Sunday, May 13, 2018

Happy 9th Birthday Maddie!

Dear Maddie,

You are nine years old today.  This seems strange to say since for the last long while I have been saying that you are almost nine.  You are such a grown up girl in so many ways that sometimes we think of you as older than you really are.  But officially today you are nine and we are thrilled to celebrate all nine years of you.

You are my voracious reader.  This year found you hauling massive volumes of Harry Potter to and from school.  I never have to make you read.  You’re so imaginative and I frequently find you lost in a story.  I hope you always love reading as much as you do now.

You are still my little artist.  You can knit, paint, sculpt, design, color and draw just about anything.  Your drawings of cupcake cartoons are fantastically funny.  I frequently find you sitting quietly at your desk in your room just creating away.  You never ask for ideas or look to see what others have done.  You just do your own thing and its always a little bit magical.

Movie nights, Harry Potter, pandas, Calico Critters, Legos, interior design, crafts, baking, game nights, and being with your family are just some of your favorite things.  Even your favorite things are sweet and fun.  You are just a fun kid to be around.

You have such a tender heart, Maddie.  So often you have this fairly tough exterior.  Someone might tease you and for a while you can take it.  But there are days when it just sinks in and you come to me with a slightly bruised heart.  Most of our conversations are about relationships.  I struggle to teach you how to be kind and compassionate without being a doormat.  But I’m so proud that you just keep trying.  You never give up.  And you really truly want to be friends with everyone.

You absolutely adore little children.  You beg to be on duty in the nursery as often as possible.  You delight in watching over your littlest cousins.  You are so attentive and the joy on your face as you play with them and entertain them is so sweet. 

I remind you frequently that you have a best friend for life in your sister.  The two of you have sleepovers in each other’s rooms pretty much every night.  You are closer than I probably even realize.  We hear you giggling late into the night.  I love the bond you have with Reagan.  And even though the two of you don’t always get along perfectly, for the most part you are an amazing team.

Not to be forgotten is your love for your little brother.  He loves you so much.  You always agree to take him to the park.  If anyone will crawl around on the floor and play tractors with him it will be you.  You make him laugh and play with him and watch over him all at the same time.  I love that you always offer to read a book to him.  He will have the best memories of the time you spent with him.

At the beginning of this year, I took my first overnight trip away from you.  It was good for both of us and it was also hard for both of us.  We have quite a bond, you and I.  I feel so loved by you and I try every day to make you feel just as loved.  I’m so glad we have that together.  So many times when I hug you I find you holding on as though you never want to let go.  That’s the feeling in my heart too.  I want to keep you forever.

God knew what he was doing when he gave us you, Maddie girl.  We need your spunk and your sweetness.  We need your artistic eye and your humor.  We need your tender attention and your many hugs.  We wouldn’t be the family we are without you.  You were our smallest baby but your impact has been so wonderfully great.  We could never have known the tremendous gift of love and light that you would be to us in just your first 9 years of life.

The way you love others reminds me of Jesus.  You are so giving and so fiercely determined to forgive.  God’s gentleness, creativity and mercy lives in you.  You are a picture of God’s hand in my life.  I hope that as you grow you are able to see Him more and more.  He’s got great plans for you and He’s already begun to work them out.

Oh I love you so, Maddie Grace.

Happy Birthday.



Friday, March 02, 2018

Back Again

When I was young, my family made an annual trek to West Michigan.  We would pull into Grand Haven and settle in with my Grandma or one of my aunts or uncles.  My Mom came from a large family affectionately and collectively known as “the Wallishes”.  Always while we were visiting there would be at least one large family gathering at someone’s home.  It was called Family Night.  And it was not only reserved for our once a year visit.  They have it weekly.  Food and laughter.  The Wallishes know how to do togetherness. 

It was at the few Wallish Family Nights that I would have a chance to interact with my cousins.  There were several my age or somewhat close to my age.  I’m sure we talked about things but I can’t remember any of our conversations.  Still, it was nice to have people about my age to spend time with at these family gatherings. 

