Thursday, May 31, 2012

Camp and Chickens

Well, we are officially down at camp for the next 6 weeks. This week is training week, so there's no kiddos here yet (well, besides my own kids and Zack). Jayci adores camp and all the animals and all her "friends," she sleeps like a log every night and wears me out running around all day long. Caden clings to me, as usual, and doesn't sleep or eat, as usual. We have all been sleeping in one room, which means that I'm exhausted and haven't gotten much sleep, but it's really no worse than it has been at home. Training week is fun because we get to know all the new counselors and see friends who I haven't seen since camp last year too. I always feel a little shy (I am after all an introvert through and through), and also really old. Because when we started working at camp, I was about the same age as all the counselors. But now I'm the old lady with two kids, which makes me feel even more introverted and awkward. Zack, however, isn't introverted at all - and everyone (of course) loves him. I am proud of him being here to help, I truly am blown away by the fantastic young man he is growing into. Plus Jayci has been telling everyone he's her big brother, which makes me melt a little.

I figure I also owe you a few more quick updates on life with the Stanleys. We brought Caden to the feeding specialist again last week, and they told me they were "at a loss" because he now REFUSES to eat even one bite of baby food. The specialist said it seems like it might be more behavioral, which they don't usually see in babies this young. And also that we should try giving him some mashed table food instead of baby food purees. Which we did tonight for the first time, and he smeared it everywhere but only got maybe one or two bites of food into his mouth. So I'll keep you posted on how that goes, but I'm not feeling super hopeful. I wanted to tell the feeding specialist "welcome to my life with Caden, I'm always 'at a loss.'" I'm at a loss for how in the world to get him to sleep, how to get him to eat, how to know when he needs to go to the doctor, how to get him to let other people hold him and not just me . . . sigh.
Also, I spent the entire day yesterday curled up in a ball in my bed, leaving only to go throw up the crackers I occasionally ventured to eat. I still haven't kept any food down today, despite feeling much better than I did yesterday.

Adam came up to camp last week, and was planning on driving home on the day we got "his" (ok "our") chickens in the mail. Yup, they came in the mail. I was sitting on the couch when I heard an unusually loud chirping and opened my door to a small box containing 5 tiny chicks. Adam make a "brooder" for them, and brought them to camp where they are quickly growing. We let Jayci name one of them and she chose "boingy boing." We're going to call him BB for short. I realize it's completely unreasonable and I assumed that seeing the cute little chicks would get me over my irrational fear, but they still make me jumpy. My bird fear is really more of a phobia, I realize. And I also realize I'm ridiculous.
Anyways, my energy (which was low to start with) is waning, so I might see if I can sneak away for a nap. Doubtful, but maybe. Or perhaps I'll try to nibble a few more crackers, I just really dont want to throw up again.

I actually had a little bit of a breakdown this morning over it all. I felt so close to God while Caden was in the hospital, somehow so full of assurance that He heard my cries, that He was holding Caden. But now, while I rock and rock and comfort Caden and try to make him sleep, I feel less sure. Less sure that God hears my cries for strength, for comfort, for sleep, for wisdom. Suddenly, my prayers seem to stop at the ceiling. And as much as I know that's not true, it's harder for me to believe and rest in Him when I feel like He doesn't hear my heart's cries. And when I'm tired, and sick, and feel like the biggest failure of a mom. Sigh. I appreciate your prayers friends, and I know that He will carry me through each and every season. And sometimes I just need a reminder that His promises are true, and that He is faithful.

