Saturday, February 6, 2016

A Letter to a 14 Year Old Girl: Julia’s Birthday Letter 2016

Her letter but my post-- I get to choose my favorite picture.
Dearest Julia,

This birthday letter writing thing can be serious business now that you’re a full fledged teenager.  There are blush worthy things that need to be said, but maybe I’ll save that as a post script— just for you.  There are still things you need to be taught but these are the days for you to be practicing much of what we’ve tried to teach you.  It’s all beginning to count, you know?  The stakes are getting higher.  Mistakes can be bigger.  Bad choices could cost you more.

So, now is the time.

It’s time for your faith to really become your own.  You need to ask all the questions that you have.  Even the ones that you are afraid to ask— even to yourself.  Let’s have those conversations— and it would be very considerate if you’d do it when your Daddy is around— and see where they take us. Face any doubts you have now— is all this for real?  Does this faith my family has really matter for me?  Why exactly do we pray?  Will I really view the Bible as the final authority?  Ask before you leave us.  We will welcome it.   Don’t just assume what you hear is truth and Biblical.  Check it out for yourself.  KNOW YOUR BIBLE.  We hope we gave you your Bible-for-life this birthday— one that will hold memories for you as you filter your very life through the pages of Scripture.  The notes you make will remind you of markers, heart aches you’ve experienced, celebrations you’ve enjoyed, prayers that have been answered, times you have waited on Him, comfort you’ve received…..  You have a life to be lived and I pray His Word will inform you and propel you every step of the way.  {And when you are old, like me, you can look back on ALL HIS FAITHFULNESS to you.}

We’ve been snapping pictures on SGI for 12 years now!!  I love them EVERY year.  The candid ones are my favorite.
If you take that foundation seriously, the rest will fall into place— and if it doesn’t, it won’t rock your world.  Part of me wants to turn the above words into a begging or pleading because I feel so strongly about it.  You’ve heard me say these things so many times but He won’t disappoint you.  He may bewilder you, but NEVER will He not come through for you.  You may hurt in the present but I promise you, give it some time and you will see His goodness.  I’ll stop— but make your faith your own— preferably before you leave our home.  ; )

I love your friends, Julia.  You’ve been so blessed to know and get to know some of the sweetest girls in Fort Worth.  I know you don’t always feel you fit tightly into any one group but sweetheart, I know these girls love you and are blessed to get to call you friend.  I am trusting that God has a creative plan for your friend group and that you are going to have a blast all through high school with them.  But as new ones come, pick them wisely.  Hold close the ones who share your values— and the ones who don’t?  Engage them WITH your friends.  Introduce us to them.  Show them what Christ’s love looks like.  Share His love with them.  And then let them choose.  But always, always stay connected to your close friends.  This is a time in your life when friends really, really matter.  Does this quote from D-Town look familiar? “The friends you ride with determine the course of your life.  Make sure you are riding with people who point you to Jesus.” {Harrison Ross}  He’s absolutely right.

There is another type of friend that is on the horizon…..  and that would be a friend that is a boy….. or a special friend….. or a BOY-FRIEND.  There.  I typed it.  And I know there is one you’ve preferred for a little over a year now and I must say, that has been a very sweet experience.  {And a HUGE learning curve for me— AND his mom!!}  We have navigated some BRAND NEW things this year but I think it has been a lot of fun— and did I say sweet?  One day I can write ALL about it.  But more is coming and like I said at the beginning… more is at stake.  As you gain more freedom, you’re going to have more choices to make.  As a mom, it’s my job to prepare you for that— because, really, you have NO IDEA.  I could go off on a momma rant/talk here but I’ll save that for some face to face.  My prayer is that you will choose boys to spend time with just as you have picked the girls you like to hang out with— ones who share your faith in God, ones who respect you, ones who value who God has created you to be, ones who truly enjoy your personality…..I could go on and on but I just want you to just enjoy these special friendships.  Learn from these young men.  Admire their qualities that are so different from your own.  Pray for them.  {Being a young man is really hard.}  Be an encouraging and honest friend to them.  Inspire them to be better young men.  And make their lives a little easier by continuing to be modest in your dress and your actions.  Again… you have NO IDEA.  {Face time, girl. Later.}

But now is the time.  Remember that.

Would you be shocked if I stopped right there?  I am shocking myself but I think I should stop.  Those are biggies, girl.  I want those to stick with you.

