a letter to my daughter for her first birthday

Royce Adelyn,

I wrote this letter to you once before, then somehow it got deleted from our computer. Our of sheer frustration at the daunting task or re-writing, coupled with the business of Christmas, I am just now getting back to write to you again. I am sorry this is a little late. Although, by the time you read it, it won’t really matter.

 

You turned “1” this month. It is so hard for me to believe a year has gone by. It feels like just a few weeks or months ago that I sat on the couch late at night nuzzling your sweet, soft, skin, inhaling, and praying for the scent of newborn to last just a little bit longer. I remember the first time I met you I was filled with such elation, so much joy and excitement. I remember thinking, “It was YOU. All along, you.” You melted me in a surprising way. I had “done it all before” but for some reason, a little beyond my ability to explain, you captivated me. I felt myself simultaneously be emptied and filled. It was like everything ugly, and painful and heavy just escaped me, as you took your first breath. We exhaled together. And then inhaled again, something fresh and pleasant, filled with so much mystery and joy.

 

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You still have that same effect on me much of the time. There is something so life-giving in your spirit. I know that God sent you to breathe joy into our hearts and our home. You have Daddy smitten, from minute one, with your way of breaking down the barriers we put up when we are stressed or angry or distracted. Braxton and Hayleigh still laugh with so much glee at basically everything you do. There is something intoxicating about your silly little sideways smile, as if you know something we don’t. Whatever your secret is, it is no secret to me that God sent you to accomplish big things. You have already spread so much genuine and contagious joy, without even trying. It is remarkable to me that someone who has barely uttered a half dozen words can have such an impact on us all. I don’t know what God’s specific plan is for the rest of your life, but I do know that for the first year of your life His purpose was to use you to show me how God gives good gifts to His children.

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You came in the midst of heartache. Our family was facing a diagnosis that made our heads spin and our stomachs just ache. That started a year filled with one punch after the other for us. At times I wondered whether God was someone who really did give good gifts, who really did uphold his promises, who really deserved my trust, my praise and my obedience. Yet even in my moments of weakness and pain, God gently reminded me of His sovereignty. He reminded me to step out farther than my eyes could see. He reminded me that He really does love His children.

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So many of the times those reminders came through you- a perfectly timed cry that took me out of my own head space and caused me to pour myself into others, a smile that broke through the tears, causing me to laugh (it is nearly impossible to look at your silly little smirk and not just laugh at the pure adorableness and happiness of it), a drooly kiss, a head on my shoulder and a soft, chubby little hand pat-patting my back, a finger twirling your hair as your eye lids become heavy reminding me that when I feel the heavy God wants me to find my rest in Him, a peek-a-boo face begging me to put away the big stuff and just enjoy the small things (which really are the big things), a tense dinner table conversation interrupted by you ripping your bib off again and yelling for us to look at you-so sassy, a hand in the air as you enter a room saying “tada!” Royce is here!,  a giggle so contagious that I had to laugh along and from the depths of my heart. I could feel the doubt, and resentment and worry crumbling away and God putting joy in its place.

 

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So many times this year I have thought of how you were born into a “dark” year for us and have been such a source of light. It reminds me often of the baby Jesus born into the darkness and depravity of sin to be a light and a savior. I am not comparing you to Jesus. Trust me girlfriend, your Daddy and I already see plenty of sassy, spunky, sin in you. I am just saying that God has used your birth, and your life this past year, to point me to another baby born to give freedom and love and joy unimaginable! You are already pointing people to Jesus, sweet Roycie. God has used you so much already. Everything is brighter and lighter with you. By adding to our “load” God has lightened it in a way only He could do. God knew just how to point me to the savior I needed-for my own daily forgiveness, for my own daily discipleship, for my own daily sustenance. He knew what we needed even when we didn’t and being the wonderful Father that He is, He did not keep it from us-at any point this year. It just took me having you not in accordance with my own plan to finally see (really see) that God gives good gifts. Sometimes they are disguised as not-so-awesome. Sometimes we would like to exchange them. But after this year, and after meeting and instantly loving you, instantly being changed by you, I can say with full certainty that “God works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28.