Friday, May 25, 2012


We always begin our walks much later than I think we should. The sun already beginning its slow descent, casting shadows long, and shining golden on the broken glass littering our street. I hurry Jayci along, trying to convince her to ride in the double stroller rather than walk. She is three and insistent, however, and some battles just aren't worth fighting. So we begin our slow procession to the park. Caden babbles in the stroller, and we stop to chat momentarily with neighbors out on their porches. When we get to the yellow house on the corner, there is a tumbling of legs and voices as the door flings open and we are joined by three small friends. Their voices are shrill, each clamoring to tell me about their day more loudly than the other. "Daddy" wears his ever-present rain boots and is eating a grapefruit like an apple. The juice dribbles down his chin, staining his already-grubby-maybe-was-white-long-ago school shirt. "This good," he announces with a grin, and holds up the grapefruit as he grabs Maverick's leash, chattering to Adam about his day. The two girls flank me, wearing their school uniforms and yelling over each other about the field trip they went on that day. I focus hard to decipher their words as they speak loudly and quickly, and I'm distracted with constantly reminding Jayci to stay on the sidewalk. Flecks of orange Doritos are scattered in the littlest one's hair, and her hands are sticky-orange with what smells like buffalo sauce. I cringe as she reaches for my hand, envisioning my own hands stained orange as her fingers entwine with mine. Reluctantly, I squeeze and smile at her, feeling more little fingers slip into my other hand.

We play at the park until dusk deepens into evening and the light of day turns to the cool of the night. Walking back with the kiddos, we drop them off at their house and they yell goodbyes and see you tomorrows as they tramp back up the porch stairs, dodging the diapers and beer bottles strewn in their path. But the next day, their porch is conspicuously empty. The blinds remain askew, the side of their house is still smeared with mud, and the No Trespassing Sign still hangs sideways in the window. But no light shines out, no cars pulse with music out front, and no small children come bounding outside as we walk past. They've been telling us they were moving for months now, but most of our kiddos live this way: threatening to move, yet remaining fixtures on our front porch and at our dinner table. So their absence feels sudden and terrible, like they've been evicted from our lives.

I never quite get used to this part of the kiddos' lives - the evictions, the transience. It seems like every day, I drive by another pile of furniture on the side of the road. Mismatched chairs, tables with broken legs and cracked tops, boxes full of lamps, electric cords, books, and skillets spilling out the top. The boxes get sifted and picked through. Slowly the contents spread further and further into the street until finally the city comes and hauls it all away, the landlord cleans things up, and a new family moves in. It's not long before new kids show up on our front porch and we are shuffling cards and explaining "presidents" all over again. And inevitably reminding them seven hundred times not to knock when the yellow sign isn't out.

I cant help but worry about the kiddos who have moved away. Wondering where they went, who is making sure they eat dinner, who is practicing their reading with them and taking them to drive-in movies on rainy nights (not the best idea we've ever had, admittedly). It's hard for me not to wonder why God would put us in this neighborhood just as so many kids are moving away.

I recognize that transience is a part of this type of ministry (we've been doing it long enough to know that), but that doesn't make it easier for me. It doesn't stop me from letting my heart get attached to kids who I might never see again. And sometimes, I think it would be easier if I wouldn't. If I'd just put up walls to protect myself. Not care so much, just meet their physical needs, give them breakfast and help with their homework, sending them on their way with a snack or two in their pockets. And that would be good, right? That would be loving the poor too, wouldn't it?

But even as I ask the questions, I know the answer. We're not really doing the work of Jesus until we offer our own hands to get dirty, our own heart to be broken. Saying YES to loving the poor, the fatherless, and the widow means standing beside them and allowing their fingers to entwine with mine, no matter how messy my own hands get in the process. Because there's something inside of me that changes in the process. When my hands are clasped together with those who are uniquely loved by a Savior that cares intimately about the poor, I am closer to Jesus than ever before. I know Him more fully by staring into their eyes and CARING about them, by grasping the elusive truth that WE BELONG TO EACH OTHER. And in the giving, in the offering of my hand to those who need love, companionship, food, a listening ear, or a big fat hug, it is in the offering that I am transformed and rescued from myself.

