Saturday, January 14, 2017

When Kids Talk with their Eyes


"I wish I could have a whole conversation with him about these things, see what he thinks about them."
"Well Dad, take him to dinner. If you offer Chipotle he won't turn you down, and you'll have his undivided attention over a grilled chicken burrito."
"He has time for that? Dinner? Ok if he misses time with you all?"
"Um... yes!"

And so they did. Last week Dad texted Branson for a Wednesday night Chipotle date, sent him a copy of the article he wanted to discuss, and asked Bran to read it before they met. I hadn't read the article, didn't know what was on Dad's heart. I didn't need to. As far as I was concerned, it was between him and Bran. All I heard from my end was, "Cappy wants to take me to dinner," and off they went.

In her book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, Rosaria Butterfield describes bringing a young orphan into their home. This little boy, "J," had been horrifically abused by his own family, rejected by multiple foster families, and was labeled mute and mentally retarded.

As Rosaria prayed with her children and prepared them for J's arrival, she confessed her fear about communicating with this child who could not talk. Her young son, Knox gave her that look and said, "Mom, kids talk with their eyes. We will understand him."

The Butterfields spent a week embracing this little guy, welcoming them into their home, dressing him in clean clothes and shoes that were not two sizes too small, drawing him into homeschool lessons around a sunny table, and allowing him to relax and engage in a warm family. Within just a couple of days J demonstrated his bright mind and began to talk.  Rosaria writes,
Jesus is the word made flesh. We take the role of words for granted, we for whom literacy is as common as dirt. I don't think we "taught" J how to talk that week... I think what really happened is that God sanctified and then answered our prayers. We prayed that J would talk, but God taught us to listen and respond to a scared boy who at first talked with his eyes. Then, I think when we learned to listen, it became safe for J to talk. That is, I believe, the bottom line of the Christian life.
When Branson walked in the door from Chipotle after his couple of hours with my dad, the rest of us were shuffling around the kitchen eating our dinner.
"How'd it go?" I asked.
Bran's bright eyes shone with invigoration, "Cappy and I think alike. We're going to write a book."
"Wow ~ what'd y'all talk about?" I knew it was a ridiculous question, a poor assumption that Branson could actually relay their discussion as our kitchen buzzed with plates and forks clinking, ESPN filling the background, and our kids needling each other with complaints of smacking and taking too much food.
But even so, Bran pulled out his phone and checked his notes for accuracy, "A person is about as happy as they decide to be."

Well, that's interesting, considering my primary prayers for this kid have been wrapped around contentment.

A couple of days later as I got to catch up with Dad, he said he started their dinner conversation with one idea of how things would go, but after asking Bran some questions and getting a feel for how he was doing, it went in quite a different direction. Instead of lecturing and teaching, Dad asked and listened. He took the time to let Bran relax and engage. And even though Dad was able to share some of the article and challenge Bran a bit, what Dad seemed to enjoy most was how much he learned from his teenage grandson. Listening and collaborating and learning.

"Ton, I saw his eyes take it in. All that I was trying to communicate. He got it."

Whether it's 8-year-old "J" surfacing from turbulence and neglect, or 16-year-old Branson figuring out where he fits, at times each of us are without words, needing to be heard and listened to when we talk with our eyes.

I can't replicate Dad's conversation with Bran. It's a role that only Cappy could fill. I see Papa doing something similar as he takes our boys fishing and to the movies, engaging in a way that allows them to relax and engage. I've seen our Young Life leaders and church youth leaders and friends do the same ~ building relationships with our kids that allow them to relax and engage and speak with their eyes when they need to. 

As Rosaria said, "This, I believe, is the bottom line of the Christian life."
I could not agree more.

Bran and Cappy, circa 2006

Monday, December 5, 2016

What Advent Asks ~ Do we really know this Jesus?

Several years ago a friend asked me to write a devotional on Mark chapter 1, and this is what came out. It's the account of Jesus healing Simon Peter's mother-in-law. This was not intended for Christmas time, but each year Advent asks of me, do I really know Jesus? Do my affections for this man I've never met face to face, but have felt in my heart, line up with my words about him?
This is simply my perspective on a particular dimension of how God's Word describes Jesus. I pray we continue to open our eyes and hearts to grow to know and love Jesus well, to see his evidence in our lives.

