer into the still-dark den. We could see the outlines of Santa's gifts in the shadows, and our hearts quickened as we flipped on the light to see them clearly.

One Christmas still stands out in my memories. I don't know how old I was, but by my looks in the pictures I must have been nine or ten (pre-braces). On this particular holiday, many of our relatives came to visit, and Mom made a stocking for each and every one of them. I can still see our mantle, hung with a dozen stockings or more -- each with the relative's initials stitched on.

Each year we used these stockings for the relatives who were visiting. Whoever was there had a spot on our mantle and found their stocking stuffed. Yet, as it happens, through the years fewer and fewer of these stockings were hung. I can recall pulling the stockings out as we prepared the house for the holidays and reading the initials of family members we'd lost.

Yet, this tradition also reminds me of how our family has grown. First, Tim got his stocking. Next, my brother-in-law Barry. And then, the biggest stockings (and I mean BIG) of them all: Seth and Reed. Mom made these stockings as well ... knitted them. And while she says she didn't realize they would turn out so large, I'm not buying it. I think MiMi knew exactly what she was doing.

I don't know what traditions stand out to my sons, or what their strongest holiday memories will be. Tim, Seth, Reed, and I are creating many traditions of our own as we celebrate the holidays. Yet, we still return to my childhood home each Christmas, so I know that some of their most cherished memories will be the same as mine.

Seth and Reed have also laid under the tree and rearranged MiMi's hand-painted nativity (now chipped in places); they've tasted oh-so-many of her homemade cookies (but not the boiled custard); and they too have looked to the mantle to see their stockings bulging with surprises. And now, my holiday memories include the sight of their excited faces on Christmas morn.