Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Julia's Birthday Letter 2011

My dear girl,

Nine years of your life marked the calendar and clock this morning on square 24 at 9:46 am.  The memories swarm me every year as I think about the culmination of a God methodically, beautifully and purposefully at work behind the scenes for so long, for so short  .......and then on January 24th in Bossier City, Louisiana, He whipped the curtain back and there, my sweet one, you were.  We never could have readied ourselves for what He was doing all that time, but, oh, He, in His kindness, showed us love extravagant, love overflowing, and love unreserved when we finally got to see your face and put our arms around your 7lb 15oz curled up frame.  Imagining it for six years hadn’t even come close.

In nine more years, you could be ready to leave our home.  That seems almost impossible but it places paramount significance on your next nine years. My hope is that you feel known within the walls of this home and that you feel safe to share all that stirs within your heart because the next nine years will be full of dreams, desires and decisions that will affect the rest of your life.  I see you thinking.  I see you wondering about things we’ve read, things we've talked about or things we’ve seen.  I see you trying to figure it all out or at least snap one piece into your puzzle of nine gracious years of life so far.  Your Daddy and I can help you with some but some pieces can only be put in place by you.  I want you to know, as you are turning these pieces of your story around and over,  I see you and I have seen you.  

I’ve seen your tears, in fact, my thumb pushed one away today as I held your darling face in my hands.  Math is hard...especially right before dinner and words DO hurt feelings... anytime of day.  Your tears mean something in this home and are always noticed.  

I’ve seen you looking in the mirror-- wishing to be older but I’ve also seen you looking at your brother in my lap, wanting to be there too.  

I’ve seen you genuinely hurt by friends, eyes wet and heart pounding.  I see you forgive quickly and take the chance again.  Taking that risk takes a big girl.  

I’ve seen you looking for gifts, for beauty from our Father, all because I shared with you what God was teaching me.  I see you running to get your journal to record “eucharisteo”.  My favorite entry of yours so far is “feeling happy”.  Your eagerness to try this out makes this momma thrilled and nervous as I think of what you could be learning from me, seeing in me.  I pray for grace.  Abundant.  

I’ve seen you choose long-suffering with your only sibling.  I find myself reminding you of that -- “your only one”.  I also tell you, he will be larger and stronger soon and that, by God's grace, your relationship with him will be the longest of your life, so be nice and gentle with his boy-ness, which may prove to be your fast track to major spiritual growth.  WE LOVE HIM!!  You are a superb big sister.   

I’ve seen your whole body tell a story-- hands and face with highest expressions.  Your accents are flawless and my favorite one is cockney English--do I dare say better than Eliza Doolittle? 

I’ve seen you savor a book to its fullest.  Even last night, you held one tightly to your chest and said, “This is a good book.  It has always been a good book.”  

I’ve seen you learning-- old and new-- sewing, history, gratitude, ballet, navigating play dates, poetry, responsibility, drawing, forgiveness, a familiar artist, the challenges of math, Scripture, the value of a good book, that our world is big and that He changes everything.  

I’ve seen you putting your birth story together as you ask questions at the strangest times.  Not once have I been expecting questions when they came.  I see you wondering about God’s plan He made before the beginning of time and the days He ordained for you.   I notice your distraction when someone else talks about their natural births and how it causes you to ponder your adoptive one.  Yours is a wonderful story and you will know it in its entirety in due time, but I want you to know, in the meantime, I see you.  

I’ve seen your heart moved by stories of people, wanting to share their stories with others.  I see your desire to give, to make things better for those far away from here.  

And a few times, I’ve seen you hold your hand open when you really wanted a clenched fist.  I need to watch you do that a few more times so maybe I can learn it too.

I love you, Julia, but more importantly, you are loved by the King of Kings.  You are His, never to be separated from Him.  He holds you in the palm of His hand and not one moment, word or tear happens without His watchful eye upon you.  

He sees you, Julia.  He sees you.

Happy Birthday.

Love and a zillion kisses, 

Goodbye Eight!  Hello Nine!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Because I Must

123.  Molasses

124.  minutes to read

125.  “I love you as long as the Nile.”

