Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Letter 2014

I have to admit.  I feel a bit old-fashioned when I sit down to type out a Christmas letter.  Is it me or is it the letter?  A dinosaur? Extinct?  Or how about a Black-footed ferret?  They’re cuter anyway and aren’t completely extinct.  So outdated or not, I embrace it all- remembering bits of our year, wondering where it went, sharing it with you like a visit I’d much rather have in person. The only thing that would make this deal better is if you’d write me back.

Julia will be 13 next month and I wonder, did someone come during the night and switch out my child with a young lady?  It was SO fast. And here we are— blazing new trails in parenting. I am very thankful for her sweet, patient demeanor {mostly—-she does have a little brother} and her willingness to help me with just about anything.  She continues piano lessons and ballet.  She had her first ballet recital “en pointe” this year as one of the Indians in Peter Pan.  We heard the drum beat in our heads- or our chests- for weeks.  A few of her favorite things are reading, shopping, family dates, and being with friends.  She tends to be our saver {of money} but she’s caught the clothes bug. {I had nothing to do with that.}  She’s also learned the thrill of a bargain. {I had NOTHING to do with that either.}

Brighton just turned 11 in October and his neck has been hurting for about six months. If you have an elementary boy, you know exactly why.  Yes— the hair.  Swooping that hair over “just so” has given him chronic whiplash.  Raw evidence that even boys suffer for beauty.  He continues to bless our family with enthusiasm for life and his unique words of affection for each of us.  His desire for fun every minute of every day doesn’t mix so well with school but somehow he manages to make it through. Alive.  However, sometimes that puts me on the phone with Jeff on the floor of my closet eating chocolate.  Brighton continues piano lessons and plays whatever sport is in season.  A few of his favorite things are, well, all of Julia’s EXCEPT reading and add video games. {I gave it my all, people.}  And yes, shopping. The boy can spend some money.

We are grateful for the 400+ Reading Coaches working through Tarrant NET with Read2Win!  The coaches are blessing the first graders in the Fort Worth school district by helping them master their reading skills before second grade.  We started our 3rd school year in October and are super encouraged by the results and feedback from the schools.  Our prayer is that the schools will feel loved and cared for by the churches in their communities by being served in this and other ways.

We celebrated my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary this year and that was such an amazing weekend seeing my parents being loved on by so many special people— many of whom are reading this letter.  Thank you for being such great friends— and family— to my parents.  Way to go, Mom and Dad!

You are kind to read because it means that you care about my family and that’s something.  A BIG something.  I don’t take that granted so thank you.  Thank you for your kindness and generosity in the past, through the years and for right now.  I am blessed to know you.
Merry, merry Christmas.

Truly He taught us to love one another, His law is love and His gospel is peace!

Behold your King!  Before Him lowly bend.

O Holy Night,  O night divine!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Parenting: My Apples, His Basket

Happy Almost Christmas Break!  Counting down the days over here.  I started this post LAST week and well, you know, it’s December.  I put it aside to feed my family or something important like that, I am sure.  I am SO enjoying getting all the cards in the mail, seeing everyone’s photos, how the children have grown and the creative ways we are wished a Merry Christmas!  The mailbox is NEVER as much fun as it is during the month of December.  I got mine out over the weekend— a homemade job with a tripod and a remote control.  I really TRIED to have a bonafide photographer to “make” our picture {that was for you, House Full of Boys}, but I really just waited too late.  I debated on the letter but that argument in my head will probably happen every year just like it has happened every year before this one.  As the kids get older, the harder the letter is to write.  There is a fine line between “Read how incredibly awesome my kids are” and “Read this completely boring update on my family”.  Maybe the line is not so fine— but it’s hard to fall somewhere between “sleep aid” and “informative, not braggy and worth the read”.  Anyway, it’s out there and of course, after I’ve sent out “x” number, I begin to second guess even the smallest lines in the letter.

