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

Gratitude

Gratitude.

It may very well be my most overused word of 2014. Days have passed, time has moved forward, but there remains an overwhelming swell within my soul that cannot make it through a single day without bubbling up and making itself known. Even when there is no one around to hear, the whispers of my heart make their way to my lips and I thank my Father…for the zillionth time for the miracle He has worked in my life.

So it should come as no surprise, I suppose, that on this Thanksgiving Eve especially I am overcome with it. I fail miserably to find a word that fully expresses the depth of my emotion, so inevitably the same word emerges time and time again…gratitude. Plain and simple.

There are so many dimensions to the story that has redefined me, that I frequently balk at the task of capturing it in words on a page. Just as your appreciation for the beauty of a prism deepens with every turn of the wrist, so it is with me. Every time I carefully unpack the memories that have become some of my greatest treasures, God illuminates a new angle of those familiar moments and leaves me speechless.

I’m just so thankful, I don’t know what to do with myself. If you had told me years ago that one day I would nearly die in an operating room, listening to the doctors’ helpless voices as they struggled to invent a procedure to save my life, I would have been terrified. If you went on to say that I would come to value that experience as one of my greatest gifts, I would have thought you were a crazy person. But so it is.

On that cold night in March, God took a faith that I professed and showed me His power first hand. He took the scripture that had been planted in my heart and brought life to those words in a way that I never could have imagined. The promise in His Word that if we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us leapt off the page and into my life. He carried me. In my darkest, most helpless hours, He focused my eyes on Him and piece by piece put me back together.

I laid on a table watching my vitals slip away and was completely at peace…not because I was ok with dying, but because I knew God had me. There is a song by Mandisa that I can no longer listen to without brimming with tears. I loved it before, but now the words echo the cries of my heart,

“He is with you in the ICU when the doctors don’t know what to do and it scares you to the core, He is with you.”

I sing this song with joyful tears because while I always understood it to be true, I KNOW it to be true now. I was there…that was me…and God showed up.

The nurses couldn’t help but remark on their shock at my calm. Outside of my epidural, there were no drugs. No sedatives. Nothing to alter my mental state in the slightest or numb me from the reality playing out around me. “How was I keeping it together?” They wanted to know. What I was unable to tell them in the moment, I long to tell them now. I wasn’t. God was. Fully awake and fully focused on Him, I was acutely aware that He held the broken bits of my body together and I felt wrapped in His abiding, profound peace.

Three hours of surgery and a single scripture.

“So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

A scripture that reminded me of God’s incredible faithfulness and one that I shared on social media 3 months to the day PRIOR to the night I would need it most.   God didn’t just show up on March 3. He didn’t take a break from heaven to check in and rescue me. He was there all along. Three months prior, He knew what I would be facing and He planted that scripture deep in my heart so that when I needed it, it would already be there. The fact that it’s documented as three months exactly is just icing on the cake. It’s as though He wanted to make sure I didn’t miss the fact that He was there, preparing me far in advance before my greatest trial.

“It’s a miracle from God.” At the end of my surgery, the doctors used those exact words to say what I already knew to be true. They couldn’t explain how I was saved, outside of divine intervention. God showed up. Not just for me, but for everyone who was there to witness it.

Gratitude.

Not just for the fact that I live to see another day, but for the fact that every day is now framed with the understanding that I will never walk alone. That just as He orchestrated events and carried me through this harrowing ordeal, He is even now, preparing me for everything that lies ahead. I don’t have to fear…I don’t have to wonder…for the rest of my life, I walk in tremendous freedom, knowing that I won’t live a single day outside of His will for me, and that He will always see me through.

And for that, I am forever awash in gratitude…plain and simple.

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.

 

Ephesians 1:18

Lovebug,

I know I have already told you this, but the verse I have selected to pray over your life is Ephesians 1:18-19a.  It is a verse that God absolutely placed in my lap with such perfect timing.  When I read it, I knew that it was for you…that I wanted it to be yours.  I want this verse to be reality for you.  I want it so embedded in the marrow of your bones that you live it every day almost effortlessly.

This is the version in my Bible:

“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”

Here is The Message translation, which I also really like:

“I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength!”

I pray it out loud to you every night when you are having your bath.  In the middle of our other regular prayers, I say the following:

“And Mama prays Ephesians 1:18 for you every night praying that the eyes of your heart would be enlightened, that you would know the hope to which God has called you, your glorious inheritance in the saints, and the incomparable power He has promised to those who believe…because if you have those 3 things…if you have hope in God, you know who you are as a child of God, and you have God’s power, there is nothing in the world that can take you down!”

It’s typically background noise for you as you splash and play in the water, but it’s no matter.  I’m praying those words so that you will hear them, but I am praying those words more importantly so God will hear them.  I cannot tell you how desperate I am for you to know the freedom, peace, and utter joy I have found through faith in God and a relationship with Christ.  It has, without question, radically transformed my life…and I don’t ever want you to know life without it.