My dad's favorite ~ Akiane Kramarik's painting of Jesus

This Man Called Jesus

Even with dusk approaching, sunlight streams into the open windows of Mama’s room. The merciless heat shrouds me like a heavy blanket. Mama’s fatigued, shallow breathing fills the room, her weary lungs grasping for more air. Limp and thin, her body occupies a straight, unmoving lump under the pile of blankets and offers no hint of recovery. I examine her gentle face which appears impossibly aged from the course of just one week: rosy cheeks now gray and hollow and sunken, dark circles encasing her once-bright eyes.
Where did this fever come from? With each day it grows more and more tenacious for claiming Mama’s life. Was it someone she spoke with at market? Someone’s hand she took in a warm embrace who unknowingly passed on this disease?
I glance out the window upon hearing my husband’s voice in the distance. Mingled with a far-away child’s cry and the bustle of marketplace shoppers, I hear Simon’s excited, boisterous talk above the others. Thank God he’s home. He and Andrew have no idea how bad Mama is, how this terrible, relentless fever racks her body. Wringing water from the rag for a thousandth time, I place the wet towel across Mama’s forehead and lean to kiss her before running to the door.
Wait, who are all these men? I can make out John and James, and of course there’s Andrew, but who is this other man?
It must be Jesus.
Well, this is not the time. Not the time to prepare a meal and entertain Simon’s new friend. I have no bread prepared, and barely enough water for cleaning hands and feet. Our home is a mess. Every bit of my energy is poured out for fighting Mama’s fever.
And anyway, I don’t know what to think about Jesus. He asked Simon to give up his life’s work of fishing - and Simon said yes! How does my husband expect his and Andrew’s new “work” of walking from town to town with Jesus to put bread on the table? People are starting to talk - even my friends question Simon’s loyalty to this strange man.
As they approach, my relief with Simon’s presence overrides my frustration with his days-long absence. I run to meet him on the road.
“Simon, come quick! It’s Mama!”
He reaches to embrace me, but sees my distress and instead races toward the house.  Andrew’s face flushes with concern, and James and John and the stranger hurry close behind.
Back in Mama’s room, Simon asks his friend Jesus for help. Jesus?!  To help my Mama? I didn’t ask for this man! Without hesitating, Jesus goes to the bedside and takes hold of Mama’s hand. He folds his dusty, dirt-caked hands over Mama’s limp palms, bending over the bed and leaning in close to her face. I watch him watching her, and something in me relaxes.
This Jesus has gentle eyes. Gentle eyes and strong hands that seem to embrace Mama with tenderness and authority all mixed together. Mama’s eyes flutter open, the first time all day. She gazes at Jesus and smiles a faint smile, and he lifts her to sitting.  Before I can say a word, Jesus pulls back those stagnant covers and helps Mama stand on the rug by her bed.  Her eyes are twinkling, and I rush through the men to hold her. I press my face to hers. Gone is burning heat of fever, replaced with the warmth of restored health.
I glance across the room to Jesus, now leaning against the doorway, this mysterious man who in one touch healed Mama. Who is this man? Simon trusts him, says he’s a man of God and has come to bring hope to the brokenhearted and freedom to prisoners; to restore sight to the blind and the make the lame walk and preach good news to the poor. The people in our town whisper all kinds of things. But looking again into those gentle eyes, I realize that I have already begun to trust this man called Jesus.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Recounting the Miracle of Basden


Running into the mall yesterday to grab a makeup bag for Basden, even the nature of her gift screamed "teenager!" I flew through the food court to grab Chick Fil A, her requested birthday lunch, thinking of Basden's bright, generous smile.
Sporting a day-old pony tail, no makeup, and running shorts, I noticed two women and younger girl move into line behind me, and how nice they all looked.
I glanced back with a smile, "Wow, you all look beautiful."
They smiled back, awkward but kind.
What's her name?" I asked of the daughter.
"Millie, and yes, she loves fashion."
I admired Millie's sparkly hair bow, her carefully combed and styled hair, her cute red dress, and those black boots adorned with sequins.
"She's eighteen," her mom said.
Taking my food, I told that sweet girl, "Well Millie, you look fabulous." Millie's eyes met mine but with no visible response, her expression rather blank and her mouth drawn into a taut line, her lips unable to speak words that her mind could likely process. She lay leaned way back in her wheelchair, not able to sit upright, her hands resting on the chair's arms, unmoving.

I choked back threatening sobs as I walked towards my car. Sweet Millie. The encounter ushered a fresh realization of Basden's health even after all these years.

It’s never too late to recount a miracle.
Especially when that blonde, blue-eyed miracle lives up to her (middle) name, JOY, and brings so much of it into our lives.


Basden Joy Wilson.
Thirteen years old this week.
Thirteen years of recounting the miracle that for some reason God decided to give us ~ her deliverance from a debilitating syndrome that may have snuffed out her young life soon after birth.