Even with all the groundings and lost privileges, I have SO ENJOYED YOU this year.  We have had a lot of fun together.  I love that we both love a good story and a good bargain. {I may never beat your Old Navy 50 cents shoes… impressive.}

I am proud of you because I see some really great things becoming a part of who you are.  I am not your friend now, but oh, girl, God willing, we are going to the best of friends one day and I simply cannot wait.

I love you,

You got braces this year!!!
You and your city garden bounty
Concert in the Garden- Journey
I get a LOT of these on my phone! {Where is this shirt/outfit anyway, Julia?  I like this one!}
Our summers at the pool-- sweetest group of kids
Angel in Ballet Concerto’s Holiday Special “O Holy Night"
First day of school
Best day-- picking you up from camp
Such a fun memory....can we do this tomorrow?

Quite proficient in the kitchen...
Your “oldest” friends in the Fort 
First ride on the Texas Giant!

No matter what you think, he does love you.
Awesome Camp Joy founders and creators

Grateful for long time friends

And these decade long friends...HOW many pictures do I have of THESE THREE?!?

This picture on Disney Day says SO MUCH about you.
Remember.  ONE DAY-- BFFs  LOVE YOU!!


Here’s to Homemaking! “Forget Me Not"

{If you just want to get to the point of this whole post, click here.  The many words below just explains how that happened.}

It all began in October.......A neighbor stopped by to introduce herself.  Crafty neighbor.  After we chatted for a few minutes she apologetically asked me if I’d like to have my home on the Christmas tour for the Junior Women’s Club of Fort Worth.  I love all things home so to get to share mine sounded like fun-- no apologies needed for me-- and after I asked a few questions, I told her I was a 95% yes, but to let me run it by Jeff and the kids knowing it would take some effort on their parts too.  After clearing it with Jeff, the details were put in motion.  Once December arrived, my new neighbor friend, Daley, scheduled an evening for the docents to visit with me about our home and to look around so they would be familiar with it as guests came through.  They asked all sorts of questions and my most repeated answers were, “I’ve had that forever.  I don’t remember where we got that.”,  “Oh, Jeff made that.”, and the winner—  “We got that off Craigslist.”  I remember sweating a little as I realized how much I was talking about our home but they asked SO MANY questions and I kept getting these “Ohhs” and “Ahhs” with ladies’ hands over their hearts.  It was all very sweet-- and puzzling.  But it made me sweat.  Later, I learned why they had so many questions… but I’ll come back to that.

The last thing to say about that particular night was the humbling experience of taking them into my kids’ bedrooms.  Oh. My.  And this isn’t the first time I have taken a deep breath and carefully led someone in.  No kidding— the last person I took in turned to me with gaping mouth, speechless.  It’s difficult for me to do— to not take it personally or think it’s a reflection on me — but I figure if I keep doing it, it will do me some good and I’ll get over myself.  As we navigated the piles toward the bathroom with more of the same piles- just a little damp, I assured them I had a Bobcat rented and would have it cleared out in no time.  They must have believed me because they showed up the day of the tour. Once Julia and Brighton cleaned their rooms, I packed up a bunch of their things {and do you know, it’s February and they haven’t even asked for those boxes!}.  Here’s what I kept getting from one of them, “Mom, my room looks like no one lives here.”  My response?  “I promise people don’t want to see “lived in” when they are on a home tour— not your “lived in” anyway.  Why do you enjoy the Pottery Barn Teen catalog?!  Because it’s all cute. Every square-not- lived-in-foot. Cute.”  Or some variation of that…..  Goodness.

Once the kids’ rooms were presentable, the rest was a breeze.  We all left the house and Julia and I decided to tour the rest of the homes in and around our neighborhood before we ran our errands.  My friend, Daley, had her home on the tour and one step into her house, Julia and I looked at each other and I thought- and I bet Julia thought, “What were we thinking?! Why did we say yes to this?!?”  It was jaw dropping stunning.  As we toured the four children’s bedrooms, it became crystal clear to Julia why we cleaned up rooms and even went to the trouble to pack some things away.  These rooms were adorable, playful, and creative with colors rivaling a Mardi Gras parade and an atmosphere hinting to the magic of The Secret Garden.  Her whole home was strikingly beautiful with an eccentric mix of eye candy pieces and family keepsakes.  And I kept telling myself it was okay that I said yes.  Julia wasn’t so sure.

