Bennett — Year Five Birthday Letter

Dear Bennett,

Nope. You’re not turning five. You’re not going to start kindergarten this year. It’s not allowed. I’ve changed my mind. Growing up this fast is now completely against the rules, okay?! Don’t you do it!

I can’t even wrap my mind around how big you are and how much you’ve grown. Over the past year, I’ve had my first taste of being Mama to a “big kid,” and it was crazy exciting! You played on a real t-ball team with real uniforms and a real team name — the Knuckleballers — and a real coach named Justin Wade, who wasn’t your dad. How in the world did you get a coach with your dad’s name? So funny! And for the first time, I got to take you to practice every week and spend my Saturday mornings watching you run the bases (and sometimes put dirt in your pocket). Watching you play t-ball was so much fun!

You also finished your first year in Classical Conversations. You had the best tutor ever, whom everyone else calls Mrs. Buffington, but you simply dropped the “Mrs.” right from the start and just called her “Buffington” all year. She was your absolute favorite, and I’m pretty sure you won her heart, too! You learned so much about so many things, but your favorite subjects were History and Latin. Your best two history songs were about the Industrial Revolution (“Watt’s steam engine, Cartwright’s power loom…”) and the Cold War (“In the 1980s, ooo ooo ooo ooo, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher…”). And I’m not sure if you loved Latin because the future tense had “bo” in it, or because of Hannah the Hippo! Either way, our first year in CC was a blast, and I was so excited to watch you learn and grow with all your new friends.

Much to your mama’s surprise and delight, you started reading chapter books by yourself this year! It started with Nate the Great and Henry and Mudge, and now you’re into Magic Tree House books. It makes me smile every time I see you reading, and I love how enthusiastically you read aloud. Never stop reading! You will learn and grow so much!

This year was also a year of traveling. Early on, we went to Mexico, and you couldn’t stop talking about how you wanted to live there because it was the best place ever. Last month, you went on a guys’ trip to Georgia to watch the Braves play, and now Atlanta has taken Mexico’s place in your heart. Whenever people ask you, you can’t even seem to remember much about Colorado, where we were only a week ago, because all you can think about is Atlanta!

Bobo, you’re my best Bo in the whole world. I love you more than all the eyelashes, all the doorknobs, and all the worms. [Reader: That’s just an inside joke.] I love you infinity plus infinity plus infinity. Thank you for being my Bobo and for teaching me every day how to love more like Jesus, and thank you for being such a superheroic big brother for Lukie to look up to.

Happy not-birthday, because you’re SO not allowed to turn five today! Happy Tuesday!

Love,
Mommy

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Luke — Year One Birthday Letter

Dear Luke,

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WHAT? There is no way that you’re turning one already! Weren’t you just born the other day? Yet here you are, Mr. ONEderful, Mr. Independent, Mr. I Have Ten Teeth and I’m Ready to Eat All the Food! Lukie Babe, I can’t believe that you’re so big, but it sure has been a fun year learning all about who you are and what delights you.

First of all, my heart swells watching you and your brother! You just adore him. Since you’re on the move now — so very close to walking! — chasing Bennett is probably your favorite thing besides eating blueberries. Sometimes he even makes you laugh so hard that you can barely breathe! I love how much you boys laugh and play together, and I pray that you’ll always be best friends.

1486671434999Speaking of laughing, you have the sweetest smile ever, and it’s made even sweeter when you decide to really turn up the cuteness by crinkling up your nose. I hope you never lose that squinchy-nosed smile, even once you figure out it’s my weakness.

Oh — and books! Oh my goodness, the Lord gave me another boy who devours books! I love that your eyes light up when I ask if you want to read books with Mama, and that you will read book after book after book with me. You’ll sometimes even just sit and “read” by yourself. Be still my heart!

But you’re no homebody, that’s for sure. You love to be outside, and you’re always just itching to get into the dirt and grass and discover the world. Sometimes you just look up and point out the window. I just know that as soon as you have the words, you’ll be asking me all day if you can just go play outside! And you can barely contain yourself watching Bennett play t-ball. You just point and lean toward the field like you’re ready to run the bases. Be still your daddy’s heart!

My jovial, cuddly, expressive, sweet, little punkin, I am so very thankful for this year with you. It has been so fun to watch your personality unfold. You bring so much light and joy to our home, and I am so excited to spend a lifetime watching you grow and seeing how you will bless others in the same way. I love you so much, and I am so thankful to be your mama.

Love,
Mommy

My Oracle for Luke

This morning, we had Luke’s baby dedication at our church. It was such a sweet time for our family to pray over our littlest boy and over us as we publicly promise to teach him about, show him, and lead him to Jesus.

Four short years ago, when my biggest little boy was a baby, I was inspired by an oracle in Proverbs 31 that King Lemuel’s mother taught him. For Bennett’s dedication, I wrote him an oracle — my heart’s burden for him. Today, I shared my heart’s burden for Luke.

