Thursday, November 24, 2022

To Jocelyn, On Your 17th Birthday


 Dear Jocelyn,

                     What. A. Year. It was good. It was bad. It was everything in between. We have weathered all kinds of storms as a family, but you have had many tough challenges of your own. Anyone who thinks that getting your first job, learning to drive, and transitioning from homeschooling to college is easy should just spend a few minutes talking to you. You have done an amazing job, but it has been anything but easy. The learning curve has been steep. For both of us. We have cried, but we have persevered. We have passed driver's tests, turned in midterms, arranged work schedules, navigated piles of paperwork, and we are still standing. 

            I never needed anyone to tell me that time flies. You know that the moment you have a baby. But it is getting ridiculous at this point. I am trying not to imagine what it will feel like when you aren't just at the bottom of the stairs, because it won't do me any good. Instead, I am savoring the moments, the fun we have running errands, you standing in the door of my bedroom to give me the latest stories from work, or even just crouching over the laptop to edit an assignment before you turn it in. I love that you still look forward to our annual west side trip, it makes me so happy to have that time to hear your hopes and dreams uninterrupted.

           Because even though I have been your mom for 17 years, I am still learning about you, in part because you are still very much in the process of determining your own identity. I never wanted a carbon copy of myself, as a matter of fact, I try very hard to help you learn from my mistakes. I want you to be *you*, wonderful, marvelous, created in His image but still amazingly unique. I want you to find joy in living for the Lord, to take pleasure in the small things, to be grateful in the tough times, and to learn to trust in the difficult ones. 

   Most of all, I want you to learn that you don't have to be afraid. The battle has already been won and He is with you. I love that your birthday is essentially the kickoff to the Advent season. All these festivities and decorations reminding us that Emmanuel has come and told us not to fear. You can fail, you can fly, you can live knowing you are fully known, and yet, still fully loved. You don't need anyone but Jesus. 

    And know, that as long as the Lord allows, I will be here. I will be honest with you, because that is the best way to teach someone. I won't tell you it will be easy, or pain free. But I will always love you too. I hope you always know that I will listen. 

     I have told you pretty much the same thing every year. But as we grow older I think it becomes even more vital to know that we have someone in our corner. The mistakes of a child do not have the serious consequences of the ones we can make as we grow older. But few mistakes are greater than thinking that we cannot be forgiven, and that we are only loved for what we do. I hope you know I will always love you because you are my dear daughter, but more so than that I pray that you will know and depend on the love Christ has for you. 

                                                                          I love you,

                                                                                      Mom

Friday, April 15, 2022

What Saturday's Stillness Says


 

 "...But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment." Luke 23:56b


       By nature I am a talker. Silence makes me uncomfortable. How can I know what you are thinking if you aren't speaking? How can you know what I am thinking if I'm not speaking? Anyone who has ever spent any great amount of time with me doesn't have to worry about that. I won't be quiet for long. 

    But there are times when even I do not speak. It doesn't happen often, although as I mature it seems to be increasing in frequency. I think perhaps it is a sign of wisdom. I am least prone to speak when I am angry-it is not a good sign if I stop talking in the middle of a fight. But I have also learned to limit my words when someone is grieving. I have begun to see that there are no words that I have that can make that right. At those times people usually just want someone to be with them, not offer empty platitudes or trite phrases of consolation. They don't need the sound of my voice, just to know they are not alone is enough. 

  "The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." Deuteronomy 31:8

    Today is Good Friday. Sunday is Easter. Saturday is...silence?  We tremble before the power of the crucifixion. We rejoice at the power of the Resurrection. But what power does Saturday hold?

I like to think it holds the power of silence.

Sometimes when God doesn't seem to be saying anything He is speaking the loudest. Sometimes He is sitting with us in our grief. That verse is from the Old Testament. Well in advance of Jesus' death God had promised to be with His people. Jesus time in the tomb did not undo that promise. 

"For the word of the LORD is right and true; He is faithful in all He does." Psalm 33:4

What happens in silence? We start to listen. We wait. We think of what we already know. When God does not seem to be moving we should start paying the closest of attention. There are times we have strayed from His immediate presence, to be sure. But I have found that in times of grief and loss, confusion and pain, we feel like God is not moving. And perhaps it is because He is sitting with us in our grief.

