First Day of School

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Lovebug,

We took you to school today. We got you dressed, fed you breakfast, took your picture and whisked you off to a new adventure beyond the reaches of our arms and it seems impossible to believe. In all fairness, you have “been” to school multiple times over the last few months in preparation for this very day. You have walked the halls, played on the playground, and even spent time alone with the teachers in your classroom on several occasions. But today was the day. THE day that you started a journey that will introduce you to a whole new world. You have been in your classroom for an hour now and I am here at home with tears in my eyes, experiencing the full range of first day emotions.

 

If you asked me a year ago how I would feel on your first day of school, I would have likely said that I was devastated. So sad to be missing out on ANY part of your day, regardless of how little, I couldn’t stomach the thought of giving someone else time that I am so covetous of with you. A year ago, I was already dreading this step, knowing that you would be heading out to a place that mama couldn’t go, for the first time ever in your life. I knew that I would have to demonstrate my faith in more ways than ever and the thought of it turned my stomach. But as I sit here today with these “first day” tears in my eyes, I can honestly say that devastation is the last emotion I feel. The tears of today come from a too quiet house that just isn’t the same without my curly-haired sidekick sidled up next to me, but the feeling I have that overrides every other is one of pure excitement.

 

I know you are ready for this.

 

I have watched you grow in confidence over the last few months and become increasingly independent with every step, every task, and every challenge. I have seen the pride overtake your face whenever you do something that you were scared to do or didn’t think you could. I have watched your desire to learn morph into a ravenous hunger that consumes your waking hours. I have noticed that while your nerves said, “I don’t want to go to school” your curiosity for all its secrets made the tears stop the moment you crossed the threshold.

 

So today when I waved goodbye to you, the smile I had plastered on my face, wasn’t just for your benefit. It was the outward expression of an inward peace I have about all that you are undertaking. When I told you that I want to know if Grumpy the fish was really grumpy, if the playground slide was super fast, what the room smelled like, and if you had a student named Marsupial in your class, I meant it. Because I do. I want to know every detail of your days and can hardly wait to hear of your adventures. I know you are going to revel in your new world and I feel privileged to be the listening ears for all that is to come. In the same breath however, I also know that memories and moments are about to unfold that I will never get to hear about because this is YOUR adventure. You are stepping out on your own and that means you get to see, hear, and do things that are yours alone. So while my mama heart cringes a little bit at the initiation of this new chapter, my teacher heart says YES. Go do it, sweet boy. Soak it up. Run fast, try hard, find new friends, create, explore, and make mistakes. Be brave, laugh uncontrollably, feel deeply, and give yourself grace. Grow, flourish, be challenged, and don’t be afraid to fail. Be ALL in, engaged, and truly present in every moment because you have a mama and dada who adore you, believe in you, and know that in every sense you are going to ROCK this.

 

More than anything else, know that you are purely loved…by me, by Dada, and by the God who put you together so perfectly. Know that the successes, failures, challenges, and victories held within the year ahead will never add to or diminish the love we have for you. Be YOU, precious boy, and we will cherish our view as we watch the world be gloriously changed as a result.

 

AML,

Mama

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The Lessons of Heartache.

Lovebug,

You taught me something this week. Actually, to be fair, you and God worked together to teach me something and I’m pretty sure the lesson was harder on me than it was on you.

You and mama are thick as thieves. We spend the majority of every day together and much to my delight, have formed a bond that is rock solid. We know each other…well. You are comfortable to show me every side of who you truly are because you trust that I will love you in all of it…and you’re right.

Well, inevitably there are times when I have to run out and you are left in the hands of someone we love and trust, who adores you. This week I had a haircut and E was set to watch you, when you announced several days prior that you weren’t interested. Your anxiety about me leaving appeared on Monday, when you brought it up, before I had even mentioned the haircut on Friday. Your introspection never ceases to amaze me and you had already been assuming that since it had been awhile since you had been left in the hands of a babysitter, it was probably coming to that time again. When I explained the plan, you erupted into tears. “No thank you Mama leave, no thank you E play with you.” Heart. Broken.

