Happy Birthday, Baby Girl

Hi, baby girl!  Today, you are 15.

Abbey - snowball closeup

(I originally wrote this blog on Abbey’s 13th birthday… but it was so good, I’m just going to change the pertinent info and post it again.  Everything still applies!!!)

I wish I could remember years 2-11 as well as I remember the time leading up to your arrival, the first 23 months of your life, and the last 4!

I anticipated your birth with a yearning I had never know up to that point. I thought of you all day, wrote you letters, sang to you, talked to you.  I simply couldn’t wait until you were in my arms and in front of my eyes!

Four weeks before you were due, we had the bright idea to go to downtown Dallas and see a Mavericks game with our church, Hope Fellowship.  We ate at a Mexican restaurant with Mimi, Tiger, and Shelby and then went to the game.  It came a complete monsoon rain.  We parked in the wrong place and ended up walking up a set of stairs, across an overpass, and back down a set of stairs before arriving at the stadium.  Once we got to the arena, I started feeling funny – having contractions, etc.  The next day was my regular checkup and, unfortunately, my blood pressure was up pretty high… so, the doctor put me on bedrest.  😦  I was pretty bummed because we were out in the middle of nowhere.  Nash, our beagle, kept me company.  So did the cows, ha ha.  During those 4 weeks, we didn’t have cable and relied on rabbit ears (which you have no idea of) and I got really addicted to reruns of Mad About You and Caroline in the City – the only shows I could get to come in clearly.  The commercial for Ross (shop-shopping… shopping at Ross) will forever live on in my memory, as it played no less than 50 times a day. But I never felt “alone” because you were with me.

At the end of the 4 weeks, I woke up on April 22nd with a really bad headache.  Figuring this wasn’t a very good sign, daddy took me to the hospital.  Sure enough, my blood pressure was very high, and the doctor admitted me around mid-day.  At midnight, the doctor decided I needed to be induced.  Hey, it was Easter!  And at 5:33am, just as the sun was rising on a new day, you made you grand entrance into this world – changing ours forever.

I will never ever ever forget the moment I laid eyes on you for the first time.  I said “She’s so beautiful!” and I started to cry.  So did you, ha ha.  My goodness, you were cute!  I thought you had the most amazingly gorgeous eyebrows I’d ever seen on a baby.  I know that sounds strange, but it’s true.  And as they took you over to clean you up a little bit, you cried this cute little cry where you trilled your tongue (something you cannot to this day replicate, oddly enough!) and I was a goner.  Completely in love.  100%.  Finally, they bundled you up like a burrito and laid you in my arms.  You looked at me with the most serious, wide eyes, like you knew exactly who I was.  Even though you had lived in my tummy for 9 months, in that moment we had found each other.

April 23, 2000 was the best Easter ever.  Your first full day as my baby.  It’s incomprehensible to me how much of your present-day personality was revealed to me in that first 24 hours.  I have a picture of you actually smiling at me that first day – I’ll try to find it and insert it here.   You were a “toucher” from day one, and that hasn’t changed.  When you were a few months old, I would lie in bed on my side and nurse you and it was at this point that you started doing something that you do to this very day whenever you need comfort – tickle-scratching the back of my arm.  I probably first noticed it when you were about 4 months old and it was the absolute sweetest thing.

For the first 23 months of your life, it was mostly you and me, kiddo.  Poor daddy worked – A LOT – so you and I were as close as close could be.  You were my best friend.  (still are!!!)  We did everything together – grocery-shopped, sang, laughed, read books… whatever.  Oh!  This is no exaggeration whatsoever:  When you were about 3 months old, I would sing this song to you, “Baby” from the Maltby & Shire musical, Closer Than Ever, and YOU TRIED TO SING ALONG WITH ME.  It was the most amazing thing.  You would concentrate so hard on my mouth while I sang and you would make little cooing noises to go along with it.  Even then, you had the most beautiful voice.  Seriously, your tone was angelic.

