Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Letter to a Twelve Year Old: Julia’s Birthday Letter 2014

I need a moment.  I just deleted about 4000 pictures from my laptop.  I know.  Maybe I should have had you sit down before I told you.  I mean, 4000 is a mere drop in the bucket compared to how many I left, but to now have these pictures only on an external hard drive..... I may not sleep tonight.  Got to have it copied soon.

So, thank you.   For my moment.

Dear Julia,

I’ve been taking pictures of you from day one, of course.  Maybe slightly a few more than the normal person.  As pictures come and go on my screen, I think, “I know that expression.  In fact, I just saw it earlier today.”  Your face.  I’m pretty sure I know every square inch of it.  And lately, I see it changing.

I’m no different than any other mom in that I miss this face...

And this one…

And that one...

And certainly this one… {because it’s right next to another favorite face of mine…}

And how can I leave this one out?  With the big goose egg on your forehead?

I miss those curls.. but not the goose egg.  {Same lake trip, folks- not TWO different goose eggs}

And these beach curls...

I miss these dance recitals when your class was the “littlest” class…

And these teeth….{Is that gross?  That I miss teeth?}

And especially the absence of these….

And parties like this….

If what “everyone” says is true, our last year of bliss started last Friday when you turned 12.  Do you really think that’s true?  Are you seriously going to turn on me?  Like become this person I don’t know or don’t want to hang out with?  Or is it the other way around?  You will decide I am from another planet and decide “girl time” should always be spent with someone other than me? Well, I’ve only got this for you.  If I have to spend the rest of my life trying to convince you that I am an earthling- the same earthling who introduced you to sugar, books, American Girl and bought for you your first pair of cowboy boots- and that you really do want to hang out with me, I will.  YOU are a big deal, but for a few more years, YOU and I, together, are a bigger deal.   We’ve got lots to do and even more conversations to have.  The level of enjoyment we experience in the process is really up to you.

I’ve been reminding you of what I told you a few years ago, “I see you.”  I see you growing up.  I see the questions on your face.  I see when it’s hard to keep the emotions under control.  I see your struggle trying to be a good big sister--- and a good daughter for that matter.  I see you, at times, measuring yourself by standards that aren’t stable, against expectations that aren’t real.  I see you trying to put the pieces together and sort out all the “whys” about the things you must learn about as your world changes from little to big. And that might be the biggest reason I miss “little”.  

Little worlds are shiny and happy and free from much heartache.  Little worlds are sweet birthday parties with girls in hats or crowns, snaggle tooth smiles, tutus and very little homework.  Big worlds have shadows. There are problems, realities and ideas difficult to explain, situations that can be hurtful- even dangerous, and the big world is full of heart sick people.  

And that, dear Julia, is why we talk about your relationship with Jesus so much.  We are all heart sick without Him.  We are all in need of His rescue.  Without Him, we live in shadows, darkness really, trying to make sense of all the heartache.  And heartache only hurts worse when we stay in it and don’t call for the Rescuer.  It’s true you didn’t know much, or anything at all, about heartache when you asked Him to save you but you knew you loved Him and wanted to be His because of what He had done for you on the cross.  Yes, you can still suffer many heartaches-- some you might bring on yourself and some may be straight from Him to accomplish His purposes.  Whatever kind of hurt you find yourself experiencing, my prayer for you is that you always run TO Him.  Never away.  There is only more hurt in running away.  By running TO Him, you will get to experience His love and compassion in unique ways.  And time after time, you will understand more clearly His plans and purposes for you.  I joke about, “Hey, listen to me now- learn this as I am telling you now, so you won’t have to take the field trip later and learn the hard way!”  I don’t want to have to watch you take the “field trip” or detours to learn important lessons, but sometimes we don’t have a choice, so that’s why I speak a passionate “RUN TO HIM” if that is where you find yourself.  He is the perfect Rescuer.  

