Wednesday, January 30, 2013

For the Baby who is no longer a baby (But you'll always be mine)

My dear little sister,

Today you are seventeen, and even though it was seventeen years ago, I still remember the details.

I remember calling mom from school every day for a week to see if you were coming.

I remember my teacher running into the classroom and screaming, “Yes!”

I remember shouting “My mom’s having the baby!” and my classmates singing the “Hallelujah” chorus (your arrival was welcomed with music).

I remember Mama Bebe picking me up on the way to the hospital, waiting in the lobby for two hours, and waiting for Papa Ole to finally bring me a cheeseburger.

I remember the first time we met. I had this yellow paper gown and a blue hair cover as I walked in the nursery. They asked me if I wanted to hold you, and I was scared I would drop you, so a nurse helped me. It was only for a few moments. I remember being excited because you were born with lots of hair, like me.

I remember wanting to name you Jasmine, but I was quickly vetoed.

In many ways, you were my first baby… the first baby I dressed (I was so excited one day when I could do everything but your socks… you kicked). The first baby I really helped take care of, the first little one I loved.

We call you the baby, and as the fourth of the 4 J’s, you have been raised with four mothers (and one day you will call it a blessing).

But now, you are anything but a baby.

As cheesy or as silly as this may sound, when I think about you, I always think of how impressed I am by you. There is so much that you do that I never could.

I could never get on a horse and actually ride it. I’ve always been too afraid. But you get on the horse, tell it to run, jump over things, fall off, and then do it again.

I could never catch a basketball. But you can catch, dribble, fight for it, and make others genuinely afraid of you.

I could never sing karaoke… but you can belt out tunes with the best of them.

You have always had this confidence, this fearlessness, I have never had. You are so cool.
And you are one of the funniest people I know. You keep a lot of things to yourself, saving your ammunition for the right moment, when all of the sudden you just come up with these comments that are so funny and can just cut people in half.

And I wish you could see your beauty… the beauty that goes far beyond makeup, clothes, skin and hair. I wish you could see your heart.

 I wish you could hear every time my little girls see your picture or ask where you are, because they still remember you. You let them cover you in make up, spent time with them, and even though it was uncomfortable for you… to them it said “You’re worth my time”.

I wish you could see how your whole face lights up when you laugh.

I wish you could see yourself… what you look like when you are completely focused on others, whether it’s playing with a little kid before a basketball game, walking through a slum, listening to the words of your friends. Because it is beautiful.

And on the outside you are gorgeous with your green eyes, long legs, and huge smile. But, honestly, it’s your heart that makes you so wonderful.

And I can’t wait to see what He does… how He changes your heart, shapes it, and lets it grow this year. I can’t wait to see the challenges, the dreams, the way He pushes you.

And I can’t wait to see how you respond to the calling He puts on your heart… how you struggle with Him when it seems impossible (because the struggles are ok), how you fail and seek grace (because you will fail, and that’s ok), how you will run harder and faster to Him, how you will snuggle closer to His heart and listen and breathe.

I wish I could be there in person. I wish that saying yes didn’t mean that I would have to miss so much of you.

But I love you so much sweet girl. My prayer for you this year is that you would taste and see that He is good. My prayer is that you would gain a deeper understanding of His heart. My prayer is that you would see yourself through His eyes... broken and hurting, yes, but redeemed, restored, full of possibility.

I am always here for you. You are my heart.

Happy Birthday!

Friday, January 18, 2013

When They Say Yes....

      It has been a difficult few years.

      In a world where the economy shifts and is uncertain, life brings its challenges, its aches, and the family grows older, it is hard to stay together.

      But between them, there is this glue...

      They've said good byes, yes. To their little ones who grew big and spread their wings out of the nest. They've said good bye to dreams that didn't come true and dreams that were fulfilled to start fresh. They've said good bye to themselves, sacrificing to put others ahead of their own needs.

      But they've welcomed... they've welcomed people from all walks into their lives, opened their doors, their hearts to say yes and to serve. They opened up to dog after dog, and just one more stray kitten, and horse, and donkey. They welcomed the challenges. They welcomed the joys.

