Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas Letter 2017

As I was addressing cards just now, I thought of you as I wrote your name and little things I wish I could say just to you— but it was only your envelope and I think writing on the outside of an envelope is considered tacky… by someone… or at least a “no-no” by the post office.  So…. since I will most likely NOT get that personal little thought written on your card, I’ll say something personal right now.  What is this life without relationships?  You people to whom we send these cards — family, friends- past and present— you have added and are adding ABUNDANCE to our lives.  When Jesus said in John 10:10, “I came that they may have LIFE, and have it abundantly”, well, YOU are the abundance for us.  More than ever, especially since we lost my sweet momma this summer, I am convinced that the abundance of life He meant for us is FILLED with people to love and people to love us.  I’ll take this opportunity to THANK YOU one more time for all the kindness shown and care given to our family over these months.  I think I can speak for my whole family— we are overwhelmed by you.  You are making this journey of grief tolerable, and even sweet, as you love on all of us and remember with us what a delight my momma was to so many.  Thank you.  Two words have never fallen so short.
This year, we became official parents of TWO teenagers. Crazy.  Julia dropped piano, added cheer {?!?!?!!?- I’ll leave it at at that} and sadly can’t make ballet work even though she still wants to continue.  She filled her summer with some really great things,  got her learner's license {another ?!?!?!?!?}, made some new friends and decided she wanted to work hard in school.  Brighton kept piano, decided to try out for quarterback {got second string}, became a teenager, started a pressure washing business, chose some really great friends and grew a mop of hair.  Some of these things matter. Some of them don't but I love that my kids are seeing things and deciding to go for it—whether it be activities, certain friends, mission trips, a position on the team, grades etc.  So I fight to hear what they are saying through all of these choices.  I fight to engage them in the busyness of back and forth and to and from.  I want to hear their thoughts that lead them to these places.  I fight to create the space that's "large" enough so they feel there's room to hear them in the fullness of a day.  Car time, kitchen time, table time, after bed-time, texting time, retreat time, homework time, couch time— I’ll take it wherever I can get it!
Jeff has made the transition to Christ Together as Associate Director.  Christ Together is doing on a national level what Jeff has been doing here in Fort Worth for the last 17 years— to be a catalyst to unify the evangelical churches in our city in order to give every man, woman and child multiple opportunities to see, hear and respond to the gospel.  He will continue to provide leadership and support locally as we both love this city and the churches that serve it.  

Me?  I write Christmas letters and drive kids around.  

Merry, merry Christmas to you.  We are grateful for each one of you.  I pray you fight to create a space large enough this Christmas to ponder the wonder of this Story we celebrate.  To elaborate on the hymn, O Holy Night, when He made His first appearance as a human, beginning another chapter in the Great Rescue, His desire was for our souls to FEEL their worth, to KNOW how much He loves us and how “WITH us” He wants to be.  He came.  He’s here.  He’s with us.  

Monday, November 20, 2017

For This, I'm Grateful

The first words are always the hardest— whether you are walking into a room full of strangers, preparing to speak in front of a group or writing a post….. which I am attempting.  I am feeling the time— the time that spans between writing— and it discourages me from doing this.  However, I am stubborn enough to keep trying because I realize how quickly life spins, how days run together, how things can fall through the memory cracks and we miss lingering on the goodness and the giving of thanks.  So maybe that's a good place to start.  Giving thanks.

Momma's passing has made these months unique in the sense that many things are just different.  Even though I've lived 1000 miles from her for many years, there's a hole in my life, in my thoughts and even in some routines like calling her when I hop in the car to go pick Julia or Brighton up.  My daddy and I felt it when he came for a visit and when I went to visit him but here's the blessing. The hole she left is enormous but what she left behind is more than enough to fill those holes we feel— different than before but filled.  We have memories to retell and even memories to discover.  Her influence on me and those close to her is strong so we experience her impact often.  And the love.  I can't say enough about this— not only the love she had for each one of us and the particular ways she expressed it, but the love that surrounds our family- God's love which is more than enough but by His grace, we love each other and are loved by friends and family far and near.  All of this… this is what fills the hole- the memories, the influence and the love.  For this, I am grateful.

