When Isaac was little, like three or four years old, we would sit around the table and he would often say that we need two more people to fill our table. He always talked about how we had two extra chairs and they needed to be full.
When Asher was born, Randall and I considered a third child. I just didn't feel like our family was complete yet. Randall's dad was very sick for the first year or so of Asher's life and passed away before he turned two. It was hard for Randall to commit to having more children that would never know his father. That and having a third child meant buying a new car, and being outnumbered, and losing a lot of the comfort we were enjoying as each day passed and the boys grew older.
Making a firm plan to quit having children was the hardest decision I've made. I mourned the loss of any future babies. I mourned the loss of ever having a girl. I prayed about the decision and finally came to the conclusion that just because I didn't give birth to any more children, didn't mean that our family was necessarily complete. I asked Randall if we could consider adoption some day. Randall and I prayed about adoption and talked a lot about it for a while, but we didn't seem to be feeling like God was leading us that way quite yet. I looked into foster care, and even jobs where I would care for children that didn't have stable families. I still didn't feel like the timing was right.
A year or so passed after the decision was final and I found God moving my heart in a definitive direction. I was sitting in a room of a thousand kids at camp that summer. I have been going to camp with these kids for a decade. One night out of our week, every year at camp, we all sit through a presentation from Compassion International. They bring a man or woman who was raised in their program to tell his or her story of growing up with Compassion. It is always moving and I am always brought to tears. But this year was different. I have always been able to sit through that presentation with no desire to get out of my chair and sponsor a child. Not this year. I couldn't sit there any longer. My heart was pounding and there were no doubts about what was going on. This year God moved in me so clearly, I had to get up. I perused the tables covered in pictures of actual children who needed love, who needed their needs met, who needed a sponsor. I found a boy who was just about Isaac's age. His name is David and he lives in Peru. We send him a small amount of money every month that meets his every need. We write him letters and he sends back hand colored pictures, and my heart is full. Sponsoring a child is absolutely God's way of adding to our family.
A while back, a couple of neighborhood boys stopped by at dinner time. I was just setting the food on the table, and Isaac invited the boys to stay. We had plenty of food, so I told the boys it was okay with me if it was okay with their mom. She said it was fine, and they found seats at our table.
As we all sat and ate, one of my boys looked at the table and said, "Now every chair is full." It brought a huge smile to my face. For the rest of our lives, we will be welcoming kids into our house to love, and treat as our own for the time that they stay with us. We'll be loving and praying for David and hopefully we'll add another kid or two to our sponsored "family." These kids don't need to come from our DNA for us to love them.
I pray that God continues to fill our table and make our family complete. I know so many of you are loving on neighbor kids and volunteering with kids at church and school and doing your part. Thank you. That's what this world needs. But I challenge you to pray for some kids you don't know as well. You know, the table in my dining room is an essential piece of furniture in our home. It is where every meal is eaten and much bonding had. Visit the Compassion site and pray over those kiddos. I fear that many of these kids you will see don't even own a table, and a square meal every day is not their norm. Pray that their needs will be met. Pray that they will find God and a sponsor who will love them unconditionally. Pray that God will show you if you can play a role in their lives and may your hearts and tables ever be full!
The boys and I ordered some caterpillars online over the summer. It was too hot for them to ship live creatures most of the summer but in mid August, our package arrived. We received four small caterpillars in a cup full of food. Just like in the book, the caterpillars filled their time with eating, and quickly grew fat and lethargic. Three of them formed a chrysalis and I think the fourth will get there soon. The chrysalises were formed on a thin piece of paper that I transferred into our butterfly "habitat" (a tall collapsible enclosure covered in netting). Before I could transfer the paper, one chrysalis fell and I was too afraid to try to reattach it with a pin, so I just transferred it to the floor of the new habitat. Saturday, the first of our caterpillars emerged as a Painted Lady butterfly.
I woke up and saw it already completely out of the chrysalis, wings full and flat, completely still as it clung to the papery remains of it's last home. After an hour or so, it slowly started to open and close it's wings. Isaac watched with curiosity. "Why isn't it flying, Mom? Make it fly!"