I am committed to not “missing you”.  I’ll be watching you to see how I think you’re doing, to see if I think there’s something that needs to be coaxed out of you.  Nothing a little peppermint chocolate can’t do, right?  I will pursue you whether you like it at times or not.  There may be times you feel alone or times you wished I’d come looking for you, but just know, there may be times when the Lord tells me to be still because He wants you all to Himself.  That might not be easy either but I know it will be best.      And I can be sure, that will turn out beautiful.  

Yes, I miss “little” but, with Him , I am looking forward to “big”.

By His grace, we can do this.  I know we can. 

Goodbye, Eleven.  Hello, Twelve.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Speaking of Children...

School started back today-- after a month of holiday.  The four weeks were fantastic but today is pretty fantastic too.  The kids are settled in their new campus, new classrooms-- with hair combed, teeth brushed-- even socks and shoes--- and I am in a quiet house.  With hot coffee.  Even with enduring the onslaught of the mountain cedar that blew in here last Saturday, I am just happy to be here.  Kleenex, chapped nose and all.

Anytime I am with my kids for extended periods of time, it always causes me to evaluate my parenting.  Lots of time = lots of opportunities= lots of mistakes= lots of fun.  As I fall asleep at night.....How do the kids seem to be doing?  Am I connecting often with them?  Do I harp on things that don’t really matter?  How has my tone of voice been?  What sort of foundation am I laying now for possibly more challenging years to come?  Do they feel seen and heard?  Do they feel known by me?

I think I do a lot of “harping” that would NEVER be missed and will NEVER produce any fruit in my kids.  I’ve got to be more careful with this.  My community and close friends know I struggle here- too many words in not so great a tone of voice.  It’s basically “default mode”-- my flesh, my sin nature, the times in my day when I am NOT walking in obedience to the Spirit.  Two days in a row {the last two}, I had apologize to Julia for the way I had responded to her.  And here is where I ask myself a question-- how is this struggle going to serve our relationship later?  Give her four years and I am still responding to her like this, it could get ugly.  And I will be responsible.  I need to give James 3 some more airtime in my head..... and the VERY first scripture our church pianist, Mrs. Janie, gave me to memorize, still tucked in my Bible:

 At twelve years old, I was given the Word that would need to be a prayer of mine for years and years.  Words and tones of words can create walls difficult to destroy.  The small spark of my tongue can burn up a lot of good.  I want my words to bring life.  Deep down.  Down where it matters.  Down where beautiful and strong things push through and grow and provide goodness to others.  This is the foundation for my kids I want to strengthen with MY words.

“Being known”, I think, is paramount to most all people, but, for kids, who may not know how to express this desire, it’s even more critical.  They are trying to figure themselves out, even as their brains mature and develop, and we, as parents, play a crucial role in helping them understand themselves.  And that is why I think pursuing them, studying them, initiating conversations, drawing out the feelings and thoughts about situations or people is so important for us to practice as parents.  For us to know their responses- emotional, spiritual and even physical- to the world around them will go a LONG way as they are raised in our home.

I’m so grateful I have “talkers” but there have been a few occasions where hurt and pain weren’t revealed until there was time to delve in.  I’ll never forget the afternoon, last year, it took us longer to get home because of a few stops including dropping B at practice....  Once parked in the driveway on Clover Lane, I remember turning to Julia and asking, “So, how was your day?” and she burst into tears.  She had to have held it for hours.  She had gotten to the part in Where the Red Fern Grows with Rubin and the axe-- if you’ve never read it, just imagine those two things together-- never a good thing.  It was traumatic for her.  I climbed in the backseat to hold her- big and awkward in a bucket seat-  and she cried hard for a good 30 minutes.  I wonder when it would have come out?  Sometimes it’s a few hours or a few days before they are ready to reveal their hearts on certain things- and I get that- but just don’t miss the opportunity to sit down, look them in the eye and chat.  {Or turn your head and climb into the backseat.}  It could be the conversation they never forget.

