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.)


Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Faith Before Fruit

 



     I have never felt spring so keenly as I have this year. We had spring last year, meteorologically speaking, but all of 2020 felt like always winter and never Christmas, or is that just me? This last year was so, so hard, full of loss, and change, and fear. So while the world seems to finally be “coming to” after a year of hibernation, I am searching until my eyes are tired for the signs of life, the quickening that is the hallmark of this season of newness and renewal. Outside, but in my heart, too. 


““Forget the former things;

    do not dwell on the past.

See, I am doing a new thing!

    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

I am making a way in the wilderness

    and streams in the wasteland.” 

Isaiah 43:18-19


     But then I am forced to ask myself: am I ready to let go of the “winter”? You would answer resoundingly “YES!”-that would be my initial thought, also. But I am still holding on to bitterness, frustration, resentful of the year that seemingly the locusts have eaten-forgetting that I am also promised:


“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—

    the great locust and the young locust,

    the other locusts and the locust swarm

my great army that I sent among you.

You will have plenty to eat, until you are full,

    and you will praise the name of the Lord your God,

    who has worked wonders for you;

never again will my people be shamed.”

Joel 2:25-26


    I have to let go to go on. And sometimes I am tired. I feel like everything is always changing and I’m not a gambler: I’m ashamed to admit that I’d always rather cling to a known evil than trade for a potential-but unknown-good. Some of it doesn’t make sense. What if things change and they’re not better? What if I let go and I never stop falling?


“Where can I go from Your Spirit?

    Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, You are there;

    if I make my bed in the depths, You are there.” 

Psalm 139:7-8 


  I have a blackberry bush in my backyard. It was planted by the previous owner so I don’t know much about it. Except that it has gorgeous huge berries and loves to be pruned. That astonished me-I’m not sure why, as it clearly is biblical. 


“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”

John 15:1-2


    Any branch that doesn’t show signs of life has to be cut off. It seems so damaging and shameful to the plant, but it is one of the most beneficial things you can do. The first year we lived in our house I didn’t know to prune it. It bore meager amounts of berries, and I was satisfied because that was all I knew. But then I found out that it needed to be pruned, in an almost merciless manner. 


  And that next spring I, with fear and trembling, hacked off every dead vine. It was scary because you prune *before* the plant flowers, before the promise of fruit. And I was scared I had killed it. But I had to let go. 


    He never lets go. I don’t have to understand-but I do need to let go. It’s the only way to flourish. And that summer, after all that cutting and removing, it came to life. It produced many times more berries than it had before. Bigger ones, too. But first I had to give in, give up, let go. 


    Spring is about renewal, but it is also about letting go. I have to pull up everything dead that’s standing in the way-and I have to do it by faith. Those dead things are at least *something*-what if I give them up for nothing? But I 

have to choose to walk by faith. 


“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

John 15:8


    If it’s for the Father’s glory it is an absolute, ironclad guarantee that it WILL come to pass. I just have to let go. And as spring begins to flower-inside and out-I’ll be praying that I can bear much fruit. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

To Jocelyn, On Your 15th Birthday


 Dear Jocelyn,

      Happy Birthday! What a year to be 15! This year has been hard, no doubt about it. It has tried all of us in many ways and you are no exception. However, in the trying you have been refined, not broken. I see you wrestling with your faith, and I am thrilled. You are truly learning how to walk with Christ on your own, and that is all I could ever have asked for. All the other wonderful things about you are just extras.

    And there are so many extras. One of my greatest pleasures this year has been sharing classic literature with you. Wrestling with  Hamlet and delighting in Jane Eyre, seeing you "get" "The Yellow Wallpaper" and chuckle over "Bernice Bobs Her Hair" has brought me such satisfaction. You haven't loved everything, (such strong feelings about "The Gift of the Magi"!) but you've tackled it with enthusiasm. I always want you to know that I have never lost sight of what an awe-inspiring privilege it is to homeschool you. Our homeschool journey together is drawing swiftly to a close. It is so hard to think of "graduating" from that part of our relationship. You've suffered from many of my mistakes, but when I see your love of learning and your skillful work, I know we made the right choice. I wouldn't trade this time with you for anything. 

  In all of the teaching I've done, I am still learning, too. And you have shown me so much. You have an incredible talent for friendships. You are the friend to others that I always wanted at that age. You truly love your friends, and you care enough to work through tough things with them. You have faced some challenges, hard things, stuff that would have caused adults to abandon friendships without a second thought. Instead you have prayerfully confronted these things, and it blows me away to think of how the Lord has used you. People need to hear hard things from people who love them. It takes an incredible amount of grace and maturity, though, to be the one who speaks truth in love. 

