Sunday, September 17, 2017

worst mother of the year...

The first few weeks I was home on maternity leave, I wondered what I had done to my life. Seriously, I remember sitting in bed, exhausted and trying to unsuccessfully nurse a newborn baby, and I kept thinking, "What did I do? The fun, easy going life I loved and enjoyed, is over and it will never be the same." And as much as I wanted to go back to work and have some sense of normalcy, I couldn't bare the thought of being away from my tiny, fragile, vulnerably baby. I made the decision to stay at home, and I hoped and prayed that it was the right one.

Around that time, I began feeling pretty sorry for myself. The days drug on, and I had no social interaction until the end of the day. I looked forward to 4:00 so I could call my mom after she got off work, and I was thrilled when 5:30 rolled around because that meant Aaron would be home soon. I'm not an extrovert, so I've never had an issue with being alone. But being along with a baby that you hardly know and are somehow supposed to magically know like the back of your hand was proving to be harder than I thought it would be. 

I told Aaron that I felt alone. I was the only mother I knew of in my shoes. Most of my friends were either working moms, stay at home moms with older children, or didn't have children yet. I didn't know of any stay at home moms with a baby near Annabeth's age. Plus, there was no way I was going to take my newborn to play dates with older children. She couldn't play, and since she has refused to sit in my lap since she arrived, I knew it would be more stressful than fun. We spent many afternoons just driving around in the car so she would sleep and I could enjoy listening to the radio. I told myself I wasn't cut out to be a mom of a newborn but that things would get easier the older she got. 

After the holidays were over, I was more than ready to have some sort of schedule and get out of the house. Thank goodness our home church offered a few morning opportunities that I quickly jumped on. I would have at least 2 days of something to do with people around, and oh my word, did it help. Little did I know, God had a sweet friend lined up for me who just so happened to also be a stay at home mom with a baby. That was a real blessing! And as Annabeth was getting older, she was getting a tad bit easier to figure out. I don't know who was improving, really. Maybe the fact that things were finally starting to click for me in the motherhood department was making the real difference. Either way, I felt like I kind of had a handle on thing and we were both going to make it. 

Over the past 11 months, plenty of women have said things like, "This is the best stage you're in. It gets so much harder." Well, spoiler alert: each stage is hard! And the truth is that whatever stage you are currently in is going to be the easiest compared to the next. Why, you ask? Because once you've already done something, it seems easier. Think about it this way. A fifth grader thinks fifth grade is hard because they've never experienced it before. They're in the thick of learning so many new things. I could go back and dominate fifth grade... I think. I've been there, passed it, and I've been through a lot of school since. Fifth grade would be a breeze for me, but try telling that to a kid who's learning long division (or whatever you learn in fifth grade). They wouldn't believe you. 

Well, we're almost through our first year together, and many are the days that I feel like I'm in first place to receive the "Worst Mother of the Year" award. Because for every little thing that actually did get easier, there are just as many new developments that make this stage harder. The other day, I found myself telling Aaron, "Maybe I should have gone back to work. I think Annabeth would do better going to daycare anyway." I don't know if that's true or not, but the feelings of not being a good mother are real. Maybe it's just me, or maybe it's just the territory that comes with being a mother. But the more I've pondered this thought, and the more I've struggled with it, I've come to wonder if feeling as if you're not a good mother is the actual mark of being a good mother. 

Because good mothers sacrifice for their children. They swoop their babies up and kiss their boo-boo's even though they're beating themselves up internally for having slow reflexes and not being able to catch their falling child fast enough. Good mothers discipline their children when they need it despite the fact that it hurts their hearts to do so. They wake up during the wee hours of the night to feed a hungry mouth that, honestly, is probably capable of waiting until morning to eat. Good mothers thanklessly wash about a million dishes and clothes a day so their children have clean dishes to attempt to eat from and clean clothes that will last a few hours. They could probably change a dirty diaper with their eyes closed, assuming it's one kind and not the other. They get down on the floor and roll around to play even though the couch seems much more inviting. They clean up vomit, wipe away boogers, wear spit up on their clothes, and don't hesitate for a second to meet their child's every need no matter how gross or messy it may be. Good mothers keep on mothering when they're past the point of exhaustion. They don't stop when they feel under the weather or just have a serious case of the "don't want tos." They never stop loving their babies, caring for them, nurturing them, and praying for them. That's what a good mother does.

