When I told your Dad that I wouldn’t speak at your graduation and instead wait to write my words to you, I did so with the expectation that the words would come easily. After all, there are eighteen years of memories. There are countless hopes and dreams I have for you. There are so many things that I want to say.
Yet I find myself at a loss for words this morning. I have written and deleted numerous times already.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been telling you what I want you to know all along the way. I told you through all of the baby snuggles, the walks to the playground, the books I read to you. I’ve expressed it in all of the birthday parties I have thrown for you. I’ve reminded you through the tears shed at every single concert, performance, and accomplishment of yours. It’s in the way Dad and I have advocated for you and defended you when you were being treated unfairly. It’s in the way we’ve rebuked and challenged you when you were clearly in the wrong. I’ve told you on road trips and on flights to foreign countries. I’ve shown you through adventures and traditions. It’s been in the laughter at the dining room table (what a hullabaloo that is!). It’s been in the sorrow over losses along the way.
It’s this and it’s really quite simple.
I love you, Lindsay Elise!
Watching you become the woman you are today has been an incredible journey. From the very beginning, you had strong opinions and you would push back against me. A good friend reminded me that God would use that strong will for his glory someday. She was right! I see that strength in you growing into something beautiful as you submit to the Lord.
You have met adversity in your life with the determination to change and to grow.
You have made mistakes, but you keep trying to learn from them.
You have pursued passions and I can’t wait to see how God uses your creativity, your writing, your singing, your loyalty, your love for kids, your leadership, and your love for Him!
Your future is bright, Lindsay. Not because it will be easy or because you will succeed at everything you pursue. You already know that life is painful and hard at times and you have failed enough times to know that success is not a guarantee.
Your future is bright because you have learned to look in the right direction. You are choosing to fix your eyes on Christ and to know him more.
“You will shine among them like stars in the sky, as you hold firmly to the word of life.” Philippians 2:15,16
As Dad said, we are so proud of you, Lindsay, and we love you. But more importantly, your heavenly Father loves you with his always and forever love. And so, your future is bright, because these things will never change.
This next chapter is still unwritten, but I can’t wait to see what God writes into your story. I know it will be epic!
Mother’s day always feels like a bit of a letdown to me. Anyone else?
I have learned over the years to let go of expectations. I have some pretty fabulous kids and a wonderful husband, but they’re not perfect. And they don’t always know what I want in any given moment. How could they? I don’t always know what I want either!
But this Mother’s day, I found an idea on Pinterest to give the same questions to all of your kids and see what answers they come up with. I looked at the questions and thought it might be fun now that all of my kids can read! Turns out that one of the things they received from me was a competitive nature! They all got right to work to figure out the best answers.
I meant to answer the questions myself first, but forgot to do that. They started returning their sheets and I realized that they all had different answers for pizza toppings and favorite movies, but they were all right! Yes, I do like sausage and mushrooms, but I also love Margherita pizza. I equally love “The Princess Bride”, “Leap Year” and “Pride and Prejudice”.
As I read their answers, I found myself feeling so loved and so known. It was a gift that I hadn’t expected. When the final scores were tallied, they all had the same score even though they all got different questions wrong!
Sometimes motherhood can feel so lonely. I’m not sure that they appreciate all of the things I do that from my perspective go unnoticed. The number of times I pick up blankets or hang up coats or sweep the floor. The amount of time devoted to planning meals, grocery shopping and preparing food. The prayers prayed on their behalf, the tears I shed, the heartache I feel, but also the immense joy and pride in each one of them. I wonder sometimes if they know how much I do, but more importantly how much they are loved.
These little sheets were a reminder that they do see and they know way more than I have been giving them credit for.
They all wrote the same answer for least favorite chore- laundry. They all got that one wrong. So of course they asked me what my least favorite chore is. I told them that it was cleaning bathrooms. I could see a lightbulb moment happening before me and one of them asked, ‘Is that why you make us clean the bathrooms?!!” Yes, that is exactly why!
If you are feeling unnoticed in your life right now, I pray that my words would encourage you. Others do notice and they are paying attention to what we do. Sometimes that should challenge us! I can’t tell you the number of times I have had to apologize to my kids for a bad attitude or an unkind word. But it should also encourage us. When we are committed to loving others well, they know it. They can feel it and the beautiful thing is that our love for them teaches them to reciprocate.
This Mother’s day was the best I have ever had. My oldest was able to run to the store and pick up lunch for everyone. The rest cleaned the house for me, leaving the kitchen spotless! All of my kids wrote me notes. I received a special bracelet and the book I asked for.
But the best gift of all is that feeling of being known. And loved anyway.
