Tuesday, December 25, 2012

I’ve been here before.  I’ve seen moving boxes in the midst of the orange of Thanksgiving.  But the last time, I had toddlers and I was FOREVER, it seemed, away from 40.  Then, I was trying to coax a little boy to walk and attempting to engage a vivacious little 3 year old girl in imaginative conversation while packing up the house.  Now while I pack up all that we call ours, those kids are making their own meals and I take ibuprofen at night for packing injuries.  We will be taking these boxes to a rental in a few days and in several months,  on to a house we will begin building in January.  {Please note the temporary address at the bottom.}

Since this IS a Christmas letter, I will only tell you the really sweet things about my children.  How could I break the Christmas letter tradition?!

Julia:  kind, laid back, my favorite helper, quick to forgive, capable of pulling off a dinner party single handedly, a reader of books, a good friend, thoughtful, graceful dancer and pianist, growing into a little lady before my eyes

Brighton:  Jeff’s shadow, funny, competitive, intuitive, persistent, clever, Lego master, creator of his own tunes on the piano, charming, ball player, first class little brother {takes his roles seriously as “picker” and protector, flower bring-er

Their biggest change is going to a school twice a week.  We complete assignments and new materials the other three days a week.  I have transitioned more into the helper and cheerleader than their primary teacher.  Now I just get to expose them to the things I enjoy.  I am grateful for their schedule which allows for more flexibility in the evenings.

Church-- We are more excited than you can imagine to be a part of the core group for the Watermark Ft. Worth start-up.  The schedule is “penciled in” but we are hoping to be “public” by Easter.

Tarrant NET-- In October, Tarrant NET officially kicked off Read2Win as the literacy program for the Fort Worth Independent School District.  Over the next few years, we will partner a church with each of the 86 elementary schools to provide reading coaches {church volunteers} to 1st graders.  Tarrant NET has been overwhelmed by the response of the churches in Fort Worth!  Jeff and I are enjoying our Thursday mornings at Manual Jara Elementary.  The kids we meet with are super excited each week-- and they are learning to read!

I am counting on some white space on the calendar come December.  I don’t want to miss this sweet season of celebrating when God’s set in motion His rescue plan for all of us.  He came.  Emmanuel.
Come let us adore Him.

It’s a happy morning.

Merry, Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Underneath the Layers

I remember hearing John McArthur say one year while he was preaching through the Bible that it just so happened that he came up on the Christmas story smack dab in the heat of the summer.  He wasn't sure how his congregation would react to the whole Christmas in July thing but he said, for him, something wonderful happened.  Without all the action of December, he was able to take in the story of Emmanuel as never before and Christmas would never be the same for him again.  I find myself thinking of what he said throughout the days of December as I struggle to keep my focus.... and as I watch my kids get caught up in the wanting part of the season.  We've done it.  As a culture, we've created all the hoopla that layer upon layer make it difficult to ponder, to worship, to be overjoyed by the history changing event of God using a young woman's womb as the entry way to earth.  To where we are.  To be with us.

The wise men always make me think a little harder as they determined not to let this event go unnoticed by them.  But why?  These guys were Gentiles.  They weren't looking for deliverance from the Roman Empire.  They were looking for a very significant birth, a world-changing arrival, marked in the heavens by the stars the Baby King put in place.  They set out, for possibly two years, focused on their intentions of worshiping this newborn King, checking their precious gifts along the way.   I wonder in those two years of traveling what sort of distractions they experienced.  My guess would be things much more intense than shopping and getting out your family's Christmas greeting.  I love that the wise men journeyed TO GIVE-- their time, their resources, their worship.  They expected nothing in return.   I can't imagine the satisfaction they experienced as they carried out what they had set out to do. Worship the newborn King.

The fact that lists and tasks come more naturally to me does make it more difficult for me to ponder, to worship.  I want to worship.  I want my kids to OWN the reality that there's so much more to Christmas than what they want. In our culture, it's a thick river to swim.  And I've added to the water.

We have a good vision for our family's Christmas.  We have plans and traditions.  We want to do it well.  But I have to ask myself, can we do it better?  Differently?