When I look at God's word to find the truth about being a mother, it doesn't say a thing about having it all together. No where does it imply that a good mother never struggles in her role. It doesn't say that a good mother always looks the part. The Bible doesn't tell us that in order to be categorized as a good mother, we must follow all of the societal norms and pressures and outperform ourselves day after day.

To the tired mother, God says, "Come to me, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)

To the anxious mother, God says, "Cast your cares on me because I care for you." (1 Peter 5:7)

To the scared mother, God says, "Do not fear, for I am with you." (Isaiah 41:10)

To the overworked mother, God says, "I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." (Isaiah 41:10)

To the lonely mother, God says, "I go before you, with you, and will never leave you nor forsake you." (Deuteronomy 31:8)

A good mother and a perfect mother are not the same thing. One of them actually exists, the other one doesn't. But when a good mother relies on a perfect God to give her wisdom and guidance as she raises her child, she can rest in the promise that God really will work out all things for the good of those who love Him, according to His purposes. 

Friday, September 8, 2017

11 months...

Annabeth, you are 11 months old today! One more month and you'll have made it a full year, sweet girl. Honestly, I can't decide if it has passed slowly or quickly. One things for sure, with each passing month you are looking less like a baby and more like a little girl.

As with every month, you've knocked quite a few things off of your to-do list. You didn't get any new teeth this month but that still hasn't stopped you from chewing on and putting everything in your mouth. Everything! People make comments about teething, but I think you just like to chew on stuff. You have become even more social, believe it or not! You've learned to say "hi!" and know exactly when to say it. So, now when we go to the store, you don't scream at people. You say "hi" repeatedly until they respond. You've also learned how to say "baby," and use that word often. Sometimes it sounds just as it should and sometimes it comes out at "ay-bee" or "ah-bee." Either way, you make sure to point out other babies with great zeal. In fact, you LOVE being around babies and other children, so I think you will make a great big sister one day.

You began crawling this month, which was a huge milestone. I didn't push crawling with you because I knew what life would look like once you were completely mobile. You've been attempting to crawl for a while now, and the Sunday that you were promoted to the next class in nursery, you decided it was time to get moving. As is the case with most babies, your crawling has led to pulling up and standing. You're doing a great job, but you've taken quite a few spills and bumps to the face. It breaks my heart each time, but I know this is part of learning. I think one of the biggest challenges that comes with being a mother is knowing when to step in and hover and when to let your child learn on their own. I'm trying to find that balance, and it's not an easy one.

Another big first you had this month was getting a little stomach bug. You never ran a fever or cried about it, but you threw up twice and refused to eat for a few days. You're already tiny, so the last thing you needed to do was lose weight. I resorted to giving you Gatorade with a syringe. Needless to say, I was more than glad when you finally took a bottle and downed a few Puffs. Our bottle days are coming to an end, which is bittersweet, so the few times a day that we get to sit together and snuggle while you eat is precious time to me.

I've taken you to the doctor to get weighed and measured each month since you were born. I'm sure it's a "new mom" thing that will only happen with you since you're my first born. (Sorry other future children!) Anyway, I know that you grow each month, but I like to see the numbers. This month wasn't much of a difference from last month due to your increased activity and tummy bug. As we were sitting in the waiting room, you did your usual scan to try and make eye contact with someone. Your "hi" tactic wasn't working that well, so you resorted to Plan B. Plan B consists of you laughing uncontrollably in someone's direction with the hopes they'll reciprocate. Unfortunately, the group you were working on wasn't picking up your signals. You tried, gave it a rest, tried a few more times, and I wanted to say, "Hello people? Do you not see that she is trying to get your attention? Smile at her say hi!" But that would have been rude, so I just kissed your forehead, fed you Puffs, and told you how sweet and cute you are. I'm sure they were thinking it even though they didn't say it.