And as I am rescued from myself by a loving creator, I am able to offer something far greater than any "thing" to these kids. I give them Jesus. A Jesus who undoubtedly cares intimately about every single one of their needs. But if we give them only brand new coats each winter or toys at Christmastime, or even hot meals and after-school snacks, we only end up giving them one more thing they will have to leave behind.
I look at the pile of rubble on our street, discarded toys and clothing and leftover furniture, and I am reminded that we will leave it all behind. The computer I'm typing on, the clothes I'm wearing, the van with the squeaky belt, my brand new fancy-hair-do . . . None of it matters in the face of the hurting, the poor, the orphan. At the end, I want my heart to have been poured out for those things that mattered. For justice, for mercy, for grace, for love. And sometimes emptying out our hearts is painful and messy. But the best things always are. Orange-Dorito-flecked-hair, blood-stained streets, nail-scarred-hands, open-heart surgery scars stretched across my baby's chest, and the hole in my Savior's side. Tilled soil and messy dirt grow the most beautiful flowers. And buffalo-sauce stained fingers are but a reminder of how Christ steps into our mess. He picks up the very things we've left behind. The broken, the dirty, the ruined. The things we thought beyond redemption. His grace covers, it heals, and it loves. And even when the shadows grow long and my faith seems weak, He walks beside me, lovingly entwining His fingers with mine and promising I will never walk alone.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Haircuts, Feeding Therapy, Etc.

I literally cannot believe how quickly weekends fly by. It's Monday again, and Adam's already at camp. Training started this weekend and he left on Friday. I stayed home this week because Jayci still has school, Caden has feeding therapy stuff, and I felt bad leaving our roomie here by herself after the crazy shooting incident, and also our baby chickens are coming in the mail. Oh, did I mention we're getting chickens? In the mail? We're bringing them with us to camp in the "brooder" Adam made. I seriously don't even know what that means, but Adam does. And our agreement was that if we get chickens (because I strongly dislike all birds), he would take care of everything.
Our weekend was busy as usual. I was the second-shooter for a wedding on Saturday all day, got home at 1am and then slept like a log until 10am when one of the kiddos knocked on the door to see if I was taking them to church (no, because remember mother's day? the kiddos were atrociously behaved at church and I refused to take them next week as punishment. So there). Thank Jesus for my mother-in-law taking the babies and helping me get the best night sleep I've had in 9 months. Which is good because last night it was back to getting up with Caden every hour from 2am on. Sigh.

Before Adam left for camp last week, he visited the boy who was shot in the hospital. He is doing well and has been discharged. It turns out he was hit in the shin, and they had to replace the larger bone in his lower leg with a rod because the bone was shattered (ouch). Anyways, he told Adam he had just been wanting someone to come sit with him, which made me cry a little all over again. Things in our neighborhood have been surprisingly quiet, and despite being a little jumpy for a few days, I have settled into everything feeling normal again.
Without Adam around this week, things have been a different kind of normal I suppose. We've been hanging out with the kiddos, but mostly on the front porch (kids don't come inside unless there's two adults home). Danielle and I have spent most of our nights playing cards with the boys on the front porch, peppered with me running in to go pat Caden til he falls back asleep before waking Jayci up. On one of my treks inside, I noticed a GINORMOUS cockroach on the wall in my bedroom. I panicked a little because, if you recall, Adam isn't home. So I told the boys and begged them to rescue me, and three of them came inside armed with a shoe, a broom, a plastic cup, and a wad of paper towels. One of them used the broom to knock the cockroach off the wall, and then much high-pitched squealing ensued when it FLEW onto me.  Let's just say you definitely would have thought it was a bunch of middle school girls helping me rather than boys. So much for them rescuing me. I ended up using a shoe to smush the cockroach myself, good riddance.