I did what I assumed I should do…reassured you that it would be fun, that you would be fine, and that it wasn’t going to happen for four more days. For the rest of the day, you double checked that it wasn’t today and you continued to make your opinions known on what was to come. This happened again on Tuesday, then on Wednesday, and on Thursday. You were so sad that my heart wanted to cancel that appointment and just stay with you and love on you all day on Friday. Luckily, my head (and your daddy) said, “No.” Sparing you this sadness would only perpetuate your separation anxiety and would not solve the problem. Still, it hurt. There is this part of the mama bear in me that wants to protect you from all hurts, keep you from being sad at all costs, and make every day of your life filled with nothing but joy. And yet, I know if I do that, I will ruin you. I will rob you of every opportunity for you to see God’s faithfulness in our struggles and deceive you into believing that life is perfect. So we pressed on.

I prayed in the days leading up, arriving at a “Please God” crescendo on Thursday night. I wanted you to feel better about it in the morning and not have any anxiety about what was happening. As is often the case, God had other plans. My prayers were answered, but not in the way I requested.

Friday morning brought anxiety and more pleading for me not to go. In your uncertainty, I saw so much of myself. Longing to be in control, fearing the unknown, desperately grasping for security. I realized then that if you turn out anything like me, this will not be the last time you fear and want to avoid an uncomfortable and uncontrollable situation. So I listened to the God voice in my heart that told me to teach you what I have learned when I feel the same way…pray. Go to Him. Take all of your irrational fear, your mess, your anxiety and lay it at God’s feet asking Him to help you through each moment and guide you through each step.

I sat you on the edge of the bed and said, “Oh buddy…I hate that you are so sad and scared about this. Do you know what Mama does when she is scared and sad about something? I talk to God. I tell Him exactly how I am feeling and ask Him to make me feel brave and strong. I ask Him to give me everything I need to make it through what I am dreading. And you know what? God listens and God helps us.” We prayed together with your little two year old legs dangling and tears filling your eyes and we ventured out to greet E. Your tears continued and you clung to me, but I showed you that I trusted God enough to answer our prayer by giving you a big hug, telling you I loved you BIG MUCH, and walking out the door. Ouch.

I prayed for you as I left. In the grand scheme of life, this is such a small, small problem, but I knew it didn’t feel small for you. I know those feelings so well and really wanted to just make them go away for you, but I knew I couldn’t. This was just the beginning of God’s work with you—just has He has shown me, He will use every fear, every anxiety, every bit of trepidation to show that He is faithful in our trials, that He can be trusted, and that even when you feel alone, you are NOT. Not EVER.

My haircut took longer than it was supposed to, but when I walked back into the house I heard the soundtrack of a happy boy. Your feet slapped the floor as you raced around the corner and proudly proclaimed, “Mama!! I was brave and I was STRONG!” showing me your muscles. Triumph. Some might say that the victory was that you were able to be happy with the babysitter while I was away. Sure. But for me, the victory was so much greater. It was one tiny example, set in your brain and rooted in your heart that when we are scared, we go to God. That doesn’t mean that He takes the scary away, but that He is faithful to give us everything we need to walk through it and that we never have to take a step without Him by our side.

As I soaked in the BIG hug you gave me, I asked God to forgive me for almost robbing you of such a HUGE lesson. I asked Him to keep me from getting in the way as He molds you and shapes you into the man He has called you to be, because one thing I know for sure…He has BIG plans for you, little one.

I love you, buddy. BIG much.

Mama

What does the angel say?

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Lovebug,

Today we had a great conversation and I just had to save it here so you could read about it later. We were having dinner together and you kept wanting to play with mama’s angel. I have a sweet little Willow Tree angel who sits on our table and you just love her. You always want to hold her and play with her, and I have to remind you frequently that you have to be gentle with her—you typically oblige.

Tonight you were sharing your dinner with the angel and letting her sip from your cup. At one point, you were making her “talk” and she was making a “Ribbit!” sound. I chuckled and said, “Buddy, that’s not what an angel says! An angel says…” Pause. I really had to think here. What DOES an angel say? Given the circumstance, there are a wide variety of possibilities…how could I narrow it down to one sound byte? I had to think about what an angel could always say, in any situation, and then it occurred to me. “Buddy, an angel says ‘God loves you!’” You smiled and said, “Angel says…God love ooo!” From there, our conversation went on.

“Yes, buddy! An angel says ‘God loves you,’ because He does! And you know what? No matter how you are feeling or what is going on in your world, God always loves you.” I explained that God loves you, even when you are having a really crummy day and it seems like He is miles away. I told you that He loves you even when things happen in your life that you don’t understand. That He loves you every day, whether you want Him to or not. I explained that even though sometimes your feelings will try to convince you otherwise, His love for you is unchanging and perfect.