Father, Thank You for coming to us.  You know my heart.  You know our desires for our children, for us.  Help us to celebrate You well.  Show me what distracts me.......and my kids the most from You.  What can we change?  How can we do it differently?  Thank You for all the sweetness that surrounds this time.  May we dwell on that.  The giving.  The celebration.  The family.  The worship.  The YOU with US.  Amen.

Christmas-Ready Rental

Jeff started this tradition with the kids several years ago and the perfect pairing with this little house is Mortimer's Christmas Manger which puts a sweet story to Ephesians 3:20.  Check it out.

Extravagant hostess gifts--  Thank you!

I have cool friends who throw cool birthday parties.  Julia came home with this the other night.

Anticipating Christmas....

Jeff and Brighton being too cool for school here.  NOT silly.

And Emily has no problem at all with silly... and Brighton is learning from the best.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Pericope: Picking Up Where We Left Off

When my thankful journal was unpacked the other day, I opened it up on the unfamiliar kitchen counter and saw these last things written at our old house.  I remember writing "re-offer"---  the couple offered, backed out and re-offered and now they have our home.  Yes, it's a hard thankfulness, but I can be truly thankful and be sad.  This was one of the last things packed but three weeks went by and I wrote nothing.  Now living life and sleeping in a place I'd never laid eyes on a month ago,  I'm feeling a bit more grateful.

I could write a book on our last few weeks.  Only I would read it-- my own mother wouldn't.  It would be page after page of me whining, wondering how I had accumulated so much stuff... again, wishing my family didn't need three meals a day, thinking how 42 feels a lot different when you are working like a maniac all day, how much I love ibuprofen, questioning my every book purchase over the last six years {took up half the truck}, thinking that maybe my love of dishes needs to lose its luster in the years to come, pondering what it would be like to live in a tree house with a mattress and one extra pair of clothes........ Maybe the most monumental change was deciding I was finished making decisions for a while.  Everything I touched while packing and even unpacking, a decision had to be made... keep to use now "UP" meaning "unpack", keep to use in 10 months "DUP" meaning "do not unpack", keep to store in attic of rental, keep to store in very old, questionable weather proof storage shed at the rental, keep for sentimental reasons, give away, throw away... and after a while the last seemed to be the best option for everything.  Here is one of the last things sitting on my kitchen counter.  Yes, the bottle of 500.  And that's my first thing I am thankful for if you were wondering if I had forgotten my point.

Of the last things I packed..... We had our S'more and Caramel Apple Party the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving to say goodbye to our neighbors.  Driven by my sweet tooth, I always plan to have caramel left over to do the apples at least once or twice more over the next few days so Em's parents were in town so I thought, we'll certainly do that.  Thanksgiving came and went.... and by Monday things just needed to be put in boxes.  So there's the crock pot full of hardened caramel on the kitchen counter, complete with wooden spoon sticking out of it and in the box it went, along with my camera bag, random desk-like things, ibuprofen, hand towels, oh, and my 50 cup coffee maker.  I just found it Saturday, spoon still in the caramel.  

Mmmmm.... want some? Right by the old dust buster.

The Friday after Thanksgiving is our day to decorate for Christmas so before we stacked the rental house with boxes, we put up lights, a tree and few decorations.  I can say now, I don't know if we would have gotten that done......sweetly......had we not done it that day.  

And who makes FOUR orthodontist appointments during their pack, move and unpack weeks?  It was one of those things Julia had been asking to do and in my mode of "finish EVERYthing", I took her.  We were 3 for 4 and everyone at Dr. Kelley's office was gracious about my brain lapse.

We moved boxes ourselves {plus a LOT of help} and had professional movers move our furniture-- the heavy stuff, but there is NOTHING like people you will see again seeing how much JUNK you have.  Mortifying.   House things look very strange on your lawn or driveway.   It's like the back of the cross stitch or needlepoint.... or your garage/attic or your laundry room or the master bath room-- people just aren't supposed to look there.  Seeing this truck in the drive was reality coming into focus after days of having my head in closets, attics, cabinets and boxes.  {My niece sending me pictures of her shelling in St. Augustine didn't help.}

Someone likened Brighton to a Golden Retriever the other day and this is concrete evidence.  I can't remember the exact day Jeff found this note on the bed but it was right when we were in the thick of it. At the time, we were popping Motrin and moving the note out the way in order to lie down... incredulous and somewhat endeared at the same time.  Love that kid.

