Bennett’s GOLDEN Birthday Letter — Year Eight

Dear Golden Birthday Boy,

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! Don’t you feel like your golden birthday is extra golden, since it’s not just your eighth birthday on the eighth of the month—it’s your EIGHTH birthday on the EIGHTH day of the EIGHTH month?! This is totally a once-in-a-lifetime occasion, and I’m so excited to celebrate you!

If we’re being quite honest, though, this has been a bit of a rough year, hasn’t it? At least the second half of it. This extra-golden birthday is extra special, but it’s also right in the middle of a pandemic! That dirty virus has sucked a lot of our fun, but I am just so proud of you and how brave and understanding you have been through it all. There have definitely been hard moments and disappointing losses, but you have truly shown your maturity as we’ve talked through it over these last several months. You’ve done an admirable job of praying and staying safe, and those are the best two things we can do right now.

Even with the pandemic, I can still think of some really great things you accomplished this year! You aced second grade, taking on new responsibilities and independence in schoolwork like it was nothing. This summer, you graduated from swimming lessons FOREVER and can now handle the deep end like a pro. (Oh but as great as you are, still don’t ever go in the pool without permission and a parent present!) You got to play soccer with your baseball team and with Coach Ryan on a team called the Eagles last fall, and then you played on your first ever basketball team, The Jedi. It was so much fun to watch you grow with your teams! You’ve also become such a valuable help around the house and with the baby, and you’re even doing some cooking. I promise, you can eventually just take on that last job completely!

Oh, and reading! You are such a bookworm, and I love that about you. Daddy introduced you to the Hardy Boys, and we discovered that you can read one whole book per day. You tried The Neverending Story, which did slow you down a bit, but you rocked it! The Hobbit was a fun read, and now you’re nearly finished with The Fellowship of the Ring—probably your most challenging book ever. But you’re finding out that sometimes the more difficult books have some of the most interesting stories! I have no doubt that all of this reading has fueled your creativity, since you recently took to writing your own books showcasing some of your best superheroes.

That brings us to The Omega League, AKA the Made-up League. In this league, one can find Superbo (the leader and creator of the group), Dark Wing, Ionner, Adidas, L.N. (which stands for Lightning Ninja), Hyper Speed, and many more. Almost every day after you get dressed, I find our home protected by one of these incredible individuals, often alongside Super Doodles and Super Dilly. A mom surely couldn’t get more blessed. While it is disturbing to hear tell of bad guys invading our house every day, it is a great comfort to know that they don’t stand a chance against The Omega League.

 

Even though we’ve been going through a rough season with the virus cramping our style, I certainly have had no shortage of joy with you in my life. I hope you have felt every bit of goldenness today, because you have been such a treasure to me for the last eight years—so much more precious than gold. Happy birthday to my favorite 8-year-old!

Love,

Mommy

 

Havah and Nachash

My first moments still glow. They pulse and resound within, stirring violent joy and profound longing. The heat He breathed into me that dark morning spiraled into a whirlwind, enlivening every sliver of me. I held His breath; I bent at His feet nearly rent with glory. Consumed by His presence, I knew instinctively from Whom my everything came.

Then, His touch. Light and heat, but no burning. Intense, tender. The warmth laid on my head weighty, yet without burden. His invitation uplifted my chin. He admired my eyes, cradled my hands, and spoke.

“Let’s go find him, Beautiful One.”

“Him?”

Yahweh Elohim gentled me into the enclosure. Such beauty! Every leaf, every creature radiated His glory—the same glory that reverberated within my own blood and bones, yet in a myriad of overwhelming colors, sounds, fragrances. My breath escaped me as I beheld more and more of His creation. The joy in His eyes brought tears to mine. He cupped my face in His bright hands and said, “Just wait, Dear One. Just wait.”

Every creature bowed before Him in its own way as I walked beside Him, wondering at them all. Trying to take in every feature, every paw and claw, every sound and movement, I couldn’t help staring. He spoke, “Here,” setting my attention upon the one before us. Another creature! Majestic as the others, yet profoundly unlike. Unmistakably more. A familiar breathing drew me closer.

“Adam. Awake!” The creature stirred at the Creator’s voice. “Adam! Look, Beloved. What will you call this one?”

The breathing quickened. I bent over the curious, glorious creature, marveling still more. Our Creator stepped back, His smile over us filling and thrilling me. I knew at once that this creature was for me and that I was for him. This creature—this Adam—opened his eyes. The surprise and sudden welcome overwhelming his features drew me still closer, and I touched him. He smiled, filling me with warmth.

“Adam,” Yahweh Elohim called again. “What will you name her?”

My Adam stood at once, helping me up, and we looked to our Yahweh. He answered, “This—at last!—is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh!” Adam turned to me, touching my hair. His fingers brushed back the strands around my shoulders, making me shiver and laugh aloud. Adam smiled his easy, unburdened smile, and then grew thoughtful. “She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”

He kissed me then. Innocent newness, tender love flowered.

To belong, to be held, to be part of another; to be held and rejoiced over and divinely, intimately blessed by the Creator. To be so completely filled and surrounded by holiness—to be whole. That was Eden. Those youthful days were exceedingly good, and our Yahweh Elohim sang over us:

“Be fruitful…”

~~~

My Adam proved so faithful, so diligent and gentle. Yahweh Elohim expected him to teach me everything, and so Adam introduced to me all the animals I’d wondered at on my first day. I never tired of learning about them: how they worked and played, where they slept, how they cared for their young. Each day brought so many new discoveries, with no end in sight! In the wind of each day, Yahweh Elohim fairly glowed at our outpouring of enthusiasm over all the latest wonders we had uncovered.

Green trees with bright fruit surrounded us, and my Adam showed me each in turn. Each new bite brought an explosion of vocabulary as we sought to describe the different tastes and textures. One by one we worked our way through the vegetation. Finally, we came to The Two. These were the great trees, the mightiest and most beautiful in Eden: the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam explained to me the welcome and the warning. The one tree became to me Yes, the other No: the Life Tree and the Death Tree.

Although we were much together, Adam and I often gathered fruit separately, making a game of surprising each other with new combinations. One such day, as I settled into a cool spot not far from The Two and waited for him, a beautiful nachash surprised me. I didn’t know him, but I welcomed him. He happily joined me, and I admired how his bronze skin shimmered, luminous. We chatted for a while, and I had a wonderful time with my new friend. He was funny and seemed kind, and he asked thoughtful questions about Creator and Creation. The trees particularly interested Nachash. As we talked, he looked about at the magnificence of the very still trees surrounding us and wondered aloud if we could not eat from any of them. “Did Elohim really say that?”

“Oh yes, we can!” I answered, holding up fruit in my hand. “We may eat from any tree in the garden, but Elohim said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” I pointed to the Death Tree as I spoke. Nachash followed my gesture with his eyes, where his gaze lingered for a long moment.

“No, Woman.” These words startled me, even in their quietness, and I noticed his brazen brilliance building in slow pulses. Then he turned to me and whispered weighty words: “You will not surely die. For Elohim knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like Elohim, knowing good and evil.” I looked again at the Death Tree, considering it. Nachash said no more. Indeed, he left so silently that I was surprised to turn away from The Tree to find myself sitting alone. Yet, he had left a question.

I would be like Elohim?

Over and over again, I ran through these three things I now knew:

I will die if I eat from the tree.
I will not die if I eat from the tree.
I will be like Elohim if I eat from the tree.

Like Elohim.

Adam returned and embraced me, but he must have sensed something different about me. Cutting his hug short, he sat back and studied my face. “Tell me, Dear One. What are you thinking?”

“Adam, what did Elohim say about The Two Trees?”

Tilting his head, he answered, “Yahweh Elohim said, ‘You may surely eat of every tree in the garden, but of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’” Just then, the wind began to blow. I noted a curious waving motion through the grass running counter to the wind and away from us.

“Children!” He called. We ran to Him.

