Christmas, Five years, and so much more.

It's strange that Christmas was a few days ago. You wouldn't know it to look at our house but for the dramatic increase in toys and a bowl of candy canes and Christmas cards taped up. Usually I leave everything up for DAYS because I just can't let go of Christmas. This year everything came down on the 27th. I feel cleansed and purged. I think moving into our house in the middle of December, combined with a baby coming very soon really got me motivated to get things going.

We are thirty six weeks and one day along. My OB said she may induce early since Johnny was such a large baby and your 2nd is larger. Hmm, not sure how I feel about that. I like large babies (8#, 11 oz is not THAT big) , would love to actually go into labor and things arent' ready yet! We haven't even got the crib and there is so much to do with the house. On the other hand, my body is tired of pregnancy and I am surely looking forward to crunchy shrimp rolls and a mint mojito (if anyone wants to bring these items to the hospital after delivery, feel free!). Of course, we can't wait to meet Aubrey!

We did have a marvelous Christmas, though. Saturday was spent in Soso, MS with my Dad's family--lot's of cousins, heaps of food and good times. Sunday was church and my folks came out for lunch. Christmas Eve, we lounged, wrapped last-minute gifts and went to "Christmas Eve in the Country" at Hopewell Pres. Johnny sat though the whole service and did very well. He did say baby out loud a few times (appropriate for Christmas), and belched. He also sang, which is his new thing. I figured the folks from Mt. Olive and Hopewell could handle a bit of noise in exchange for us handling the noise and excitement of their kids every Sunday night! It was a communion service which was wonderful, because for some reason or another, we haven't been at church when communion was served since Easter. It was very, very good.

We trekked to Mrs. Dorothy's house after church and spent the night with her, Daddy Morris and Sonny--so fun! Tuan and Sonny played Lord of the Rings Risk until 4 am. We got up early and had Christmas with them, ate breakfast and headed to Mt. Olive for Christmas with my family at my sister's. We've had a baby boom in my family and it was fun with four grandkids, my brother, Uncle, Granny, and parents. We ate a lot and opened gifts. Johnny gradually got into the whole gift opening thing and by the next morning (our family Christmas) he was a pro.

Tuan and I decided to establish our family tradition of celebrating Christmas morning the 26th. It spreads things out a bit and means we don't have to rush around or miss out on time with extended family. We cook a cholesterol laden, sugar topped breakfast and open our stockings and gifts. It was really fun. Having a child just changes your life and while it's not always easy, it just adds so much more fun and joy to life! I am thankful for Johnny, for Tuan and for this forthcoming little one (finally, dolls in the house!)

So, here we are. I'm trying to get things done so our house is somewhat finished, while also struggling with what things are necessities and are not. Is it wrong for me to want curtains when we have blinds? How can I justify buying fabric to make curtains when some people can barely feed their children? I confess, I feel guiltily blessed when I see my sweet Johnny in his clean, new pajamas, going to sleep in a safe, warm bed, knowing that not every mother has that luxury. Oh, I am so grateful for God's blessings--I only wish everyone had them. With this Christmas season, the longing for Jesus to come back grows. Wrong will be made right when Aslan comes in sight . . . Come, Lord Jesus!


christmas letter

“Oh, Mr. Bennett, God has been very good to us.”
“Yes, so it would seem.”
Pride and Prejudice

Dear Family and Friends,

It has been a blur of a year! I feel as though I just wrote last year’s letter and now we are at Christmas time again. A decided advantage to aging is that due to time’s flying faster, so Christmas comes sooner!

We have had a good, uneventful year; despite that, this is going to be a long letter, so prepare to dig in and read or feel free to skim!

Winter and spring consisted of slow daily living with an Easter trip to visit my parents, who live outside of Destin, Florida. Tuan finished his second year at Twin Lakes and continues to love his job as Hosting Director. It has been neat to see how God has grown him through his daily work. Tuan has felt especially blessed this year by the quality of his staff and their service--many thanks to the fabulous Twin Lakes hosting staff!

Johnny turned one in May and we had a fun “sock-monkey” theme party with lots of family, friends and honorary family in attendance. He started walking right around that time and hasn’t stopped since!

Although, I am mostly a housewife and mommy, I still love summer camp, and after last Christmas, I signed on for another summer as the program director for Twin Lakes. I spent a good bit of the spring preparing for this summer’s theme: Noah. It was quite a challenge to figure out how to present Noah’s story over five days and how to build an ark at Twin Lakes. Noah had 120 years and lots of resources. We had a week and a tight budget, but God truly blessed the program this summer and children came to Christ through it. This was my third summer in this capacity and my seventeenth in camping. What a joy it is to get to work at a job I love so much and have Tuan and Johnny so close by! Johnny especially enjoyed camp this summer: he liked to watch the campers sing and would clap along with them. He also thought the lake was fun. Sitting in his float, he’d laugh at the campers and staff playing on the water trampoline.

The second week of camp, I felt sick and exhausted--lo and behold, we found out that I didn’t have a strange tropical disease but instead, we were expecting number two! Suffice it to say, we were pleased and excited.