Several times recently you have stopped playing and looked into my eyes with great intensity as I recited the words that you hear every single night.  You looked like you were really trying to soak in what I was saying and it brought such delight to my heart!!  While I know you were more likely noticing my hair looking affright or taking in the sing-song rhythm in my voice, it got me thinking.  Oh how I hope and pray that you will have an interest in and a passion for God’s Word.  It is such an incredible gift.  One that can bring comfort to your grief, wisdom to your uncertainty, and hope to your despair.  It will guide you, it will encourage you, it will transform you.

Oh my precious boy, I love you so.  There aren’t enough hours in the day for me to show you just how much.  I’m grateful for every moment I have the privilege of spending with you.  Every. Single. One.

All my love,

Mama

 

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

Rocks in the Garden

Now that William is mobile and the weather is delicious, our favorite activity is playing in the backyard.  We spend hours every day romping around in the grass, swinging in his swing, and chasing the puppers around.  William loves to explore and is fascinated by nature.  He wants to examine all of the plants up close and has the gentlest touch with even the most delicate of flowers.  He will often find leaves or petals on the ground that draw him in and he inevitably scoops them up and tucks them into his palm, treasuring them for as long as they can withstand his grasp.

While he has the run of most of the space, there are a few areas that are off limits, due to the danger factor.  I am always with him, of course, steering him in the right direction and away from peril.  With so many accessible areas, it is usually easy to distract him away from the areas I don’t want him to go near.

Usually.

The other day, he noticed the rocky terrain near the gate leading to the front yard.  Now, although he is technically mobile, he is far from “expert level.”  I still keep a hand on him when we are walking on hard surfaces and uneven ground often trips him up.  That said, the rocky area with the giant metal fence post was not a good spot for him to play.  Did I mention he was barefoot?  He kept pulling my hand in that direction and I repeatedly said, “No,” shaking my head and trying to entice him in another direction.  After multiple attempts and multiple refusals, he pitched. a. fit.  When it was clear that my mind was not going to be swayed, he dropped himself into the grass in a fit of desperation and wailed, looking over at the rocks while crocodile tears cascaded down his cheeks.  He couldn’t understand why I would rob him of the adventure he hungered for.  Why would I deny him such joy??  I told him that I understood how upsetting it is when we aren’t able to do what we want, but that I was only protecting him from harm.  I explained that I didn’t want him to get hurt and that really, the rocks weren’t that cool anyway.  In an effort to redirect his attention, I started pointing out all of the other areas brimming with adventure, but he would have none of it.  He continued to cry in the grass, lamenting the fun he was certain he was missing.

After a minute or two, I actually started to chuckle in my mind.  I glanced around and looked at everything surrounding us.  It was a gorgeous Florida day…there were butterflies fluttering about, flowers waving in the breeze, and puppy dogs chasing dragonflies.  There was a hammock beckoning for a lounger, sparkling pool water to splash in, and a shady oak tree providing the perfect respite from the sun’s rays.  All of this was accessible and my boy was pitching a fit over a handful of rocks and a metal post.  I was just about ready to roll my eyes, when it hit me like a ton of…well…rocks.

He was me.

This is exactly what God has to deal with from me and far more frequently than I would like to admit.

I started to think about how often I pout and stomp my feet when I don’t get my way.  How God has surrounded me with countless blessings and the opportunity for unending joy every day and still, I often choose not to see it.  I plead for His guidance and protection, but only really want it on my terms.  I get frustrated when opportunities pass me by, doors close, relationships end, and I don’t get to do what I want.  Rarely does it occur to me in the moment that the limitations I am facing are quite possibly the hand of God saying, “You really don’t want to go there.  Trust me.  I’m trying to keep you from getting hurt and really, it’s not that cool anyway.”  Instead of accepting His provision and giving thanks, I bemoan the unfairness of life.  While God is pointing out all of the other things around me that I could be focusing on and finding joy in, I choose instead to sit and cry.  God wants to give me the garden and I want the rocks.

The most incredible part of all of this is how God responds to my tantrums.  Instead of rolling His eyes and wandering off, He stoops down with me and lets me cry.  He gives me unending grace to feel the depth of my frustrations and even comforts me in my sadness.  He waits patiently, loves me lavishly, and when I’ve gotten it all out, He ever so gently, brings me back to my feet and guides me back into the garden.

Grace.  I don’t deserve it, and yet He gives it.  Abundantly.

With that in mind, I viewed my sweet boy with a whole new set of lenses, and felt overwhelming compassion.  Instead of rolling my eyes, I sat down in the grass with him.  I wiped away his tears, told him that I understood, and let him have his moment.  Once his frustrations were fully vented, I offered him my hand and he took it.  The garden was waiting and he was now ready to take it all in.

So together we wandered off, hand in hand, and left the rocks behind.  He quickly forgot what had transpired, but I still have not.  As we moved forward I was humbled by God’s unending grace and thanked Him for the millionth time for loving me so well, that I might shower that same love on my precious baby boy.