Words for My Grandma Barty

My Grandma Barty was a remarkable and selfless woman…remarkable in many ways, including how she could thread a worm on a fishing hook with remarkable precision.  And selfless in many ways, including how she didn’t mind celebrating many of her birthdays with me, the youngest of her grandchildren (and, I’ve been told, the most spoiled)…as her birthday was the day after mine.

Celebrating our birthdays in 2009…her 93rd and my 29th.

The Grandma-With-Cracks-In-Her-Face (as my older sister Melissa called her) authored a life of hard work, a story her physical appearance told well.  The years spent in the sun, picking cotton and tending her impressive home garden were worn into her wrinkles and into her soul.  She carried the lines of concern on her precious face, as she spent a lifetime praying for her husband, children, grandchildren, and even great grandchildren…carrying a mother’s burden with unwavering faith.  The cracks in her face and the commitment they represented were, to me, what made her truly physically beautiful.

True beauty.

There are many things she accomplished in her life that she could have been proud of.  She could have been proud of her award winning enchiladas, her ability to can and preserve every fruit or vegetable she nurtured into perfection, or her very large and impressive collection of polyester clothing in her basement closet.  The world’s standards of success, like material gain and education, were not even on her radar.  She had more important things to accomplish.

For anyone who was at a family function with Grandma in her last few years, we all knew she loved to brag about two things.  It was guaranteed…she would look around and announce with such pride, “I’m the oldest one here.  And I did all this!”

The Lord allowed her to live just short of 96 years…almost 35,000 days.  I’m confident she hit the mark for her life, that she lived those 35,000 days with a desire to accomplish something significant.  And her greatest accomplishments, the ones she bragged about when she says, “I did all this!” just happen to include me and my family.

Just a few of her greatest accomplishments.

Grandma, we’ll miss you greatly, but we’re determined to carry on your legacy…to know life’s greatest successes and our most significant accomplishments will be in our committed, remarkable, selfless love for our family.



The Opportunity to Live Like Family

10 years ago today, the world was still spinning, America was sitting pretty, unaware she was one day away from starting a long, dark chapter in her history.

10 years ago today, I had taken up permanent residence on cloud Nine.  I was counting down the days until I stepped fearlessly from the security of my childhood and jumped into the arms of my love for all of life.  It was just 11 days before my wedding.

It will forever be a day that Americans will tether their personal history to.  We’ll always remember where we were, what we were doing, how we were feeling.  The day that stands out like a soar thumb in the span of 29,200 fingers.

Since that day, my husband and I have decided to bring 3 precious children into the unstable aftermath of those gruesome moments.  It was actually a no-brainer.  That day not only wrote a story of terror, death, and defeat.  It released a resounding symphony of humanity’s greatest asset…sacrificial, unconditional love.  Strangers instantaneously became brothers and sisters as they gave their lives to rescue those trapped.  The immediate need for care and comfort made childless women into mothers.  And children, ages 1 to 100, sought out the shelter and safety of a strong father’s embrace.  It was the day that all of America felt like family.

Today, the world is still spinning, the future is still uncertain, and my children are thriving.  My hope is not found in this world and my security is not anchored in its future.  My definition of living is affixed to the opportunity we all have to love sacrificially and unconditionally.  The opportunity to live like family.

Image via here

my BIGGEST dream {words for my Mom}

I’m a horrible gift giver. Definitely not my love language. I’ve been trying to think of a gift for my mom this Mother’s Day that could express 30 years of gratefulness. When I was a kid on Mother’s Day, I would go the magical closet at the end of our hallway and pick out something “real nice”. The closet was overstuffed with unfinished craft projects, outdated decor, and meaningless memorabilia; a gold mine in the eyes of an 8 year old. Or I would make my mom a coupon book full of promises of housework and things I never did fulfill. This year, I’m giving my mom the gift of words. I promise, I’m not being cheap. I just can’t think of one material thing that could say all that’s in my heart, so here goes:

It’s always good to keep a dream in your heart and fight for the will to follow it. The most peculiar thing happened when I became a mom. Most of the rest of my dreaming and even my definition of success became instantly bundled in a pink and blue-striped, hospital swaddling blanket. My days would be spent encouraging this baby girl (and her sister and brother to follow) to dream big dreams, all the while knowing I would be the one to put “feet” to them…to be a SERVANT of all she longed to accomplish.

My mom stood by my hospital bed that day, and participated in that moment…that moment where I realized SHE was the servant of all my dreams. I realized who I am and all that I’ve done wouldn’t have been possible without her putting feet to all I wanted to accomplish.

So, thank you, Mom, for SERVING my dreams when….

…I said I wanted to be a preacher because there didn’t seem to be too many lady preachers around.

…You were the only one to sponsor me in the Spell-A-Thon because I was too shy & lazy to ask for other sponsors.

…You drove me to countless clogging lessons and performances, and spent countless dollars on poofy dresses and noisy shoes.

…You video taped all my basketball games, and even got kicked out of that one game for yelling at the referee when I was in 7th grade.

…We would stop by the local grocery store when I would suggest EVERY DAY that we needed a gallon of milk (when we both knew it was to see my sweetheart/future hubby who worked there).

…You dropped me off at a missionary training school in the not-so-safe part of Mexico, and trusted God to protect me, grow me, and show me His plans for my life.

…You watched me walk down the aisle at my high school graduation, college graduation, and when I married the man of my dreams.