And then there's the day you just need one of these.  An Oreo Blizzard with pecans and cappuccino syrup.   I could move/lift at least 20 more boxes after this cup of yummiliciousness.

The porch doesn't look so bad in this picture but let me tell you, it was like a bad eviction for several days.  I hated it for our neighbors but we didn't know what to do with so much of it!  At that point, we were wondering where our toothbrushes would go.  I took this picture because of the familiar site of a book in a random place.  Julia, after locating a book, had been in the swing at some point reading.  I think it was one of her ways for a little visit with normalcy.  Seeing this was good for me too.

One of the coolest things that happened during all of this was that we got to meet as "Watermark Fort Worth" for the first time.  January will be two years that we've been waiting on what the Lord would do about a new church in Fort Worth.  We are beyond happy that Watermark Dallas is now adding the Watermark Fort Worth campus.  

Hmmmm............Thank You for a washer and dryer. I texted my cousin and sister in law and said I was pretending to be on vacation at the beach since this is what's in the house on St. George.  Not feeling it.

First play date in the old house-- I remember this day like it was yesterday.  We weren't settled at all but these girls had so much fun.

Just last week, these two {a different friend} came hobbling in from the back yard begging for a quarter.  They aren't as glamorous but they are STILL playing dress up.  Our dress up box just keeps getting bigger....and more scrappy.

 Call it what you want-- cheap, stubborn-- but we didn't want to rent a storage facility so all of our furniture needed to find a spot in the rental house which is half the size of our house we just left.  After thinning out through the move process, here is the one chair that just won't fit.  Not even greased with Vaseline.  It's one of the first pieces of furniture we purchased 20 years ago-- oh, those jewel tones.  It's spent a lot of time over the years in Brighton's room and looked great with his western boy colors.  But now it's just a chair without a home.  And when I say there is NO room, I mean it, unless we set it in the middle of the kitchen.

Jeff hung our dining chandelier because it's the best place to store it in the meantime.  It's too big for the room, but it's familiar and I've already fed 10 under it.  It just feels right.  Thank you, Jeff.  And thank you even more for not making me go back once we left.

Jeff went back three, maybe four more times once we left.  It's the worst-- going back for all that didn't make it into the truck---the random things that just seem to be a part of the house because we were so used to seeing them in certain places.  One of the last loads he got from home had the kid's hearth time Bibles and devotionals in it, another stash of picture books, my Grandmother Julia's silver plate I had intended to use Thanksgiving and a huge picture on the wall.  After we'd been gone for 5 days, they still found my Ikea food storage containers in the kitchen cabinets.

As I've said, it's hard to leave home.  It's so familiar that you can't even see what needs to go. Over the last two weeks, a couple of us have admitted awakening once, thinking we were in our old house.  I think we'll get used to our stuff in this new house and soon it will be our home.  We'll get used to having to use BOTH hands to open the old lock on the front door and turning sideways to get between the couch and piano.  We'll figure out how to navigate 3 adults and 2 kids in two small bathrooms.  We'll get used to the kids walking through our bedroom to get to their bedroom.  We'll enjoy the small sitting areas, vacuuming half the house without unplugging, our little school area, the large front porch and swing, the incredibly friendly neighbors, and how much warmer a house with 8 foot ceilings is.  Thank You.

We ate lunch on the swing the other day.  It squeaks as all great swings do.  Brighton didn't like it.  It was "annoying".  Julia was quiet....thinking before she spoke.

"I like that sound.  It sounds to me like it's saying 'Everything is going to be okay.'."

I'm glad she thinks so and I believe she's right.  

And I say "Thank You".