      And they welcomed us... four little girls they prayed for, through good times and bad, sleepless nights, hard lessons learned, birthday parties, basketball games, ballet recitals, and graduation days. And they created this home.

       Because between them, there is this glue...

       It started maybe 30 years ago. Two college kids met, developed a friendship, and this friendship became love. So he asked, she said yes, and they promised, dressed in white and grey, surrounded by love.

       They promised forever. Through the heart ache and the trials. Through the arguments and the sleepless nights. Through the fear, the uncertainty, the aging, the wrinkles.

        They promised forever. Through the joys, and the laughter. The tears that only come when the heart is completely happy. The contentment. The friendship, the partnership, the inside jokes, and the connection that only two people who know each other completely can share. Through the growing old together, the family that would grow, the love that grows stronger every day.

        They promised to refine each other, to make each other stronger, softer, better than they were the day before.

        And there is this glue that has held them together.

        It started long before their eyes first met. It started with saying yes to Him, promising Him forever, through the good times and the bad.

        And so, in saying yes, they learned to lay their lives down, to prepare for the sacrifices that would one day come. And He gave her the heart that is always open to serve others, always makes her presence a home. And He gave him the heart that sees people who need to be served, a presence that is safe and comforting.

       And He brought them together, and these two, better together than apart, became one... and a perfect compliment to each other.

       Sure, when you combine two into one, there is a bending and a stretching, a push and a pull, a give and a take. But they had already practiced with Him, so this became an extension of the lessons learned under His direction. And they said yes.

      They will be the first to tell you its not perfect. They will be the first to tell you that life is hard, love is a decision, and every choice has not been the right one.

      But they will also tell you that there is no one else... He is for her, she is for him, and that is all they need. They were ready to say yes when the first promise came, and they have said yes in the 27 years since.

      Because, they will also tell you, that there is this glue holding them together... His love that does not alter and never fades away.

      So thank you... to the 46 chromosomes that resulted in me, the decisions to say yes that give me the courage to say yes, the home that gave me the lessons, the joy, this life. The love I pray I am able to have one day.

      Thank you for the glue that holds you together. And may it grow stronger every day. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

One Year...

     One year.

     It's funny how one year can change everything. Your relationships, your perspective on life, your dreams, your view of God, your music tastes, and your taste buds.

     One year ago this week (I'm having a hard time remembering the exact day) I said good bye. I said good bye to my family, my friends, my couch, my late afternoon walks and Saturday morning college football. I said good bye to the income I was earning, the life I was living.

     And I came here.

     I don't actually remember much from a year ago in terms of what I dreamed of or expected would happen. It has been such a huge adjustment and I have had to learn some very hard lessons along the way.

     I have learned that I don't have all the answers. Most of the time, I am left standing with my mouth gaping open and my hands down by my sides at a loss as to what to do.

      I have learned that God doesn't really need me... He still does miracles and He restores whether I am there or not... but He lets me be a part of the process. He allows me the joy of watching the miracle unfold, and even though I am very much broken myself, He lets me participate in the restoration process.

      I am learning how to survive, and not just survive but thrive, in a culture that can drive me absolutely bonkers at some moments, but I love with all my heart.

      And I am still learning...

      I am still learning to trust and obey.

      I am still learning to listen for His voice.

      I am still learning that He loves me in spite of me.

      I am still learning that He is faithful. '

      And I am still learning to say good bye... to my plans, to the people who come and go, the little ones who go home to forever families and the ones who go home to Jesus.

       And I am still learning to let myself grieve... when I miss something important back home like a wedding, a basketball game, a family dinner. When life gets really hard and I can't seem to stop failing. When the problems are overwhelming. I have to learn to let myself grieve.

       This year is going to be different. I am no longer the the new kid. I have changed... my life perspective, my world perspective. The things that used to matter don't really matter much anymore.

       And this year, may the cry of my heart be less of me and more of You, Jesus.