 

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I love you so much, my Roycie Adelyn Bee-bah. You are one of God’s most wonderful, generous gifts to me. You are my Joy Baby. I pray for you that I can point you to who you are in Christ, just as God has used you to point me to His own grace and truth. I pray that the joy you have given others would not fade, that you would always bring lightness wherever you go and give it generously to others. You are already so different from your brother and sister. I want to foster your uniqueness-the way God has made you to be. I love seeing your spunk, although sometimes it scares me, I must admit. You are your own person, exerting yourself in this sometimes chaotic and busy home. You are never lost in the sauce, that is for sure. You make yourself heard and seen. You assert yourself, yet you also love to take it all in, always processing. I pray that as your grow that you would allow God to use your assertive personality for good things. I pray that you would not pursue selfish gain, but instead speak for those who cannot or do not speak for themselves. I pray that you would be assertive in sharing God’s message with others-with confidence, passion and grace.

 

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I love getting to know your more and more, my Bee-bah. The more I see of you, the more I hold you, the more I feel as though I have been given such a privilege: to be your Mommy. I think you are incredible. God knit you together in ways unexpected and magnificent. You have been such a huge, inexplicable blessing this past year. I love you in a way I have loved no one else before, because you are like no one else I have ever loved. I cannot imagine our home without you. You have touched each of us this past year and I am so excited for the next months to see your personality emerge even more. I pray that you will continue to bless those you encounter and that you will never doubt how high and wide and deep is the love of Christ-who came into the darkness for you as a radiant light.

 

Happy birthday, my love.

Mommy

 

Royce’s “month” pictures: newborn-12 months

 

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           Oh, how I love you.

Day 30: thanktitude finale

So here we are, Day 30, a whole month’s worth of joy and thankfulness. I am kind of sad to see it end. I am someone who processes through communication, one of the best forms being writing (or blogging) so this is something I will kind of miss. I am so glad I did it, because I have grown in the past month. I started out saying this past year has been challenging and tough, and it only got tougher during this past month of blogging. But God has given me such joy in the midst of some really difficult circumstances. He has given me some perspective, some comfort and a whole lot of grace.

 

And on Day 30 he “gave” me pizza.  My father in law organized a seriously yummy (and messy) pizza making extravaganza with the cousins today. I am thankful for yummy pizza and the busy little hands that helped make it. They even made me gluten free pizza! Yay! So fun, so sweet and so tasty.

 

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I am also thankful for the ability to be thankful, to experience gratitude and to have someone to express that to-whether it be a person or God Himself. It is a huge blessing to be able to be thankful and appreciative, even, especially in the midst of trials. I think that is a major way that God has answered my prayers regarding Matthew 11:28-30, and given me His light load. (“Come to me, all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”) It is really hard to grumble and feel self-pity when you are trying to notice things to be thankful for, (especially when you have committed to blog about it). God knew my heart needed that. He heard me begging in my weariness for an answer to prayer, for a lighter burden. He didn’t decide to take the difficult things away, but yet my burden is lighter. He laid it on my heart to be thankful, to practice thankfulness when it made no sense to me, when it was hardest. I praise Him for his prompting to praise Him. It has changed my heart and lightened my load.

 

This year, more than others, I feel that I have so much to be thankful for. I have learned through adversity how to really trust God, be content, be joyful in pain and not worry about my future. If I had not had to face some tough stuff this year I would not have had the opportunity to experience God the way I have and I would not have had the chance to grow in those areas. As a follower of Christ I say my goal is to glorify God and become more like Jesus, yet often when I am given opportunities to do just that, I complain and wallow in self-pity. Honestly though, if these are my main goals-not my own comfort or happiness-then I would have to say that this has been one of my best years yet! How awesome is it that I get the privilege to become more like Christ?! How incredible is it that God counts me worthy enough to help me through my sufferings and have a plan for me?! If every thing was easy and comfortable I would be stuck. I would not be able to grow. I would not be able to experience God the way I have this past year-in very real ways. I cannot help but see His promises in scripture coming to life in front of me. I can share first hand with my kids how I have seen the character of God in my life. And I can say that I actually had the chance to be molded by the Potter this past year. Whoa. God’s hands molded ME. And if He chose to do that through adversity, and if He chooses to do that through adversity in the future, so be it. I trust that God not only knows what is best for me, but He is going to bring it about in my life as He has promised.

