The kids and I had a wonderful time in Florida celebrating my grandma this weekend. David wasn’t able to get away, so I’m very thankful to my parents for making it possible for us to be there. We couldn’t leave until Friday morning, and while my mom drove down with Betsy on Thursday, my dad stayed behind and arrived at our house at 5:00 am Friday to drive us so that we could all sleep in the car. We arrived in Kissimmee (just south of Orlando) at 2:00 pm for the 3:00 service — just in time to freshen up and change clothes! We stayed near my parents so that they could help out with the kids, which was perfect.
I really, really wanted the kids to be there for the memorial service. We had some hard questions and tears from the kids and especially the little boys as they processed their first death and what that means. I hoped the trip and the service would demystify all of it a bit for them, and it did exactly that. It brought closure for all of us, especially since I was in India when my Granddaddy died.
It was a lovely memorial service, every part was meaningful. I could not believe all four of my kids sat through it after a 9-hour car ride, but I think it was a testament to how much they love their family and how engaging and comfortable the service was. Some people were dressed in suits and some wore jeans. We laughed at parts and we cried at parts — sometimes at the same time.
I told David that one of the best parts was that no one attempted to put my Grandma on a pedestal or paint her as larger than life; we just shared about her as a wonderful yet ordinary person, who loved Jesus and loved other people. We sang her favorite hymns. I think she would’ve been delighted.
I can’t help but think that as much as she would’ve enjoyed the service, she would’ve been really tickled pink at seeing so many people she loves enjoy each other’s company afterward. Laugh, cry, eat together, share hugs and memories.
In case you’re wondering, my grandma was one of 8 children. She had 6 kids and 17 grandchildren — there are 29 of us when you add in spouses. So far she and my granddaddy have 19 great-grandchildren. Her life was full of people. She loved well and she was well loved.
The best story I heard about my grandparents this weekend was from my aunt June, who married into my family. When she met my grandparents they asked about her family and she shared that her father had passed away when she was a child. Without missing a beat my granddaddy said, “Well I’m your daddy now.” And he was, until his dying day. Their love just wrapped people up and held them close, no questions asked. I want to be like that.
I saw friends and family I haven’t seen in years. The kids all had so much fun that they were very sad to leave on Sunday. Some of our family got to meet Gabe and Noah for the very first time. I loved seeing all of my kids swept up into the love of so many people, as you can see from the photos, I hardly had to lift a finger from the moment I got there.
Thanks to those of you who prayed for us! I’ll cherish these memories always.
My mom’s mother passed away last Monday after a 10 year battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. Our family gathered in Florida this weekend to celebrate her life. I had the joy of gathering memories from the grandchildren, which my cousin Lindsey read at the service, and I thought I’d share it below in case you want to get a glimpse into the kind of person my grandma was.
Our Grandma was a lover of children. First she had six of her own and in the blink of an eye it seemed, she had 17 grandkids too. Her life was filled up to the brim and overflowing with children. Our earliest memories include the delight she felt for us, the way she pulled us in tight for hugs and made us feel special every single time we saw her. Our Grandma was a safe haven.
She welcomed us with joy, always. She was strict and made us behave and we loved her all the more for it, for seeing that dignity tucked deep inside us, under all the layers of naughtiness, and helping us rise to the occasion and obey. She was also known to indulge us though, dispensing treats, sneaking us some of Granddaddy’s peanut M&M’s. More than one of us girls, found guilty of getting into Grandma’s jewelry cabinet, were joined by her at the vanity, as she helped us pick out clip-on earrings to try on.
Our grandma had a special closet in each of her homes, overflowing with toys, thrown open whenever we walked in the door. She thought of us at church rummage sales, picked out the most colorful clothes she found from the missionary bin for us to play dress-up. She always had us on her mind.
She made her life available to us. She raised us to know and love stories of our family—of her parents and siblings and Grandaddy’s. She didn’t just tell the good stories, she told the really sad ones too, even the ones where she sinned. In doing so she pointed us to God and His faithfulness and forgiveness, rather than to the idol of family.
Time and time again she snuggled with us on the sofa to page through stacks of photo albums, of us and our parents and their parents. She raised us to know with confidence where we came from, who we were in our family, and therefore who we were in the world.