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18 

   I cannot speak for those waiting women. But Scripture speaks for them. Look at it again:

 "...But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment." Luke 23:56b

The emphasis is mine, but every word of Scripture is true. In the dozens of English translations that word is rendered "rested" except in one (Darby) that says "remained quiet." 

    What do rest and grief have in common? How can you be at peace in times of greatest loss? How can you remain quiet when your heart is wailing with fear and loss? Was there any greater loss than that of Jesus? How could these women rest? How could they remain quiet?

"There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from His." Hebrews 4:9-10 

"When He had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit." John 19:30 

We can rest when our work is done. And our work is done for us because we could never do it ourselves. We can remain quiet in the stillness of grief, knowing that we don't have to fight anymore. The battle is won. God didn't have to speak in the stillness of Saturday, the Word had already been spoken. All that remained was to believe. 

   And that is how we can rest in the stillness of whatever Saturday we may be currently going through. The end has already been written and it is glorious. The Word has already spoken and He is victorious. We can live on Saturday like it is already Sunday. We can walk in the same faith knowing He is risen even while He seems to be very silent, as still as the grave. 

"The angel said to the women, 'Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; He has risen just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay." Matthew 28:5-6

  He has already spoken. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. (John 1:14) He is with us, He is for us, He has given us rest. So if this "Saturday" seems so silent you feel like you are going crazy, remember that rest is possible. If those women could have enough faith in the promises of God to rest while Jesus was in the tomb, you can find rest in Him here. He is using the silence to speak and it is saying:

"For no matter how many promises God has made, they are 'Yes' in Christ. And so through Him the 'Amen' is spoken by us to the glory of God." 2 Corinthians 1:20 

 


Sunday, April 10, 2022

To Carson, On Your 14th Birthday


Dear Carson, 

                   What a year it has been! I cannot believe how much you have grown over the last year, not just physically, but mentally and spiritually. You continue to show a sweet tenderness that is uncharacteristic of many men, young or old. You have a genuine love for people, especially little ones, and you work so hard to make people feel included. 

          I have seen so many great character strengths developing in you, and nowhere are they quite as apparent as during these last two seasons of basketball. We jumped into a new team in the fall, and neither of us what quite certain what to expect. At first you didn't think you had what it took-you were afraid you weren't strong enough or tough enough. You were so tired after practices. But I wouldn't let you quit and instead of complaining you threw yourself into the high school season-as an 8th grader! You started out by barely playing, and you never took a shot. But by the end of the season you scored several times and surprised even yourself by being a valuable member of the team. Neither one of us realized that the middle school season would be next, but you developed relationships with many new teammates and showed yourself to be a leader. Not because you thought of yourself as being worthy to be in charge, but because you showed yourself to be a teachable team player who was interested in everyone improving. You were a starter for most of the season-a tough one where you stayed humble and invested. You demonstrated a sportmanslike attitude and acquitted yourself  well with both teammates and coaches.

     Not only were you a great basketball player, but you continued to love and serve your friends and family. Katy says that you and all the little boy cousins are "Carson and the Carsonettes". You are Harry's favorite, and whenever he is around you two are practically inseparable. You truly care for and take care of him. You are the best at putting him to sleep and he will jump out of other people's arms to get to you. Your relationship is so sweet. 

    And you always make me feel loved, too. You tell me I'm "the best mom ever" and I can't tell you what that means to me. You know when I am feeling down, and you really try to make me feel better. You don't mind spending time with me, and some of my favorite memories will always be chatting with you about the deep questions in life while driving to practice or a game. I love your inquisitiveness, and I never get tired of answering your questions. You love to share fun new facts with me that you have learned and I like to hear how you are expanding your worldview. 

   I love who you are. You are a godly young man that really understands that one of the very best ways to serve Christ is by loving people. You are always a welcome member of any group, and it is easy to see why. I am so glad that I get to be your mom. I hope 14 is an amazing year for you. I love you so much.

                                                                                                           Love,

                                                                                                        Larry (Your current nickname for me)

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

To Jocelyn, On Your 16th Birthday

 

Dear Jocelyn,

                      Happy 16th birthday! It is impossible to describe the joy that you bring us, and I hope that on your birthday you know at least a small part of that. We are past the halfway point of your teen years (eek!) and it has truly been a pleasure to be your mom. People say teenagers are the worst, but this has been my favorite part of parenting so far. 