I thought that when I had my third baby, our family was complete. My little blonde boy had been unexpected, but he brought a fullness to our family.
But God had other plans.
If Gibson was unexpected, you can probably imagine that finding out I was pregnant with our fourth was a complete shock. I had begun to dream again about my own plans and goals. Gibson was out of diapers and it seemed like the right time to pursue my passions. I signed up for a missions trip, my first since getting pregnant a decade before. I signed up for a blogging conference longing to grow in my desire to write. My life seemed poised for a new season.
Pregnancy felt like a step backwards. Starting over again with sleepless nights? Having to deal with diapers and wonky schedules and wasn’t I too old for this?!! The “Advanced Maternal Age” sheet my doctor handed to me on my first visit confirmed my swirling thoughts. I cried for the loss of the direction I thought my life was heading. It was all so unexpected.
But God’s plans are always perfect.
After the initial shock, I began to embrace my pregnancy and to dream about the precious little one growing in my womb. I went on the missions trip, delighting in my precious companion who shared my adventure. I went to the blogging conference and it impacted my life in profound ways despite the shift in my personal priorities.
Then we had the ultrasound to find out the baby’s gender. With one girl and two boys, it felt unreasonable to hope for another girl. Would God really bless me with such incredible sweetness when my initial response to this child was less than stellar? Turns out he had decided to bless our lives with another girl despite my selfishness and failures. I was overwhelmed with his kindness to me.
For nearly a decade prior to this surprise, we had been slowly losing my precious Dad to alzheimers. This incremental loss brought great sorrow to my life. My Dad was precious to me, a lover of Jesus, the Word of God and his girls. Our bond was tight and so my heart was breaking as I watched more and more of him slowly slip away.
Four months after Ainsley was born, we knew it was time to say goodbye to Grandfather and so my bookend girls joined me on a flight to Kansas to introduce my Dad to his last grandchild and to say our final goodbyes.
What should have been a heartwrenching, sorrowful time turned into a joyous celebration! My Dad, through the fog, smiled when he held his granddaughter. Ainsley brought joy to all of us in a time when our hearts were breaking. She was an unexpected balm for our souls and I was reminded that God knew exactly what he was doing.
I fought against his plans, protesting that my plans were better. Oh, the foolishness of my heart! God knew that she would arrive at just the right time to bring me comfort, joy and purpose in the midst of devastation.
Today we are celebrating eight years since Ainsley joined our family, truly completing us in all of the best possible ways. She has brought joy to my life beyond what I could have ever imagined. She keeps me young! She has kept me going at times when I have wanted to give up or simply wallow in my grief.
When we sing “I see the evidence of your goodness all over my life” while we’re driving in our car, I look in my rearview mirror and see my four precious children and my heart is full. I’ve lost both of my parents now, yet the Lord continues to remind me that he is so very good. I don’t have far to look. No matter what we lose in this life or the struggles we face, God’s sweetness shines through. Even when I fail, he continues to pour out his steadfast love on me, lifting my eyes from my circumstances and teaching me to fix them on him.
I have learned to stop making my own plans and instead hold them loosely. Because I have learned one of the best secrets in life. Sometimes the best gifts are the unexpected ones.
Happy birthday, Ainsley Rose! We love you beyond what you can imagine! Always, forever.
Yesterday you came downstairs and told me that you had the best dream ever. You proceeded to tell me your dream and I decided to record it, because it’s one of those dreams that I think you will want to remember. Here it is:
Some men were walking through a swamp when giant octopus arms came out of the water and grabbed them. The leader knelt in the water and prayed. He said, ” Lord, calm their souls.” His prayer encouraged everyone to pray and as a result, the octopus arms released the men and they found shelter.
As you relayed this story to me, your eyes were bright with excitement. You told me that your dream was about the gospel. Knowing that God will always protect and save those who cry out to him boosted your faith. You couldn’t stop talking about the gospel!
Ainsley, I pray that you would always live with this wide eyed wonder! I pray that God would continue to reveal truths of himself to you. You are right. He will protect you and he will save you, not from giant octopus arms, but from the sin that so easily entangles. You will face difficulty in this life, but you can know that the Lord will hear your cries for help. And he will be with you in the midst of any difficulty you face.
Isn’t it incredible to know that Jesus loved you so much that he was willing to die in your place, to take your sins upon himself? He died, but death has no power over Jesus! He rose again and now he lives offering eternal life to all who would believe. This is the gospel. It is the good news that changes everything. It is the news that allows you to walk in hope, to know the protection and salvation of God.
May you always walk with him, crying out to him, trusting him!
I love you, sweet little dreamer!