Monday, December 27, 2010

Happy Seventh Birthday, Basden Joy

Again, this birthday letter just a little tardy... just spreading out our celebrating.

Girl, you are a sweetheart. As my friend Kellie would say, you are sugar. Just that sweet. I love your shy smile. I love your loud, uninhibited laugh. I love riding the big swing with you at mother/daughter retreat. I don’t think I’ve ever heard you laugh as hard as on that crazy swing. I love watching you light up around horses. I smile each time you expertly turn cartwheel after cartwheel. Straight legs, pointed toes, your body rotating in a perfect line.

I loved teaching you how to ride a bike. Well, I loved it when you got it. Thank goodness Daboo was there, because the experience proved more than just a little challenging. You were scared, fearful, and unsure of yourself. Despite your usual confident personality, I have seen this fear with physical challenges before. I don’t know if you’re more afraid of failure or of getting hurt - or both - but you totally overcame it. On a cool day at Bourland a few months ago, we finally took the time to get out your bike and learn how to ride it. Watching your success, working hard at something that didn't come easy, thrilled my heart. You got to where you actually enjoyed the dips and loops that came with a sharp turn of the handlebars. As your confidence grew, so did your joy in riding.

Even though you are now a big first grader, this is your first year going to “real school” - seven hours a day, five days a week. And it’s been a transition. Even with a great teacher and sweet kids in your class, I can tell the bigness of the school overwhelms you a bit, which makes me even more grateful for a couple of big, protective brothers.

You are quick to smile, quick to laugh - hard - and easy to be with. You happily wear the clothes I pick out (most of the time). We've seen you begin to assert yourself with our family especially. While it's taken some energy and effort to work through some conflict,  I'm thankful to see you draw the line, to stand up for yourself, as it will benefit you in the years ahead. My deepest prayer for you right now is that your confidence comes from Jesus, your identity from Him. That as these next few years speed past us and you grow from child to young woman, you will know and appreciate and desire your Father's nearness.

You have for seven years now been my little joy. I love you dearly and fully - and I love being associated with you. I smile at our future, sweet girl - happy seventh birthday to you. I love you with my whole heart!


Saturday, December 25, 2010

My Revised Christmas List

My Revised Christmas List
by Ruth Bell Graham

Let me offer for our consideration a revised shopping list -

This Christmas I am giving my parents more loving appreciation for the years of time and effort  - yes, and money - that they invested in me, so much of which I took for granted.

To my neighbors - nice or not - I will give thoughtful consideration. I will be slow to gossip, quick to sympathize, ready to help - praying all the while that God will give them the necessary patience to live next to me.

To those who serve me in restaurants or shops - grumpy or obliging, taciturn or otherwise - I will be courteous, friendly, interested, remembering: If I worked so long for so little, if my back ached and my feet hurt, and if when I got home I still had supper to prepare, I too would be grumpy, taciturn, or otherwise.

To all I meet - remembering that each carries burdens known only to himself, and some too big to cope with - I will say the kind things I want (but hesitate) to say. I will tell them the nice things I've heard about them. I will express my appreciation warmly. If there's nothing nice to say - I'll do more than keep my mouth shut sweetly, I'll find something nice to say.

To my husband - remembering how much he has had to put up with and for how long - I will give a frank, honest appraisal of myself. I will remember that happy marriages just don't happen. They are the result of good hard work. Then I will take my Bible and reread those timeworn, ageless passages that speak of love and marriage and the responsibilities of privileges of wives. Sensible, delightful, down-to-earth passages, which if any woman would follow would make her husband the happiest, most contented man on earth.

To my children - this Christmas I will be more articulate in my love and my appreciation of them as persons. If I cannot give them a perfect mother I can at least give them more of the one they've got - and make that one more loving. I will be available, knowing that a mother needs, like God, to be a "very present help in trouble." I will take time to listen, time to play. Time to counsel and encourage. In a world of confusion and uncertainties, I will give them the eternal verities of the Word of God. I will try to help them cast their anchor on the goodness and mercy of God.