Oh!!  So it wasn’t until we got to this first home did I realize why the women who had come over that night asked me so many questions….  They needed to have some things about our home to tell the people as they came through!!  Duh.  Things like, “This tile was especially handmade in a little village in Italy.”  or “All of their lighting came from Fort Worth Lighting.” or  “This is their great grandmother’s Chinese chicken coop.” or “I don’t even remember but it made their homes sound really fancy.”  I could only imagine right then what the docents were telling people in my house.  “This chandelier was purchased from Craig’s List and her husband sprayed painted it on the porch of their rental when she realized it wouldn’t match anything in her new home.”  So, there you go.

Realizing not knowing what they were saying was better, I survived and truly enjoyed all the people I met in the organization.  Each one was so gracious and friendly.  I was honored to be a part of the tour and to be identified in a small way with the Junior Women’s Club.  {The gift basket rocked.}

Who likes photos of thmeselves?!?  I was glad it was kind of small... Brighton said we both looked “weird and photoshopped.”  Grateful for a dining room which is filled with 10 of Ft. Worth’s finest newlyweds every other week! 

And here’s part 2 of the story— I got an email from Daley a week or so later and she told me the editor of Indulge Magazine {a publication of the Fort Worth Star Telegram} had toured our home that day and wanted to see how I felt about our home being featured in the February edition of the magazine.  This is what tugged my heart— she wrote, “I just loved all the romantic little touches and think they must be really sweet, thoughtful people.”



What do you say to that?  So all the things went through my mind— How cool!  That would be so fun!  Wait, is it okay for us to say yes?  What will people think?  If they interview us, will they print what we say?  What will the article really be about?  Call us crazy but we wanted to pray about it and ask a couple of key people their thoughts.  But when I spoke on the phone to Mary Rogers who would do the interview and heard her vision for the article, it was a no brainer…  And you will see why when you read it.

This room-- lots of life happens around the table.  My Mom and Dad made sure we ate dinner together every night it was possible which was most.  It might be 8:30 but we did it.  Those dinners are among my favorite memories -- especially teenage memories when the conversations meant something.  {Way to go, Mom and Dad!}

Meeting her was just delightful.  Mary Rogers wrote regularly for the Star Telegram for years and is now a freelance writer.  You’ll be able to read all that she found out but I just wanted to say, she was like visiting with a friend.  She jotted down notes in a tiny notepad, engaged my children and asked questions with intentionality— and made the whole process painless.  The time flew by and she was out the door.  Brighton stood with me at the door and said, “She reminds me of Nana.”  And he was right.  It was a very comfortable morning.  {No sweating this go ‘round.}

That dresser- my granddaddy’s painted white by Jeff.  The wall- pictures make my heart happy.  The pantry door- recipes/food are a part of a homemaker’s legacy and Jeff and I come from good ones  
This letter-- Jeff Sanders and his words charmed me in the most genuine way all of our days spent apart.  That song- Jill Sammons Butcher rewrote the music to the amazing words of “All the Way My Savior Leads Me”.  The only way to hear it is to call her up on the phone and have her play it while I listen.  The crosses-- each one representing the good God we serve and His tangible gifts of leading and loving us
Click HERE to read her gracious, poetic writing... though she describes me like my brother would describe a good fishing story-- much exaggeration.  I was humbled by her words about our home-- and honored she used her gift of writing on us.  If you aren’t a fan of the Sanders, I suggest you don’t read it.  If you know our quirks and mess and love us anyway, you might enjoy this.  We didn’t pay her to say these things, though I did drug her tea at the beginning.  {I jest.}  But as you read her kind words, you might think there's something fishy.  I promise there isn’t.

We just fooled her really well.  ; )

Though I don’t think there is any fooling Mrs. Mary Rogers.

Just like there’s no fooling Nana.

Friday, January 22, 2016

I’m Still Here... Along with 2016

I am not giving up on this writing thing.  I need it.  However, at this point, my traffic of thoughts is so backed up, I may never get a coherent thought out.  That’s the way it feels today.

I felt the Christmas season blow my hair back as it whizzed through our home.  It's never long enough.  There were a few moments that seemed to slow its pace but overall, it left me wishing for more.  For the first time in years, I missed my 45 minutes with Andrew Peterson's Behold the Lamb of God CD-- listening from start to finish.  That's a favorite thing for me.  {It’s worth the purchase.} Come to think of it, I should just listen to it now.  Best idea I have had all day.