She loved to cook and give treats. I don’t think one person in our big family can sit down to a Thanksgiving dinner without tasting Grandma’s mashed potatoes and gravy and her sweet potato soufflé.
As if piles of kids and grandkids weren’t enough, Grandma worked for years in a school for severely disabled children. When we went there to visit her it was scary sometimes, and yet even as very small children we swelled with pride that our Grandma loved people that others didn’t love—and often pretended not to notice.
She wasn’t just a lover of children; she was a defender of them.
For most of our growing up years, Grandma lived in neighborhoods with other retired people. Many of her neighbors were kind to us, but some of our fondest memories were the times the “old folks” had her up in arms for scolding the children — any children. She shook her head when they shot us dirty looks in the swimming pool for being too noisy. She said, “Oh don’t you worry about them, you all are just fine.”
She was a strong woman like that, we’d like to say a feminist in the very truest sense of the word. Grandma knew who she was and she didn’t need a fancy job title or a long list of credentials to prove it. She trusted that God loved her and created her for a purpose, and she was at peace with that purpose.
Some people would look on her simple, quiet life and pronounce it oppressive, even stifling, but Grandma understood the truth: She didn’t settle for her life as as a wife and a mom of six and a teacher; she chose it. She knew the secret that many people search the world over and miss: that in order to find your life, you need to give it up.
She lived the joy of that knowledge, even in the hard years.
Grandma was feisty! She didn’t pretend to be perfect and got frustrated; sometimes with us, sometimes with Granddaddy. When we played Yahtzee or Mexican train, she invited the littlest ones to be on her team so they’d win, and her competitive spirit made her a sassy player.
When Allison was a teenager and went to give blood at the American Red Cross, she was turned away for being a pound too light. Grandma told her, “Sweetie, you need to fill your pockets up with rocks and turn around and go right back in there. They need your blood!”
Though Grandma had many opinions, she was also one who loved without judgment. Both our grandparents were like that. More than once they opened their arms and their affections to someone who’d messed up, whose choices they disagreed with. Despite whispers of, “Don’t you know what they did!?” Grandma and Granddaddy chose the path of grace. Theirs was a love that bore all things, believed all things, hoped all things, and endured all things, for one another and for other people.
Over the last ten years, our beloved Grandma got more and more sick with Alzheimer’s Disease. Sadly, for some of us grandchildren, the majority of our memories of her are of visits to the nursing home’s Memory Care Unit, with its kind staff and sunny butterfly garden. They’re of a grandma who increasingly slipped away from us as she grew unable to recognize her own family.
And yet, we remember that she loved us. Her face lit up when she saw us, even if she didn’t know our faces anymore. She never, ever stopped inviting the little children to come to her. She hugged us. She held our own kids on her lap, cuddling them close, nuzzling their soft heads with her face.
On one visit, when Alden walked in the room to see her, he knew in his gut that this time she didn’t recognize him. After her warm greeting, he decided to ask her, “How’s your grandson, Alden?” and was treated to a gush of loving words. “He’s doing well! He’s doing great in school and starting to get into sports.” Alden said, “And how old is he now?” and without hesitating she said, “He’s seven!”
Grandma’s love was so true that it could bridge the gap of all the years of illness and fading memory and tell 22-year-old Alden, “I know you. I love you.”
We miss her so, so much. The memories of growing up in her love are the greatest gift she left us. We are very thankful God made us her grandchildren, and we’re thankful that today she is with Jesus.
This year a friend of mine organized a little book-and-field-trip group. We meet the first Friday of every month during the school year for a field trip and three times we’ll read a book and have a “book club party” to discuss and celebrate it.
Today was the first book club meeting. It was scheduled for tomorrow but we decided to move it a day forward due to all the hurricane craziness around here; we showed up at a local park but discovered all government building/organizations are closed for the coming storm.
So our friend Kristin offered to host us last-minute in her backyard, and it turned out to be perfect. Perfect weather. Perfect grassy space for us all to spread out and eat and play.