I forgot to tell y'all this last week, but my roommate cut my hair again. Having a hairdresser living with me has definitely gotten me out of my hair rut. Last week, Danielle needed a "hair model" for a class-thing they were doing at her salon. When I inquired as to what they were going to do to my hair, her reply was "I'm not sure," which is always reassuring. I'm really an ideal hair model though because I don't actually care very much and I'm pretty much up for anything because hair will grow right? Plus, I know where she lives so I can totally force her to fix anything I dont like. So I agreed reluctantly as soon as she reminded me that lunch was provided and I would get a kid-free afternoon. I watched the "instructor" go around and add layers and trims and small changes to all the other hair model's hair. I breathed a sigh of relief, sipped my diet coke, and waited for him to get to me. When he did, he told Danielle that we were cool and hip and he wanted her to cut out underneath my hair so it's an inch of my scalp. I tried to explain that he was over-estimating how "cool," I was, and even thought that maybe I should take him out to see my minivan to prove my point. I also told him that the kiddos wouldn't be afraid to tell me that I looked stupid, they would probably delight in it actually.
But he was insistent, and I am not good at standing up for myself so I just went with it. And I actually really like how it turned out. But dont look underneath my hair because it's SUPER short under there (which is why it doesn't look HUGE and frizzy when it's short, I have a LOT of hair normally). So now I have a snazzy new haircut, which I cannot put into a ponytail. Which will be interesting when I go to camp next week. We shall see, y'all. Because I'm STILL not cool, even with cool hair. And I'm ok with it.

So next week, we're all off to camp and the kiddos start arriving the week after that. We'd love for y'all to keep praying for our neighborhood, the kiddos, and our family. LOTS of our kiddos will be moving out this summer, so I feel like maybe when we get back we will have all new kids to get to know. Caden has another feeding specialist appointment next week, and I feel like he was doing a little better for a while and now he wont even eat a single bite of anything. He's scooting all over and getting more and more mobile, which means he's less exhausting in that he doesnt have to be in my arms 100% of the time, but more exhausting in that he gets in to everything. EVERYTHING.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

In an Instant

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." - Psalm 23:4
I love sharing my life with y'all. And most of what I share is fairly average moments from the life we live doing ministry in the city. Eating pancakes with kiddos before church, painting toenails and picking out colors ad nauseum (thanks Sally Hansen), playing at the park, shuffling cards and playing Monopoly Deal. We just DO our lives, and invite a whole bunch of crazy kiddos along for the ride. I feel like you guys probably (hopefully) get a good picture of how much we love and value our neighborhood and all the kids (and grown-ups too!) who live here. We are rarely fearful, and we never think what we are doing is extraordinary or inspiring. Rather, we truly are inspired by those around us: by our neighbors, by single mommas making ends meet, by kiddos who graduate high school at twenty years old and celebrate with us in the street because they are going to college. The good outweighs the bad, the hope and promise we are able to see in our kiddos typically outshine the reality of gangs and poverty and violence that can be a mainstay in our neighborhood.
I was reminded yesterday, however, of how things can change in an instant. How a snapshot of an instant in our lives, of any life really, can quickly change from a beautiful sunset over the Atlanta skyline to a darker and more fearful one. Because last night, while Danielle and I were at Bible study for the middle school girls in the neighborhood, and Adam was rocking Caden and Jayci to sleep, one of the older boys we know fairly well was shot in the leg. Directly outside our fence, right next to our vegetable garden. Honestly, I wasn't even going to write this because I know all the parents and grandparents are probably about to freak-the-heck-out. But y'all need to know some things, and I need to work through some things (because right now I can't sleep for all the thoughts running around in my head). So here you go.
After he heard the shot, Adam peeked out the door and saw the boy laying in the street while his friends chased the shooter off with guns of their own. One of our younger kiddos was walking to our house and saw the whole thing happen. Needless to say, everyone involved was shaken-up and angry and our entire street was shut down while helicopters buzzed noisily overhead. Danielle and I rushed home. Immediately when we pulled up, the sweet kiddo who witnessed the whole thing ran up to me and sobbed as I held him close. I asked the officers if he could sit on our front porch, and I left him there with Danielle while Adam went to get his aunt, and I kept Jayci and Caden inside, trying desperately to act normal while rocking Caden and reading Bible stories to Jayci. My voice shook and I inhaled their scent, snuggling both of them in bed, thanking Jesus for protecting our family, and praying with Jayci for the boy who was hurt, for his family, for our sweet neighborhood friends. I blinked away tears, willing both of them to fall asleep so I could sort through my thoughts and calm my slightly shaking hands. I was itching to run outside and do something, anything, to help. And my heart kept stirring in the darkness, reminding me that THIS was exactly what I was here to do. That rocking my babies and whispering prayers was exactly where I was supposed to be. That God knew before we bought our house, before we moved downtown, before we were even born. He knew what would happen on our street tonight. And He had brought us to this place, for this very moment.

