Thursday, June 30, 2011

Happy 9th Birthday, Nikelle Evadne! (Belated)



When I was pregnant with my oldest, a friend of mine shared how she wrote letters to her daughters on special days to give them one day when they became adults. My husband and I have held to this practice every year on our daughters' birthdays. Our girls have yet to read these letters and will receive them in the future. This year was hard for me clear my mind and heart and focus on the words I wanted to say to my daughter (hence its belated fashion). I hesitated some to share it on my blog. However, this is the way I have done it for the past few years and therefore, continue today.

My Dearest Nikelle Evadne,

It seems as though you have grown up more this year than any year in the past. When I look at you, I am amazed at your long legs and the way your body has grown. You now stand as tall as my shoulder and I wonder how soon it will be that your height will surpass my own. More than your height, you have grown in character, in knowledge and in love. You are amazing, Nikelle. God made you that way, and at 9-years-old, I am so thankful that you are striving to become the woman God has made you to be.

As I think back on this last year of your life, I am reminded of the bond you have shared with your teachers both in school and at church. These people sacrifice their time to help you grow up to become an adult who will in turn sacrifice to help others. When you overheard your third grade teacher informing the fourth grade teachers that “they want to have you in their class next year”, you took it without any pride. It was just a statement that made sense to you. You are a good kid who obeys the rules and cares about others. Adults appreciate that and more so, God desires that for you.

You continue to cherish your relationships with your cousins and friends. It hurt my heart to watch you work to understand why a friend would desert you because you did the right thing. Through it, you learned to embrace other friendships, all the while continuing to extend friendship to the one who wounded you. I have come to realize that I can no longer protect you from the many pains of life. You are going to experience all the bad stuff. We all do. You’ve already been exposed to loss from death and divorce. Life has taken friends from you as they’ve moved away or just chose to distance themselves from you. While I want to protect you from all the pain in this world, I am realizing that the most I can do is prepare you.

The world is going to tell you that God is not the Creator and that His plans are out-of-date. There will be moments that you feel alone and possibly even stupid because of the beliefs that you hold to. Please know that just being a minority does NOT make you wrong. Hold to the truth God has given you in the Bible. When you question it (it is okay to question it), talk about it with those you know love you and have earned your respect. Ultimately, talk to God and study His Word. We serve a God who rewards those who earnestly seek Him. If you ask for wisdom, He will give it to you. My biggest prayer is that you will truly desire God and seek Him with all of your heart.

I can no longer protect you from the pains of the world, but please know, that is my desire. It hurts me to see you hurt. Divorce was not a word I ever wanted you to understand. While I can promise you that your daddy and I will never take this path, you have unfortunately had to come to an understanding that not everyone respects God’s standard that marriage is to be for a lifetime. My eyes still fill with tears when I think of the way your heart broke at the loss of relationship in our lives. You are a girl who loves with her whole heart. People who love big get hurt big. Don’t allow that to squelch your love. It is still worth it to love deeply. In the pain, I hope you will learn the great love God has for you. The love we experience outside of God is flawed and can never fully fill the hole in our hearts. Still, the love we share in our relationships with others gives us a glimpse of what we will experience for eternity. Even when your heart is aching, know love is worth the pain.

Our friends and family chose to purchase a combined birthday gift for you this year. As I knew this would take a big dent out of the presents you received on your special day, I did my best to prepare you for the moment. We discussed the fact that while presents are nice, just the fact that we can have family and friends gather with us to celebrate is present enough. While you agreed, your face still dropped with every person who came to the party empty handed. I knew the surprise would cheer you up in the end but it was hard to watch the disappointment in your face. You encouraged me by your actions, dear daughter. Although you didn’t understand why people who had bestowed gifts on you in the past brought nothing but themselves to celebrate this year, you celebrated in the same fashion. You enjoyed your party and were thrilled in the end. That purple bicycle will always remind me of your character, Nikelle. You are more often than not, a selfless giver and that is more valuable than gold. Thank you for always being willing to share and put others first. It is a rare quality in a person these days.

You have continued to excel in art and had your work displayed at the Rialto for the Children for Peace program this year. We know this is one way God has gifted you. It has been fun to watch you embrace the music of the recorder this year, too. We look forward to seeing the instrument you choose to play in the future and wonder if you will continue to apply yourself with practicing the way you did this year in music class.

As I look back over this past year, I realize that you have changed in so many ways. It is so fun to watch you become the person God created you to be. More than anything, I am struck with the overwhelming truth that you are one of God’s greatest gifts to us. As the firstborn, we are bound to screw you up in big ways. We pray for God’s grace to cover our mistakes and trust you will know that all of our actions come out of our love for you and our God. I thank God for the blessing of having you as a daughter, Nike. It is good to be your mother.

You were made for victory, Nike. When you fear, embrace the truth that God’s spirit gives us power. Whatever the future holds, I pray you will live life loving God and striving to please Him. He gave His life for you. There is no greater love.

Loving you the best I know how,

Mommy

Thursday, June 16, 2011

I want my teenage self (and my daughters) to know...



“Spin the Bottle” was not a game we planned on having a conversation with our 9-year-old daughter about. When my husband came upon a reference to the game while reading with her, however, we thought it important to seize the opportunity. I inquired of my daughter as to any knowledge of the game. Satisfied that she was clueless, we proceeded with questioning.

“Should you kiss a boy just because of a game?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know.”

“Why do we kiss someone?”

“I don’t know.”

“Who do you kiss?”