My annual trips to Michigan stopped after I got married and had my own family.  We make a much more infrequent trip to Michigan these days.  I love going back and seeing the Wallishes.  But many of the cousins I spent time with when I was growing up have grown up, gotten married, and moved away.  It has been at least a decade since I saw Elizabeth, Christina and Amy (married to my cousin, Josh). 

So when Elizabeth messaged me asking if I would consider making a trip to Washington D.C. where they all lived, I was intrigued.  Her only caveat was that I would be “required” to make a personal appearance at the book club who read my book.  She enticed me with offers to show me all the sights. 

With a trembling heart, I said yes.

I am a stay-at-home-mom.  The last time I have been away from my children overnight was when Reagan was 9 months old.  I’ve never been away from Maddie or Hunter for more than 24 hours.  This is not completely intentional – it just sort of happened.  Brian and I did try to plan a special anniversary trip one year, but it was waylaid by a very sick little boy who had a terrible infection after a tick bite.  I have only flown once in my life in 2002 when Brian and I made a trip to Washington state.  I have never flown alone.  The thought of flying all by myself and being away from my family for several days was daunting. 

Plans were made.  Plane tickets were purchased.  And I literally rallied friends to pray for me. 
When my first flight was cancelled, I was blessed with a direct flight much earlier in the day on Thursday, January 18.  Brian drove me to the airport, giving me flying tips all the way there.  He walked me right up to the little check-in counter and helped me get my boarding pass.  And then he sent me on my way. Just a little over two hours later, I was disembarking at Reagan National Airport.  And then Amy was there to welcome me with a warm hug.

Over the next several days, Elizabeth, Amy and Christina showed me so many wonderful sights.  We did so many museums.  I stood in front of the Hope diamond.  I saw the Constitution with my own eyes.  I stood in quiet reverence amidst the pile of shoes from Holocaust victims.  I climbed the many steps up to the Lincoln Memorial.  I read the wise words of Franklin Roosevelt.  I saw people Marching for Life and people Marching for Women.

It’s impossible to visit D.C. and not be confronted by political views.  We had rich discussions and found we had more in common than I ever knew.

There was a D.C. Family Night with the D.C. Wallishes.  We enjoyed some wonderful meals together.  They taught me how to ride the Metro.  I even Ubered a few times. 

I met with the book club at the CRC church so like my own.  I loved their questions.  I loved hearing their comments and observations.  I loved spending time with those dear ladies and my heart soaked up their encouraging words.  You can bet I would be a member of their club if I lived closer. 

To sum up the entire trip would take too many pages of words.  It was amazing.  I was awestruck at the beauty of the museums and buildings that lined the Mall.  I passed through one of the actual cars that carried Jews to the concentration camps.  I bought souvenirs for my kids and missed them. 

And these three beautiful women, Elizabeth, Amy and Christina set aside all their to-do lists.  They didn’t just put their lives on hold for me – they did something braver.  They invited me into their homes, into their families and into their lives.  I got to know them in a way I never had.

Seeing all the amazing sights was wonderful, awe-inspiring and important.  But spending time with those three beautiful, smart, brave women was the very best part of the trip.  I loved seeing where they live and meeting all of their most important people.  I loved visiting their churches and eating meals with them.  I loved talking with them and learning from them and enjoying their company.  

When it was time to come home, Elizabeth’s husband was so kind to drive me to the airport, walk me in and help me get my boarding passes and then walk me right up to the security line.  Hours later I successfully navigated my way through Chicago O’Hare.  As my final flight descended and neared the Des Moines airport I started pouring out my thanks.  I named every good gift I could think of as the wheels touched the runway.  And as my plane taxied up to the terminal I was choking back tears.

I come back home feeling blessed.  I am so blessed to call Elizabeth, Amy and Christina cousins.  I was blessed to meet their sweet families.  I am blessed to have experienced all I got to see and do with them.  I am blessed to live in this country, chaotic though it may seem.  I am blessed to be a part of the rich history of this nation.  I am blessed by people who encourage me with my writing.  I am blessed to have had a wonderful first experience traveling alone.  I am blessed to have my dearest parents waiting for me with big smiles and warm hugs.  I am blessed to walk in the doors of my house and have three little kids run to me with wide open arms.  I am blessed by a husband who held down the fort while I was away.  And I am blessed by so many sweet friends and family who were praying for me. 