But the truth is, Annebeth, that no matter how hard you try or how much you hope, not everyone is going to like you and you can't please everyone. That's hard for me to believe because you're as precious as they come, but that's just the way it is. Take it from a woman who spent many years of her life worrying about whether or not people liked her. It's taken me a long time to learn this, but I have finally come to accept it, and with that came peace. From as early as I can remember, I've been a people pleaser. I've wanted people to like me, to think highly of me, and to accept me. I spent more time crying and stressing about the few people who didn't, and I don't want you to do the same. Because sometimes people just don't click. It may be a personality clash. Maybe one person rubs the other the wrong way. It might be rooted in jealousy or envy. Maybe one unknowingly offended the other and a grudge is being held. It might be an issue they have that has absolutely nothing to do with you. Or maybe it's the fact that you're assuming things about each other rather than actually getting to know one another. There are a million and one reasons why you can't please everyone and make them like you, but the goal isn't to do that.

As followers of Christ, we have to look at our lives through the lens of His word. In Galatians 1, Paul says, "Am I trying to win the approval of human beings or God? Or am I trying to please people?" Trust me, it's tempting to do the latter. But at the end of the day, the only one we need to be concerned with is God. He knows your heart. He's not making any assumptions about you. He created you, He has a plan for you, and when you set your heart towards pleasing Him, the pressure is off. You don't have to be accepted by everyone because you know you're dearly loved. You don't have to search for approval because you're confident in who you are in Christ. And although it is quite impossible to please everyone, that doesn't mean you can't kill them with kindness, offer forgiveness, and allow God to teach you and use you through the challenge that comes from the joy and complexity of human relationships.

Sweet girl, it is my prayer that you come to know the love of Christ early in your life. That you understand whose you are. That you rest in the confidence that comes from the certainty of knowing that you are secure in the hand of God and covered by the blood of Jesus. And although you can't make everyone love you or like you, you know Momma is always in your corner. Cheering you on, loving you like crazy, and reminding you that no matter what you face, our God will never stop loving you!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

hurricanes and help...

My parents took me to Mexico the summer I graduated from high school. Really, it was just our family vacation. You're probably thinking, "What high school grad wants to go to Mexico with their parents?" Me! I have always, always, always loved traveling with my parents, and so the fact that they actually wanted to take me to Mexico with them was a real treat.

Half way through our vacation week, we learned that a hurricane was brewing and headed straight in our direction. The thing about hurricanes is that, while you know they're coming, the category and amount of damage isn't always easy to predict. They can pick up speed, slow down, or change directions in a hot minute. Hurricane Emily was predicted to hit before we left but was downgraded to a tropical storm. Taking precaution, all hotels on the beach were evacuated and travelers were moved inland. We found ourselves in the middle of Cancun on a sweltering, hot summer day. The shelter provided for us consisted of a very simple concrete compound. It was actually a school, but not the kind of school most of us have attended. The only airflow in and out of the rooms came from the windows because there was no electricity. There were bathrooms, which seemed to be more similar to outhouses in my opinion. The compound was secured by broken glass bottles that lined the perimeter and stuck out from the top of cement walls. And because space was limited, we couldn't bring our belongings with us. Each person was allowed a few things in a small bag. We ended our vacation by sleeping on the ground next to complete strangers, packed like sardines into the small rooms, and all we had to eat was sandwiches and fruit. Hot sandwiches and fruit, I might add. We sat and we waited for the storm to pass. Nothing happened until the sun went down, and when we left in the morning, water had left its mark everywhere.

