Thursday, October 30, 2014

On Eighth Birthdays And The Stuff Of World Changers

Well, today you turned eight years old and on birthdays we mommas remember.  We go back to that day when we first laid eyes on our babies and remember how our world changed.

You changed our world for the better with your handsome smile and belly laughter and unbridled enthusiasm.  With your ability to keep us laughing and all your curious questions and your deep sensitivity to the heart of God and compassion for others.

There is a light in you, Trevor!  You have given your heart and life to Jesus.  I believe you have a God given destiny and purpose, that you will grow up to be a man who will in some way have changed his world for Jesus Christ.  

I believe you are a world changer.

When you were just a little guy, the two of us had this thing we did.  After teeth were brushed and bedtime prayers were said and lights were turned out, you would scoot over in your bed to make room for momma and say in that small voice that couldn't quite get all the right sounds out, "Wet's talk about fings!" 

So talk about things we would!

I would ask you question after question.  No matter that you had answered the same questions the night before! I would ask about your favorite color, your favorite food, your favorite Bible story, your favorite song.  Some of the answers remained the same and others varied over time, but these bedtime conversations gave me such insight into who you were.  You would always delight at the chance to be known and heard (not to mention stay up a few minutes later).

Over time, early school mornings made for less lingering at bedtime and those particular conversations now happen more infrequently. But every once in a while I'll still crawl in next to you and your Florida Gator pillow pet and hear about all your favorites.

The other night you were sick and as I kept late night watch to see if the fever stayed down, out of the dark I heard your voice, now more mature..."Let's talk about things!" So talk we did.

You still like blue and you still like doughnuts though you were craving nachos (with a fever?) and your current favorite song is "We Believe" (which I love hearing you sing word for word from the backseat) and right now your new favorite Bible character is Paul.

Oh really, why is that?

"Because," you answered, "even though he was shipwrecked and thrown into jail,
 he still held on."

I caught my breath. Yes, son, he did. Because you see, that's the thing about world changers.  That's the thing about the Pauls and the Nehemiahs and the Noahs and the Josephs and the Johns and the Daniels and the Trevors of this life. 

When the world around them seems to be spiraling out of control, when they face obstacles and opposition, when others sell out and let go, they hold on. They hold on to the promises of God, they hold unwaveringly to the Word of God, they hold tightly to the heart of God.

I believe great things for you, Trevor, because I believe in a great God who is alive in your heart and life!  I believe you can grow to be a mighty man of God and serve Him all the days of your life! I see this desire in your heart.  We pray for this as a family each night at bedtime.  We pray believing.

So hold on, my son.

Today and as you grow, hold onto God and the things of God.

You see, He is already holding onto you! He loves you so very deeply.

And so does Momma.

Happy Birthday, Trevor! Thank you for changing my world.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

What Love Does

Four generations of women walked down that sunny hallway together, the two in the middle pushing the youngest and oldest along.  The oldest looked back from her wheelchair to the baby in the stroller and quipped, "See, when you get older you get to have a ride too!"

It was a cheerful moment as sunlight streamed through the windows, one that didn't tell the whole story of how dark shadows have fallen on the oldest mother's mind and how age is crippling her body.  Of the struggles and private pain her daughter has gone through as the roles have reversed over the past several years.  Or how the oldest mother now often refers to her daughter as "Momma."

It's an interesting thing, this matter of love.  When it is lived out it can be painful. Love doesn't just push wheelchairs and strollers down hallways, it has to push through the times in this life that seem unbearable. The times when you honestly aren't sure if you are going to make it. When you don't feel like you can do it.

Love, I have learned, often has to show up before the feelings do.

I am often concerned for what our world thinks love is.  In our fame and celebrity obsessed culture, I fear we have begun to think the red carpet has to be rolled out for us for every single thing we do.  That love has everything to do with "feeling" elevated, worthy, attractive, the center of attention, or whatever we desire to feel rather than being something we actually do.  That love supposedly has something to do with self-centered quotes and lists that are posted and reposted all over social media, instead of about laying down self for someone else.

Let me tell you, the real stuff of life and love is not found on the red carpet or internet memes.  It is found in the corridors of rehab facilities and hallways of homes.  It is found in the changing of diapers and Depends, in sickness and health, in adversity and prosperity, in families gathered around dinner tables and hospital beds, in laughing until you cry and laughing because if not, you are going to cry.

It is being willing to do hard and holy and humble and habitual things.

Being willing to do the mundane.

And eventually finding joy in it ~ or choosing joy when you can't seem to find it!

Love is generations embracing the beauty of life, but staying together in the pain of life.

Wrinkled hands holding onto fresh, new skin.

Husbands and wives holding onto each other in good times and bad.

Parents holding tight then gradually letting children go.

And one day children doing the same with parents.

This cycle of life, what a miraculous, beautiful, painful, amazing thing it is.  The collision of beauty and pain is what makes it all so very real.  We can't love without laughing and we can't love without hurting.

