17 January 2016

Raising Grateful Kids

Today I am participating in a "blog hop."  Truthfully, I am not exactly sure what that means, but I do know that I am writing about Raising Grateful Kids In An Entitled World by Kristen Welch.  I have had the privilege of reading this book as part of the launch team.  And y'all are going to love this book.  For real.

Because, you know what?  It is hard to raise grateful kids in an entitled world.  And sometimes it feels awkward and lonely and unattainable.  Am I right?

This book has been such a good read; it has challenged me, encouraged me, and reminded me that we are not in this alone.  {You can go pre-order it here.}

While I feel that our boys are a pretty grateful bunch, I can see how it has been a hard fight to get here at times.  And I know without a doubt that it is an ongoing battle.

Beyond question, I feel our family has an advantage when it comes to being grateful because of our time as a military family.  Its hard to take simple things for granted when you go without them for long stretches of time.  A daddy reading bedtime stories before bed is priceless.  Visiting with extended family after being far away for so long cannot be undervalued.  Realizing God has brought you lifelong friends in a short period of time is a gift beyond measure.  Truly, our family gained so much perspective while living that life. I pray that the gratitude we learned there will always be woven into our family story.

Obviously, our involvement with the foster care community has given us a perspective that helps guide our boys toward gratitude as well.  Our older boys have been able to volunteer in the clothing closet and at Brad's work sorting donations for foster kiddos.  This has opened the door for so many conversations about children in difficult situtions. {And about why people donate junk, but that will be a separate blog post.} Being aware that there are kiddos in our own community that wish for nothing more than a family is a reality check for any child. While we do our best to not lay anything too heavy on our boys, and we try to keep our conversations age-approriate, we do not sugar coat the truth.

Even with these built-in perspective boosters, gratefulness is sometimes elusive.  We have to work for it.  And the work starts with Brad and I.   If we aren't grateful, our children won't be either. I love this quote from Kristen's book:

Through the book, at the end of each chapter, Kristen provides a "Going Against the Flow" list broken down by age group: parents, toddlers/preschoolers, elementary, tweens/teens.  I appreciate this because it helps me take inventory of how we are doing and gives me ideas for what we could try.  It is written in a way that gives guidance without condemnation.  I think these segments will be a blessing to each person that reads the book.  I have already found some suggestions that I would like to add in to our routine.

Here are a few practical things we do as a family to intentionally build gratitude and fight entitlement.

  1. We talk about God's goodness to us. A lot. Especially this past year as we bore witness to heavy grief.
  2. Our kids get an allowance each pay-period.  Sometimes when we are out + about they will ask for a treat, and I reply, "did you bring your wallet?"  This doesn't mean we don't get occasional treats, but it provides an instant check for the older boys to determine if they want to spend their own money on that milkshake.
  3. We sponsor a child through Compassion International. This is an easy way to inform your children about what life is like for kiddos around the world, and make a difference for a child in Jesus' name. 
  4. We have scaled back on gifts.  Our kids know they get three presents from us at Christmas and the older boys know our budget for gifts too {they've overheard me talk about it before.} This takes the pressure off of us as parents and lowers their expectations too.  A lot of these types of decisions bloomed during our journey to become debt-free.
  5. We read a chapter from Proverbs together every morning at breakfast.  We re-read it every month.  Its a simple way to remind us daily that Scripture holds truth for our daily lives. We each pick which verse we 'like' best each morning. This is a simple ritual that has become so dear.
Do not be fooled, we get this wrong all the time.  That's part of why I like this book so much.  Every stage of parenting holds new challenges and our culture is constantly changing.  Its important to remember that Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World isn't something we have to do alone.  We have a faithful Father that guides us toward gratitude. Its not hard to find a verse in scripture reminding us to be grateful.
 "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever." Psalm 136:1 {NIV}

I think it is certainly something that gets easier with practice and with prayer.  If we continually seek His word, seek His guidance, and follow Him; we will find Him trustworthy and we'll be ever grateful.  Our gratitude will spill over to our children and Lord-willing they will be grateful too.