Thursday, December 6, 2012

My Biggest Fan

I called my Mom on the way home from something this morning and one of her first statements was, "I see you didn't post yesterday."  {I won't go into the detail involving her reference to a caped person.}  I'm glad I have a fan-- even with her attempts at light-hearted bad joking-- I'm thankful she checks.  No, I didn't post.  And if any of you have ever moved recently, you know exactly why.  Oh, I have lots to share.  You haven't heard the last of this move.  You just wait until I get the time.

So, Mom, thanks for always checking.  It means a lot to me that you anticipate my posts.  Just remember, next time, you won't be reading about my move, you will be a part of it!  Put it on your calendar, Mom.  Now.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Goodbye, Sweet Home

Home. It doesn’t matter where it is, I get sentimental. I get attached. Maybe it’s because when I go “home” to Soperton, I go to the home we moved into when I five.  I like that.   It’s a Spanish Colonial set in Georgia pines splattered with dogwoods, a few magnolias, and redbuds.  At the end of a long driveway off Dublin Road, I lived for what seems to a child, a lifetime.  There’s something marvelous about “familiar”.  When I return, I sleep in the same pink bedroom with a country view that has not changed except that the trunks of the trees have broadened and lengthened and the azalea bed below my windows has swelled to an enormous patch.  Returning is special.  My room has housed things from the Rub a Dub Baby to Bee Gee’s music to the placebo drugs I compounded in pharmacy school.  If I looked around long enough, I’d probably find all three.  I like that.  I remember where the best hide and seek places are {in my Daddy’s closet and in the den between the couch and the wall}, Christmas mornings that exceeded “merry and bright”, Dukes of Hazard fun on motorcycles, after dinner table conversations that brought security to a teenage heart, where I was tickled so intensely I thought I would die, beautiful bridal showers, wedding receptions and luncheons my Mom hosted, great (and not so great) practical jokes, where I used to could turn a cartwheel without losing a foot, mine and Blake’s conversations long after bedtime, countless dinner guests and a zillion more soul shaping, life making memories.  Home is a big deal.  Home is familiar.  I like that, too.

So for almost 18 years, Jeff and I have been on our way to “familiar”.  I have loved every stop.  But this last stop may have been my favorite.  All four of us were here.  And they were little here.

They fit in kitchen cabinets.

They fit in laundry baskets.

Traditions were started.

I have loved this stop but it’s coming to a end.  We are in our last days here in this house I never thought we’d leave.  I thought this was the last house.  Oh, it’s a great decision, a lateral move, an exciting time but my heart is tugged, no, yanked, regarding all these memories we’ve made here.  Our ceilings are a mere 10 feet high but the rooms are thousands of stories deep.  I have tried to write a lot of them down--- right here.

And I am so glad I have.  I don’t want to forget the goodness.

Birthday celebrations, snow days, coffees, dinner parties for all sorts of reasons and for no reason at all, books, popcorn and cheese, Uno matches, fires, school at home, Sabbath meals, Carrie, Evonne and now, Emily who have blessed us so, the neighbors, house church, books, Christmas mornings, so much special company sleeping in our guest room, S’more parties, watching squirrels, Thanksgivings, small group, Mom’s group, surprise parties, books, Nanna and Papa camps, rainy days, farm chores, and every ordinary day.

We have become a family here.  The kids are old enough to get that-- being a family.  Being the Sanders.  Brighton was only 21 months old when we moved in and Julia hadn’t even turned 4.   I know those years weren’t perfect when they were younger but they were so darn cute, it hardly mattered.

This house is hollow tonight.  It’s not home tonight.  Our sounds echo off these bare walls and floors. I can see too many boxes. I didn’t even have a spoon to stir our coffee earlier.  I am sitting by the last fire when I should be sleeping.  And the worst part... I have a lump in my throat.  Better stop there.  I can’t expend the energy.  Movers come in the morning.