I’ve had this conversation with a handful of friends over the last few months and I was thinking of those when I put in my letter that as Julia reaches being a teenager, we are blazing new trails in parenting.  Not that parents have never raised teenagers before- duh— but that as parents in 2014, the smart phone era, high heels in the children’s department {thongs (!!!!!!!??!!} among other things}, the ever-expanding social media creature, Wifi access everywhere we turn and on and on and on— I FEEL like we ARE blazing trails never trod before— and NEXT year will look different from THIS year.  I’ve spoken with parents not much farther along than we are who really can’t speak to the decisions we have to make regarding JUST social media.  Even Instagram isn’t what it was just a year ago.  Obviously, different parents will make different choices for their kids — that will always be— but I can’t even seem to find a small consistency among my favorite parents, like a pattern or a trusty formula.  {Formulas are so comforting but SO NOT good in parenting.}  So this post is not about “8 things to consider before giving your kids a smart phone or high heels, or wear makeup or play popular video games, or have an Instagram account, or have Wifi in their rooms or watch a certain show or read a certain book series— and a gajillion other things ” because, you know what?  That wears me out and my energy needs to be spent elsewhere.

Their hearts.  That’s where.  That wellspring of life King Solomon talks about.  {“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” Proverbs 4:23}  What springs up from that well today and 5, 10, 30 years from now is a REALLY big deal.  I don’t know about you but it’s so much easier to just tell them to stop— because it’s annoying- or just say “No” to whatever it is they want— because it’s, well, annoying  —rather than engaging their hearts to find out what is really going on and from where the desire is coming or from what does the disobedience stem?  Who has time for that during the school morning rush, or between afternoon activities— or who has the energy for that after dinner is cooked and the kitchen is clean or after the game or practice or at bedtime?  But that’s the work of parenting, yes?  It’s those moments- when I know it’s a heart issue- that I have to “self preach” and remind myself that I signed up for this and investing the time in conversations that make a bee line for the heart COULD be a game changer.  Every time I stop and do MORE THAN just put an end to a behavior, more than just dole out a consequence for disobedience or more than attempt to suppress an unhealthy desire will NOT make difference, but some stops will.  The ones that touch the heart will.  {Just a little pressure to always be on our A-game, right?}  How about, instead, a little encouragement for dependency on Christ 24/7?  And that’s where I am today— trusting in my Savior to do His work.  I can’t make them see how the gospel intersects their lives EVERYDAY.  I can’t change the heart.  I can’t form repentance.  Oh, but He can and I am counting on Him.  All my apples are going into His basket.  {I am self preaching, here, in case you were wondering.}

I remember moving out of the rental house on Clover and being MOR.TI.FIED at the amount of stuff under Julia’s trundle bed.  Oh, yes, there were onlookers.  Mounds, I tell you.  I am not sure how it all was under there but in the midst of the plunder/trash, I saw my handwriting— lots of it on a couple of sheets of paper.  It was a letter I had written to her in response to something hard she had shared with me.  Friends— this letter was a spectacular parenting moment— I mean, right up there with the likes of James Dobson or Vicki Courtney.  I nailed it. Thought so anyway.  And that day, it was trash under the bed, most likely, never to be read, or thought of, again.

It reminds me of HOW dependent I am on the Holy Spirit’s work in my kids’ lives.  I blur the lines so often— trying to BE the Spirit for them, attempting to change outward behavior, pushing them towards the Word—not that we can’t, as parents, encourage our kids to read God’s Word, but one day, I trust I will see them HUNGER and THIRST for His Word from their own soul.  Not mine. All on their own.  His Word can do the work we, their parents, cannot even fathom.  Greater.  Higher.  More profound.  Gentler.  Kinder.  Stronger.  More beautiful.  Bolder.  More fruit than we could ever ask for or imagine.  To HIM be the glory and honor.  He is good.

My apples.  His basket.  Absolutely.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Stay With Me

There’s a little private mourning going on over here that Thanksgiving week is over.  It’s a highly anticipated week in our home-- a break from school for ALL of us, Funday Monday, Operation Christmas Child shopping, no bedtimes, hosting neighbors for the Caramel Apple Party on Wednesday night, friends around our table for Thanksgiving, thankful cards under our pillows, Georgia/ Georgia Tech game and decorating the house for the most significant birthday ever!  We played all week and by Saturday night, we could barely keep our eyes open past 9 o’clock!  And it’s over.  Sigh.

Decorating on Friday, the day we FINALLY get to turn on the Christmas music, I was amped up for it because Julia was ready to help me-- once she made it out of bed.  After about 2 hours, I felt I was moving in molasses.  I had no zip in my zap.  Nada.  We decorated last year after being in the house for 3 weeks but expectations were low on my end so we just put stuff out and we were just thrilled to be decorated.  This year I needed to do it right- to figure out where our favorite things would go.  Molasses.