I felt Him calming my heart as I quietly sat and rocked Caden. His big blue eyes stared into mine, blinking heavily and slowly. His unique heart-beat pounded against my chest, his tiny fingers entwined in my hair, and he finally slowed his breathing and relaxed into sleep. I kissed Jayci's forehead lightly, tiptoed out of the room, and then cried into my pillow, while lights flashed blue and white through the bamboo blinds and police radios crackled out directives. 

I cried not for my own safety, not for anything but sorrow for the young boy who was shot. Because yes, he is involved in things he probably shouldn't be. Yes, he is in a gang and has been in and out of prison since we've known him. Yes, he is old enough to make choices and those choices have consequences. But he is still only fifteen. Fifteen years old. And his mom probably rocked him to sleep when he was a baby, and probably has spent hours, days, months of her life worrying about him. And earlier today? That same fifteen year old stopped by as I pulled the van into the yard. He held MY baby while grinning, offering me a hug, and sheepishly admitting that he hadn't quite made it to school today.

And all I can think about is that I wish I had been here to hold his hand as his leg bled, as he agonized in pain, waiting for help, as they put him in the ambulance. To tell him that THIS DOES NOT DEFINE HIM. The choices he has made, the things that have brought him to lay in a pile of blood beside our vegetable garden. Those choices are not the truest thing about who he is. I STILL see it in him. I still believe that God has made him for a purpose. That there is hope for his future. 

He is in the hospital right now, when we spoke with his momma on the phone, he was in surgery. Adam said the leg looked bad. Like really bad. And judging from the jeans and blood and such that the firefighters sprayed off the road, he was probably in a lot of pain. And tears are welling again in my eyes as I think of how much I want to spare these kiddos from the pain. I want to take a great big hose just like the firemen did, and quickly wash away the blood, the stains, the scars, the bullets. But I stare at the wet spot on our street, and I stare at the scar on Caden's chest, and I am reminded again and again that it is the pain and the hurt that changes us the most. We grow, we take root, we are made beautiful by the very things we try most desperately to avoid. 
This truth, somehow, fails to take away the shaky-fear. It's that same bone-shaking kind of fear I felt course through me while I sat beside Caden in the CICU. Fear that changes you, cripples you, unless you offer it to the Lord with open hands. Because fear and faith are somehow inextricable. And faith despite our fear? It changes people, transforms neighborhoods, revives communities. 

I realize I am easily overwhelmed by the darkness and sin on a night like last night. I start to worry we are fighting a losing battle against the streets. To wonder if there will be retaliation, if our kiddos will feel safe enough to come back and sit on our front porch, to wonder if our friend is going to lose his leg, or even his life. To see blood-stained-jeans and bullets when we close our eyes. But I am reminded even as I cant seem to sleep that we have already won the battle against this darkness. Jesus has fought for us, for our kids, for our lives and hearts. And we know the ending. He wins. Love wins. Light wins.
I wrote this last night and then slept on it (for all of 2 hours before Jayci inexplicably woke up at 5 am wide awake . . . ) I wanted to be sure I was accurately sharing what happened without presenting our neighborhood or any of our kiddos in a negative light. I prayed and begged Jesus to lay on my heart what He wanted me to share, what He wanted Y'ALL to learn from what happened last night. 

