Over the past twenty-four hours, I've seen six links to this post on Facebook, and I've got to say that I couldn't disagree more.
Scott, the author of the post, starts by saying that 2013 was a great year for his business and that 2014 is looking to be even better but that this is not a blessing. He goes on to say that "[his] place of birth, [his] opportunities, and [his] good fortune are not a result of God's choosing. It's 'dumb luck.'" In conclusion, Scott prays that he 'will understand [his] true blessing."
Because these things are "dumb luck", Scott makes his argument that Christians should stop saying that their material assets are a blessing from God. And he does so based on two suppositions:
"First, when I say that my material fortune is the result of God's blessing, it reduces The Almighty to some sort of sky-bound, wish-granting fairy who spends his days randomly bestowing cars and cash upon his followers. [...] Second, and more importantly, calling myself blessed because of material good fortune is just plain wrong. For starters, it is offensive to the hundreds of millions of Christians in the world who live on less than $10 per day."
I believe this is faulty logic on many levels.
Most importantly, to say that "good fortune" (of any kind) is the work of anything other than God is skating dangerously close to the line of heresy. After all, he is God, and, apart from Him, we have no good thing. What's more, every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from God. The good things in our lives are not the result of dumb luck, hard work, or our own inherent worthiness. They are gifts from God and God alone.
Similarly, saying that God gives a certain type of gift to one member of his family should not be offensive to the members of the family who did not get that particular gift. After all, there are many gifts, but the same Giver...many kinds of work, but the same One working within. Just as one member should not say, "Because I don't have that particular gift, I am not a part of the body." I don't believe another member should say, "Because that gift is not possessed by all members, it is not a gift."
All of this is not to say that I don't understand where Scott's coming from. I've felt the confusion and guilt that comes from being materially blessed while others experience desperate need. And I've struggled to understand why God gives so much to me, an undeserving creep, while He withholds basic necessities from others who are working tirelessly under oppression to serve and love in His name. And I have felt the queasiness in my stomach when saying, "Holy cow! Right Left is booming. We've been so blessed." while friends of mine are unemployed. These things should bother us. And they should bother us enough to cause us to search deeper and figure it out.
And when I got bothered enough to start figuring it out, I realized that it wasn't God withholding blessing from the needy. It was the blessed withholding blessing from the needy.
If there's a pipe of blessing, the clog isn't between God and people. It's between people and people.
I think, on some level, we already realize this. That's why we're really eager to have someone tell us to quit saying that we're blessed. Because if our good fortune is not a blessing, if it is simply the result of dumb luck, then we are infinitely less responsible for how it gets distributed.
If Right Left is booming because of my hard work, then I have every right to use the profit for my own pleasure.
If being a part of a loving, supportive family is just the luck of the draw, then I have no responsibility to make sure that those around me also experience a loving, supportive family.
If being born in the land of the free and the home of the brave was pure coincidence, then I can rest knowing that I can't do anything about the fact that others were born in lands of oppression and homes of depravity.
But nothing could be further from the Truth.
Right Left is booming, because it's a pipeline. It is one way God can funnel resources into the hands of people who have claimed to commit their lives to His cause. God placed me in a family who shared their love and support with me so that I could learn to share it with others. I was born in the land of the free and the home of the brave so that I would be free to use the resources that have been entrusted to me in any way I please and so that I would (hopefully) be courageous enough to say no to The American Greed.
I am blessed. I hope I never stop acknowledging that fact, but I realize that, in the very next breath, I need to acknowledge my responsibility. The Bible clearly mandates that those who have been given much will be expected to give much in return. The Bible commands me to resist arrogance and the temptation to put my trust in wealth; to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In some circumstances, the Bible says that it may be necessary to sell all I own and give it to the poor.
When I remember that material blessing comes with material responsibility, I realize exactly why we all might wish we could stop saying that we are blessed.
But we can't, because we are.
And much is expected of us.
So...let's get to work.
The pilot announced that we were beginning our final descent, and I felt a small panic rise somewhere deep inside. Just a week earlier, my husband had accepted a position at a scientific start-up company that was headquartered right on the seashore. I mean, the view out of his office window was of the ocean, and seagulls regularly made their home on his window ledge.
This was a big deal for the born and bred life-long Hoosiers on their first housing scouting trip. Mike had visited Boston many times: on a family vacation, on a school trip, for work, for his interview... He had always loved the city and had mentioned it being his favorite American city all the way back when we were dating in college. I, on the other hand, had never even visited New England. Nevertheless, I'd be living there in less than six weeks. Hence, the panic.