Then Saturday came-- the day we put up the tree.  The day we consider easy and fun.  All yuletide merry came to a screeching halt. I think it’s fair to say I started testing sections of our pre-lit tree around 12 {about half time of the game} and after a sort of diffused argument, pulling out a gazillion bulbs with my thumbnail, a few tears in the bathroom- no child needs to see their mother CRY over Christmas lights, a horrible Bulldog loss, a phone call to an Christmas lights seasoned friend, a trip to Home Depot, it was all lit by 6.  Can I just say I have a whole new respect for my husband?  After switching out fuses-- which NEVER works-- and even changing out plugs-- yes, with bare wires and electrical tape-- he comes home with something that looks like a cross between a glue gun and a pistol, we were able to RE-light all three of the four sections.  It’s called a LightKeeper Pro.  Oh. My. Gosh.  It solved all of our problems.  Tedious work but it eventually found the culprit and voila!  Light!  A Christmas miracle!  I kissed him after every strand came back on.  LightKeeper Pro.  Husbands, be the hero and go get one now.

But that drama stirred me up.  I cried in the bathroom, people.  Over lights.  A new perspective needed to be birthed!

You know the little move with your two fingers pointing at your eyes and you go back and forth between yours and the direction of someone else’s -- well, if it didn’t seem irreverent for Jesus to do this, I think that’s what He’s doing with me this first day of December-- reminding me He sees me {and my lists} and not to lose focus over the next 25 days-- to “Keep it right here between you and Me.  Stay with Me."

It’s every year.  These lists.  This messy calendar.  The shopping.  The weird things we cook.  Time spent.  Money spent.  Lalalalalalalalala--people write about this all the time.  But don’t we need to be reminded all the time?  We are celebrating HIS birth, HIS coming, God’s putting into motion His rescue plan for all of mankind.  God knew the rescue plan since before the foundation of the world but we celebrate Luke 2:6, "While [Joseph and Mary] were there, the time came for the baby to be born.”  THE time.  It was THE time for His plan to be revealed.  We get to relive it and celebrate it!  God had been silent for so long and then Gabriel surprised Mary that day with such mysterious news  and then Zechariah in the temple that day with news about his son, John.  It’s such a wonderful story to tell, to hear, to ponder.  Every. Year.

If you haven’t started anticipating His arrival with your family, I encourage you to do so! Grab an Advent book or look up Scriptures that foretell His arrival.  Louie Giglio’s “Waiting Here for You: An Advent Journey of Hope” or “Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus” edited by Nancy Guthrie.  Ann Voskamp just came out with a beautiful one for children, "Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas”, and then there is Elyse Fitzpatrick’s "Counting the Days, Lighting the Candles: A Christmas Advent Devotional” and a favorite, “The Advent Book” by Jack and Kathy Stockman.

Make the most of this Christmas season.  Whittle it down as much as you can.  I’ve missed Him before and I don’t want to miss Him again.

I bet just like with me, He’s saying to you, “Keep it right here between you and Me. Stay with Me." When December is over, you’ll be glad you did. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

November: Adoption Month

November is National Adoption Month and I am reposting the most read post in seven years, "Barren and Blessed".  I have written much on adoption over the years as Julia is a “Gladney baby” and Brighton was adopted through a private agency, but for some reason this one struck a chord with people.  I know within the 2 years since I wrote it, more friends or friends of yours may have come up on this dilemma of infertility and whether or not to pursue adoption and how to respond to God throughout any waiting process.  Feel free to share if you feel it would encourage a friend.  

The farther I get from those precious days when I was handed my sweet babies, the fact Julia and Brighton are indeed adopted slips my mind.  I have these passing thoughts of hereditary or genetic issues and then remember, oh, they have a whole other genetic make up!  I guess biological parents hear how much their children look like them, but I am still surprised how often we get it.  From complete strangers-- that make an effort to tell us.  It’s sweet, though not important, but it lends to my forgetting at times they weren’t born from my barren womb.  They grew in two selfless young women whose hearts had been turned by God to release the babe in their womb to waiting, prayerful parents.  I find it impossible to use our earthly language to express the depth of my gratefulness.  Maybe in heaven I will be able to put words to all that stirs in my heart when I think of those two women.

