Four, A Letter to Lydia

Four, A Letter to Lydia

IMG_0500Lydia, I can’t believe you are four today. I know I’ve said that every year, but every year it’s true. Four seems like a new chapter, one I can’t wait to open with you. Lydia, you are compassionate, inquisitive, sensitive and full of joy.

A couple months ago I was mopping in the kitchen. You came to me distraught, begging me not to clean underneath your blue table because there was a family of ants living there and you didn’t want me to hurt them. I smiled so big at your compassionate heart, but later I did have to relocate the ant family back outdoors. Lydi, I pray you always care for the forgotten, the small and the overlooked. Seek those people out for they have something special to share with the world and with you. And they often make the very best friends.

You are always asking questions, a million questions a day it feels like. (Confession: sometimes in the car I have to tell you we are going to have some music time because I can’t keep up with all your questions.) But I love your questions. I love the way you discover the world and how you ask me what certain words mean. I love how you want to know what everything says. I can’t wait to see your face when you read a paragraph for the first time because I imagine fireworks going off inside your head. You love books, just like your momma and daddy, and when we come to check on you before we go to bed we always find surrounded by books. You will “read” stories you’ve memorized to your babies and animals in bed by the light of the stars sprinkling your ceiling until at last you fall asleep sprawled out across your covers. Don’t ever stop asking questions (except when Momma and Daddy tell you we need a little quiet time in the car.) Read everything you can get your hands on. Read biographies and fiction, cookbooks and news, bestsellers and indie books. Read authors who disagree with you. Read authors who lived in a different time than you. Every single person has a story. You have a story too. And every story is a part of God’s Big Story.

This past winter we were watching the Olympics, and they featured the story of an Olympian who was also a mom. She had left the world of competition after the last Olympics but then suffered a miscarriage that made her rethink her leaving. As she talked about her miscarriage, she started crying. You were snuggled up beside me on the couch, and you asked why she was crying. I told you she had a baby in heaven just like we have two babies in heaven. You asked me what our babies’ names were, and I told you we never named our babies, but we thought the first baby was a girl and the second baby was a boy. You got quiet for a few minutes and then said, “Momma, can I name the babies?” I said yes, and you thought for another couple minutes and said, “Hannah and Hampton, that’s what I want to name our babies.” The Hannah was a surprise because you had never mentioned anyone named Hannah before. Hampton I knew came because you love Hampton Bruce and his mom and dad. I shared the story with Hampton’s mom Heather and she said maybe you were on to something because Hampton means “home.” Then I looked up Hannah and it means “grace.” Though God took our babies to their eternal home, He showed us much grace during that season, grace that has made me parent you and your sister differently than I would have otherwise. Of course, I want to protect you from pain. My heart shatters at the thought of your heart broken. But I know pain is a part of this world, and I know firsthand God can reveal Himself to You in a special way when you go through pain. Don’t shy away from loving people because your heart might get broken. Loving people is messy stuff, but it’s the only thing worth doing.

Your sensitive spirit allows you to sense when others are hurting. There were a handful of days this past year that you came up to me out of the blue, wrapped your arms around me and whispered in my ear, “I miss EEOO too.” I cried every time because I couldn’t figure out how you knew when my heart was heavy. But really I do know. Your sensitivity is a gift from God. I pray you will use that gift to look out for those hurting. I pray you will use your words to encourage others and let them know they aren’t alone.

Lydia, maybe more than anything else about you, what I love most is your joy. You make a declaration almost every day that, “This is the BEST DAY EVER!” In your world, every day gets a little more fun. You squeal when we pull into our cul-de-sac and you see new lilies opening up. You jump up and down when you hear the garage door opening and Daddy is home. And I’ll never forget your reaction when Daddy brought you and Charlotte into the ultrasound room and you saw your new baby on the screen. You see the gifts all around you, and I know God must smile when He sees you enjoy them. Because I certainly do. Treasure those gifts, Lydia, those small moments, those little things. Gratitude and contentment will fill you with so much joy.

Lydia, we have big adventures awaiting us this year–our first year of homeschooling, a new baby, sharing a room with Sissy. Our anthem for this year is, “We can do hard things.” We can and we will do hard things, Lydia. We will make lots of mistakes, we will have bad days, and we will want to give up. But we won’t. For in doing hard things, we get to see God do what only He can. And that’s where the real adventure awaits.

I love you, Lydia Marie. These four years have been incredibly special, but I know the best is yet to come. To the moon and back…and back again.

 

 

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Salty Memories

Salty Memories

We drove back to Memphis this weekend with a gallon of seashells, a smattering of freckles and a million salty memories. Lydia, I’ll remember you with your little pink floatie around your waist saying, “Let’s get in the waves!” over and over. I’ll remember you boogie-boarding for the first time and all the bowls of homemade ice cream you enjoyed. Charlotte, I’ll remember your blonde curls curlier than ever thanks to the ocean’s humidity and your fearless attempts to go swimming “on your own.” Matt, I’ll remember our little walk to dinner for date night and seeing the “Hot Now” sign on at Krispy Kreme which we couldn’t resist. I’ll remember Gracie and Kayla and Carlie painting our girls’ toenails and our searches for spiral seashells. I’ll remember the boiled shrimp and fried calamari Pops cooked for us and Didi’s blueberry pie with four candles in it for Lyd to blow out. I’ll remember thinking a million times thank you, God, for these salty memories with my favorites.