But in laughter and pain and all the in between, we can show up. Even if we have to show up before our feelings arrive. Choose love. Do hard things.  Lay ourselves down for someone else.  And not need credit for every single thing we do.  We can be willing to do the thankless work that needs to be done because we know this life, this unhemmed, complicated, beautiful life, is temporary.  So we must serve with eternity in mind.  And we must try to love like the Creator and Sustainer of our souls.  Like the Author of our lives.

The One who really knows of love as sacrifice.

That daughter, she washes her mother's feet on Saturdays.  She has done this on good days, and she has done this on the hard days when she didn't really feel like it because the challenges of a confused mind have caused frustration or conflict. Knelt low and washed those bent and arthritic feet simply so they will be clean and fresh, not knowing that all the while her own daughter has been watching and seeing glimpses of Jesus in this.  She has felt guilty on the hard days, not realizing she has taught her daughter an even greater lesson; that love perseveres, it pushes past feelings to action and serving, even bending low when many would walk away.

Now her daughter will teach this to her daughters.  And pray they teach this to their daughters.

So future generations will continue to walk down the halls of life together.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Dear Madi {As You Turn Nine And Head One Year Further Into Womanhood}

Dear Madi,

I have not written here in far too long.  But I could not let April end without writing to you during this your birthday month.  I have been thinking about you a lot these days since you turned nine, your last year in "single digits" as you told me!

As usual, we celebrated with breakfast and cinnamon rolls and fun surprises wrapped in paper and glimmering in the morning sunlight.  I brought ice cream cups - and your new baby sister, as you requested - to your third grade class on your birthday. Grammie gave you a beautiful family dinner and a perfect bag of surprises, and there was that fun day when we went shopping to spend the gift cards you were given.  Your gift from us and our final celebration - our "girls getaway" overnight trip with your BFF - was a blast!  We had so much fun in the sun!

But what I wanted to tell you was how much I love you.  How beautiful you are, and how radiant, and what an amazing person you are becoming.

How you are at this wonderful age with a beautiful mix of little girl and maturing young lady.  Still innocent, yet wise.  Carefree, yet intuitive.  Still dressing like a princess and having a room full of dolls, yet also into fashion and style and shopping and ipods and, of course, the ever popular Rainbow Loom.

This is a fun time in your life!  It is a fun time for us together.

You are smart and successful at school and other activities, but I've never heard you boast of such.  You take your gifts in stride and I love that about you.  You are faithfully involved at church.  You are one of the kindest, happiest girls I know.  I admire that kindness.  You are a friend to all, able to interact with adults, helpful with little ones.  You were already a great big sister to your brother, and now you are becoming an absolutely amazing big sister to your baby sister!  I can only imagine how much she is going to look up to you as she grows.  She has a wonderful example to follow.

I want you to know that though I don't always get this mothering thing right, I am committed to trying with all that is in me.  We have so much fun together as a family!  But while I enJOY being a mom to the fullest, I also take motherhood very seriously.  I pray for God's wisdom and ask for forgiveness when I get it wrong.  You are so full of love and forgiveness when I need it.  And I am grateful for the times when we get it right.  When we choose words carefully.  When we make choices that honor God.  When we laugh so hard that you start to hiccup. Oh, how I love that!

I also want you to know some important things that will help you as you grow.  I was talking to Daddy about this passionately the other morning.  There are some major transitional years heading your way.  And Madi, I so desire for you to grow and mature in God confidence.  I want you to clearly know who you are and Whose you are.  The world is filled with insecure girls who grow into insecure teenagers who turn into insecure women.  These insecurities manifest themselves in very damaging ways, yet there is a better way...God's way.  I hope and pray that you will grow up confident in Christ alone and grounded in His Word.  You don't have to chase the same image or things the world does.  Don't become consumed with self. Remember, all that glitters isn't gold.  And all that seemingly promises fulfillment often comes up empty.  But in God's presence is fullness of joy!
I want you to enJOY your abundant life in Christ, free from the trap of insecurity that holds so many in bondage!  I want you to keep your enthusiastic, positive spirit!  I want you to avoid the negativity and apathy that so many fall into along the way.  I want you to be so in love with Christ that your desire is to please Him first!  I want you to care more about what God thinks than what your peers think!  There will always be critics. There will always be someone who is better than you at something, or who is jealous of you for something, or who resents you for some reason, or even someone who is just plain mean to you for no reason at all.  Don't get caught up in all that!!  Keep your focus on Christ and serving others!  At times this narrow path can seem lonely.  But it is also where true freedom and joy and peace and fulfillment are found!  It is okay to be different.  Know we are always, always here for you along the way.  We are on this same journey.  To know Christ better and be found in Him, shining brightly for His glory alone, trying to further His Kingdom and bring Him praise, enjoying to the fullest every one of His gracious blessings along the way.  God's way works and it is good and the life He offers is truly abundant.