Click on these links to read more about what gratitude looks like in other families too!

Inspiring an Attitude of Gratitude - by Alison Rasisng Grateful Kids - by amanda Why You Can't Buy Gratitude At The Dollar Store - by Andrea Missing - Gratefulness in our home - by Ange Choosing Gratitude - by Angela Gratefullness - by chaley 5 Steps to Gratitude-Fille Family - by Christa Practicing Grateful Parenting - by Dana Sing a Song - by Hannah Cultivating gratitude in our family - by Jamie Gratefulness In Our Home - by Jana Gratefulness In Our Home - by Jana Let It Begin With Me - by Jen Choosing Gratefulness - by Jennifer Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World - The Book - by jeri Eradicating Entitlement - What are you rooted in? - by Jessica Gratefulness in our home - by Kate The Problem With Entitlement is that it begins with us - by Katelyn 7 Unusual Ways I Know How to Be Grateful - by Kathryn Raising Grateful Kids - by Keri How My Children Remind Me to Pray with Gratitude - by Kishona Grateful - by Kristy Entitlement: The Ugly Truth of a Beautiful Lie - by Leigha The Most Important Thing You Can Do To Raise Grateful Kids - by Lindsey Dear Son: How Do I Teach You To Be Grateful Without Guilt? - by Marie Osborne Gratitude, A Practical Definition - by Mia Cultivating Gratitude in Our Home - by Nancy Learning Gratitude through Chronic Illness - by Rachel Being Grateful - by Rebecca I've Found Something I Can't Live Without - by Sarah The Power of Naming our Gifts - by Sarah Outfitted - by Sarah Jo Growing Gratitude in our Family - by Sondra Teaching Gratefulness - by Stephanie How Grateful Looks From Here - by Alison Fighting Entitlement in Children and All of us - by Leah Entitlement Problem - by Karrie Grateful Today - by Krystal

08 January 2016


Alright, y'all.  I need to tell you something.  And for reasons I can't quite explain I feel a little weird about telling you.  But today is the day, so here goes...  

In November I started training for a half-marathon. Race day is January 30, 2016.

There are a bunch of reasons that I decided to do it. One being that I had started out to do it before but never made it.  I wrestled a lot with the decision.  Back in October while I was weighing it out, I was running with a couple friends frequently as we powered through the Couch-to-5k program.  I realized that the way I encouraged my friend, Amanda, as she ran was so very different from the way I spoke to myself when I ran.  Its probably no coincidence that Andrew Peterson's new album had been playing on repeat for weeks at that point and the song "Be Kind to Yourself" was slowly becoming an anthem for me.  

Meanwhile, my sister-in-law, Dunia, wanted to run a half too, and the timing of this January 30 race was perfect for her because it'd be before she started nursing school. So we looked for a training plan and got started.  After her first week of training she realized she needed foot surgery.  So I was down a running partner.  I discussed with Brad about whether or not I should go ahead and keep training.  It seemed like a terrible time for me -- weather-wise anyway.  If you have known me for a minute you know I don't like the cold.  Even southern cold. But I decided to pray about it anyway.

And had the distinct feeling that I should keep on training.  Even in the winter.  I told Jesus He was going to have to meet me on those long runs if He expected me to do this.  And He said I would need to be kind to myself.

Quite honestly, I kept giving myself an out.  The registration price doesn't increase until next week so I reasoned that I might as well wait to register.  Those first few weeks each long run had been preceeded with this declaration, "If I feel too bad after this I will just train for a later race."

I had felt a bit disappointed all along that this half-marathon wasn't for a "good cause."  It wasn't until I read this blog post by Kristen Welch that I finally decided I was really going to aim for this January 30 half-marathon.  When the opportunity came along to pair my goal with fundraising for Mercy House I knew it was just-right.  [You can read the post here.  Kristen could still use more people to join her in this fundraising adventure.]

I've been following Kristen probably ever since The Mercy House started.  I love the work they are doing with pregnant women and new mommas in Kenya as they partner with local churches.  Also, Fair Trade Friday is a global ministry of Mercy House that empowers women around the world.  Artisans create beautifully crafted fair trade products that are shipped off to monthly subscribers.  I love, love, love this model, its a win-win in so many ways!

Ten days before Christmas I decided to do this for real.  And I told a few folks about it.  And set-up a fundraising page too.  {Click here to find the fundraisisng page.}

But I waited a bit to tell all y'all.  Because sometimes goal-sharing can feel a little braggy to me.  Is that just me?  Or can you relate?  Maybe its because I am the opposite of Type A?  Also, sometimes all the goal-setting-talk in January can feel like a little much, right?

Either way, I am telling you now because I wanted to tell you about something I learned this week. As I stepped out the door to run on Monday, I said out loud {to God + myself} "I do NOT want to do this."

I really did NOT want to do it.  But it was on my Hal Higdon Half Marathon Novice 1 training plan.  So I ran 5 miles anyway.

And as I ran, God kindly pointed out that its important to do training runs if you plan on running a half-marathon.  Of course, I agreed and I knew He was right. But God, in His kindness, always teaches us about more than just the obvious.  He reminded me that I need to do the work for other goals too, whether I feel like it or not.  While I maybe wouldn't call some of my creative ventures "goals," He kinda nudged me toward thinking of it that way.  So I thought about how often I think I should write more, but I don't really "feel like it."  Or think I should get out my sketch book and hand-letter while the boys nap, but scroll Facebook instead because I am not "feeling inspired."  I put off these things waiting until "I feel like it", instead of getting in the practice when I have the time.  Granted, there aren't printable "Novice Training Plans" available for every goal, but there are so many resources available to me in 2016, I  can't really use that as an excuse.  So I had a little shift in my thinking as I finished that cold run that I did NOT want to do.  And wondered if it might help some of you as you think about some of your dreams for 2016.

So I am telling you about my half-marathon + I am asking you to consider donating to the fundraising page because I believe in Mercy House and the work they are doing in Jesus' name.

But I am also telling you because you might have a thing you want to do.  Call it a goal if you want. You might need to make a training plan. I promise there will be days you don't feel like doing the training, but you might just do it because you planned it.  As you keep training, you might find further incentive to keep heading toward your goal {like I did with the post from Kristen about Miles for Mercy!} And eventually you might be brave enough to share your goal because you think someone else might be inspired to set up a training plan of their own.  Let's do this!

This is a link-rich post, so I am listing the links down here too, if that makes it easier to find what you are looking for.

My fundraising page: https://www.crowdrise.com/amandasmilesformercy
Mercy House:  http://mercyhousekenya.org/
Kristen's post about Miles for Mercy: http://wearethatfamily.com/2015/12/im-feeling-43-help-me-celebrate-with-a-run/
Miles for Mercy page: http://www.mercyhousekenya.org/node/634
Be Kind to Yourself video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYiM-sOC6nE
Buy the song here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B014M2KA4W?ie=UTF8&*Version*=1&*entries*=0

17 November 2015

be brave, be light, be love

Friday night Brad and I went on a date!  {Hallelujah!}  But it wasn't an average date, we went out to dinner then went to a meeting with FaithBridge to talk about foster care issues.

It was reported that there are currently 524 kiddos in foster care in Muscogee County.  And there are 67 foster families.

That averages to approximately 7.8 foster kiddos per family.  And since we all know there is no such thing as .8 of a child we'd need to round up to 8. Obviously the numbers aren't working here.

Its a bit disheartening.  But at the same time its an exciting time to think the church can step up and fill this gap.  This is our time.

While we sat in that meeting I kept thinking we all need to "be brave, be light, be love" in our communities.  Jesus showed us the way.  He didn't tell us to hide from hard things, instead He promised that we wouldn't walk in darkness because He is the Light of the World. {John 8:12}

We let fear hold us back, yet our Bible repeatedly says "do not be afraid."  There comes a time when we have to decide to just let the Spirit guide us and trust that Jesus is with us.  Not unlike when he told the disciples not to be afraid in Matthew 14:27.  "But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid."

All of these thoughts were swirling before I heard the news about the attacks in Paris.




Then on top of those horrors begins the ugliness the unfolds on the internet.

The you-pray-for-Paris-but-you-don't-pray-for-[fill in the blank with other horrific events in the world]-rants.

The outcries to stop refugees from coming here.

And I just want to shout, "will y'all just stop it!" Its just too much.  You know?  And I think my voice will add nothing to the conversation at this point.  So I doodle the phrases that have been on repeat.  I ask Jesus to lead me in His ways.  And I quietly invite you to join me -- in your corner of the world, with your people.  Let's just do these simple things.  Let's just ask Him to lead us in His ways.

There is enough fear in the world. Let's be brave.

There is enough darkness in the world.  Let's be light.

There is enough hate in the world.  Let's be love.

Let's tell a different story.  Let's sing a different song.  Let's ask questions and truly listen for the answers.  Let's make space for differing opinions, trusting that those differences will help us find balance.  Let's celebrate the giftings of one another, trusting that another's strength will counter my weakness. Let's believe that the body of Christ is made up of different parts; some that are hospitable and some that are organized; some that pray, some that give, some that go.  Let's trust that together we can offer Hope to the hurting without fear -- in our own communities and on distant shores.

Let's seek after Jesus and trust that His ways will never lead us astray.  We won't be here long.  So while we are here let's bear witness to His goodness, His truth, and His salvation.  Let's be brave. Let's be light, Let's be love.

06 November 2015

action required

Alright, y'all, I have been suffering from a bit of a writer's block for a hot minute.  The truth is, I am almost always carrying a story in my head that I can't be free of until it comes out on paper {or blog}.  But lately, things have been empty.  Until now.

Here's the thing, I am tired.  And I am angry.

I heard whispers yesterday about how hard foster care is.  AND IT IS. But the trouble is, those 'whispers of hard' tend to be the whole story that most people ever hear.  Especially in our churches, there's this underlying current of how horribly wrong things can go in foster care situations and this belief that we should protect ourselves from it at all costs.

I saw evidence of it first hand when we first waded into the system 5 years ago. People are eager to tell you the horror stories of their cousins' friends' mom who had a child torn from her after 12 years. Or the story about the terrible foster kid that raged uncontrollably for days on end.

I am not saying these stories aren't true, and I am not even saying these stories shouldn't be told.

The weird thing is, that these stories have somehow instilled enough fear to steer most folks directly away from any desire to be involved in foster care.

Let's be honest, we've all been with a newly pregnant friend who has to listen to awkward birth stories and we can't wait to get away from the ill-timed-narratives so we can reassure our friend that things will be OK.  Terrible things have happened to pregnant people and heartbreaking dramas have unfolded in delivery rooms.  However, the retelling of these stories hasn't turned our culture away from the idea of bearing children.

Yet, somehow these foster care stories build this fear that turns people away from the children.

These precious children that are so loved in the eyes of our Father.  And they are in a position of desperate need through no fault of their own.  AND OUR CHURCHES ARE FULL OF FOLKS THAT COULD SHARE SOME LOVE.

But its scary.  And hard.  But not impossible.  Not even close.

And there's good news for our local community specifically.  Really. Good. News.

FaithBridge Foster Care is coming to Columbus.  Here's a little info from their website: {Click here to go to their website and learn more.}

We are a Christ-centered nonprofit that is changing the way America does foster care by mobilizing, organizing and equipping local churches to solve their community's foster care crisis. Together, we stand in the gap with children and families. Through Christian foster care ministries and the FaithBridge Community of Care, we provide unparalleled support to foster and birth families as we share God's life-changing love in the midst of crisis.

This organization has proven itself in Atlanta.  And Atlanta is a pretty big place.  It saw the need, and it saw the number of churches and it realized things could change.  I couldn't be more thrilled to have them come to town.  While there will still be struggles within the foster care space, there will be a community like there hasn't been before.  Families that bravely sign-up to foster will have the support of other families within their own churches to help them along the way.  Churches will be able to leverage their resources to make sure every foster parent has enough clothes, or beds, or toys, or books.  I don't want to make this sound too good to be true, but at the same time, I don't think I can overstate what a HUGE blessing it will be for Muscogee County and the children in crisis there.

This was stated by the Chattahoochee CASA two weeks ago on Facebook:
ATTENTION, ACTION NEEDED! There are now 520 children in foster care, only 168 served with 352 unserved! That is only 32% of the Muscogee County Foster Children. We need YOU, THEY need YOU! Training will begin Nov. 3rd. If you are interested in joining our class it isn't too late!
 And remember last week when I told y'all about the foster momma that had to tell one of her foster girls that she couldn't sign-up for cheerleading because they didn't have the money?

Y'all this is going to make a difference.  A big measurable difference.  And I am sure of it because they have already done it in Atlanta.

They are getting closer to opening their doors here.  They only need $40,000 to meet their goal.  It sounds like a lot but not for a community of our size.  Not really.

4000 people could give $10.
400 people could give $100.
40 people could give $1000.
4 people could give $10,000.

And I am guessing there are some community leaders that might be interested in being a part of this as well.  Perhaps there are some business owners that have been burdened to give back to our comminity but haven't been sure of where or how. You might even know them!

So what can you do?

1.  Pray.  Pray for the funding to come.  Pray for the leaders in Muscogee County.  And always, always pray for children in foster care and the families that are loving them the best they can.

2. Give.  Click this link, check the box next to Columbus and make a donation.  Today!

3. Share this information.  You likely know people that I don't and they might be able to give today too, essentially multiplying your impact!

4. Be brave.  When you hear foster care horror stories, acknowledge the pain if its a personal story; but if its about a friend's cousin's mom's situation from 1985 boldly speak Truth and stand up for these kiddos without a voice.  Make sure the conversation doesn't end in fear and despair.  These kiddos are worth the struggle.

03 September 2015

hard running

As we settle into our school routines, I am savoring a few moments of quiet on pre-k days.  I am trying hard not to fill up the time but rather to accept the quiet as a gift.  Today I was finally able to put this parenting lesson into words. Kids are such great teachers!

Walker recently brought this picture home from school.

Its kind of hard to see, but the title is "Things I like" and he drew a long road with two people running.  Its him + me running. Of all the things he could draw, he chose this.  It melted my heart a little bit.

Its funny because our runs together aren't always a great time.  We've had our fair share of "come-to-Jesus-meetings" while running.  Both of us are similar in that at times we believe we can't do it.  Our bodies are fully capable, but our brains are acting like we may die at any moment. I recognize it in him, because its my default running style. Of course, when I run with him I can't allow my default to take over.  If he is having a good day I have to chase him down, and when he is having a bad running day I have to persuade him to get over it. So there is no time for me to start panting and believing that I am near death.  So I do prefer running with him. I'm just not sure how much he likes running with me soemtimes.

When we ran the 5-miler in July, we had a goal to finish in under an hour.  That is a 12-min/mile pace.  Its not fast, but its not walking the whole thing either. We trained a little but probably not as much as we could have.  We planned to run a mile, walk a minute throughout the race. Just after the 1 mile marker there was a hill.  It wasn't a long hill, but it was fairly steep and at the top of it there was a long, gradual incline. I remember this part of the race like it was yesterday.  We walked up the hill and then Walker basically decided that he was done.  I started reminding him that we had just run 4.5 miles the previous Saturday.  I told him his body could do it he just had to convince his brain. He was not listening to any of it.  I told him we could walk the rest of the way.  I meant it as a threat. He accepted it and said "fine."  I was dumbfounded.  And a little mad. I think I threatened to leave him and run the rest of it myself.  As I said it, another runner gave me a glance, in my mind the glance was something like, "what kind of mother threatens to leave her 9-year-old on a race course alone?"

At this point I said a little prayer.  There's nothing like being judged by someone to make you rethink your strategy, right?  The weird thing is that I felt peace.  God assured my heart that I knew my son and I knew what he was capable of.  I even had a sense of solidarity with God.  Not to sound flippant, but it was almost like He acknowledged that He gets those side-eye glances all the time in His parenting.  I thought about all the times I've heard the questions that start with, "if God is so good why would He allow...[fill in the blank with bad things]?"

So I told Walker I was going to start running and he could keep walking or run with me.  He ran. He decided to believe me and not himself and he ran.

photo credit: Mike Haskey/Ledger Enquirer

We finished the race just a minute over our goal. It was hot and hard but we finished.

And when Walker is asked to draw a picture of "things" he likes, he draws us running. He sees the big picture and enjoys the time together even when its hard sometimes.

This blows my mind. And also speaks to my heart. This morning when we read our proverb at breakfast these verses resonated with me.

"Do not despise the Lord's instruction, my son, and do not loathe His discipline; for the Lord disciplines the one He loves, just as a father, the son he delights in."  Proverbs 3:11-12

I thought about that moment out on the 5-miler course.  I thought about this picture Walker drew of our time together running. I thought about how desperately I want to be a child that doesn't despise instruction but rather accepts it.  Even when its hard and I don't think I can do it.  I want to be a child that trusts my Father, that believes He knows best even when my faith feels weak.

My kids are continually teaching me so much about myself.

18 August 2015


Seven weeks ago while Brad and Wilson were at camp, we met friends at their neighborhood pool for a cook-out. The kids swam while the food was cooking. We all got out out of the pool to eat, the little dudes needed their puddle jumpers taken off because they couldn't get their hot dogs to their mouths otherwise.  Lincoln finished eating first and forgot that he didn't have his puddle jumper on -- he jumped in without it.  My friend Amber saw him go in and jumped in just after him. I turned around to see the last few seconds before she grabbed him. In reality, it was less than a 30-second incident; it did shake us up a good bit though.

We talked about never jumping into the pool without a puddle jumper on.  Lincoln got right back in the pool -- with his puddle jumper on -- and swam around as if nothing happened.

But a week or so ago, he saw something on TV that reminded him.  And he said, "when I was in Miss Amber's pool and I was drowning, you didn't come get me."  I was so surprised that he brought this up after five weeks had passed, and the way he stated it caught me off guard.   I replied, "I know, honey, but Miss Amber got you right away, didn't she?"  And he sadly whispered, "why didn't you come get me?" My heart was breaking.  He was tearful.  We went back and forth on this a bit and then I realized something -- Lincoln could see me the whole time.  He couldn't see Amber because she was behind him.  He called out for me. By the time I heard him and turned around, I could see Amber on her way in to the pool.  The whole event was less than a minute, likely less than 30 seconds.  I turned toward him, screamed his name, and moved toward the pool as Amber grabbed him.  I don't know how long he saw me before I turned around.  I can only imagine what it looked like from his perspective as he went under the water and saw me standing there.

I tried to explain that I could see Miss Amber coming for him, that I knew she was on her way.  But it didn't matter to him.  He was devastated that I didn't come get him.  As we discussed it, he hit my arm a few times emphatically puncuating his questions, "why didn't you come?" "why didn't you get me?" It was all I could do to hold back my own tears.  I assured him over and over that I could see what he couldn't see.  My words didn't seem to offer much comfort, so I just snuggled him close.  I asked him if he wanted to talk to daddy about it and he shook his head no as he cried into my shoulder for a good long time.  I held him tight. I kissed his head.  I felt his little heartbreak down deep.