As we anticipated the birth of this baby girl, prepared a nursery full of dainty, feminine decorations and ruffly dresses, the Lord allowed us to wade through Basden's pregnancy with her diagnosis of Dandy Walker Syndrome ~ a rather rare disorder characterized by excess fluid on her brain and a ventricle that was forming abnormally.  Dandy Walker wreaks a variety of side effects ~ everything from mild cases that require a brain shunt put in after birth, to severe mental retardation and death. It was a waiting game, and we wouldn’t know how severe her case would be until after she was born.

There’s a real weight that comes with the realization that your unborn child is not forming normally. It’s fearful and endearing all at the same time.

Our family and friends knew of the diagnosis, and we felt tremendous support for Basden’s life and health. I knew she was covered in prayer, and that the Lord was designing her perfectly and exactly to His specifications. But as strangers congratulated me on my growing belly, and asked boy or girl, due date, etc., I kept the unknowns of her health in my heart, and it was nice to pretend in those moments that all was just fine. It helped to celebrate the upcoming birth of this baby, special needs or not, with strangers who didn’t know the fears tangled in my heart.

At the time I was walking regularly with a friend, Darby, who I’d asked a couple years prior to meet with me. I’d admired Darby through high school and even as I’d come home during college, she would jot a note on an envelope in the church pew and pass it to me as the service ended. Darby is one of those people whose words and thoughts are so intertwined with Scripture, that I just wanted more of her in my life. Darby has four amazing boys, one about my age, and her youngest, a teenager at the time, was born with Down Syndrome.

So the minute I saw the sonographer’s expression fall in that initial “bad” appointment, I’d been exposed to a couple of years hearing of weekly updates of Jordan’s antics, and the beauty of raising a kiddo who so brilliantly and effortlessly displays God’s grace.

In addition to Darby, our family held a soft spot and expertise with children with special needs. My mom was immersed daily in fighting for special needs children as a diagnostician and school administrator, and Corbin’s sister worked with some severely diasbled children and spent her winters teaching special needs kids how to ski. Of course the Lord was going to give us a gift of a special child!

The best way I can describe Basden’s pregnancy was that poem of the footprints in the sand ~ I felt like I was carried. I felt an umbrella of grief and uncertainty, but there was much hope and trust in that umbrella too. And the best gift, besides Corbin and so much family support, was peace. I really believed the Lord knew what He was doing, and that it was good. And that he would equip me one day at a time. So looking back, I felt carried during that time ~ carried with peace and trust that I couldn’t have manufactured if I’d tried, it was His gift to me.

One of the biggest things I learned from Darby was that, “Until that baby is in your arms, you don’t have the grace to deal with the fears that surface.” It helped me keep an open hand and push away fear of the unknown. I had opted during early pregnancy to not have special screenings for malformations. I didn’t go online to learn all about Dandy Walker Syndrome, because I knew that would promote more fear than it would truly prepare me. We would not know until she was born what her true complications were, and I wanted no part in borrowing worry about something that we didn’t need to deal with anyway. I knew that I would be provided resources and knowledge and help as I held that babe in my arms and truly knew her.

Another nugget from Darby, one that gave me hope ~ "Many of the things the Lord asks of us to struggle through, to give to Him with an open hand, never actually come to fruition."

Around 2am on November 15th, her actual due date, Basden came into this world quickly and without complication. Even during labor, I knew she was just perfect.
Now, that may not have meant perfect in the world’s eyes, but she was perfect.


I held that precious little thing in my arms all night and was so grateful for this beautiful, perfect baby girl, and I also knew there was something incredibly special about her. That the Lord’s hand was on her. And that her hours-old heart was drawn to him.

An MRI at 48 hours old demonstrated what I already knew ~ that she was perfect. And her brain, which in 4D photos two days before her birth showed extra fluid and an unformed ventricle, was perfect.

We watched her milestones with an extra measure of gratitude: signing “more” and “please” with those chubby little hands; laughing and cackling at her brothers; taking those wobbly first steps; learning to read; memorizing songs and poems and Bible verses. She was amazing!

Several months into Basden's (SUPER-easy) infancy, I had kind of convinced myself that she was never really diagnosed with Dandy Walker syndrome, that it wasn’t that serious. At six months old, I took Basden and a homemade pound cake to the high-risk doctors' office as a thank you. Walking into their office, my heart raced, and the difficult emotions I’d felt during pregnancy washed over me. The two physicians passed Basden back and forth, in awe of her perfect round head and enormous blue eyes tracking with them, her laugh and her clear intelligence and health. They looked at me and said, “Wow, she is a miracle. We would have never guessed it. We never expected this ~ something changed in the two days before she was born, because there’s no medical explanation.”