You’ve heard me say it before-- I PRAISE GOD for my barrenness.  I’ve written before all that God did in those years of waiting for Julia and I wouldn’t trade that time for ANYTHING.  I told Him then I didn’t want to miss Him --or anything He wanted to do-- in that desperate time and He was faithful to answer my prayer.  He was FULL to brimming around me and in me-- maybe to the point that I haven’t experienced since.

One morning years ago in the midst of all the waiting, Psalm 136 did a little dance on the page.  It’s that Psalm where it starts with “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good” and every other line is “and His love endures forever”.  And with resignation-- and hope, I wrote this on an index card because this is where my heart was,  “We may never have close friends, but His love endures forever. We may never be financially comfortable, but His love endures forever.  We may never have a great church, but His love endures forever.  {And this one the hardest to write-- I remember oh so clearly the morning I did it.}  We may never have children, but His love endures forever.”   I wrote it down-- in black and white.  And posted it up.  That was where I needed to rest.  There is where I needed to abide.  All of these things I wanted, but He needed me to BELIEVE that if none of this ever happened, that He’d be enough and I’d be satisfied.  And that I wouldn’t be disappointed.  Ultimately.

So if you find yourself waiting for your first baby, your second or third-- or even a husband to begin this whole process, I encourage you to put your fears in black and white and surround them, top and bottom, side to side with the Truth of “His love endures forever”.  Or with any Truth that soothes your soul.  Some other ones I held onto were Jeremiah 32:27, “I am the God of all mankind.  Is anything too hard for me?”  Psalm 31:1 “Lord, I trust in You alone. You are the God who always does what is right!”  If I didn’t believe He always did the right thing, what did I have?  I would only have my guessing, my wondering, my what ifs.  And that’s a miserable place to be.

Last thing--press into Him.  And that’s not just some spiritual cliche-- if you are barren, you know what I mean. PRESS. You need Him.  And He wants you.  All of you. He wants your heart, your emotions, your desperation, your grief, your anger, your disappointment, your confusion, your depression, your broken heart...... If you can’t do anything else, HOLD ON to the FACT that God is good and that HE always has your best in mind.  Take a walk through the Psalms- “He is good and His love endures forever.”  He says it over and over and over.  Because, I think, He wanted us to be SURE of that because He knew our present realities would try to convince us otherwise.

 He. Is. Good.

Press in and give thanks for your barrenness.  Let Him fill it with Himself.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

My Parents: 50 years and Counting

Aren't they cute?!  
Our family had the privilege of celebrating my parents' 50th wedding anniversary last month.  I remember when we celebrated my dad's parents' 50th and being intrigued by all the "gold gifts" thinking they were surely rich out of their minds now that they had all that gold.  They seriously bought a curio cabinet to display all of the stuff they would never use.  Still, it is a sweet tradition and in 1970 something, almost everyone bought gifts like that.

However, giving my parents gold stuff did not excite me and I can promise you, "gold stuff" was the last thing my parents would have wanted.  They don't need it.  They wouldn't want it.  Besides, they don't have a place for a curio cabinet.

So we went nostalgic-- personal, I guess.  The immediate family wrote letters to Mom and Dad and we put them in a photo book that also served as the guest book for the shindig at the pond house.  Maybe I should capitalize "pond house"..... I think it has earned its status as a proper noun by now.
We invited as many friends and family as we could to come by the Pond House and see my parents-- and eat, of course.   The night before we gave them the book after dinner with some of our "like family" friends and I think they were pleased we didn't give them a gold bowl.

I'd love to share with you excerpts of letters written by my family.  These letters came to me during the crazy season I just pulled out of and I remember when the first one came in and glancing over it.  I closed it immediately because I felt my throat getting tight and my nose stinging and I knew I didn't have the emotional energy to sit at my computer and cry.  So I never opened any of them until it was almost too late.  You know I'm a words girl-- so to read these tender, memorable words from my family.... it was just too much.  So because I didn't read them then, it just worked out that I had to read them the night I was trying to finish the project till like 2 in the morning--so I could beg Shutterfly to get it to me on time-- which they did-- and even got a handwritten note from "Allison" thanking me for asking her to do ME a favor--- when I was SO fresh and rested and had all the energy I needed to handle the emotions of putting something so sentimental together.  It was a long night.  All because of the love expressed.