We plan to read classic children’s books, and this year’s first was Mary Poppins, by P.L. Travers. I’ve never read the book, and Judah, Amie, and I loved it (Gabe and Noah listened in from time to time but mostly we read it after they went to bed at night). Several moms looked after the younger kids during the 30-minute book discussion, then we ate a potluck “tea party” picnic lunch, and the kids made art with sidewalk chalk, just like Bert. Kelly led the discussion this time and said she was so impressed with how engaged and chatty all the kids were. They loved the book and loved having a group of friends to talk about it with.
My kids have yet to see the movie, and I can’t wait to show it to them tonight! It’s one of my all-time faves, and the Broadway show is pretty fantastic too. I also highly recommend the movie Saving Mr. Banks, about P.L. Travers’ childhood.
We love our new group!
Hi there everyone!
I’m sorry that the blog was down for a few days; there was a server migration which resulted in some needed updates. But now we’re back in business!
Remember my very profound post after vacation about being content and living in the moment and spending more time curled up at home with my kids? Well, I started the week with the best of intentions and ended it flat on my face. On Friday, we went to look at a bigger house in our neighborhood, which was charming but just not quite the right fit for our family. Nonetheless I came back home and stomped around complaining about our one bathroom and small kitchen and patchy front yard (yes, apparently I’m not above behaving exactly like a teenager).
I was tired from a week of kids and meals and homeschooling and David left to spend two days out of town for work and I felt resentful and mean-spirited.
What’s more, I discovered that despite my promises to Gabe and Noah, I did indeed commit us all to another year of swim team by paying a hefty deposit for all four kids. So I’m continuing to pack everyone up and head to practice two mornings a week.
Which all proves that we can have the best of intentions and sometimes life knocks us on our rear and we have to deal with it. That’s where repentance comes in. And forgiveness, and the God of new-mercies-every-morning.
Isn’t it nice that that’s the good news, not whether my performance was up to par?
And my post was still true, perhaps even more so because the kind of restlessness I was speaking of mostly refers to my heart and not to what’s happening externally. I can rearrange priorities and our schedule, but sometimes I have to do things I don’t want to do and make the best of it. So I worked in our yard all weekend and bought a few more plants, which did wonders for my gratitude. And I tried on a gentler voice this morning while getting the kids out the door to swim team. We switched mornings so they could be with their friends, and they were all happy. And back home I skipped a few worksheets so that I could curl up with Gabe and read.
I’m also grateful for this blog and for each one of you too, dear readers!
We arrived home from our vacation on Friday afternoon sun-tanned, rested, and happy. An entire week away was good for our very souls. Best of all, we actually wanted to come home again.
Our house felt dear and cozy, imperfections and all, our yard a wide green respite after eight days in a high-rise, and our life in Columbia a gift, even the hard parts.
The very best thing our vacation did for us, I think, was invite us to live in the present.
Have you ever noticed how innately good kids are at it? Of course they can be as restless as the rest of us at times, but in their finer, truer moments they have a knack of becoming wholly absorbed in the tower of blocks that they’re building, or the spider meandering across the picnic table, or the weeds that have sprouted up between the house and the driveway — so much so that it often drives us fast-paced grown-ups crazy.
I’m learning to slow down on the outside, but the tendency of my mind is still to race around and dwell anywhere but the present. I think part of this is my anxiety disorder, part is being an adult — having to be responsible and a planner — and part is just bad habits.
On vacation I took social media off my phone. I kept my phone in my bedside table and my laptop closed and hardly checked either. I didn’t do it because those things are bad, simply because I know myself and I wanted to disconnect from anything that threatens to pull me out of the present moment. In short, I wanted to rest, on the outside and on the inside.
And you know what? It worked!
I did not think about homeschooling curriculum or swim team or friendship dynamics or New Members Class.
David remarked at the end of the week, “Can you believe we didn’t talk about church one single time?”
We didn’t even have to discipline ourselves not to, we were just far away and unplugged, so absorbed in the world right in front of us that included nothing more pressing than digging a very deep hole in the sand, choosing embroidery floss colors for a friendship bracelet, or figuring out how to sear the swordfish steaks we bought for dinner.
That, my friends, is the magic of a week-long vacation.
And it’s something I hope I’ve brought home.