“Daddy”

“Who else do you kiss?”

“I don’t know.”

“Who do I kiss?”

“Daddy”

“You give a kiss to show someone you love them. What would you say if a boy asked you if he could kiss you?”

“Not right now.”

“That’s actually a really good answer.”

Raising three daughters, I constantly want to instill in them the bigger picture. I want their actions to be rooted in pleasing God. It is important to me that my girls are able to think through situations before they encounter them and make appropriate decisions on their own. Too many times, growing up, I would be faced with situations and have to make a decision on the spot. While I realize this cannot be entirely avoided, I desire for them to have done some premeditating so they can confidently make God-pleasing decisions.

Today is the Hearts at Home blog hop. Feel free to join us! This Third Thursday Thought is “If you could go back in time and tell your teenage self one thing, what would you say?”

If I were to have a conversation with my teenage self, I would stress the importance of purity being more than some line we shouldn’t cross. Purity is more than protecting your body. We also need to guard our hearts and minds. The concept of purity is something we all need to know at an early age and carry throughout our lives. It doesn’t stop when we get married. Purity involves the mind, heart and body.

At an early age, there is a lot of pressure to hook up with a boyfriend/girlfriend. Holding hands and kissing and declaring one’s “love” makes you feel as though you belong. It is difficult to feel accepted when everyone else claims a boyfriend or girlfriend and you stand alone. No one wants to be considered an outcast.

I distinctly remember my friends in fourth and fifth grade who were considered a “couple”. Back then it seemed to be an innocent declaration to be “going out”. These days, the stakes seem to be much higher. It is important to me that my children desire to guard their hearts. I want my girls to confidently and boldly make decisions even if it means they will feel alone.

Thankfully, I had parents who protected my innocence and set boundaries for me. Unfortunately, I still had no idea what to do when the situation was staring me in the face and really no clue that purity was more than just preserving my virginity. Purity involves protecting not only our bodies, but our minds and hearts as well.

As a teenager, I was quick to give my heart away. It left me with a broken heart that took years into my marriage to heal. I didn’t guard my heart or my mind when it came to love. As a 16-year-old, my unguarded thoughts ran off into the future. Declarations were made without a commitment in place and sadly, I was left regretting the parts of me I did give away. I did not guard my heart and I paid the price.

Guarding my heart is a lesson I learned the hard way but still need to apply to my life today. Even as a married woman, we can find our thoughts and daydreams running away. It takes work to keep our hearts and minds pure. Too many marriages are shattered by affairs. I have learned that it starts in our thoughts and affections. We need to protect our marriages. We need to train our hearts and minds not to stray.

I may not have learned the bigger definition of purity until many years into my marriage, but my hope is that my girls will learn it at an early age and be saved from a world of hurt and pain. This year, I have a fourth grader. It is a year I distinctly remember friends “going out”. While I want to avoid destroying my daughter’s innocence with a conversation about the inevitable, I also know the importance of having it now. If I don’t teach my daughter about purity, love and sex, she will learn her lessons somewhere less than ideal. I may not be able to have a conversation with my teenage self, but God is giving me an opportunity to have the conversation with my daughters. I want my children to thrive in life and love.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” – Proverbs 4:23

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Monday, June 6, 2011

Risking Friendship

Taking risks is really not my thing. I like my feet safely planted on the ground. Security makes me feel good. Expecting the unexpected has never been my cup of tea. I will never be one of those risk takers who receive their 30 seconds of fame. My life will have to be highlighted for doing something other than out-of-the-ordinary.

While I will never hesitate on the edge of jumping out of a plane (because I will never be there in the first place), I identified a risk that I am willing to take. I risk it all for relationships. Love is one of the few things I am willing to lay it all on the line for.

Yesterday I said goodbye to some dear friends. I have been doing life with some of them for just a short while; some for years and some for over a decade. As I did, my mind flashbacked on the past and the many goodbyes I have had to say. Some are less painful than others but all of them shape me. When friends move away, when people cut you out of their life unexpectedly or when the finality of death forces the goodbye, it hurts. Farewells hurt. And in the moment, I find myself hesitant to reach out and make any more friends.

My initial reaction with people is to protect my heart (and the hearts of my family). I think twice before I give any information about my life. Reluctant to make investments that won’t yield a good return, I hold back. Initially, I want to weigh the risks because no one knows what the future holds.

I have watched people live this life unwilling to risk their hearts due to the fear of pain. The worry of rejection make some unwilling to form new friendships. And the pain of death has hit some so hard that the thought of moving forward is unbearable. While I experience the gamut of emotions as well, I know that our inability to know the future will also leave us missing out.

One has to be willing to risk pain if they yearn to experience joy. True friendship can only be found in experiencing and weeding out the traits that don’t measure up. In opening up our hearts and sharing our experiences, we find that others are willing to do the same. It is only when we are found trustworthy that we experience the dependability of a friend. When we love others, we find the devotion and adoration we long for from them. Camaraderie is understood only by those who are willing to take the risk.

Jesus Christ extended his arms on the cross to display His love for us. Yet, all over the world, people reject this greatest demonstration of love. Knowing this, Christ still offers His love. When the risk is taken, we may not always receive the response we desire. The desired response, however, will never come until we take the risk.

“I've loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you'll remain intimately at home in my love. That's what I've done—kept my Father's commands and made myself at home in his love. I've told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I'm no longer calling you servants because servants don't understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I've named you friends because I've let you in on everything I've heard from the Father.” – John 15:9-15