Letters to My Kids

The Scent of Memories

Dear Gramma Mary,

I will always remember that patch of irises or “root beer flowers” you had in the back corner of the house. Any time I see these beautiful purple blooms I think of you and the many memories we made in that big back yard –

clean linens flapping on the line,

birds chirping near the feeder,

tire swing swaying from the montrous oak,

and the long wait for the charcoal grill to heat and cook our hamburgers.


I remember sitting in your Florida room watching Lawrence Welk as the summer breeze blew through the screened windows.

I remember you tossing us a whiffle ball and the time I hit a “home run” by breaking one of those glass panes. I learned about restitution.

I remember playing “fox and hound” in a foot of freshly fallen snow when I’d spend a snow day at your house.

I remember your clip-on earrings and your red carpet room and your pretty head scarves that you wore when it was windy.

So many things make me think of you – old fashioned pencil sharpeners, Archway windmill cookies, cabbage rolls, jade jewelry, aspen trees, rummy, gumdrops, and anything PBS.


Thanks for having Ash and I over every Friday night to eat McDonald’s and watch Jeopardy and TGIF (ok, that was mostly us, but I can’t forget that ancient 13 inch tv in your bedroom.) Thanks for letting us spend the night and snuggle with you in the double bed and telling us stories before we fell asleep. Thanks for teaching me how to do plastic canvas and letting me pretend to use your acrylic paints like Bob Ross. I’ll forgive you for snoring if you forgive me for getting water all over the place whenever I “helped” wash dishes. I always smile when I think of how you called Kevin your boyfriend and how proud you were when he became a pastor. I think I’ll start signing my name with xoxo just like you always did.


I’ll miss you, Grams, but I certainly won’t forget you. I’m forever grateful that you were willing to hang around for enough years to see your first great grandchild, and I promise I will tell her all about you.

 

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Dear God, Kirsten Grace, Letters to My Kids, Parenting

Kirsten Grace – Month 12

Kirsten!
You are 1 year old today! Happy Birthday, Baby Girl!

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This year has gone by faster than any year I have ever experienced, feeling almost impossible that 12 months have passed since you came (rather reluctantly) into our arms. It was a long, hard labor (nearly 28 hours after my water was broken) and I can’t say I’d want to do that all over again, but I am so thankful I did. Darling girl, you have been the most incredible grace in our lives. WOW. Being your mama is the greatest joy and the biggest challenge I have ever faced. I have no idea how someone can scream and cry and keep me from sleep for almost a year (well…closer to two with the pregnancy-night-pee-thing) … and still bring more joy and bigger grins to my face than I ever believed possible. Kirsten, you are a paradox of stress and relief, frustration and celebration, and I absolutely am head over heals for you.

Let it be known: I would not change one thing about you. Not ONE THING. (It’s as the eloquent poet Sandra Boynton says, “I love what you are, I love what you do, fuzzy little snuggle puppy, I love you!”)

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You are an investigator. You love turning the pages in books, preferring grown up books to your own. You examine toys and tissue boxes. You watch us play piano or guitar and you very intentionally mimic our movements. First thing in the morning when we greet you in your crib, you start pointing left and right, up and down, saying “Dah?”…asking us “what’s that, what’s that?” You know trees, cat, light, book, etc. You continually pull everything out of cupboards and drawers. We actually found you had bit through a Kcup and had coffee all over you. Yum. I also ended up bungee cording your dress drawers to keep you from dismantling your clothes 10 times a day.

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You love food. You have mastered the “squooshi” packets for eating yogurt and applesauce and cottage cheese, but for the most part you’d just assume eat what mom and dad are eating. You have adventurous taste buds. You seem to dislike most fruits, oddly enough, but will go to town on a bowl of chili.

You are musical. On the first day with your “band in a box” you had learned that the cymbals go together and which piece to use with the triangle. You love the “drum set” I made you out of oatmeal canisters, happily imitating our rhythms. You play the piano and guitar gently and intentionally. You sing. You could care less about TV unless the theme song to The West Wing comes on. (Let’s be honest, that is some brilliant orchestration. Good taste, little girl.) When I nurse you before bed I hum “Hush now, my baby” from The Prince of Egypt and whenever I stop, you make a few grunts to indicate, “Keep singing, please, mom.”