I responded with the realization that this insect was discovering his wings for the first time. "It's never used wings before, Isaac! Give it time!" I was completely amazed and in wonder at this being whose last movement had been inching a long, plump body up to the top of a small cup and now was discovering what wings could do.
I don't imagine that butterflies have intricate thoughts, but Oh, how I wondered what it must be like to stretch a new part of your anatomy that you've never used before. Does it know instinctively that wings are used to fly? Does it know that flying is what it is supposed to do now? Or does it fall for the first time and clumsily flap its wings, "Whoa, Whooah!" and eventually, after hours of practice, figure out how to fly? I watched as it's proboscis (tongue) curled in and out and realized everything has changed for this little guy. He has to relearn how to eat and find a taste for nectar. Every millimeter of his tiny body is new and different.
I let all of these thoughts and observations sit in my head for a few days. I thought surely, there must be a blog post in here somewhere. I could talk about metamorphosis and how completely a being changes. How after the change there is a slow relearning of everything. I could relate it to this new phase of my life. I could compare the butterfly and how it tested out it's new curly tongue, to my new daily routine, testing out my writing and learning how to function in a quiet house again. But none of that really seemed to be drawing my hands to the keyboard. I could talk about the time it takes to learn to fly, just like babies take a year or so to learn to walk. I could write about how eventually you have to let the things you love go.
On Sunday morning, a new butterfly had emerged. I found the chrysalis that had fallen to be empty on the habitat floor. The butterfly that emerged had crawled a few inches up the netting. His wings were crimped in odd places and I wondered if they'd straighten out as they dried. They didn't.
We haven't seen this new butterfly fly yet. He'll flap his wings and shake like he's trying to straighten out his wings. When I try to reach for him, to see if I can help he backs away and flutters off to another corner of the cage. I could write a blog about needing help. I could write about being imperfect, but how it makes you no less beautiful.
I just now watched the third butterfly emerge from its chrysalis. As I was opening the net to get my camera in there to take a video, the butterfly dropped from the chrysalis. Oops. I should write a post about leaving things alone, or about how technology ruins everything, or how what doesn't kill you makes you stronger (and if that's true or not)!
But after many attempts to write this blog, I'm mostly just in awe of God's creativity. I'm in absolute wonder of complete transformation and the newness that it brings. I am humbled by these insects beauty and fragility and ability to change.
God, thank you for the amazing gifts you've given us. I believe that you made tiny, delicate, beautiful butterflies for our enjoyment. I believe we can learn about you through your creation. I believe that you care about an intricate insect, and care about your children so much more. Thank you for loving us. Thank you for delighting in your creation. Thank you for delighting in me.
This weekend, Randall spoke to our church about faithfulness.
Sunday for lunch, my extended family got together to celebrate Mama and Papa Kirkland's 60th anniversary.
Oh, the stories of faithfulness represented in the picture above.
They have loved and cherished for better and for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.
They have set the example for their four children and their spouses, fourteen grandchildren and their spouses, and at least four great-grandchildren (I'm sure there are many more to come).
Legend has it that these two were married at 17 and 18 years of age. Mama had a few months on Papa and he may or may not have lied to a judge to get approval to get married so young.
If you know my grandparents, then you know how faithful my mama is to God and his word. She has been nicknamed the "kissy lady" because she greets everyone with a kiss (or a pinch on the butt). She loves others with a passionate love and her smile is contagious. If you know them well, then you know how faithful my papa is to his bride. He has served her for over 60 years and continues to love and cherish her through the heartbreaking sickness that comes as she ages and loses her memory.
Papa sent some words to his children in gratitude for the celebration on Sunday. But he ended it his note with a charge to live well.
* Tend to your families and love each other well.
* Live intentional lives.
*Practice showing concern and kindness to each other and to others.
*Be prepared to account to the heavenly Father for how you use the influence you have or can develop with others.
*Don't underestimate the value of money you may earn in this life.
*Work hard and earn while you can.
*Retain some of you earnings for security and freedom when you cannot earn.
*Continue to worship your Father in Heaven by tithes and offerings. It will also remind you of who made it possible for you to earn.
*Mind your own business and don't mess with things that you can't influence or assist with. Growing up in the country we often were told, "Close the gate and don't mess with the bull." That is good advice for your life as well.