The picture He keeps bringing me back to is that of the blood-stained street and the fire hose spraying it away. With a loud rush, the water works on the blood stain. The blood runs in rivulets, fading to a dull brown and mingling with water. Until all that remains is our street. If it wasn't for some gauze, and a few syringes the EMTs left behind, you wouldn't know anything had happened. That's what I did for you. This truth rings like a bell in my heart. And the breath goes out of me when it's followed by: And that's what I did for him. For the boy who lay shot, for the boy who did the shooting, for the gang in your neighborhood, for the kiddos on your front porch and your babies asleep in their beds. I poured out my blood to wash away yours. I took your hurt, your wounds, your pain. And when you offer it to me, I will redeem it for something beautiful. I will wash away your hurt, your sins, your stains. And I will make all things new.

I'm asking that you pray for our kiddos, for the boy who was shot, for the shooter, for their friends, for their families, for the kiddos who saw (and have seen) more than any kid should see. Pray for our own little family, that we would be safe and free from fear, and relentless in our pursuit of Christ even in the face of fear and darkness. And pray that God will redeem the hurt and use tonight to draw our neighborhood to Himself.

“If we are to love our neighbors, before doing anything else we must see our neighbors. With our imagination as well as our eyes, that is to say like artists, we must see not just their faces but the life behind and within their faces. Here it is love that is the frame we see them in.”
“To journey for the sake of saving our own lives is little by little to cease to live in any sense that really matters, even to ourselves, because it is only by journeying for the world's sake - even when the world bores and sickens and scares you half to death - that little by little we start to come alive.”

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day . . .

I've been wanting to write some things, and a bunch of stuff about more stuff, but I find myself at a loss for words today. It wasn't a day full of my shining-est mother moments to create beautiful mother's day memories. We had a rough morning at church after a rough night at the drive in movie with a bunch of middle school boys from the neighborhood. They were being disrespectful and not listening and it was all just a little too much on a day when I felt like I DESERVED BETTER. But the truth is that I do not "deserve" anything. Yet I am given great grace upon grace daily from a wonderful husband (who is the most patient, loving man ever), my own children who forgive my shortcomings, the kiddos who knock on the door again even when I vow never to let them in again, and especially from a heavenly Father who loves me in all my mess. Grace after grace after grace, not the least of which is a fabulously perfect little three year old girl and a miracle baby who is growing by the day, by the hour even . . . So today I am trying to be thankful in the midst of frustration and remember just how much grace I've been shown, so that I can shower those around me with that same grace.

Instead, I will point you towards some things I read the past few days that are sitting in my heart.
How Much is Too Much? (from Flower Patch Farmgirl)
Where is the mommy-war for the motherless child?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Stage Fright, Summer Camp, and 366

I have approximately 15 minutes to write this post while Caden naps. If I'm really lucky, maybe it will be 30.

I had to take precious nap time to check in because I realized this morning that I have been remiss in keeping y'all up to date on my 366 pictures, as well as some of the details of our lives. I know, I know, I'm not sure how y'all have SLEPT without being completely up-to-date on every last detail of our lives. Seriously.
Last week was Jayci's first dance recital (remember the dress rehearsal?) She was really excited because EVERYONE was coming to watch (my parents, Adam's parents, my sister and brother-in-law, and Adam's sister). She kept talking about it and every time I asked if she was nervous she looked at me like I was crazy and told me "no mom." So we are sitting in the audience at the Rialto (which is a big theater at Georgia State University), I'm watching and giggling at the cute little dancers and waiting for Jayci to come galloping out. And then out comes her class, galloping onto stage. It takes me a minute to search all the blonde little girls, but I dont see Jayci. Adam and I look at each other and continue frantically searching the stage. But nope, no Jayci. Turns out she got a little case of stage fright and didn't make it out for her big dancing debut. It took everything in me to stay in my seat until intermission to make sure she was ok. And she was totally fine, no freaking out or anything, she just preferred to "watch" from the side of the stage. She did, however, rejoin her class for the bow at the end, a giant proud grin on her cute little face. We (ok Adam's mom and sister, they're the experienced ones who remembered such a sweet gesture) offered her flowers despite her not-dancing and we gushed over how cute she was and what a great bow she gave. Ha.