126.  bright faced friend shining into Walgreens with certain white, green and black cup filled with hot yum

128.  empty laundry baskets

133.  daddy doing best friend sleepover solo

135.  children’s prayers thanking God for MY infertility -- that no one took their place  (!!)

136.  Texas Americana lake house filled with evidence of sweet memories and a full life being lived

137.  Mom’s in pj’s  with third pot of coffee

138.  conversations filled with what Life is made of

139.  long winter’s nap

144.  pirouettes in my kitchen

145.  my children’s names in Bible of one whose walk with Him shaped my own-- waiting for God’s date of salvation

146.  little arms around my neck

147.  getting to celebrate a 9th birthday with her

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

He Jumped!!

Three months later, he jumped!  “All things new” entered our home Sunday night-- an old life buried, a new life born.  Praise be to God.

As Jeff and Brighton were driving home from the first Sunday morning meeting of the new church plant, B told Jeff he felt he had done something wrong.  When Jeff realized it wasn’t something he needed to confess from the morning but something bigger, something heavier, he dug in a little more.  That “something” that we have all felt.  That “wrong”- that “body of death” we lug around at one time or another.  (Romans 7:24) Brighton’s spirit was reaching out for freedom, for relief.  He was searching for a way out.  He took his need to his Daddy.

Jeff realized B’s thoughts may be the remorse for sin for which we had been waiting. He told Jeff of his dream from the night before that he was a “bandit” and that he didn’t want to be a “bandit”.  That was sort of a funny word to me but I got it.  As soon as our lunch company left, Jeff gathered Brighton up on the couch and led him through a trusty tract with visuals for B’s sake.  Even in these pregnant moments of Brighton’s broken reading of God’s Word and his eagerness to answer the questions, we sensed a struggle.  We both could see it on his face.  He had questions about God becoming his “boss” and was that “hard” and what was it like when Jeff made Jesus boss and when I did it?  He said he was scared-- and on the inside, he fought.  All Jeff and I could do was sit on the couch, watch his personal turmoil, pray and wait.  This was a fight he’d have to win all by himself.  It was real and he couldn’t do it.  And he didn’t.

He chose to draw.  A boy on the brink.

After dinner, he and Julia got their pajamas on.  Brighton came downstairs, straight to the den and announced, “I am ready to do it!  See my face? Can’t you tell?”  He crawled up on the couch between us and answered a couple of key questions quickly because he was READY to pray.  I heard the sweetest sounds since Julia prayed the same relinquishing, inviting prayer a few years ago.  Joy.  Relief.  Thankfulness.  “Amen”.  Ginormous grin, calls for Julia, big hugs and a little bit of dancing!  He leapt off the couch jumping, holding fists above his head and yelling, “This is the day!  This is the day!”

At bedtime, the first time he had opportunity to obey, he did and said, “That’s what Jesus does for you.  He helps you obey first time!”  And then as Jeff tucked his new brother in Christ under his red quilt, Brighton said he was excited about seeing all of us in heaven one day.  And as early as yesterday, I was able to see fruit from his “new self” as his bad choice led to repentance in a completely different way.  It came quicker and it came hard.  With his arms around my waist and face buried in my stomach, he cried and choked out the words.  My forgiveness calmed him easier than usual and we went on with our day.

Absolutely simple but absolutely life changing.

This is the day he JUMPED!

Monday, January 17, 2011


102. little boy, pants too short

103.  Your Words to Jeff

107. 10 p.m. Wednesday

108.  Truth on index cards

109.  friends who carry the burden

110.  wobbly legs in roller skates

111.  get aways

112.  prayers with husband on a long country road

113.  path in the woods, only my prints over deer's


117.  bedtime....mine

118.  feet of saints willing to step out on seemingly nothing

119.  son's wrestling his eternity

120.  hearing the prayer that changes his course forever and causes angels to celebrate

Monday, January 10, 2011

Waiting, Wondering

(I haven’t figured out what this is going to look like every week-- my thanksgiving-- I just know I need to do it.  I want to receive his gifts fully, whatever shape or form, pleasing on this side of heaven........or not.)