*Surround yourselves with those who believe as you do and who may keep you accountable and may develop your strengths. They will broaden your pathway.
Continue to take control of you lives and make good choices.
Mama and Papa are still parents and as a child, I appreciate any wisdom from my parents. It is refreshing and encouraging and challenging and makes me want to live to please my family. As a kid, when my dad would lecture me for hours on end, I would cry and be resentful. I would get lectures on how to be independent and not be one of those girls that has to have a friend to go to the bathroom. My mother would give me lectures on how to be a leader and a good example to girls younger than me. I always felt like I was in trouble when I got these lectures, but soon after I graduated high school, I appreciated every minute of their advice.
Teach your children and impart your wisdom on them. When they are grown, you will still be their parent. Don't wait until they disappoint you, teach them how to be successful citizens now. Teach them how to be good people. Teach them to love others well, and put others before themselves. Teach them to be good stewards of their money. Teach them to choose good friends and not to "mess with the bull." Teach them to live intentional lives and show them how this is done.
Oh my God, how blessed you have made me to have such a history of parents who love you and want the best for their children. May I grow to fill their shoes and pass on the same legacy to my boys. In a day and age when children and adults are losing common courtesy and manners of old, may my family be different from the norm. May we honor you and point others to you. May we be faithful to you and to each other and to the heritage that was passed to us.
Isaac's school operates on a "clip up" system of discipline. Each room has their own specially themed chart like this one:
When a student enters the class in the morning, they find the magnetic clip with their name on it and put it in the middle of the chart on the neutral sign. If they are caught doing something good during the day, they get to clip up to a sign above the neutral one, alternatively, if they're caught doing something they shouldn't, they clip down. A student that clips down still has the rest of the day to get back to the good side of the chart (and vice versa). If a student clips up three times, they become a "Star Student" and get a certificate or reward of some sort. If they clip down to the bottom of the chart, the parent will be notified.
Isaac decided that we needed a clip up chart in our house (probably after I lost my temper and yelled at the boys). So, he went to the printer and grabbed seven sheets of white paper and taped together his own chart. Then proceeded to make each person in our family a magnet.
Isaac's chart is Math themed. ... I have no idea...
So his neutral sign is "Math!" above that is "You moved up a levil" then "Awsome!" and finally "Math Master!!!!!!!" With no less than seven exclamation points.
If one were to clip down from Math! they would find a sign that says, "Relly?" then "Relly Relly!" and finally "I thoght you were smart."
Thank you God, for humor. Thank you for sarcastic, smart alec kids who make me laugh. Thank you for a chance each new day to start at "Math!" And may we rarely get into the "Relly"s and find grace at the bottom of the chart. Amen.
Just a year ago, two boys (and their mom) moved in at the end of our street. We met them one day as the boys and I headed to the court to practice riding Isaac's bike without training wheels. The boys at the end of the street were already pros at two wheelers and doing circles around us as we practiced balancing. Within a week or two, Isaac was able to ride his bike with the other boys and they soon became friends.
We quickly crossed the boundaries of typical wave-when-you're-at-the-mailbox neighbors, to neighborhood friends. Now on any given afternoon, the youngest neighbor boy will barge into our house and immediately ask for candy (which I willingly give him (just one) because the more they eat, the less we have just sitting around the house). During mealtimes, we have to lock our door, lest the boys walk in and choose to wait until we're finished eating, thus distracting my boys from ever finishing their dinner.
What I love about the neighbor boys is that they are always outside. They love to play and explore and run around. That's just what my kids need: opportunities to get rid of their endless source of energy. My boys spent a lot of time this summer down at the court, exploring the woods beyond and making up games and just having fun.
Last Friday, my boys gave Randall and me a gift. In a surprising change of events, Isaac was in a good mood when he hopped off the school bus Friday afternoon. He ran inside and ate a snack and asked us to come see what he'd been doing the last few weeks.
Randall and I gladly grabbed a few balls and headed to the court. We played a little tennis up at the subdivision clubhouse, then made a few shots in the basketball hoop. Then Isaac asked us to come see the places he'd found within the woods. The older neighbor boy found two little clearings within the trees and they decided they would call them "clubhouses."