But I press on because one must start somewhere.  Of all the words typed and posted on the world wide -getting wider every second- web, what could I possibly have to say that is any different?  Don’t I wish I could get my hands on some woman’s journals from, like, the 1800’s?  A few things I think I would find— I’d be challenged to have a different perspective—on many things, that my complaints are ludicrous, my desire for comfort is way out of balance, my idea of hard work is pitiful and so on.  But then, when it came to the heart of what makes us women, I think I’d find some common ground.  Family.  I think any “good” mom — and I can consider myself at least that— desires similar things for her kids- and women with a few soft spots in her heart desires to be loved and cherished by her husband.  All that to say— we wives and moms have SO MUCH in common so we are bound to say much of the same thing from time to time and that’s why I think we like to read.  Did C.S. Lewis really say, “We read to know we are not alone.”  {He did in the movie Shadowlands.  So there.}  Whoever said it, it’s true.  We like to know someone else “gets” where we are.  Not that someone is stuck in the same sin pattern we are, but that someone understands what we are up against or that someone else has already gone through what seems to be an impossible situation but they made it!

Therefore, I keep writing.  As sporadic — and somewhat guarded it has become because of my kids’ ages— I still do it.

A couple of weekends ago, we took the kids to plan and pray for the New Year.  Jeff and I have done this before.... but never with the kids.  One night before we left I was lying in the bed I heard Brighton in the kitchen asking Jeff, “So, what else are we going to do?  We can’t just pray the whole time!!”  {B usually says what everyone else is thinking but won’t say.}  No, we didn’t pray the whole time but we gave it a good Sanders’— with a 14 and 12 year old in a tiny cabin on the coldest weekend of the year— effort!  For the first attempt, I think it went well.  Sure there were moments I wanted to get back in bed and hide my head under the pillow—-.  the kids still fought.  I still said too much.  Jeff never backed down on the agenda— and that meant praying when maybe we didn’t feel like it.  But by the time we’d finish, hearts would be softer and our perspective would be less skewed.  I kept telling myself that time spent praying is NEVER wasted.

The owners of the property were kind enough to take the kids out for a {very cold} ride over their land.  I love the cow photo bomb.  
Though most of the change and fruit will come from praying together, I loved hearing the kids’ thoughts when it came time to talk of their goals, things they wanted to change, places they wanted to go, events they’d like to experience…..  These are easy questions to ask anytime of the year but there’s something about a new beginning that gets their noggins churning.  They were primed to talk and we were not distracted by the responsibilities of home.  A couple of new things I learned about my kids is that one of them is energized by the thought of entrepreneurial type endeavors and the other is determined to set and keep a tough goal if someone joins him/her in it.  Our kids think more than I think they do— about fitness, about eating well, about nurturing friendships, about how they are treating their sibling, how they fit into the family mix, how they engage or don’t engage at times.  They are fascinating to me- these kids in the years spilling into adulthood.  On the brink… of something.

There are times when Jeff and I feel time is running short.  Their time at home with us is ticking away.  Planning seems to need to be more strategic— and this takes time and energy, which honestly some days I am all about it but other days, I am content to let it all drift by and let it be what it is.  Sure there are days for drifting but there is wisdom in putting some plans to paper— after prayer.  And this is one of the lessons with which we want to send them off.

Did this weekend prayer retreat change their lives? My life?  Who knows?  But I am praying for this:
that some things are accomplished this year that wouldn’t have been otherwise, that we will continue to think on the desires and goals we communicated and are challenged personally, that we find more Scripture hidden in our hearts over the year, that as parents, spouses, children and siblings, and that we can all say that we depended on the Lord more to order our steps and words.
I hope we can look back on 2016 and feel like we gave it our best shot.  And most importantly, I trust we will see changes in ourselves as a result of time spent praying.  Together.

I’m pretty sure any wife or mom can relate to that.    On the wagon or the white SUV.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Doubly Loved {A Post About Older Adopted Kids}

It may be CyberMonday, but it’s STILL November, Adoption month— and I am determined to say something so here I am, slipping in at the last hour.  It’s a big deal- this adoption thing.  Memories of finally holding long-awaited babies are some of the sweetest I have. Those days of dreams fulfilled will NEVER lose their magic on me.  Jeff and I love to tell Julia and Brighton about those days.  There’s hardly any of our other family stories that can beat the telling of when we first saw them, held them and kissed their tiny faces.