I haven’t met the family who is moving in and maybe I won’t.  But I think of them a lot.  This place I love will be theirs to make home.  They will be the ones to sit in the den and stare at the canopy of trees with winding, overlapping limbs. {Oh, just wait until it snows! And when the spring blooms with every shade of green!}  They will be the one to sit by the REAL fire and enjoy the cozy warmth.  {Please don’t put gas logs in this fire place!}  They will be the ones serving meals in the kitchen or setting the dining room table for something special.  They will be the ones making it personal to them.  I think it will be a while before I can come to visit my neighbors.

So Family That is Moving Here, though I don’t plan on leaving anything behind, I’d put money on your finding a few random tiny Legos, a Polly Pocket shoe from long ago, our Golden Retriever’s blonde hair {impossible to eradicate}, a bobby pin from my ballerina’s bun, thread from her many sewing projects, a few nail holes we missed while puttying them.  I hope you love it here.  I hope it creeps into your heart and makes you want to cherish your family.  I pray it will be your best stop so far.... and maybe your last one. I hope it will be your favorite familiar.  I pray you will intently pursue making memories here..... and years later finding yourself wading through rooms stories deep. Very deep.

We will take our with us.  I promise.

I am on to make another home.  Another familiar.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

# 9

As I scanned Brighton's assignment sheet for Science yesterday, I saw we had something out of the ordinary due. Today.  Blocks of time were shaded in on the calendar in my head for most of the day so this threw me for a loop.  {This would not have happened if I had read the entire assignment sheet last week.  Our fault entirely.}  B's sweet teacher, Mrs. Johanson, gave us many choices and a few of those I just looked right over knowing he would NOT be ready for an oral report of any kind by 8:30 this morning.  I also knew I would not be performing any soil experiments in the next 5 hours.  So in my attempts of being less controlling~ or less suggestive~ and giving Brighton more choices, I set the paper down in front of him.  {#4 circled in red pen has nothing to do with my suggestive struggle!}  He studied it for a minute or two.  I left the room so I would keep my mouth shut.  I walked back in to check on his progress.  

"Mom, I think I want to do this one."  I looked down to see his little finger pointed on #9.  


#9.  If you can think of another activity you would like to do pertaining to soil, let me know.

"B, would you like "A" or "B"?"


Welcome to my world.

Love that boy.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Welcome to Delaware {And the boy who took me there}

There’s a song that’s been on repeat in my head over the last several months~ “Welcome to Delaware” by the Nockels of Watermark. It’s an old one but I remember the comfort it brought me while waiting on children.  I don’t know but I feel the song was written from a painful spot that worked its way to submission and ultimately, contentment and trust in His creative, redeeming ways.

Just to get the jist,

“But You've let me see so much since I've known You
But I’m headed to where it seemed like nowhere
You told me You'd come
You told me You'd meet me here

You were here to say,
"Welcome to Delaware,
I know you've traveled far,
And it's a lot colder here than what you're used to,
And I know, that in the winter time,
things aren't what they used to be
So all you really have here now, is Me..." “

Delaware.  No man’s land.  Unfamiliar territory.  A big question mark.  A place you never thought you’d be.  A place you know nothing about.  But God is there.

Each of our lives are full of Delawares- some more painful, some unexpected, some just unfamiliar.  Our move to Texas, planting a church, infertility, adoptions- open and closed, a ministry like Tarrant NET, homeschooling.  It’s all normal life stuff, but definitely unfamiliar and that’s where my new Delaware comes in.  A boy.  Raising a normal nine year old boy through a normal boyhood.  But somehow this “normal” feels like a remote, thickly wooded area of Delaware, in that I can only see what’s right in front of me.  The misdirected energy, the constant pushing, the consistent testing..... I get stuck there and it veils the amazing view around me and the vision of what is and what could be.  Here is where I need to focus.  On the whole landscape.  Over many years.  10:30 am on a Monday morning?  Yesterday?  Not so much.  