What if I hated it? What if the public transit system overwhelmed me? (His new boss had issued a challenge for us to visit and explor and house-hunt *without* using a car the whole time.) What if the housing market was even worse than we'd read? What if the people were even ruder than those about which we'd been warned? What if the schools were filled with hoity-toity parents or too-busy staff members? What if, what if, what if... Up until those few moments during that final descent, I had been totally sure of our decision. The path to Boston had been so super-naturally mapped out that I didn't doubt our decision for even a millisecond. Until I was hit with the reality that I was 30 minutes away from meeting Boston...the city I had researched and dreamed about for the past month; the city that had captured my husband's heart long before he gave it to me; the city that boasted a beautifully diverse culture and a shockingly minimal familiarity with the Bible. What if I hated it?
The plane descended, and we got off. Boston Logan Airport was just like many others I'd visited in my life time, and we headed to get our baggage. So far, so good.
Then it was time to catch the airport shuttle to the airport T stop. We were on our way...
We rode the bus to the station and went inside. Bought our little ticket with the neon orange arrow and headed up the escalator, because we needed the "Inbound" train. Oh yeah, I knew what I was doing... Not. I was just following Mike and taking it in. Then we started to ride the escalator down to the platform on the other side, and the breath I didn't know I'd been holding for 31 years rushed out of my lungs and into the Boston air. Tears began to fall down my cheeks, and everything felt right. Complete and total peace.
I'm sure I looked like a wide-eyed fan girl as we took our seats on the train. I couldn't get enough. Before long, we were at the Brookline Village T Station, getting ready to head to our hotel. We walked for about five minutes and arrived on a dark street with a bunch of houses. No Marriott Courtyard in sight. That's when I realized that our hotel was on Webster Street, but I had accidentally typed Webster Place. So, we had another 15 minute walk ahead of us, and it was coooold outside. In fact, it was the coldest weekend (for that particular time of year) in more than 60 years. And we had our hoodies...
Amazingly, I didn't feel cold once. The fifteen minute walk was simply an opportunity to take in more of the city that would soon be my home. And I was mesmerized.
The city held my attention for the next four days, and I couldn't get enough. I kept gasping in wonder about the amazing architecture. I mean, this would be our local, neighborhood Walgreens:
I wanted to eat six meals a day, because there were dozens of highly-rated restaurants within a three minute walk of our hotel. It seemed like everything we put in our mouths was delicious!
"Catching Fire" opened that weekend, and we went on a date, knowing that it'd be one of our last dates for quite a while. (We were moving to a city where we knew no one, after all.) When we stepped outside the T station at Boston Common, I was taken, again, with the beauty of the city. We were going to see a regular ol' movie at this theater:
The entire trip was full of crazy good moments that helped calm a bit of our growing nerves regarding our housing situation.
Finding an apartment in Boston, MA was one of the most stressful things I've ever experienced. Housing is expensive, and it moves ridiculously quickly. We would go to bed at night with 5 apartments on our "To See" list, and, by the time we woke up the next morning, four of them would be off the market. I was starting to believe that we'd have to live in a hotel for our first month or two in Boston, and that stressed me out beyond belief. So much so that, when our realtor invited us out for cupcakes to discuss our final options, I spent the entire time crying in despair. And then we met Adam Sandler's CPA and his wife, so there was that...
When it was time to return to Indiana, I looked at my husband and said, "I wish we could just have someone else pack all our stuff and bring the kids out to us. I don't want to leave."
Boston had already started to plant itself in my heart as home. Just a few days after we returned from our scouting trip, we received news that we had gotten the apartment we really wanted...#1 on our list. I simply couldn't wait to take our family to our new home and get started.
From the first moment I put my feet on the ground in Boston, MA, the city captured my heart and welcomed me home. And that was just the beginning...
Is that odd? Does one usually look forward to Lent?
To be honest, it wasn't even all that long ago that I learned of Lent. It was college, I suppose. I don't really remember ever hearing about it or learning about it in my childhood, despite the fact that I was born and raised in the Christian church.
And even since I've known about it, I've paid it very little attention. So it's odd to me to be thinking of it so much this year.
The Christmas season flew by me with hardly any fanfare. We were preparing our family of four to move half-way across the country, and that monumental task completely overshadowed everything else in our lives...including one of my most favorite holidays of the year...a time when I am usually *very* good about evaluating the state of my faith and seeking (with greater fervor) guidance on "What's Next".
The result is that 2014 started in a flurry of wonderful: a new city, a new home, new experiences... Now that the flurry has settled, I'm experiencing something I've never before felt: total and complete peace. Like, truly, deeply, satisfied with life and every single tiny part of it. And that peace has allowed oxygen into my soul, and the little embers that had dimmed to barely a flicker are starting to breathe again...starting to flame.
Isn't it peculiar? Or maybe, not peculiar at all.
Now that life is quieter, I hear the calling so much clearer. And I'm really looking forward to an entire season dedicated to quieting life even further in order to focus even more clearly. I've already started a bit, but I can't wait until much of Christendom joins in. I feel something special this year, and I'm so, so ready for it.