~~~

I stood alone, directly before the Knowledge Tree. Turning my head to the side, I looked at its mighty companion. That’s the Tree of Life. When we eat of it, it gives us life. Then I looked ahead at the stillness, the majesty and wonder of the forbidden one. And this is the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. In the day that I eat of it, it will give me knowledge. I will be like Elohim.

Shortly after, Adam and I met in our spot and spread our feast. We snuggled close and began eating, but my mind was elsewhere, buried deeply beneath all the familiar fruits. After just a few bites, I laid back and watched the clouds. He spoke of the new plants growing just west, the surprising size of the leaves and the brilliant yellow of the flowers. Soon, he expected, we would have something new to taste. Adam continued chatting and eating, and I listened to the sound of his voice.

A sudden silence caught my attention. I sat up to see his face, already knowing what he’d found.

“Adam!” I breathed, excited to begin.

“Woman… I—we—what are we doing? Yahweh Elohim said…”

“I know, but listen!” I interrupted. “This will make us like Him. Don’t you want to be like Elohim?”

With my heart pounding so that I could scarcely hear my own voice, I scooped up a piece of fruit and held it in both hands before his eyes. “Just look at it! It’s so very beautiful. Is there another fruit in all of the garden like it? The fruit from the Life Tree gives life, and this fruit, from the Knowledge Tree, will teach us. We will be like Elohim!”

He said nothing.

“Adam. Let’s.”

No answer. He just kept staring at the unlawful product in my hands.

I moved closer, pleading, “It looks so good. Isn’t everything He made good?”

He looked at me then, but I couldn’t discern his thoughts. I brought the fruit close, pausing at my lips. As I breathed in the fragrance of the fruit, my hunger for it intensified. Every part of me wanted more. I closed my eyes, inhaling again. With its sweetness akin to no other, I bit.

Instant exhilaration.

Deep heat.

And then, a hand over mine. I opened my eyes and met his. He pulled me closer, wrapping his other arm around my waist, and never looking away from me. We were on our knees, face to face, holding the fruit between us. I searched his eyes, but learned nothing.

It must have only been a few moments, but the deepening thunder rising within made those moments unbearable. What was he thinking? Why was he holding me so close? With each heartbeat, this rolling, growing desire to back away from him overtook every thought. I wanted to be alone, but still he held me. Why was he still touching me? His body pressed against mine—his arm around me—it all felt like it never had before, and my only desire was to shrink away from his touch, which was everywhere. But how? What would he think? What would he say? What would he do?

Deep inside, my silence screamed: Please let go. Please let me go. Stop touching me!

The heat growing, growing.

Tightness in my throat.

Deafening thunder.

I wanted to run, but he held me still. Just over his shoulder, I locked eyes with Nachash, who, partially hidden in the grass, bore a smoldering grin before disappearing.

In desperation, I tipped the fruit toward Adam.

His expression changed as he looked at it. We quavered, yet his hold on me remained steadfast.

He ate.

I agonized. Every bit of sticky skin stuck to sticky skin tormented me. Numbness settled into some places, others ached, and Adam consumed the fruit to its core while holding me fast.

He finally shifted me away and stared at the fruit trees. Feeling strangely relieved and rejected, I covered myself and looked toward him. His tenderness had fled; his features hardened. After some time, he turned to me. He noted my hands hiding parts of my body, and he shifted his position to obscure part of his. In flat monotone, he said, “Fig leaves. They’re the biggest leaves in the garden. Let’s go.”

Hesitating, I watched him rise and begin walking away. I didn’t follow, and he didn’t stop or even slow his pace. He disappeared into the trees as I sat, bewildered by the way he had left me. I started at a rustling on my left, and a low, mirthless laugh crept toward me. Unsettled, I rose and followed Adam’s path toward the eastern end of the Garden. Here, beyond a thick bunch of greenery, he stood before the largest fig tree I had ever seen.

We didn’t talk. We went to work silently on opposite sides of the generous tree. Her tremendous branches and stately abundance wholly obscured my view of Adam. While the idea was straightforward—to use large leaves to cover ourselves—implementation proved tedious and troublesome. Seeing the inadequate size of one leaf; noting the difficulty of fastening multiple leaves together without tearing them to shreds; puzzling out how to secure all of this to my body in such a way that would allow for movement without falling off or breaking off—one problem solved led to two new ones.

Standing in my pile of failures, I heard Adam approaching just as I tried fastening my latest attempt around my hips. His steps encouraged me to hasten, just covering myself as he appeared. Fixing my countenance, I looked directly at him and tried to feign a sense of ease in this strange new modesty. He still wore that impenetrable expression, and I tensed as he examined my handiwork.

A breeze then began to blow, which quickly strengthened into a mighty, rushing wind. The day’s work ripped off of our bodies, exposing us anew, and we sought covering deep within the boughs of the fig tree. Then the Voice, once so precious and so dear, now came as a sword through the whirlwind. I could barely hold onto the tree under the force assailing it, and a deep terror overcame me as I tried to shut my ears.

The inescapable Voice intensified: “Where are you?”

He spoke this to Adam. I clung more tightly to the tree, while Adam surrendered to his Creator. Stepping over and through the branches, Adam stood before Yahweh Elohim. He spoke plainly, but with an unmistakable tremble. “I heard Your voice in the Garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid myself.”

Yahweh Elohim required further information, and in reply Adam pointed to me. “The woman you gave to be with me…”

I crumpled. Shock and shame assailed me at Adam’s betrayal. My lungs tightened. My throat burned. I clung to the tree. Then, the Voice. My aching eyes let loose at Yahweh’s words: “What is this you have done?”

There was nothing hidden, and there was no escape. No choice remained but to answer Yahweh Elohim’s demand. Shaking, I stumbled out and fell in the dust. Crawling the last bit of the way, I found myself before Him kneeling, naked and dirty, tangled hair stuck to my wet face, nearly unable to whisper a reply between sobs.

“Nachash… tricked… me… so I ate.”

Yahweh Elohim asked no more. He addressed Nachash foremost; I hadn’t even known he was near. This revelation awakened a still newer kind of fear, and I quieted to a whimper as Yahweh pronounced judgment. With each curse, I could feel Nachash throbbing hotter and hotter. Condemned to dust, enmity, and injury, our slithering adversary should expect to be crushed by my offspring.