I knew little boys pulled away from their mommas and I knew it was normal, healthy, and necessary but I had no idea how soon it would begin.  And we’ve been there a couple of years.  They don’t really know they are doing it but they sense changes and different needs within and they begin the slow process of pulling away...... towards dad.  It’s not leaving or even a disconnect from mom but a necessary part of becoming their own little man.  And we have to let them.  We have to.  Along with the heartache the tugging causes, what complicates it further is that Brighton is under my care most of the day, feeling the need to make his own decisions, to have a little control and to bristle, at times, to my instructions and training.   And I understand that because I still bristle.  What I don’t understand is how this works out in minute to minute parenting~ giving him some autonomy in the same moments he needs to finish a school assignment or in his desire for independence and my desire for him to complete a chore.  Yes, these are small choices, not life threatening situations, but here is where I am trying to see the landscape, the whole of the woods.  If he is learning to wind through the trees now while they are smaller, maybe when the situations loom large and are towering over him, he will know his way around and dodge some unnecessary heart ache.  Maybe.

I’ve said this before.  I can’t talk about Brighton without talking about Jeff.  Jeff takes Brighton any time he can-- running errands, the last half hour at this office, skeet shooting.  Whatever Jeff is doing that Brighton can be with him, Jeff invites him and Brighton’s answer is ALWAYS yes!  Nothing can compete with this.  And the best part?  They “get” each other.  Jeff grew up in “Delaware”.  He was a boy once, right?  Brighton needs to be “gotten”, especially by his Dad and Jeff is allowing so much time for this.  I am so grateful.

When I think of Brighton, words like potential, influence, charismatic, sensitive, persistence, people-loving, intuitive float around in my mind.  Then there is one word that I scribble across all of these because it affects every part of who he is.  “Strong-willed”.  And that’s not a bad word.  I used to think it was.  Now, it makes for some interesting parenting moments but just a few weeks ago, I had to ask myself, “Would I really rather him be weak-willed?”  Absolutely not.  Then why do I get tangled up with it so often?

I listen to podcasts when I walk and currently I am being discipled by whoever is talking about marriage or parenting on Focus on the Family.  (My scope is narrow right now.)  A couple of weeks ago, Cynthia Tobias spoke on “Practical Advice on Parenting Strong Willed Children” and it changed the way I saw Brighton- not to the point where I understand him fully or even know what to do with him all the time but it gave me insight into his thoughts and why he does some of the things he does.   The thing I keep thinking about she said is the child doesn’t necessarily want to control you.  He just needs to maintain a little bit of control over himself.  Can you relate to that?  I can and I think we all have a bit of that going on~ some more than others.  When a child tries to exercise that last little bit of control when we are yelling for them to get in the car (like running back in to get a drink or a different pair of shoes), it gets under our skin and in that moment, we can make it easier or we can turn it into an issue over being 2 minutes later leaving the driveway.  To keep it real, I fall into the latter way more than I want to admit.  The other thing she said was giving them ultimatums, like a do or die scenario, never goes well.  Sometimes a strong willed child would rather “die” than “do” for you.  I think you can imagine the scenarios-- {sitting at the table in front of the dinner plate ALL night or taking the zero at school}  Tear that page out of the parenting book.

By His grace, this trip to Delaware with B, will produce good stuff for our whole family.  It keeps me praying, keeps me dependent, and keeps Jeff and me in serious communication.  Doesn’t ALL of parenting?  The most comforting thing is that the Lord is really the tour guide on this journey through boyhood.  He may use Jeff and me but only He can lead Brighton through it in a way that will produce the fruit of a boy who loves Him, desires to obeys and lives to serve Him.  I can’t touch that.  But it has to be what I see, the entire landscape, in the moment of frustration, in the moment of “What do I do now?” , in the moment of his maintaining a little control for himself.  Faithfully, God comes and raises His own in creative and redemptive ways.  In Ephesians 3:20 kinds of ways.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,”

I’m counting on that.

My goal is to embrace his strong will and encourage him live it out under the control of the Holy Spirit and for me to have the self control to sit back and watch God at work.
Immeasurably more.  According to His power.  Not by might.

So, watch out world when we finally make it out of Delaware.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Holiday Pep Talk

I need a little pep talk.  The holidays are coming.  Without them, I am sure you, like me, have lists growing like weeds inside your head.  With them, you wonder if weeds can choke out weeds.  I believe they can, but with a little forethought, can we decide what chokes?

Thanksgiving is next, but I’ve “missed” Christmas before.  How?