It was a marvelous trip filled with so many good gifts.  And I am thankful that I was invited, that I went, that I enjoyed it all, and that I am home.  

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Sidewalk Squares and Miles

Went for a walk today.  Sun was shining.  Breeze was blowing.  Air was warm. 

I wanted a good long walk.  So I walked the path to our old house.

As I started I was chewing on a worry.  Meditating on an anxious thing.  A mothering thing.  I was stewing in the what-ifs and the how-comes.  Even so, knowing it was a small thing in the grand scheme of things.

I was almost all the way to our old house, a solid 20 minute brisk walk, when I started to pass by the hospital.  We used to live only a block from the hospital.  From the OB room where I first held my babies you could see our house.  Brian used to joke that he was going to “make me walk” to the hospital when it was time to deliver. 

But these sidewalks, oh we walked here. 

First longing to even have the hope of a child of my own.  Then with tears of loss.  Then with trembling hope of another.  Then finally with my own Reagan Hope, all colicky and pacifier dependent, in the stroller I had so longed for.  Then with tiny little Maddie next to her big sister in a double-wide jogger.  Then waddling with what I knew would be my last baby, trying to process the last weeks of a pregnancy that I knew would be gone too soon and not over soon enough.  Then with little Hunter next to big sister Maddie while Reagan walked or rode a bike. 

I know these sidewalks like the back of my hand. 

Look in front of you, I hear Him nudge with a whisper.

There’s nothing there. 


And it hits me that I am walking and no one is in front of me.  There’s no little one growing within me.  There’s no little one in a snug sweet stroller, blanket tucked in tight.  There’s no kiddos zooming ahead of me on bikes or scooters.  Just me.  Just me with 3 lifetimes of memories trailing behind me.

Yes, you have been faithful, haven’t you?  All those years of praying for just one child.  All those walks with a screaming baby that I was pretty sure would never end.  All those late night walks where I stared up at the window of that one room where I first met all 3 of my children.  Three here with me and one there with You.  There were times I wasn’t sure, but You weren’t looking just one block ahead. 

I was tempted to mourn then.  Tempted to be sad that all those days of stroller walks were no longer before me.  Tempted to cry about kids growing up and going to school and slowly becoming way too cool for Mom.

But when I’m honest I know I’m this weird contradiction - pushing my kids away with one arm, begging them to become more independent and less needy, while at the same time desperately clinging to them with the other, pleading with them to slow down and just stay little a little while longer.

So I put down my worry.  And I picked up celebration.  I walked to our new home, knowing the way ahead held so many more adventures, and my heart overflowing with thankfulness that He sees the miles AND the sidewalk squares in front of me.

Sunday, December 17, 2017


Dear Hunter,

Five years have gone by in the blink of an eye.  Five years ago you were placed in my arms and I fell head over heels in love with you.  I remember gazing at your chubby little face, staring at all 9 pounds 13 ounces of you, and wondering what the future would hold for you.  I could not have imagined the sweet, silly little boy you would grow into.

You continue to have an enormous vocabulary.  I continue to blame your older sisters who tend to talk a lot.  We have a lot of good conversations, you and I.  When we ride in the car sometimes we talk and sometimes we sing.  You love to sing with the radio and have an uncanny knack for instantly memorizing songs. 

Your imagination is great.  You can play for hours on end downstairs or in your room.  Your toys of choice are pretty much anything with wheels.  Tractors (red ones especially) are your favorite.  Construction vehicles are always a big hit.  Cars and trucks and four-wheelers are all in the mix too.  This past year your love of legos has definitely grown.  Building and designing has become a special talent of yours.  I love to see you create nifty little inventions and then listen to your excited explanations.