        The biggest reason for that is that you are not just my daughter, you are my sister in Christ. You are there with an encouraging word for me in tough seasons, and have already given me wise and loving counsel. I see Jesus in you and it continually delights me. You are the fragrance of the Gospel wherever you go and it is inspiring to all who know you. You live a life worthy of Him who called you, and it isn't one lived in a bubble. You have been in some difficult relationships, and you have had your beliefs tested. I doubt that it will end soon, but allow it to continue to make you lean into Jesus. 

       I am trying hard not to think about the fact that our homeschooling journey is almost at an end. I am having so much fun teaching you this year-you have developed a love for literature that delights me to no end. You still have a brain for science, and of course, math! You can run circles around me in those areas. You carefully chose to end your dance training this fall, so you could pursue other interests. You've put time into your social media channels, and it has been fun seeing your success. You are so brave! You have had fun learning guitar, and spending time on your artwork. When you won that art contest earlier this year it was nice to see the validation you felt-it was time well spent.

      Of course you have had time for friendships, too. You make your friends feel valued and it shows in how they seek you out. I loved that you still find ways to have fun and be silly-you realize that one is never too grown up to wear a good costume. Your "White Rabbit" this year was one of my all-time favorites of ever. (And literature inspired, too!)


   And you are as helpful and cheerful as ever. Awana, Operation Christmas Child, our Browne ministry, Vacation Bible School. You are my volunteering buddy and I love it. Your work is exemplary, and you serve more than many adults, but you never ask for accolades. I know that your future crown is already full of jewels. As always, you inspire me, challenge me, and daily remind me of God's goodness. I am looking forward to seeing you tackle driving and starting college soon. You will do great, I know, because you will do it with the Lord at the center. With Him, you will never fail. I love you so much, my wonderful daughter. 

                                                                                                Love Always,

                                                                                                                  Mother.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

To Carson, On Your 13th Birthday

 

Dear Carson,

           Well, I did not have any clue when I wrote your last birthday letter that I would be here once again writing to you in the midst of pandemic restrictions. You've been a trooper this last year. You've always been sensitive to change, and you knew that I was not dealing well with all that was happening. I'm sorry for the ways that I've made the last year even more difficult for you. You have made me feel loved and cared for, which is such a big part of who you are. You vacuumed, made me cakes, and wrote me sweet notes. I'm sorry that so much of this last year was about me. But it has never really worked for me to try to hide things from you, so instead I did my best to show you what it looks like to wade through uncertainty, to trust God when you feel like the world is falling apart. I hope that will be what you remember: not a mom who crumbled when things got hard, but rather that you can always trust that no matter what happens God is in control. It will never work if your faith is based on how well I live out mine. I have always encouraged you: Your faith must be based on Christ alone, and your relationship with Him cannot be guided by what anyone else, even your own mother, does or does not do. 

      And I see you taking that to heart. You are wrestling with difficult topics, always so observant of those around you. I love that you still ask so many questions. You catch me off guard, and make me think. I try not to give you pat answers, often, by asking my own questions you find that you knew the answer already, grounded in what Scripture says. You are having tough discussions with others, too. It shocks me to overhear the mature conversations you have with your friends, over video games! And your favorite class at co-op has been literature where you have waded through weighty books and subjects, like racism and communism. I must admit: I'm very pleased that you have taken to literature. A boy after my own heart.

    Yet, you are like your dad, too. You look for ways to serve others, and I am constantly complimented on how eagerly your help with your friends' younger siblings. You do love a baby and you are tickled that Kelly's baby is a boy. You are already planning all the fun things you can do with him and teach him because, "Mom, 13 years isn't really that big of a difference." It makes me melt, for sure! 

   As always, I am looking forward to watching your growth in the coming year. You are still helping with children's church on Sunday mornings, and you transitioned to helping in Awana on Wednesday nights now that you are on to Trek. I was impressed with how easily you made friends in your new club, but I supposed I shouldn't have been. You have always been well-liked, and in many ways you are a leader in your guy gangs, both at co-op and Awana. You have so many friends, I sometimes lose track! 

    I want you to know that I am so proud of you, you are already doing amazing things. I am so grateful I have the privilege of watching you. Thanks for loving me so well. I pray that I do the same for you.

                                                                                                       Love Always,

                                                                                                                     Mom 

                                  (aka Larapea, your latest of many nicknames for me. I will never get tired of that.)


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