Isaac took us to see the biggest clubhouse first. It was a clearing just big enough for a couple of broken chairs and a few boards to sit on. Randall said that'd be the place the boys would go to drink in their teen years. Randall even told Isaac that one day he'd want to take a girl back here and makeout. I reminded Randall that Isaac had no idea what the term "makeout" means and he didn't need to know. Isaac was fine with that. He was too distracted showing us the passages in and out of the small wooded area.
I'm not ready to think about the future. In Isaac's mind, this place is an imaginary mansion. He kept calling it the "mansion clubhouse." You don't drink and makeout in a mansion (shhh... don't tell me what you do in your mansion). In Isaac's mansion, you sit on your throne and relax after a hard day of work.
Asher gave us a tour of the other clubhouse. It was much smaller, in a separate group of trees but had an emergency exit. I loved hearing all about the things my boys have been imagining. It made my heart smile.
Lastly, they brought us to a small vine, hanging off of a tree, where they could swing. Asher seriously started humming the theme to Indiana Jones.
When I let my boys into my world a little bit, something happens in our family. A bond is made and we all understand each other better. When my boys help me cook dinner, or when I tell them all about the book I've just read, we connect on a level that brings us all closer together. When my boys ask to hear about the stories I'm reading, or ask to be a part of my daily routine, I am overjoyed.
It was a gift, the boys gave us, to invite us into their little world. But I bet it is a gift when I ask them to show me what excites them, just the same. It's something I never want us to grow out of, that's for sure.
Isaac and Asher, please never stop including Mom and Dad in your adventures. Let us always in on the joy that you find. We love it!
I've always had a hard time determining what my favorite season is. It seems that as each new season turns, I welcome the change. I dream of winter and the holidays and the family and comfort food that it brings,
but when spring comes around, I am so ready for new life and flower buds and awakening trees.
Everyone loves summer, right? We get to play out in the sun and go on vacations and swim.
But fall really must be my favorite. It brings with it cooler weather (usually) and beautiful colors in the trees. I absolutely love jacket weather, crunchy leaves, and pumpkins.
Every new season brings the joy of change for me. I don't like monotony. Though I know the benefits of it, I am not one for routine.
Asher started full day kindergarten today.
He was so visibly excited and had no sign of apprehension.
So, now I find myself in a new season of life. And I am full of possibilities... and apprehension, myself.
I was reminded to "run with endurance the race God has set before me" this morning when I read Hebrews 12. But what if you don't know which race you're running?
People ask me what I'm going to do now that both boys are in school and I shrug and say, "We'll see!" God has given me some talents and passions and I want to spend my free time using those, but what will come of it?! I don't know yet.
I guess the verse says to run the race that has been set before you, not sprint to the finish line. Maybe we don't have to know which race we're running, quite yet. Maybe, in obedience, we just set one foot in front of the other.
I teach a class at my church and actually talk about the blessing it can be when God doesn't reveal his big picture to us at the beginning. If Paul had known what he'd encounter on the race God set before him, he may never have started. Ship wreck, imprisonment, stoning, running for your life all to spread the news that Jesus really is who he said he was. Even if God had just said, "Paul, you're going to spread my story throughout the known world through a bunch of soldiers and other gentiles," it may have been too much for him to handle the first day.
Today is my first day. It's new, it's a change, it's good and exciting. But today, I'm going to write one word at a time. Take one breath at a time. Say one prayer at a time. And tomorrow, I'll do the same.
What will come of it?
My baby starts kindergarten tomorrow.
Yes! My sweet infant son, who just yesterday looked like this:
And made sweet baby noises like this:
I mean, seriously?
When did this kid grow out of clothes that have snaps?!
When did he lose those cheeks?
And the rooster hair?
He's not old enough to start school tomorrow!
Or, maybe I'm not old enough to have both boys at school.
Either way, I refuse to acknowledge what's happening in a few short hours.
I certainly didn't look through old pictures and videos for the past two and a half hours crying and laughing.
I certainly won't cry as the boys get on the bus tomorrow.
I most certainly will not miss them like crazy all day in my quiet house tomorrow.
I'll let you know how it goes.