What I Want You to Know: A Letter to My Daughter

I want you to know that I love being your mother
From the moment you were nestled into my arms the night you were born, I knew you were exactly where you were meant to be -- in our family. You have been my Little Love since that moment; my {literal} dream come true. I have taken, very seriously, my role to love and nurture and guide you. I have done a good job and I have done a bad job. I have succeeded and failed. I have tried to love you well. You have taught me right back how to love well. Because you, Sweet Girl, you love people well.

I want you to know that I love being your teacher
Sometimes it's challenging and sometimes it's downright frustrating, but I love those moments when your eyes light up because you've worked a multiplication problem in your head and come up with the right answer or when you quickly read through several sentences before realizing how well you're reading. I love watching you paint and create art. I love watching you slip away into a world all your own, where you mix colors into new hues that match the ones you hold in your dreamy mind. I love watching you use two or three paintbrushes at a time, because that's how eager you are to create.

I want you to know that I cherish my memories of your first few years
when you and I had lots of one-on-one time.
I have such fond memories of those years of nursing you, rocking you, feeding you, bathing you, dressing you, playing with you, snuggling you, reading to you, taking you for walks and watching you grow and learn and fall in love with the world around you.

I want you to know that I love watching you be a big sister
Sometimes you get overzealous and sometimes you act before you think, but mostly... mostly you are protective and sweet, compassionate and caring, adoring and a great friend to Natalie. You are a great friend to me, too.


I want you to know that I have fabulous ideas of how to teach you and how to raise you and how to ensure you feel as special as you are
Sometimes my energy runs out before I can make those ideas into realities, and I hate that. So we learn to modify. Maybe today I can't take you for a walk to the playground, but I can sit in a lawn chair in the backyard and watch you swing high into the air, your corn silk hair flying out behind you like streamers on a bicycle. Maybe I can't bake cookies today but I can sit with you and read Sarah, Plain and Tall and watch you fall in love with the characters of Caleb and Anna and Seal, the cat.

I don't know what God plans for marvelous you, Hannah, but I know they are marvelous plans.

I just want to take this moment to thank you for what you have taught me and for all the love you have brought to my life.


Monday Mercies: 10.24.11

Despite a cranky hip and a painful morning, there are no shortage of Monday Mercies today:

beautiful fall sunshine streaming in
leaves swirling down
this song by owl city. its intro feels like possibility
baking loaves of pumpkin bread
and a batch of peanut butter cookies
time with my girls
a phone chat with a friend
a new book in the mail
the aroma of cinnamon and cloves wafting from the oven

What are your Monday Mercies?


Not Good Enough vs Just Right

As hard as I try to convince myself otherwise, there are going to be some days in which I can't succeed like I want to; success won't look like I envision. I won't be able to make my life look like what I think it should. It will be exhaustion and low-grade fever and pain that's hard to bear.

It will be a cottage full of Mama Bear and Baby Bears in pajamas at nearly 3 p.m.

That's chronic pain for you. That's chronic illness.

It will also be a chance to slow down that we wouldn't otherwise take; a chance to wear fuzzy pink slippers and bathrobes and pile into a big bed that's just the right size and read a big pile of storybooks.

It will be time to learn some Spanish. Time to discuss manners, sibling relationships, trying new foods, the science in the natural world.

It will be time for cuddling close -- for a 4 year-old head on my shoulder, and a 7 year-old hand, tanned brown from summer sun, resting on me.

It will be time slowed down.

And this evening when Papa Bear comes home from work, the house may not be clean, the table may have gone unused for schooling, but we will be calm and loving, and we will have learned and grown today, and we will be a little bit closer for this time we told to slow down and the hours we cuddled close and knit our hearts together.

Isn't that the success I envision?


Monday Mercies: 10.17.11 {No Greater Mercy}

There is no greater mercy that I know of on earth than good health except it be sickness; and that has often been a greater mercy to me than health…
It is a good thing to be without a trouble; but it is a better thing to have a trouble, and know how to get grace enough to bear it.” {C.H. Spurgeon}

Pondering this quote today and recognizing Truth. Thanks to Ann Voskamp for including this quote in her post.
My Monday Mercies...

sunlight spilling in on wooden floors
little girl legs in aqua tights, tucked into pink furry slippers
the learning, even when it's hard
the teaching, even when it's hard
jobs in this economy
flour for bread-making
washing machine to spin linens clean
pillow & heating pads to help combat pain
stacks of warm sweet laundry
sweet little faces
hands that hurt less today
marriage and partnership
autumn-hued leaves

What are your mercies today?


National Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day

Today we remember, on a national scale, the babies gone too soon due to miscarriage, stillbirth, infant death, SIDS...

If you are one effected by a loss like this, please share a bit of your story in the comment section. It can be just a date or the name of your little one. You are not alone!


What's Next in This Chapter?

After years of slavery, the people of Israel have escaped from captivity in Egypt and run into a big problem -- the Red Sea. The Red Sea lies between them and their freedom. Their hearts sink. There's no way for them to get through it or around it. They feel defeated.

But then they call out to God, questioning His plan.

"Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness?"

And Moses tells them:

"Don't be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord Himself will fight for you. Just stay calm."

{You probably know what happens next. God performs a miracle. He uses the Israelites' faith.}

He instructs them to get moving. To pick up their staffs and raise their hands over the sea and walk in.

So they do.

Let's just stop there a minute. This whole story could've ended another way. The Israelites might not have listened. They might not have used their faith, listened to God, and walked forward. The Egyptians would've caught up with them and re-captured them.

But they listened. They did what God was instructing them to do. They held onto their faith and their staffs and they moved forward.

And God performed a miracle. He divided the Red Sea into two parts, with an aisle of dry land between two mighty walls of water. The Israelites walked through, unharmed, and then God returned the water to normal and it swept over the Egyptians who were chasing the people of Israel and the Bible says that not a single one survived.

In the same chapter as the Israelites thought they would escape, the feared they would not. And then they were delivered.

Their Deliverer showed up!

And in the very first verse of the next chapter, the people of Israel are praising God for rescuing them and for granting them true freedom.

How does this apply to your life today?

In your current chapter of life, where are you? Are you trying to be free? Are you facing a huge barrier that seems insurmountable? Have you called out to God with doubt? Has He answered you yet? Is He rescuing you? Has He delivered you? Are you free?

A lot can change in just one chapter.

Just hang on -- the Lord will fight for you.


Thoughts on Healing

Healing is a touchy topic. Especially when you are the one deemed needful of healing.

There are all kinds of healing -- physical, emotional, spiritual, mental, social, marital.

Throughout my three plus decades I've experienced a few of those. Not necessarily instant or dramatic. Not easy.

I have felt conflicted when people suggest I pray for healing, get anointed, etc....

I wasn't sure why that was. It's not that I want to be sick and in pain.

During this past weekend, while attending a Women of Faith conference, some of my thoughts and feelings on the subject became more clear. I haven't written about it for a few days, trying to allow time to process it more fully.

I hesitate to put it here because of reactions and comments. I hesitate because I'm not sure I can express it clearly enough.

But here it is anyway:

I believe healing comes in different forms.
I believe healing looks and feels different to different people.
I believe my healing might come in the form of physical pain & disease.

i'll give us all a minute to think about that.

I want what God wants for me.

I desire to be the woman He created me to be. I trust His plan for my life.

If that includes this, so be it.

Please understand, I don't make that statement lightly. It doesn't mean that I won't fight and keep searching for effective treatments. It doesn't mean I'm giving up. It doesn't mean I'm succumbing.

It means that as I go to physical therapy, do my exercises, endure times of severe physical pain, limp, swallow vitamins, swallow medications, drink lots of water, take my heating pad to bed every night..... as I do those things, as I fight the best I can, I trust.

I trust He knows what's best for me.

And while all of this doesn't appear to be the best, if it draws me to His heart, if it forms me into who I am created to be, if it helps shape His plan for me, I trust.

*all images in this post taken by our friend Terence McLeod.


Who is the Best Daddy in the World?

Today I had a conversation with my 4 year-old daughter Natalie. It went like this:

Jennifer: "Don't you guys think we have the best daddy in the world?"

Natalie: "Well, not the best daddy. But he is nice."

Jennifer: "Oh, really? Who do you think is the best daddy?"

Natalie: "Every single daddy in the world who takes good care of children is the best daddy yet."

I thought her response was profound. A big thank you to all the daddies in the world (including my dad, Larry, and the girls' dad, Jonathan) who take good care of children.


When You're Walking in Shadow

As a person of faith I know, cognitively, that I am not alone. That my God walks with me, never leaving me.

