six

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There were no gifts under the tree that year. ¬†We didn’t really even notice, which is a wonder for me, a gift lover. ¬†Our hearts were caught up in anticipating a baby. ¬†I was as any first time mom would be: nervous, anxious, excited, filled with wonder and worry and dread and joy all at once. ¬†It lent a whole new meaning to the Christmas story, to the Advent season, to the waiting for the coming of the promised One.

And then you came, so quickly, taking us all by surprise. ¬†I called the midwife at 6am on that December 23 morning, she said to take my time coming in, but I felt an urgency to get to the hospital. ¬†By the time we left the house for the 45 minute drive to the hospital, I was desperate to get there, contractions coming in wave after wave without a break between. ¬†We got there, checked in, chatted with the midwife for a few moments, and suddenly I was in transition. ¬†Within an hour or so of arriving at the hospital, you were born. ¬†In about three pushes, they laid you on my belly and I just remember your dark quiet stare. ¬†We didn’t have time to think about medicating, we didn’t have time to call family before suddenly there you were. ¬†The midwife sat down heavy in the rocking chair at the foot of my bed and said, “Wow. ¬†Now that’s how it’s done. ¬†You need to give classes to all these other ladies on the LND floor.” ¬†I felt proud, but the reality was, it wasn’t really because of anything I did. ¬†My labor with Noah was far longer and far more difficult with complications to boot. ¬†Its crazy how little of it is up to us, anyway. ¬†“Birth plans” and such–an illusion of control.

From day one until this day, six years later, it’s never been in my control. ¬†What a year we’ve had, you and I. ¬†In a way different than the other children, I feel like we grow up together–you, the firstborn, and I. ¬†You, the one who throws challenges at us that we are hardly practiced for, and we learn as we walk through¬†them with you.

You amaze me as you grow. ¬†I can’t believe we are one-third of our way through our parenting journey with you. ¬†Only twelve more years until you’ll be free and ready to take off on your own little wings. ¬†I hate the thought! ¬†I can’t believe its gone already and I’ll never have it back, all those precious baby years with you, so tiny and so new. ¬†Yet each year with you is so much fun, as you grow and change and become more and more your own little person.

I love everything about you. ¬†I want you to know, you are¬†so very special,¬†my phoebe girl. ¬†God has mighty plans for you. ¬†He’s already working in you and through you. ¬†He has entrusted hardships to you at a young age,¬†and He will be faithful to see you through. ¬†He will be faithful to carry you all the way. ¬†He may not remove the thorn, sweet one, even though we so wish He would. ¬†But He will bring great good from it, so much good that you will one day marvel with great joy and say, “The¬†Lord¬†is¬†good to all,
¬†¬†¬†¬†and his mercy is over all that he has made…The¬†Lord¬†is¬†righteous in all his ways
¬†¬†¬†¬†and¬†kind in all his works.” ¬†(Psalm 145:9,17) ¬†ALL of it. ¬†All. ¬†We won’t understand a fraction¬†of it, but we have this promise in black and white–He is good to all, He is righteous in all¬†that He chooses to allow or cause.

You are still one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received in my life, you are such a treasure. ¬†Through you God keeps teaching me that I’m not in control here–He is. ¬†I’m so so proud of you, all your hard work, your willingness to try things that are scary and difficult for you, your quick turn to repentance when you’ve done wrong, your courage and bravery and general usual state of HAPPY. ¬†I just love you so. ¬†I treasured our day together today, playing together, snuggling, just keeping it simple, thanking God for the gift of life.

I love you so

Mommy

now you’re four!