This is my revised list for Christmas. And through this type of giving, grows the giver.
- Decision, December 1965, "This, Too, I Shall Give"

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Mother's Prayer

My heart has rested heavy this week in thoughts of my children.
They're a great kids.
But they keep me dependent in needing to see God's hand in their lives. Dependent that the Holy Spirit will speak to them in a way that their young hearts can understand. Dependent that we're not screwing them up with our parenting, coming down too hard sometimes, too softly others. So I'm once again encouraged by these few lovely stanzas, beautiful and haunting, written by Ruth Bell Graham. I cannot begin to relate to any of these Mothers mentioned, but I find relief that the Lord sees every detail, both in my family and in other families suffering great trials, and will work those details for His best.

A Mother’s Prayer

Had I been Joseph’s mother
I’d have prayed
protection from his brothers:
“God, keep him safe;
He is so young,
so different from
the others.”
Mercifully she never knew
there would be slavery
and prison, too.

Had I been Moses’ mother
I’d have wept
to keep my little son;
praying she might forget
the babe drawn from the water
of the Nile,
had I not kept
him for her
nursing him the while?
Was he not mine
and she
but Pharaoh’s daughter?...

Had I been Mary -
Oh, had I been she,
I would have cried,
“....Anything, O God,
but crucified!”

With such prayers
my finite wisdom
would assail
Infinite Wisdom;
God, how fortunate
Infinite Wisdom
should prevail!

Nine going on Nine

Nevermind that it's a month and fourteen days late... a birthday letter to my boy... 
Merry Christmas, y'all!

Happy 9th birthday, sweet Hud.

Unlike your big brother, you really are nine at nine. You act nine, look nine, and play with kids and toys like I think a typical nine-year-old boy would. You get excited about nerf gun wars, drawing a really good picture of an eagle, completing the entire math minute on time, and reading good stories. You beg to be the one Basden reads to at night, and actually offer to help me in the kitchen. You enjoy slicing and sauteeing as much as you enjoy throwing a football (well, almost).

I love watching your intensity and leadership on the baseball diamond, and was caught off guard this fall with your tackling tenacity in football. I love seeing your maturity with your older brother, that while you remain his shadow and want to be where he is, you’re learning to stand up to him, to ignore him when appropriate, and you’ve shown him that you’re just not as affected by his provoking antics as you once were. It makes our home more pleasant, and it’s taught Bran to leave you alone. Most of the time.

Hud, you might always be a germaphobe. Daddy and I laugh that not only are you the only one who washes hands without being asked, you actually scrub in. Eight minutes with hot, soapy water. I love that you love to work with your hands. Over the years it’s been legos and drawing and magnetix, but more recently you’re into balloon twisting and oragami and anything else where you can use you hands to make something of nothing. You are not only creating paper and rubberband guns, but modifying the design into an improved creation, experimenting to make the guns shoot further and faster (sound like anyone else we know?)

   But I love, love, love your tender heart, and that it’s full of compassion and love for strangers and friends alike. It’s a gift to have a heart like that. Most people can grow their heart to be selfless over years of discipline and sacrifice and learning to put others first. But yours is a gift. God gave you extra measures of gentleness and love and patience and compassion. And I recognize it perfectly, because your Daddy has the same heart. And while it makes you a precious son and brother and grandson and cousin and friend right now, it will one day prove you an extra-incredible husband and father. 


I’m so proud of you, Hud, and I’m so thankful I get to be your mommy. So thankful. I love you with my whole heart - happy, happy ninth birthday to my sunshine!

