Sometimes I don’t know what she’s thinking. My heart just doesn’t understand the fuss her tiny three year-old mind creates over something so seemingly insignificant. No, you can’t wear socks on your hands at the dinner table. No, you can’t wear the same nightgown all week because it’s filthy. No you can’t paint your own nails on my couch. No you can’t put make up on the dog.
Cue tears. Cue clutched fists and red-faced fits. Cue ALL THE FEELINGS.
She has so many for such a small person! And so many days I feel we are much too different and much too similar to get along.
Truth be told, I expect too much of her because she is so bright; all sunshine and sugar and imagination. And if I’m honest, I must admit I loathe princess play and all things pink. When she’s disagreeable, I’m so quick to be offended- to write it off as disobedience. But as she sits in her bed upstairs, squeals and heaves and yelps escaping her little chest because I’m forcing her to have Rest Time (as we’ve done every day for the past three years…), I’m reminded that she’s allowed to have opinions.
She’s a person. She views the world around her and develops likes and dislikes, opinions, she infers things, she understands more than I think… and her opinions may differ from mine because she’s not me.
She is not me.
No matter how similar we are, she is not me. She doesn’t like the color blue, or wearing jeans, or being in the heat. She doesn’t like tomatoes or bacon. She prefers mustard over mayonnaise. She likes Luke Bryan for goodness sake. (I know. She’s only three, so don’t hold that against her.)
She may never want to pick up a camera or watch musicals or listen to bluegrass music and watch the rain. She may never share my love of V8 or Brussel sprouts. She might always want to wear the color pink from head to toe… and that’s okay.
She’s not me, but she’s mine. She’s a part of me. One of the best parts… the pinkest part.
Our world has been a bit stifling lately. Sheets of rain blocking our exit or suffocating humidity sucking the life out of us. We’ve sought shelter inside, but two toddlers can only watch from the sidelines for so long. So this time, as we scurried from the car to the house, shielding our heads with hands held high, when the boy said, “Splashin!” I stopped. And when everything in me wanted to say no- no, there’s not enough time. No, there’s work to be done. No, it’s RAINING, child!- I said yes…
And what do you know, the rain stopped long enough for us to play.
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I know what you’re thinking. It’s bearing down on you hard, isn’t it? This upcoming holiday for celebrating dads. You’re desperately trying to avoid thinking about it. Maybe you never had one. Maybe the one you had wasn’t around. And maybe when he was, you were worse off than when he was gone. Maybe your dad did awful, unspeakable things to you. Maybe he lied to you over and over and hurt you physically and mentally. And maybe he never provided for you the basic things a child needs: Safety. Comfort. Peace. Provision.
If you’ve ever lived in a house full of anger or abuse or neglect- built on a wobbly axis, threatening to tip at any moment, scared to even speak lest you disturb the balance of one person, spinning out of control- you know. You know how the actions of the one to whom you are supposed to look for guidance can completely mold you- harden you, or leave you shattered and destroyed. Leave your heart hurting. Leave your hands trembling, reaching upward, wanting. Leave your eyes darting, waiting for the next attack, potential assailants lurking in every corner of your life. When will the bottom drop out? When will the sky fall?
Some of us respond in anger. Some of us responded by plunging headlong into romance after romance, seeking to fill the void. Some of us responded by participating in destructive behaviors- drugs, alcohol, food- in order to numb the pain. And some of us have tried over and over to pull ourselves out of the void and use it to create our own way. Always the burden remains. Always rooted in fear.
How can you trust when the one who was meant to call you his own left you trembling, gasping, flailing?
Listen to me, friend:
There is one who calls you daughter. He calls you beloved. He fights for your heart daily. He longs to hear you call him ‘Father.’
He never tells you he’ll be there, and then leaves you waiting.
He never promises provision without providing.
He never leaves you in the middle of the night.
He never hurts you.
His love is not dependent upon your actions or deeds.
You can never make Him love you less.
You cannot earn his love. You don’t need to.
He never chooses another over you.
He never lies to you.
He is not your dad.
He is not your dad.
He is not your dad.
Take heart, friend. Look up. Don’t hide your face. Your father is not absent. He is with you always. He has loved you always, and loves you still. Rest in Him this Father’s Day.
It’s been a year since you were found in the water. A year since they pulled you, lifeless, onto the ground and began to force breath into your lungs- willing you to live, begging your heart to beat. A year since your daddy called me screaming so hard he couldn’t speak and the breath left my own body for what seemed like an eternity…It’s been a year since we thought we would never see your big blue eyes again or hear your laugh or watch you run and play. Since tubes ran from your body and machines shook your tiny frame and you laid still.