I remember driving back to the hotel wondering if our things were still there. Thankfully, flights to America were leaving and so we could go home. Others were not as fortunate. The water had made it up to our room, but no serious damage was done. Grabbing our bags, we were more than eager to get to the airport and back onto Texas soil. Never mind that we looked like we'd been drug through the wringer and definitely smelt like it, too. All we cared about was that we were safe and that we were going home. There's no place like home, is there? A place where you find rest, comfort, solace, and security. We landed in Dallas with hopes to be home before night fall. No such luck. Flights to Lubbock had been canceled, but we received hotel and food vouchers. It was one of the best meals I have ever eaten, followed up by one of the best showers I have ever taken. We would be home in less than 24 hours, and we'd have every thing we could want or need when we got there.

I looked at images online yesterday of homes that were sitting in water. I couldn't shake the thought of how I would feel leaving my home and hoping it would be there, along with all of my possessions, when I returned. I know they say things are just things. But let's be honest, being without our stuff puts us in a stressful and vulnerable place, especially when it might be days, weeks, months, or possibly forever. We're in the thick of home renovations. A lot of our things are still in boxes. Of course, like most people, we have more than we need and living this way proves that to be true. Our house doesn't quite feel like home, but it's getting there. Slowly, surely, and with great expense. Both time and money. And as I looked at these pictures, as I thought about what it must feel like to be in that position, as I read of the need for help and thought about how our lives have looked over the past few months, I was conflicted.

It shouldn't have even been a second thought, really. If it were me in that boat, literally, I would be desperately praying God would fill the hearts of people with generosity and a deep, burning desire to give. Because how else would we make it? God is our provider and I know full well He can make something out of nothing. I mean, look at the world around us. That's proof right there. But when the stores are closed and you aren't home, then what? How is your baby going to get her formula to survive? And what about diapers? Who cares what clothes you have on as long as it's something. But when you need a hot shower, soap to clean off the gunk and the germs, a toothbrush to rid your mouth of day old breath, where will that come from? From the hand of God, and from those who are God's hands and feet.

And so why did I stop? Why did I think about it? Because August has been an unfortunately expensive month for us. If it's not one thing it's another around here. This is broken and that is broken and the trips to Lowe's keep adding up. And then there's the car that has had virtually no issues in its 7 years of life but has decided to make up for that in a few weeks time. The diapers are expensive, the formula is, too. Only one source of income means that we have to be all the more careful, and I thought to myself, "Well, Texas is a big state. A lot of people will help. My little contribution probably wouldn't matter anyway."

But the Lord didn't let me settle there. I took a hot shower before I crawled into the world's most comfortable bed last night. I woke up to the strong smell of fresh enamel on the walls and ate breakfast with HGTV playing in the background. My little gal crawled all over the floor, opening every drawer in door in the room, and I realized that no matter how much I think our bank account has taken a hit this month, that's the only thing that has. How fortunate are we?! There's no excuse to live in comfort and abundance while watching others suffer. After all, the only reason I can give is because the Lord has given to me. And He can and will take care of the giver and the receiver just the same.

I pulled down the supersized box of diapers I bought in advance, on sale (of course), and I threw them in the trunk of my car along with hygiene items that I hope will be a blessing to the hands in which they fall. It's not a whole lot in the grand scheme of things, but God is in the business of using things in grander ways than we could ever imagine. I'll never know where they end up. I'll never know if someone was able to use those bars of soap and enjoy a much needed, long, hot shower. I'll never know if that little wet bottom got relief from those diapers. But what I do know is that God uses all things, even storms, for His glory. In fact, it's usually in the storms where we see it the most. The grandest displays of His power and His love. Of His goodness and of His kindness. And when God's people choose to be His hands and feet, to give as freely as they have received, God's name is made known in a great and undeniable way.

"But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, "Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy one of Israel, your Savior." - Isaiah 43:1-3

Sunday, August 20, 2017

worry and control...