15590014_10154686787277605_2767830364848305978_n.jpgmy dear sweet boy

never lose your tenderness. ¬†be brave enough, be strong enough to be a tenderhearted man in your generation. ¬†it is a beautiful quality of yours, something i love most about you, even if it is often misunderstood. ¬†it isn’t weakness or shyness to be tenderhearted. ¬†our Savior is tenderhearted, and maybe those with tender hearts see those that others pass over so quickly–the lost, broken, hurting. ¬†it takes tenderness to extend compassion. ¬†so don’t let a cruel hard world pound out of you your tender heart. ¬†stay soft, stay breakable.

my, what a year you’ve had. ¬†you have literally transformed before our eyes. ¬†maybe this is so unusual to us because our phoebe girl grows so slowly, but you are surpassing her this year. ¬†you are really growing up! ¬†you moved into your own boy room, and have since loved the privacy that gives you, even though you don’t love being alone in the dark of night. ¬†you’ve begun to battle nightmares almost nightly, and often come snuggle with us in our bed. ¬†it’s the first time, though, that i’ve really seen you turn to the Lord in prayer on your own. ¬†you are beginning to learn to pray on your own to your Heavenly Father, and not to be afraid to speak freely to Him.

this morning i said, “noah! ¬†you’re not three anymore!” and you said, in a distinctively more grown-up-sounding voice, “i know but i still call you momma.”

you love playing with your sisters, and do so well with both of them. ¬†your favorite things lately are to play that you are dogs, running around in the house and yard on all fours, and to play drums constantly to whatever music we have going in the house. ¬†you are addicted to movies much to my chagrin. ¬†ūüôā ¬†you have learned so much alongside phoebe in our first year of home educating, and i can tell you are so bright and eager. ¬†you still love to be tickled to tears before bedtime, as you always always have, and you love to be sung to. ¬†you love trucks and cars endlessly. ¬†you love to help me in the kitchen, really to help with any task.

i am so so proud of you, son, so thankful that God gave us you. ¬†you came quietly on this december day four years ago, but with so much drama somehow at the same time. ¬†what a champ you were as your momma struggled to recover in the weeks following your birth. ¬†i especially want to tell you that i’m very proud of you for the way you have loved phoebe in all her health battles this year, being protective of her and looking out for her. ¬†the way you told her you missed her while she was gone to winston salem. ¬†it’s not easy having to bend to someone with a special dietary need, and yet you do it quietly and with such a good attitude. ¬†thank you, son! ¬†your daddy and i adore you more than we can ever ever say and we thank God for the gift of you!

happy fourth birthday, my favorite boy with the best giggle!

 

for my feisty girl

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Two years ago today, this little feisty bundle with a shock of black hair came into our lives. You¬†looked at me fiercely with grumpy little eyes when I first looked at you, already trying to boss me around. ¬†You wanted to nurse and you¬†wanted it NOW. ¬†You haven’t stopped bossing since.

Philippa, you are full of vim and passion and zest for life. ¬†You love a good party, and you love to make everyone laugh. ¬†At two years old you now have a head full of white blonde hair. ¬†In the mornings I hear you yelling, “Mom! ¬†Momma!” from your crib when you’re ready to get up. ¬†You come running out and there’s no time for snuggling. ¬†Quickly you busy yourself playing with brother or sister. ¬†You love “can-cakes” for breakfast and you call your water bottle your “coffee.” ¬†You love to go outside and “ho-high” on the swing all by yourself, pushing away our hands if we try to help you on the stairs. ¬†The best moments are when you grab my face with your chubby hands and turn it roughly to the side so you can plant a big “tiss” on my cheek. ¬†Or when you wrap your squishy arms around my neck and say “hold on ti-ight!” ¬†Your snuggles are far and few between, but they are truly the best and your daddy and I live to sneak them in. ¬†Whoever you have in the moment is your favorite and you couldn’t possibly even deign to look at the other parent.

I miss our nighttime nursings, but love that we’ve traded them in for rocking in the chair, reading board books that you toddle over to me, while you suck your thumb and we sing hymns and little songs that you love. ¬†I love, love to hear you pray–“Dear Gah.. thank you for Noah” you always start with.

If you can’t tell, sweet girl, your daddy and I are just smitten with you. ¬†You can be feistier than Phoebe and Noah¬†combined, if you want to be, but you are just as capable of equal measures of sweetness. ¬†Today at two years old, you have been grumpier than usual, and I wonder if we are entering those “terrible twos,” but thankfully, we have had a go at this twice before. ¬†We engage it with a lot more laughter this time around and hopefully a lot more grace. ¬†That’s the benefit of being baby #3.