I told Adam afterwards that I was a little sad for her that they let her off the hook so easily. It's so hard, however, to figure out the right balance of pushing her to overcome her fears and NOT forcing her do ever do anything she really doesn't want to do, especially because I know how she feels in hating to be the center of attention. Parenting is flat-hard y'all. Even in the "easy" stuff like dance recitals and stage fright.

After a busy week of dance rehearsals and recitals and what-not, we decided to head to camp this weekend so I could take some pictures for my cute preggo-friend Carrie. Jayci has also been begging us to go to camp, since we've been recruiting kids to bring along this summer. We're bringing 45 kids from our neighborhood to camp over the span of three weeks. And Jayci doesn't quite understand that when we tell them about camp and sign them up, we dont get to go see "Coco, my favorite girl" RIGHT THIS MINUTE. For Jayci, everything is immediate because she doesn't quite grasp the whole concept of "in three weeks" yet. Some of the older boys aren't sure they want to come to camp (because NO GIRLS and NO TV?!) and Jayci has been trying to convince them by explaining that "sometimes we pretend Caden is baby Jesus" (at Christmas this year). Shokcingly, her argument doesn't seem to be helping the cause.

I'm not sure if I mentioned this, now that I think about it, but we are going to spend 7 weeks working at camp this summer. We were already going to be there for three weeks with our neighborhood kids, so we figured why not make it seven and join the Camp Grace team? While we are there, we are all going to be sleeping in one room. So we will see how that goes. I might, somehow, be even MORE sleep deprived after this summer. Or maybe Caden will magically decide to sleep at camp, Jayci always sleeps fantastically while we're there because she wears herself out with all the swimming and cheering and chasing horses and kittens and dancing and whatnot. I mean really, it can't get much worse so I have high-hopes that it will only get better. But not too high as Adam reminds me, because I tend to do that and then get my hopes dashed and get all emotional and angry and sad about it all.
I hear Caden crying which means times up, so I will just leave you with the latest from our 366 project, and a few pictures I stole from my sister-in-law of Jayci's dance recital. Because I'm a rule-follower to the end, and they said NO CAMERAS.

One more thing: Read this. You wont regret it.

Friday, May 4, 2012

For Caden at 9 months old

Sweet Caden,

Today, you are 9 months old. Well, technically, yesterday was your 9-month-birthday. And I fully intended to write this for you yesterday, but time got away from me. That's been happening to me a lot lately. For example, the fact that your sister is closer to four than two and that you are closer to being a year old than you are to the day you were born.

A day, by the way, that remains etched painfully and beautifully into my heart. Somewhere in the last few months, however, I've turned a corner from feeling like it happened just yesterday. Now it all feels like a distant dream. Like maybe it never really happened, maybe you never really had your chest cut open and your heart mended. The scar on your chest is fading every day, and as glad as I am for that, I'm also a little sad. I dont want either of us to ever forget where our journey together as a family has taken us. The way your heart was healed by God and surgeons. That our hearts were stretched and our lives were torn and mended by your journey too. I know our capacity for joy and pain has been enlarged, and that your scar and your first few terrifying weeks of life will remain a part of our hearts and story forever.