Waiting:  Evenings seem heavy around our home these days.  Jeff is heavy with vision, a God-given burden, with Words to obey and together, we aren’t sure how and when the weight will be lifted.  So, I wait with him.  We’ve been here before but only once when it was I who felt the anguish more intensely than he did.  Usually, he carries the load, and it presses on his every waking, and some un-waking moments.  As our 18 year marriage has matured, so has my reaction to his visionary “bent”.  As a rule, I am not the one who jumps off the couch to do the herky when Jeff shares with me what’s going on in his mind and, to my shame, his heart.  I should be, but instead I sit still, listen, and occasionally nod my head while my insides are rearranging themselves.  If I could stop there, that probably would have been helpful over our years, but in all that time my insides are re-situating, words have formed and just roll off my tongue---- words that are less than encouraging.  I will stop there.  You see, I think.

This time my reaction hasn’t been award winning or anything but maybe honorable mention for me.  Maybe?  Jeff?  These “steps” I believe God has asked Jeff to take have proved harder than either of us were expecting-- emotionally, spiritually and relationally.  It truly is all good, but waiting on the Light to illuminate the next step takes patience and who likes to exercise that fruit?  If I have done anything well, I have listened and I am honored that he wants me to hear.   Things may be heavy and there may be some threshold to cross, but I can’t deny the excitement that’s in the foreground.  Something’s up ahead.  Not sure what but SOMEthing really great is going on and we, at least I, haven’t been filled in on all of the details yet.

Wondering:  Kids surprise us all the time with their words.  We chuckle.  We blush.  We smile.  We correct.  We roll our eyes.  We belly laugh.  And sometimes, we fight the lump in our throats.  We have always talked about adoption openly in our family.  We have told each of ours their stories--as much detail as their ages allow at the time of the telling.  It comes up often in conversations, but mainly as we are talking with other people.  Very rarely do they bring it up but when they do, it is usually at the strangest times when my mind is on, like, the dishes in the sink, the table that needs to be cleared or the laundry that needs switching over.  

The night the temperature dropped, my family had our feet under a beautiful table, lit with candle light, set with cloth napkins, silver and even crystal knife rests.  As Brighton chewed away on his pb&j and as we devoured homemade chicken soup, he decided to tell our new friends his adoption story.  The details aren’t necessary here but he got it all wrong and twisted quite a tale for his audience who sat with arms rested with hungry spoons in hand and eyes wide.  In her quest for all things accurate, Julia gave up on correcting him after I quietly placed my hand on her leg under the table.  I just figured we’d straighten it all out later.  Even in all his rabbit trails of the story, my heart caught and the lump started creeping up my throat.  Every time, I hear and see a boy wanting to tell everyone how he was wanted and loved by so many- including his birthmother.  He makes sure his listeners know that I, “my Momma”, was there to get him. Those two things are about the only parts of his story he has right at this point, but no matter how he tells it, my heart does flip flops-- the good kind and the kind that causes just a little uncertainty.  I have to wonder, what is he thinking?  What does his story sound like to him?  To Julia?  What exactly does Julia think about hers?  Oh, I ask from time to time but their words come only when they are ready.  Maybe one day I’ll know....when they know, in the fullest, their stories.  Personally, I think their journeys from there to here are amazing- a story only God can author.

By His grace, I am grateful and He fills me with joy.

25.  digital words from 18 year old nephew
26.  a knowing smile shared between B and me
28.  a book, once lost, now found
29.  son wanting to be cheek to cheek
30.  reply all emails among friends
31.  the girl upstairs that loves my family
33.  common interest found with brother’s youngest
37.  vulnerable thoughts shared in the dark
40.  sitters that text “ma’am”
41.  5 o’clock sky orange, light, purple all- glowing painted by the One all-knowing
42.  park bench conversations
44.  husband, out on a limb...willing to be there
49.  peace when fear is the natural response
53.  cold blowing in
54.  hearing son tell his story
55.  my infertility
56.  compassionate young girls willing to carry my children, birth them and lovingly, yet painfully, place them in my arms
58.   hugs around waist
67.  the last hour of a fire
71.  quiet nights
72.  our Golden, curled up sleeping deeply
85.  daughter recognizing beauty, trying to find words
86.  son’s hat flaps flying
87.  daughter asleep under quilt across the room
88.  son hard at work with paper, scissors and tape
97.  friends who my children don’t burden
98.  good doctor’s reports
101.  cold day, hot coffee

Saturday, January 8, 2011

How Can I Not?