Two years ago, on Easter, this. This year, on Easter...who knows... :)
I've avoided this post all day long, kid. If I write it, then it will definitely be true:
We've just celebrated your seventh birthday.
I can't believe it.
You're a first-grader. Completely capable of taking care of most of your own day-to-day needs. If I really needed you to, you could probably get yourself all the way to school without a single bit of help from me. Of course, you're nowhere near being able to walk *anywhere* on your own, so I guess I'll have to wait a bit longer to sleep in all 7 days of the week. :)
To commemorate your seventh birthday, I thought I'd tell you a few of my favorite things about you:
1. Your Brain - You see the world different and think about it differently than most people. But you see it and think about it a lot like I do. I don't know if that makes us crazy or just plain different, but it is what it is. Some days that can be infuriating, because we can butt heads like crazy and you bring my weaknesses so clear into focus that it can feel like I'm under a microscope. But other days? I love having such a close and precious reminder of my own potential. And it's not all about me. :) I promise. (Although I have been reminding you that I'm actually the one who did all the work on that day seven years ago.) ;)
The thing is, I've had 31 years to make mistakes and explore my weaknesses (and you share many of them). So when I look at you and see all this unbridled potential, I get chills. I feel like many of my failures and mistakes were totally worth it if they've given me just a tiny little advantage in being able to love you and raise you to be all that you're meant to be.
You see beauty in unexpected places. You notice the deeper meaning behind seemingly insignificant matters. You are able to identify your thoughts and feelings and analyze them with maturity. You're a strong and intelligent young lady, and I hope that never changes.
A Story About Your Brain - You learned about speeding and traffic violations this year. Your first question was, "But doesn't the cop have to drive faster than you to catch up to you? And doesn't that mean he's speeding, too? Why doesn't he get a ticket?" (Just for clarification: I didn't get the ticket.) :)
2. Your Heart - You feel the world easily. Your heart is soft and sweet. You love easily, and you trust without reservation. I know eventually that incredibly quality will diminish, but I promise to do everything I can to help protect your sweet heart and lead you to trust God with your heart, so that you are protected against the storms that will rock you. I love your heart, and I am inspired by it.
A Story About Your Heart - This upcoming year, we'll add a new Compassion child to our family. While discussing the upcoming choice a few nights ago, you were overcome with compassion for the sweet children listed on the page.
3. Your Spirit - You approach life with care. You don't necessarily jump in with both feet...okay, you definitely don't jump in with both feet. Sometimes you hesitate to even dip your toes. But that's what makes it all the more amazing to me. You can be scared to the core, intimidated by the unknown, physically trembling with uncertainty, and you still dig deep and find the courage to say, "Yes." That's incredible, and I love watching you soar.
A Story About Your Spirit - You went on a bungee swing for the first time this year. Wow! What an experience. You were terrified. Crying, shaking, full-on panic mode. After watching your brother get suited up for his flight, you decided that you'd like to try it after all. You ended up going on the swing and going higher than we expected...and then you begged to be able to go again and were bummed when our time ran out. :) I loved seeing the confidence and accomplishment etched on your face in the form of a great big smile.
4. Your Creativity - Painting, drawing, writing, reading, playing, acting...you are such an imaginitive little girl. You create incredible pictures, intriguing stories, fascinating play scenarios...it's so fun to watch! You keep our family entertained in a hundred different ways, and I'm so glad I get to be a daily part of it.
A Story About Your Creativity - You invented a new "game" to play with Burke this year, and I am totally and completely enthralled with it. Your little brother is adamant that, when he grows up, he wants to be a builder. And he's specific: He does not want to design the buildings. He very much wants to be on the "sustruction site" and "build up the buildings." Well, TRIOs aren't always your cup of tea and you've got no plans to become a builder, but you love playing with your brother. So you came up with this ingenious way to play together when he's dead set on building. You draw up a set of plans (very specific and detailed), and Burke creates those plans with materials around the house! One time, you designed a throne, and he built it using a couple of laundry baskets, a few blankets, and a milk crate. Another time, you drew a new TRIO truck, and he built it, block-by-block, according to your plans. It gives me chills to watch the two of you play this game. And I *love* that you came up with it all on your own! :)
There is so much I love about you, Ruby. You are growing into a radiant young woman, and I'm so thankful I get to be your mom. This school-age stage is one of my favorites that we've experienced, and I can't wait to see what wonderful things you'll learn and discover as a seven-year-old.
Hey, guess what!?
I love you; I beat you!!
(Pictures to come later. Hold me to it, kiddo.)
She'll be seven in six days. She still watches My Little Pony, plays with baby dolls, giggles when her brother does the Captain Underpants Dance, and hopes she'll get to go to Chuck E. Cheese for her birthday. She's just a regular little girl.