I raced down the highway only to have to stop and pull over from sobbing and heaving over my steering wheel, desperately asking God to please be who He claims to be- sovereign. Faithful. Good… and I regretfully admit I’m not sure I believed it at the time. Good? Where was His goodness in this?
A year… A year since God called us out upon the water and asked us to trust Him- to let him show his strength to thousands. A year since you were restored to us by His grace…
I remember very distinctly the weight of those days. Feeling helpless to comfort your momma and daddy or be of use or even stand without our knees buckling beneath us. But I also remember the friends that rallied around us. People we had never even met came to our rescue, pulling us out of darkness and reminding us to hope. They took our burden and carried it when we could no longer bear to lift our heads and our hands shook from fear. They prayed over you and claimed healing- they knew it would be so.
It’s rare that one is permitted to stand so close to a miracle. To witness it fully and see the impossible turn to dust as God makes them so. But we stood in the midst of a storm and watched God calm the waters where we stood. And there it was. His goodness.
In this year, we’ve watched you grow and learn and struggle and triumph. A year of victory, but not without it’s battles. And this weekend, we will gather together for you as we did in your hospital room. But this time, our hearts are not heavy with grief and fear and regret. This time we gather with joy and singing in our souls- having seen and tasted the Lord is good. This time we celebrate your life and declare this date not as a dark day when the waters raged, but as a day that the Lord claimed for his own glory.
Always remember that you are covered in love and blessings. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9
We love you, Shepman.
This weekend we gathered from all corners of the earth to celebrate two people whose love has given life to us all. My husband’s grandparents celebrated sixty years of marriage surrounded by all of their nearest and dearest, and although we were a large group, we were only a small number compared to the greater whole of the lives that have been touched by these sweet, godly people.
As I sat, I listened to story after story that exemplified just how far love can reach and grow and multiply. To give you a bit of background, Grandma and Grandpa were missionaries in Africa for thirty-some years. They have seen more and done more than most. They have also given more than most. Each of their children- four by birth, and two by God’s grace- stood to honor them and speak about what they’ve learned from them. They spoke of their strong marriage, the missions legacy that still follows their name, a life lived in a rich and diverse culture, and the hard work they admired. There were tears and laughter and much celebration throughout a night that left me incredibly grateful to have married into such a wonderful, godly legacy.
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And after everyone had stood and spoken of all of the things that our grandparents had done, Grandpa stood and gave that glory directly back to the Lord, giving him thanks and praise. As a family, we repeated with him the phrase, “Only one life will soon be passed. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” This, I thought, is the answer to living a full life. A life of service to others and your family will bless us beyond our wildest dreams and in wonderfully unexpected ways, but only when we give that glory back to God, giving thanks in all things, do we solidify a legacy that will reach into the future. Only then does it become a part of the bigger story- the one that God is writing.
I rejoice that this legacy is now my husband’s and my own and my children’s. We claim it for ourselves and we claim it for the kingdom. And we pray that we are worthy to continue to carry it into generations to come.
Happy 60th Anniversary, Grandma and Grandpa! We love you with all of our hearts and we are so blessed to be a part of your legacy!
Dear Momma at The Playground,
I sighed when your rickety suburban pulled up as we were unloading our car at the park this morning. The doors opened and out poured noisy children of varying ages in rumpled clothing, each with a package of poptarts and a capri sun in-hand. You hopped out, a cigarette in your lips, Sponge Bob pajama pants, your smart phone in front of your face, and a large butterfly emblazoned across your lower back. “Great,” I thought sarcastically. You put out your cigarette, put your phone in your car, and did something I didn’t expect you to do- you walked down the hill to the playground and played. You played with all five of the children that you had brought along. You did the monkey bars and the slides and the merri-go-round. And when you had tired, you walked to the shade and proceeded to pick up trash that had been left around the grounds of the park.
We made small talk about the state of the park- it has been a rainy spring, and the floods have brought in lots of garbage. You mentioned that you and your children and step-children spend too much time at the local parks to allow them to become a dumping ground, so you make it a point to clean them up while the kids play. You spoke fondly of each of the kids, who were polite and helpful to my own children even though they were a bit younger. You mentioned one of the girl’s was a special needs child, and another still was at physical therapy for a disability. And we briefly mentioned that mothering a child- any child- was just so… hard some days. We didn’t talk about it at length, but instead just let it hang there in the air, as though a cloud, holding our silent daily struggles with shepherding little humans.