I used to think I was in control. That somehow, if I just made the right decisions and put myself in the right places, things would go my way. And with that control came a big dose of worry. Worry all the time. I spent countless hours, weeks, days, and months of my life worrying. Worrying about the things I was trying to control and worrying even more about the things I couldn't. But the funny thing about control and worry is that regardless of how much you think you do or don't have of the former, you'll find yourself spending too much time on the latter.

I think it's easy to blame it on genetics. To say something like, "Well, this just runs in my family so I can't help it." To assume that if you come from a long line of them, then you can't help but be one. Honestly, it's an easy out. That way, we don't have to take ownership of it or surrender and change our ways. It's who we are, right? Can't change family history. It was the hand you were dealt, and so you just have to manage that burden the best you can.

I really believed that. Worry and control was ingrained into my nature. It was a part of me that had been inherited and that was that. I couldn't help myself. I was born to worry and to be in control. Those two things really go hand in hand, after all. Doesn't our worry usually stem from feeling a lack of control? And so I worried about this and worried about that, and I worried about what might happen, what could happen, what should happen - and then it finally happened.

Sitting in an empty house feeling completely out of control, full of fear and worry and anxiety, I realized that I had no control. In fact, I had never been in control from the start. Of anything. Ever. And the older I get, and the more life I experience, I realize that I'll never be in control. None of us are. Because what happens when the company you've dedicated your life to is bought out and your job is eliminated? When your record of perfect health is ruined by by the spot on your lungs? What happens when the child you've hoped for has yet to show up? When the spouse you've committed your life to one day walks out? When you didn't see the car coming your way? When the flames rip through your home, leaving ashes in the place of all of your memories? What happens when the very things in which you thought you had control, you can no longer control?

"Cast all your cares on the Lord for He will sustain you." (Psalm 55:22)  All of your cares, all of your worries. All of things in which you're trying so hard to control. Give them to Jesus. Because you don't know what tomorrow holds. You don't know what happens until you turn the page. But He does. And it's not a surprise. It's not a shock that throws Him for a loop. Why? Because He is in control. Complete, absolute control. And that's not going to change. He always has been, and He always will be. And when we come to that realization, a weight is lifted as we understand that our job isn't to control our life, it's to live it. To look to Him, to trust Him, and to follow Him. We don't have to worry about figuring everything out or making sure it happens. From the moment when breathe in our first breath until the moment we breathe out our last, He'll take care of it all.

Monday, August 14, 2017

because you're not better than anybody else...

On Mondays we go to the store. It used to be Sundays when I was working. Me, along with every other person on our side of town. But when you came along, Annabeth, my nicely scheduled weeks changed. And since we needed any and every excuse to get out of the house, I made Mondays our store days.

You love shopping. Sure, you're a girl and so maybe it comes a little bit naturally to you. But you love people. That's what you really like about shopping. It's the people. They are everywhere! Down every aisle, at every turn, and they usually stop and talk to you. Most of our shopping trips are considerably lengthened due to the fact that you're so personable. But that's okay because I want you to be a sweet girl. I want you to be socially aware, too. Sometimes, the world can be a little easier for the socialites, and I believe you're going to be one. You seem to be a people magnet, which is a great characteristic that comes with great responsibility. People-magnet people have influence. Others want to be around them, so others usually listen to what they say or do what they do. Clearly, you can see how this can be good or bad, right? I hope and pray that if you're magnetism sticks, you'll be sure to influence people positively because our world needs people like that more and more every day.