We love you so so much, precious little biddle-e-dee, and always will forever and ever no matter what. ¬†You are one of the greatest treasures + joys of our earthly lives. ¬†We pray for you every day to know Jesus and love Him and use all your¬†passion and headstrong ways for His name and His kingdom. ¬†We can’t wait to see what this next year holds in store for you and we hope you have a very happy birthday!

Love,

Momma

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the way of trust

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My dear daughter

I see it in the way your eyes frenzy, the way your cheeks puffed red with play now fill with¬†¬†frustration as you recount to me how the other children won’t do it the way you want them to. ¬†I see myself in that frustration, that anger, that frantic grasping. ¬†Oh my girl, how do I help you when I am just like you? ¬†It’s about control, dear girl. ¬†Maybe one of your greatest battles as you grow up and even into womanhood will be over the issue of control.

Ask any woman around, and if she’s honest she’ll agree. ¬†You can trace that common thread among us all the way back to the Garden, all the way back to Eve. ¬†The way she fell for it straight from the snake’s mouth, the lie that God was withholding something better for her. ¬†The lure that she could procure a better reality for herself if she only reached out her hand and grasped for it, rather than reach up her hands and ask for it. ¬†Wait for it. ¬†Surrender it.

It’s going to be about trust for you and I, my sweet girl.

You’re the firstborn, and I don’t know much about being a firstborn because I was a middle. ¬†But I do know it’s harder for the firsts. ¬†Borne in you is a natural desire and gifting to manage, organize, corral, and lead. ¬†These are beautiful gifts, important, and leadership will probably come naturally to you. ¬†However, these strengths can be hamstrung by a desire for control and you might as well go ahead and get your eyes wide open to it.

I see it in women around me, I see it in myself. ¬†We are so very afraid to trust the hand the Lord has dealt us as His good for us, His love to us. ¬†We want so much to see our husbands do things this way or that way, instead of gently being led by them, entrusting ourselves to God in placing us in this union with this man who had all these faults we didn’t see when we married him (never mind all our own faults).

We want so much to pummel our bodies into the shape of this woman or that woman, failing to recognize or accept that God formed and fashioned us with a certain build and we each have a unique beauty to offer, even if it isn’t what mimics the magazine covers.

We want so much to have these kind of children, this sort of lifestyle and income and home, and we bend ourselves in a million crazy ways trying to achieve it, almost until we break.

We don’t want the good gifts God has given us, we look out and see a better life that we believe we can construct and reach out a hungry hand and grasp for it. ¬†We don’t like limitations and boundaries and we certainly don’t like surrender.

So often the work of trust is the work of staying empty.  Being okay with a temporary emptiness, resisting the frantic urge to fill the void.  Instead of reaching out and grabbing that apple, reaching out that hand and leaving it empty, open, waiting, surrendered.  Waiting for God to fill it.  Enjoying Him instead of the thing we think we must have.  Trusting Him as we ask, finding our way to contentment if His answer is no.

The antidote to control is trust, my girl.  T R U S T.

When I say this to my own soul, I feel weary with another “do” I must perform, another thing to work at. ¬†But the very essence of trust, I’m learning, is that it isn’t primarily a work that I must produce, a work of mustering up feelings of trust, but rather it is a work of remembering and resting. ¬†Go back and review who God is, remind your soul who He is, what great things He has done. ¬†Start in Psalm 103, if you need a place to start.

“Praise the¬†Lord,¬†my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
¬†¬†¬†¬†and forget not¬†all his benefits‚ÄĒ
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
¬†¬†¬†¬†so that your youth is renewed¬†like the eagle‚Äôs…”

(Psalm 103:1-5)

Go on a littler further and see His hands stretched wide on the cross, stretched wide so that He could remove your sins far from you, as far as the east is from the west

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.  

(Psalm 103:11-12)

Ground your soul so deeply in who He is, marvel over His love and His work toward you and on your behalf.  Can you trust this God?  Is He not good?  Is He not full of love toward you?  Are not all His ways toward you grace and love?  