I executed Christmas without actually experiencing it. I decorated my house for the celebration of His birth. I talked about Him. I listened to songs about Him. I saw things that represented Him in my home. I made a cake for Him. I even read about Him.......to my children. However, I don’t think I ever really entered in. I didn’t make time to enter in, to ponder, to reflect. And I regret it. Immensely. I feel I suffered the consequences for days before I realized my sin. I made my choices every day, the main one being execution instead of experiencing which forced me to land on the other side of Christmas empty.

What will I do next year? The thing is, there’s no magic formula. There is no “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” list I will check off next year and how absurd would that be anyway? It’s my choice of how I spend the hours that make up the season. It’s my choice whether or not I want to include the “execution of Christmas” on my list of “pass on’s” to my kids instead of the “experience of Christmas”.”

So that’s my pep talk to myself~ three years ago.  And I’ve gone back to it often to remember how empty just the execution can be.  All the pretties, all the the work, all the food, all the activities/traditions-- hollow and unsatisfying without the experience of Him.    “Better” always looks good to me-- and fun-- and do-able, even special,  but I’ve got to choose the best over the better.

As my list, the execution, starts forming, may it not choke out the experience of Him this Thanksgiving and Christmas season.

The Scent of Fall

When that first cool front blows through, it's like someone opened a window right when you thought you might suffocate.  The fresh air, the breeze, the chill nipping at your skin-- delightful.  When this happens, the kids know the pumpkins will be on the porch soon and the house will be sprinkled with leaves, nuts, gourds and glorious orange.  And then they smell it ~orange peels and cloves~ simmering on the stove.  You can't welcome the fall into your home in any better way.  Try it!

Start with the peel of one orange, a tablespoonful of cloves and 2 cups of water in your smallest pot.  Bring to a boil, uncovered and simmer, uncovered.  Change it out every 3-4 days as your family enjoys oranges.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

B's 9th Birthday Letter

Dear B,

I sit here thinking of you, that your big day is tomorrow, the fact that the Amazon order I made last week with your EVERY present hasn’t even left the warehouse, the reality that I am sitting here writing you a letter when I should be at Toys R Us.........and, do you wonder, I don’t know where to start.

You are one year older, a few marks higher on the pantry door, and your personality, larger than ever.   All of your pants are just at the “not quite right” length.  Your limbs drank in the sun and water of the summer.  You found your biceps the other day while goofing off with me on the couch-- and you really have them!  So proud you were.  Just like you are filling up your clothes, you fill our home with loud, boisterous boy-ness.  I remember once you came home from a short trip with Daddy and the moment you came in the back door, all of YOU filled the house.  In less than 30 seconds, Emily texted from upstairs, “B’s home!”  Don’t ever think about thieving.  You’d be terrible at it. It’s shockingly obvious when you are away from home and you are sorely missed.

You still have words to fill every minute of the day and can dish them out double time when you are excited about something.  It’s awe inspiring.  Just the other day, I strategically waited to tell you about Big Tex burning down at the state fair after all school work was complete and we were in the car with no other distractions.  I don’t think live eye witnesses could have answered a fraction of your questions.  A loss of words?  If you don’t know the word you are looking for, you aren’t afraid to try to put one together-- or at least take a stab at it-- which have produced genuine chuckles from all of us.  How I am wishing I had written them all down.  The only one that is coming to mind at the moment is “The Limestones” for “The Flintstones”.
One of my favorite exchanges I heard between you and Julia a few months ago was this:

You:  “I forgot what I was going to say.”
Julia:  “That’s really sad, B.”

Surprised by her empathy, you looked at her with a question on your face.

Julia:  “Well, for someone who likes to talk as much as you do, that must be awful.”

My favorite days are the ones, of course, when you and Julia can’t get enough of each other.  Love is in the air and all is right with the world.  I take a deep breath and enjoy every moment-- the hugs, the kisses, the “let me do that for you”, the breakfasts in bed, the gentlemanly manners, the shared spaces on the window seat, more hugs...more kisses.....And then, Julia reminds you of one responsibility and you have had your fill of her.  During breakfast prep last week, I came in on you emphatically telling her, “Juila!  Wait! I can’t do all that!  I am NOT omnipresent!”  The tone intensifies, tears may be shed, but then, it’s over as quickly as it started and the next thing I know you are wanting to buy her something with the money burning a hole, no, a crater in your pocket.

