Excited to share an article that I wrote that was published in the December issue of Arizona Parenting Magazine. Grateful for the lessons my children teach me.
You were 15. You wore khakis with suspenders and looked like you just stepped out of A River Runs Through It. I was 12 and smitten. I watched you from across the room, amazed that God actually created me my own personal Brad “Pitt”. I was taken by everything that you were, the preppy clothes, the amazing smile, but mostly..it was the eyes. The most perfect deep blue I had ever seen.
I couldn’t get over your eyes.
debilitating crush friendship with you began with my first look into those eyes.
Years and lot’s of diary entries later I stared into those eyes as you beat around the bush to tell me that you saw something in me. I couldn’t even believe that my dreams were coming true. No one could be that lucky. But I was. You grabbed my hand and have never let go. We dreamed and planned and quite literally, grew up together.
I couldn’t believe that someone else saw the world (at least the most important things) exactly the way that I did. You had vision like no one I had ever met. As I began to see the world through your eyes, my world changed. You had a perspective of God and people that was fresh, grace-filled and gave me hope.
Over the years, I’ve watched as people who have hurt you circle back around. I hated how you always saw the good in them still. I’d try to remind you, warn you that the hurt was gonna come again, because these people couldn’t be trusted. But you still saw something in them. Something that I couldn’t. And you proved me wrong again and again. I wanted to protect you from future hurt, to defend your honor. But you didn’t care abou any of that. Relationship wins. And I couldn’t understand eyes like that, eyes that could see good in people who didn’t really deserve it.
There’s just something about your eyes.
And then I saw those eyes looking into mine. How could you still see me like that? But you did.
You used those same deep blue eyes to see in me what I couldn’t see. To call the best out of me when I was at my worst. You saw me, you chose me, you loved me. I still couldn’t understand eyes with that much grace, eyes with that much hope, eyes that stared into my heart long enough to see the gold, hidden and buried deep.
And then I realized where you got those eyes.
It seems fitting as we stand hand in hand with adventure before us that I get to trust those eyes once again…and the One who gave them to you.
Happy Birthday to my best friend. You hold my heart. Your eyes have my mine- the future awaits.
Last night was one of those nights when I chased the alarm clock all night long. I told Siri to wake me up at 4:45 to take my 87 year old Nana to the airport. And not Phoenix Sky Harbor, which is a mere 15 minutes away, but no people…these are REAL first world problems. I had to drive 40 minutes to Mesa Gateway Airport.
I wasn’t excited about it. I had been complaining about it all night and dreading it even in my dreams.
I was tired. I’d spent the night before playing nurse to my vomiting son and hadn’t slept well at all. Needless to say, when I rolled over checked my phone and it saw it said 4:29am, a 16 minutes before Siri would wake me from my cozy bed, I started grumbling and muttering. I pulled the pillow over my head and tried to will myself into waking up.
4:45am, 40 degrees outside, and a 40 minute drive…
…And let’s be honest…Nana can be a little more chatty than I like my people to be at 4:45am.
And then, I’m not sure if it was Jesus, the voice of my conscience, or Oprah whispering in my ear…but I heard these words:
“Hey Noelle. Someday…someday…You’re gonna give anything to have 40 more minutes with this woman.”
The truth hit me hard.
Yeah, suddenly it wasn’t so hard to jump out of bed. We loaded her bags into the car and spent the 40 minute drive chatting away about life. I asked her about her daily schedule back home, her friends, we talked about how pretty the moon looked and she thought it looked like a banana. And she laughed her loud, contagious laugh, and I breathed in deeply feeling every second of those 40 minutes.
Sometimes we are given gifts of time with those we love.
And in those moments we get to choose. We can choose to exist, or we can choose to live them, breathe them in and hold them close.
I know this morning I got 40 minutes I will never forget.
If you’re like me, every spring (late winter) you have grand ideas about planting a garden. The weather in Scottsdale has been beyond beautiful and I found myself buying a stack of seed packets. I could already taste the salsa I would make with my homegrown tomatoes and peppers!
The truth is, those seeds will most likely sit on my counter for at least six weeks, upon which I will probably shove them in a drawer, only to discover them covered in dust sometime in late October. (You know, when all the other moms are showing off their prized pumpkins and gourds.)