Part of Blake's-- and if you think I write long, he's the one.

{To Mom} I guess because of [Dad gone while running the new store in Soperton] and the time Dad was in Vietnam, you and I built a very strong bond. I always wanted to make you proud and it was amazing to me that I never had to play a football, baseball, or basketball game without you there. You were the perfect sports mom and you were one of the only moms that understood each game. You never embarrassed me at a game, (except when I ran through a stop sign at 3'd base for an in the park homerun and you made Coach Wayne take me out of the game). But even that taught me a valuable lesson so I guess I will let that one go.

{To Dad}Most kids dream about being a sports star or famous person. I just wanted to do what you did. I wanted to get married, work at Dennards, have some kids, raise them in Treutlen County and be respected like you were. I'm still working on the last part, but I have lived a dream life. I go to work everyday with one of my best friends and have a great time when l'm there. You have always tried to put me in positions to be successful and I am grateful for that.
But from all the things you have taught me it was this...You made a commitment to one woman forever. We have never had to talk about it because that is how it is supposed to be. By example you have showed me what it takes as a man to keep a family together. Thank you for that and all the good times we have shared.

To both of you, thanks for the hours spent as a family of four at the dinner table. Adele and I tried hard to follow that example and it wasn't always easy. I am grateful that I always know my parents would be wherever and whenever I needed them. But most of all, thank you for raising me in church. lf you had done nothing else for me, you put me where I needed to be on Sunday. I learned so much from great Sunday school teachers, pastors and pillars of our little First Baptist Church. However, you two taught me that I would be loved at home because we were a family that loved the Lord and tried to do his will. No parents could ever give their children anything better than that foundation. Thank you and have a great 50th anniversary celebration.

Blake is quite the writer.  I LOVED his letter and it was hard to just pick pieces of it.  I got one like this for my 40th birthday and guess what?  I could only read it once.  But I know right where it is.  He is great at expressing his heart through words.  

Most of Mom's cousins showed and surprised us all!

Part of RJ's

{To Nana} I also have found out that the strongest person I know is not the person that can lift the most weight. You are the strongest person I will ever know.  I have seen you battle your cancer and kick its butt!  I never heard you complain about it one time.  I don’t know if I have ever heard you complain about anything in my entire life.  You have shown me how to be a tough guy, and I truly thank you for showing me how to not be a whiner and complainer.  Words can never express how thankful I am for your guidance and showing me that I always need to keep God first in everything that I ever do.  
Thank you for all of the great memories that I will cherish forever!  They will truly never be forgotten.   Thank you for the example you have been to me.

{To Papa} One of the most important things you have shown me is how to live my life the right way.  I have always looked up to you and have wanted to be just like you.  From being around you and Nana you have shown me the right way to treat a woman.  I think that is one of the most important things I could ever learn from the both of you.  Such a strong marriage is not something that you see in this day and age.  But with the guidance you have shown I know that I will be able to do the same as you and Nana have done.  
Thank you for all of the great memories and life lessons you have shown me throughout my life!

If you look across the pond, you can see part of the house through the trees on the left.

Part of Hunter's

{To both} Ever since I was a very young child, I remember you being the grandparents who I could look up to and always depend on, no matter what. And you are still that way, to this day, and I give you my deep gratitude for that. I have such a rich treasure chest in my mind and heart, full of all the many, many memories that we've made together. The trips that you’ve taken me on are once in a lifetime and not many people can say they’ve done the things I have done. Not only were the trips a learning experience they were memories I will cherish forever, from our tree house hotel in Disney to sleeping with Old Faithful right out our back porch.
The memories I have and the memories to come have been because you both made the best decision 50 years ago. Without your “I do’s” I wouldn’t have the best papa and nana around, and the rest of my wonderful family that y’all started and raised to what I will always call perfection. I love you both more than you can ever imagine and pray that I will be the grandparents and parents that you both were. Thank you for everything.