“The¬†Lord¬†is¬†good to all,
And His tender mercies¬†are¬†over all His works.”

(Psalm 145:9)

You won’t understand how they are love and grace, especially when the rose He hands you comes prickled with thorns. ¬†All you can know for sure are His precious promises, His inerrant and unfailing words, and you can¬†find rest for your soul here.

This is where trust is born: remembering again who He is, how He loves, what He’s done for you, then resting in it. ¬†Ceasing from striving, from straining, even the strain to understand all the “whys.”

This is no easy task, child. ¬†It is a choosing, a literal exertion¬†of will. ¬†Choose to stop, to still, to smile, even, in the safety of your Father’s hands. ¬†Let yourself be held. ¬†That is the work of trust. ¬†Doesn’t that sound so welcoming, so irresistible?

“Against insurmountable obstacles and without a clue as to the outcome, the trusting heart says, ‘Abba, I surrender my will and my life to you without any reservation and with boundless confidence, for you are my loving Father.'”
-Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust

Gloriously, the outcomes, the trajectory, the end results are not really in our hands. ¬†(Walk into any cancer ward and talk with anyone receiving a diagnosis of any kind and you can’t escape that truth.) ¬†We can either fight against this reality or we can accept it, and the difference will show in how much joy we have in our time here. ¬†You and I, sweet girl, we can run our race ragged and angry and out of breath with fear, or we can run abiding in His love, resting, trusting. ¬†He means for us to have joy, joy to the full. ¬†He’s a good, good Father.

“He who heeds the word wisely will find good,
And whoever trusts in the¬†Lord, happy¬†is¬†he.”
Proverbs 16:20

“The way of trust is a movement into obscurity, into the undefined, into ambiguity, not into some predetermined clearly delineated plan for the future. ¬†The next step discloses install only out of a discernment of God acting in the desert of the present moment. ¬†The reality of naked trust is the life of a pilgrim who leaves what is nailed down, obvious, and secure, and walks into the unknown without any rational explanation to justify the decision or guarantee the future. ¬†Why? ¬†Because God has signaled the movement and offered it his presence and his promise.”
Manning, Ruthless Trust

“The¬†Lord¬†upholds all who fall,
And raises up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look expectantly to You,
And You give them their food in due season.
You open Your hand
And satisfy the desire of every living thing.

The Lord is righteous in all His ways,
Gracious in all His works.
The Lord is near to all who call upon Him,
To all who call upon Him in truth.
He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him;
He also will hear their cry and save them.”

(Psalm 145:14-19)

five years old

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You.

With all your laughter.  With all your curiosity, your creativity.  Your huge imagination.  Your happy approach to life.

I just marvel over you.  The unexpected and undeserved gift that you are and continue to be to me, to us, to this family.  In a hundred ways, you are wild grace to me from the Lord.

You’re my first, and in basically every way, you pave the way. ¬†That can be a hard burden to bear, my girl, but I know the Lord equipped you specifically for that role. ¬†This year with you has been so full of change.¬† You seemed to have transformed slowly before our very eyes into this grown up little girl child. ¬†Still young at heart and little, but¬†different somehow. ¬†This year has been both death + life to us. ¬†In the very middle of the year, we found out about your diagnosis with Celiacs disease, which felt very much like a death sentence in some ways. ¬†Death to whatever was normal before. ¬†I look at everything basically though the lens of “that was before we knew,” and “this is after we found out.” ¬†And yet, that very same month, you so quietly decided to¬†give your heart to Jesus. ¬†I was skeptical at first that you really understood what you were doing, but I have SEEN HIM so change you. ¬†How can that be? ¬†I can’t explain it. ¬†But a huge shift happened after that, and you have been such a conduit of grace in our family since then. ¬†I have seen Him working in your heart, I have seen you become so repentant over any sin, and such a desire for God on your own, independent of our promptings. ¬†How can this be for a four-year-old? ¬†I don’t know, I can’t understand it. ¬†But it is precious.