I stood in the bathroom getting ready for church yesterday morning and I prayed, "Lord, these times are hard!" But the truth is that since the garden and the fall of man, times have always been hard. They'll stay that way until Jesus comes to make things right. But there's been a lot of division and hurt and hatred spreading like wildfire over the past many years in our country. It's not the first time, unfortunately. It's almost like history is trying to repeat, and even out do, itself. You see, people make mistakes, Annabeth. And you will, too. Mistakes are great learning opportunities if we allow them to be. But some people never learn from their mistakes, and often times that effects us all. I heard of this really terrible news story that hurt my heart, and as I thought about that, and as we took a trip to the store today, the Lord began weaving together a lesson that I wanted to pass along to you because well, that's my job as your mother. It's my job to teach you.

We walked through the store and your bright eyes searched back and forth for someone who was paying you attention. It didn't take long as an older couple walked over and began talking to you. A smile quickly spread across your face, and as they reached their hands towards you, you grabbed their fingers and screamed. I may be a bad mother here, letting people touch you, but why not? I am certain you probably get more germs in our house than you do from a stranger who tickles your toes or shakes your hand. Plus, that's just being polite. You shake hands with people when you meet them. There's something unique about touch and the human connection, and the last thing I want to do is teach you bad manners. We kept on through the store and, per the usual, we visited with people from all races, all ages, and all genders. We spoke to a man that, I'm pretty sure, was a biker. We had a chat with a few ladies who were grandmothers. You locked eyes with teen aged girls, a young mom and her children made sure to say hi, and one of the workers with a heavy Asian accent did his best to get a wave from you. As we finally neared the check out line, I heard a woman yell, "Your baby is so beautiful!" She literally left her basket and came over to see you. She was probably in her late 60s with a Spanish accent and dark curly hair. She stood in front of the basket and you reached out and grabbed her arms as if she was your long lost friend. You jabbered away as she visited with you, and she shared with me that she has worked with children her entire life. She said, "I was never able to have any of my own, so I just love seeing babies!" We visited for a while, and as much love and kindness as you showed her, we should have just invited her over for the afternoon to play. She told me her name, a little bit about herself, and I hope that the next time we are at the store, we'll see her again. I think you'd both love that.

But here's the thing I want you to know, Annabeth. I think it's important to say, and it's probably something that we all need to remind ourselves more often than we think. You are not better than anybody else. And you may be wondering why I'm saying that, because I do think you're pretty amazing, but the world will tell you otherwise.You see, some people think that things like skin color, where you're from, how much money you have, what type of work you do, what you look like, where you went to school, or which part of town you live in make you better than another. But it's simply not true. At our core, we're all the same.  All made in the image of God. We all have the same insides, we just have different details on the outside. We're uniquely equal. God has a plan for each of our lives. Just as no two people are the same, no two plans are, either. When we forget that, when we turn our eyes inward, love and kindness do not flow outward.

Each night we sing a song to you. The words go:

Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world
Red, brown, yellow, black, and white
They are precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world

My prayer is that you will always show love and kindness to people. Not because they look like you, live near you, or do the things you do. I want you to remember that just as you are precious to Him, so are all of His children. And because He first loved us, then we can freely show love to others.

"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God." - 1 John 4:7

Friday, August 11, 2017

10 months...

You've reached the double digits, Annabeth! Ten months! I remember feeling a great sense of accomplishment and relief when you turned 10 weeks old. Someone, I don't even remember who, told me, "Once they get to 12 weeks, things get better." Not that things were really bad, by any means, but I don't think I'm one of those moms who thrives in the newborn stage. I think I'm doing better the older you get, so it's probably a good thing you have zero recollection of your early days.

I find myself in this strange space between wanting you to get older but also wanting you to stay little. I think the little part is really just because you're so dang cute. I would say that I'm biased, but the truth is, everyone says that about you. We can't go anywhere without a crop of people stopping to admire your blue eyes, steal a smile from you, comment on your hair and your teeth, and then say how precious you are. I don't want you to get a big head, but I also want you to believe that you're truly beautiful. You are! People wouldn't say it if it weren't true. However, the thing that really seals the deal is your personality. Your charm is what people love the most, and it's what's inside that makes a person beautiful. I want you to remember that.