1. How do you start writing about something when you think you could be on the verge of a changed life?

2. How do you start writing when someone else can say it so much more eloquently?

3. How do I start writing about something that is already a way of life to so many?

4. How do you start writing about something that embarrasses you because it has taken you so long to “hear” it?

I need to try to answer those questions because if I don’t, I may never get started.  And, worse yet, something significant might be lost.

1.  My fear is failure, because if I write, I have put myself out there for a few who know me well.  They will know if I have failed.  But then I ask myself, how do I NOT write about something potentially life-changing?  For me, writing irons it out so I can see it better, holds it up to light, rotates it to study it from Monday morning angles which makes it less nebulous.

2.  I could make a page of links to blogs, articles, amazing books, but then all my holding up, rotating in light would never take place.  The time taken to “own it” would never happen.  To succeed or fail, I must own it first, receive it.  That means, for me, I must nail it down with His Words to ME and thoughts He gives to ME- all inspired by His Words to others through Scripture.

3. Humility is something I need to exercise.  Often. If what I am learning is a lifestyle for many, why haven't I followed them more closely, spent time with them more often?  In 29 years of knowing Christ, I will be taking my first steps to walk in this “new” way.

 4. Again, humility-- If I had manifested more of it over the years, I may have seen this sooner.  But I fight the flesh. I relish in doing it my way.  And that only “works” for a very short while.

 I’ve been reading Ann Voskamp’s blog on and off for a couple of years.  Even as inspiring and other worldly as I find her writings, I don’t get to her site every day and not even every week.  As I have clicked over the last several months, I have been noticing a list of sorts, a new logo thingy and “followers”.  I kept telling myself I would look into it and never did.  I kind of figured out it was some sort of thankful list which reminded me of something I had heard Oprah did years ago. I dismissed it.  I also noticed that she had written a book, One Thousand Gifts, and that it was expected in January 2011.  I had no idea the two things were related.  A friend, who seems to be “in the know” on just about everything, texted me one night to tell me Ann’s book was released digitally EARLY because of so many requests for it.  And so for my road trip reading, I downloaded One Thousand Gifts into my reader.  I read...........and sat stunned.

I will not, cannot rehash the book here.  You don’t want me to, I know, and besides, I haven’t even finished it.  I stopped cold in the middle of chapter five because I had been given PLENTY to ponder and even more to practice.  Here is the first highlight I made on page 21 and 22.

“Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, envelopes the Greek word for grace, charis.  But it also holds its derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning, “joy”.  Joy.  Ah......yes.  I might be needing me some of that.  That might be what the quest for more is all about- that which Augustine claimed, “Without exception....all try their hardest to reach the same goal, that is, JOY.”

“Deep chara joy is found only at the table of the euCHARisteo-- the table of thanksgiving.  I sit there long....wondering...is it that simple?  Is the height of my chara joy dependent on the depths of my eucharisteo thanks?”

And so from page 22, I was on the edge of my leather Toyota seat.  Regrettably, many of my days swell with complaints, only to spew onto Jeff when he returns home in the evening.  Numerous times over these days of having school at home, he has encouraged me, asked me to tell him something good that happened during the day.  Blank.  Surely something did, but at 8:30 pm, I struggle to think.  And everyday, I feel I the struggle.  I dwell on kid's bicker, not enough empty calendar squares, dog hair I see everywhere, students who daydream and worse, complain...........hmmm, they get it honest.  Jeff had made me aware, but I felt stuck.  I continued to read and wondered:  intertwined through my dailies, could the training of my eyes, my ears, my heart to SEEK His gifts to me, large and small, and to fully receive each one by THANKing Him bring me fullness of joy, life abundant?  “Deep chara joy”?  I kept reading and after a few more pages, I sought out some paper.