But, we agreed, the least we could do was make sure they wouldn’t need a tetanus shot after playing at the park, and so together, we created a pile. Just a little pile of junk- paper cups, water bottle lids, straws, broken glass, and various wrappers. And somehow it felt very cathartic, this process of removing the unclean, the harmful, and placing it into a pile. Together we cleared the park of debris as our children played happily. We didn’t know each other’s names, or stories, and despite our obvious differences, we worked together with a common goal in mind: to make a safe place for our children.
And when it was time for you to go, you thanked me for helping, called to your kids, and they politely told us good bye and have a nice day. And I wish I had apologized right then and there for judging you. I wish I had admitted to you that I’m a complete hypocrite who thinks she’s incredibly tolerant, but apparently can’t even handle a little cigarette smoke and processed food at the park. I wish I had told you how impressed I was by the manners of your children, and grateful that there are other mommas in this town who give a damn about where our children spend their time and whether or not it’s safe for them. Because it’s so rare, momma. It’s so rare to find women working together to build up each other and their families instead of tearing them down. Embracing their differences instead of judging them for their choices in snacks and park attire…
I hope we can still be on the same team.
You’re too young to understand what’s happening right now- while the TV blares and the internet screams for a public judgment of a young man who made some very bad mistakes in his youth. I’m not here to talk about this young man, or his wrongdoings, but his choices have gotten me thinking about you- YOUR mistakes and the way that I want you to view them. You see, there are things in this life that are a certainty- things we cannot avoid. And mistakes are one of those things. They are inevitable due to your humanity- because of the unique way that God designed you. But there’s more: mistakes are necessary… you will learn from them and grow into a deeper understanding of yourself and God. Here are a few things I would like for you to understand about mistakes:
You will make them. For as much preparation as your father and I can offer, and no matter how much caution you take, you will misstep. You will miss. You will lose. You will fall and fail. And it will happen again and again. Expecting perfection of yourself is unrealistic, and believing yourself infallible is folly. For all your beauty, you are also a human riddled with flaws. Just like every other human.
You can always come to us for help. When the time comes that you fall, and royally screw up, and it seems that nothing can be made right again, you can always come to us for help. Always. Our love is not dependent upon how many times you do things correctly. In the same way that there is nothing so awful you can do to lose the love of your Heavenly Father, your father and I could never cease to absolutely treasure you.
We make mistakes too. We do. More than you can imagine, your daddy and I have made- and continue to make mistake after mistake. Our hearts aren’t always in the right place, and often times, we choose the wrong path. You must never believe that we will not understand a situation because we’ve not made mistakes, child, because believe me when I say, we’ve made our fair share and then some. We are terribly flawed and imperfect and underqualified to parent you, but we try our best every single day. And when we make a mistake that wrongs you, sweet babies, we will always- ALWAYS- admit our wrongdoing, and ask your forgiveness. Because we want you to know what it looks like to mess up, and be humbled enough to ask forgiveness, and move forward with grace and hope.
There are consequences to your mistakes. I would be remiss if I led you to believe that everything can be undone and rectified when you make a mistake. Big or small, there are always consequences to your actions. Every choice you make affects others, and mistakes can often lead to a chain reaction of negativity. Maybe you’ll lose a friend. Maybe you’ll lose a limb. Maybe you’ll just come in past curfew and get grounded. Either way, you cannot expect to run through this life destroying things around you without some sort of consequence occurring. Use these consequences as a learning opportunity and accept them with humility and grace. But here’s the good news…
Your mistakes do not define you. You are so smart and beautiful and wonderful. You have talents and gifts and thoughts and opinions that are uniquely yours. And when you make a mistake, it might feel like your world has begun to crumble around you. You might feel stripped bare and exposed and completely worthless. People might judge you and say things about you- true or not- that are hurtful… and you may struggle to remember who you are. Take heart, babies, in knowing that you are NOT your mistakes. They do not define you. The world does not get a say in who you are. It has already been decided by the one who knows your heart.
I know this is difficult to understand right now, when the worst damage you can really do is making messes and not sharing. Someday you’ll look back and long for the days when your consequences stopped with a short time-out and a stern talk. It can be lonely in your own head, where your negative self-talk often screams louder than the quiet voice that whispers, “you can overcome this… I am using this for your good and my glory…” Find that voice and cling to it. Own your mistakes and learn from them. Hold your head high, and continue to walk forward into your destiny. I love you.
My name is Chelsea. Redeemed. Wife. Mommy. Photographer. Light Chaser. I hope you find light here too.