…You faced the biggest storms of your life with such courage and strength that I hardly knew you were shaken.

…You stood by my bedside and celebrated with me as my 3 little dreams were born.

And, thank you, Mom, that you continue to stand by and serve my BIGGEST dream, that I just might be a mom (and one day, a grandma) as selfless, strong, and supportive as you are.

For a thief and me….a Good Friday indeed.

When I think of all that’s good in the world, betrayal does not come to mind…

Nor does severe ridicule…

Nor does unwarranted persecution…

Nor does obscene abuse…

Nor does a long day of suffering, clinging desperately to slivers of life, heaving lung-crushing breaths, blood-gushing wounds, and tears of excruciating torment.

For that man (who just happened to also be God) hanging on the cross, enduring hell for all humanity, it could not have been a Good Friday.

For his mother, spectating the torture of her son, partnering in bearing his suffering and pain, it could not have been a Good Friday.

For one person, at the bookend of his life, with vision blurred from deserved execution, whose eyes were momentarily opened to the miracle of grace, who had not done one thing in his embarrassing life that was worthy of spending eternity in paradise….for the thief on a neighboring cross who simply believed, it was, for him, a Good Friday.

As it is for this sinner…an undeserving recipient of his unfailing love, precious peace, and amazing grace. For me, it is a Good Friday.

Luke 23:42-43
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you enter your kingdom.”

43 He said, “Don’t worry, I will. Today you will join me in paradise.”

{image via here}

Love Letter to Finn

{I was inspired by my friend Shana doting on her adorable newborn son, so here is my first love letter to my little guy.}

Dear Finn,

I love the way your 4th toe is longer than all the rest of your toes.

I love your high-pitched, girly scream (can’t imagine where you learned it).

I love your steady, sleepy groan as you valiantly fight off an impending nap.

I love that you are tall, dark, and handsome (even though your name means small, blond soldier).

I wonder if the way you entered this world will be any indication of your personality (totally independent, no one even around to “catch” you).

I love how you’ve figured your sisters out…”touchy sissy” comes close and you flinch with a smile (she likes to be really close) and “chatty sissy” is always up for a conversation.

I love how you absolutely adore your daddy, it’s sheer entertainment how much you two love each other.

I love your strong, masculine hands and how you are intensely fascinated with them…how you stare and slowly turn and wiggle your fingers. It’s as if you know they are intricate tools you will use to build with, fight with, love with, create with, comfort with, and hopefully, one day, pen a love letter to your mama with.

I adore your boyish grin….part mischievous but completely captivating. When you smile you look like your Papa. I can only imagine the adventures that await you two.

I’ve spent the last 5 and a half months studying one feature that I’m certain a lifetime won’t be long enough to analyze…your big, deep, brown eyes. I dream of the days they beam with excitement and wonder, and dread the days they mask doubt and fear. I know there will be moments I’ll wipe tears of defeat from them, but I also know there’ll be moments of uncontainable, immeasurable confidence, joy, and hope.

Eternity has an enchanting role to play out….watch, wonder, dream, participate, and believe, my son.

“Be that one person…”

Apparently, being six years old is a sweet spot for learning life lessons.

One night on the way home from her basketball practice, Ellie kept grumbling in frustration as she tried to master another level of some meaningless game app on my phone. It didn’t matter how many times her dad and I assured her “It’s just a game” or “You just have to practice”. And then it finally came, her frustration reached it’s boiling point and spewed into a micro-burst of alligator tears. I had a feeling that mastering this silly game on my phone held a deeper meaning.

“It’s a lot harder than I thought it was going to be,” I made out between sobs.

“Are you talking about basketball?” I asked.

She nodded. This was her first attempt at playing basketball. In the months before the league began, we worked on dribbling and shooting, just the two of us. She got pretty good and she felt pretty confident.

But then, practices began. She was about a head shorter than most of the girls, and often got lost in the unorganized mass of her novice teammates and the confusing rules of the game. She hardly ever got the ball, and hadn’t made any baskets.

This new context of harsh reality shook the core of her newly gained confidence, and she struggled. And my heart broke to see her hurt.

“Maybe you haven’t made any baskets yet, but whenever you get the ball, you are the best passer! You are always looking to pass the ball to someone who is open and has an open shot. And you play such great defense. But the thing I love most about watching you play, whenever someone scores a basket, even if they are on the other team, you clap for them and are excited for them. Your team needs you to be that person!”

She beamed at this new found confidence. A confidence in the realization that she had something unique and essential for her team’s success. I suggested, “Ellie, why don’t you ask your coach if you can have a turn dribbling the ball down the court. You are a really good dribbler.”

“Okay, Mom. I will. I believe in myself.” Her response shocked me. I hadn’t realized the internal struggle with confidence that was going on in her 6 year old heart. Just an ounce of my encouragement gave her a world of new courage.

Yesterday, Matthew Barnett tweeted “Everyone in life can make it if they knew that one person still believes in them….be that one person.”

Today, I’m on the prowl…who can I be that “one person” to today? Who do I know that is lost in the storm of harsh reality, on the brink of losing sight of their purpose, their dream? Who can you be that “one person” to?

Oh, and by the way, in her basketball game after our conversation, Ellie scored the first two baskets of the game…in the first 30 seconds.

In the economy of encouragement, the smallest investment can produce a windfall dividend.

My little basketball player