Then the holy, dreadful attention shifted again to me. I awaited grievous Death.

Yahweh rumbled fearsome and mournful. His words pierced.

Pain to smite blessing: my just recompense.
Brokenness to afflict marriage: my perpetual struggle.
I could fall no further.

Adam’s punition came last and afflicted all. It is too much.

Humiliation and hopelessness annihilated me. The first of man to sin, I trembled in my guilt as the mother of mortality. I sat appalled until the sun swelled sanguine on the horizon. Adam and Yahweh disappeared, I knew not where. I knew only my aloneness.

~~~

He must have been speaking for a while, but my utter depletedness made his words incomprehensible. He took my face in his hands, arresting my attention onto him. “Havah,” Adam whispered. “Havah!”

“Why—why are you saying this to me?” my voice lumbered, and I finally lifted my heavy eyes to his and pushed his hands off of me.

“Come, Havah. Yahweh Elohim has need of us further east.”

What more could there be? I feared. He held out his hand, but I unfolded my cramping legs and stood without his assistance. He started east, but my feet remained planted.

“Adam, I cannot.”

He turned. “Havah, it is not a choice. We must go to Him.”

“Adam, I cannot! Leave me here to die. I cannot go to Him! YOU go. He may want you, but He can never want me again.”

“No, I cannot go without you…” he trailed off.

“You must. I will not go. I cannot go. He will make for you another helper, if He must. One who is suitable to you; one who is not so… so…”

“One who is not you?” Adam asked. “No. You were taken from me and made for me. There will be no one else. We will go together, Havah. He has summoned us, and we must go.”

Why do you keep calling me this?” I deflected, and not gently.

“Havah, what did Yahweh Elohim sing over us in the day that He made us?”

I turned away, shutting back burning tears.

He persisted. “What was it, Havah?”

“No. No! Everything has changed! I have eaten, and I shall die! We cannot go back.”

“No, we cannot go back,” he agreed. “We must follow where He leads now. But He still intends that we be fruitful. He still calls us to that.”

“Adam, that was before.”

“And that still is.”

“No,” I murmured. “It cannot be.”

“Yes! It is! Yahweh Himself spoke the curse to Nachash—didn’t you hear?—your offspring will crush him. Yahweh’s blessing remains, Havah.”

“Why do you call me this?” I crossed my arms and looked away, feeling uncomfortable and exposed.

“Woman, I call you Havah as a reminder of truth. Our sin was grievous…” At this, Adam paused, tightening his lips. Taking a deep breath, he continued, “But we cannot sit in despair until we die. He has willed life to spring forth from you! Since the day you awoke in Yahweh’s hands, you have been the Mother of All Living—Havah.”

He stepped nearer and touched my arm. “Come with me. He has called you, Havah.”

 


This is an abbreviated version of a short story featured on Her Bible Stories. Click here to see the original. 

The Ruby and the Pearl

Living at your parents’ house again is just weird. Nobody knows how to act. The children have turned to devils; your mom and dad over-parent you and over-indulge the kids; your husband is trying desperately to just put one foot in front of the other and to keep them both out of his mouth. For you, each sunrise beckons a new battle. The whole house feels tight. You could cry every day, but there’s no point. What you need is a revelation.

Thankfully, you are just stepping into the best part of the day: the quiet hour after lunch. The two-year-old is napping in your bed while her older sister colors quietly on the living room couch. Your parents have taken to going off on their own during this time as well, and today, hubby is at a job fair. The front porch swing is all yours.

You settle in on the swing with a book and a glass of tea and wait for your old friend. Every day at this time, old Chester ambles up with the mail and a few friendly words. In this neighborhood, mailboxes still hang next to the front door, meaning that Old Chester walks from house to house, lugging a bag. It never weighs him down, though. Bearing a smile bigger than his face, it’s clear he loves his job. Chester has walked this neighborhood since you were your babies’ age, and he remembers how you used to greet him in the front yard, “usually covered in dirt,” he loves to remind you.  One summer in your teens, a different mail carrier had unexpectedly taken over the route. Grouchy and stand-offish, the sub simply got the job done. The whole block breathed a sigh of relief when Chester came back after Christmas with that smile as big as ever, but he was noticeably thinner and walking at a slower pace. “Cancer can’t beat me!” he’d laughed. Over time, he fully regained his health and had held his place in the neighborhood ever since.

You, on the other hand, couldn’t have felt more out of place. But Chester’s daily delivery felt like home for a few minutes. You sit waiting, once again just pretending to read because your mind is always racing, your tears always threatening to breach a precarious dam. With your left leg curled under you, you concentrate on the bare toes beneath that keep you swinging. The constant connection with the smooth, cool paint comforts you. Right on time, you hear his voice, “Well, hello, Missy! How’re you today?”

Smiling at the nickname he bestowed when you were in training pants, you close your book and answer him as honestly as you always have, “Hi, Mr. Chester. Things still aren’t great. My husband is at a job fair, though, so hopefully something will pan out.”

“Oh, yeah, I heard about that job fair! Down there at the stadium, right? Should be able to find him something down there.”

“Well, I hope so,” you mumble, without a hint of actual hope.

Old Chester squats down in front of the swing and tilts his head a little to grab your eyes with his. “Come on, little Missy. Things won’t be like this forever. Don’t forget, ‘He’s got the whole world in His hands.’ That means you, too. This is just a short trial—“

“He’s been out of work for eight months!” you interject, holding back agitated tears.

Chester shifts his bag around, so that it hangs behind him, and takes a knee. He reaches over to set your family’s mail on the swing next to you, and then he takes both of your hands in his. “Missy,” he gentles, and the dam just breaks. You can’t control the sobs. He squeezes your hands and looks earnestly into your face.

“Missy, God hears your pain, and He sees your fear. He hasn’t forgotten you. Eight months feels like a long time when you’re in it, but when you’re old like me, you’ll realize how short it really is. And, if you keep fighting—if you keep your eyes open to see—you’ll be able to look back on a life full of signs and clear testaments to God’s presence the whole time.” The fervor in his voice reaches a pinnacle with those words, then he noticeably softens. Still, intensity undergirds his whisper: “But you gotta fight for it, because there’s a lot of people out there who drown in life’s difficulties, and end up bitter. That’s the easy way, hard though it becomes. It’s easy to focus on the negative, but it will destroy you. Don’t take the easy way. The narrow path is hard, but it brings life even in the drought, Missy Girl. Hold on to Jesus.”

You and the mailman wait in silence for a few moments to let the words he spoke fall over you. As they work, you find your shoulders relaxing, but the tears keep slipping down. You pull back one hand so you can wipe your cheeks, but then you’re not sure what to do after drying your palm on your jeans. It was like you’d interrupted communion. Returning to his hand feels untimely and unsuitable, so you awkwardly wrap that arm around your middle. He keeps the other hand.

To your relief, Chester breaks the silence and draws you back in. “Missy, you haven’t lost your faith, have you?”

“No, I…” you trail off, suddenly wondering if you could remember where you’d put it.

“He hasn’t left you. I’m sure of it.” He smiles.

You sigh. “Thanks, Chester. I know. I guess I just stopped hearing His voice a long time ago.”

“Doesn’t mean He stopped talking,” he offers.

The mailman’s words were probably true enough. You hadn’t been listening to know either way. “Thanks. And sorry… I’m sorry for all of this. I know you have work to do.” You gesture toward his bag and look at him with repentant eyes.