This conversation was a great reminder for your mama, too. Your daddy and I have been surrounded by really sad stories lately. Stories of hurting friends, grieving families, and seemingly “hopeless” situations. We have been praying so hard for precious people in our lives, and we aren’t getting the answers we were hoping for. It’s times like these that we have to choose to believe and trust God and His love, even when He feels far away. We have to trust that His plan is BIG and perfect and ends in an eternity with no more tears, pain, or sadness, no matter how tough things get in the short term.

Life can be so hard, sweet boy. There will be times when you are hurting and you will feel like God doesn’t care. When you don’t feel God close to you, choose to believe Him and trust Him at His word:

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you.
“For I am the Lord your God” Isaiah 43:2-3

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are [a]crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

He loves you, sweet boy…BIG MUCH. Don’t you ever forget it.

AML,

Mama

On the eve of two…

Lovebug,

You turn two tomorrow. I have been saying that to myself all day so that I can wrap my mind around it and prepare myself for the reality that you will cease to be my little one year old babe in just a few short hours. Throughout my life I have been challenged by the ends of chapters/seasons. When change is imminent, I feel myself desperately trying to savor every last moment and cherish what I feel is slipping away. So today we did all of our “usual” activities—all of the things that you love to do. Reading books, playing trucks, and of course, going to visit the ducks and fish at the pond. You had a long, playful bath and once you were in your jammies, we curled up in the chair for bedtime. I gave you extra rocking and snuggling and told you how much I loved you. As I laid you in your crib and crept out of your room, I waited for a pang to enter my stomach as I acknowledged that I had my last day with you as a one year old.

 

Much to my surprise, it wasn’t there.

 

I felt happy…grateful…and totally at peace.

 

As I thought about why this was the case, it fell on me with unbelievable clarity. I wasn’t trying to hang on to this year because I knew without question that I had savored it and enjoyed it completely.

 

Unlike with other seasons, where I felt like I didn’t appreciate them enough or knew that I took them for granted, I could walk away from this year knowing that I had left nothing on the table. By the grace of God, I remained present with you during every day—not wishing a single moment to go faster or to be altered in any way. I loved you with every cell in my body. I gave you all of my energy. I withheld nothing.

 

Even on days that were less than perfect, I never wanted to be anywhere else. I was covered up in gratitude every single day that I could be right here with you and your daddy—I wanted for nothing.

 

I enjoyed the sights, the sounds, the touches. I relished in your new achievements and marveled at your growth. I laughed with you. Held you when you cried. Made messes and cleaned them up. Some moments were glamorous and others were cringe-worthy, but I remain thankful for them all.

 

So while it is in the nature of mamas to always wish for more time, I don’t regret any of the days of this year. I didn’t squander a single one. I haven’t been perfect—I have certainly made mistakes, but taking you for granted wasn’t one of them. What an incredible gift from God. My heart is full knowing that I have loved and savored every day I have been blessed to have with you. My prayer as we walk into 2 tomorrow morning is that this time next year I can say the same thing.

 

I love you BIG MUCH.

mama

Building Blocks

A good bit of my time with W is spent playing with blocks. We count them, we identify their colors, and we build a “Super Truck” almost every day. Without question, the most popular game we play involves me building a tower as high as I can and allowing W to knock it all over. Sometimes he barely lets me stack two blocks before he pummels them to the ground, cackling in delight. On other occasions, he gives me a little time and keeps his distance, waiting for just the right moment to pounce on my creation. Every time he brings my tower to its ruin, I try to alter the design in order to make it a little stronger to withstand future blows. What starts as a flimsy edifice evolves into a fortress with a wide, strong foundation and thick walls. No matter the shape, when he drops the hammer a smile overtakes his entire face as he watches the colorful blocks tumble to the ground. To my delight, he has now added sound effects to our game, shouting “BOOM!” as they fall. Brilliant.

 

We got on a tremendous roll with this recently and I found myself building tower after tower after tower. I started wondering how many times I had rebuilt these broken structures when out of nowhere, God got my attention. I frequently feel His presence during my days with W because our life is so simple and focused on the “now.” As I stacked my millionth tower, I began thinking about how I could relate to this same kind of repetitive rebuilding in my own life.