 

Many times this past year I looked at other people who had it “easier” (or who I least perceived weren’t struggling the way our family has this year) and I thought things like “must be nice”. But you know what, I was envying the wrong thing. It has not been easy; it has not been without (lots of) ugly moments. But I can say without a doubt that I am to be envied this year. I would not necessarily wish some of the tough stuff on others, but I would wish upon them the way I have gotten to experience God and view the world. I really think some of the best things God has given me I originally thought we awful and unbearable and “bad gifts”. I see now that what they really are: the best gifts He could ever give, because by His great grace He has chosen me worthy, as undeserved as I may be, to get to grow to be more like Christ this side of Heaven! Awesome. I am not jealous of other people when things go well for them or when things are easy. I am having the ultimate desires of my heart answered-to be more like the person God wants me to be. I am getting to experience the God of the universe in ways other people can’t possibly if things are easy. What a gift. What a year. I am not trying to be preachy of melodramatic. I am just so thankful for the way God has blessed me this past year, in ways completely unexpected and initially unwanted.

 

I know you may be thinking, “Oh, easy for her to say!”. I know this because I have heard people gives testimonies of hope and joy and peace in trials. I have resented them, resented God for my story not sounding like theirs. I have felt guilty because my story did not sound like theirs. I have felt bewildered and scorned and my hurt has ached worse.  I have thought things like “oh it is easy for them to say!” But I assure you, it is not easy. It is not without years of Depression (which I still struggle with), worry, resentment, disillusionment, confusion and anguish that I can say with conviction the things I am saying now. It has not been easy and it is not easy now. Few things have been easy recently. I often feel as if I am walking against water, or that I am in water that is over my head and as the waves crash no one will throw me a life-preserver, or (insert another water metaphor here). Life is a struggle. That is promised. But it comes with another promise from Jesus, one that I hold fast to : “I have told you these things so that you may have peace. In this world you will have troubles, but take heart for I have overcome the world”. John 16:33

 

I hope that anyone reading this doesn’t think I am high and mighty. I am not. I am a gigantic mess who is upheld by a gracious and righteous God. I have countless moments of weakness and just ugly sin. I don’t think I am better than anyone. I don’t have it all together. Just read a few of my past blog posts and you will be convinced of that. I wish I could share with you the details of everything that has gone on this past year and just stop being vague, maybe some day I can. But for right now I hope that everyone can in some way relate to the difficulties and pain. I hope that whatever pain you are enduring that you can come to God and lay it at His feet with thanks-giving. I hope you can trade it for His lighter burden and be filled to overflowing with the joy of the Lord to strengthen and uphold you.

 

I have really enjoyed blogging this past month. God knew I needed it more than anyone else did. The month of joy ends today but I plan to carry the “attitude of gratitude” with me as a weapon to defeat the seeds of discontentment that zap my joy.  I has been good for my family too. We have really enjoyed doing our thankfulness tree together each day.

 

Here are a few of my favorite “leaves” on our happiness tree the past 20 days (I did an update on the first 10 previously):

Karsten learning not to pull hair-Braxton

Ladybugs-Hayleigh

My pacemap (placemat)-Braxton

cow jokes (off their yogurt containers)-Hayleigh

My favorite animals:deer and seeing them at Miss Julie’s-Braxton

pineapple and ham pizza-Hayleigh

Cloudy with a Chance of meatballs-Braxton

My nice drawings and my nice puzzles-Hayleigh

God is powerful-Braxton

Playing on the mountain at school-Hayleigh

kid knives-Braxton

Birthdays and birthday parties (which they pretend almost daily)-Hayleigh

frozen peas-Braxton

God making fruit and God rescuing us-Hayleigh

 

Tomorrow is December…whaaatt??! Around here we are going to re-reading the “I Spy” advent book for kids about finding Christ in Christmas, as well as doing some sort of family, Christmas related activity every day. I am dubbing it “Let every heart prepare Him room” and have a nice list working with plans for each day. My hope is that my kids will see Jesus in the every day things and also see what a big deal the true meaning of Christmas is. I am excited to celebrate for a whole month what Christmas means to us, as well as to celebrate all the blessings He has given us. Celebrating is pretty great and I need to do more of it, and what better time than right now?! So, maybe I will blog a bit about our month of “preparing room”. Happy (almost) December!