As Julia and Brighton have gotten older and as I have wondered about how to handle certain things specific to their personal story, I have found there is very little writing on older adopted children.  First, let me say, I am NOT the one to do it.  Not at this stage anyway.  Hearts and questions are too tender and both of my kiddos’ birth moms know about this blog so I’d never want to write anything to cause those sweet ladies anxiety or confusion.  However, I do feel I can share some “generic” thoughts on what I am finding out to be true when you add an adoption piece to a middle school/junior high puzzle.

Each year, I print out a book of this blog with all the pictures and it has to have a name, something on the cover, one that sums up the year for me. I had some trouble with it this year because I could only come up with dumb stuff like, The Year that FLEW BY or TEENAGER IN THE HOUSE, or Where Did the Time Go or Why Did I Ever Think I Had Control or, my favorite, Let It Go.  Ha!  Never.  {I’ve only seen the movie once.}  And I didn’t want it to be entirely negative so this morning I typed “Never Could I Have Imagined”- trying to express a double meaning.  There have been wonderful, surprising things that have happened— a year full of blessing, but also things I never expected, like so many inches added to both of my kids, questions I was NOT prepared to answer,  how much they changed from last year’s picture, conversations that I didn’t know we were quite ready for but apparently we were and how my heart could ache with such joy AND as much hurt.  All you parents before me know exactly what I am talking about, but me?  I am just starting to learn it.  And I thank God for all of it because in it, He’s making us all more like Him.  {Just don’t ask me about that at midnight after one of those conversations I wasn’t expecting.  I am only thankful when I am well rested. Wink.}

I think these years my kids are in currently is naturally a time for wondering about many things personal— Do I measure up?  Does everyone like me?  Am I pretty or handsome?  Do I have what it takes?  Why are my parents being unfair?  Did I really need consequences for that?  Did I choose the right outfit?  Why is it again my birthparents placed me for adoption?  Bam.  It’s all a tangled mess—- adoption questions right after should I wear these shoes or these boots?   We’ve told them their stories from the beginning— as much as we thought wise— but if they ever asked beyond what we had revealed, we answered them straight up.  Some of those questions came earlier than we had anticipated but we kept our commitment and answered fully.  And it stirs up their hearts.  Of course it does and that’s okay.   That’s expected, however,  It just gives them more to process, more to factor in, more to settle in their hearts and minds during these impressionable years of figuring out who they are and how they feel about their entire story.  And what their response to it will be.

At the heart of all of us, we want to be loved— whether you are a middle schooler, a brand new teenager, a 45 year old, 95 year old, adopted, or born to your birth family.  We all desire to know how loved we are and that there are NO restrictions or limits on that love. They will all ask themselves {and hopefully in a vulnerable, safety laden moment, ask you}, can my parents love me as much as a biological child? {That is extremely difficult to type.}  Satan knows that and I believe he sees an opening, or rather a possible opportunity in adopted children.  He tries to slither his way in anyway— and it makes me sick.  {Come, Lord Jesus, come. Quickly.}  I John 4 says that God is Love and verse 19 says that we love because He first loved us.  It all stems from the Father so that is where our children must be led to go.  To Him.  We can reassure them.  We can bare our hearts before them.  We can love them with words and deeds, but only a keen, intimate understanding of the perfect Love of our Heavenly Father will they ever be a whole vessel to contain all the love offered to them.  I think we all have cracks that we allow love to seep out— and we have to remind ourselves often, WE ARE LOVED.   Maybe our adopted children need to hear it more.  Maybe we need to focus our prayer for our children in that direction more often.  Maybe we need to engage them in that conversation on a regular basis.

Mine know how loved they were while in the womb and even now, even though they don’t see their birthparents.  We’ve told them time and again that LOVE- God’s love THROUGH their birthparents—  is what made the decision to place them with us.

Complete, generous, sacrificial love. No restrictions or limits.

They are doubly loved and I pray that one day soon their hearts can hold it.

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Square Foot of Thoughts

I saw my life in a small pile on the kitchen counter the other day- all within a square foot or so.  Well, not really but notable chunks of life and thoughts these days.  In the kitchen {a detail not to be lost on a keen observer}, there sat my Bible, a red pen, reading glasses and my keys.  Scooping up my things gave me pause and here’s where my thoughts landed.