You have a vibrant personality. You laugh loudly, you cry loudly. You have a flair for the dramatic. You are hysterically funny, using your eyebrows and facial expressions like a second language. When you feel demanding (about food or wanting attention or demanding to be closer to your pal Landon L.), you screech with the highest pitch I fear all the dogs in the neighborhood will come running. You know what you want and are very unlikely to be a pushover.

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You are a lover. You want to be near both mom and dad all of the time (though no cuddling, please). You give kisses now with an opened mouth and a “Mah!” You still flap your arms wildly whenever you see either of us (or Landon, of course). You give your stuffed animals and other toys kisses too.

You may be an extrovert. You love people and happily bounce from person to person. You are joyful to be around and most everyone seems to enjoy being around you. I am thinking you lean extrovert also because of the way you refuse to be rocked to sleep. Once you’re done nursing, you won’t let me hold you and rock you to sleep. Nope. You want your bed, to decompress by yourself. This reminds me of my own tendencies – if there’s someone in the room I can’t help but interact with them. So to rest and relax, I need quiet, alone time.

You have 5 teeth, you stand without holding on, you’ve taken 1-½ steps. You crawl like a speed demon, take two 1-½ hour naps a day, and sleep through the night from 7-7. (Praise the Lord for sleeping through the night. Oh my gosh, I cannot thank you enough, Child.)

Kirsten Grace,

May you never doubt the Love of God,
The nearness of His Comforter, the Holy Spirit,
Or the friendship of Jesus.

May you be confident of your giftedness,
Humble in your confession,
Genuine in your love of all people.

May you grow in grace and in knowledge of God,
Serving him first, always.

Praying this for you,
Mama

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Confessions, Kirsten Grace, Letters to My Kids, Parenting

Kirsten Grace – Month 11

Dear Kirsten,

Oh goodness, sweet girl, I missed your 10th month post completely. I saw it coming, I saw it fly right past me, and I consciously decided not to chase it down. It’s hard for your mom to let stuff go…to say “I need some margin in my life and I have none right now.” So last month that is exactly what I did, I let it go. And somehow, I am certain you still love me and if you ever read these letters when you’re a little older, I think you’ll smile and say, “Oh mom, why would you worry about that? Of course it’s ok!”
Kirsten Grace Month 11

Baby, you are my absolute favorite person in the whole world. These past two months have brought more wonders to our lives than I imagined. Man, those first few months are just tough. The nursing, the teething, the (no) sleeping. But we got through it together and now I feel like we’re having more fun than anyone should be allowed to have. At least once a day you and I get in these laughing fits…I do something that makes you laugh, or you do something that cracks me up…and off we go! It’s hysterical and so life-giving.

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You have learned to wave and point! Every morning when I pick you up from your crib you want to go to the window, open the drapes and we have “Hi, Outside!” Something out there really gets you excited. You love riding in your k’tan under my umbrella over to church, hearing the raindrops. You have come around to loving walks. I look forward to you asking me to take you for a stroller ride. I just love those times together.
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You love feeding yourself graham crackers, peanut butter toast, and cheerios. You drink with skill from your sippy cup and are trying to use a spoon. Most of the time you demand food from mom and dad’s plates rather than something separate for you. You like curried potatoes, chili, and pizza. You have shown some dislike for bananas and don’t seem interested in my chicken noodle soup, though you eat every other soup I make. Maybe it’s the black pepper?

Your body fought a cold for about 2 weeks in November and finally the doctor gave you your first prescription for Amoxicillin. It never slowed you down, though. Kirsten, you do not sit still. You are a little investigator, always going, going, going. I’ve tried to snuggle with you, but it never works. That’s ok. You’re a learner and an independent spirit. And I don’t think anyone doubts that you love your momma, even if you don’t love snuggling.

We’re still breastfeeding, though I think we’re both working towards weaning. You normally nurse when you wake up in the morning, once before a nap, and once before bed. And all glory to God in the highest….you are SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT! The past week we decided it was time for sleep training. I was still getting up once or twice a night with you, plus nursing you at 5 or 6am when I woke up and then laying you back down. It was torture, sheer torture, letting you scream in your bed for somewhere around 45 minutes. Our hearts were racing, and it took intense will power to stay in our bed. (It was more sleep training for me, I think, honestly.) Seeing you in the morning no worse for the wear, made the decision a lot easier. After the third night, I would hear you now and again, but I could go back to sleep and ignore you for the most part. And now, for the last three nights, I haven’t heard one peep from you (or at the most it lasts for 20 seconds!) You sleep from 7pm to 8am. Holy moly! After 11 months, I am finally catching up on sleep!