Except she's not. She thinks and feels as deeply as any adult I've ever met. She questions the status quo and isn't likely to take no for an answer. She's able to draw conclusions about abstract ideas that are hard for kids twice her age to consider.
Parenting her feels one part privilege, one part torture, one part fine art, and one part cross-your-fingers-and-pray-to-God.
Since she was little more than a baby, our family has sponsored children through Compassion International. She has always known their names, and she has prayed for them hundreds of times over the years. She has drawn them pictures, picked out stickers to send in their letters, and studied their pictures on our wall. She knows they are real children and considers them a part of our family.
Soon, our oldest Compassion child will graduate from the program. And the current Compassion Bloggers trip has started my wheels turning about who we will sponsor after Rabuma has finished his time at Compassion. Since the kids are older this time around, I figured we'd choose our next Compassion child as a family. Emily wrote this incredible post about choosing a child to sponsor and how it can surprise you in the most wonderful ways, and I thought it'd be great to read with the kids as we get ready to go through the process ourselves.
Well, you know what they say about good intentions, and y'all, I had the best intentions in sharing this post with Ruby.
But it went all the wrong ways! Oh my goodness...
We read the post, watched the video, and then we looked at a list of the children waiting to be sponsored. I explained that some of the children have been waiting for a sponsor for more than year, and I showed Ruby how you can sort the children according to country, age, needs, etc... I thought she'd enjoy reading more about the kids and starting to think about who we might sponsor next. But instead, she ended up getting completely overwhelmed.
She spent an hour tonight crying because she felt like, no matter who she chooses, it'll "be the wrong one." We talked a lot about it, and, eventually, I got to the root of her despair.
"There are so many kids, Mom," she whispered through tears. "If I choose one, I feel like I'll be saying, 'No,' to all the others. But I want to help them all. We need to help them all."
I tried explaining to her that we can only do our part: one child at a time. I promised her that there are hundreds, maybe even thousands, of other people out there who also care about these children.
"If there are so many people who want to help, then why are there still so many kids waiting?"
Oh, my incredible child, how I wish I could answer that question.
So tonight, I watched as my child's heart ached with the weight of the world, and I felt the sting of the tears on my eyes. Because I've felt it, too. Except I was 26 years old.
I did the best I could to calm her and encourage her. I wiped her tears away, stroked her forehead, combed her hair back with my fingers, and prayed until the sobs that were wracking her body settled into a regular breathing pattern:
Thank you for Ruby's soft, compassionate heart. Thank you for giving her this passion and helping her care so deeply about these children. I remember the deep sadness I felt when I first learned that so many kids were waiting for sponsors. I was overwhelmed, and I wanted to help them all. Helping one child didn't feel like enough, but I was wrong.
Thank you for the people who sponsored Maureen. Thank you that Maureen now shares your love with all the people at The Mercy House. Thank you for the girls and their babies. Thank you for the dreams you've placed in their hearts. I pray that they will all grow up to love you and share your love with others.
Thank you for Pracidia and Claudine and Rabuma. Thank you for the time we've had to get to know them. I pray that you will help them grow into young women and a young man who love you and serve you and share your love with others.
God, please help Ruby to remember that she cannot be responsible for everyone and everything. Please help her remember that she is only responsible to do what You've asked her to do. Remind her of what a difference she's already making in the world by being a loving sister, a good friend, a helpful student... If there is a certain child we are supposed to sponsor, I'm asking you to let us know, deep in our hearts, when we see their picture. And if there's not, I'm asking you to help Ruby know, deep in her heart, that helping any of these children is a good choice. Help her know that you will bring more people along to sponsor the other kids who are waiting.
Please give Ruby a good nights' sleep. Help her body relax and gain the energy she needs for tomorrow. Help her wake up refreshed and ready for a brand new day.
We love you, God. Thank you for sending Jesus to show us how to live a life that honors you, how to really love you. Thank you, Jesus, for loving us so well that you died so we could be forgiven, so that we could know God. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for comforting us and guiding us. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen."
P.S. God, being her mom is a crazy tough job. Help me do it as well as I possibly can. Amen.
This subject would actually be better covered with a vlog, but I'm sick. As in, I've been laying on our couch for 30 hours straight, and I don't plan to get up anytime soon. That type of sick. So there's no way I'm recording video evidence of my lack of personal hygiene at this particular moment in time. Instead, I'll do my best to spell things phonetically where necessary.
Here's the thing: The stereotypical Boston accent isn't as easily found as one might think. It depends heavily upon where you are in the city. For instance, we live in Brookline...just about as close as you can get to being in the city without actually being in the city. In our area, we almost never hear the "pahk ya cah in Hahvahd Yahd" type of accent. But when we fly in and out of the airport, we hear it a lot.