And because it was December 23rd and we were driving to South Georgia for Christmas, I wrote:

1. carols with Truth laden verses such as O Holy Night, O Little Town of Bethlehem, and Hark the Herald Angels Sing

2. Christmas cards from distant friends showcasing their beautiful broods of miracles

3. exit number 67 at midnight

4. tall, straight pines lining the road, taking us home

5. Mommas in robes with no make-up

6. sleeping in my childhood bed, seeing the same moon on the water

And so I began.  This habit.  This “driving out my habits of discontentment and driving in my habit of eucharisteo.”  (pg.34)  I will practice.  I will ask the Spirit to help me see.

Does it seem silly to you?  To thank God for sun-speckled water or white mocha syrup?  I understand and she does too.

“Gratitude for the seemingly insignificant--a seed--this plants the giant miracle.  The miracle of eucharisteo, like the Last Supper, is in the eating of crumbs, the swallowing down one mouthful.   Do not disdain the small.  The whole of a life-- even the hard--is made up of the minute parts, and if I miss the infinitesimals, I miss the whole.  These are new language lessons, and I live them out.  There is a way to live the big of giving thanks in all things.  It is this:  to give thanks in this one small thing.  The moments will add up.”

So, I will sow in the moments.

12. wonder of snowflakes least expected

13. son owning up to wrong chosen

14. sound of a camera capturing time

15. contented kids in hour 14 of road trip

16. J's that hook the wrong way on lined paper

17. daughter whistling while she works

I believe, for me, if I earnestly search for His work, His gifts, for HIM throughout my day, over the grid of the days, weeks and months on my calendar,  joy will be a common adjective for the atmosphere of our home I am called to "make".  It’s what I am requesting, for what I am praying.....fervently, desperately.  Eucharisteo.  Thanksgiving.  Grace.  Joy.

20.  carefully studied and thoughtful words- of the Word- that move me to change

21.  a book that pricks the heart

“Joy is the realest reality, the fullest life, and joy is always given, never grasped.  God gives gifts and I give thanks and I unwrap the gift given:  JOY.”  (pg.39)

Want to join me?  I must do it.

How can I not?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Ten-Minute Record

It was bound to happen.  It’s just what comes after Christmas is unwrapped and a new calendar is hung on the wall-- a cute one, for sure.  School started today.  I decided to let someone else be the bad guy this year and let their first day back take place at Science Etc. instead of under our roof.  Brilliant, I know.  (It’s a shame I used my yearly stroke of genius so early in 2011.) I welcomed the smidgen of excitement lazily bouncing off our walls this morning-- all because of Nana’s Christmas gift of rolling back packs.  I think the thought of rolling them down the sidewalk to school is what actually caused them to put hesitant feet on the floor at 7am.

As always, B was the first one downstairs and as always, came straight to my bathroom with a mental list of questions and/or statements-he gets the two confused.  His first question, “Mom, can we pack some of these (shaking Christmas gift of peanut M&Ms over head) in our lunch for dessert?”  Happy with my answer, he passed Julia on his way out.  Julia speaks, “Mom, don’t pack me any M&M’s.  I am going to eat healthy this week.  It’s my resolution.”  Hmm... okay.  

When I found my 1st and 3rd grader on the floor in the mud space, they were relocating from one backpack to another-- no small task, I assure you. A U-Haul would’ve been helpful.  They discovered beloved objects from as far back as preschool in the recesses of their zipper compartments, slots, hidden pockets and the infamous BOTTOM of the pack.  Now, those things weren’t so beloved.  Once the move was made, the critical object, the lunch, the food, became their focus-- what was going in it, where would it fit and had I made it yet?

I eluded all their questions by heading back to bathroom to brush my teeth and Julia was on my heels.  Stopping just inside the door, she said, “Mom, I decided I did want candy in my lunch today.” 

 I think she set a record.  10 minutes top-- to break her New Year’s resolution.