 

I winced as I recalled such seasons of destruction…

 

carefully organized plans that crumbed before they became reality,

poor choices that led to instability and erosion,

seemingly random instances that knocked the foundation out from under me.

 

I thought back on…

 

the pain,

the desperation,

the sadness and anger,

the countless “Why” conversations with God, punctuated by groans and tears.

 

I became temporarily absorbed by the emotion of those memories and as I nursed the wounds freshly opened, He spoke to my heart.

 

He had always been there.

 

Through every trial, every devastation, every life-changing event, His Presence was not only evident, but was exactly what carried me through every difficult moment. In times when I was building something self-serving or destructive, He was the one who lovingly brought my tower down, but was always right there to help me pick up the pieces in the wake of my disaster. And just like my silly game with W, every time I rebuilt, He helped me put the pieces back differently, arranging them in a new way, each structure stronger than the one before. I used the lessons I learned to assemble the blocks of my life in such a way that reflected the wisdom of experience, the understanding of resilience, and the faithfulness of God. I look at who I am now, battle scars and all, and know that I am stronger, wiser, and more humble than I ever would have been without the intervention of God in my disasters. While I don’t necessarily want to go back and relive those moments, I am forever grateful for their impact on my life.

 

As I put the remaining blocks in place for another round, I prayed…that my little one will have the same awareness and appreciation for God’s presence in every season of building and inevitable rebuilding in his life.

Called.

I once heard it said that the greatest difference you make in the world might not be what you do, but who you raise.

While I no longer remember the context or author of this idea, the weight behind the words has remained with me for years.  When I first heard it, I was not yet a mother and still the words stunned me with their profundity.  Now with a future man in my care, the idea has an even more sobering impact.

I thought that when we first had William, we had a complete understanding of the tremendous responsibility given to us as parents.  As we crept along I-4 after leaving the hospital, we were overcome by the reality that we. were. his. parents.  We would be responsible for making sure he was safe, fed, and cared for, every hour of every day.  It was daunting and inspiring, terrifying and empowering.  We weren’t sure how to go about it but minute by minute, day by day, that is exactly what we started doing.  We woke in the middle of the night to make sure he was still breathing.  We obsessed over how much he was eating.  We checked the temperature of his toes constantly to make sure he wasn’t too hot or too cold.  Every doctor’s appointment served to affirm that we were actually doing ok.  He was growing.  He was healthy.  And we were relieved.

16 months into this thing, my perspective has shifted a bit.  God has taught me so much in these 500+ days of motherhood and I can say without question that I am not the same person who welcomed William into the world…hopefully, I’m better.  I have grown and changed in countless ways and am now feeling at home in this identity of Mom.  While I am much more confident in my day-to-day responsibilities as William’s mama, one thing hasn’t changed…I remain humbled and awestruck by the responsibility of raising this little boy into a man.  While the general concerns regarding his well-being haven’t lessened, the scope of what it means to raise him in my mind has broadened considerably.

I must teach him the alphabet and also teach him how to give and receive love.

I must protect him from harm but also encourage him to take risks that will enable him to grow.

I must hold his hand to show him that he is safe and cherished, but let it go when he needs to experience new things apart from me.

I must help him read.  And dance.  And swim.  And compromise.

I must instruct him on how to eat with proper table manners and also how to live a life with integrity, honor, and passion.

I must provide a safe place for him to ask questions and also show him that it’s ok to not always have the answers.

I must help him learn to walk without assistance and navigate the path between right and wrong.

I must kiss his hurts and wipe away his tears, while affirming him and letting him know that it’s ok to cry.

I must show him how to put others first, all while the world is screaming at him to only look out for number one.

I must teach him the Gospel, but even more challenging, I must live the Gospel before his eyes in the way I love.

And on…and on…and on…

A person could get downright overwhelmed and desperate in the light of this awesome responsibility.  How thankful I am that I will never walk a day of this journey alone.  When I start to feel like I can’t do something, I am reminded that God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.

God has called me to this position…chosen me not just to be a mama, but to be William’s mama.  With that knowledge, I can take a deep breath and rest in the fact that while I am caring for William, He will take care of me and meet all of my needs minute by minute…hour by hour…day by day.

 

His mercies are new every morning.

How thankful I am for days.

