Tuesday, May 29, 2012

And More Photos...

I am currently rather blank on having anything to write on here, but I do have some fun pictures from recent weeks...

My Mother's Day card from Caleb.  With some edits :): "Dear Cuddles, I love you.  Happy Mother's Day!!!!!!! Love, Caleb"
My Mother's Day card from Joel without edits: "I hope you have a good Mother's Day.  Your my favorite Mommy and there is no Mommy that I like better  Love Joel"

Beautiful girl
Lost a top tooth!  You can see part of our new kitchen in the background.
First day of summer with a new smile!
My mom came in town for Joel's pre-school graduation
Joel's pre-K class.  Their performance was ADORABLE!  He sang loudly and had so much fun!
These two look so much alike to me.  Aren't they so cute?!?  I love this one.
With the "grad"
Joel is as crazy about Anna as ever.  He was anxious to hold her at his graduation.  The relationships my children have with each other are among my favorite things on earth.
I have never seen a baby eat like Anna does.  She eats anything and everything (including zucchini, roasted red peppers, artichokes, and eggplant) -- and in huge quantities.  This is Anna's tray at the start of the meal....
...and this is Anna's tray after!  With the boys, I had to put just a few bites at a time on their trays or else they'd be overwhelmed.  If I do that with Anna, she's squawking for more within 3 seconds.  If I stand any chance of eating any of my meal, I have to load her tray up ahead of time.  She still devours it faster than I can eat my food.
Anna and my mom
This picture doesn't begin to do it justice, but this is the most amazing rainbow I've ever seen!  It was a full double rainbow.  I couldn't capture all of it in one picture, but this gives a tiny of idea of how incredible it was.  We pulled over and just stared at it.  Amazing!
Kicking off the summer with Bruster's ice cream courtesy of my mom. 
With my beautiful mom.  Isn't she gorgeous?  I hope I look like her when I'm a grandma!
Our living room with my Mother's Day presents on the wall.  Bryan framed the beautiful pictures of the boys from Marissa and Adam's wedding as well as a snapshot of Anna.  I LOVE them!

Monday, May 14, 2012

An Absurd Number of Photos

Playing Peek-A-Boo with her brothers
The Cutiest Cutie Pie in the Whole Wide World as the boys call her
On Joel's Birthday we all wore orange in honor of him.  He wanted to go to McDonald's for dinner, so we did.  :)
Me and the crazy 5 year old
Colleen and Anna
With his orange flavored birthday cupcake
Bryan, the cake-decorating master, at work.  Notice Catching Fire on the counter -- I was reading it out loud to him when I wasn't taking pictures or decorating for Joel's party
The finished product -- A Mario Cart birthday cake with Baby Peach, Joel's Wii-Me, and Donkey Kong
Joel's little friends
Joel and his cake
Anna LOVES her brothers, and the feeling is very, very mutual.  They giggled and giggled looking at each other through the window.        

She's irresistible.  And she LOVES to eat.  She shovels it in, two-fisted.  I've never seen a child eat as fast or as much as she does.
Joel's pre-K class had a special Mother's Day picnic and program.  I love this kid!!
Ok, she's beyond adorable.  I cover her cheeks with kisses all day long.  I simply can't help myself.

At Joel's preschool carnival
Bryan framed these pictures for me for Mother's Day.  I love them!  They're from our dear friend Marissa's wedding last December.  Caleb and Joel were bouquet bearers, and our sweet friend Becca (Caden's mom) was one of the photographers.  She kindly passed these pics along.  Isn't Caleb handsome?!?
Dashing Joel
Breakdancing Caleb.  Part of what I love about this one is how it's so out of character for Caleb.  He's not a center-of-attention kind of kid at all, but this night he just wanted to DANCE!  It's currently framed on our mantle.  Makes me smile every time I see it.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Far Be It From Me

A couple of night's ago, shortly after the young moms I'm mentoring had headed home, I was upstairs nursing Anna before climbing in bed myself.  I had just checked on the boys and had kissed my sleeping four year old Joel for the very last time, thinking how when he woke up he would be my big five year old boy.

I relish late every other Monday night when I get to nurse a sleeping Anna since I'm leading my mentor group during her right-before-bedtime feeding.  It's the only time I get to hold my sleeping beauty these days.   I had planned to enjoy reading Les Mis while feeding Anna Pea, a double bounty as it were, but when I sat down in the glider and looked at Anna's sweet, innocent face, I couldn't stop staring...and thinking...and praying.

I had just finished hearing the wonderful girls in my group share their stories -- their victories, heartbreaks, tragedies, fears, and hopes.  Their triumphs and regrets.  And I looked down at Anna and saw her precious innocence.  The way she slept peacefully, in total trust, without fear.  With her little pudgy arm wrapped around her bunny and her long lashes resting on her cheeks.  And I couldn't help but face a wave of fear myself.  All her life is ahead of her.  So far she's only received love and kisses and near adoration.  The worst thing of Anna's life so far was when she nose-dived off the changing table.  But that won't always be true.  I don't know what her future holds, but I know there will be pain, heartbreak, brokenness, unwise choices, regrets, and unfulfilled longings.  There will be suffering.  It's hard to look ahead and know that Anna will face hardship.  So will Caleb and Joel.