Lately I see myself with new eyes.
I notice the way I so often pull my kids — even David — out of the joy or concentration in their present moment — even with the best of intentions. I tell them we’re planning to go to the zoo later, or to meet up with their friends, or to order pizza for dinner. I ask David what our weekend plan should be. I talk about the things I want to move around in our house or buy for the back porch.
Heck, I pull myself out of the present with a load of worries and deep thoughts and responsibilities.
It’s hard to be grateful for the right here and right now when my mind isn’t in the here and now.
It’s hard not to be a pessimist and a worry-wart when my mind is racing a dozen different directions.
Of course, like I said, being an adult requires a certain amount of living beyond the present. If the gift of childhood is dwelling in this moment, then surely the gift of adulthood is a bigger perspective of the world, of cause-and-effect. And so at home I open my computer and write on the blog, I answer texts and think about what to cook for New Members Class this Sunday night, and shop for groceries.
But in the other moments (and there are many other moments), I want to be right here. I want to kneel in the grass and pull weeds and think about nothing other than the way the soil crumbles in my hands. I want to sit at the table during school time and ask questions about the water cycle with my third grader. I want to read Mary Poppins and laugh as hard as my kids do at the idea of a tea party that brushes the ceiling. I want to watch that spider march across the picnic table.
There are gifts I can give my family that don’t include new shoes or a pack of gum or a Sonic milkshake. One of them is to let them live in their present.
If my children are peacefully playing Lego’s, I stop myself before I begin talking about our library trip later that afternoon. If David is digging up the back yard bed and drinking a beer, I don’t mention the difficult situation at church. Instead I can watch them and ask a blessing, that they find joy in their present.
I realized this week that that’s a gift Jesus offers me too.
I feel that for too long I’ve equated spirituality with responsibility, with making plans and taking care of people and preparing myself for every possible outcome. I’ve made sure that I’m a good Southern girl, that people like me, that I don’t offend, and that I’m towing my end of the line.
And somehow in doing so I’m dwelling in this inner world in my head of obligations and fears and cares stacked taller than Wyndham Resort Tower 4.
Is that really being spiritual? Is it really obedience to Christ?
Jesus says, “Be anxious for nothing.” “Give thanks for everything.” “Cast your cares upon me.” “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
He says I need to become like a child.
Browsing the grocery aisle on vacation, Gabe said, “Remember when we drank juice during school-time and sat on the couch and read books? Can we do that again sometime?”
And so I came home and quit our twice-weekly swim class for the little boys. It was fun for several months and we loved the people and they learned a ton about swimming, but our mornings felt so rushed. We no longer had time for sitting and drinking juice cuddled up on the couch together with a stack of picture books because we were racing to finish worksheets. I don’t like who I became herding my four kids up and out the door and back again two mornings a week. Somehow I couldn’t come home and shake myself out of the rut of rushing, both in body and spirit.
Gabe and Noah are five and three years old. If they want mornings at home to read books, then I’ll be right there with them, getting lost in the story.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that the only way to be at rest is to homeschool or be a stay-at-home mom.
I guess what I’m saying that I’m learning is that there is busyness of the body and of the schedule, and busyness of the spirit. It seems that God is peeling back the layers of my anxiety, helping me to quiet my schedule a bit, but also showing me what’s beneath, that my calendar can have plenty of white space, but my mind can be striving and anxious and mistrustful that He’s taking care of things.
I came home from the beach deciding to be a recovering control-freak and worry-wart.
I can’t change this way of life in a week or even in a year. But I can take notice and decide, by faith, to change direction.
I can try a little bit every day to stop what I’m doing and to look my family in the eye when they speak to me, to show them by my facial expression and body language that there’s nothing more important to me in this minute than what they have to say.
I can thank God for this moment, right here and right now, sitting with my laptop and a cup of steaming tea, instead of wondering if there are likes on my Instagram or texts on my phone, whether we spent enough time on CC memory work today, and fret about how my anxiety will be during that zoo play date in two hours.
I can choose to stop before I say that negative thing and instead say something positive, something thankful.
I can ask God to help me be very, very patient with my children when they’re restless and discontent and complaining because only He knows the scars my own heart bears from those very sins.