We typically use the Green Line when we ride the T. Not much typical Boston accent happening on those trains. But when we ride the Red or Orange lines, we hear it with greater frequency. And I like the accent. I try not to stare too long or eavesdrop too intentionally, but I really am intrigued by accents, and the Boston accent is especially particular.
So, enough about accents. The accent isn't so bad that you won't be able to understand the worlds coming out of a person's mouth. The problem is that the words that come out of a person's mouth might not match the words that appear on street signs or on maps or in other print media. Here are a few examples:
Unless you're from Boston or England, you just said Pee-Body in your head, didn't you? And that would make sense, because that's what those letters spell. But here, it's pee-buddy. Except it's not buddy like "My Buddy and Me." It's like bitty with a "uh" sound in place of the "ih" sound, and the emphasis placed on the first and last syllables of the whole word. So PEE-buh-TEE. And you sorta flick the TEE off your tongue.
Okay, now it's abundantly clear to me that a vlog would be more useful for this subject matter. Because that's the easy one.
Living in Boston and trying to figure out the names of some of the neighborhoods and suburbs in the area is like trying to read Worcestershire Sauce for the first time...over and over and over again. For example:
Worcester = Wooster (except a soft "oo" sound, in between "oo" and "uh") and Gloucester = Glosster, but Manchester and Dorchester are pronounced exactly as they're spelled.
Waltham is Wall-Tham, but Dedham is Deddum and Needham is Needum.
Stoughton is Stotun (long o, short u), and IKEA lives here, so you'll want to figure this one out quickly.
Lastly, Quincy is Quinzy, but with a very soft z sound.
These are just the ones I've discovered in the past four weeks as a resident of the Boston area. I'm sure there will be more, but this is a good staht. ;) Welcome to Boston!
Subtitled: "How Boston Drivers Have Nearly Killed Me and Saved My Life"
Yep, driving in Boston is something else. Teenagers who live here aren't chomping at the bit to get their licenses. Multiple parents have told me stories of how they didn't get their own licenses until they were in their twenties and how they've had to convince their own kids to go ahead and get their licenses. You see, public transportation here is amazing. Really, really good. It's easy to understand and incredibly convenient. Not to mention the fact that walking is a perfectly viable option in the city and close suburbs.
And when you add in the sheer LIABILITY of driving in Boston, it's almost a no-brainer. I highly doubt we'll replace our car when our lease runs out. And the craziness is multifaceted:
First, you've got the ROADS.
People around here joke that the roads are just old cow paths that have paved-over for modern transportation. Take a look at these city grids to get an idea of what I'm talking about:
NEW YORK CITY
Okay, okay. Maybe I'm exaggerating, but I'm only exaggerating a very tiny bit.
You guys, there are sections of road here where multiple roads and/or highways merge together and the lane markers disappear. You think I'm kidding, but I'm not. I'd take a picture if I didn't think I'd DIE in the process of doing so. I don't know if lane markers have never existed on these stretches of road or if they've simply been worn away by the MASSES of people who MAKE UP THEIR OWN LANES.
Because this happens. It's not just the horribly planned (most likely NOT planned) roads and terrible, terrible signage...it's also the DRIVERS. People just drive wherever they choose. It's not like Chicago where drivers in compact cars use the sidewalks as an extra, optional lane. These people just start driving willy-nilly in, around, out, and through all six lanes of traffic until they get where they want to go. And lets not even discuss the roundabouts/rotaries.
Every civilized driver knows that you stay on the inner circle of the roundabout until you're ready to get off, then you merge into the outer lane to make your exit. But not here...
Oh, no...people here just weave and bob back and forth around the rotary until they decide they want to get off and then they SHOOT ACROSS BOTH LANES RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU AND EXPECT YOU TO STOP ON A DIME.
Add to this the fact that Massachusetts has a mandatory yield-to-walkers law, and you've got crazy drivers plus dangerously arrogant and unaware pedestrians coming at you from all directions. I'm not sure if my weight loss has been due to the increased amount of walking I'm doing or the increased amount of cardiovascular workout I get when I do choose to climb inside my vehicle.
For instance, I hear no less than half a dozen car horns each day that I drive. When you make a wrong turn or get in a wrong lane or have to slow down while your GPS resets itself, you'll hear a litany of car horns. I'm pretty sure I'll be able to match horn sounds to the make and model of cars with 95% accuracy, if you give me another month or two. Mostly because having to slow down, turn around, go back, try again, etc... is a foregone conclusion when learning to drive in Boston.
Even the most sophisticated GPS systems are thrown for a loop when streets don't have names. I'm not even kidding the tiniest little bit when I tell you that, driving to a store the other day, my GPS literally said, "Turn left." Not "Left onto Main Street in 2.9 miles". Not "In 1.2 miles, merge left to continue on Main Street." Just "Turn Left." I have never, ever seen my GPS do that, and I have used it A LOT, in a A LOT of different cities. Boston even confuses Google Maps.