 




Basden Joy, I love you. On this thirteen birthday, in more ways than one, I pray you recognize that God perfectly created you to His specifications. So very grateful for thirteen years of recounting His miracle of you. 
 



Thursday, November 10, 2016

There is no other Hudda


When I began this blog more than ten years ago, I wrote all of the kids birthday letters. Like many things I do, it was hit or miss at best. So over the years as I've printed this blog out in the form of books, Hudson has searched the November portions of the books only to find a measly book review or two falling around his birthday.

Poor Hud.
For missing all those birthday posts, I'm sorry. It's certainly not because I've got a lack of words to describe you.

In fact, looking through my "draft" posts (of which there are plenty), I found some treasures never published.

So... HERE IS YOUR 15th BIRTHDAY POST!! I did it!! Backtracking to those drafts, just for memories' sake, and for this momma they're worth remembering. 

A few memories of our 6-year-old Hud:

- Auntie Paulette asked you to make her a Christmas list so she could buy you exactly what you wanted. Instead, you tried to think of things she might want ~ a trip to New Mexico? Disneyland? After exhausting the possibilities, you climbed up in my lap and cried when you couldn't think of something specific for her. And as for your gift list, "Mom, I just don't want her to waste her money on toys for me, when there are so many other important things to buy."

- Closely examining the two tech decks (skateboards) for which one you liked more ~ then promptly putting the "best" one in a box for a friend to take to the hospital

- Patient ~ and truly interested ~ in playing PetShop with Basden

- Finding your yellow "I love you mom" post-it notes on my desk

- Reading The Bear That Heard Crying and your comment, "Mom, I'd rather die searching for Sarah in those woods all day than just to sit by and give up looking for her."
Yes, I know you would, Hud.

- Generous with many things, but not with one-on-one time with me or dad. If Basden, Essie or Bran try to forge in on our one-on-one time, you become rather territorial.

- We never know who we're going to wake up to ~ is it the happy, quick-to-get-dressed, excited for school Hudson? Or the grumpy, say-anything-to-me-and-I'll-bite-your-head-off Hud? Just never know.

- Watching you read to Basden and Esther

- Finding you assembling Star Wars lego ships on our bed ~ away from the chaos of everyone downstairs

- Your intensity on any field ~ baseball, football, or the basketball court. Not just physically, but you've got your head in the game. You pay attention and know exactly what's going on all around you.

- Your flexibility and willingness to go with the flow: "Can I be Anakin for Halloween since we already have a costume?"

- my Sunshine.
You still kind of sleep like this, too



You two



A few memories of our 7-year-old Hud:

- I am so proud of you
- You are so easy to live with, and you have such a sweetness about your temperament
- Thank you for being the first to say, “I can help you” to me or your younger sisters with anything
- I love that you love to work with your hands ~ outside with wood, inside with needle and thread
- You don't wash your hands, you scrub in. Eight minutes and hot water to get rid of the germs
- You braid ropes, my hair, or even Basden's. You are naturally interested in the process of braiding - of creating something
- You're eager and willing to read books to your sisters for me (so helpful!!!)
 - You were so, so excited about making baseball All Stars, and then disappointed when we decided this wasn’t the year for you to play. But you seemed to understand it was best for our family, and you were thoughtful in expressing frustration. Thank you.
- I love your love for nature, for bugs and plants and birds and animals
- You love to read and draw
- At Half-price books, you spread out on the carpet with art history books and take in the colorful paintings
- You take your vitamins every night, usually without having to be asked
- You brush your teeth thoroughly
- You HATE your headgear, understandably

Just like when you were a one-year-old toddler, you still need to be held tightly to be calmed down.

You surprised me with your lack of enthusiasm for homeschooling this year, but you've been a trooper. You miss your friends ~ and I miss that you're missing your friends. I get that. But it's been a tremendous treasure for our family to slow down, and you've thrived in that.

You've told me twice, "Mom, I don't want to hurt your feelings, but the thing I don't like about homeschool is that there's too much freedom" (that's the teacher you were stuck with!)

Our motto this fall: "I can." You get pretty discouraged when something doesn't come easily, or if a task is overwhelming, and we've worked hard on perseverance and not quitting. Attitude is everything. And you CAN do it.

You make friends easily, and feel very bonded to your good friends. But you like to keep it small.

Recently you asked me about Heaven: "Mom, do you think we get to throw flames from our hands?" Hmnnnn...

Basden whispered to me this week that she knows she can't, but she wished she could marry you. "He takes good care of me, Mom."
So proud of that Red Cap you slept in it (how can we ever thank Mr. Redwine??!)
Triple threat


Oh my word - so now that you are turning FIFTEEN... what else do I have to say??! I see the threads of all of these and more in you, Hudda.
On one hand, I can't believe you're fifteen.
But at the same time I keep forgetting you're not already older than that.