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Like a Kid in a Candy Store

Like a Kid in a Candy Store

This weekend was just what I needed. Friday night, I made homemade patty melts and sweet potato fries. While I was flipping the patty melts in the cast iron skillet, I was thinking back to when I was little. My family would go to Shoney’s for breakfast on Saturdays, and Mom would always order a patty melt and Diet Coke. Matt and I had the best patty melt of my life at Little Goat Diner in Chicago right before we watched the Bulls play back in December. We didn’t watch the Bulls Friday night, but we did watch West Wing (we are officially hooked on that show) and check our March Madness bracket a lot. For a brief–very brief–moment I was not only beating Matt but leading our group, but soon that was over. We make a bet every year that whoever’s bracket does worse has to buy the other one ice cream. You’ll be shocked to learn I’ve bought ice cream the last few years. The only year I won I chose teams solely based on color of uniforms and proximity to places I wanted to visit. Apparently, I need to try that tactic again.

Have I mentioned that Matt is training for a half-marathon we are both running April 5th? He’s already faster than me, so he may have to drag me along during the race. My Saturday morning run was a little wet, but the rain clouds soon parted and a blue sky prevailed. After showers and breakfast, the original plan was to go straight to the zoo. But after our Starbucks stop took twenty minutes (apparently, every one else needed a caffeine jolt too) and we got stuck in construction traffic on I-40, we decided to get some lunch before the zoo. We watched a little basketball while we ate at Memphis Pizza Cafe–their Greek pizza is one of my top five favorite pizzas which is saying a lot because pizza is my love language, and I’ve done extensive research–and then I remembered that we were just a few doors down from the candy shop Sweet Noshings. (Shout out to Jonsie for introducing it to me! My taste buds thank you, but my thighs have a bone to pick with you.) We decided to surprise the girls. When Lydia crossed the threshold she hit notes only little girls–or feral dogs–can hit and squealed, “THIS IS THE BEST DAY EVER!” Charlotte just started clapping and walking from jar to jar. I guess that saying “like a kid in a candy store” is pretty accurate. We filled little bags with gummy bears and gummy butterflies and jelly beans in every shade of the rainbow. And those two were grinning from ear to ear.

Lydia makes the same declaration, “This is the best day ever!” almost every day. I told Matt last night after tucking her in bed that I wish I could live just one day in her little world. That girl is making me a better person because she invites me to celebrate the extraordinary that’s found in all the ordinary places. Every swing in the park, every twirl of a tutu, every rock and every twig, every last bite of the M&M blast, every invitation to celebrate God all around me. The best day ever is the one I choose to see the gifts laid right before me, to celebrate them and enjoy them. Best day ever, Lydi Lu, best day ever.

Raising Kids to Leave

Raising Kids to Leave

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetWhile running last week, I heard a podcast with Stasi Eldridge. During the interview, she talked about how as moms we are raising our kids to leave us. A tearful but piercingly true reality. I am not raising my girls to know their ABCs or to be able to color in the lines or even to know their Bible verses. I am raising my girls to speak life into the hurting around them, to leap over latitudes and longitudes in order to love the outcast and abandoned and to carry the penetrating gospel of redemption into a broken world. My mission is not changing diapers and quelling temper tantrums. My mission is molding hearts that love God and love people with reckless abandon.

Last night I was weary and discouraged. It was a tough day, lots of crying and whiny questions, one of those that comes with being the mom of little ones. The time came to tuck Lydia into bed. Matt layed on one side of her and me on the other. I stared up at the green stars sprayed across her ceiling, her little hand right next to my cheek. Matt prayed over her, the prayers we echo every night. That she would dance upon injustice, that she would love God with all her heart, soul and strength, that she would be brave and courageous.  And at the end of his prayer, Matt prayed she and her sister would grow up to be women just like their mom. My eyes filled with tears and I grabbed his hand in the dark, certain he didn’t even know the power of those specific words at that specific time. It was a humbling prayer, especially on a day when I felt so unworthy. As we left her room, my spirits buoyed by his timely encouragement, I thought of a quote I once heard.

You teach what you know, but you reproduce who you are. ~ John Maxwell

I’m learning it’s less about what I’m teaching my girls, and more about the person I am. It’s less about what I’m doing and more about who I’m becoming. Because who I’m becoming paves the way for who they are becoming. One day our girls will leave our home, at the age of 45 according to their daddy.  And when they do, it won’t be the lessons on grammar or table etiquette that sustain them. It will be the lessons on forgiveness and grace, loyalty and devotion, love and learning the hard way. These are the lessons I pray they will carry in tiny pockets stitched to their hearts. And these are the lessons I pray they will learn from their daddy and me.

Summer is…

Summer is…

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Summer is stars & stripes, crisp red and blue and fireworks painted on an inky sky.

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Summer is flying high and clouds like little cotton candy puffs floating just out of reach. Summer is ladybugs and roly-polys that end up with names and a home on the dresser.

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Summer is piles of books while the orange glow of late afternoon sun spills across the pages. Summer is snuggles and staying up late.

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Summer is sticky hands and the psychedelic color scheme of sweet sno cones.

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Summer is the tiny hairs around her face curling up with little beads of sweat.

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Summer is green grass, wildflowers and eyes the color of a summer sky. Summer is sun up to sun down, making the most of every moment, however ordinary it might seem. And knowing that within each moment is a chance to soar, to dream, to fly, to savor a taste of summer.

Summer Girl

Summer Girl

 I fell for her in summer, my lovely summer girl,
From summer she is made, my lovely summer girl,
I’d love to spend a winter with my lovely summer girl,
But I’m never warm enough for my lovely summer girl,
It’s summer when she smiles, I’m laughing like a child,
It’s the summer of our lives; we’ll contain it for a while
She holds the heat, the breeze of summer in the circle of her hand
I’d be happy with this summer if it’s all we ever had.
Maggie StiefvaterShiver

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