“This is my work, Missy. Giving people their mail is just a hobby,” he winks. “See you tomorrow?”

“Yeah, see ya.”

He heads next door, and you take a big gulp of tea. Feeling both grateful and embarrassed, you watch Chester until he disappears onto Mr. Shaw’s porch. You begin combing through the handful of mail beside you, making one pile for your parents and another for you. All the letters in your pile bear the printed yellow strip across the bottom, noting that they were forwarded from the house you loved and lost. This makes sorting mindless, as long as you don’t think too much about that old address.

As you set to opening the first envelope, your eyes wander to your parents’ pile. You note that the address on the topmost envelope looks handwritten. You’ve always longed for a world where people handwrite letters as a matter of normal communication. Seeing that letter makes you feel nostalgic for a time you’ve never known, and you’re a mite envious of whichever parent will be receiving such a treasure. With that thought, you check to see whether it’s for Mom or Dad, but find that it is actually for neither one.

There, in plain letters, you see your first name running right along into your maiden name, with your parents’ home address under it. The script looks familiar, and though it warms your heart and quickens your pulse, you can’t place it. No return address is offered. The postmark, only half-stamped, offers an unhelpful clue: Ecuador.

You set aside your other mail and take up the exotic, Ecuadorian envelope addressed to the you who used to be. Leaning back in the swing, you hold it up, examining the lettering more carefully. Definitely a man’s scrawl. Untidy, but not careless. Running your finger across your young name to feel the indentation of the pen strokes, you wonder for another moment before ending the mystery. You turn the letter over and open it carefully, reverently.

Inside, you find a single, folded sheet of paper torn from a legal pad. As you slide it out, you feel the backs of words on your fingertips, as though, with much urgency, they are pushing through the paper to reach you. The same, familiar handwriting meets you when you unfold the letter. Of course, you scan immediately to the bottom to find the sender’s name.

“Eric,” you whisper.

You stop and look up. What? Why would he–? What is he doing in Ecuador? You interrupt your own thoughts by looking at the signature line again to confirm what you had just seen. Still Eric. You skip your eyes back to the top. The first line stands by itself, above even the greeting, with each word underscored with its own personal line:

It was a prophecy.”

Oh, God.

You lower the letter onto your lap and close your eyes. You hadn’t heard from God in probably a decade, and here He is showing up twice in ten minutes. And this time, with him.

Eric.

His name, written with his own hand, on his own paper, and mailed to the you he used to love. You hadn’t seen or heard from him since the day he walked away from you—what ten years ago? Almost exactly? Remembering that you had just finished your junior year in college and watched him graduate the week before, you confirmed it in your mind. Summer had been just beginning, and your world was ending. Just like now.

Eric Davidson was the player his team had dubbed “Preacher Man”—the guy everyone knew not to invite to certain things. He was peculiar, to be sure, but he wasn’t weird, and he wasn’t disliked. Actually, everyone loved Eric. He was intense, but genuine. Exceptionally principled, and different, but approachable. He was never in a hurry. It was like he had all the time in the world for the person before him. And everyone talked to him, about everything. He was like the campus counselor, or chaplain.

And he shattered your heart.

You never knew why he broke up with you. Not really. He had no good, hard reason. In fact, he said he loved you and wanted to marry you, but that he was confident that God was saying no. That was how things were with him; when he’d heard from God, that was the end of the matter. Breaking up with you had broken him, it was clear, but he also truly believed he had to do it. He had held you, cried with you, and then kissed you goodbye. You’d never seen him again because his hometown was three states away. His phone number changed—embarrassingly, you’d tried calling him a few months later—and he never had a Facebook. (You had checked for that, too, a few times, before you met your husband.) You hadn’t gone asking, but the few friends from college you still kept up with had no idea what had happened to Eric.

The loss hurt deeply, but you moved on, believing that if Eric had been The One, then it would have worked out. This sentiment, while true, wasn’t the whole truth. One small fear had turned to shame the night Eric broke up with you—a haunting shame, which you worked hard to keep buried. You just weren’t good enough. Eric had been mistaken to fall for you. That’s exactly the right word: he had fallen. You just never could hear God like he did; you never understood the Bible like he did; you never loved talking to other people about Jesus like he did. You admired Eric for all of those things, but you just never had a heart like his.

You carried this shame into your next serious relationship a couple of years later. He was such a great guy—genuinely incredible. Thankfully this time, God didn’t out you, and this guy did marry you. You always felt a secret guilt, though, like he never realized who you really were—or maybe he realized too late and was making the best of it. This contempt for self haunted you, but you shushed it away most days and told it what you wished were true, that it was wrong. But now this letter, seemingly from another time and definitely from another world, waited to confirm it. It took you a long while to work up the courage to open your eyes. When you did, you started at the top again.

It was a prophecy.”

What was?

You keep reading:

Hi Sunshine.

It’s been ten years now, and I am finally free to tell you what I wanted to tell you all those years ago.

By now, you’re probably not interested in all the details, but suffice it to say that the Lord woke me one night with a vision. It was heavy, pressing, and so, so bright. Words were spoken to my heart that forever changed everything I thought my life would be. I wanted to marry you, but He said no. Not just no to you, but to everyone. I am called to live life unmarried, forever. It has been terribly hard at times. But the good has outweighed the terrible, and the most important thing is that it has been right. I knew it was the right decision to leave you, no matter how much it tore out our hearts, and the past ten years in the jungle of Ecuador has shown me over and over again that this is where I should be.

But, the prophetic vision that night wasn’t just about me. I wouldn’t be writing you a letter if it was. He sent me to the foreign mission field alone, but He showed me something about you as well—it just wasn’t for you to know yet. Last night, the Lord sent me that part of the vision again… the part about you. This time, I know I must share it.

These words pull you straight out of the swing and onto your feet. Intense heat radiates from your body as you glance around for witnesses because this just cannot be real. Old Chester is walking on the other side of the street several houses down, but he doesn’t look at you. An old Ford rumbles past, completely disregarding the revelation unfolding on your porch. With shaking hands and a dry tongue, you kneel down on the painted boards and spread the letter out before you. Closing your eyes, you try to pray. It seemed appropriate, but you have no idea what to say—you’re too nervous and shocked—so you just open your eyes and keep reading.

“I heard these words,” you read, “‘She must look to the Ruby and the Pearl. They’re just the beginning.’”

You catch your breath and sit up onto your feet. What? How could he even…? There’s no way… You have to start that part again:

I heard these words, “She must look to the Ruby and the Pearl. They’re just the beginning.” Suddenly, I was in a room full of glittering gemstones, too many to count. The enormity of the treasure confused and overwhelmed me, and the jewels were so bright. I didn’t hear any more words, but I saw you at another man’s side, standing in the middle of all these jewels. It was clear that that man wasn’t me. I don’t know really what all of that means, except that God wants you to know. I hope it speaks to you in some way.