How many times have I thrown you the keys, asking you to drive a tired Momma home ~ you'd do just fine.

I love hearing stories of how you set up camp at KIVU or in NM... strategic and systematic and thorough... no surprise.

We still aren't quite sure who we're going to wake up to. Especially if it's uber-early for football. Twice this fall you've gotten pretty agitated in the morning, and both times it's been over socks (!). But most every morning you get up and stumble around and manage to get out the door into the dark wee hours of the morning with everything you need for the day. All is well as long as I don't try to make conversation (which is fine, because you got your morning-ness straight from me).



 

One of my all-time favs
Love watching you as a teen leader at kids camp ~ ALL IN
You've got some good friends
Lots of good friends. It's a gift.

Just a few things to describe you on the cusp of fifteen...
Leader
Kind
Inventor
Patient
Thoughtful
Strategic
Always looking for ways to improve things or systems
Slow to complain
Content
Sometimes you're the up-front guy, the student body president, making morning announcements all year
...yet often you're making just as strong (though not quiet) an impact from the dugout


Your drive to succeed academically astounds me




Who knew "Grandpa" would be so fast?!


- I have loved your attitude in football - even with dismal losses, week after week you're enthusiastic about going up against skilled players and hard teams
- I love you for spending 30 minutes last week trying to fix Blakely's carseat in Daboo's car -in the dark - when the rest of us gave up
- I love you for extending kindness, even when ridiculed, to someone who needed to fit in
- I love your appreciation for photography and good art (First Breakfast)
- I love that you want to either be a neurosurgeon or a National Geographic Photographer.

I love, love, love the privilege of living life with you and getting to be your mom.

Happy 15th, Hudson James. There is no other Hudda, no one just like you.
You are an amazing original.
You are my sunshine.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

And I Thought I Loved You Then ~ Happy Birthday Corbin!

Corbin ~ on this happy birthday ~ I'm taking an opportunity to pause and remember how smart I was to marry you. Now that I've spent half of my life as your wife, there are a few things I didn't realize I was getting in a husband when I said "I do."

Storyteller
Adventurer
Wrestler
...and then when they got big, you humored them as they showed off their muscles
Rescuer. Ready to help those in need... here, a drenched and terrified Ruby
Comforter
Date planner (extraordinaire)
Tutor. Available. I'm sure you had just walked in from work
Listener. I just love the expressions on both of your sweet faces
Hair trimmer
...many, many

...many times
All-in. Helping me decorate, helping kids decorate, you just make things more fun
Delighted father. Win or lose, you're always proud of our kiddos
Oak tree. As in, no matter how many times Branson asked for a phone in 5th grade, you remained strong, unwavering. This pic ~ taken at the 5th grade lunch when his friends began unwrapping their new iphones as "graduation" gifts... little did he (or we) know he'd have to wait until EIGHTH grade (this may be the only time you could be caught smiling in all those conversations)
Security provider
Catapulter
Babysitter. Sunday after church at Chipoltle, and we couldn't all fit at one table. You seated yourself at the kids' table, while the rest of us ate our adult lunches across the restaurant
Teacher. In this case, how to fold cloth napkins for the Thanksgiving meal
Helper. Late night, post-football game for our big 8th grader, and he had a LOAD of homework. You stayed and worked alongside Bran as I dragged myself upstairs to fall in bed 
Trainer. And playmate. Hudda in that batting helmet...
Devotional attempter... 

Instructor. Chances are you started to leave for a run when this little one wanted to "join you on her bike"
Load-bearer
Available. How many times did you meet us at a park during lunch to get some play time in with the kiddos?
Accessible. Your Sunday ritual ~ that was really never a ritual ~ sitting down to read the paper. And Essie totally plopped down in the MIDDLE OF IT to get your attention. Good thing she's cute
Provider.
Out-of-the-box thinker. This ~ because it's just too much. Kudos to BOTH of us for letting her leave for church like this
Caretaker. Even in the SNOW. I probably took this pic from the porch snuggled in a blanket holding a hot cup of coffee.
Smoocher. Fits and fits of giggles.
The constant I see in all of these (mostly candid) pictures is selflessness. Thank you for living with me in an understanding way, living with all of us in such a way that you are giving, giving, giving. We are happy recipients of your generous heart.
Thinking back to that summer twenty years ago, to borrow Brad Paisley's lyrics... We've come so far since that day... and I thought I loved you then. 
Happy, happy 46th birthday, Corbin!