So who would say some of your most significant conversations happen in the kitchen?  {Hand up, darting repeatedly upward and leaning out of my desk}  Yes! I would!  Just last night, Julia positioned herself right over the dishwasher and there, with me cutting up fruit, gave me a glimpse into 8th grade drama and into her heart.  Not wanting to sound too dramatic myself, but I think the kitchen is just a safe, comfy space.  There’s almost always activity— something to do, something to put your hands to if need be.  Mindlessly popping grapes— or Fritos— into your mouth, putting away dishes, or wiping the counters just keeps the conversation at an easy level for some of us. Someone isn’t boring a hole into your soul with their eyes.  It’s just comfortable—not the pillows and blankets kind of comfort— but less intense.  Less threatening.  She knew I was listening but she also knew it wouldn’t get too serious right there.  And if it did, she could hop off the counter, get completely sidetracked by eating something and meander away.  Good stuff happens in the kitchen without it even being planned.  Agree?

The red pen?  When the kids are home doing school, I have to have one nearby for grading- or for initialing.  It seems they all wind up in the kitchen because that’s where I usually am.  Cute and cheery “Excellent Work” stickers would be more fun to decorate their papers because that red pen is daunting.  It was for me when I was in school.  You remember the paper that had so much red on it that the kid six seats behind you could clearly see you either didn’t comprehend the information covered in class or you didn’t study the night before. The red pen is a constant companion on these school days at home— and so many days I look around when it’s actually quiet- B in the window seat devouring the chapters in his book for English {Who am I kidding?  “trudging through the chapters”} and Julia working hard in the dining room, lights off, using only the light from the window- and think, this is FLYING by.  We’ve got to enjoy this more.  I need to make this more fun.  Bust out the cookies and milk and let’s do this.  I need to be lighter— not just with my red pen but with my words and my tone and my spirit. Maybe I should put some snazzy stickers in my back pocket?  And bake some cookies? Yes.

Oh. My.  I have reading glasses. {But mine are cute, right?  And, mark my words.  I will NEVER have a chain. Sorry to my chain adorning friends...I won’t.}  I made it a few years after 40 but now there is just no denying it.  I can’t see like a normal person anymore.  The directions on the back of the pasta box just don’t look like they used to— neither do dinner menus, phone screens, book print, brochures, answer keys- or this computer screen for that matter!  {And in case you're worried, Walgreens has a large lighted magnifying glass on a flexible arm for those of us who are ocular challenged.}  I have a contact — for my non dominant eye— and that works pretty well if I remember I have one and actually put it in.  I could probably go a little long here too because these sorts of things throw me for a bigger loop than I had anticipated.  I like things to work whether that’s my eye, my shoulder or my coffee frother.  If something is broken or not functioning as it was intended, well, that bugs me.  I think I am figuring out if I don’t change my perspective regarding that philosophy with my body, I’m going to be perpetually “bugged”.  I met a former model the other night at a fund raiser— older than me and beautiful— however, not gracing magazine covers anymore.  I knew she was a strong believer so I just skipped the chit chat and asked her how her heart was on all of that - aging- since her lovely young face had transformed into a lovely older face.  Her answer was simple.  “It’s just part of our walk with God.”  So simple but she’s SO right.  We are young and we are old in this sanctification process but His ways don’t change, His standards don’t change— He is still more concerned about my heart more than anything else and so should I be.  I think maturity UNKNOWN could come to me if I viewed my aging as part of His process to grow me up to be more like Him. How I respond to my body changing and failing as I continue to walk with God will reveal much about who I believe God to be and who He has made me to be.  No, it doesn’t sound fun but I know it could be the most freeing and fulfilling thing I’ve ever given myself to.  Only by His grace will this turn out well.

And the keys….. I drive.  Mostly with kids in the car taking them to one thing or another.  Ballet, the sport in season, piano, church small groups, friends’ houses, to buy jeans, basketball or pointe shoes, to buy a friend a birthday present etc.  That’s living life and I am not complaining-at all.  Walking is the alternative.  I’ll take my keys.  However, the car is similar to the kitchen in that it’s good for talking.  It CAN be relaxed and fluid but then it can be planned and targeted.  At the age my kids are now, sometimes I find the car is the best time I might have alone with a child that day.  Other days, the car can be a great space to announce some information, to pray, to ask hard questions when they can’t slip away — and keeping it honest, to give them a piece of my mind.  But I never do that.  I just could if I ever wanted to.