The whole point is this: In Boston, defensive driving isn't something you do in a neighborhood when a kid might run out into the street, chasing after a ball. Defensive driving is the ONLY KIND of driving in Boston, because you never know what the guy in the car next to you is going to do.
But the other day, I found myself whispering a prayer of thanks for the crazy drivers in Boston. Because of them, people know how to dodge, dive, and avoid creaming wayward vehicles. And on Thursday, I was that wayward vehicle.
Cruising down the highway, heading for IKEA, I all of a sudden realized that my exit, which was .2 miles away, was on the LEFT, not the right. And that was a big problem, because I was in the right-most lane. And I don't know what happened, but I panicked, and I just started driving left toward my exit...right in front of lanes and lanes of people going 70 mph...including several huge semis.
It wasn't until I was all the way over to the left and in my exit lane that I looked in my rearview mirror and saw the semi DRIVING RIGHT BESIDE ME IN THE SHOULDER in order to avoid a collision. Behind him were several other cars still shifting around to get back into some semblance of order without accident. It was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen. In less than 30 seconds, everyone was back into their lanes and orderly, without a single scratch or dent...and it was SOLELY due to the fact that the people behind and around me were experienced defensive drivers. Because if I had made that bone-headed move in Indianapolis, IN, I guarantee you, I would have been the cause of a six-car/semi pile-up.
Thank you, God, for Boston drivers. They've nearly killed me, but a few of them saved my life the other day, and I'm truly grateful.
I've seen so many people bidding you farewell with a swift kick in the behind, and I understand. Their relationship with you was rough. But my time with you was so incredible that I really just wanted to bid you farewell with a hearty dose of joy and immense gratitude. Up to this point, you were, far and away, the best year of my life. For memory's sake, let's take a quick walk down memory lane:
First, I started my ninth year as Mrs. Lindsay Goodwin, and I will never be able to describe exactly how blessed I am to live life beside this man. He is everything I ever hoped my husband would be and more. In 2013, he worked from home for the first time in our marriage, and I got nearly unlimited time with him. It was amazing.
This beautiful girl turned 6. She graduated from kindergarten and earned the Citizenship Award for her class. She took swimming lessons, became an avid reader, and grew even stronger in her creative and artistic abilities. She started first grade, experienced the Challenge class, and grew right before our eyes. Our family was blessed to experience 2013 with Ruby.
Our family really started to learn how to have fun together. Sledding, game nights, little trips, dinners out, movies at the theater... We truly enjoyed our time together, and I am thrilled to have spent my days with them.
This precious little guy joined our family for eight months. I can't look at pictures of him without crying. I'm so glad we got to spend time together. Tux was a blessing to us this year.
No picture for May, because *this* is my special little memory for May. I learned how to laugh deeply again this year. My kids stretched me and prodded me and showed me new sides of life. I laughed *WAY* more days than I cried this year, and I am beyond grateful for that.
We made *great* friends this year. And that was a big deal, because we've avoided friends of any sort for the past few years. Cookouts, sleepovers, late night double dates, coffee dates, countless text messages, and TONS of laughter. Friendship was a wonderful highlight of this year for me. It would be very hard to describe in words what a big step this was for me and how absolutely necessary it was for me to open this door in my heart again.
Hulk didn't show up until September, but I think he fits here best. Because July taught me to marvel in God...to take delight in His plan: the way he created a caterpillar to devour a leaf at an impressive rate or the way he crafted our lives and led us to a point where we were able to start our own business. In 2013, I learned more about stepping out in faith (jumping off a cliff!) than ever before, and I am still in awe.
This handsome young man changed *SO* much this past year. He completed his first year of preschool in May, started his final year of Pre-K at a new school in August, and celebrated his FIFTH birthday in September. He made us laugh on a daily basis, created innovative machines with his TRIO blocks, learned how to write, recognize, and sound out all of his letters, as well as starting to read simple letter blends. Most importantly, Bebop led our family in a sincere obsession with the song, "What does the fox say?".
2013 was another year in which I got to watch my kids grow day by day. One of the things that sticks out the most to me is how very deeply the love each other. Sure, there are times when they bicker like most siblings, but, on the whole, R&B love to play together...making up pretend stories and scenarios. One of my favorite "games" they played this year was a game where Ruby would draw a structure design, then Burke would build the structure she had drawn out of materials we had around the house: TRIO blocks, coffee tables, chairs, plastic totes... While it was fun to see them grow in the ways they played, one of my most favorite moments of 2013 was a night in September when I walked into their room to check on them before turning in for the night (pictured above):
"More than 2300 times I have snuck in to their bedrooms to check on them before turning in for the night myself. I've found them on the floor, in my bed, upside-down, half-naked, and all points in between. But tonight's discovery is by far my favorite. I woke Ruby to ask her why she was in Bubba's bed.