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in Him is the light

the true light

the only light of life

but His people have not known Him

loving, clinging to darkness,

those made in His image reject Him

but He shines

and our darkness cannot overcome His light

so–

not everyone hides

you, O my son, what about you?

son of my womb, son of my vows–

created for Light

named for Light

dedicated to Light–

know who you are!

leave foolishness for fools,

worldliness for the world

seek Wisdom,

Truth and Goodness

receive Him

believe in His name

cling to Him

and He will give you the right to be His,

not born merely of me,

but of our Majestic Messiah-God!

be a Light-receiver

and a Light-giver

O, my son,

join with those ancient and eternal citizens

who, with Him and for Him,

SHINE

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Proverbs 31:1-9

John 1:1-5, 9-13; 3:19-21

Matthew 5:14-16

Bennett — Year Four Birthday Letter

Dear Super Bennett,

Happy birthday! You have had such a big year that I don’t even know where to begin. Not only did you keep working the garden with Daddy so that we could have fresh food, but you also helped him build a fort so that you could have the most awesome backyard ever! This year, you had your first t-ball lessons, started learning piano, and went fishing and ice-skating for the first time. You’ve also grown in your songwriting, as you sing impromptu, original songs to God nearly every day.

After very much hard work, you accomplished two huge feats this year: you joined The 100 Club, and you can read! Numbers and words are the foundation for all types of literacy, so I’m so excited that you’re now on the doorstep to a lifetime of learning.

Most importantly, this year you’ve proven that you are the best big brother ever! From the moment you found out that little Luke was growing in my belly, you 100_5784loved him and helped me take care of him. (Do you remember how you used to try and shove food in my mouth so Luke could have a snack?) You even picked his middle name; it certainly couldn’t be “Evan,” because then we’d have to put him in the oven! After all that, it had to be Bryant. And now, Luke Bryant sure thinks you are the funniest, coolest, superheroey-est guy around. I would have to agree.

And here’s something really awesome I can’t forget: by your side through all of this has been your (imaginary) friend, Boggyx! With blue hair, yellow skin, red fingernails, pink ankles, and every cool and fun thing you could think of, he’s definitely a great buddy to have around.

Super Bennett, you are totally super! You’re kind, tenderhearted, creative, smart, fun, hardworking, hospitable, worshipful, and faithful. I can’t believe you’re growing up so fast, but I guess it makes sense. The world needs all the superheroes it can get! I’m super-blessed to know you and even more blessed to be your mom. Thanks for being you.

Love, Mommy

 

Soon

13576827_10100713984985605_422606740353858805_oIf this guy had a tattoo, it would read: ADDICTED TO CUDDLES.

He can’t help it; it’s in his genes. After a wonky day where he missed his morning nap and only had a few snoozes here and there, I put him down for what I thought would be a solid afternoon nap. Forty-five minutes later, “MOMMY!!! MOMMY!!! MOMMY!!!” (Okay, no. He doesn’t say that, but that’s what he means.) When I scooped him up and saw his little red-rimmed eyelids, I knew he needed more sleep, and that he needed a little extra help.

So we wrapped up in our favorite wrap and gently bounced. As I patted and petted and hugged my little bundle, I had this thought:  One day soon, he will be in another woman’s arms when he’s worn down. When the world becomes too much for him now, I am his refuge, but that won’t always be. And then — I’ll admit it — with a brief flash of future jealousy, I wondered how I will cope with only hearing from my sons once a week, or every other week, or less. How does a mother’s heart survive this trauma, knowing another woman has stolen her son?!

Refocus.

Oh, this is how You planned it, Lord. Fashioned in a woman, birthed of a woman, nourished through a woman, nurtured by a woman, destined for a(nother) woman. Oh, let her — this other woman — let her be humble and kind.  Both girls — Bennett’s and Luke’s — let them love You fiercely and love my boys fiercely. Let them let their husbands and help their husbands be good men. Let them be humble and kind and holy and brave and strong.

I breathe in his scent, hear his soft snores.

Thank You for these boys, this royalty worth dying for. Thank You for entrusting me with this high and holy calling. Help me to get them ready, for time is so short.

If I had a tattoo, it would say: SOON.

Soon, no one will be pulling at me or screaming for me.
Soon, no one will call me “Mommy.” (Or “MOMMYYYYYYYY!!!”)
Soon, I won’t have to remind anyone that our hands are for showing love and kindness and so are our words, or that God gave us toys so we can share them.
Soon, my chances will be gone, and I’ll hope what I did was enough.

Soon is a word I use to focus myself.

Today, it was a bittersweet moment as I imagined the future. Knowing it will come so soon, yet determining to savor sweet baby breath. Hoping for faithful daughters-in-law, yet cherishing chubby cheeks, wrists, ankles. Soon, this baby will be a man. But right now, he’s a baby, and there’s so much beautiful ahead of us. This is such a good moment. Keep rocking. Keep praying. God is good.

Yesterday, it was a desperate moment as I despaired the present. A preschooler in the other room needed me while I held an inconsolable infant while I internally counseled this tear-soaked woman on her fourth day of fever and sickness with this one word: SOON. Soon, you will feel better. Soon, the baby will stop screaming. Soon, what the preschooler needs help with, he will be able to do on his own. Soon, your babies won’t need you quite so much, and that will be good, but hard. This moment is also good, but hard. Keep rocking. Keep praying. Keep crying, too; it’s okay to fall apart sometimes.