Jeff and I celebrated 25 years of marriage— that's a big deal, right?  I think that constitutes a little lingering.  When I met Jeff in the summer of 1990, I hadn't yet turned 20 and had even fewer notches on the maturity belt.  But the defensive tackle from Furman stole my heart with his talk of God and His grace and I and my faith have never been the same.  Twenty five years under his leadership has been anything but stagnant or stale— even though there would have been times, in my stubbornness, I would have welcomed stagnant.  He keeps our eyes on the future while making for much fun in the present.  For him, for this, I am grateful.

Summer ended and then school began……and this week before Thanksgiving we get a breather.  But these school days are where the days spin — and you wake up and it's Monday again.  This is where I struggle— struggle to keep focused on what matters.  I KNOW how important that is— I VALUE family time, teachable moments, dinner at the table, having ready ears for ALL of the words— but many of these days just seem to dissolve into each other and the weariness wins out.  This I fight.  Some days I fight harder than others.  This year, Julia dropped piano, added cheer and sadly couldn't  make ballet work either even though she STILL wants to, got her learner's license, made some new friends and decided she wanted to work hard in school.  Brighton kept piano, decided to try out for quarterback {got second string}, chose some really great friends and hasn't decided yet if he wants to make good grades.  Some of these things matter. Some of them don't but I love that my kids are seeing things and deciding to go for it—whether it be activities, certain friends, a position on the team, grades.  So I fight to hear what they are saying through all of these choices.  I fight to engage them in the busyness of back and forth and to and from.  I want to hear their thoughts that lead them to these places.  I fight to create the space that's "large" enough so they feel there's room to hear them in the fullness of a day.  Car time, kitchen time, table time, after bed-time, texting time, retreat time, homework time, couch time.  For these, I am grateful.

This week we are coming off of 20 days with only one night with all four of us under the same roof.  There were just some scheduling things we could not do any differently.  Jeff and I go home today after a postponed celebration of our 25th and we are excited to be with our kids this week.  We have some new fun planned along with our normal traditions of the week.  We have one of our favorite families joining us for Thanksgiving which makes my heart SO HAPPY. But today this homebody is thrilled to have the week in front of her with the three people I love the most spread all throughout it.  We have more fun to have, more people to host, more things to bake, more thanks to give, more love to share, more apples to wash, more caramel to melt, more fires to build and more memories to make.

For this, I am grateful.

These are some pictures that totally messed up but are too fun not to share.  We took them this summer while we were in the Pacific Northwest and my settings were all WRONG but they are too funny not to share and remember.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

A Letter to a 14 Year Old Boy: Brighton's Birthday Letter 2017

Mount Ranier 6/2017

Dear Brighton,

You can just go ahead and get used to it.  I will say it every year, just with a new number.  How is it that you are fourteen already?  Nothing in life prepares me for how fast you little jabbers grow up.  I see pictures of you just a year ago and you look like a completely different kid… umm, excuse me, young man.

I do try to keep these birthday letters honest so I just want to get this stuff out of the way….  You and I both know this last year hasn’t been OUR best.  Not your, but our.  We’ve had some great times, some good days and even some sweet moments {I am your Momma. I can say things like that.} but tension has been high many days and I know as sure as you will always choose chocolate mint ice cream that there have been many days you would have rather been somewhere else rather than here at home.  I own my part in that and I hope you will own yours, but you know what?  It’s part of being a family— working things out, loving each other through the tension, you pushing back, us pushing right back, doing things we love and doing things we don’t really enjoy. It’s all very normal but sometimes it’s just not a lot of fun.  We have to understand that this —our home and our living out “family”— is a training ground for all of us but my favorite part is that it is a SAFE training ground.  We can mess up here BIG time and yet, know we will be loved no matter what.  We can be so irritated and frustrated with one another but at the end of the day, we are loved, accepted and most likely willing to give or be given a hug….. or a back scratch.  I hope you find great security in that.  I do.  Because I mess up often.

Big B, you make up 1/4 of our family.  Your personality, your way of doing things, the manner in which you process life, your sense of humor— ALL of it goes into the identity of our family.  You  help make us who we are.  Without you, we lose some pretty great things.  You love music and you love to dance— some pretty crazy dances that almost always make me laugh {Asian Hula} but then you like to spin me around to Glen Miller when I least expect it.  I promise NEVER to be too busy for that.  {Just ignore my resistance.}  You love to laugh and when you are feeling good about life and your place in it, you make some pretty funny comments. {“You just wrecked my 3 seconds of fame!”}  You are still a thinker even though right now, you don’t give yourself to it very often but when you do, you ask good, hard questions.  When you give yourself to listening, you can make some pretty mature observations.  I enjoy talking WITH you when you are just yourself— not trying to get some reaction out of me.  {You little stinker.}. But your one-fourth is dear to me— what you add to the mix of the Sanders is special and critical to who we are as a family.  I am proud to claim you as ours.