I can believe with all my might in forgiveness, in second chances.
I can choose to live a life of childlike absorption, which is to say, a life of wonder.
It promises to be a bumpy journey, my friends, but I believe that herein lies the path to joy.
Hello from our first ever week-long, just-our-family vacation!
We’re at a timeshare resort in North Myrtle Beach that a generous person with our church’s domination offered us. We don’t know her, she just wanted to bless a pastor’s family. Words can’t describe our gratitude. Four days in, and it’s been absolutely perfect.
More soon, but for now, beach pictures!!
Our oldest boy turned 9 years old yesterday.
Can you believe it? Is it possible that I have a 9-year-old?
We celebrated with a breakfast date: Judah, David, and me. The three of us sat on the front patio of Rise Bakery, eating sticky buns, and shooing away the black cat that wound around our ankles, wondering when the last time was that we’d been out together, just the three of us.
Judah requested a whole year ago that he get the day off school for his birthday. He’s the only one of our kids that has a birthday on a school day, and he was very frustrated about it. So from here on out we plan to take September 8th day off (no complaints here).
Back home he opened his gifts from us: a Lord of the Rings Lego set and a chess set.
This is the first birthday Judah hasn’t asked for all toys, and that makes me a bit wistful but also thrilled with the way he’s growing complex, with different hobbies and interests. From family members he got a knife and a sharpener and wood for carving. He got a Hobbit t’shirt, a tin of Pokemon cards and a binder to organize them.
At nine years old he’s growing up, but not so much that he didn’t spend the morning building and playing with his new Legos. I love that.
At nine years old Judah loves playing table tennis with Grandpa, and going to CIU soccer games with Papa and Nina. He’s the most outgoing of all our kids in social situations, is friendly and talks to adults and kids and teenagers alike. There’s an intrinsic confidence about him that I’ve always admired.
Judah is comfortable with who he is.
This year David and I have watched him grow and mature more than any other. He came out of the cloud of stress surrounding our adoption, has passed through anger and adjustment, and loves all three of his siblings. He’s shedding some of his tunnel vision and thinking of others. He’s learning to connect with his little brothers, even though sometimes they bother him. He’s growing kind and tactful, and is very sensitive to hurting people’s feelings. He’s learning to look adults in the eye when they speak to him and answer clearly.
He loves Classical Conversations. The academic philosophy is perfect for Judah. He loves to learn and has a great memory and is interested in the world. His favorite subjects are science and geography.
Unbeknownst to me, he decided to give his first class presentation on living in India. He hasn’t lived there in four years, but he stood up and told his class about preschool and learning Hindi and his friends, about being incessantly pinched on the cheeks and about eating masala dosa.
In his second week of school he recited the poem, The Land of Nod, by Robert Louis Stevenson, in its entirety.
I’m unspeakably proud of my boy.
I’m also more humbled than I can say. As a parent my two biggest temptations are to 1. Feel like I’m constantly falling short of being a good mom, and 2. Fearing the future as my kids grow up and encounter suffering and temptation, longing to protect them from all of it.
And yet. Watching my 9-year-old is nothing short than a testament to God’s faithfulness.
Judah has had several challenges already in his life: many moves, a traumatic time in India with a very sick Mommy (he later told me that he worried that I was going to die), planting a church, adopting two little brothers, a mom who has anxiety, as well as unique challenges he’s faced with the way God created him.
And yet, he stands before me with bright, eager eyes. He does his schoolwork and then knows he needs a break to jump on the trampoline. He’s interested in life and learning and river adventures with his dad. He loves watching The Great British Baking Show with me and learning to make chapati. He enjoys holing up alone to read and also going see his friends at swim practice. He’s bursting with excitement about our CPC church retreat this weekend.
All of this is God’s grace to our family and to our boy. I give Him the glory and I trust Him with Judah: both at 9-years-old and in the years ahead. My hands are open, even as I ache at the ways I fail and the challenges all kids face in growing up. I chose to enjoy Judah right here and now and to live in hope for the future. God loves him so very much more than I do and will work all of it for good in my boy’s life.
He has already.
I love you, Judah.