I love the way you pray. ¬†The way you run in at night to your sister’s¬†room as I’m putting her to sleep, the way you run in to pray over her and to sing her “Jesus Loves Me,” and kiss her goodnight. ¬†The way you are protective over your brother + sister, and love on them so well. ¬†The sweet bond I see forming between all of you, even amidst the days where there is fighting and tears.

I love the way you put creatures to sleep in tiny beds all over our house and dress up in the most gawdy of outfits, layers upon layers of tutus and dresses. ¬†I love the way you still have to start the day with snuggle time with me first, and the way you don’t really feel like the day has begun until we’ve had that time. ¬†I love¬†your love for books and stories. ¬†I love the way your coloring has taken off to a whole new artistic level the past few weeks.

You are hilarious and fun and I think you are a light to everyone who knows you.  Which is why we named you Phoebe, our little ray of light.  You are my girl forever and I adore you so much.  I look so forward to all that is ahead in the year to come!

Happy 5th birthday. ¬†Now, how ’bout those birthday spankings!?

Love
Momma

the boy is three

 

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You’re such a stinker, my sweet sweet boy. ¬†My favoritest littlest man. ¬†I came into your room this early morning with a big number “3” balloon to wake you up, singing happy birthday, and you’re like, “No, momma! ¬†Don’t sing.” ¬†That’s so you. ¬†You don’t love the attention at ALL. ¬†You are such a quiet and tender spirit. ¬†You can be louder than both of the girls, don’t get me wrong. ¬†Never have I heard someone with a better¬†ear-piercing high-pitched scream!

I say it every year, every birthday, with every child, I know, but I still can’t believe you’re turning three today. ¬†You changed SO much this year, you changed from being my baby boy to my little man. ¬†You are so tall, almost taller than Phoebe now, and definitely outweighing/outgrowing her. ¬†You love pancakes every morning if you can have them, or puffins if not. ¬†You love helping me make pizza so you can snack on the pizza cheese. ¬†You fell in love with Mater + Lightning McQueen this year, and the infatuation still stands. ¬†You gave up your bottle + after-nap snuggles this year. ¬†Now when you wake up in the morning and after your nap, you push away my hugs and kisses and get right to work playing. ¬†You love driving your cars and toys, laying down on the floor next to them so you can slowly watch the wheels turn as they drive. ¬†You were obsessed with the Christian Mother Goose cd, able to recite the whole thing with it as we listen. ¬†You’ve really started to learn and engage with our bible reading time, wanting me to ask you questions and explain to you like I do to Phoebe. ¬†You transitioned from crib to toddler bed this year, loving every second of your freedom to get in and out on your own like a big boy. ¬†We gave potty training a concerted effort this year. ¬†Maybe in 2016. ¬†You love for me to sing “There Once Was a Wild Little Donkey,” and “The B.I.B.L.E” (or “B.I.E.L.D” as you say it) before bed.

I love how when I ask you what you want or what you’d like to do, you say “Hmmmm…How’d about…” ¬†Or how you call the blender/food processor “the louder.” ¬†Popcorn is “pine corn.” ¬†After breakfast you tell me your hands are “stinky,” meaning sticky. ¬†In bed at night, you ask for a “speck” of water (sip). ¬†When I asked you what you want to do when you grow up, you said “go sledding.” ¬†You still get the hiccups HORRIBLY whenever I tickle you or get you laughing hard. ¬†One night I was kissing you goodnight and you asked me, “Momma, where is God?” ¬†And then as I’m answering you started sniffing and said, “I smell spiders.” ¬†Classic. ¬†Or how when you hurt something or we reprimand you for something, you always tell us “but that hurts my feelings,” pointing to some random part of your body. ¬†When I tell you I’m going to eat you up, especially your cheeks because they’re so full of juice you say, “NO! ¬†It’s all gone!” ¬†Daddy was teaching you how to put your own shirt on, how to look for the tag, and as you were putting your pants on you said, “But I don’t see the flag!” ¬†One morning you were coughing when you got up, I asked you how you felt and you said, “Berry Happy.” ¬†You are still super attached to your “dee-tee” and now “little mr. fox” and “big mr. fox.” ¬†You are starting to play with lots of imagination. ¬†I love when you are playing with your big and little tractors and little one is the baby and the big tractor is “tractor mommy,” and listening in to the conversations they have: “do you need to go potty?” “No, I don’t need to go potty.” ¬†“Tractor mommy! ¬†Tractor mommy! ¬†Where are you?” ¬†Etc. ¬†I love how one night at dinner you said to daddy, “watch your ‘tude, dude.”