So, I’m not much of a gardener…
While I’ll admit my thumb is anything but green, I often wonder about the little people I am growing. You see, I’m in the season of life where I should probably paint my SUV yellow and start running a meter for all the dance classes, music rehearsals and sports I’m shuttling kids to and from each day. In the hurried pace of life we can so easily fall into, it is easy for me to begin to focus on my kids behavior. I find myself correcting manners, reprimanding arguments and discouraging tattling…I mean someone has to tame these little monkeys into proper citizens. But, I often wonder if ever I get it backwards. Am I working too hard to shape them from the outside?
Too easily I forget that my two year old is so much more than his behavior. Within this tiny little person is the potential to become a strong, thriving adult. My job is to pull that potential out. But we get scared. We fear that our kids will fall short, or be disliked, or that our parenting will be looked down on. So we focus our attention on the behavior forgetting one of the basic rules of gardening (…and parenting.)
Seeds want to grow.
Our job is to create an environment where that can happen. As we begin to focus on the individual needs and hearts of our children and surround them with the love, encouragement and faith they need- they will begin to sprout and develop strong roots.
There will always be behavior to correct and change. (Did I mention that I have a three year old?!!) But, hopefully we remember that our first job is to cultivate their hearts and watch them grow from the inside out.
I was flooded with more emotion than my little ten year old heart knew what to do with. I came to a page where my Mom and Dad each had written the baby version of me a letter. (I was a sucker for the written word even at ten…) My eyes welled up with tears as I read their words.
Love leapt off the page and covered me.
The other emotion I distinctly remember feeling was sadness. I was sad that time had gone so quickly. And that life was passing me by and I couldn’t slow it down. I didn’t want to miss any bit of it. (Um, mind you I was TEN)
By this time I was ugly crying. (Side note: I have ALWAYS been an ugly crier. Those of you who can shed tears and not look like your face has taken a beating really have it good.)
All of that to tell you that one of my greatest fears is that in the hectic pace of life I will miss the moments. That time will pass and all I’ll have to show for it are a bunch of semi-complete to-do lists.
Which is why on Christmas Eve, a day that is going to be crazy around here, I had to document the conversation I just had with my three-year old.
We are sitting on the couch watching a Leap Frog show together. You need to know that the main characters are “Tad” and “Lily”
Him: Mom, do you want to be Lily?
Me: (took me a second for the question to register, its 6:30am) Um, sure. Who do you want to be?
Him: I will be Tad.
Me: Okay Tad.
Him: Lily, guess what?
Me: What Tad?
Him: Lily, I love you.
Me: (laughing out loud with tears in my eyes) Jackson, you are so awesome.
Him: No. I am Tad.
Me: Oh, right. Tad, you are awesome. I love you too.
Him: Thanks Lily.
He reached over and grabbed by hand and we just sat there watching the show, holding hands, Tad and Lily.
Moments like this make my life.
UPDATE: It is now 7:58 and I’m still Lily. I get scolded every time I call him by any other name than Tad. LOL.
I’ve noticed that as a whole, we humans tend to focus on what we are NOT rather than what we ARE.
What we DON’T have rather than what we DO have.
What we CAN’T do rather than what we CAN do.
But I know there is something you’re good at (Maybe your’re the world’s greatest shopper, or laundry folder, or kisser, or you can throw a perfect spiral…I mean there has to be SOMETHING) – Something you’re proud of…and you don’t pimp yourself enough.
So tell me what area you’ve got mad skills in.
So many of my days are filled. Moments brimming with activity and always accompanied by a lot of noise.
When you have busy lives and three young kids at home, it really does come with the territory. I’ve become accustomed to full days, minutes and seconds.
The other day after an especially busy week, my house was full of people and I just wanted some solace. When I found a spare moment, I sneaked away and sat in the dark in my closet for three minutes. No one even wondered where I went, it was perfect.
I just sat in the dark and listened to my own breath. (I know, I am weird) It seemed rather dramatic, but I felt like I needed a moment that was empty. Free from thoughts, opinions, feelings, emotions.
A moment that just was.
Does this sound as crazy as it feels?
It’s like the fuller my minutes are, the more they dictate to me what to feel, what to do, how to respond, etc – but in the empty ones I am free to just be.