My Bible— with this one, I get all twisted inside—  my heart clenches and my throat gets a little tight—  when I try to think of what to say about my Bible.  I’ve had this one since I was around 14. My parents gave it to me for Christmas. By the grace of God, I was taught to read it and to pray that I would love it.  And that I do.  I could go for days right here but I’ll just say a few things.  NOTHING snaps me out of my own ridiculous selfishness like taking to heart what’s on these pages.  Just a few minutes is all it takes— just to open it and hear the pages rustling and be reminded of the countless times He has met me as I’ve heard that familiar sound— begins to soften my heart.  His Word  has just grown in value during my life and especially now as I parent.  I am completely out of control of my kids’ hearts and choices so I’ve never been quite as dependent on Him as I have before— because before I had delusions of being in control.  What a joke, right?  But oh, how patient He is.  He’s faithful to teach me when I least expect it and where I least expect Him.  He is faithful.  He is the Word.  It’s flawless and life giving.  I love Him. I love the Word.

November 2015- that’s what’s filling my hands, my heart, my thoughts—  or a square foot on my kitchen counter.

Not sure where my coffee cup was…..

Saturday, October 24, 2015

A Letter to a 12 Year Old Boy: Brighton’s Birthday Letter 2015

Oh, you cute thing.
Well, Big B, it’s finally here.  You anticipate this day for months— plan and scheme a thousand birthday scenarios until the big day arrives.  And even that day, you want to go over and over the plan to relish in it.

[A run down of this year— Thursday night— Family dinner at On the Border with Emily, Friday— 5 boys to spend the night {Scavenger Hunt, Nachos, Laser tag, and Jurassic World} and Saturday— Family presents and Caramel Cake after dinner]

Your toddler days are a consistent picture that comes to mind— your wandering around the kitchen on Park Arbor with hands full of magnetic train cars clung to your chest, talking to me and asking me, “What are we going to do now?” — or next, or tonight or tomorrow or next week.  That hasn’t changed— you may not ask me as often but you are certainly asking yourself— anxious to get on to the next minute, the next thing.  I am finding you are a young man on the move and this expresses itself differently as the years go by.  At 10, 11 and 12, I picture you “at large” in the neighborhood, on foot or on your bike, seeking interaction-some social time with friends, young and old.  I am praying that your love of people and love of relationships will bless you in many ways as you invest your love for God in these friendships that are significant to you.  I pray that people and relationships always stay the main thing for you as you frame them within God’s plan for your life.

First world problems
But you made sure they got it right next time.
I enjoyed watching you face your fear regarding our big hike at Zion this summer— how you strongly contemplated it. {That part maybe I didn’t enjoy so much}  I was reminded of a few years ago when you told me,  “I can’t be strong, brave, or courageous without the love of my Momma.”  The memory didn’t help me figure out how to boost your courage without melting into a heap so I let your Daddy handle it.  You went very reluctantly but you did it and the satisfaction on your face afterwards made me smile deep on the inside.  I loved the tangible expression of God’s providing for you in the form of a water bottle from a stranger.  You asked—out loud— and He provided. I learn from your faith.

Once you made it to the top, you decided going down on your bottom might be the better option.

Riding Bryce Canyon with Daddy

Always up for a contest!
I do love to hear you pray- even when I know you are praying what I want to hear but especially when I sense your prayers are heartfelt and coming from somewhere I don’t get a glimpse of any other time.  You don’t forget ongoing requests and pray for things I didn’t even know were near your heart.

Crunching knuckles and sniffing that blanket....
B, your heart is tender— towards many things and that endears you to me in so many ways.  You pull for the underdog.  You still look for the one being left out and draw him in— not every time but it still characterizes who you are.  You know when feelings have been hurt or when a teacher is having tough time.  You know if I have cried even if it’s hours after it has happened.  You can just tell.  Because your heart is tender, it means you are easy to hurt.  We are learning this delicate balance of your emotions and pray we are parenting you well.  I’ll never forget a time this summer when you were hurt— in your heart— and it was a RARE — almost never— time your daddy told you to sleep in between us.  I was mad and sad because you’d been hurt and I had to explain this to you— that sometimes madness and sadness come together.  After a few minutes of my tossing and turning, your hand found my face in the dark and you patted me assuring me you’d be okay and that you were sorry I was sad.  Even in your pain— that was very real and warranted— you were tender towards mine.