I have to confess that this part of the vision hurt the most. I could accept that I had a different calling, but it was heartbreaking to see you with someone else. It made me question why I couldn’t be the one—was I not good enough for you, good enough to be part of something so beautiful with you? This is a question I wrestled with for a long time. But this time when I received the vision, I felt only gladness for you. I hope you’ve found that guy, and I hope that whatever that treasure means, you’ve got it. I guess you just need to look to the Ruby and the Pearl…? J

You were and always will be the best.

Eric

A huge gust of wind threatened to carry the paper away, and you snatch it back. You sit, staring at the glittering grass as the sun and wind play a game with shadows from the huge oak tree. You squint, thinking of the glittering gems in Eric’s vision. You try to imagine yourself and your husband surrounded by jewels, and then become breathless imagining what those jewels must represent. Look to the Ruby and the Pearl—he had capitalized those words—they’re only the beginning.

A rudely honking horn bursts your reverie, and irritation replaces the wonder. Who’s…? You don’t finish the question because you see your very own husband half-parking, bursting out of the car, and then tripping over his feet to get to you.

“HONEY!” he yells as he rushes near. “Honey, you’re not going to believe this!”

You hop up and meet him at the stairs. “You got a job?!” you ask, arms extended, ready to celebrate.

“No, no. I didn’t. This is better! This is so much better. Babe, you better sit down.”

“Is everything okay?”

“Yes! Yes. You’re not going to believe it,” he repeats as you sit. He remains standing. “It all became clear to me at the stadium today. I—okay, this is going to sound weird, but hear me out—I feel like I heard God’s voice.”

You raise your eyebrows.

“No, Honey. Seriously. No, I don’t even feel like it. I know it. Without a doubt, God spoke to me.” His eyes were wild.

“Did He mention any… jewels?” you caution.

“What? What are you talking about?”

“Never mind. Tell me!” your hands—one of them still holding a prophecy—rush him on. “What did He say?”

For the next ten minutes, he explains that he hadn’t found a job because he wasn’t going to get one. Instead, the two of you were going to rescue more babies born addicted to drugs—thousands of them—just like your two treasures. “Not just us, of course! We will put together a network of couples just like us, who want to conceive, but can’t…”

You start to cry in wonder and joy.

Just as your husband bends toward you, the screen door swings open, full of the fury of a four-year-old who’d been crossed.

“Mommy! MOM-MY! Look what she did! Look what she did!” Your oldest runs up to you with tattered construction paper balled up in her fists and falls into a heap on your lap. “It’s all ruined! She did it on purpose, and she was supposed to be sleeping,” she sobs.

You hear the screen door creak open and spy a little tow-head peeking through the crack.

“Ruby…” you begin, in your Mom voice.

The response is immediate: “I sorry, Pearlie! I sorry! I sorry!”

She runs to her daddy, who scoops her up and looks at you. You both suppress a giggle, and then he asks, “Hey, what’s with that letter you’re holding?”

“You’ll never believe it. You better sit down.”

A Keen Eye

A handy rule of thumb in Carrie’s house: don’t look too closely at anything. Housekeeping didn’t spark joy for her, so she almost aimed for the bare minimum. Inconveniently, a chronic condition afflicted her daughter, daily putting the two women at odds. Cecily had a keen eye.

Long into the morning this Cecily laid in her bed, turning occasionally as a heavy door on old hinges. In truth, she wasn’t more than ten or fifteen pounds above her preferred number on the scale, but her general lack of interest in breaking a sweat cultivated a penchant for stillness that weighed her down in ways she no longer noticed. The bed noticed, however, and so did her mother.

After a final creak across her hinges, Cecily’s nose caught an aroma which aroused conflicting feelings within her. “Pork flitch,” she rasped, stretching. Ever since she had discovered the word “flitch” in a thesaurus when searching for alternatives to “bacon” while writing a short story about two fat brothers on a farm, she never again deigned to use the commoner’s rendering, even in daily life. She adhered to this policy with a number of words. Regardless of what she called it, Cecily had always loved bacon, and her mother knew it. A sure way to get bacon for breakfast was to sleep too late than was good for her. Carrie used the smell of pork flitch much like one might use a rope to drag mule.

Cecily remained in bed, stoking the embers of her disdain. Frying pork flitch meant spattered grease. Spattered grease meant nothing to her mother, who would probably have a kitchen covered in it if it weren’t for her daughter. In fact, if it weren’t for Cecily cleaning up after her mother every day of her life—Cecily seethed as she lay in bed—bacon grease would so accumulate that, aside from practically being a roach resort, Carrie’s kitchen would be a true hazard. The daughter closed her eyes as if spreading a red carpet for the possibly prophetic thought: her mother slipping and cracking her head on the tile. If she hit it just right, Cecily thought, she might even expire on that slick floor, blood mingled with grease soaking her hair and encircling her pate. All resulting from negligent housekeeping. After sufficiently puffing up her pride in literally keeping her mother alive by daily taking up her cross—as her mother would call any sacrifice—Cecily began to brainstorm possible headlines reporting the old woman’s death, the hilarity of which made her laugh aloud.   

She welcomed this levity, which helped her out of bed. Without humor and grace, Cecily knew she wouldn’t be able to face each new day of sacrifice and oppression. As she stepped toward her dresser, she consciously avoided looking at the wallpaper. She knew it would simply get her riled up again. On every wall, tiny pink roses stood at attention in columns, one by one. Each rose identical to her comrades above and below, every column separated by the same two thin, vertical lines. With the exception of the corner just above her bedroom door, these flowers had held their posts for decades, since her family moved into the house when she was six and her mother chose this wallpaper for her little girl’s room. That peeling corner, that small defiant act, disclosed a tenacity unexpected of such small, pale roses. They’d been secretly working on it for 30 years. The glue was so strong. Cecily admired their victory and stepped into the hall.

Carrie heard the bathroom door shut and smiled. Works every time, she thought. The smile then faded as she stacked the bacon onto paper towels and a familiar worry settled in. The picture of health—despite the frequent bacon—Carrie prided herself on her strength and agility for such an “old lady.” She certainly didn’t feel old, but sometimes when she let her mind slow down and contemplate her 77 years, she realized how close she was to the official American allotment of 81.65 years for her sex, which she discovered in a recent publication on global life expectancies. She expected to outlive that expectation without question, but she also had to be sensible. She had far fewer chapters left in her book than she had already lived. And what would happen to her Cecily then?

Her only daughter, her miracle child born late in life after nearly twenty years married and childless, was a disappointment. No matter how positive Carrie tried to remain, no matter how she focused on Cecily’s intellect, her talents, her creativity, her potential, this same fact remained: her beautiful Cecily Marie was 36, unmarried, and unemployed, and not even looking for a job or a husband! She spent her days holed up in her childhood room, supposedly writing. But Carrie had seen precious little of her writings, and the rest of the world—besides, she guessed, Cecily’s college professors—had seen none. None! Carrie had worked two jobs after her husband died to provide for her daughter and to make sure she went to a good, respectable university, from which Cecily had graduated summa cum laude. Her mother couldn’t have been more proud. Fourteen years ago. Since then, everything Cecily produced stayed locked in her laptop.