When you were around 15 months old, I got pregnant with Luke.  At first, I had morning sickness so all I wanted to do was lie on the couch… but you wanted to play, so we compromised.  We had these little A-Z Sesame Street books.  You would bring me book after book over to the couch and no matter what, I read whatever book you put in my face.  Over and over.  I truly believe that’s why you’re so stinkin’ smart today!!!  LOL  You can thank your brother.  😉

So, yes, eventually Luke came along and you were (and still are) the best big sister.  And then not long after that, we moved (back to) Nashville and Lincoln was born.  Here’s where life got really complicated – with Lincoln being extremely ill, and living in a new place – it seems that you went from being my baby to being my little girl in the blink of an eye.  And I feel like I somehow missed it.  I tried, really hard, to cherish every single moment.  To burn every memory into my brain… but it was just too hard.  Even so, certain things stand out in my mind, like how nurturing, competent and generous you always were.  That hasn’t changed!

But enough about the past… let’s talk about now.  Let’s talk about the future.

Sweet girl, I cannot imagine having a more wonderful daughter.  God out-did Himself when he gave you to daddy and I.  No matter what we prayed for… no matter what we imagined… you surpass it all.  You are kind.  You are smart.  You are important. LOL, no really!  You are!  We watch you handle situations with a grace and maturity that defy your 15 (!!!!!) years.  You love the Lord and are dedicated to serving Him.  You are a loyal friend.  You are FUN… and funny.  You are so talented.  You are a worshiper.  You look at what’s in people’s hearts and treat others with respect and dignity.  And the best part is, I don’t think you have any idea how awesome you are!  Yes, you are confident…  but it comes from knowing who you are in Christ, and that’s a far cry from being self-centered or conceited.  Look, I know you’re not perfect… but you’re pretty spectacular, and we love you!!!!

Now, to the future.  I have so many hopes and dreams for you, sweet girl!!!  I feel that my heart will burst sometimes when I think of all that God has in store for you.

My prayer is that you’ll always know how much God loves you and how intimately He created you.  He knows you.  He loves you.  He has a plan for you and that plan is amazing.  Trust in Him always.  Make room for the Holy Spirit every day.  Leave room for the extraordinary in every day.  When you wake up, just pause and ask “What do you have for me today, God? How would you like to use me?”  I promise you, your life will be more content and fulfilled than you could possibly imagine when you seek Him first.

I love you, baby girl, and I’m so excited for the rest of your teenage years.  Every stage with you is a blessing.  You are a blessing!  We thank God for you every day.

Love,
Mama

Abbey's Snowball pic

Abbey collage

Abbey 11

Abbey 6 Abbey 9 Abbey 7 Abbey 5

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Voices Carry (part 2)

I am a pretty positive person.  I’m also ruled by fear far more than I’d like to admit.

These 2 things are not compatible.

I’ve recently discovered that whenever I’m about to embark on something new – especially anything that involves personal risk – I immediately start playing a soundtrack in my head of CYNICAL, JADED, NEGATIVE commentary.

If I’m such a positive person, where does this come from?  Well, it comes from the imaginary dialogue of some very real people in my life. I know a lot of people.  Sadly, not all of them are rose-colored-glass-half-full kinda people.  And for whatever reason, those are the voices I’ve allowed to set up camp in my head.

How sad.  How unfortunate.  How grieving to me that I’ve let it go on this long.

See, I love words.  And I love music.  And in my heart, I think there might be a songwriter in there.  To me, songwriters are the bravest of all people.  To open your heart and your guts for public consumption… well, that’s just strong and beautiful.  And I’ve kept that urge tightly clutched in white-knuckled fists for too many years.

I can actually pinpoint an instance when the pain of hiding it became more important than the fear of letting it out.  I had written some lyrics and left them lying around. A guy I was seeing came over and saw the lyrics, picked them up, read them, and said “That’s dumb.”  Ouch.  It didn’t matter that he was an idiot. (and truly, not to be mean, but he was… and from all accounts, still is) It didn’t matter that it was a rough draft. I just knew I never wanted to feel the sting of someone criticizing something that came from my heart/mind. Ever. Again.

So, I’ve been thinking about this.  Wondering what I can do to free myself from this self-imposed prison.

I think I have an idea.  An exercise, if you will.

I’ve determined that I’m going to have to re-train my brain.  Whenever I get the urge to create – anything – instead of hearing the Soundtrack of the Cynical, I’m instead going to focus on what all of the positive, encouraging people in my life would say.