I find this sometimes--you’ve just dropped them, right there, on to something else.  And this is the kitchen.
I love to hear you play-- and that you like to play.
Always up for Mexican food-- all that Cholula when you were 2 paid off for me.
One of your many notes all year long-- always encouraging and always thanking me for something.
I love when you want to hold my hand.

Emily, will you give me a head massage?
I also see your tenderness in your quick confessions and repentance.  This will become more beautiful and meaningful as you mature but it still gets my attention and calls for affirmation.  Your desire to be “right” with someone and “right” with the Lord drives you, I think.  It’s a humbling thing to admit your wrong doing in the moment.  There are sometimes it takes longer than others but, mostly, you give the Holy Spirit a willing heart.  This blesses our whole family and I pray it will always be a growing part of your life— this humility and willing surrender.

Neighborhood buddy

Getting to read the Christmas story to these two for the FIRST TIME.  What a gift.
Some Harbinger friends

Seeing RJ’s baseball card for the first time
You endured your first bone breaking this year!  Even if it was just a pinky, it was a big deal!  I just wish you could have waited until AFTER baseball season!!  ; )  However, I was terribly proud of how you handled it— that is code for “I am proud you didn’t FREAK OUT and MILK IT for all it was worth.”  My heart clenched at the thought of the pain you were enduring and again, this momma got some deep satisfaction watching you deal with the long afternoon of pain.  I barely heard any complaining, except we couldn’t meet friends for dinner at Joe T’s.  As as bonus you got to wear GYM SHORTS to school while you had a cast on!  Because we were out of baseball season, we trekked to Georgia to see my nephew AND my niece’s boyfriend play college ball.  It was a bummer RJ’s games were rained out in Savannah but Jason came through with getting you the bat boy position for the Georgia Southern double header.  You had a great weekend, cast and all.

All this for a pinky!!

Being bat boy for the Georgia Southern double header.  Thanks, Jason and Hunter!
You tried to play with your cast-- not sure this was such a great idea-- but later, someone else made this decision for us.
You made it through another year of camp— always so reluctant to go but always having a hard time leaving your counselors.  You set out for the 10 mile bike race in Wichita Falls this summer and wound up doing the 25 mile ride!  You had a great season of Saints YMCA football this fall playing defense for the first time as your daddy was the line coach.  I think I enjoyed watching you play basketball the most this past year.  There’s something about watching you “get after it” on the court makes me happy.  You got the “Marksman” award this year.  I was shocked every time a 3 pointer made it through the hoop!  You got your Thursday boys BLACK CAP this year.  You are now officially “Security”. Oh-and you’ve survived almost a year with our first teenager in the house.  A girl teenager, at that.  Way to go, B.

So proud of you!!

Playing football for the first time as Daddy as your coach {That’s a good looking pair right there.}

Ready for you two to be back in the same class!

So what now?  What can I leave with you on this your 12th birthday?  How do I focus on just one thing?  Honestly, I know you will have some not so fond memories of you and me together— I am guessing mainly over school— our days at home together where you like to push every known button I have and drive me to the brink of CRAZYVILLE {or maybe just my closet}.  If you are reading this years later, I bet you chuckle admiring your own strategies to age me even faster than it’s happening.  Just hope I have selective memory when you want me to watch your kids for a week.  We’ve had some hard days— and I know they aren’t over.  We both regret them.  Sometimes you are in the wrong and sometimes it’s me but what I love about you, B, is that you are quick to make things right.  With humility, you just confess it all and just get it out of the way.  You ask for forgiveness— unashamedly grabbing hold of God’s grace AGAIN.  I love this.  I learn from this.  You have NO doubt that what Christ did for you on the cross was enough.  And that there is plenty for you.  You don’t let the sin weigh you down.  Once you realize it, you confess it and ask for forgiveness.  Because of this, I’ve seen some things change in you— I am even watching some now in the process and it makes me proud.  So my prayer for you this 12th birthday is that your heart will stay soft, stay pliable, stay teachable— for always.  This keeps us opened up and ready for whatever God has up His big ol’ sleeve and I can tell you, B, it’s worth it.  Whatever you have to do— or NOT do— to keep your heart from hardening, give it all you’ve got.  Put forth the effort to remain moldable, penetrable clay before Him.  He is making you into someone INCREDIBLE.

I love you and am so proud to call you mine.

Goodbye 11, Hello 12!