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Daddy who Cares

Allen Levi wrote the song by this name. I listened to him sing at our Young Life banquet last fall, with a few tears sliding down my cheek, and was struck by how grateful I am to to be cursed with a daddy who cares. A daddy who enforced curfew, who asked questions, who talked with me about the birds and bees, who stayed up late while to two of us watched American Gladiators.
When I was sixteen, I took a chance at dating the "wild" guy. It was appealing to me, an innocent tenth grader, to take on a challenge of dating the senior with the crazy reputation. I held romantic visions that my pure, faithful personality would change him. Of course he would treat me with respect, because I was different than the other girls he dated.
My Dad didn't know this guy - or his track record - at least I didn't think he did. But upon meeting him, Dad told me he felt wary of my new boyfriend because, "He won't look me in the eye."
Dad didn't forbid me from going out with him. He didn't lock me up in my room. He just asked questions, and continually reminded me that he didn't trust this guy.
My father was right.
I walked away from that relationship fairly unscathed, but with enough hurt to learn some lessons. And several years later when I was home from college and ran into this old boyfriend, and he asked me out - even though he had since placed an engagement ring on his young fiance's finger - I was reminded of Dad's steady advice. And wished I could pass it on to his fiance.
I recall another fall afternoon, again as a 15-year-old sophomore, when I told Dad that I was going to my best friend Caren's house to spend the night. He took the time to ask again, "Just Caren's, right? Nowhere else?"
"Of course, Dad!" I hollered back over my shoulder, and I bounded away with my friend.
Caren lived just around the corner, and the grassy yards between our homes showed a well-worn path from a decade of constant back-and-forth treks of cartwheels and round-offs and back hand springs. This was just another Friday night, another spontaneous sleep over. But as we rounded the driveway, her older brother invited us to a party. On an impulse we hopped in his car (I don't think we even went inside Caren's house, I honestly thought we'd be gone for an hour) and I pictured Dad's face, and how I had just assured him we were going to Caren's, nowhere else.
But once at the party, held in an upstairs meeting room of a motel across town, one thing turned into another, one conversation into a hundred, and the party was in full swing when the cops busted in at midnight. They broke up a fight, surveyed the two-foot high tide of beer cans (among other things) covering the floor, and sequestered the handful of us fifteen-year-olds until they'd sent the entire swarm of high school kids home with MIPs. Then, at 2:00 am, they looked at us and said they were hauling us to juvie. With a little pleading and persuading, we talked the officers into letting us call our parents instead.
I will never, never forget calling my dad at 2 am.
From the Western Hills motel.
When he thought I was asleep in a house down the street.
But here's what I love about this story - I wasn't scared to call.  It was a relief to hear his voice. I knew he KNEW me, and I knew we'd figure it out, work it out, and at some point I'd have his trust again. I simply needed him, needed some reassurance of something strong in that scary situation.
My dad and Caren's dad caravanned to the motel. The police officers dumped out every garbage can of more beer cans onto the floor, showing the handful of parents every speck of evidence. When we got in the car to drive home, around 3 am, I felt safe. With my strong dad. Who loved me no matter what.
It was pretty quiet as we headed east on I-20 towards home. After a few minutes he said, "Can I trust you?"
"Yes, dad. I'm so sorry."
"Ok. I don't think I need to say anything else."
And I never lied to him again.
He had already spent years laying the groundwork in our relationship. I trusted him, and I knew he trusted me - the real me. I knew his expectations, that I'd disappointed him that night. And this minor blip stayed that way - minor - as Dad let it remain a molehill instead of a mountain. He continued to treat me with respect and trusted me, setting high expectations, and I learned that night driving home from the motel that I had no interest in disappointing him.

Thanks, Dad, for caring. For enforcing curfew (you said I'd thank you one day - I never believed it would happen!), for loving and trusting your daughter. I love you - happy birthday!
With our five-minute old Branson
High fives with Basden Joy
A good place to rest

Hudda and his Cap
Scaring Hud's friends with ghost stories
Choosing to sit at the "kids table" during Easter lunch
Always teaching...
"PLEASE take me flying, Cappy?!!"
Mowing with royalty
A playful stare from brown-eyed Cappy to brown-eyed Essie

Shep Heaven
One of my favs

You can get A Daddy Who Cares on Levi's new Favorites CD.
While Levi doesn't have a demo of this song on his site, take a listen to this other of my favs, Santa and Victoria, appropriate at Christmastime - touching and brilliant.