First, some pictures from today.
Christmas cookies were decorated for Santa.
I can't claim to be a perfectionist (a frustrated perfectionist, maybe), but I would definitely say that I live my life beholden to the schedules and timetables that I set for myself. I don't know when I became that way, but my poor wife can tell you that it's definitely been for as long as we've been together. The easiest way to see me at my worst is to knock me off schedule.
As your Jewish grandmother always says, though, "Man plans, God laughs." It doesn't matter if I wake my family 3 hours before church or 30 minutes: we'll be walking in to service about 10 minutes late. Life with a family has made me learn the value of flexibility.
I had hoped to have today's service completed by today, and have it ready to announce, but it was just too involved a task for me to complete in an hour, or even in the week or so that I've been working on it. Let me tell you why I'm OK with it being in progress. What is Advent? As I mentioned at the beginning of the project, it's a time of preparation. Advent is the journey to Christmas Day. I've only begun today's project, but it's the first part of a journey.
My children have made me an entirely different person than I was eight years ago. I think I've always been a pretty emotionally open person, but having children took things that were always there and brought them right up to the surface all the time. I'm watching It's a Wonderful Life right now as I type this, and when it showed the scene where George Bailey runs back into his home and embraces his children after his vision of the world without him, I got choked up.
If you ask me what my proudest accomplishment is, I will tell you that it is fatherhood. That's why I haven't been able to stop thinking about the parents of Newtown, CT for the last week and a half. I think about the sounds that will fill my home tomorrow morning, sounds which will be absent from so many homes in that town, and it just shatters my heart.
The Wednesday after the shootings, I saw an interview with Frank Keating on CNN. He was governor of Oklahoma in 1995, when the Oklahoma City bombing occurred, and they were asking him about his perspective on what lies ahead for Newtown. He noted that 17 years after the OKC incident, funds are still being used to put victims’ children through college, provide counseling to first responders and cover medical care for the severely injured. That made me start thinking about long term goals.
So many people have reached out to Newtown already. If you go to IndieGogo and search for "Newtown," it returns lots and lots of results. It's encouraging to see people taking action. I considered just contributing to one of the existing fundraisers, but so many of them were so vague about their purpose: "to raise money for the victims..." I wanted to do something with a very specific aim.
Here it is, and here is why it's not entirely ready yet. I've been working with an attorney friend to set up a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization called the Newtown 2025 Fund. My goal is to establish a scholarship fund for the current kindergarten class of Sandy Hook Elementary School. For the next 12 years, it will be able to take in contributions and let them grow before being disbursed. The only two criteria it will have are that the recipients must be a member of the kindergarten class that is enrolled at Sandy Hook right now, and they must graduate (from any high school) in the spring of 2025.
I've never done anything like this before, so I'm figuring it out as I go, but my friend has been really helpful. I hope to be able to announce the successful formation of The Newtown 2025 Fund in early January, and to give you the chance to help me establish it, and to help spread the word about it. If you're reading this right now, I won't ask you to promise a contribution, but will you commit to help me tell others, and to pray for this project?
Affirmation Project: This may sound like a cop-out, but today I just want to send an affirmation to all of you. This month has been so full of friends who have contacted me to encourage me or to say that they have enjoyed following Project Advent. Christmas can bring with it such a tide of emotions - it's a joyous time of year, but so many of us also contend with more difficult feelings, too. If you see this, just know that I am thankful for you. God made you wonderfully and fearfully. Thanks for being a friend.