And in those moments I find clarity.
We’re always seeking to fill. Fill our wallets, fill our bank accounts, fill our schedules, fill our stomachs, but I’m finding in the emptiness I hear more clearly, feel more deeply, and understand God and myself in a new way.
Maybe this is the concept behind fasting- to worry less about being full (in every capacity) and experience the range of what emptiness brings.
We ran into the store the other day for a few quick items. It literally was three things, so he was actually fairly well behaved. Until the check out line. On a side note – Whoever invented the check out line did not have a three year old. I mean seriously the eye-level candy, chips and Chapstick- I usually end up having to add a minimum of two items to my order per visit.
But what is absolutely certain is that we always get the “rojo” car cart. Car carts. They are a must when you’re three. And for Jack, it must be rojo. Every. Single. Time.
So we roll up to check out lane #4 (ten items or less) and I’m chatting it up with Jan. I look over and there is Jack…standing up on the door jam of the rojo car. I watched his short life flash before my eyes- and visions of stitches and concussions flew through my mind.
So in my very sweetest, sternest, grocery-store-good-mom approved voice I said, “Jackson Wade, you need to get down right now. Please. Standing up there is very DANGEROUS.” I really drew out and enunciated the DANGEROUS in order to make my point.
He looked up at me, took one hand off the cart (my heart stopped) brushed his golden Justin Bieber locks out of his eyes and stared directly into mine. And slowly, enunciating his words, as if to really make sure I understood, he said,
“But MOM. I love DANGEROUS.”
I mean. What do you do with that?
He was 100% honest in that moment. Because he does love dangerous. It’s in him. It’s who he is. And that really got me thinking.
He was born without fear of pretty much anything.
How do I parent that without killing it?
How do I encourage him to live that part of him that loves the thrill of adventure, loves to feel alive and actually KEEP him alive?
And what about me? What about you?
Are there parts of us we’ve let die to live safe?
I’m reminded of an amazing quote by Mark Batterson:
I wonder if churches do to people what zoos do to animals.
I love the church. I bleed the church. And I’m not saying that the way the church cages people is intentional. In fact, it may be well intentioned. But too often we take people out of their natural habitat and try to tame them in the name of Christ. We try to remove the risk. We try to remove the danger. We try to remove the struggle.
Do I want to tame my son? Or teach him to use that fearless nature to live hard, live big, and love people?
I’m thinking the latter.
And I’m thinking I might need to learn a thing or two from him.
In three short years you have single-handedly turned my life upside down.
Opened my eyes.
Stretched my patience.
Expanded my heart.
Rocked my world.
The day I met you my life was completed in a way that I never knew possible.
I’ve laughed more than ever.
I’ve cried more than ever.
Learned to live on my toes.
And I wouldn’t change a thing about you.
I’ve never met anyone like you. More personality inside that tiny body than I can even comprehend.
You’ve colored our lives outside the lines.
Happy Birthday Jack, I love you and can’t wait to see what God does with you.
Did you know we met when I was twelve years old? Our long and winding story is very magical. Like, the stuff movies are made of. For real.
I have never been more certain, more sure of anything- than I am of him.
Yet, even still, marriage is the hardest thing I have ever done.
There have been mountain top moments and there have been valleys. But most of life happens somewhere in between.
The tiny moments. The quiet conversations, the bickering over stupid meaningless stuff. But this is where our story unfolds.
The everyday things that happen, well, every day.
Every day for ELEVEN years.
The ways he has loved me by letting me pick the chick flicks on our cozy couch nights. The way he makes the bed without great fanfare- I just walk in the room and smile, feeling his quiet message.
He loves me.
The way he loves saying yes to me. Little things I ask for, or express that I need. He loves making them happen.
He loves me every day.
The love comes in other ways too. When there are weeks and months that are difficult and busy and crazy and we’re just roommates- he loves me by coming home; by being there, standing by his promise to stay even when it’s not blissful or fun.
He has loved me every day.
For ELEVEN years.
And as I look back, I am grateful for the mountain top moments and I am grateful for the battle scars that remind me of what we’ve been through- but mostly, I am grateful for the everyday moments. Because these are what make my life.