Even Jeff chimed in--

I remember the first time I came to Soperton, GA.  The two of you came home early from a white water rafting trip to check this city boy out.  That was close to 23 years ago and I don’t think that you have slowed down since.  It has been a privilege to be your son in law, and as you know, you raised a beautiful daughter and that of course has been the greatest gift to me.   {Aww....} 

Sadie-- the lady that helped Mom so she could be a helper to Daddy

And a bit of mine--

You made the choice to honor it- that commitment- everyday and we have reaped the benefit of that fruit year after year after year.  Sure, you did it for you…..for each other but I know it wasn’t easy.  {You two are incredibly pig-headed. I wouldn’t know ANYthing about that.}  But because of a million little choices the two of you made, Blake and I ~and now our families~ get to enjoy full and abundant relationships with each other and, next to my own family with Jeff,  it is one of the BIGGEST BLESSINGS OF MY LIFE.  I hope in some way, this can communicate my gratitude.  I couldn’t be more grateful.

And so the weekend went-- kind words from so many friends, people coming by they haven't seen in a while, good food, family time, football, hunting-- just the normal Soperton stuff.

Riding solo but under my supervision while they parked the "mule", they managed to hit one of the freezers in the barn, bending the door, breaking the seal.  Freezers are a major asset in the south- in hunting and fishing territory.  I ran up to the house to get Jeff, grabbed the handiest tool I could find in the barn-a sledgehammer- and I held the door with all my weight while Jeff "sledged" away to straighten the door.  Hopefully the seal still holds.

This was the first time they were all together-- RJ had just gotten in town.  I loved looking over and seeing this.

I love these girls.

I love these views.  Home.  Did I mention it was a BEAUTIFUL weekend?!

Hanging behind the counter in the pharmacy-- can I just tell you-- I get it honest.  Tempered in 22 years of marriage but it's still there.

The store getting dressed up for Christmas

The pine tree picture

The first night- the four of us- we stayed up till like 2--getting all caught up.  What a gift a family is.  We weren't, nor are, like Hunter may think- "perfect"- so far from it, but we love each other.  Deeply. We don't even have a ton in common-- except pharmacy, maybe, but the rest of the family protests when that comes up-- but we have a sweet history and value time together.  Mom and Dad-- that's the fruit of your commitment and all the little things you did and fostered through the years.  I hope you can enjoy it-- even with us spread to Texas.  I am grateful for all the plane tickets, vacations and for all your trips here.  You've been great long distance parents and grandparents.  I love you both-- so much.

Happy Anniversary.  From ALL of us.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Letter to an Eleven Year Old Boy: Brighton's Birthday Letter 2014

Dear B, Eleven!  How long will it take me to get used to saying that?  We had fun celebrating you over the weekend— overwhelmed by all your “thank you’s”.  Once Daddy, Julia and I acted like complete weirdos for the birthday wake up, I made the dash to the doughnut place so I could fulfill your wish for the “doughnut tower” you’d seen a friend get.  So, remember, eleven was your first doughnut tower year.  WHEN, my boy, do we EVER buy doughnuts?!  I didn’t even know where the closest one was.  I miss the days when you had your first one and said, “This is the BEST BAGEL I’ve ever had!”  Oh the days of a little boy who liked healthy food…..  You try—- even faking “like” sometimes.   This year when our family decided to try the Fresh 20 menu plan, you were more than happy to offer to give it up for Lent.  Nice try.  But your tastebuds are still simple and prefer a PB& J over just about anything but pizza maybe.  I am thanking the Lord you still love apples.  Surely I can raise a big, strong young man on apples?

You had a big year.  Transitioning to a new home, a new space, a new room was a big deal for you.  You are like your momma in the sense that you don’t like a bunch of change.  Your year 9 and 10 had a lot of that and you’ve fought through it.  You miss familiar things— even our old cars, my old purses and you can hardly get rid of anything.  Everything gets “put in the attic for when I need it”.  You mention our previous home from time to time but I sense your easiness now in this one. It’s home, B, because we are all here.  And you told me once, “I like this place”.

My egg man

The things I’ll want to remember — some I love and some I don’t always feel just “warm fuzzy” about:  how you report to me all throughout the day what you’ve finished and what you need to finish, how you ALWAYS call when I leave the house- not just once, how when asked if you’ve followed some direction we’ve given you, you are always “on [your] way to do that right now”, how your money still must be spent {!!!!!!}, how you say goodbye and good night until the last possible minute, how you still begin to speak before I can hit end on the call I am having in the car, how your legs shake and your tongue works overtime when you are nervous or excited, how you must have sweet with salty, how you love old things whether it’s something of mine, your daddy’s, your uncle’s or any of your family’s things, how you search for the old school electronics on ebay, how thankful you are, how you value your friendships, and how you value your family.