Now you're a nearly-normal nine month old boy. You're desperate to get into everything, but not yet able to crawl. Almost. You just can't QUITE get the hang of getting up on your hands and knees all at once. It's ok, I have a feeling I'm going to be IN-FOR-IT when you do get mobile, so I'm enjoying your immobility while I can. Because you are certainly my little fighter. Something I will be forever grateful for, but I'll tell you what buddy: those nurses weren't kidding when they told us we were going to have our hands full with you someday! As surely as you fought your way through those scary first 3 weeks of your life, you fight against sleeping and eating with just as much passion and strength. After epic forty-five minute battles to get you to fall asleep, you reward me with a fifteen minute cat-nap two or three times a day. I keep reminding myself that one day, sweet Caden, I wont be able to get you out of bed for school in the mornings. But then I have to remind myself that there's no need to rush ahead to those days, because you're already growing faster than I can keep up with.
You've started wrinkling your nose when you smile. And that habit, my boy, comes straight from your momma. And as much as I fear seeing myself in Jayci, wanting to protect her from hurt and ridicule, I delight in seeing pieces of me in you. You are the bravest boy I know, and I am proud and humbled to know you have been entrusted to me. So you just keep wrinkling that little nose, and I will grin happily (and probably wrinkle my nose too) each time I see it, knowing that you and I were created for one another.
Although you're still refusing to eat these days (we see a specialist next week), you've caught on to a few other tricks. Every time you hear music you start bouncing up and down and clapping delightedly. It's adorable. Seriously, squish-you-tight-and-giggle-with-glee adorable. And the way you laugh at your sister? Also adorable. She loves your fiercely. You are her first request upon waking up, and she never stops wanting to "hold you." Much to your chagrin, of course, since it limits your rolling mobility and, as I mentioned, you desperately want to get into absolutely everything.

You delight the neighborhood kiddos every day, they crack up at your wrinkly nose grin, clapping, and easy-to-produce-laughs. You have special smiles and babbles that I swear you reserve just for Zack and the other kiddos. We cant even let them hold you in church because you get entirely too loud and disrupt the entire thing with your cuteness (and no sir, I'm not biased in the least).  I cant wait to see all the ways you are going to teach the kiddos about grace, about our God who heals, and about expecting miracles.

You teach me so much every day my little stinker. I love to cuddle you, to lay down with you in exhaustion when I cant get you into your crib, to rock with you in the quiet stillness of the morning, while the rest of the neighborhood finally sleeps. I think and I pray, remembering how far we've come. And I dream about all the places we're going to go. I think of how you still have surgeries and obstacles ahead, and don't doubt for a minute that you are going to leap over them with room to spare. I know you will be hurt, your chest will be cut open again, your feelings with be wounded, you might get made fun of. Physically and emotionally, I cannot and will not shield you from that hurt. As desperately as I might want to, you have been the one who taught me that hurt produces beauty. That sometimes our deepest wounds heal us most fully. That pain and joy are inextricable from one another.  That shadows point us to the light.

Just as I entrusted you to God while you had your first surgery 9 months ago, I will entrust you to Him today. You are His, my sweet boy, far more fully than you will ever be mine. And I am resting today in His faithful goodness. In His promises of hope. In His love and tender mercies. In His grace. I will trust, as my friend Kathryn reminded me this morning, that He will be enough for YOU my sweet boy. No matter what you face, no matter your pain or hurt, He will be with you, with us, every step of the way.

I love you more than these feeble words could ever express. Thank you for being my sweet miracle, my reminder of God's grace, and a constant source of joy in all of our lives.

Love you,


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Next Contestant on So You Think You Can Dance?

So clearly Jayci has a future in dance. Well, at least she might, when she's not distracted and waving at Adam and I instead of focusing on her dancing. Jayci's first dance recital is actually this Thursday, but they had a dress rehearsal last week where the parents were allowed to take pictures. I could have just died at how cute all the kids were, and Jayci did a really great job being a seed and growing into a flower. I was never a dancer so she must get her dancing skillz from Adam. He does, after all, do a mean "sprinkler."


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