    I am constantly astonished that you turn to me for advice, that you listen to what I have to say. The relationship that we have is truly a gift. To know that you trust me to lead you in truth makes me strive even hard to be the woman of God that you believe to me. You have deepened my relationship with Christ in so many ways. I am constantly praying that the Holy Spirit will make me worthy of that trust.

    I am so thankful for you in so many ways. You are such a help to me-my companion in many of the ministries that I lead, and I don't think anyone realizes the ways that I rely on you. You are such a faithful worker for Christ-serving in countless ways, never expecting praise or recognition. You are essential in our Operation Christmas Child projects, we couldn't do VBS without you, you are always at Awana serving kids, you come early to co-op and stay late. You are involved in your own things, too. I know your gift of administration will shine in your new position as Student Representative. They have found a jewel in you! You know how to coordinate and motivate people in ways I could only dream of. 

    You are amazing. You are already doing great things-you've never seen any reason to wait to invest the talents God has given you right now. Here, now, you are living in confidence that God can use you and you are absolutely right. I'm just glad He let me be a part of it all. I love you so much. I hope 15 is wonderful beyond your wildest expectations. 

                                                                                                 Love,
                                                                                                     Mom

    

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Tossed and But Not Torn


This is going to last forever.
This too shall pass.


The whole world is going to come down. 

Perhaps this is what we need to find Jesus.


I am so tired of this, I just want to go back to normal.


What is normal? You only have first world problems.

The economy will never recover.

We've come through worse.

This is life and death.

But it doesn't feel serious...

Why can't I be happy with what I have?

I'm so thankful for what I've got.

I never really liked people anyway.

Then why do I miss them so much?

Maybe this is the end of the world...

There is no way, it wouldn't look like this!

Why can't I just trust and wait?

God is in control.
    
Only a small sample of the unending discussion that goes through my head every day. I feel divided, like I can't get a grip on this. I have heard this is what grief feels like-joy mingled with sorrow, and they alternate at times in surges and shallows. I think I am trying to process this, this complete unknown. 
"The LORD is my light and my salvation-whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life-of whom shall I be afraid?" Psalm 27:1
Written by the same David who said,

"Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted, the troubles of my heart have multiplied; free me from my anguish." Psalm 25:16-17 

David was literally "a man after God's own heart" but he, too, experienced seemingly conflicting emotions. I run the gamut of feelings, sometimes in as little as five minutes. However, don't be confused: my faith is not what is at stake here. I am, as David,

"I am confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD, be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD." Psalm 27:13-14  

Living in denial never did anyone any good. I can pretty much guarantee there isn't a person alive who hasn't been frustrated and discouraged by this whole pandemic. And that is rightly so, this sickness sweeping the world is a physical expression of the decay that corrupts each of our hearts apart from Christ. It should sadden and grieve us that we all are experiencing the consequences of hearts determined to follow their own ways. Illness is a result of the Fall. I can be disturbed by what is going on. 

 It is ignorant, in fact, to live as though external forces don't exist in the life of believers. Jesus Himself, in the parable of the house built on the rock, actually assures us of the opposite.  He says, 
"The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock." Matthew 7:25 
We will, indeed, weather storms. And just because they won't take us out, doesn't mean we won't feel the rain. Or hear the wind. We can't, and shouldn't, ignore it, if only for the fact that it reminds us that without Christ we would be hopeless and helpless in the face of the storm, and that is the case of anyone without Him.

So, perhaps, my tossing thoughts are a good reminder that I am not at all able on my own to face the onslaught of the elements, both physical and mental. I absolutely must rest on my Rock, the truest foundation there ever was. And again, as another psalmist demonstrates so clearly, I can recognize my feelings while redirecting my thoughts.

"Why are you so downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God." Psalm 42:5, 11 & Psalm 43:5

Three references for the same verse? Yes, because it is a process that must happen over and over. I need Him every moment. Acknowledging my feelings forces me to turn to the Lord-I have to take my fear, worry and doubts to Him.

"My heart says of You, 'Seek His face!' Your face, LORD, I will seek." Psalm 27:8
So while my emotions may be in conflict, my heart is not. My foundation is solid as the Rock of Ages, and He isn't fazed by my turbulent thoughts. Nothing can tear me from His grasp. He is patient and loving with me, He wants me to bring my doubts and concerns to Him. He is, after all, the only One with the power to calm the storms.

"They...asked each other, 'Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him!" Mark 4:41
This is my Savior and my God. My hope is secure, though my ship may be tossed. 

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