I’m going to hear people like my family. (I have the best family)  People like Angela Hinson. And Debbie Brown.  And Gina Shaw.  And Allie Darden.  And Lindsey Johnson.  And Wendy Scott.  And Gina Wells Tarver.  And Leslie Tucker.  And Tracy Shea.  And Kris Brown.  And many, many more.

You are the new soundtrack in my head.  Your encouragement will inspire me.  Spur me on.  Give my dreams wings.

It might be slow-going… and I might even fail.  But I’m going to try!  And that’s more than I have been doing for 20+ years.

Voices Carry (part 1)

*This post was originally on my Facebook and refers to some recent FB activity. 

I know there’s been a lot of flack over the “10 things about me you didn’t know” and “selfies” and what-not lately… but here’s my take on it. (Feel free to roll your eyes and label me an irritatingly positive person.)

I really really really really LOVE reading everyone’s “things you didn’t know” posts! Not even kidding. Every smacking one of them. I laughed. I smiled. I got to know you better. I realized we maybe had more in common than I thought… or realized that we have nothing in common at all and I still love you! In fact, in most cases I wish you hadn’t stopped at 7. Or 10. Or 25. I want to know more! Anything I can learn about you – good, bad, ugly – is pure gold, in my book. 

Your selfies don’t bother me. I like you. I like your face. Unless we go to church together or have kids at the same school, I probably don’t get to see you as much as I’d like to. So, post away! (my one selfish request: keep your clothes on. K, thanks.) 

And here’s a confession: No one “assigned” me a number for the “number game” where you share things about yourself. I just posted mine because I wanted to. How’s that for being real? I had a hunch that people would read what I wrote and comment with the things we have in common, etc. And that’s exactly what happened. Also, as I read other people’s posts, it jogged my memory of things about me I had forgotten, so I started writing them down. At 42, my memory isn’t what it used to be, so THANK YOU for helping me remember, folks. 

Not everyone will agree and that’s ok. But if you’re bothered by everyone’s posts, ask yourself this: Why else does Facebook exist if not to share things about yourself and learn things about others? You may not like what you learn – about others AND yourself – but let’s just try to encourage one another, ok? 

Bootstraps

Ummmm, Whoopsie!  After I posted a new blog post the other day, I glanced over and saw that I had FIVE drafts that I had never posted!!!  Some were unfinished drivel… but then I saw THIS ONE that I had just forgotten to post, or thought I had posted and hadn’t hit the right button.  Anyway, it’s be a WHOLE YEAR.  And since then, Abbey has won the award mentioned below for a second year in a row!  We are unbelievably proud of her… but, really, we would be even if she hadn’t won the award either year.

So, here’s the blog from a year ago…

Abbey entered Merrol Hyde Magnet School 3 years ago as a 4th grader and did not know a single soul in the school. It was a difficult year adjusting to the culture there, which was so different from what we were used to, but she did very well and eventually made some great friends.

5th grade was a very challenging year for several reasons -and that’s all I’m going to say about that – so we weren’t really sure what would happen in middle school.

However, Abbey truly began to thrive in 6th grade – working very hard to earn great grades and navigating tween drama with as much grace as possible.  I mean, come on. If you’ve met my daughter, you know she has a flair for the dramatic… but she really HATES the kind of drama that end in hurt feelings, tears, and broken friendships.  Thankfully, so do most of the people she hangs out with.

A few weeks ago, we received an email from one of her teachers, giving us a heads-up that Abbey would be receiving an award during the Middle School Award Ceremony at her school.  We were thrilled!  The students have no idea who’s receiving an award, so we had to keep it on the down-low.  (She was clueless as to why we would even want to show up this morning, ha ha)

Let me tell you a little bit about Abbey’s school.  It’s an academic magnet school.  She tested in in kindergarten, but was 14th on the waiting list after the lottery drawing.  It had completely gone off out radar when they called us the summer before her 4th grade year to let us know her number had come up.  After some prayer, we decided to allow her to attend.  We LOVED her old school, so this was a hard decision… BUT…

Merrol Hyde was recently rated a Gold ranking from US News and World Report.  They are ranked #109 in the nation for public schools, and #3 in the state.  Today, we watched about 15 7th graders from Merrol Hyde – SEVENTH GRADERS – receive an award for scoring higher on their ACT than most High School Juniors.  Wow.  That’s awesome. These are some amazingly smart kids.