That is what I want for you as you continue to grow from little girl to young woman. This is what I am praying for you.  Because if you are in Christ and live according to His Word, the rest will come together.  I promise...pinky promise!

Madi - my first little love - thank you for who you are and the joy you bring to our family and to so many!  Your radiant, dimpled smile comes from deep within.  Jesus is evident in your life already!  I pray you continue to grow in Him and that being nine years old will be a fabulously fun year filled with the best of memories!

I love you more than you will ever know.


"My heart is confident in you, O God; my heart is confident.
No wonder I can sing your praises!"

Psalm 57:7 (NLT) 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Joy On Christmas Eve

I've been reading through this book this season.

It was a gift from someone a few years ago and is full of Bible verses, stories, song lyrics, quotes, and interesting facts about Christmas.  It has been a treat to read!

I love the Christmas season.  Absolutely love it.  And one of the quotes from this book really captures how I feel about the celebration of our Savior's birth and the sheer wonder of it all.  I have read and reread it often.  It goes as follows...

"Christmas at its core is larger than life, grander than we can begin to comprehend.  We cannot even imagine the scenario - God, the Son, wrapping himself in human flesh and being born in a humble stable to parents of little worldly consequence.  Perhaps that's why Christmas never loses its wonder year after year.  The story simply cannot be taken in at once.  It takes a lifetime of Christmases, and even then we remain starstruck, still unable to understand fully what God has done for us, what He has given us.

This Christmas, hold nothing back.  Look up and hear the majestic angelic choir, look out into the night in search of the brilliant Christmas star.  Cherish every expression of Christmas love, joy, and peace - immersing yourself in the wonder if it all!  Don't worry about going overboard.  In a million lifetimes, you could not grow weary of it - it's a truly eternal story."

An eternal story it is.  Because it is about Jesus, the One who was and is and is to come.  And it is a truly joyful story - because Jesus is joy!  And He is hope, and peace, and rest, and laughter, and celebration, and sacrifice, and the ultimate love, and everything we could want or need.

I hope you allow yourself to fully enJOY the celebration and be completely captivated by the wonder!  Most of all, I hope you know Jesus, because He will change your life.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas, wherever you are!

May it be meaningful and merry and wrapped in love!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

How To Build A Southern Snowman

For years my mom would get an annual Southern Living Christmas idea book ~ did anyone else grow up with those hardback books around their house?  I remember her setting up the card table in our family room, making homemade gifts and decorations late into the night using ideas she got from those books.  One year when I was in middle school we found an idea to make cookies that looked like a piano keyboard...I have played the piano since I can remember, and upon seeing the photo wanted to give them to my music teachers.  I remember her helping me make those cookies.

I now have a few of those old books and like to browse them when Christmastime rolls around.  The other day I was looking at the 2003 edition and saw an idea I remembered seeing years ago.  It was to make a "Southern Snowman" using grapevine wreaths.  My husband helped me put it together on the stoop outside our front door, and this snowman is just too cute!

Jimmy wired the three grapevine wreaths together and hung the snowman on the house.  I threw one of my scarves on him, set out an old pair of rubber fireman boots from Trevor's preschool days that I couldn't bear to part with, and cut a hat out of chalkboard crafting paper.

And just like that we had built a snowman, right down here in the South!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Simple Thanksgiving

Together, we gathered and gave thanks.

Oh, give thanks to the Lord!
Call upon His name; 
Make known His deeds among the peoples!

Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him;
Talk of all His wondrous works!

Glory in His holy name;
Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the Lord!

Psalm 105:1-3

It was a simple, relaxing Thanksgiving this year - from the quiet, cold morning to the gorgeous, outdoor afternoon to the chilly, fireside night.

I have so much to be thankful for.  A Savior, Jesus, who gives me peace and hope and joy in a chaotic world; a husband who is my dearest and best and most faithful friend; children who add sparkle to our world and who are growing in their faith; a family who lovingly shares life with us; a small but sweet, supportive circle of friends; a caring church family and the freedom to worship; a cozy, comfortable home full of love; provision after provision; blessing upon blessing; gift after gift; grace upon grace.

Even the difficult things are reason to give thanks when I really stop to consider.  Yes, there have been circumstances that have been challenging and people who have been hurtful and personal failures and painful moments.  No, I wouldn't choose every trial, but I must acknowledge that they draw me closer to the heart of God and make me passionate for truth and driven to seek God's wisdom.  They make me stronger and more resolute in my relationship with Christ and with Christ-following friends.  They make me long for Heaven.  And I have full assurance of my home in Heaven, which alone is such a reason for gratitude.  Hope eternal.  Peace everlasting.  Glory awaiting!

Yes, we gave thanks on a beautiful November day.

And still we give thanks. Our hearts seek the Lord, and we rejoice!