Many evenings you can be found at the kitchen table with a crayon, pencil or marker in your hand.  You like to draw.  But it’s the giving of those artistic wonders that you love most.  You make cards for your family and your friends.  This is such a sweet side of you – that you want to give of your heart in this little way. 

You love chocolate but hate mint.  You love to be chased and tickled.  You think toots and burps are hilarious.  You love it when your Dad pitches to you and you can hit the ball.  You love red.  Your football jammies are your favorite.  You are a unique blend of so many nifty things.

Right now as I am writing this you are in time out in your room.  Though you can be sweet and loving, you can also be head-strong, obstinate and difficult.  I get the best of you, but sometimes I also get the worst of you.  I pray daily that you will learn to control your temper and that you will figure out how to manage life’s disappointments with grace and patience.  Because you are the youngest, there are lessons that you did not get to learn with little siblings.  You’ve had two sisters who have loved you and given you such patient time and attention for five years.  And that is good.  But you are also struggling to understand how to be patient, forgiving and gentle with kids who are younger than you.  I’m trying so hard to help you, Hunter.  But this is a hard road for both of us.

Respect is a big deal for you.  You love to make people laugh but you hate to be laughed at.  This is a fine line.  I love your sense of humor.  I love the way you can be silly and can lighten the mood in our family.  And I understand how you despise being teased by your sisters.  Our words to you and about you matter so much more than they used to.  We are learning to treat you with the respect you so desire.

You are a great helper around our house.  You love to do jobs with me or Dad.  You love to help me bake.  You love to help Dad wash the car.  And we love having you with us in these little jobs.  You are very capable.  You’ve grabbed screwdrivers and taken apart some of your battery-operated toys before just to check on the batteries.  It amazes me the things you don’t even need to be taught to do.  You just absorb as you spend time with us.

One of your very most favorite things to do continues to be hiking in the woods near our house.  When the weather cooperates we will go out there, grab a walking sticks, and hike down the winding paths.  You like to name the giant trees we walk past.  You talk pretty much the whole time so we don’t see a lot of wildlife.  You love to throw sticks in the creek.  I love spending time with you and having you by my side.

This year you started preschool.  You go three afternoons a week.  It feels very strange for me to drop you off and then not have you with me for those few hours that day.  You enjoy school and have some sweet friends.  You are learning and growing all the time.  And I am learning too how to do things without having you in my shadow.  I’m always a little bit relieved when I can pick you up and hear all about your day.  It just feels better to have you with me.

You still reach for my hand when we are walking somewhere together.  You still crawl up in my lap in the early mornings and want to snuggle.  You still give me big hugs and the best smiles.  Only every great once in a while do your arms reach up for me to hold you.  And I always give in and hoist you up.  These days when I can hold you in my arms like this are fleeting.  You are growing fast.  You are growing well.  And though you look a bit small next to older kids, you are so strong and healthy. 

Probably every time we are in the car and it is just the two of us I will find a moment when you are quiet and I will tell you, “I love you, Hunter.”  I want you to hear it.  I want you to see it.  I want you to feel it.  I want you to be surrounded by it.  You are so very loved by so many people.  You are a bright spot in our days.

I still wonder idly about your future sometimes.  I wonder if you will love a certain sport.  I wonder if you will be a good student, a great musician, a marvelous artist.  I wonder what your voice will sound like when you get to be one of those “big kids”.  I hope you will always know what a special place you have in my heart.  Know that these past five years with you have been so very dear to me.  You have challenged me and changed me in many ways – often for the better.  I’m not quite sure how to keep letting go of you.  I’d find it impossible to do if it weren’t for a Heavenly Father who promises me He will never let you go.  I hope you cling to Him just as tightly too.  Somehow I will find the strength to let you go to kindergarten and eventually even to first grade.  I’ll put that brave smile on my face and send you off promising you that you will have just the best time.  All the while I’ll be thinking of your chubby baby cheeks and that first night in the hospital when all you could do was stare at my face.  We’ve had just the best first five years of your life, Hunter.  And I’m excited to see all of your tomorrows.  What a gift – all of this time with you. 

I love you so!