And Abbey does get great grades. But grades aren’t really her focus in life. For right now, she really wants to be a missionary.  Of course, we tell her “Then go be the smartest, kindest missionary out there!”  So, while we are THRILLED she gets to attend Merrol Hyde, we are more thrilled that she is a young lady that cares deeply about people.

We showed up at her award ceremony today, not quite knowing what to expect… Finally it came down to the final award and this is how the principal described the criteria for the Blue/Gold Award:

“Best all-around, a good friend, trustworthy, cares about others, shares, doesn’t gossip, encourages other students, respected by their peers, respected by the teachers, applies themselves well in all that they do, is a good citizen, participates in extra-curricular activities.”

This award was voted on by the students. And Abbey got it!!!!!

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I cried.

Her dad and I could not be more proud of her.  This is what you PRAY your children are known for!

So, kudos to you, sweet daughter.  You came in not knowing anyone.  You went from not having to ever study… to learning the ropes (4th)… to have a really tough year (5th)… to pulling yourself up by the bootstraps and excelling in all areas.

We are Hosea’s Wife…

I started reading the book of Hosea yesterday as part of a devotional on youversion.  (She Reads Truth)  Yesterday I read chapter 1, today chapter 2.  I feel like I could spend weeks just studying chapter 2.  Obviously, we are Gomer – pursued by the Lord… but unfaithful and too caught up in the things of the world to surrender to Him.

The entire chapter is so good, but I went through and selected the specific verses that spoke to me.  It’s so beautiful!

“She doesn’t realize it was I who gave her everything she has—
the grain, the new wine, the olive oil;
I even gave her silver and gold.
But she gave all my gifts to Baal.
I will strip her naked in public,
while all her lovers look on.
No one will be able
to rescue her from my hands.
I will punish her for all those times
when she burned incense to her images of Baal,
when she put on her earrings and jewels
and went out to look for her lovers
but forgot all about me,”
says the Lord.
“But then I will win her back once again.
I will lead her into the desert
and speak tenderly to her there.
I will return her vineyards to her
and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope.
She will give herself to me there,
as she did long ago when she was young,
when I freed her from her captivity in Egypt.
When that day comes,” says the Lord,
“you will call me ‘my husband’
instead of ‘my master.’
I will make you my wife forever,
showing you righteousness and justice,
unfailing love and compassion.
I will be faithful to you and make you mine,
and you will finally know me as the Lord.”
(Hosea 2:8, 10, 13-16, 19, 20 NLT)

 

We are Gomer.
We are unfaithful.
We sell the gifts God gave us for our own personal gain.
We dress up for the world.

But He wins us back.
He shows us righteousness and justice.
He gives us unfailing love and compassion.
He makes us His own so that we can know Him.

Hosea’s Wife, by Brooke Fraser…

And here is a great blog explaining more about the life of Gomer and how we relate to her:  http://facultyblog.eternitybiblecollege.com/2012/04/meet-gomer/

Happy Birthday, beautiful girl

Hi, baby girl!  Today, you are 13.

Abbey 13

I wish I could remember years 2-11 as well as I remember the time leading up to your arrival, the first 23 months of your life, and the last two!

I anticipated your birth with a yearning I had never know up to that point. I thought of you all day, wrote you letters, sang to you, talked to you.  I simply couldn’t wait until you were in my arms and in front of my eyes!

Four weeks before you were due, we had the bright idea to go to downtown Dallas and see a Mavericks game with our church, Hope Fellowship.  We ate at a Mexican restaurant with Mimi, Tiger, and Shelby and then went to the game.  It came a complete monsoon rain.  We parked in the wrong place and ended up walking up a set of stairs, across an overpass, and back down a set of stairs before arriving at the stadium.  Once we got to the arena, I started feeling funny – having contractions, etc.  The next day was my regular checkup and, unfortunately, my blood pressure was up pretty high… so, the doctor put me on bedrest.  😦  I was pretty bummed because we were out in the middle of nowhere.  Nash, our beagle, kept me company.  So did the cows, ha ha.  During those 4 weeks, we didn’t have cable and relied on rabbit ears (which you have no idea of) and I got really addicted to reruns of Mad About You and Caroline in the City – the only shows I could get to come in clearly.  The commercial for Ross (shop-shopping… shopping at Ross) will forever live on in my memory, as it played no less than 50 times a day. But I never felt “alone” because you were with me.