It’s an odd thought, but it hit me today with such power and relevance that I couldn’t help but express it here.  W and I had a bit of a rocky day together.  His sleep schedule was thrown off last night, which trickled into today, which wrought havoc from sun up to sunset.

We limped through this day and fought for moments of joy.   I was exhausted, he was exhausted, and frustrations loomed around every corner.  My sleepy baby is prone to falls and he had many.  Trying to keep a hand on him at all times was futile, since he is now a “walker” and “doesn’t need my help.”  When a much-needed nap turned into an hour long rebellion, my patience wore thin.  It had been a day and I was over it.  I wanted to show him the grace and love of Christ, but what he got when I lifted him from his crib was a grumpy mama.  I prayed out loud, for his sake and for mine, that God would redeem a day that had clearly derailed.

We made it.  Minute by minute, hour by hour, we trudged through our challenges and made the most of our moments.   Near the end of the day, we took a walk to the pond and chatted together while he chased the ducks.  Just before we started the journey for home, he plopped down in the grass and excitedly squealed “DOH!!” which is his word for flowers.  I laughed.

He was sitting in a patch of weeds.

I was just before redirecting him to a beautiful azalea bush just a few steps away when I saw it.  Sure enough, out of the hideous tangle of overgrown and unwanted plants, a darling little flower emerged, its petals reaching for the sun.  We sat there, my boy and I, for several minutes enjoying the flowers amid the weeds and I was reminded that while beauty is always present, sometimes we have to work a bit harder to find it.

Grateful that God had redeemed the day, I enjoyed the second half much more than the first.  Our evening wasn’t without incident–there was still a toe to be stubbed, a bath meltdown to be had, and a tumble to be taken while feeding the puppers–but I found comfort in the awareness that this too shall pass.  How incredible…an idea that is a bitter pill to swallow in moments of joy, had the capability to make my frustrating moments palatable.

Once my little lion was sleeping soundly, I plopped on the couch and exhaled.  I thought about how it wasn’t my best day, nor was it William’s, and asked God to forgive me for all of the ways I blew it.  With those thoughts buzzing in my brain, I was reminded of this scripture:

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23

I was so thankful that we would be able to turn the page from this day…go to sleep and wake up with a whole new opportunity to love and live the abundant life God offers.  Certain I had used up all of my allotted “mercies” for the day, I was thankful to get a whole new batch in the morning.  ;0)

Thank You God for days…for the ones that make us smile and the ones that make us cringe.  Thank you for loving us through our messes and giving us a chance every 24 hours to start again.  Thank You for days…and for the grace You pour out according to our many needs on every. single. one of them.

 

 

Swimming.

Lovebug,

We started swimming lessons this week.  You were so excited to put on your bathing suit–you were giggling and bouncing all around and it was just impossibly adorable.  We loaded you up in the car and drove you to meet your destiny, while you were clueless as to what was ahead.  Everything went well until you were placed in the instructor’s arms and in the water.  How could we explain to you why we were remaining dry while you were led into a scary place with a near-stranger?  We stayed right by the edge the entire time and cheered you on.  You didn’t care.  You screamed and cried and pleaded for rescue in every way you knew how.  Ten minutes passed and it was over…you survived.  I wrapped you in a fluffy towel and told you how proud I was of you and I could feel your relief as you melted into my arms.  It was all behind you…until the next day when we did it again.  And then again.  And then again…

Today was day four and you are still very unhappy about what happens to you at swim.  In my adult brain, I can only imagine how scary it must be for you.  You feel completely out of control and the water in your eyes, ears, and mouth must be terrifying.  I want to be able to explain to you what is happening and why I put you through this every day in a way that you will understand, but I know that’s not possible.  This is a battle you have to fight through without the benefit of understanding, emerging victorious only after you have conquered this challenge.

Watching you today reminded me of a famous quote by Nelson Mandela,

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
Growing up as a boy in America, you will no doubt feel pressure at some point to be “tough” in the face of fear.  I want you to know that the bravest people I know have feelings of doubt, of fear, of anxiety.  You aren’t brave because you don’t feel fear…that wouldn’t make you brave at all.  If you didn’t feel fear in the first place, bravery would never be necessary.  Bravery comes when you are gripped by fear and yet you are able to face it, pressing forward through the challenge.  You can always choose bravery, because you are a child of God and that thanks to Him, you NEVER walk (or swim) through anything alone.
Love you ALWAYS,
Mama