Your list of accomplishments is really growing quickly these days, and sometimes I feel like I'm not doing a very good job of keeping up. You are so close to crawling, but you have yet to make up your mind to do so. I keep telling you dad that you'll eventually do it when you're ready. Honestly, I think you're there, but I also don't want to push it because I like being able to keep you in the same room with me rather than having to constantly chase you around. You've mastered the ability to sit up from lying down, and the way you rock back and forth on your knees lets me know that my days are only about to get busier as I try to keep up with you. You've got two more teeth coming in, which seems to really surprise people. Those little teeth are sharp as razors. I have a few bite marks here and there to prove it. I hope that doesn't become a trend. You are still eating a lot of new foods and can feed yourself well. We haven't handed over the spoon just yet, but you can pick anything up and put it in your mouth without much effort. You are a social butterfly and your extroverted ways seem to increase on a daily basis. You smile, talk, scream with excitement, and do just about anything for attention. I think you're going to be a little performer, comedian, and risk taker. To be so tiny, you're so strong. You've got a grip that could probably open a pickle jar. You're trying really hard to pull yourself up and having success every now and then. And this month, you've continued to show your fearlessness as you completed your first round of swim lessons. I didn't doubt that you'd like it. You're up for just about anything as long as there is a crowd!

Your dad and I are a few weeks away from being completely done with your bedroom. We've been working on it since we moved into our new home, and I hope that you like it. I was painting your bathroom yesterday afternoon and I began to think about how, as your mother, I always want you to have nice things. I am sure there were many times that my parents gave up their own wishes and went without so that I could have, and I totally get that. When you have a child, they become the priority in so many ways. One day, you'll understand. If I had to choose between getting to eat or getting to feed you, I'd give up my food for you. Now, if one of us had to give up clothes, it would be easier for you because you look a lot better in your birthday suit than I do. Let's hope that's never a choice we have to make. But, I say this because there is a struggle with things. With wanting more but having too much. I've tried really hard to find that balance with you. I try not to indulge and buy you things that are not practical or reasonable. I have to stay away from baby stores because girl clothes are too cute, and I have to be careful not to fill our house with toys that you probably won't end up using anyway. And the thing that seems so crazy about this balance is that you don't care one way or another. You don't know what you do have or don't have. All you're concerned about right now is feeling safe, full, and loved. And one, out of three of those things, money can't buy.

They say money can't buy love. Money can buy you things. Sometimes it's easy to confuse things with love. To think if someone gives us something, that's proof of their love. If they don't, then maybe they don't really care. But here's the truth, it's easier to just give someone something than it is to truly love them. Love requires much more than swiping a debit card. Love requires honesty, vulnerability, faithfulness, and constant effort. It means not giving up. Not walking away. And it means not putting yourself first. Because if you love someone, you want what's best for them. You want to see them succeed. You want things to go well for them. And the challenge that we, as humans, can face is that we often believe God's love is contingent on the things He gives us, on the way he answers our prayers, or on our current circumstances. We get this idea that if God really loved us, He would give us everything we ask for. If he really loved us, we wouldn't face hardship or trial. We'd never have struggles. And we wouldn't be left waiting.

But love doesn't work that way, Annabeth. God's love is. Always. It's constantly around you. Filling your lungs with air each morning. It opens your eyes to see the beauty He has created. His love gives you courage when you are afraid. Hope when all seems lost. His love holds you up when you feel like you can't move forward. It surrounds you on your darkest days and makes the good ones even brighter. His love knit you together in my womb. It wrote out all of your days before each one came to pass. His love shepherds you, leading you beside the still waters in a world that is nothing but chaos. It whispers truth to you when you feel overwhelmed by the lies. It showers you with new mercies every morning. His love died on a cross for your sins so that you could personally know him and have eternal life. His love never leaves you nor forsakes you. It fights for you. It rejoices over you. His love never ends.