At the end of the 4 weeks, I woke up on April 22nd with a really bad headache.  Figuring this wasn’t a very good sign, daddy took me to the hospital.  Sure enough, my blood pressure was very high, and the doctor admitted me around mid-day.  At midnight, the doctor decided I needed to be induced.  Hey, it was Easter!  And at 5:33am, just as the sun was rising on a new day, you made you grand entrance into this world – changing ours forever.

I will never ever ever forget the moment I laid eyes on you for the first time.  I said “She’s so beautiful!” and I started to cry.  So did you, ha ha.  My goodness, you were cute!  I thought you had the most amazingly gorgeous eyebrows I’d ever seen on a baby.  I know that sounds strange, but it’s true.  And as they took you over to clean you up a little bit, you cried this cute little cry where you trilled your tongue (something you cannot to this day replicate, oddly enough!) and I was a goner.  Completely in love.  100%.  Finally, they bundled you up like a burrito and laid you in my arms.  You looked at me with the most serious, wide eyes, like you knew exactly who I was.  Even though you had lived in my tummy for 9 months, in that moment we had found each other.

April 23, 2000 was the best Easter ever.  Your first full day as my baby.  It’s incomprehensible to me how much of your present-day personality was revealed to me in that first 24 hours.  I have a picture of you actually smiling at me that first day – I’ll try to find it and insert it here.   You were a “toucher” from day one, and that hasn’t changed.  When you were a few months old, I would lie in bed on my side and nurse you and it was at this point that you started doing something that you do to this very day whenever you need comfort – tickle-scratching the back of my arm.  I probably first noticed it when you were about 4 months old and it was the absolute sweetest thing.

For the first 23 months of your life, it was mostly you and me, kiddo.  Poor daddy worked – A LOT – so you and I were as close as close could be.  You were my best friend.  (still are!!!)  We did everything together – grocery-shopped, sang, laughed, read books… whatever.  Oh!  This is no exaggeration whatsoever:  When you were about 3 months old, I would sing this song to you, “Baby” from the Maltby & Shire musical, Closer, and YOU TRIED TO SING ALONG WITH ME.  It was the most amazing thing.  You would concentrate so hard on my mouth while I sang and you would make little cooing noises to go along with it.  Even then, you had the most beautiful voice.  Seriously, your tone was angelic.

When you were around 15 months old, I got pregnant with Luke.  Eventually, I got so big with him that all I wanted to do was lie on the couch… but you wanted to play, so we compromised.  We had these little A-Z Sesame Street books.  You would bring me book after book over to the couch and no matter what, I read whatever book you put in my face.  Over and over.  I truly believe that’s why you’re so stinkin’ smart today!!!  LOL  You can thank your brother.  😉

So, yes, eventually Luke came along and you were (and still are) the best big sister.  And then not long after that, we moved (back to) Nashville and Lincoln was born.  Here’s where life got really complicated – with Lincoln being extremely ill, and living in a new place – it seems that you went from being my baby to being my little girl in the blink of an eye.  And I feel like I somehow missed it.  I tried, really hard, to cherish every single moment.  To burn every memory into my brain… but it was just too hard.  Even so, certain things stand out in my mind, like how nurturing, competent and generous you always were.  That hasn’t changed!

But enough about the past… let’s talk about now.  Let’s talk about the future.