Let’s just say a couple of things about Middle School….. can I just say, I think we need to have a celebration of the largest variety come June 1st!!  {I might just work on that.}.   I am so ready for the pond to be bigger, for there to be more kids to throw into the mix….  It has not been easy, has it?  You’ve said and done some things you wish you hadn’t.  Others have done stuff to you that made me want to go up there and sit a few boys down.  On the sunnier side, I am thankful for a handful of kids there who have been kind, forgiving and inclusive.  You DO have some faithful friends and we need to always be grateful for that.  One story we don’t want to forget is the Phone Heist— counterfeit money, the police officer and anonymous tips.  All in a day at middle school. {This was actually AFTER you turned 14 but I didn't want to forget it!}

You lost your Nana this year and you were there.  I know it was NOT by accident, B.  God wanted you there because Papa needed you that week.  And in some special way, Nana did too.  She didn’t want to leave Papa alone.  You had a role to play because you are their grandson.  I am so glad you asked to go — I feel it was you being obedient to the Holy Spirit within you to ask us. 

The thing I want the most for you and that’s always closest to my heart is the kind of heart I want you to have.  I will be the first to admit, I can’t pass something on to you that I do not have myself.   So much of what I want to pass on to you is still being formed in my own heart and life— but I am trying to live it out— the process of becoming more like Christ- in front of you.  You’ve seen my sin in living color and my great need for a Savior.  I can only hope you are keenly aware of your great need for a Savior too.  His gift of salvation is not something to take lightly— He has placed His Spirit in your heart so that you can do what you have no power to do on your own— to choose purity, dignity, honor, righteousness and Truth.   This is the foundation of Wise William— NOT Foolish Fred. {Couldn’t help the throwback…} This is the foundation of rocks— NOT sand. This is the foundation of wisdom—- NOT foolishness.  This you can build a life on.  And this you can count on.

I desire your heart to honor authority.  I pray your heart learns the honest balance between authority, responsibility and accountability— that great leaders recognize that respect is gained when all three of these are treated as valuable as the other.

I’ll close with some Scripture because this, I know, will last.  2 Corinthians 10:3-5 says “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

I know you have battles presently and you will have many battles ahead.  I challenge you to think of these verses remembering that you fight- empowered by the Holy Spirit- with Truth, with a personal track record of a faithful God, with the knowledge of the Gospel which offers hope and life to all.  Fighting with human argument powered by pride and arrogance— and sometimes ignorance— will only fail in the long run and you’ve accomplished nothing at all, especially no sort of victory you can enjoy.  Some of your battles will be from without {from the world around you} but most of them will be from within.  Your thoughts are not always true, B, and I want you to recognize the lies and demolish them with the Truth.  Give your time to learning the Truth about who God made you to be and what His purposes for you are.  These Truths are worth fighting for, worth waging a war for….. Fight for the Truth.  Live in the Truth.

You have what it takes, B.

I love you.  More than you’ll ever know.

Some Star Wars movie, I am sure.

You are my tradition keeper.  Thanks for stringing the popcorn, B!  

Christmas jammies

The John Cena phase I am rejoicing that is OVER.  

You are loved by cousins.

Tejas, y'all.  Rodeo-ing.... In Vineyard Vines.... What has happened?

Canoeing St. Elena Canyon between Texas and Mexico-- the Rio Grande

My favorite haircut.  Your least favorite haircut.

I don't care what y'all say-- you love each other.  It will show more regularly at some point.


Y'all celebrate me well-- always makes me feel loved and special.

Last recital with Dr. Fritz



That's what 13 year old boys do.


Junior Ranger Program has helped us keep you motivated to do these National Parks!!

Even though I wish you had stayed on the trail with us longer, I love this picture.

Mystery Soda Machine in Seattle

Sigh.... my baby boy.

Lake fun-- Rice Krispies forever!

Lois  : )

Helping you with your first job.

Grateful for this week at SGI-- more cousins!

A night I hope we never forget

First day of school

Hotter-N-Hell 2017 -- you rode 75 miles

We saw this face a lot this year-- even though you don't look happy, I still like it.  Life is not always easy and the tough patches have made you stronger.

Goodbye, 13.  Hello, 14.