I love being a parent and feel very blessed to be one because there were days when I wondered if it was part of God’s plan for me.  It’s a role to take seriously and a role, second only, to being a wife.  As our desire to be a good parent pushes us forward in truly knowing them and being intentional with our words, let us, above all things, keep in step with the Spirit.  {Galatians 5:25}

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Community. Really.

I’ve said it twice already today.. it might be time for a real schedule around here.  We’ve been loosey goosey since December 19th-- no bedtimes, no wake up calls, 2 meals a day or 3, depending on what time we got going.  Pretty sure I am done with that.  I’ll be ready again in March but now, it’s really time.

Last night, I went to bed with people overload- sort of crashed (but no burn).  Jeff, my prince, came to the rescue and whisked the kids away this afternoon and I am blessed.  While catching up on my computer, I saw an interesting article that I wasn’t sure how to take on this particular day.  It was great-- wonderfully written but basically told us mommies to lay off our complaining and whining because “we signed up for this”.  Here’s the link that’s worth your read but it didn’t help my struggle with receiving Jeff’s gift of some solitude.  I did sign up for this and I LOVE family life.  I am in a role of a lifetime.  I am also a person who needs time to regroup and re-energize..... alone.  Praying I always use those times wisely.

I spent a bulk of my time thinking through and writing the update for my community group.  I would love to tell you about that.  Our community group formed late last spring and we’ve spent a bulk of our time just getting to know one another by hearing each person’s stories.  Everyone has one, right?  And I love a good story.  I’ve been a part of a few “community groups” in my life and as we began to get to know Watermark a couple of years ago, I mentioned to Jeff that EVERY time we were at church, or a meeting or a conference, “community” was ALWAYS highlighted.  Any testimony we heard revolved around the person’s community and how their people had played a role in their story or situation.  Even the senior pastor had stories of how his community had played big roles in his marriage and ministry-- admonishment, support, correction etc.  This had me curious-- wondering how it all would translate in Fort Worth with a new campus.

A year later on a new campus, it’s still the highlight.

Just after a handful of meetings with my new group, I saw the difference.  We have two couples in our group that experienced community while serving at Watermark in Dallas and they have led us well.  When someone mentioned a struggle, a date was set for the men to meet and offer support and counsel.  When a conflict arose, a date was set to talk it through.  When parenting issues made one want to throw their hands up, a date was set for other parents to step in and encourage the child.

Then the emails started.  This may be one of my favorite parts-- and the men started it, following the example of the elders in Dallas.  In order to stay more connected during the week, we send out an email that covers the big stuff like. what we are reading in the Word and what we are learning, what we are praying through, how our marriage is doing, what we are memorizing, who we are reaching out to and just how life is going in general.  Some weeks, some updates are shorter than others but other weeks many details are shared.  It encourages me so to hear from all of them-- and humbles me so to hear their hearts, their struggles, and their victories.

Things like this:

Grace:  Because of His grace, ________________are able to go back to school encouraged and full of the life He promises (John 10:10), ready to live in a harsh land and be a light (Matt 5:16).  And my faith has grown.  Praise God for He is good. 

Word: Another struggle here but so thankful for The Journey. I have began with Join the Journey and really look forward to what is to come each day. I need some accountability in this area so in encourage you all to ask and challenge me where I am. 

Word:  I do terrible with time in the Word when we travel.  Terrible.  I ALWAYS take a BAG FULL of great stuff and rarely take it out.  It's my loss completely, but I never seem to improve on this neglect when we are out of town.  

Prayer:  Praying for daily opportunity to share Christ. Praying to bless my wife with kind words / strong leadership and for her to know I cherish her. Pray to be where I am and totally enjoy my family today .

Marriage:  I am praying for me to manage the busyness so that home is a sanctuary of rest and restoration for my husband and that his love for the Lord shows in all of the public forums he has -- this is his mission field and a great opportunity to witness.