Still, your philosophy on money is simple.  Spend it.  And it seems not to matter on what.  Just make an exchange at the store for any random junk that in two weeks, unbeknownst to you, will be buried in the depths of the trashcan and you will never even miss it.  Saving, and we have cast a vision for that, is a blurry concept.  WHAT you are saving FOR changes every time you want to spend and your spend envelope is empty. However, I must say, buying things for us brings you great joy.  I love how you think of things or see things that make you say, “Mom!!  I KNOW Julia would LOVE this!!  Please. Can I buy it for her?”  The only problem is you rarely have enough for what you want to purchase for us.   I’m not worried about you, your future wife, mortgage etc.  You’re smart.  You’ll figure it out.

I can’t write to you without writing about your Dad.  It’s hard to think of you very long without thinking of him.  He LOVES to be with you and he invites you to be his sidekick every chance he gets.  He PREFERS this because he loves you.  Seeing the two of you having fun together almost makes my heart burst.  He made the decision a long time ago to be a “present” dad, one that engages his kids’ hearts.  Sometimes I wish I could hear the conversations you have together driving from here to there-- all that Jeff is tilling and planting in your heart.  He understands you-- parts of you I can’t “get” -- so he’s able to coach me when it comes to you.  You need to thank him one day because you and I are better together because of your Dad.

I love your hair--- again, I can’t write about you without writing about that wonderful mop that sits atop your head.  After you begged me to cut it short, we did because of the epic dramas performed each morning before leaving the house were more than I could handle.  For about 2 weeks, the epic dramas were reduced to a high school one act play.  Your dad finally told me I couldn’t touch it anymore and you now are solely responsible to lay it all down.  This task alone could prepare you for college.  You are blazing your own trail with a brush and gel-- against your natural part.  Only now can I consider the buzz and sleep at night.

But there is so much more to love about you.  I love your smile.  I love your shape.  I love that you are competitive.  I love that sales clerks or people behind a desk don’t intimidate you. I love the cards you make, the songs you play on the piano and the candy you leave for me on my desk.  I love your Lego creations, the pictures you draw, and the way you arrange your stuffed animals.  I love your passion, your affinity for food, and the prayers you pray.  I love that you are sentimental, that you want to keep everything “forever”, and that you ask me to put on Bach when doing school.  I love to watch you pitch.  I love how you open presents.  I love to watch you sleep and I love to watch you wake board. I love how you make eggs any chance you get.  I love to watch you concentrating and trying your very best.  I love how you laugh when I tickle you. I love to see you all tucked and combed in your school uniform and I love to see you after a game in your dirty baseball uniform.  I love to see you read.

B, you keep me on my toes.  You keep me crying out to God.  You keep me humble knowing that we all need Jesus.  I take great comfort in knowing that God is the keeper and shaper of your heart.  With His love, He has wooed you to Him.  You said yes two years ago.  You are His.  By His grace, God may use your Daddy and I to help shape you, but ultimately it’s up to Him.   My prayer is that all your passion and intensity and urgency will be routed into one powerful river of glorifying God in your own unique way.  I’ve learned more about grace parenting you than in any other season of my life.  You ask for it quite often and so do I.  We are both learning the extravagance of His grace and the comfort of being covered by it every moment.  My prayer is that falling into His grace will be second nature to you-- never running from Him after your failures but running TO Him as fast you can.  He’ll be waiting for you.  Always.

I bet you’d really appreciate it if I stopped and made a run to Toys R Us to save your birthday from being a disappointing fiasco in the morning over pancakes.  So I will, but not before I say, you, Brighton, are a BRIGHT light in our family and I am reminded of that every time you smile-- and every time you make someone else smile.  I love you and I am proud to be your momma.

Goodbye eight, Hello nine!!