Tuan and two close friends spent a week during camp backpacking in North Carolina. He slept on top of a waterfall and enjoyed 40 degree temperatures in the middle of summer; to quote Tuan: “can it get any better than that?” At the end of his trip, I was given several unexpected days off and Johnny and I met Tuan on his way back and enjoyed some time with friends in North Carolina and on our own in Atlanta. We were truly innocents abroad--particularly when it came to navigating the MARTA, but once we figured out how to purchase tickets, we navigated the downtown area like natives and had lots of fun at museums and the famed Varsity drive-in. Johnny had a lot of fun at the Georgia Aquarium--he loves fish! It was a blessed break from camp and we returned truly refreshed.

Once camp ended for me, Tuan’s busy season kicked in. Twin Lakes hosts many, many groups between the time our camps end and Labor Day. This summer’s busyness was compounded with readying our house for renovation. We live in the original caretaker’s cottage at Twin Lakes which dates back to before, well, Twin Lakes! It has a lot of character, but character can only go so far with no laundry, one bedroom, one baby and another on the way! After much prayer, God provided the means for our house to be renovated and enlarged. In August we moved into one of the guest lodges since our house would be uninhabitable during renovation It’s been exciting to see the house progress and we are so very excited about moving back into our home and getting settled before the baby comes.

By the way, the “baby” is a girl. Aubrey Sue La is due on February 1st, 2008. Judging by the ferocity of her kicks, I think she may not be as much like Tuan as Johnny is. In fact, I fear another strong-willed little version of me is on the way! Johnny has learned to say “baby” and says it all the time. Sometimes he points to my belly and other times to his. His pronunciation is more like “be-be” which I love to hear. He’s developed quite a vocabulary and it is so fun to hear him talk. In a few days he will turn nineteen months and every day with him is a blessing. Some of his favorite things include talking on the telephone with his “Nana,” playing with his animals and going on golf cart rides. He is excited about the trappings of Christmas this year--the Christmas lights and giant inflatables at Wal-mart are a very big deal to him, which makes the season even more fun for us!

As I reflect on this year, I am grateful for the uneventful, common life we’ve enjoyed. We are deeply satisfied in marriage and family and vocation and could ask for little more. Tuan and I are especially grateful for the grace that God has given us as individuals and in our marriage---grace so underserved and yet so plenty! I think of the proclamation of the Angels to the shepherds in Luke 2:

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men, on whom his favor rests.”

By Jesus’ coming so long ago, by his death and resurrection, true peace--peace between God and us!--is possible. I wish for you, friends and family to know that peace and joy that comes through trusting in Jesus. I am reminded of verses from two of our favorite hymns:

Let us wonder; grace and justice join and point to mercy’s store;
when through grace in Christ our trust is, justice smiles and asks no more:
He who washed us with his blood has secured our way to God!

Comfort, comfort ye my people, speak ye peace, thus saith our God:
Comfort those who sit in darkness, mourning ‘neath their sorrow’s load.
Speak ye to Jerusalem of the peace that waits for them;
tell her that her sins I cover and her warfare now is over. .

Grace and peace to you all this Christmas!

Tuan, Paula and Johnny


tyranny and mortal stars

Tuan and I try to have family worship together. The key word is "try" because we're not terribly consistent. We love to sing, so we'll often sit with the beloved red Trinity Hymnal and go to it. I grew up in a church that sang LOTS of great old hymns and Tuan is always willing to try. It can be funny at times because I'll randomly begin singing how I think it should be sung, or the "old words" (like thees, thous, etc) or we both end up off-key, or sometimes Tuan will just sing the wrong words. Tonight, we were singing "Angels from the Realms of Glory" and instead of the line, "ye beheld his natal star," Tuan inserted the word "mortal." The idea of a mortal star just got me giggling which led my thoughts to another instance of misplaced words. Consequently, I laughed every time we got to that portion of the tune and Tuan had to sing solo while I giggled.

The "mortal star" mistake took me back to an RUF Christmas party some years ago. I volunteered to type up a song sheet so we could all sing Christmas carols together. "O come, O come, Emmanuel" is laborious to sing a capella, but we were all gamely trying to keep the tempo, when a terrible mistake was realized.

Instead of:

O come thou Rod of Jesse, free thine own from Satan's tyranny

I had typed:

O come thou Rod of Jesse, free thine own from Stan's tyranny

I think the song went to pot at that point. A tyrannical person named Stan just doesn't inspire the same longing for freedom as satan's.



Oh, happy day. We are in our house for the first time tonight! We've been moving since Wednesday and the past two days have been especially long, but we are just so glad to be home. The house is really a joy and blessing. The space is just right and it is incredible to have a room for Johnny and not just a closet! A lot remains to be done, but thank God my mom is here. She is such doer and project person and she's been working non-stop, too, which keeps me motivated. We are currently getting things out of the lodge and cleaning it. Hopefully that will be done tommorrow--good bye old lodge! Then, we just have lots of settling in things to do, and there are a few big items that remain: some lighting,the washer/dryer, closet rods/shelves (shelves? in a closet?) just putting accessories out and finding bookcases.
The Northpark mall commercial keeps coming on reminding me of how few days I have until Christmas! It's scary, because we've been so busy with other things and then delayed with the house that I feel as if Christmas were slipping away so quickly. I will post pictures on, soon of the house and also our Christmas letter for those who aren't getting it snail mail. Thanks for all of your prayers for us. Good night!