But sometimes the shadows come and I walk in darkness. And that walk becomes a limp.

I wait for the moments I step into sunlight again; I wait for the warmth that takes the pain away, the light that soaks through my heart.

It's one thing to know that I am not alone.

But sometimes I need to feel it, to see it, to touch that knowledge.

Today I am thankful for the visible and touchable reminders God sends into my life that tangibly reinforce the reality of His presence and grace.


Children's Literature We Love

I wanted to share some of our favorite books for children, including Jonathan's and my childhood favorites, the favorites from our daughters' early years, and the series we are reading to them now.

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. 
Goodnight Moon
Hannah loved this book so much as a baby that we tracked down the companion book, My World. Both copies are now tattered and worn, having gone on many outings and adventures with us. Two other books by this author have captivated Natalie: Runaway Bunny and Home for a Bunny.

Curious George by Margret & H.A. Rey
The Complete Adventures of Curious George: 70th Anniversary Edition 

Hannah's favorite toddler & preschool year books. I can't tell you how many times we've checked these yellow books out from the library. We even had a Curious George themed party for her 3rd birthday.

I believe the reason this series was such a favorite of Hannah's was due to the similarity between her personality and George's. For a while, I even described her as a "Curious George" as she got into lots of mischief, but by the end of the day she always made up for it.

Some books have become classic children's literature for a reason. Here are some big hits in our home:

Peter Rabbit & other stories by Beatrix Potter

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
The Velveteen Rabbit
I have to admit this one has become more meaningful to me after having a child who loved a stuffed bunny as if it were real. Natalie & her Cinnamon Swirl Bunny are never far from one another. I also love this passage, since becoming well acquainted with joint pain:

 "Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But those things don't matter at all because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne

Corduroy by Don Freeman
Corduroy (40th Anniversary Edition)

A little girl named Lisa falls in love with this teddy bear at a toy store. Published in 1968.

Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones
The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name

A fabulous way to introduce Jesus and the Bible to children. The author does a phenomenal job of carrying the prevailing theme of the Bible through every story in this book. A wonderful introduction to the heart of God.

Owl at Home - Arnold Lobel
Owl at Home -- An I Can Read! Picture Book

This is just the most loveable owl. He makes tea out of his tears.

Mr. Putter & Tabby - Cynthia Rylant

Mr. Putter & Tabby Pour the Tea

Charming stories of an old man and his old cat. Some of the stories involve Mr. Putter's neighbor lady and her dog.

Chapter books I read and loved as a girl that we are now reading aloud to Hannah & Natalie:

All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor

All-of-a-Kind Family

Five Jewish sisters living in New York in the early 20th century. Though poor, they find no shortage of adventures and happiness.

American Girl Books - {Molly, Samantha, Kaya, Kirsten, etc...} Assorted Authors including Valerie Tripp {not only do these stories portray girls of various ethnicities with good values and strong moral character, the realistic life plots give plenty of opportunity for teaching & discussion between parent and child, and help kids learn about historical periods.}

Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace

The Betsy-Tacy Treasury

The tales of little girls who meet at age 5 and become best friends. Published in the 1940s. 

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
The Boxcar Children Bookshelf (The Boxcar Children Mysteries, Books 1-12)
These mysteries about 4 siblings are a generational hit in my family. My grandmother read them to my dad, my parents read them to me and my siblings, and now I have read them to my girls. These books captivated my imagination, probably in part due to how our family of 4 kids (two boys and two girls) was like the character siblings of the book. 

My favorite little girl book:

Baby Dear (Little Golden Book, 306-52)

Baby Dear by Eloise Wilkin {a story about a little girl whose mother has a new baby. The little girl takes care of her dolly just as the mother takes care of the new baby.}
From the age of about 4, when my mom gave birth to twins, I couldn't wait to be a mother. My copy of this Little Golden Book was so well loved that the spine fell apart and my parents reinforced it with masking tape. When I was a teenager my mom and I found a new copy in the grocery store and bought it. 

Jonathan's favorite boyhood book:

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Where the Wild Things Are

What are some favorites from your childhood & in your home?


Beauty in the Everyday

"Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful,
we must carry it with us or we find it not."
{Ralph Waldo Emerson}

Every day I like to look for beauty around me. Here are some things I found beautiful this week.

"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in,
where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul."
{John Muir}

Happy weekend to you!
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