IMG_8905This shift in lifestyle is making me feel slightly more comfortable with the idea of being gone for 8 days in January (for my Master’s degree residency). Little girl, please know that leaving you is the hardest thing I think I’ve done. I’m not looking forward to it, but knowing you don’t need me during the night is comforting. You do wonderfully with your daddy during every other part of the day, so by then, I know the two of you will have a blast!

 

For as much as you are a momma’s girl, you are a daddy’s girl too! You still get all bouncy and kicky and grin spreading ear to ear when you see either of us.

 

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You love books more than any other toy. You love playing the drums (on boxes or whatever). You love playing the big piano and smile with such pride up at me.

You clap enthusiastically when I cheer “yay!” You gently pluck mom or dad’s guitar strings. And the only time you sit still is when daddy sits by you, playing guitar. You have an affinity for animals that is tough to rival. Wow, you might actually love dogs more more than mom and dad based on the flapping you do. Landon is one of your favorite friends, and you get (a little too) excited whenever you play with him. (He’s had a few scratches on the face from you talon-fingernails and all the love you’re trying to shower on him.)

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You crawl like lighting and stand up with ease, letting go now and then.  You walk along tables or chairs holding on. We’re waiting for the big moment of first steps any day!

Today is the first Sunday in Advent, and your dad and I are looking forward to reading our Advent Devotional together and lighting our own Advent wreath. We’re going to do stockings on St. Nicholas Day and exchange three gifts for each person – something spiritual, something practical, and something extravagant. 

We love you, Kirsten Grace. Oh my word, do we ever love you.

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Dear God, Jesus, Ministry, Sermon Prep

An Advent People

This morning I have the privilege of ushering you all into the New Year…the new liturgical year, that is. At Monroe Free Methodist Church, Pastor Kevin and I have chosen to follow the Revised Common Lectionary and today is the beginning of Advent, the start of the new Church year. To begin, we’ll spend some time breaking down these “church-lingo” terms, then I’ll share a bit of my personal story, and finally I’d like to challenge us to become an Advent People.

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Ok, so backing up a bit…the Lectionary. What in the world is it? The root of the word is “lection” which simply means “reading.” The Lectionary, then, is a predetermined way of reading through the Scriptures. Back in the 60s, the Catholic Church made the groundbreaking decision to begin following an organized plan or reading the Bible. The Revised Common lectionary came about in the 80s and 90s when a long list of non-Catholic Christian Churches tweaked the original reading schedule. Each week we read a Psalm, an Old Testament passage, an Epistle (the biblical term for “letter”), and a Gospel (the biblical term for one of the four books teaching on the Good News, the life of Jesus.) Many Presbyterians, Lutherans, United Methodists, Mennonites, Anglican and Free Methodist churches follow the lectionary together. That’s one of my favorite parts about the lectionary – knowing that on this Sunday I’m reading the same passages that many other churches are across the country, and around the world. The reading unifies the Church across space and time.

The cycle of readings begins in “Year A” with Matthew and it’s correlating Old Testament, Psalm, and Epistle. Then, we start over again with a new set of passages for Year B (using Mark), then Year C (in Luke). Thus…we travel a three year journey through the whole story of the Bible. Though not every verse or chapter can be read during this time, we as a church are able to get a better taste for the beautiful story of God’s redeeming plan for creation, a story that spans Genesis to Revelation. 

Following the Lectionary is not required of our church. It is a decision Kevin and I have made out of conviction; conviction that our personal plans for sermons will never surpass the wisdom of God. Sure, we could be determining our sermon series based on our own agenda, but we’re pretty sure our creativity would run out, our biases would show through, and we could easily steer the church on our own insight. In reading the Lectionary, we trust that the Holy Spirit works outside of time, believing that even (and perhaps especially) predetermined Scripture readings are exactly the message God has for us today. We choose to submit to the authority and study of the men and women who’ve gone before us, as opposed to sticking to our favorite books of the Bible or using the trusty “open your Bible and blindly point” method. It’s exciting to watch how God has used these pre-planned Scripture passages to weave together sermons at the proper time. He is so faithful.