'I got scared, and he said I could snuggle with him, and he would keep me safe.'
I asked her if she wanted to move back into her own bed.
'No, thank you. I feel safe here.'
Oh, I hope they love each other like this forever and ever."
I witnessed so many dreams coming true in 2013. In October, our extended family took a trip to Florida where we visited Disney World, Universal Studios, and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I'm so thankful for the time we had together, the memories we were able to make, and for the picture above which will live in infamy. :)
That happy little baby clapping in that picture celebrated her first birthday this year. In July, her family and church family dedicated themselves to raising her with the love of God and to helping guide her to become all that He has planned for her to be. Ellie made my year brighter with her radiant smile, easy nature, and frequent snuggles. Each day that I got to see her and spend time with her was a blessing that I'll never forget.
Oh, 2013, what an adventure we've had together! 365 days ago, I *never* would have guessed that we'd end up here: as residents of Boston, MA. In the most comforting and reassuring way, I feel like every day of this year has been preparation for this point in our lives. 2013 was a year in which my walls came down, my heart opened up, and my dreams started to fly. Like I said, it was the best year of my life so far.
While I didn't plan for it to work out this way, I spent 2013 crafting two quilts for my children. I lovingly chose fabrics and researched patterns. I carefully cut each piece, laid them out, and sewed them together. Often times, I prayed for my children as I put these quilts together. That God would stitch the pieces of their lives together into beautiful works of art that will comfort others and surround them with love. In the end, my dad stepped in to help me by completing the actually quilting of the blankets and binding them up. It's incredibly fitting to me that these quilts were started at the very first of the year and finished at the very last of the year. These pieces of fabric have witnessed some incredible moments, and, just like 2013, they have turned out beautifully.
So, 2013, thanks for being so amazing. I really had a great time with you. And thanks for introducing me to 2014...I think she and I are going to get along very nicely! Happy New Year!
Today is my 31st Birthday. That means I've lived as many years as Baskin Robbins offers flavors. That just might make this the best birthday ever. :) So, here are my 31 flavors:
1. 31 years of life. 8.5 years of marriage. I can honestly say that both life and love just keep getting better and better.
2. As the mother of a 6-year-old and a nearly 5-year-old (a first-grader and a full-time preschooler), I am in a parenting stage that is very quickly becoming my favorite so far. Their personalities are amazing, the tantrums are *rare*, and I love sharing these incredible kiddos with teachers and educators who partner with me in their growth, development, and education.
3. I realize now, more than ever, how incredibly blessed I am to have the parents I have. Not once, in 31 years, have they ever stopped loving me, even though I haven't always made it easy.
4. And while we're at it, I'm thankful for my brother. I watch my kids, and I pray they grow up to love each other as much as I love my brother. And I pray that they have the good sense to marry partners as incredible as my sister-in-law. And I pray that they give me grandchildren as amazing as my niece is. :) (Because she's stinkin' amazing, y'all.)
4. The older I get, the more I realize how uncomfortable I am with having large amounts of attention placed solely on me for the sake of me. This generally happens twice a year: Mother's Day and my birthday. I always wondered why my mom never really seemed to crave a bunch of attention on her birthday (because, let's face it, as a child, my birthday meant one thing: LOOK AT ME! MAKE ME HAPPY!). Now, I'm starting to get it.
5. I'd much, much, much rather use my extra birthday attention to shed light on things I care about:
6. Like The Mercy House. Check out this amazing fundraising campaign currently in Phase 1...plenty of time for you to get involved!
7. And my friends! You can take one quick moment and celebrate my birthday by voting for my friend and accountant here.
8. Or you can pray for my friend, S, and her son, L, who was recently diagnosed with Autism. They have a long and intimidating road ahead of them as they figure out how to move forward. Pray that God gives them comfort and wisdom and that, above all, L knows, deep in his heart, that God loves him immensely and has incredible plans for him.
9. And my friend, K, who just has a lot going on right now. Pray that God will show his love in incredible ways.
10. Finally, I don't have 31 Flavors. I've got three: I love God. I love others. I try (mostly unsuccessfully) to love both of those things more than I love myself.
Thank you so much for paying a little bit of your attention to me today on my birthday. And thank you, even more, if you paid a little bit more of your attention to the things I care about. That's the very best gift I could receive. :)
Have a GREAT September 15th!!
You are growing up so fast. I'm afraid to blink for fear that I'll miss something. So I thought I'd record a few of your little gems from this past weekend to try to capture a bit of this magical time we're experiencing.