The disappointing daughter and her bedhead interrupted Carrie’s thoughts. She looked up and said, “Good morning, Sunshine!” with a little laugh. Noticing scrambled eggs drying on a wooden spoon laid directly on a counter, which itself was strewn with flour the biscuit dough had earlier disregarded, Cecily mustered a moderately courteous response, greatly restraining all that truly needed saying. She grabbed a plate from the cupboard, willing herself not to see spattered grease.

Refusing to use the crusted spoon, she took a clean fork and began loading eggs onto her dish, then a biscuit, then four entire strips of pork flitch. Being in such close proximity to the grease, and being that she so desperately desired to avoid seeing it just yet, her eyes happened upon a corner of the living room, just visible from her vantage point. Cecily actually had to close her eyes and count, breathing deeply, in order to push through this moment without exploding. How in the world her mother’s friends could even come into this house for quilting club was a mystery to her. But honestly, judging from the mess they thought nothing of leaving in someone else’s home, their houses might be even worse. Just as she was on the “ee” part of “three,” her mother broke in, “So what’s on the agenda for today?”

Carrie submitted this question with as much cheer, gentleness, and laissez-faire as she could scrounge, and she had dug right down to her toenails for it. She even smiled, as if making general conversation with an acquaintance. Cecily, however, recognized accusation immediately, her eyes springing open, and then quickly narrowing as they pinpointed the mother who’d—astonishingly—made them. “Same as yesterday, Mom,” she replied, returning the same false cheer her mother had offered. “Just cleaning up around the house”—at this, she noticeably paused to assess every detail of the messy kitchen and living room—“and then try to get published with whatever time remains. Same old, same old.”

Her mother nearly whispered her response, keeping a firm hold on her cheer: “Oh, and how’s that going?”

Cecily’s whole body reacted as though assailed by flaming arrows. In one motion, she dropped her plate onto the discarded flour and collapsed into a squat. She kept hold of the edge of the counter as though it were her sanity, and she pressed her head into the grain of the lower cabinet. The greasy, floured tile below her endured many mumbles and grumbles—and perhaps even a growl—amid low laments of enduring “incessant importunity” and being oppressed by “intellectual anemia.”

Carrie practically collared her daughter, pulling her to a standing position. “What is your problem? Are you insane?” she demanded.

“What is my problem? What is MY PROBLEM?! What is your problem? Can’t I just sit down and eat my damn eggs in peace, Mother? Or do I have to take my plate to my own damn room to find respite?” She glared at Carrie.

Carrie was in her daughter’s face now. “Cecily Marie,” she hissed, “you know better than to take that tone—or to use that language—in my house. This is MY house.”

“HA!” the daughter burst. “Your house. YOUR house?! Please, Caroline. If it weren’t for my charity work around here, you’d be absolutely drowning. Your own house would advance upon you and devour you. You could be on that show…” She stopped abruptly, turning away from her mother. Her breaths thinned as black, typeface words seemed to appear, letter by letter, before her eyes. The tired and discarded writing advice, “Write what you know,” echoed in her ears as the typed words filled an imaginary document before her. She even mumbled the words aloud as her mind caught up to the story arc: an insane and incompetent mother loses her daughter—who finds freedom after finally getting published—and then realizes her loss too late, as all the hoarded items in the house ally with the roaches and the rats and literally devour her.

“What are you—“

“Shut up!” Cecily screeched. “SHUT UP, CAROLINE! You’ll ruin it!” Cecily fairly pushed her mother out of the way in a desperate attempt to get the rush of beautiful, perfect words safely into her computer. The slightest sound, the smallest uttered word from an outsider could jostle this vision into oblivion, and she was not about to allow her mother that satisfaction.

In her hurry, she spontaneously decided to cut through the center of the living room instead of going around the furniture. Scurrying toward a clear opening just between her mother’s chair and the still-unfinished quilt, she kept her eyes focused down the hallway, on the second door, behind which her magnum opus would breathe its first sacred breaths. She dodged the extra chairs and TV trays zig-zagged around the quilt, which lounged across four huddled-together card tables. The old women had left their chairs and trays at varying distances from their work, taking refreshment as they tired of sewing. Cecily determined not to see the stale, unfinished snacks, half-empty Diet Coke cans, and crumpled, crumby napkins. That could be a scene, certainly, and she would need every disgusting detail, but there would be plenty of opportunities to observe such a scene again. She wouldn’t allow it to crowd out the beautiful book beginning before her eyes.

Though she remained focused on only two things—getting to her laptop and keeping the words present before her eyes until then—she did not miss the misplaced end table jutting into her path just before the hall. Upon it lay various implements: an overcrowded pin cushion, threads, rulers, scissors of various sizes, and countless other items Cecily could not have identified, had she cared. Her sharp eyes processed only the unseemly and unnecessarily cluttered mess upon a table in the wrong place. Really just a metaphor for the entire house—really, for my mother’s entire existence, she thought to herself as she neared the table, intending to hop around it.  That last thought, just one too many for her brain to hold on to simultaneously, might be what caused the highly uncharacteristic oversight.

Cecily deeply valued a clear, clean, and uncluttered floor. Truly, she valued these attributes in all areas of life and living, but floors and counters particularly mattered to her. No speck of dust or discarded item escaped her scrutiny, and she never failed to add a transgression to her mental list of grievances against her mother, for later reference. Until today. If she actually realized the sin, it never had time to make the list.

At the far end of the living room, just before the little, untidy table—which most assuredly made the list—a small amount of excess quilt flowed off of the card tables and pooled quietly on the floor. This gathered material so suddenly ensnared Cecily’s unsuspecting left foot that the rest of her completely lost all rational function or basic coordination. Panic overtook, with Cecily grasping for anything to break her fall. She naturally reached toward the table, but, unhelpfully, her hand could grasp only a pair of large tailor’s shears before her momentum pulled her down. Her hand, still trying to protect the author’s beautiful brain, made every effort to block it from hitting the floor. The outside of Cecily’s closed fist hit first, with her head following shortly after. Her head did not, indeed, hit the floor. The firmly gripped tailor’s shears, having thrust through Cecily’s right eye and fully into her cerebrum, perfectly pinned her head just above her fist, which quickly disappeared beneath a thick, sanguine flood.

Her mother, having heard a yelp as Cecily fell, shuffled into the room with little interest, until she spotted one of her daughter’s upturned feet. (The other, of course, being entangled and hidden from view.) Carrie then hastened forward, asking, “Cecily, what on ear…” The blood encircling the dead woman’s head, saturating her unbrushed hair, drowned the mother’s words.

Christicans (or, An Epistle to American Christians)

Angela, follower of Christ Jesus, to the dear brothers and sisters who are in the United States: Greetings!  Praise be to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who, being not fearful of nor threatened by post-modern humans or their words, laws, or nuclear weapons, empowers us with His Spirit and charges us with the privilege of spreading the excellent news of His Resurrection and of the free gift of eternal life!  For it is He who forsook His riches and glory to walk amongst us and to give Himself as the perfect, spotless sacrifice for our sins.  For this and for all His many blessings upon His undeserving creation, be glory and honor unto Him both now and forevermore!  Amen.