And so I want you to know that, sweet girl. To know that you are so dearly loved. You are loved because you are you. Not because of the things you have or because of the things you can give. You are loved because you are Annabeth Louise Davis, and there's nothing you can do about that! A beautiful, comforting, fact to know, huh? And if you ever begin to think that you're not, if you ever fall into the trap of looking for things to prove that you're loved, I want you to remember this truth. To trust in it. To hold on to it. You are loved because you are His and because you are mine. It's really that simple. Loved forever and always will be!

"And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." - Ephesians 3:17-19

Sunday, August 6, 2017

thirty isn't so dirty...

I've always heard people call it the "dirty thirty." I don't know why. I'm sure the rhyming aspect has something to do with it, but when I hear the word "dirty," I think of something that's gross. Things like dirty laundry or a dirty diaper. No one wants or likes either one of those things. One of them gets wadded up and thrown in a basket in the dark corners of a closet, and the other one ends up in the trash. And so it seems to me that thirty has gotten a bad wrap. That being thirty is gross or unwanted. But one day in, and thirty actually feels like twenty, which feels like sixteen, and I am amazed at how one so quickly finds them self in a new decade of life.

Aaron did a fantastic job of making my thirtieth birthday fun and memorable. He planned out a great weekend full of my favorite things, keeping each one a surprise until it happened. I've always told him, given the choice, I'd take experiences over gifts, and so that's what I got this year. Well, I got some gifts, too, but I'll certainly remember the weekend longer than the things I received. That's the thing about memories. You get to keep those with you. They don't get thrown into the donation pile at the end of the year. They don't stop fitting or go out of style. Memories stay when the tangible things go, and as we shared a delicious dinner on Saturday night, that was the topic of conversation.

"If you could re-live one day of your life, what would it be?" He immediately said I couldn't choose our wedding day because he knew that would be it. And he was right, so that made the question harder. One day? I've lived roughly 10,950 days of life. How am I supposed to pick just one? Impossible. And so I told him that when I thought about days I'd re-live, it would be because I wanted to do them differently. Days that I made a mistake, messed up, said something I wish I could take back, or made a fool of myself. I'd like a second chance at those days. I'd like to do them better. But life only gives us one day at a time, and since we can't go back, we just have to learn and move forward.

And that's exactly what I've spent the last decade of my life learning. Because I can tell you that years ago, I said things like, "I don't like the way my life is playing out. This isn't how I thought my life would be." I spent a lot of time feeling frustrated and discouraged because things weren't going as I had hoped and imagined. I felt stuck. I felt like a failure. I was so unhappy that I didn't even realize I was unhappy. I was disappointed in myself, full of regret. And as God began slowly chipping away at the life I had built on my own, I began learning that I couldn't undo what I had done. I couldn't go back and change the decisions I had made. I couldn't redo a single one of them. But I could do things differently going forward. I had nothing but blank pages ahead of me, and so I wasn't stuck. I wasn't a failure. I was just a fraction of the way through my estimated life span, and it wasn't too late to turn this ship around and get it back on course. His course, that is.

So if I could go back and re-live a day, I suppose I really wouldn't. Because each of those days, even the really hard ones, the ones when I made bad decisions or did things I'd like to change, got me to the point I'm at today. God used each of those 10,950 days to get me right here, to mold me into the woman I've become, to teach me, to refine me, and to use me. I needed every day. I'm thankful that He faithfully got me through each day. And when I look back over my life as a whole, those hard, dark, challenging, difficult days hardly compare to the number of fantastic days I've had. It's not even close!

The twenties were good to me. Better than the teens, no doubt! They were most challenging decade for sure, but they were also my most rewarding. Full of change, of ups and downs. Of sorrows and joys and every emotion in between. But I'm glad to see them come to an end. Glad to have lived that chapter to its fullest and turn the page. Because I hear it only gets better. And with a book full of blank pages and God who authors amazing stories, I look forward to seeing what the next decade has in store.