Life with you is hilarious. ¬†You are quiet and mischievous and stubborn as all get out. ¬†You just recently started to ride Phoebe’s strider, after a year of trying to encourage you to pedal your “kykle” with your feet/pedals. ¬†Now all you want to do is ride the strider. ¬†If you feel like we are going to force you to do anything, you are afraid and dig in your heels, but if we give you some space and some choice in it, you will give something new a try.

We took you rock climbing for the first time yesterday to the indoor rock wall at the YMCA. ¬†When I was walking you into the rock climbing area, you said “I just want to go home and watch a movie.” ¬†Ha. ¬†Finally toward the end, after watching all of us climb, you decided to try bouldering around and were so proud of yourself.

I know this next year will be full of change.¬† I know you’ll get the hang of this growing up thing in your own time and way, without too much force and pushing from others. ¬†I hope we can do the best job of guiding you and helping you and encouraging you as you go through this process. ¬†One night after I scolded you for jumping on me/hurting me, you burst into tears and said, “I just can’t be a good boy.” ¬†You are so precious to me, my little man. ¬†The truth is, none of us can be a good boy and girl on our own. ¬†We need a Savior! ¬†I hope and pray for you every day to love Him and turn your heart and life over to Him. ¬†I believe in your own time and way, when you’re ready, you will. ¬†I see in you such a kindness, a sensitivity toward the hurting and a desire to please God. ¬†I see you. ¬†I will walk beside you all the way. ¬†I will love you, even when you push me away. ¬†I will always be your momma + you will always be my boy.

I’m so thankful for you and the gift that it is to raise you and to love you. ¬†Happy 3rd birthday Noah-man.

Love
Mommy

philippa ruth

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My dearest little Philippa Ruth
The littlest one, the lovey of our hearts. ¬†You are just pure delight. ¬†There was nothing like seeing you for the first time. ¬†You were born in laughter and momma was full of indescribable joy. ¬†A shock¬†of the darkest and softest hair, eyes so intense and grumpy looked at me as you guzzled milk for the first time. ¬†You just stared at me as if you never wanted to look away. ¬†You were the softest and pudgiest and sweetest little bundle. ¬†Big sister couldn’t wait to get her hands on you, big brother was filled with wonder. ¬†You were the sweetest Thanksgiving marvel. ¬†We loved bringing you home, it was a time filled with all the usual difficulties of adjusting to life with a newborn again. ¬†But in many ways, it was the sweetest newborn season we had experienced thus far. ¬†We knew by now how fleeting this time is, and we didn’t mind spoiling you. ¬†We snuggled with you and held you all the time. ¬†We let you sleep in our bed. ¬†We let you nurse even when it wasn’t quite “time” yet. ¬†We broke all of our own “rules” with silly grins on our faces. ¬†We savored you with great¬†joy. ¬†It has been so fun to get to know you, to see your little personality shine forth. ¬†How you love your older siblings. ¬†How feisty and determined and stubborn you are, all the while being sweet and completely lovable. ¬†Knowing you and loving you and the great + high privilege of raising you is the supreme joy + honor of my life. ¬†You, along with brother and sister, of course. ¬†I am so happy to celebrate this first birthday with you. ¬†I hope it is the happiest birthday! ¬†Know, my sweet girl, how deeply loved you are, especially first + foremost by our great God who with tender foresight placed you in a family where you would be taught the glories + wonders of the Gospel. ¬†I hope we will always be faithful to point you to Him in every year along the way. ¬†Where we fail, He is perfect and unchanging. ¬†May His love for you in Christ Jesus be what undergirds every day of your life and may you shine as a bright light in your generation.

With all my love
Momma

(Pictures taken by my sister-in-law Addie + my friend Elise)