Brothers and sisters, what is this I hear of American Christians who, in the name of political correctness, keep their faith unto themselves only?  Should we hide the light of life within our hearts as though it were ours to keep?  May it never be!

Dear ones, be not deceived by the lying statement that it is better to preach the precious Gospel with our lives rather than with our words, which we should supposedly use only when necessary.  For, it was not the respected evangelist St. Francis of Assisi, venerated champion of our cause, who burdened us with such worthless words!1  Rather, his legacy stands as a shining example of the sort of follower our Christ dearly loves, and his very life disproves the wretched advice that so wrongly bears his name!  For it was he who charged all who converted through his leadership “to follow the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and to walk in his footsteps.”2  Would such an individual then suggest that we abandon exactly what Christ commanded and lived?

Furthermore, I hear reports that some of you have actually built entire philosophies of proselytization upon such a heresy, and that you are, consequently, valuing your own comfort and earthly reputation more highly than the riches you would otherwise accrue in the life to come.  Was it for your silence that Christ Jesus died?  Did our Savior endure grief and sorrow so that you might treasure yourself more highly?  Were His wounds inflicted so that they might be your personal secret?

Now let us discuss, in more human terms, the effectiveness of such a gross distortion of the Great Commission.3  While keeping our lips firmly shut and living a respectable life, what service do we do to our religion?  Do we not simply reflect the seemingly tolerant, politically-correct atheists, agnostics, and New Age spiritists who permeate our society and stand for nothing?  As we imitate those around us in polite behavior, seeking to avoid offense, we nurture within us the damnable habit of filtering from our speech the truth, and, in so doing, we hatefully deprive those lost in their sins of the revelatory knowledge of freedom in Christ.  By our silence, we bury in our hearts the sole key to their shackles.

Dear Family, I write not with a spirit of condemnation, but rather out of an unbearable burden to destroy this epidemic of complacency that is so rapidly infecting the Church.  Although it is true that we live in a time of religious spinelessness and moral relativity, we should not allow the cultural majority to hinder us in our obedience to the one true God.  Too often, brothers and sisters, I have heard those who claim to love our Christ cite our country’s policy of religious freedom as a reason to keep silent.  What irony!  This sacred privilege, along with her glorious twin sister, Freedom of Speech, which was bestowed by God unto us through our country’s Constitution, is the selfsame reason we should find ourselves unable to stop speaking!

But I do not admonish you, beloved, without first closely examining the heart and soul of the very same one who humbly composes this letter.  For she who so boldly proclaims the truth of Christ in black and white also suffers greatly from the cultural climate which gave her birth.  Although we are born into death, we are made alive through Christ, and this rebirth must generate within us a boldness to share what has given us the hope to look toward tomorrow.  For it is to our shame that our brothers and sisters across the globe suffer not from our timidity, but rather speak plainly the name of Christ in the face of utter horror.  Expecting torture and death as their only earthly repayment, these faithful followers proclaim all the more boldly the name of the only hope and salvation the world can ever know.  How much more should we, who stand only to lose a friend or an argument, take advantage of the freedom so lovingly entrusted to us?  For our gracious heavenly Father has seen fit to offer us this great gift; but, my dear ones, with great privilege comes great responsibility.

So it is with sincere humility and with immense fervor that I adjure you, sons and daughters of our great King, to treasure your Savior more highly than your friendships and to value your friends’ eternal future more highly than your own present comfort.  For, when all is laid bare before our final Judge, He will judge us not by the number of friends we have collected, but rather by the number of sheep we have invited into the fold.

We must, therefore, look expectantly upward to the one and only source of our courage and comfort as we obediently fulfill the Great Commission, that is, to make disciples of all nations.  For how else can we make disciples, if not with our mouths?

Remember those in chains for the Gospel.  Brother Gao in China, from whom we have not heard since his most recent abduction by authorities, will surely benefit much from our prayers.4  Also, remember our Sister Twen in Eritrea and Pastor Matthias and all the Brethren held captive in the Islamic Republic of Iran as they suffer joyfully behind bars for the cause of Christ.5  Perhaps, through their wounds and their witness, more precious ones will be brought into the Family.

Grace and peace be with you, dear ones, in the name of our only Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Endnotes

  1. Mark Galli, “Speak the Gospel,” Christianity Todayhttp://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/mayweb-only/120-42.0.html (accessed June 10, 2020).
  2. Encyclopædia Britannica, “Saint Francis of Assisi,” http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/216793/Saint-Francis-of-Assisi (accessed June 10, 2020).
  3. Matt. 28:16-20.
  4. China Aid, “Two Years Later, Lawyer Gao is Still Missing,” https://www.chinaaid.org/2019/08/two-years-later-lawyer-gao-is-still.html (accessed June 10, 2020).
  5. The Voice of the Martyrs, PrisonerAlert.com, http://prisoneralert.com/ (accessed June 10, 2020).

Luke — Year Four

Dear Luke,

You made it!!! We’ve been counting down sleeps until your fourth birthday, and now it’s zero sleeps! Even though you promised you didn’t mind staying three just for me, I know that your heart is set on four. It’s okay — you make four look so good, I couldn’t possibly deny you!

Three was a really fun year. You have continually proven that you can handle any new adventure! Swimming? No problem. Baseball? Yep. Hunting? Got your first duck. Gathering? Went about the neighborhood as a triceratops and pillaged strangers’ houses for candy. Building? Check out Dad’s bee boxes. Math? Totally zipped through all your preschool workbooks like they were kids’ stuff. Is there anything you can’t do?

One of the most fun things about this year has been watching you grow as a big brother. You loved Dillon from the moment you saw him, and you’ve always been great with him, but this year he turned into a toddler! That’s a wholly new enterprise, but you have just been so helpful! If he cries, you problem solve. If he laughs, you join the fun. If he is getting into trouble, you either help him to stop or come get me. I am so proud of how you have taken on such an important responsibility all on your own, and I love that I can trust you to look out for your baby brother.

That is just one look into your happy and helpful spirit; you truly have a heart five sizes too big! You light up our home and bring so much laughter and joy. You’re always ready with a joke, a tickle, or a helping hand. My day — my life — is better with you in it, and I’m so thankful for your silly, crazy self! Happy birthday, Lukie Pooks!

Love,
Mommy

 

 

Dillon’s Birthday Letter — Year One

DILLY!!!!

Happy birthday to you! I don’t know how we got here so fast, but I’m excited to celebrate you and your big first year. When we sent out your Christmassy birth announcement last year that said “More Cheer This Year,” we had no idea just how true that would be! You are such a cheery, smiley baby, and you have made 2019 so sweet. It has been so fun to watch you grow!