Soon, Mama. Soon.

 

A Letter to My Belly Baby

I wrote this just two weeks before Luke was born, and it will be the first one in his scrapbook. Working on Bennett’s birthday letter reminded me that I never published Luke’s pre-birth-day letter!

My Luke Bryant,

Here I sit, mere days from finally getting to see your precious face, and I’m filled with hopeful expectation, both for that wonderful moment, and for all the moments the Lord has planned for you. I wonder who you’ll look like, what you’ll love, where you’ll find your joy. As I wonder and imagine the possibilities, my greatest prayer for you is that the ultimate answer for all these things in your life will be Jesus. Whether you have brown eyes or blue, light hair or dark, I want more than anything for people to see the Lord shining through your heart. Whether you love baseball or books, whether you take joy in music or mathematics, may you discover that our King holds the only true key to your heart’s desires. I am so excited to learn about you every day for the rest of my life, and I count it among my greatest privileges to show you how uniquely God created you — every little detail of who you are — to shine for His glory.

May you find Him and love Him and serve Him, so that you bring light to all who know you. That is what your name means. Luke means “light,” so I pray that you find THE Light and shine for Him. Bryant means “strong,” and so I pray that you learn what true strength is and from Whom it comes. He is your Light and your Strength. Look to Him in all things, and He will never forsake you.

As we learn and grow together through the years ahead, this will always be my prayer for you. Please forgive the ways I will fail you — because I know I will, every day — and remember instead what my heart’s desire is for you. Shine your light, and remember that Jesus will give you the strength to do it.

Love,
Mommy

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
-Matthew 5:14-16

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.
-Joshua 1:9

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2015: Stripped

I had such high hopes for this year. Having turned a corner from failure to focus, I was ready for new spiritual heights — success, joy, fruitful ministry! January started so beautifully, with a clear, divine call out of my invented chaos and into His silent simplicity, and I was so ready for all that God was going to do in the upcoming year.

Except that I wasn’t ready at all. I had no idea what God meant by calling me to simplicity. The loneliness, the pain, the confusion. Maybe by “silence” I thought “peace and quiet.” So much happened that I entered into a new kind of chaos — a total panic. Frankly, I quickly forgot that He had even called me to simplicity until a friend reminded me, but even then it didn’t ring familiar. Embarrassingly late in the year, I remembered that setting spiritual goals was something I even did. What was it this year? I remembered it was just one word, but what was it? In desperation, I pulled out my Life Box and read January’s entries. In addition to “simplicity,” I also found a recurring theme throughout the first two months of this year: rest.

And then these words disappeared from my writing. Everything happened, and I forgot the very reason for everything. I was suddenly panicking in the waves, not remembering that God had already told me to hold tight to my Anchor as He stirred the emotional and spiritual storm. That that’s all I had to do as He led me to simplicity and rest, to a truer understanding of clinging to Him regardless of the weather.

“He led me.” Ha! He dragged me. I feel like He pulled me deeper and deeper beneath the waves until I finally stopped struggling, reaching that moment when a drowning person finally accepts the inevitable — that he’s powerless to prevent death and a strange peace washes over him.

But that peace came late, late in the year. It came well after I re-read the prophecy on those pages, which left me wondering at God, laughing at myself, and then crying at both of us. Most of the year was a wrestling match with the Almighty, who seemed to be bent on plunging me deeper and deeper until I just couldn’t breathe. Maybe what He wanted to die — what was not of Him — is finally dead. But even the good kind of death never comes easy.

He completely broke my heart. He removed everything from me that I found my identity in. He took relationships. He took away any illusion of my having control over anything. He brought me into deep intercession and then devastated me by saying no. He took Ruthie. He took Baby R. He took Jude. He took all my plans and threw them out. He took away my energy, my productivity, and eventually, the freedom to even walk. (Seriously, I had medical restrictions against it for weeks.)

He wasn’t kidding about rest. He literally made me sit. Alone. In a dirty house I couldn’t clean, with a bored preschooler I couldn’t entertain and an overworked husband I couldn’t help or encourage. I was totally depleted and unable to “do” anything but listen. And of course, I had selective hearing.

He never gave up on me, though, wretch though I am. What a year full of beautiful, messy grace this has been.

There have been seasons of my life when God has been silent — when I’ve begged and persisted and cried and been met with silence. There are great lessons in those times, too, but that is not what this year has been. This year, I’ve begged and persisted and cried and been met with His power, His grace, His nearness, and the fact that I just don’t understand everything He’s doing. But He has not been silent. He hasn’t answered all my exact questions, but He has been with me in ways that have brought sudden tears many times. I’ve felt Him, and I’ve heard Him. He’s the only one who’s known the devastation in my heart this year, and He never forsook me or told me it was wrong to grieve. He let me grieve, and kept drawing me in.

Two thousand fifteen: a beautiful year. I’m ready (I think) for 2016. I’ve got my listening ears on this time.

Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)

By Hillsong United

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior