A Teenager.

“When you write my birthday blog, make sure you say I’m the easiest child.”

I don’t know why my children have always wanted to lay claim to this title, but they all have. They all have been a lot of work and a lot of fun and a lot of WHAT WERE YOU THINKING and also sometimes pretty easy. But, I have to say that Jett Takle has been an easy kid. He has been for sure my easiest middle schooler.

And today, my middle school baby is 13.

THIRTEEN. This kid who dressed up like a super hero every single day of the first 5 years of his life.

Whatever he has loved, he has loved with his whole heart. Whatever he has been into, he’s been fully in and committed to it. Whether it’s Star Wars, Marvel or Harry Potter.

Elvis Presley, guitar, or teaching himself piano.

Art, science, or learning a foreign language.

Legos, legos and LEGOS.

We have an entire room dedicated to his Legos. We have another room slowly turning into another Lego room. He goes in full force. And as a parent, you can’t help but go all in with him. Because, his passion for life is so dang contagious.

And, his love for us is honestly incredible.

Jett, you love us so so well. You love people so very well. You somehow have the gift to understand so much of what love is and what love does.

You are careful with your words. You are gentle in how they fall on people’s ears. You use them to encourage. To build up. To help. But, you are also quick to say you’re sorry and take ownership when you hurt someone.

You live out “love believes all things.” You believe the best about everyone. It is rare you allow your mind to think anything else.

You are genuinely the most grateful person I know. A couple of weeks ago, you were talking about some things you would like to have. When I went to tell you goodnight, you said, “I’m sorry, mom, for being ungrateful tonight.” I told you it’s not ungrateful to want things. God made us to desire things. He wants us to have and enjoy things. He just doesn’t want those things to have us. They don’t have you, bud. You say thank you to us every single day for every single thing.

A couple of months ago, you were missing Mike Thompson and said you forgot what his voice sounded like. So, I played you a video of him talking, and we both just sobbed. Afterwards you said, “Thank you for crying with me.” These real, raw moments with you are some of my most treasured.

How incredibly special and wonderful you are, Jett Takle.

You tell us you love us over and over every single day. You cannot help but to express your love to the people in your life.

You are FUNNY! You are so much fun to tell jokes to, because you get them and laugh with us. We probably shouldn’t have let you watch some of the tv shows we did with adult humor when you were younger, but you laughed so hard. And we as parents were apparently so tired….And, your brother and sister think it’s all really unfair. (So, being the third kid has it perks, right?)

You are SO fun to buy gifts for, because you get so excited.

You are SO smart! It’s amazing what you know and what you remember. It’s amazing how curious you are about EVERYTHING. I hope you never lose your wonder for life and for how things work. I hope you never stop being fascinated by it ALL. But, please know, I do not know the answer to most of your questions, okay?

I love how free you feel to tell me anything. I will always be a safe place for you to ask questions and share your heart. So, don’t stop. Even when you’re 16 and dating. TELL ME.

I love being with you, Jett. You once told me, “Mom, being with you is so comfortable.” Jett, being with YOU is so comfortable. You are full of ease and goodness and love and PEACE. Thirteen years of being your mom, and you still remind me to slow down and be in the moment.

You are my bud. You are all of our bud. You’re such a good and kind brother. You’re a good and kind friend. You’re an incredible son and human.

Don’t ever stop being you. Please, don’t.

YOU are everything good and the BEST dance partner.

Happy 13th Birthday, Jett Man. You are loved so very much.

Love,
Mom

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Forever My Girl.

My girl is 18. A fully grown, beautiful, smart, capable adult. I knew it would get here quickly. My friends who were ahead of me in parenting warned me so. I only half-way grasped it until we reached those high school years. Then, I knew it was certain….time was closing in.

I have enjoyed every season of life with you, Anna. Were their challenges with my strong-willed, force to be reckoned with little girl? Most certainly. But, the days were filled with more than just those challenges. They were filled with hilarious and precious moments, too. And, I miss those days so very much. If I could pick a day to experience again, it wouldn’t be some glamorous, life-altering kind of day. It would be a very ordinary day. One when it was just you and me and little baby Jenny that went everywhere with you.

We had to buckle in her in the car every trip. HAD TO. All hell would break loose if Jenny wasn’t buckled in.

I think your dad was more afraid of your demands than me. Which is really funny to me now knowing the kind of teenage parent he’s been. He’s never been afraid of his teenage children. But he was definitely a little afraid of 4 year old Anna. I’m not sure he’d admit it though.

But, I would go back to an ordinary day with you. Where I would take you to gymnastics and then we would go eat lunch together with baby Jenny in tow. I would sit across from your sweet and proud face. And, I would stare at you a little longer. I would ask you more questions. I would linger at that table for as long as I possibly could.

I would soak in so much more than I did back then.

I would soak in as much as I soak in now.

What a joy it is to know you, Anna Takle. What an absolute honor it is to call you my girl. My daughter. My amazing, kind and beautiful daughter. I told you yesterday that I don’t know another person who allows the Holy Spirit to lead them the way you do. As intentionally and passionately as you do. And, the fruit of that is so very real and good. You hear things and see things that can only come from your willingness to listen to Him. And, those things are always, ALWAYS, to make the lives around you better. I know He speaks directly to you for you. But, most of the time you open yourself up to hear for someone else. So you can encourage them and make THEIR life better.

It’s your 18 year old, final birthday blog. (Don’t worry. I’ll still you write you letters every once in a while.) So, here are 18 things I absolutely adore about you.

I love how you honor people. You are so gracious with people and intentional to give them your full attention.

I love how you love good food and recognize it as a delight that brings people together.

I love how you can literally put your phone down for hours and not pick it up. You’ll spend that time watching How I Met Your Mother or drinking tea and journaling or taking a long shower and just relaxing or you’ll spend it catching up with your dad and me.

I love how you create space and time to read, to pray, and to listen.

I love how you get in the floor with Paxton and let him be the big baby he is. And, how you let him minister to your soul when you’re tired.

I love how you love and admire your piano teacher, Mrs. Kitty. I love how she’s always one of the people you’re most thankful for. I love this not only because, I love her, too. But because, you recognize the gift she’s given you in music. A place to go to where you can heal, release stress, and just simply be.

I love how you are able to see through people when they are hurtful or mean or angry. You always see them as hurting. I’ll never forget you telling me about one situation where you had been hurt but still insisted on being kind: “Mom, everyone deserves to know how much Jesus loves them.” And, you took it upon yourself to be the one who showed them.

I love how determined you are to give up gluten until you see the most magnificent, gluten-filled dessert. Or ballpark hotdog.

I love how whatever you set your mind to accomplish, you do it. This also scares me to death sometimes.

I love how committed you are to school and how much you really love to learn.

I love how you love and respect your teachers. I especially love how truly thankful you are for them. This is not always the norm.

I love how the same things spiritually get to us. Whether we are listening to GaGa preach and we are both like, “Wowwww.” Or how when we watch The Chosen together and the same moment brings us to tears. You don’t know what it means to be able have those revelations WITH you.

I love how you see all sides to a situation. You never write off someone, because they believe differently than you. You allow people the space to be who they are while still loving who they are. This is a gift.

I love how you laugh at me and think I’m funny. You know I need that kind of validation in my life.

I love how supportive you are of John, and how you pray for him and want the very best for him.

I love how proud you are that Jett is your little brother. I love that you appreciate his humor and how you cry when you think about leaving him next year.

I love how your best friends range in age from 15 to 85.

I love how you adore your father. You always seem to know when needs encouragement and give it to him so perfectly.

I love YOU, Anna Takle. I would relive every single day with you over and over again. I was born to be your mom. I couldn’t have dreamed a better life than the one I have been given with you.

Your words are always a salve to the soul.

Your presence brings peace to every moment.

Your humility reminds me of why we are here….to love well. To serve as many as we can. And, to give all we have.

Happy 18th Birthday, Anna Marie. I will never not be amazed by you.

I love you. You are forever my girl.

Mom.

Also, a throwback to the pic I posted on your first ever birthday blog:

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Almost A Teenager.

My gratitude for this kid cannot be measured. He has been nothing but pure joy his entire life. Today, he is 12, and I am so very thankful he is here and well and healthy and back to his talkative and expressive self. When he had his head injury last July, he kept telling us he was sorry. We would hold him and tell him it was okay. I remember the day he was able to leave the hospital, he grabbed me and just sobbed tears of gratitude and relief. I tell this story to show that Jett has never been afraid to express his feelings or share his heart. I tell this story, because Jett has always been the most grateful person I know. And, for sure one of the funniest….

It took almost 6 months for Jett’s full recovery. For so long, he didn’t talk a lot and wasn’t nearly as engaging and expressive. Then one day, it all came back. And, I mean REALLY came back. He started talking and telling us about all of the things, seemingly determined to catch up. And, he took his humor to another level with some little splashes of profanity from time to time. This past Christmas, we were with a few friends and going around the room sharing things we were grateful for that year. Jett says, “I’m thankful I survived my head injury and that people paused their life for mine. And, I know I could really be an asshole sometimes, so thank you, guys.”

We lost it. And, basically decided we were so thankful to have our boy back that “asshole” was now acceptable for 11 year olds to say. It’s a third kid thing. And, don’t even get John Henry started on all the things a third kid gets away with.

Jett Takle, we are so proud of who you are.

I love how passionate you are about whatever it is you’re into.

I love how you will research and learn every single thing about that thing.

I love how when you commit to something, you really commit to it.

I love how you appreciate what makes your friends different from you.

I love how you are an encourager and help people.

I love how you want EVERYONE to succeed.

I love how you get excited when you learn a new song on guitar and can’t wait to show John Henry.

I love how you look up to John and think he’s the coolest.

I love how you go to Anna of advice.

I love how you think she’s the wisest and listen to her even when she tries to momma you too much.

I love how you know every single thing about Harry Potter and want the rest of us to know every single thing about Harry Potter.

I love how artistic and creative you are.

I love how you don’t try to be anyone else but YOU.

I love how you are not afraid to try new things.

I love how you love your family and friends.

And, I love how you love sweet Paxy!

You make all of our lives so so good, Jett. You make this world such a better place. Keep staying true to who YOU are. Follow YOUR dreams and chase after the things that matter most to you. Because those very dreams are the ones God put inside of you. Who you are is exactly who He made you to be. And, man, am I ever so thankful.

Happy 12th Birthday, Jett Man. I can’t wait to see what God has for you this year. It’s going to be so good.

I love you so very much,

Mom

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….Only Seventeen

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives to be released, that the blind see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that time of the Lord’s favor has come.” Luke 4:18-19

A few days ago, I was thinking about writing this birthday blog. This scripture immediately came to me. I knew it was a prophetic word over Anna’s life. I knew it wasn’t just something that she will one day enter into, but something she was already living and experiencing. She’s always been the champion for the underdog. She’s always been an advocate for the marginalized. And, what I see happening more and more now is how often she has a timely word of wisdom for the people in her life, including myself. I cannot begin to unpack in this 17th birthday blog how incredibly blown away I am by her sensitivity to the Spirit and the wisdom and understanding that just flows out of her. 

I also cannot begin to unpack in this one post how immensely proud of her I am and how much I love every single thing about her. But, I am going to try…..

My Anna Banana is 17 years old today. I don’t know why that seems so much older than 16, but it does. I’m also hit with the very difficult reality that her days are numbered living under our roof. AND, I CANNOT EVEN BEGIN TO DABBLE IN THAT REALITY AND THOSE EMOTIONS. Not today. And, I’m not sure how I will do it then. But, I’m sure she will have some sort of perfectly timed words to get me through it. I will need those words and your words and wine and Jesus, Amen. 

Anna Marie Takle, good Lord, I love you. I’m so proud of the confidence that you walk in. I’m proud of the friend that you are. I’m proud of the daughter and sister that you are. You are my very best friend, and spending time with you is my absolute favorite. 

I love how you are so very self-aware and see what needs work but also see where you’ve grown. 

I love how you have internalized the quote “The more you love your decisions, the less you need other people to.” You are walking boldly in what you feel in your spirit is best for you without fear of what other people think and without the pressure to mold into something someone else wants you to be or do.

I love how you handle disappointment. You don’t allow things that don’t turn out the way you hoped turn into something big. You roll with every punch….very much like your dad. 

I love your optimism and relentless hope that there is always something great around the corner. You get this from your dad, too. 

I love how freaking hilarious you are. You get this from me. Obviously. And, your Ga-Ga. No one laughed more in quarantine that we did. And, you have the videos to prove it. Do NOT show those to people! (I know you do.)

I love all of your accents. They are hilarious and brilliant. But, Jeff, from the Australian Outback, will always dear to my heart. 

I love how my friends ARE your friends. I love that you know them just about as well as I do. I love how you will show up at their house without me and make yourself right home. We’re going to pretend they love it, too. (They probably do.)

I love how you mother everyone in our house. Especially your brothers. (They probably don’t love this.) 

I love how proud you are of John Henry and how you never go to bed without telling hm goodnight. 

I love how you look at pictures and videos of Jett and say, “God, I love that kid.”

I love how excited you get over really good food. 

I love how you will tell me every single detail of your future life. (P.S. It’s going to be more incredible that you can imagine right now.) 

I love that you convinced me to get a golden retriever. 

I love your love for travel.

I love how you love Billy Joel. 

I love how you love color and patterns and antiques and very old, traditional styles. 

I love listening to you talk about what a classical piano piece means to you. 

I love how you love having fun with your Ga-Ga. 

I love how you treasure your Nan.

I love how you believe that your Farmor can create anything, and I love how you love talking about life with your Far-Far. You fully embrace your Swedish and Norwegian, and it’s just so wonderful.

I love how you light up with when your dad comes home. I love how you two love spontaneous and fly by the seat of your pants travel. (You did NOT get that from me.)

I love how well you love me.

I love how you have loved being 16 so much that you didn’t think you were ready to leave it. But, you are now. You’re here for it. Like you’re always here for everything life has for you. 

Anna, you are so very thoughtful. You are such a thoughtful gift-giver. You are absolutely killing it in school and working so hard. You have already achieved so much in your 17 years, and we are all blown away by you. But, what I’m proud of most is WHO you are. You are intuitive and kind and wise and FUN. SO MUCH FUN. Don’t lose that fun part. Because, life is everything with it. And, don’t lose how you talk to Jesus everyday. Life is definitely everything with Him in it. 

This is going to be your best year. The time of the Lord’s favor has come.

I hope this birthday is one of your most special ones. I hope you know how much I love you. I hope you never stop being you. 

I love you, Anna Takle. You give my life all of its color, and I’m so thankful. 

You are the dancing queen, young and sweet, only seventeen!

Happy Birthday!

Love,

Mom

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11 Years Old!

We always say Jett is a different kid. But, I am realizing that what we should be saying is Jett is the kind of human everyone should be. He is the most compassionate, considerate and thankful person I know. And, he is 100 percent unapologetically himself. He doesn’t try to be who he thinks someone else wants him to be. I don’t even think he knows to try to do that. I think it’s because he so accepts and loves everyone else as they are, so he believes they also accept and love him, too. Last night, he came into my room with his birthday gifts from his friends. He said, “Mom, I have a lot of friends. That’s a good thing.” It’s a very good thing, Jett Man.

He loves the planet and wants to take care of it.

He thinks it’s time for a woman to be president.

He loves talking politics and science.

He loves researching obscure light sabers, and he saves his money to buy them.

He knows more about animals than anyone I know.

He loves reading Greek Mythology and Harry Potter, and he loves trips to the library.

He loves Legos, and he’s certainly a master builder.

You never know if he’s going to request to listen to J Cole, Def Leopard, or Jim Croce. But, he almost always requests Abba when he’s with his sister. I suppose it’s the Swedish in him.

He LOVES his brother and sister, and they love him. I’ve never seen a kid look up to and be more proud of his siblings than Jett. And, I’ve never seen a brother or sister protect their little brother the way John and Anna do. I think we all desperately want to protect who he is, because we never want him to lose his sense of wonder and his sweet disposition.

Jett Takle, don’t ever stop being you. You are exactly who God created you to be, and this world needs exactly who you are.

I love that you dream big. You believe anything is possible.

I love that you are passionate about the planet and want to protect every single animal, big or small.

I love how you light up when you see Paxton.

I love how grateful you are for every single thing someone does for you.

I love how you aren’t afraid to try something new. You are so very brave.

I love how you share your heart and tell people why you love them. You are such a great encourager.

I love how aware you are if you think someone might feel left out. You leave wherever you are and go be with them.

You don’t complain when something doesn’t go your way. You accept things as they are. You accept it when we say no, and you say thank you one-hundred times when we say yes.

You have a hard time telling Ga-Ga no when he wants you to go fishing with him. And, you run into Nan’s arms every time you see her. You also think she cooks better than I do, and that is very fair.

You think Far-Far is hilarious, and you love him dearly. You think Cathy is the coolest, because she loves animals like you do.

You think Farmor can make anything.

And, you know your dad can make any dream come true.

You love the people in your life so hard and so well. Your quick wit makes us laugh. Your tender words melt our hearts.

Your presence makes us catch our breath.

You are everything good in this world, Jett Takle. Thank you for helping us soak in the present moment a little bit more.

I hope this year is your best year ever. I believe it will be.

Happy 11th Birthday, bud. I love you so very much.

Love,

Mom

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My Girl Is Sixteen.

Sixteen. SIXTEEN. I still remember the first birthday blog I ever wrote for you. I titled it “Supergirl Turns 4.” (Take a flashback here.) You were Supergirl for Halloween two straight years in a row. You didn’t care. You knew what you wanted and who you wanted to be. I went back to that blog of your Supergirl days where I wrote 4 reasons why I love you. I still love you for those exact same reasons. Of course, I could list a million more. But, let’s go back to where we started. November 2008, I wrote:

1. She is stubborn persistent. 

2.  She is ONE.SMART.COOKIE.  Sight words at 3?  Easy fa sheezy.

3.  FUN-NEE.  She makes me laugh until I cry.  Or almost pee in my pants.  Wait a minute, is that just because I’m getting old?

4. She turns my face to hers with her sweet little hands and tells me she loves me.

So, what has changed? Certainly not these four things. They’ve just taken different shapes and forms. 

You are still so very persistent. I won’t say stubborn anymore. You’re persistent. You’re strong. You stand by what you feel and want. You stand strong on what you believe is right. You keep pressing until you knock down the necessary walls to grab hold of what you’re reaching for and believe in…..or until you see that thing differently and realize it isn’t truth or it just isn’t for you. You don’t hide your eyes from truth or shut your heart from receiving when you’re wrong. I’ve watched you press and press until you get it. I’ve watched you work so very hard and practice and study and work to achieve. But, I’ve also experienced first hand watching you pause and listen and rethink that thing that seems so important at the time. 

Anna, you are so open to the Spirit to receive truth. You are so open to the people around you that you trust to receive and hear. And, as impressive as your persistence in life is, your ability and heart to listen and grow is what is most impressive. Not only is it impressive, it always inspires me. To listen. To pause. To receive. To grow. THIS is what will always make your path easier and better. It won’t always be easy. Don’t get me wrong. But, it can be EASIER when we open our hearts to hear. YOU DO THIS SO WELL. 

You are still one smart cookie. Mercy. I wish I could take credit for those Math skills. I do. But, we both know I can’t. It’s all you, Anna Takle. You’re ability to learn and understand and reason and deduct and analyze….man. What a gift you have that you continue to sharpen. Don’t take it for granted. Be thankful for it. And, help others. Thank you for helping your little brother. You are such a GOOD and PATIENT teacher. 

You are still FUN-NEE. Seriously. You make me laugh all of the time. Your “Jeff From the Australian Outback” videos will forever be my favorite. I wanted to post one of these, but I didn’t. You’re welcome. But, if I can, let me know, okay?

Okay. So, you don’t turn my face to you anymore. (You still can if you wanna.) But, you still tell me you love me. You are never afraid to articulate your feelings and express your love. You aren’t afraid to say, “I need a hug.” You aren’t afraid to tell the people in your life that you love them and why you love them. The way you express your love for me and your dad is such a beautiful sustainer for us. It’s such gift. I know it’s a gift to all of those close to you. 

So not much as changed in these things since you were four. These things have just evolved and become so much more.

Anna Marie, YOU keep evolving and growing and blowing my mind. I am so very proud of the woman you are. I know this might feel like a hard season. Sometimes there are hard seasons in life. And, sometimes there are just hard moments. You’ll learn the difference….usually after you’re through it. This time? I believe it’s a moment. It’s just a moment in time. I know no one else reading this understands this but you, and that’s okay. But, sister, it’s a moment. And, this moment will not define you. YOU will define it. I know this. 

Your greatest days are ahead of you. 

I love you, Anna Takle. 

I love how you know exactly what you want to eat. 

I love how you really love your big brother and look up to him.

I love how you say, “Awwww” when Jett does or says something really cute. 

I love how you love and appreciate the relationship your dad and I have together.

I love how excited you get over learning a new piano piece and want to listen to someone else play those pieces in the car. 

I love how you love your friends. 

I love how quick your wit is.

I love your Australian accent. 

I love how you love your “dream dog.”

I love how you’re not afraid to drive your dad’s boat and how you can dock it like a beast.

I love your love for travel and seeing new places. Especially with your dad.

I love how brave and independent you are. 

I love how you look to my best friends as your best friends. 

I love how you defend and love the marginalized. 

I love how you challenge all of us to rethink hard things. 

I love your heart. Your sweet, sincere heart. 

There is nothing that could ever make me not love you. Or not believe in you. Or make me doubt how insanely beautiful the future is for you. 

There is no girl I love more than you. There is no girl I love driving around more than you. I’m going to miss having you in my right seat telling me all the things on your mind. So, I’m going to soak up these days ahead until you drive off without me. And, when you do, come to my room and tell me all things on your mind. 

Your mind is my favorite. 

You are my favorite. 

Happy 16th Birthday, Anna Banana. 

I love you more than you will ever know.

Love,

Mom.

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Welcome to Adulthood, JH.

JH – Age 5

I told a friend yesterday that I will probably sob with every single tap of the keyboard typing his 18th and final birthday blog. And, I was right. Because, the very moment I cracked open my laptop, tears began pouring. Like, I am typing this from my grave, because, I can’t even believe this is real life.

But, I also can believe it. I’ve been living it, right? Every single second for 18 perfect years.  

Perfect years. 

It doesn’t mean every day has been easy. But, let’s face it, MOST days have been. Like for real easy. Kris and I almost every day look at John Henry and say, “He’s such a good kid.” I remember when he was a toddler, and we would take him to restaurants. People would come up to us and compliment us on how well behaved he was. We felt like we had this parenting thing IN THE BAG. Then, Anna was born, and we just tried to corral her in the vicinity of our dining table. And, I don’t even think Jett saw the inside of the restaurant until he was like 3, because, there was no way in hell we could corral him in the restaurant itself.  Kris and I learned quickly that we, indeed, did NOT have this parenting thing in the bag.  

I also remember my dad volunteering to travel on an airplane alone with John Henry from Oklahoma City to Atlanta. John was barely a year old. My dad will tell you what an easy flight it was. I don’t know why he never volunteered to travel alone with Anna and Jett, but I will say that once we moved back to Georgia, he would take them to Roses on occasion. Maybe, he felt like that was comparable. I don’t know. 

What I do know is that every day raising John has been an absolute joy and gift. 

Man, what a gift. 

John Henry, the day the doctor put you in my arms, love filled my entire being. It was the kind of love that healed. The kind that makes the crooked paths straight. The kind that reminds you that HOPE IS ALIVE. 

You are that kind of love. A salve for those who are down. A light for those who can’t find their way. An encourager and help for friends who need to know they have someone in their corner. As a matter of fact, one of your good friend’s mom told me once how her son said, “You can always depend on John.” Man, bud. What a statement we should all aspire to have said about us. The minute someone you know needs a friend, you drop everything for them. To that I say, you will always be surrounded by people who will drop everything for you. And, even when you are alone, God will always lean in so close to you, because you have leaned in so close to those He loves. Paul wrote about Timothy in Philippians 2:20 how no one else was like him and took a genuine interest in others. There aren’t a lot of people like this in the world. But, you are certainly one. 

You not only take a genuine interest in others, you serve others. You see a need and you seek out a way to meet it. You see someone walk in with their arms full, you take their load in a matter of seconds. You see that someone needs a place to sit, you give up your own. When your teachers or leaders at school need something, you do all you can to make that thing happen. Not because you need the brownie points. But because, you care. Because, you’re a team player. And, you will move heaven and earth to make even the smallest things and needs happen. Sometimes, I have thought that some of the things you do is a lot of work for some thing or event. But, you always remember why you’re doing it. You’ve taught me that sometimes, we just need to remind ourselves of why we do the things we do. Even when they are a lot of work. Bob Goff writes in his book, Dream Big, “Tasks aren’t always merely tasks. They can be stepping stones.” 

Every task and extra effort hasn’t been merely tasks. They’ve been stepping stones, John. Each stone leading to something bigger and better. These are lessons that will stay with you for the rest of your life. Because, Goff also says, “Large and seemingly impossible ambitions are going to require equally large sacrifices.” You don’t have to worry for one moment if the future you dream about is possible. You’ve been laying those stepping stones your entire life. And, I, along with all of those who love you, get to watch it all unfold. We get to cheer you on. We get to rejoice in all that you accomplish. And, you better believe that when times are hard, we will be there to lift you back up so you can keep laying more stones. 

John Henry, I could write millions of words about all of the wonderful things you do and just simply who you are. It has been my greatest honor and joy getting to lead worship on that stage with you. I look over at you and Anna, and I think, “How is this real life?” How did I get so dang blessed? You have been committed to worship. Committed to His house. Committed to God. Committed to your educators, your school and those who have mentored you. Committed to your friends. Committed to your family. I can’t put into words how you honor me. I can’t. But, I can tell you one thing…..every time you say, “Momma,” I’m ready to cash app you money. (Just kidding, Kris. KIDDING.) Sort of kidding. 

I’m going to soak up this 18th year, your SENIOR year, with every single ounce of my being. I hope you know how proud you make us every single day. And, I hope you know how much we ALL love and adore you.

Thanks for always protecting your sister.

For helping us keep up with your brother. 

For loving all of us so well. 

I can still see your tiny little self crying as I left you in your 1st grade classroom. You came to the door with the biggest tears rolling down your cheeks and wanted to go with me. I’m pretty sure it will be me this time standing at the door with tears rolling down my cheeks as I watch you drive away to college and into adulthood. Let me know if you want me to come with you, ok? 

Happy 18th Birthday, John Henry Landreth.

I love you 3000,

Mom

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Unforced Rhythms of Grace.

“Ask yourself: Is there joy, ease and lightness in what I’m doing? If there isn’t, then time is covering up the present moment and life is perceived as a burden or struggle.” – Eckhart Tolle

My dear friend, Penny Doss, shared this quote last night and it cut deep into my soul exactly where it needed to. I’m a planner. I’m a constant thinker. I’m always planning for the next thing and thinking about how to make that thing happen. These things are good things. They are fun things and exciting things! I LOVE doing something new, planning for a new place to travel to, reading something new, thinking about new things (and subsequently adding to my list of things to do.)

This is all good. It really is. Until it becomes too much. You know the saying “Too much of a good thing is too much?” Maybe we should rephrase that to “Too much of a good thing all at once is too much” Amen. Because when we welcome it all once, it’s no longer a joy or a good thing. It becomes a burden or a struggle.

This seems to be happening to a lot of people close to me. One of my best friends had her first panic/anxiety attack yesterday, because work is busy and really good….and subsequently, her body told her to slow down. I talked to another good friend this morning who talked about how he and his wife are busier than ever, and while so much good is happening, it’s become hard to enjoy the present moment and just be still together. I told my friend who had the panic attack that sometimes it’s hard to be intentional about slowing down both physically AND mentally when you’re happy. But, unfortunately (or perhaps, fortunately), it will rear its head on us physically and mentally if we don’t pace ourselves.

My mom, who is probably the most prophetic voice in my life, told me a month ago that I was on her mind, and that I needed to just slow down and be more present. It resonated within me, and we both kind of laughed at how so many of my phone calls to her, “Mom! I have an idea. What do you think about this?” And, bless her. She just cheers me and my ideas on, but I know on the other side of that phone call is her sometimes putting her hand on her head and whispering, “Jesus, be near.” Then, she with absolutely NO chill at all, tagged me in a post that said, “Some people feel the rain, others just get wet.” Thanks, Mom. Thanks, Bob Marley.

So, here’s my lesson for today. And for tomorrow. But mostly today, because, I’m learning to be present, right? Good things are good. But don’t let so many good things at once rob you of the better (the now.) Slow down. Stop trying to put the round peg in the square hole. It’s all going to get done. It’s all going to happen. We just have to know when to push something and when to flow in something. Both are necessary from time to time. For me? I need to push some things (like exercising and finishing school.) And, I need to flow in some other things.

Because, it’s in the push that we achieve what we need to achieve. And, it’s in the flow that we enjoy what we’ve ALREADY achieved. What’s already in front of us.

Let’s not just get wet today. Let’s feel the rain. Let’s push the things we need to push and not the force the things we shouldn’t force. Let’s learn the unforced rhythms of grace again and enjoy today.

28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30

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My Covid Excuses.

Do you have Covid excuses?

“I need to lose weight and eat better, but quarantine really through me off.”

“I need to finish that project or that commitment, but I just haven’t been inspired since Covid.”

“I don’t really have a set schedule. It’s a crazy year, you know! Covid!”

“It’s whatever goes here right now with these children. We are in survival mode, because, you know…..Covid.”

“Sure, I haven’t achieved what I hope to this year, but, Dear Jesus. What a year this has been! COVID!”

I have Covid excuses. PLENTY of them. I’ve made them with my routine (or lack of one.) I’ve made them for my last semester of Life Coaching school (that I’ve had plenty of time to complete.) I’ve made them for not writing as much, because I tell myself I’m just not as inspired. (Even though God has shown me more this year than any year…..but, here I sit not pouring it ALL out the way I should.) And, I’ve made excuses with my weight and eating habits. Let’s talk about that part.

I was already on a road to not so healthy habits last November when I began having back issues. If you’ve had debilitating pain, you know exercise is difficult. Sometimes, that’s beyond our control. But how I nourish my body? That’s on me. Now, I’ve eaten a gluten-free diet for almost 4 years now. But you know what can also be gluten free? Lays Stax Potato Chips (if you know, you know), crackers, bread, and even JUNIOR MINTS. All gluten free. But none of them are good choices. By April, I had fallen into giving myself permission to eat what I want to eat, because these are “unprecedented times.” And, then by June? I was all, “I’m just going to love myself as I am, because, this is SELF-CARE.”

Self-Care. What a term that has become an excuse for not doing the things we SHOULD do. I don’t knock real, healthy self-care. We need that. But, we have to determine true, authentic self-care by answering the questions: What SHOULD I do? What is better in THIS moment? And, then we choose the better. When making choices of what to do in any given moment, we have to sometimes say no to something that may good, so we can yes to something better.

Well, about a week ago, I became tired of my Covid excuses. And, I was reminded of this scripture in 1 John 4:4. “But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.” In this context, John was writing to a group of people telling them they are going to hear all kinds of things from all kinds of people that may not align with who God really is. John calls them “false prophets.” He reminds the people he’s addressing to not be weighed down by all of that. Because, the Spirit within them is greater, and they can rise above the noise.

Sidebar. I like how after this passage, John goes right into “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (4:7-8) In other words, not only can you rise above what’s going on in the world, but you’re response to it has to always be LOVE. This includes differences of opinions on masks, political candidates, and other issues permeating our society.

But back to my point. Last week, I said to myself: “The Spirit that lives in me is greater than Covid.” And, I’ve said that very thing to myself every single day since. Every time I go for that processed food. Every time I go for that oneeeee piece of chocolate. I said it to myself this morning before I wrote this, so I wouldn’t use the excuse, “It’s Covid. I don’t have to write.”

We definitely all needed to take a mental pause and break in the beginning of this. But, too much of it is just too much. Our bodies and health are at stake. Our dreams are at stake. What we are called to do is at stake.

Don’t make excuses anymore. The Spirit that lives INSIDE OF YOU is GREATER than that thing that is hovering over you. Write that down. Post it everywhere you can see it. Take back control, and remember who you are. There are certainly things beyond our control, but SO MUCH is within it. I’ve got this. YOU’VE got this. Let’s do it.

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I’m going to follow Jesus.

I heard Andy Stanley say last weekend, “Becoming a Christian is easy. Following Jesus is almost supernatural.” Because, if you don’t choose to follow Jesus, you’ll be satisfied just believing the right things…..instead of doing them. We will be content in the believing and knowing instead of the acting and reacting.

There is a lot going on in our country and around the world. I know you’re anxious. I know you’re worried. I know you’re unsettled. I know you’re ready for peace. I know you’re ready for calm. I know you are.

But, you have the power to bring it. WE have the power to bring it.

You have the power to bring that peace and bring that calm.

I’m not going to sit here and type a dissertation or argument on why one needs to understand what our black friends mean when they say “Black lives matter.” I’m not going to try to convince people in a blog post about what white privilege is or tell you how to feel about it. I’m not going to tell you the countless stories of heartbreak and fear from my black friends to try to sway you to understand. And, believe me, there are many.

Instead, tonight, I want to talk about what we are called to do when people are in pain. When hearts are broken. When fear is overtaking those we love. When anxiety is overwhelming. I want to talk about what we do when we hear pain and when we see it. Because, I know what Jesus did. He didn’t ignore it. He didn’t wish it would go away. He didn’t justify it or excuse it. He certainly didn’t get angry about it.

Instead, He listened and leaned into it. Not only did He listen and lean into, He poured His peace and healing out onto it.

And, not only did He pour His healing onto it, He gave His life for it.

He gave His life for the hurting. For the oppressed. For the happy. For the sad. For those who were winning and for those who were losing. He gave His life for those who were suffering and those who were in pain. Without asking anything of them. Without demanding anything in return. Without touting His own righteousness or how He had lived a human life so perfectly……and could He not have boasted in His perfectly lived earthly life? I don’t need to give out my resume of righteousness and good deeds. None of us really should be boasting in our humanity. Because, that’s not love, and that’s not Jesus.

So, in this heart-wrenching time where people are raging and shouting…..and where people are suffering and crying out in pain….

I’m going to follow Jesus. I mean REALLY follow Him.

That means I’m not going to justify my own life. I’m not going to say “Yes, but…..” I’m not going to wish it all away. I’m not going to hope it all just fades. I’m not going to ignore it.

I’m not going to deny people’s pain and suffering.

But, I’m going to prefer it.

I’m going to prefer those who are hurting.

I shared with my own little family this week that we HAVE to prefer people’s pain. We do it in our own family together. I’d bet you do it in yours. Your spouse or your child is hurt. Maybe they are hurt by you. It’s easy to sit there and justify our actions or say “That wasn’t my intent.” It’s easy to respond with “That is not how I said that” or “That is not my heart.” But if I want to bring healing to Kris or one of my children, I have to OWN it. I can’t tell you the times, that even when I didn’t fully understand their pain, I looked at them and said, “I am so sorry you are hurting. What can I do to make it better?”

We have to prefer people’s pain. Actually, we have to prefer people period. And, to do this will take divine humility. It will take empathy. What is empathy? It’s understanding and sharing the feelings of another human being. And, we can’t understand each other and share each other’s feelings without listening. Without owning.

Without leaning in.

Without pouring out healing.

And, without sacrificing what we think, what we feel, and what we want for someone else. That’s what following Jesus looks like.

Sacrifice.

Humility.

Empathy.

That’s what love looks like. And, that is what healing and peace look like.

And, it’s within each of us.

We just have to decide if we are willing to settle with believing that people matter to God and are extremely valuable…..Or, we decide to follow Jesus and do the things that show people they DO matter.

I do it in my home. I work hard to do with those I’m in relationship with. And, I am called to do it with every single person walking this planet.

If Jesus is the answer (and I believe He is), then let’s follow Him and do what He did.

Tonight, I pray for eyes to see people the way Jesus does. I pray for ears that hear people’s pain. I pray for hearts that lean in to heal.

I pray for you. I pray for this nation. I pray for peace.

And, I pray I become peace.

May we all become it as we choose to follow Him.

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