So good stuff, yes?  From the men and the women-- so if you read here very often, you can imagine when I type mine, I have to remember-- KEEP IT SHORT.  And I haven’t been as consistent as I’d like to be.  Weekly comes around fast!

But as I read from each one, even though I know transparency is expected, I feel the words are sacred.  When someone shares from the heart, especially if what is shared pains one to do so, I feel a responsibility to protect the words or the feelings behind the words or more importantly, the person who spoke the words.

Community.  It’s where real change happens with people who love you - ALL of what makes you, YOU.  No matter what you bring to the table.  Loved enough to call you out.  Loved enough to say the harder things.  Loved enough to think it’s a disservice to you NOT to be in community with other believers.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Yank It Out

It’s Tuesday!  Again!  Happy New Year!  When I have to actually sign into my blog, it’s been awhile…  I never thought it was possible but I have neglected my computer over Christmas.  It missed me.  Must be why it’s behaving… you know, that little round rainbow isn’t spinning with every program change.

I’ve got some really cool moms in my life--some I get to spend time with and some I don’t.  But we know each other from a distance and catch up through other people or when circumstances allow.  One mom, whom I admire from afar, has a daughter turning sixteen soon and she asked several women to write letters to her sweet girl.  She will in turn make a book to present to her.  Of course, I love the idea and was honored to be included.

I wrote about an area that had just reared its ugly head in our family over Christmas.  I’m not embarrassed by it because I think it’s normal and especially something we learn to put in perspective ALL of our lives-not just in middle school.  I am so grateful that we got to have the conversations we did about it-- that I even knew the feeling had erupted among us.  I continually thank God for any of these things that happen sooner than later because they are growth opportunities and platforms for GREAT conversations that can be revisited again and again.

Dear Almost Sixteen,

I am honored to get to express some thoughts to you during this exciting time of life.  Your sweet mom knows you well and what will communicate love to you.  You are so blessed to be raised by and loved on by her.

I could write pages because I am raising a daughter too- one who, by the way, looks up to you very much.  Thank you for encouraging her in her faith and walk with Christ.  You have earned eternal treasures by investing in several girls--- and you have earned my respect because of it.  I have many opinions and boat loads of advice on girls growing up in these early decades of 2000 but I will try to stick with just one thing.

Girls compare.  Two words that can create a library of pain and misery.  We all do it but the younger years seem a lot worse, more intense, and possibly more harmful.  Twitter and Instagram don’t help either.  The more time you spend comparing, you naturally land in a nasty place.  Jealousy.  I took advice years ago from a lady who told me the BEST remedy for jealousy was to CELEBRATE-- to celebrate with the person of which you are jealous.  It could be a grade, a relationship, a new something, a haircut, a new house, horse, car etc.-- the list goes pathetically on and on and on and on and on of the things that trigger our jealousy.  Reach down and find the joy and let it come out so you can celebrate with your friend who has something you want.  Pray for the joy and then, pray some more.  And when you are feeling sorry for yourself and can’t seem to shake it, determine to yank out the jealousy by the root and burn it-- and pray some more.  Because jealousy, left to take root, is misery.  A jealous person is a miserable person.  And who wants that?  It’s too costly.  It’s ugly.  It tears apart relationships.  It steals joy from both sides of the relationship.  And the bottom line, it’s sin.  

And a personal few sentences to you-- my guess would be that others find themselves jealous of you-- for many reasons.  You have been given much- on many levels- tangible and intangible.  I think with that comes the responsibility to celebrate others as often as you can- to make a big deal out of other people as often as you can.  Because of your beauty, your abilities, your intellect, and your walk with Christ, people are drawn to you and you are celebrated, naturally.  But the real beauty for you to show in these situations is to turn the focus back onto them and uplift them.   I’ve seen you do it with other girls- so you just keep practicing that.

Happy Birthday, young lady.  We think you are pretty awesome.  Julia and I are blessed to know you and blessed to be a small part of your life.  We celebrate YOU!