Now that you’re one, you are so ready to walk! You took your first steps on your birthday, in fact, as if you suddenly realized that it was time to be a toddler. Even though you’re getting better every day, often you decide it just takes too long, and you drop down and crawl. And everyone better watch out, because you’re FAST! No more army crawl — you figured everything out, and you couldn’t be faster if you had wheels.

Since developing your personal travel abilities, you have gotten into everything! You love to climb onto the dishwasher door — even though you KNOW it’s not allowed — and inspect our dishes. You try to climb onto chairs and tables; I’m sure it won’t be long until you’re successful! Never wanting to leave your brothers lonely, you’re quick to get in the middle of all their games. You have an uncanny sense of exactly when it’s time for them to knock everything down and start a new idea, but since you don’t have all the words to tell them, you are so kind as to do it for them. And when they wrestle with Dad, everybody better watch out! You’ll rush from the other side of the house to get in the mix, ready to show off your skills.

Speaking of traveling, you have already done a lot of it! You have technically been to Wyoming and New York, but it was dark in my belly, so it was hard to participate much. Your first plane ride outside of the womb was to Florida last month, where you vacationed from the demands of baby life in Texas. I think you could have gotten used to island life in Key West! This year, we also took a long drive to San Antonio, and an even longer one to Alabama! You’re a great travel buddy.

You have eight teeth now, and you’re working really hard on some molars — ouch! But those teeth are needed because you love to eat everything, especially if it’s on Mama’s plate! You have four words: Da-Da, hi, bubba, and uh-oh. (We’ve worked extensively on Mama, but, those Ms are hard, so you usually just call me Da-Da. It’s okay. I know what you mean.) When you need to relax from all of this hard work, but you can’t make it out to Key West, your typical “chill” activities include taking things out of and putting them back into boxes or baskets, and playing fetch with yourself, usually with the basketball. Crawling around with a toy clamped between your teeth is also a good stress release.

In all, you have made our world so much more fun, and I cannot imagine life without you. Happy first year! It’s been a dilly!

Love,
Mommy

 

My Oracle for Dillon

Yesterday we dedicated our youngest son, Dillon, to God at a special service at our church. In years past, Pastor Bo led in dedicating our older boys, Bennett and Luke. On Bo’s last Sunday as our pastor, he also led in dedicating the littlest member of the Wade Brigade! Yesterday was special and emotional in so many ways.

In keeping with tradition, here is my oracle — my heart’s burden — for my Dillon Kyler.

 

Oh, my precious son of my womb, son of my vows!
You whom I would protect from every evil —
The world is big;
Temptations, strong;
Sin, easy.

It is not for you to follow the broad path.
The way of the crowd is the way of death.
No, my son.

You are named Faithful;
Your way is with Him.
He has shown you Goodness:
Do justly;
Love mercy;
Walk humbly with Him.
This is what the Lord requires of you.

You are named Little Warrior.
Your way is service;
Your way is bravery.
Your way is to follow The Way,
To pursue the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus,
And to bless many as you go.

This, Faithful Little Warrior, is your calling.
What an honor to mother you toward it.

Bennett — Year Seven

Bennett!

Okay, this is it. You’re officially MORE than halfway to being a teenager! What even! I can’t handle it.

This year, you rocked first grade. We took a BIG step up from kindergarten with the amount of work we had to do, and you totally stood up to the challenge. In CC, your tutor was Mrs. Reyna, and you finally got to be in class with Luci again! I think it was our best homeschool year yet!

Sports this year were SO exciting! You played flag football for the first time, which was a lot of fun even though it got rained out a lot, because Titus was on your team! In the spring, you hit your first home run playing baseball with the Wolves, and you really learned what it meant to be part of a team. You practiced hard and learned so much that you even won the game ball for “most improved” at the last game. As the baseball season wound down, you started swimming. You then worked hard for months to be able to make it the length of the pool and back, and you learned all four strokes. You gave it your all, and I am so impressed by your hard work and all that you accomplished! You can officially swim!

This summer, you got to go on a guy’s trip with Daddy to see the Orioles lose to the “Boo-jays,” and then you two stayed in the Watergate Hotel and toured D.C. You called me every day to give me a recap, and you just made every single moment sound amazing! Strange that this trip still can’t quite compete with the Atlanta trip, though!

And, saving the best for last, you became a double big brother this year! We welcomed Dillon Kyler to the Wade Brigade, and your love for him is just so obvious! You sang an impromptu song for him when you first met, which has stuck, and now you play with him and let him hold your thumbs while he practices standing. His whole face lights up when he sees you, probably because he knows he is so blessed to have a big brother like you, and boy am I blessed to have such a great helper with your little brothers.

Bo, you are just the best. I have seen you grow so much this year in responsibility, commitment, tenacity, integrity, and leadership. You’re learning that life isn’t always fun, but that it is what you make of it, and that there is always something to be thankful for. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to walk through these days and years with you as you grow into a young man. You bring such joy to my life every day, and I can’t imagine life without your smile in it. Happy birthday!

Love,
Mom

Luke — Year Three

Happy birthday, big brother! For the first time ever, today I have a 3-year-old Lukie Bryant, and I am SO excited about the little man you are becoming! You couldn’t love your new little brother more, and you’re always looking out for him — alerting me immediately when he’s crying, sharing your toys with him, and rejoicing with him when he smiles, laughs, and reaches new milestones. I’m so proud of how you love him, and all of us! You’re so generous with your hugs, kisses, tickles, and “I love yous,” which make us all feel so special.

Over this last year, you’ve really shown your creative side through coloring, drawing, building, singing, dancing, and playing pretend. Your drawing is particularly impressive, as you began drawing spirals and silly faces months and months ago! And I love finding out who you are from hour to hour — are you Batman? Spider-man Monkey? Captain America Mouse? It’s always very serious business, with your costume just right, your fists ready, and your tough face in place as you set about looking for bad guys. We really appreciate the added security around here!

You have such a big personality, and I love that your big reactions leave no question about your opinions! Whether it’s splashing in mud puddles with delight, and then panicking when you’re suddenly covered in mud, or squealing over a dinner roll and then shoving your plate away when you find out you have to eat the “real” food first, you feel your feelings to the fullest. Whether you’re laughing or crying, you hold nothing back. You’ll even lie down in the middle of a trail in Yellowstone when you decide you’re “a sleepy boy.” You do you, Lukie; you do you!

Some other things you love: Reading! Oh the stacks and stacks of books you bring to me every day! You love animals (especially “mouses,” “mipmunks,” and ocelots). Every night, you giggle as Mommy or Daddy “burritos” you in your Mickey Mouse blankie, along with Blue Bear and Roary. Bananas and bread are still your favorite foods, along with all the candy, cakes, and ice cream. You love to play baseball, piano, Connect 4, hide and seek, cars, and all sorts of adventures with Bennett. You will make teams of toys and play in other worlds for hours.

Lukie, you are just such a joy, and you make me proud to be your mom every day. I love you so much. I can’t wait to see what Three has in store for us!

Love,
Mommy