Sweet girl, I cannot imagine having a more wonderful daughter.  God out-did Himself when he gave you to daddy and me.  No matter what we prayed for… no matter what we imagined… you surpass it all.  You are kind.  You are smart.  You are important.  LOL, no really!  You are!  We watch you handle situations with a grace and maturity that defy your 13 (!!!!!) years.  You love the Lord and are dedicated to serving Him.  You are a loyal friend.  You are FUN… and funny.  You are so talented.  You are a worshiper.  You look at what’s in people’s hearts and treat others with respect and dignity.  And the best part is, I don’t think you have any idea how awesome you are!  Yes, you are confident…  but it comes from knowing who you are in Christ, and that’s a far cry from being self-centered or conceited.  Look, I know you’re not perfect… but you’re pretty spectacular, and we love you!!!!

Now, to the future.  I have so many hopes and dreams for you, sweet girl!!!  I feel that my heart will burst sometimes when I think of all that God has in store for you.  One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Psalm 139.  I pray this over you, inserting your name as is appropriate:

Lord, you have examined me. You know me. You know when I sit down and when I stand up. Even from far away, you comprehend my plans. You study my traveling and resting. You are thoroughly familiar with all my ways. There isn’t a word on my tongue, Lord, that you don’t already know completely. You surround me—front and back. You put your hand on me. That kind of knowledge is too much for me; it’s so high above me that I can’t fathom it. Where could I go to get away from your spirit? Where could I go to escape your presence? If I went up to heaven, you would be there. If I went down to the grave, you would be there too! If I could fly on the wings of dawn, stopping to rest only on the far side of the ocean— even there your hand would guide me; even there your strong hand would hold me tight! If I said, “The darkness will definitely hide me; the light will become night around me,” even then the darkness isn’t too dark for you! Nighttime would shine bright as day, because darkness is the same as light to you! You are the one who created my innermost parts; you knit me together while I was still in my mother’s womb. I give thanks to you that I was marvelously set apart. Your works are wonderful—I know that very well. My bones weren’t hidden from you when I was being put together in a secret place, when I was being woven together in the deep parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my embryo, and on your scroll every day was written that was being formed for me, before any one of them had yet happened. God, your plans are incomprehensible to me! Their total number is countless! If I tried to count them—they outnumber grains of sand! If I came to the very end—I’d still be with you. (Psalms 139:1-18 CEB)

My prayer is that you’ll always know how much God loves you and how intimately He created you.  He knows you.  He loves you.  He has a plan for you and that plan is amazing.  Trust in Him always.  Make room for the Holy Spirit every day.  Leave room for the extraordinary in every day.  When you wake up, just pause and ask “What do you have for me today, God? How would you like to use me?”  I promise you, your life will be more content and fulfilled than you could possibly imagine when you seek Him first.

I love you, baby girl, and I’m so excited for your teenage years.  Every stage with you is a blessing.  You are a blessing!  We thank God for you every day.

Love,
Mama

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Being Carried

There is that moment when everything shifts… when the unexpected leaves you feeling overwhelmed, ill-equipped and unprepared.

There is the initial feeling of panic. The sick feeling… the fear that maybe, just maybe – for all your posturing and posing – the enemy may have just won… at least this round.

And then it happens. You feel yourself being carried. Carried, effortlessly, by the One who creates. The One who provides. The One who equips in spite of panic.

His will be done.

Being carried is so much better, you realize. So much better than anything. So energizing and exhilarating, and mind-blowingly awesome.

So you wonder, why can’t I be carried all the time? It’s better!
And then He answers: I go before you and behind you… I give you just enough grace for today. Where your strength ends, Mine begins. I carry you when you need it, because it is then that you are closest to My face.

It is then that you’re reminded of when your kids were babies.
Allowing them to walk as much as possible – sometimes allowing them to tumble, scrape, and wobble – because it was through the falling down that they learned, gained strength and found balance.
When there was danger ahead or they became weary, that when you picked them up – holding them close… feeling their breath on your face as they nuzzled you in complete trust.

It’s like that with God. My God. The lover of my soul and lifter of my head. He carries me… IS carrying me. And for that, I’m very thankful.

I carried you when you were born, and I will still be carrying you when you are old. Your hair will turn gray, and I will still carry you. I made you, and I will carry you to safety. (Isaiah 46:3-4)

The LORD your God is going before you. He will fight for you just as he fought for you in Egypt while you watched, and as you saw him do in the desert. Throughout your entire journey, until you reached this very place, the LORD your God has carried you just as a parent carries a child. (Deuteronomy 1:30-31)