Samantha – the little of our bigs (my guinea pig baby)

Poor Samantha. She was my parenting guinea pig.

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For thirteen years she was an only child. When I married Brian, she became the youngest of four. Then we adopted four little ones and now she’s smack in the middle of eight.

Talk about an identity crisis. She likes to joke that she has issues from every season. Poor thing. It’s not easy controlling the world while being the center of attention and yet still working to make sure everyone gets along.

I’m sorry, babe.

Samantha saw me at my worst. I remember when I quit smoking – and then gave in to a craving. I stood outside our little duplex after she went to bed and I lit up. Moments later as I put the cigarette to my lips, I looked in the sliding glass window to see her pale face pressed up against it, tears in her eyes. I had told her I wouldn’t smoke again and her deep disappointment flushed my cheeks red.

Parenting fail.

Sam saw me at my best. I remember falling so in love with Jesus and worshipping as I worked out in my garage one night. I was singing, loud and off key, eyes closed. When I opened my eyes she was standing there, big smile on her face. She came over and leaned in to kiss my cheek. “You really love him, don’t you mom?”

“Oh baby, I do. I really do.”

Later that night she had a youth event. When she climbed back into the car, she told me how they had to write something on a piece of paper and throw it into the fire. A wish, a hope, a dream and then give it to God. I asked her what she wrote. She smiled at me. “I wrote that I want to love Jesus like my mom loves Jesus.”

Parenting win.

I was messy with Sam. Broken and foolish some days, smart and adventurous on others – and she took every bit of the ride with me. She had a front row seat to the drama of my recovery from selfishness/stupidity/sin (a drama still unfolding). The good decisions followed by lousy ones with some random perplexing ones in between.

I let good people into her life. I let stupid people into her life. I was her hero and her heartbreak. We chair danced on eternal road trips and ate ramen noodles with gusto and delight. We slept out on the trampoline, walked to the 7-11 for ice cream cones, laughed until our bellies hurt and curled up to watch one hour of Full House nearly every night.

She spent way too much time in daycare and grew up way too soon.

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But we did it together.

Sam is now 25 years old. She works full time as an escrow processor, has her own place and is proud owner of a beautiful german shepherd, Captain. She is smart, kind, strong and belly laugh funny. She is fiercely loyal and an unwavering advocate for the underdog. She loves deeply. She’ll come over these days and wrap her arms around me in the middle of our chaos. I’ll let go. “Not done, Mom.” And I’ll wrap my arms around her again and settle in to her warm embrace.

Samantha is my original God kiss. My love for her made me want to be a better human. And because of my trial and error with her, my other seven God kiss babies get a better me.

Thank you, Samantha. I love you.

Samantha

Wilna – the big of our littles

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She is brave, strong, fiercely passionate about almost everything. At 12 years old, she is part woman with grown up thoughts, ideas and feelings and part little girl who can get lost in dress up and loves a colorful band-aid on her boo-boos.

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I tell her often that God overdosed when he poured out her talents. He simply forgot to move on to the next person and gave her far more than her fair share. She smiles her dimpled grin and shakes her head when I tell her that, but it’s true. She’s athletic, beautiful, musical, artistic and her smile takes our breath away. She’s got a knack for fashion and does a better job of dressing me than I do.

She is our daughter and we are crazy about her.

She also has pain. Anger. Deep hurt from circumstances beyond her control. She misses her family and friends and the ache is deep. The stories she has shared deep into the night have left me sleepless with their intensity and heartbreak. How could one so little have suffered so much? She tells me with calm control, but the tears or anger come at other moments – when it’s safer to feel. Something that seems small will trigger the pain and I have to remind myself that behind the moment is so much more. I will hold her, wishing I could make it better, ease the pain, erase the memories.

And at the same time I know that it’s those things that have made her so strong and fierce and brave and beautiful.

So I pray over her and I hold her fast.

She is ours and we love her.

Twelve years old is a volatile age. Hormones raging, friendship challenges, emotions all over the map – and that’s without a history of heartbreak and loss.

And yet she manages it so beautifully, far better than I would have at her age. I’m proud of her, protective of her, prayerful for her future.

I want her to keep expressing emotion, keep crying, laughing, cuddling, processing. I want the emotion to come out as it is and I pray to keep it from going to dark, hard or bitter places. We pray that with her – that God would give her avenues to express herself and for the enemy to keep far away from those open wounds.

I can’t wait to see how God heals, restores, rebuilds. I can’t wait to see Wilna use her talents to shine Jesus into the hearts of others. I can’t wait to see her beautiful story unfold.

And I just pray God gives us just what we need to mama and papa her through it all.

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I watched you today.

 

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I watched you.

Sometimes with my heart in my throat, sometimes with tears in my eyes.

I wanted you to connect, to feel welcome, to make a friend. I wanted people to be nice to you and you to be nice to them. I watched. I watched you as you giggled nervously and then as your smile broadened the safer you felt. I watched as you high fived one of the girls, laughed out loud, inhaled a piece of pizza.

And I nearly started balling.

Right there at a bowling alley with hundreds of 5th and 6th graders.

I didn’t. And you can thank me later for the way I covered the tears in my eyes with a hearty sneeze and shrug.

Darn allergies.

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I delighted in you. In the moment. In the fact that you are our daughter and I get to be here, right now, with you.

I had the same feeling today when you performed in your first baton march. They called your name and pronounced our last name wrong, like they usually do. Our last name. OUR last name.

And you smiled brave and strong, lifted your knees high, gracefully navigating your 8 step routine.

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Tears came to my eyes again.

I wanted you to succeed, feel joy, be proud of yourself. I wanted it for you and with you.

And in these things, in all these things, you didn’t know. You were completely unaware of the intensity of my emotion.

Then my breath caught – if this is how I feel in all my incredibly frail brokenness – how much more does our God feel that way about me, about us? When we risk, when we connect, when we make a friend, be a friend. When we stretch ourselves, test ourselves, live big and brilliant.

I think we are completely unaware of how much he is in every moment – how deeply he feels, how much it matters to him, how he is for us and with us, all the time.

Oh my word. Sniff. Sniff.

Darn allergies.

 

COUSIN!!!

She called her “Cousin.”

Not by her name, “Hannah,” but by her relationship. Like she calls us Mama and Papa and Oma, Hannah was Cousin.

And she said it a lot.

“Cousin!”

“Cousinnnnn!”

“COUSIN!”

Savannah adored the time with Hannah, her 14 year-old cousin visiting from South Carolina. They swam, they jumped on the trampoline, they played chase around the kitchen.

Savannah called to her cousin with such love, such longing – and she does the same thing with other people in her life.

Our new neighbor is “Neighbor.”

“Hi Neighbor! Do you want to come over and play?”

Her gymnastics teacher is “Coach.”

“I can do it by myself, Coach!”

The terms coming out of a three-year-old are endearing. Adorable. Cute.

Although even all grown up I love it when Brian introduces me as “My bride” or calls me “My love.”

It made me wonder – what if I did the same thing? Addressed people solely based on their relationship to me?

Friend, professional hair fixer, acquaintance, pain in my tushie…

God does it. Not the pain in the tushie part, but calls us by our role in his eyes.

Beloved

Son

Daughter

Bride

Treasure

Apple of my eye

Family

So that’s my random thought for the day, friends. You are his beloved, his treasure. Defined by love. He’s calling you.

Beloved! 

My son!

My daughter!

Rest in your name on his lips, your meaning to his heart.

You are his.