And though I can embrace the pain and suffering in my own life, it's so, so much harder to embrace it for my children.  Most days I can open my hands before the Lord and say, "Whatever You will.  I'm Yours.  Whatever You have for me, I will follow You and accept Your path," but doing that for my children's lives....it's a whole different level of trust.  I think it's motherly instinct to want to protect my children from pain, but I know how pain shapes us, grows us, and can make us into deeper, better people.  I want my children to be the best version of themselves.  I want them to be vessels for Jesus.  I want them to grow into godly, wise, faithful, kind, compassionate, giving, loving adults.  And I know that part of becoming those people will be through experiencing brokenness -- whether as the result of their own sin or the result of others' or even because of something tragic that isn't directly the result of any person's doing.  When I think of what may be ahead for them, I instinctively shudder and want so much to spare them.  But I know that's not possible -- or even best. 

I can't help but think of my mom and what it must have been like to watch her children suffer.  I know it has been heartbreaking for her to watch my brother and I face the pain in our lives, to know she couldn't prevent it, she couldn't rewrite history, she couldn't take it away.  And I know if given the opportunity, she would have traded places with us in a heartbeat.  Being a mom myself now, I have so much more sympathy for what it must have been like to send me into scoliosis surgery at the age of 14 or, so much more horrifying, to learn of the abuse I suffered in my childhood and know there was nothing she could do about it.  And then to watch me lose my own child -- to love Samuel as her grandson and spend hours at his side, to grieve the death of her grandbaby, and then also to witness her daughter's grief and pain.  I know it broke her heart, and there was nothing she could do to stop my suffering.

As Caleb, Joel, Samuel, and Anna's mom, I will have to watch my kids face their own battles.  I've already watched Samuel's fight for life and Caleb and Joel's grief.  A lifetime of personal battles still lie ahead for Caleb, Joel, and Anna.  And, at least to a great degree, I can't -- and shouldn't --prevent them.  But how do I open my hands and trust my babies into God's care when I know He doesn't promise to spare them from suffering?  It comes back to what I've learned over and over in Samuel's life and death: God is good.  He is trustworthy.  He is worthy of my praise.  He is faithful.  And He will be faithful to my children just as He's been faithful to me.  I can count on that.  On Him.

The next morning I was reading in I Samuel 12 where Samuel the prophet is handing Israel over to their first king; Samuel is stepping aside as their leader.  He says to the Israelites, "As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you.  And I will teach you the way that is good and right.  But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you." 

I think there is so much wisdom to be gleaned from these few sentences.  It's a guide for me as a parent and for me as a child of God.  If I can't protect my children from all the junk of life, what can I do?  What should I do?  Pray.  Pray.  Pray.  Far be it from me to sin against the Lord by failing to pray for my children.  Pray for their wisdom, for them to seek the Lord all the days of their lives, for their hearts to be malleable before God, for them to exude love, grace, and faith, for them to have courage in the dark times and to rely on the Lord and not their own understanding or strength, for them to know and love God's Word, for their relationship with Him to be real and dynamic and growing.  The list goes on and on and on.  Pray.  And what else?  Teach them the way that is good and right.  Teach it by modeling it.  Live out what I want them to do.  Be the kind of person I want them to become.  Handle hardships in such a way that they see Jesus and draw close to Him.  And take advantage of teachable moments.  Speak truth to them every day.  Hide God's Word in my heart because "out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks" (Luke 6:45).  Though I cannot make their choices for them, I can equip them to make wise choices.

And the last part reads like a challenge to me as my kids' mom: Fear the Lord, serve Him faithfully with all my heart; remember the great things He has done for me.  If I do these things, I model obedience to my children.  How I want those sentences to describe me.  How I want them to describe Caleb, Joel, and Anna.  And honestly, if I do those things -- if I fear the Lord, faithfully serve Him with all my heart, and remember how He's shown His faithfulness already, then it's not so hard to open my hands with my children's lives -- to embrace whatever God has for them -- because I rest in WHO He is.  He's proven Himself to me already.  I can trust in the good God I serve to be good to my children, to know what is best for them, to show up when life and people and their own folly has wounded them, to redeem the broken parts of their stories as He has redeemed the broken parts of mine.  Samuel's words to Israel are so applicable to me.  And they give me hope.

So with not a little trepidation, I am working to say, "Whatever You have for my precious children, I trust You.  I embrace Your will for their lives.  I want to teach them to handle suffering with grace and not try to pave a trial-less path for them to walk.  I know that You are good no matter what my children endure, and I will trust them into Your care, knowing that You are enough for whatever lies before them.  Help me to point them to You.  Help me to shower them with grace when they stumble and to stand with them in the darkness.  Help me to consider what You've already done for me and to rest peacefully knowing that You will be with my children always."