Ruby, you're six years old, and if I had to describe this time in your life with one word, I'd choose DEPTH. You think about everything so very deeply, and we're alternately amused and inspired.
This weekend, you were in the car when the driver got pulled over for speeding. (It wasn't Mommy or Daddy, but I'll protect the identity of the perpetrator.) You asked why a police office had stopped us, and we explained that there are rules for the road. One of the rules is that you can only go so fast. If you go faster than the limit, you get in trouble and have to pay a fine. You seemed satisfied with our explanation and put your headphones back in to start playing with your LeapPad.
Fifteen minutes later, you pulled your earphones out and said, "Mom, if we were going faster than the limit and the police officer saw us. Then, he had to go even faster than us to catch up to us and pull us over. So he was breaking the speed limit, too. Why doesn't he get in trouble?"
The adults in the car giggled for quite a while. :)
Then today, we went to have ice cream with Pop and Gigi. We were only going to be in the ice cream shop for a short time, so we left Tux in the car. Just a few minutes after we'd started eating our ice cream, an older woman came over to our table to ask if we owned the car out side with the dog in it. We told her that we did, and she told us that Tux was barking a lot and panting. We explained that he is easily excited, and that we wouldn't be much longer. She continued to lecture us and give us dirty looks. It upset you pretty bad.
After we left the ice cream shop, you were still feeling pretty irritated by the woman, and Daddy explained that some people think they know what's best and they try to make other people follow the rules the way *they* want them followed. You started crying and said, "But sometimes I do that. I'm afraid I'll grow up and be like that woman!" And then you started bawling! So we explained that you're so young and if you see a part of your personality that you don't particularly care for, then you have the power to change that behavior.
At bedtime, when we prayed, I asked God to help guide your heart to be loving and compassionate to the people around you. I also told you that I was proud of you for being open to realizing where you might need to work on improving. You started to tear up again, and you said, "But I think I've probably already lost some friends because of this and now I can never get them back!"
Oh, sweet girl, my heart broke into a million pieces, because I. have. too. You get it so honest, baby girl. So, so honest. And it sucks. But you've got this incredible benefit of realizing where you need to make changes when you're just 6 years old.
So we made a plan together. I explained that it's probably not too late at all. We talked about how you could talk with the friends that you've hurt in the past and tell them about how the woman at Culver's made you feel, and then you could apologize for making them feel that way and ask for their forgiveness and a second chance.
"But what if they don't want to give me a second chance?"
You put words to the fears that we've all felt in our hearts. And I told you that you could only be responsible for yourself. If you do everything you can to love others, to apologize quickly when you've been wrong, and to forgive quickly when you've been wronged, then that's all you can do. The rest is up to the other person, and you have to trust God that He'll bring friends into your life.
I'm writing this all down, because I want this to be a "pile of rocks" for you. (Poppa used to say this to me all the time. Ask me what it means.) I want to come back to this in another couple of years, and let's see how you're doing. Let's see how *I'm* doing. Let's grow together, Amazing Girl. I'm so thankful for all the things you teach me, and I'm so thankful I get to be your Momma. I love you.
Burke, you're four years old. You're going to be five in just a couple of weeks. You've nearly mastered your Ls. You say them right 99% of the time, and I'm struggling with that. I miss your unbeweevabwee cute mis-pronunciation. :) But it means you're growing up, and there's definitely no denying it. You're getting so big, and you look more like your amazingly handsome Daddy every day. You're going to pre-school all day, every day, and I can't beleive the difference it's made.
You went to preschool all last year, and the only letters you could identify were the letters in your name. You couldn't identify any numbers, and I was starting to get a little nervous about sending you to Kindergarten in a year. But just four weeks of pre-school with Mrs. Cornell, and wow! You can identify I, i, U, u, E, e, A, and a. You can tell us the sounds that all four of those letters make, and you can write them independently. You're also learning your numbers and simple match concepts quickly. I'm so proud of you, Buster.
Currently, you love to play with blocks. Trio blocks, Lego blocks, Kinex blocks... just about anything that clicks together to make shapes. You like to build garages for your Transformers and castles for battles. You also like to build guns, and you're (alarmingly) accurate. I wonder if you'll be an architect or an engineer of some sort.
One of the more serious things that you're learning right now is that you are an individual, and you are responsible for your own choices. When you're running to fast and you trip, you're always quick to say that your shoes made you do it. When you're throwing a fit and using unkind words, you're always quick to say that the circumstances made you do it. We've been talking *a lot* about responsibility and making good choices, no matter what. I'm excited to watch you grow and learn through this stage, Mister Man. You sure are my favorite little boy. I love you like crazy, and you'll always be my baby (whether you like it or not.) :) I love you, Bubba.
Thanks for making me a mom. It's the greatest priviledge I've ever experienced. I love you.