I am still reeling from that conversation with my precious boy. I struggled with whether or not it was a story to share.  I hurt for Lincoln's heart that was so puzzled because I didn't come to his rescue.  So I find myself praying that Jesus would reassure his little heart.  I am asking God to make his heart brave, and fearless and certain; that if someday Lincoln finds himself in a mess and can't see me coming, that he would always know the Rescue is on its way.  In a way, I am praying God would do the same for my heart too.  And yours.

Many of us have been in those deep waters.  And we've looked for the rescue to come. We can't see the bigger picture, we just see the part where we thought we'd be pulled from the depths.  And we wonder why it isn't happening the way we thought it would. Sometimes its a small thing and we shake it off, and say, "well God has His reasons" and move on.  Other times, its hard to even breath, hard to even have complete thoughts, harder still to try and whisper prayers asking God to come rescue us -- begging Him to pull us through. So I decided to share this story for you, my friends, in those depths today. I am telling you that Rescue is coming.  It may not come the way you are hoping and it may take longer than you would like, but I promise you that Rescue is coming. Our Savior sees you and knows every detail, He is with you always. Even in your biggest mess, even if you've made the mess yourself.  He will never leave you.  He will lift you up.  You will not always flounder, your weariness will one day subside.  He will restore you.  Hold firm, dear one, Rescue is coming.  If you cannot see it from where you are, I pray you believe me when I say I can see the Rescue coming.

"Israel, The Lord who created you says, "Do not be afraid - I will save you.  I have called you by name - you are mine. When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you; your troubles will not overwhelm you.  When you pass through fire, you will not be burned; the hard trials that come will not hurt you."  Isaiah 43:1-2 GNT

07 August 2015


I just cannot believe you are twelve.  Today you are wearing pads and getting hit for the first time this year at football practice, so it seemed like a good time to be all nostalgic about my baby growing up.  And also because your birthday was three weeks ago.

When I met one of your teacher's last night, and she put her hand over her heart and gestured toward you and said, "he's just...{big content sigh}... well, you know."  It made my heart happy.  It never gets old hearing a teacher compliment you and your hard work.  I am so proud of how well you transitioned to middle school.  You repeatedly astound me with your confidence to go after things -- football included. You work hard, you play hard, you give your best.

You continue to surprise me with your big brother skills.  I know you mostly hear me critique you and remind you that you are setting an example.  But sometimes I see such tender moments unfolding between you and your brothers {I rarely say anything about it because it might just wreck the moment], just know it makes me feel all mushy inside when I see it.  You are tenderhearted toward your brothers most of the time and generally try to help them out when you can.  I especially realized what a big helper you are when you were at camp.  Its fair to say that I had taken your helpfulness for granted up to that point!

As you get older I see new parts of your personality emerging.  You have a snarky sense of humor.  You make me laugh pretty easily, occasionally at the wrong time.  We've seen some hard things unfold this past year.  When the tears come easy for me, you are comfortable to just sit with me in the quiet.  This takes a special kind of maturity.   Its been delightful having you with us in church service this year, I love looking over at your notes in your notebook -- even if you won't let me take pictures of your doodles. I hear growth in your prayers and trust that your faith will continue to grow as you do.

You probably don't know this because you aren't a parent, but in some circles there is a lot of dread about children getting older and turning into horrible creatures.  The teen years are characterized as something you brace yourself for and hope to make it to the other side.  I want you to know that I hope for more.  We are just on the edge of those years, and we've hit some attitude bumps for sure.  I am guessing there will be more. But the truth is, I still like you and you still like us.  I love that last hour of the day when you are the last one awake. Sometimes I want to start on a sewing project or get the laundry folded, but mostly the idea of sitting on the couch with you wins.  Its a joy to be your momma, son.

I hope time and again you will go after life with confidence; trusting that God has big plans for you and believing that He will lead you well.  Always.