Ok…so now that we understand the Lectionary a bit better, there’s this concept of the Church Calendar (also known as the Liturgical Year or the Christian Year). This is yearly progression through the life of Christ, a calendar of seasons – of feast days and fasting – adhered to by nearly every Christian church. We begin now with Advent, then follow the arc of scripture through Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, and Ordinary Season. With each changing season, we are offered the opportunity to reflect on how God worked in us and we’re invited to become aware of his leading into the coming season.

Which brings us to today. The cool thing about today?! It’s the first day of the New Year in Year A! So if you’re just hearing about this for the first time, you’re getting in on the “ground floor.” (But don’t worry, we’ll come back around to Year A in 2019).

Today we are entering into the season of Advent, the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. The origin of this Christian season dates back to 480 AD and perhaps even further…to the times of Peter and the Disciples. The word “advent” simply means “to come” and so this season is an opportunity to prepare and to wait with baited breath for the arrival of the newborn King. We wait, as Mary did, for Jesus Christ to be born. We wait, as the prophets did, for their long-awaited Prince of Peace. But as followers of Jesus on the “other side” of his birth, we have a different invitation to wait. Knowing that the celebration of Jesus’ birth is imminent, we now wait for his second coming. We wait for the day when Christ will come to bring his perfect peace to earth as it is in heaven…for all eternity. We wait with hope and angst for the day when he will make all things right, restoring relationships, repairing sick bodies, aligning healthy governments, abolishing poverty. We wait with excitement and perhaps dread, for his day of judgment, knowing that our trust in him brings salvation but that a detailed account of our lives will acknowledge the moments when we failed to follow faithfully. But we wait.

After years of following Jesus, I only recently began to embrace the seasons of the Christian calendar. A few years back, a friend who I deemed my “spiritual mother” invited me to join her intimate small prayer circle. Each Wednesday evening, five of us would gather in a chilly, candlelit sanctuary for an hour of stillness. We prayed the vespers service together, reading Scriptures and praying written-out prayers. Spending this type of quiet time together was new to me, but became deeply transformative. Together we were experiencing the life-changing lessons contained in the liturgy and the communion of saints.

And it was there that I met Advent. Along with my dear vespers sisters, we read Ruth Haley Barton’s Advent Reflections to guide our focus during this season of faith. Ruth’s writing and urging, combined with the lectionary Scripture passages offered the opportunity for self-examination, for refocusing, for shifting my perspective. Yes, this is the very same devotional guide we’ve offered to you. (Which, side note…the orders are in, and we have two extra, if you’re interested!)

Advent is such a beautiful, yet challenging time in life of the Church. It is at this time of year that we are reminded of our need to wake up to the coming of Jesus in our lives, to become an Advent People.

This Advent-waiting is so difficult because we are invited to sit in this in-between space: a space where we are no longer experiencing the comfortable, oh-so-familiar life, yet neither have we seen the resolution of the waiting…the answer, the direction, the “ahhhh yes” everything-is-turning-out-just-fine moment. We are in the time of holding our breath, left to wait. We can choose to gasp for air, fight for our lives, flee the fearful expectancy. Or we can seek the Lord Jesus Christ in this uncertainty, looking for his movement, listening to his voice. Because even in the waiting, especially in the waiting, there is Jesus.

When I first started observed Advent in 2013, I was in the middle of one of my darkest winters. It was our third year of infertility and that combined with other life circumstances made the dark winter nights a reality in my heart. But during that time, I prayed this prayer:

Lord Jesus, As hard as this is to admit, I thank you for this long time of advent in my life. This journey of infertility may continue for many more years, I don’t know, but the grace, the blessing has come and is coming in the ways I’m learning to seek you. I imagine where my focus would be right now if I had gotten “my way”…and it’s not likely to be totally on you. Teach me now how to keep company with Jesus, how to kindle communion with Him, that it may be an inextricable part of me in years to come.

Advent is so much more than a countdown to Christmas. It is an invitation to wait with God on God in our everyday lives. The process of Christian growth – of spiritual formation – is slow and ongoing and, quite frankly, beyond of our control. Friends, my challenge for our church is to become an Advent People: a congregation who responds to God’s invitation every day; a people who hold vigil with Christ each day – keeping the candle burning in our devotion to prayer and to scripture and to one another; a humble group of Jesus-followers becoming increasingly willing to change, willing to step out of the control seat and willing to let God do his transformational work.

Come! Let us walk in the light of the Lord together! (Isaiah 2:5)

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