 

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“The Lord has done great things for us and we are filled with joy.” Psalm 176:3

Day 27, 28 and 29: the po-po, corn bread stuffing and roadkill

I am one of those people who loves a day where I don’t have to leave the house and where we can just do whatever. I love having time with all my kids at home. Don’t get me wrong there are days where I would like my kids to be home and me to be…not home, or the other way around: they would all leave and let me sit by myself with a carton of ice-cream and a girly movie. But usually I love all my people together in one place. In fact, no matter how large our family grows (in numbers or stature) a requirement of mine is a couch that we can all sit on together. My heart never feels more full than when Peter and all my babies are within arms reach. I kind of have been dreading Hayleigh starting kindergarten for a bit since birth. I would consider home schooling so I could keep her to myself but then I remember that I am a horribly impatient teacher and I also only do math at a second grade level. So, very quickly we would both need a tutor any way.  I will be the mom who cries when summer is over and my kids have to go back to school though. Wednesday was a “day off” preschool for Hayleigh and I was really happy about it.

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We got to play with cousins in from out of town, play in the snow and even have an incident with our neighbor’s poor autistic son and loose pit bull that resulted in me calling the police later that evening. The police handled it really well though and it left me thankful for a few things on Day 27. First, I am thankful for a day off with my girl that normally would have been a school day. Second, I am thankful that God protected us and other than recurring bad memories for Braxton, no one, including the neighbor boy, were hurt. And third, I am thankful for first responders. As the officer took my statement we heard over his radio about a gun being pulled on a cop in Webster resulting in a chase,(by this time it was 10:30 or so at night because I waited to report the incident until the kids were in bed). He turned and said, “this is going to be a looong night.” I am thankful that there are people who are willing to work over night, on a holiday, in crummy weather, to protect and serve their community. It is something neither Peter or I are created to do, so I am thankful for people who do, and who do a good job of it.

Day 28 was Thanksgiving. We spent the day with my family this year. I am so glad I decided to do this month of joy blog post thingy because it really helped my heart prepare for the holiday. Usually I end up feeling very rushed and exhausted by the time we sit down to eat and I don’t take the time to really think about what I am thankful for, much less take time express that to God. It all too often becomes about where we go and what we eat than about being thankful, really and truly, for what we have been blessed with. For me it takes a great deal of discipline to be thankful and rejoice in all circumstances. I need to remember to be thankful. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I tend to be a person who lists all the things that went wrong for me. By working before Thanksgiving to notice the things that I have to grateful for it created a habit in me to remember to be thankful, which is something I desperately needed.

I have been thinking a lot about memory lately. I thought about it again as I prepared the stuffing for Thanksgiving. It is my dad’s recipe-one he made when we were growing up (and gluten free too!). As I put together the ingredients the smells brought me back to another place. I remembered sitting around the kitchen table breaking up corn bread with my dad and sisters the night before Thanksgiving. I remembered my grandma-my dad’s mom, and the smell of her perfume. I remembered picking the squash out of my baked squash and apples and wrapping them in a cloth napkin so I could eat pumpkin pie for dessert. Memories-what a wonderful gift, one not to be taken for granted. I am thankful for memories, for the gift that they are. But even as our memories may fade, even as we may struggle to recall things as we age, one thing about memories I think must still ring true. Even if we cannot bring something to mind, those memories stay with us in some capacity. They helped shape us. Even if some day I forget all about my family traditions, and the smell of corn bread stuffing doesn’t take me back the way it does now, those traditions are still buried deep inside me. They made me who I am. They are etched into my being-along with every other memory and experience, good and bad. I will carry them with me wherever I go, even if I can’t carry them in the forefront of my minds, even if I can’t hold them in my hands. They are a part of me. That is one of the beautiful things about memories, they shape us. They make us who we are. And they enable us to leave a legacy, sometimes even without trying. For Day 28, I am thankful for memories, whether it is forming habits-like remembering to be thankful, memories of good times past, or the memories we can’t bring to mind but that are etched into our being.

Day 29, I am thankful for leftovers. It means I do not have to cook tonight. (Holler.) I am also thankful I am not a raccoon, because seriously I have seen more of those suckers dead by the side of the road in the past week than ever before. It is NOT a good time to be a scavenger I guess. So yeah, I thankful I human and not a raccoon road kill in a snow bank. And I am thankful for leftovers. But not just food leftovers. I am thankful for the joy that fills my heart and remains (leftover) after a day with my family. I am thankful that holidays morph into long weekends so we can keep enjoying each other in the days to come. God has given us so much, in the way of material things, in the love we share with family and in His very character. Our cup truly overflows. And what better time to think of it then when packing up and feasting on leftovers. We are rich. We are blessed. We don’t have to scavenge. We can feast. (I know, a bit of stretch there…). God has lavished His grace on us this last year, so much that we have some leftover and for that I am very thankful.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
  He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
  he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.
Psalm 23

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