You were introduced to Rocky this year and became quite enthralled.  I’d say ten was the year of Rocky.  You watched a few of them with your Daddy over a period of time and decided you wanted to join a boxing league.  I’m pretty cool— enthusiastic about most sports— but not that one.  I wouldn’t expend a half an ounce of energy towards researching that.  Dream on, son.  You just live vicariously through Sylvester and save yourself some troubles in your 60’s.

You got to play with your baseball team at the Dr. Pepper Field at Rangers Stadium and play with your football team at Cowboys Stadium.  We spent Spring Break in Rockport doing some pretty silly things.  We learned the waltz together and you, my man, are a great dancing partner.  You tried out basketball this year for your school.  You went away for an entire week of camp at T-Bar M and we couldn’t talk to you for 6 days!!  You had a blast and I was so proud of you.  You earned your red cap at Thursday Boys this year.  You switched school days and God answered our prayers and friends switched with you.  Even though our school days aren’t always rosy and full of bliss, I love that the three of us can be home together those 2 days.  You’ll be thankful for that one day too.

Had to include this one-- the smile that screams, "I am so done with this-- can I get back to my team now?"

You and your sister are still at it.  Some days, I think I’ve referred to it before as a “love fest” and other days, I wonder if you’ve been secretly raised by wolves.  Yowzers.  I prefer the former— in all its cheesiness ANYday over the snarling and picking.  Just the other day after one of the “attacks”, I asked if you had made things right with Julia and you said you had but I could tell you weren’t settled.  So I poked around a little more and you said, “She hasn’t asked me for forgiveness since 2008.  And I remember it.”  It’s a good thing you aren’t prone to exaggeration when you are mad.  I do love it though when I hear the two of you laughing upstairs— the kind I know is genuine fun and both of you are truly happy together.  There’s hardly anything a momma likes to hear more.  Your sister loves you even when she’s mad at you— it’s just harder to tell then.  I don’t think I told you this but a few Thursdays ago when you were at Thursday boys, Julia and I were home in the quiet house and she noticed it.  She said a few things about you but then told me, “I love it when B wears his pj’s that are too small— like the sleeves and pants are too short and the shirt is tight across his belly.  He looks so cute— Mom, don’t stop buying him those kinds of pajamas.”  She loves you and misses you when you aren’t here.  I don’t care what she tells you.

You guys entertain yourselves often so Jeff and I can have have adult time with others.

At Starbucks the other day, you saw this woman on an CD cover and you whispered to me, “Mom, she looks like one of those who want you to come to her.”  I was a little taken aback by what you said {You didn’t know that, did you?  You aren’t supposed to know that.  I did good, didn’t I?} because I wondered how you meant it.  So I asked and you said, “You know. That woman in the Proverbs.”  Crystal clear.  Your daddy is investing much in you, young man, and your time in the Proverbs on the road trip with him to Florida will pay off.  In very big ways.  All of what your dad is thinking through for you and planning to do for you over the years to come can be a strong structure on a sure foundation if your heart is receptive.  I pray almost every day that your heart would stay soft so the Word planted there can grow and produce that hundredfold crop Jesus talks about.  I’m trusting Him for that.

If I could speak anything into your life this year, it would be 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given [you] the spirit of fear; but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  I pray for you to have courage and to trust the God to whom you gave your life.  I pray for you to walk in confidence and security, and be free to love with clear understanding and sound judgment.  I don’t want fear to have any place within you or any hold upon you.   You are so loved and it seems very important at this age for you to know that YOU are a Sanders boy, through and through.  No, we may not share the same blood or genes, but you are our boy because God in His sovereignty planned it that way and nothing can ever change that.

When I asked you what you wanted for your birthday, you got real deliberate as you started making the final list.  We were in the car and you paused and stated in all seriousness, “I am making some big decisions right now.”  And I tell you even at 11, you are.  Not about birthday gifts, but about WHO you are becoming as Jeffrey Brighton Sanders.  You are free to choose.  You’ve been taught a lot— you know the Scriptures and the stark contrast between right and wrong and the consequences of each.  I pray for you — that the choices you make would reflect WHOSE you are and WHO you want to be. I love who you are.  I see world of potential in you and the personality God has given you.  I am proud to be your momma and am privileged and honored to have a front row seat in your life.

I love you, B.