On Your Eighteenth Birthday

Who Knows Mom Best?

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.

 

The Joys of the Unexpected

Posted by on May 07, 2021 in Finding my Purpose, Living a Legacy, What I Want My Girls to Know | Comments Off on The Joys of the Unexpected

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.

Always Keep Dreaming

Posted by on May 04, 2021 in Letters to my Kids, What I Want My Girls to Know | Comments Off on Always Keep Dreaming

Dear Ainsley,

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!

Love,

Mom

On Your Eighteenth Birthday

Posted by on April 30, 2021 in Letters to my Kids, Living a Legacy, Motherhood, Uncategorized, What I Want My Girl to Know | Comments Off on On Your Eighteenth Birthday

 

Dear Lindsay,

When I think back to the day you were born, I can see how God was orchestrating our story from the very beginning. You were hoped for and loved long before you came to be, a fulfillment of deep longings and desires in my heart. God used that time in my life to slowly peel back my fingers from the grip of control I thought I needed to have on my life. I thought I would have three kids, two years apart, the perfect family.

Miscarriage. Partial Molar Pregnancy. Uncertainty about ever having children. Those words were NOT part of my plan. But they became part of my story anyway and as a result, you were a beautiful gift after a season of loss.

I didn’t dare hope with a due date of May 9th that you would come in April. It was a secret longing of my heart-to have an April baby- one that only our Father knew. When I went to bed on April 29, 2003, I thought it would be a typical night of pregnancy, but you made it clear that you were ready to come. Later it seemed like you changed your mind. We pushed against each other for three hours both of us determined to get our way. I discovered in those long, excruciating hours that I had a strength in me I didn’t know existed. A strength that I would need to handle your strong will. I believe that God knew you needed me. But He also knew that I needed YOU!

Here we are eighteen years later and we still push against each other. You’re grasping at independence while I’m desperately trying to let go. You’re figuring out how to be an adult and I’m trying to understand how to parent an adult. It’s messy at times and painful. I say things I regret. You feel like you can never please me.

Yet here’s what I know for sure- every season of difficulty we have ever faced has birthed a deeper, stronger, more exquisitely beautiful relationship between us. I am amazed that you love me like you do. And I am overwhelmed with pride when I see you succeed, knowing how hard you have fought to get there.

I still try to control all the things, don’t I? It always comes from a place of wanting what is best for you, but I forget that while I get to influence your story, I don’t get to write it. I’m so grateful that you have committed your life to the One who writes the best stories, the One who takes our brokenness and turns it into beauty. All of our chapters seem to be variations on that theme! God brings us to a place of brokenness, so that we will know to our core that there is nothing we can do apart from Him. And then He sweetly and lovingly restores, bringing us back to a place of beauty, stronger than what we could have ever been on our own.

If there is one thing I could tell you on this momentous day, your eighteenth birthday, it would be to remember this truth. Your failures and your mistakes are interwoven into your story for a purpose. They will cause you to appreciate the wonder and the beauty God is preparing for you in deeper and better ways than you could have ever imagined.

After you were born, I spent the next twenty four hours hooked up to an IV, unable to get out of bed. Dad changed every diaper, learned how to swaddle you, held you close when I was too weary to even lift my arms. I felt like my very first day of motherhood was a failure. Then. Now I know that it was the biggest success story ever. Because understanding my weaknesses and being poignantly aware of my inadequacies, taught me to relinquish control and to understand that you would need others to love you, support you and be there for you. It’s the lesson I need to be reminded of as you prepare to launch.

I will always be here for you, Lindsay! I will be your biggest cheerleader. I will cry the ugly tears when you sing or write or show love to others in the achingly beautiful way you do. But I will never be enough to meet all of your needs. I will continue to fail. But I can entrust you to our great God who will never let you down. What a comfort this is to me! He is worthy of our trust, so continue to walk forward confidently, holding fast to Him!

I love you, Lindsay Elise! Happy 18th birthday!

Love,

Mom