Bryson’s 9th Birthday Letter

Bryson Alexander,

I was only five weeks pregnant when we told Grandma and Grandpa that you were on your way.  They were both so excited! No sooner had I gotten the word “pregnant” out of my mouth did Grandpa started talking about his big love for his grandson.  He just knew you were a boy.  There were no doubts in his mind that you were the answer to his prayers.

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After 9 months of Grandpa constantly feeding me so his grandson would be born big and strong, you made your appearance.  You were almost 9 pounds! That made him super proud.  You guys were best buds instantly.  Joined at the hip.  Meant to be.  All the cliches.  Every one.  All true.  Bryson, you were born into so much love.  I know right now you’re young enough to think our family is the norm.  But one day you will understand what a blessing it is to be apart of a family that cares for each other the way our family does.   It is rare.

 

I remember those moments.  I remember Grandpa rocking you to sleep in his blue recliner.  I remember him walking hand in hand with you as you toddled along.  I remember you guys playing at the park.  I can still see it.  You tell me all the time that you miss those moments.  I miss those moments for you.  I wish I could make a million more of those moments possible.  I promise to help you remember them.  And I promise you that that kind of love never just disappears.  Love lives on, sweet boy.

You are going into another year as a very loved little boy.  And you give love away just as well as you receive it.  You are full of compassion and kindness.  You are always thinking.   Unless a conversation pertains to video games, you are often quiet.  But when Daddy and I sit you down and ask you about your thoughts, you blow us away.  You’re so insightful.  You think through hard things with great courage.  You speak about the needs of those around us and how we can help fill them with such conviction.  You speak of your dreams to pastor a church with enough property that you can build tiny homes for the homeless members of your church to live.  It is inspiring to watch you dream.  Keep dreaming.

Daddy always says that you look just like him, but your personality is just like me. And he’s right.  The older you get the more you look like your handsome daddy.  Be proud of that.  He’s a good man to look like.  But you are analytical, you have big feelings, and you need time to yourself to process things.  That is just like Mommy.  The truth is, though, you are so much more brave at age 9 than I was.  I admire that deeply.  May your courage and compassion grow with each birthday you have.

Every parent believes their child will grow up to be  a world-changer.  I’m no different.  The thing is, Bryson, if you never accomplish another thing, you have already changed my world for the better.  You’ve changed daddy’s world for the better.  You will be a world-changer, but you also already are.  Thank you for your kindness, for your sweetness, for your strength and for your love.  As a Mommy, I am so grateful that I get to call you son.  And as a daughter to your Grandpa, I am so grateful for the joy you’ve brought to his life.  I’m so thankful for the bond you two have shared.

Thank you for being who you are, Bryson.  I love you higher than the sky and deeper than the sea.  Happy Birthday, buddy.

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Jordyn’s 7th Birthday Letter

Jordy,

We made a very serious pact when you turned four that you wouldn’t get any bigger than you already had.  Enough was enough.  And, somehow, we have found ourselves here.  In four short days, you, my love, are turning seven! Because you are the baby in our home, it is extra hard to let  you go and grow.  You, sweet girl, are one of the best surprises this family has ever received.

In just a week, Jordyn, you will officially be a 2nd grader.  I remember being a 2nd grader, too.  I remember best friends, kids’ choir, trips to the library.  I remember getting to class in a hurry so I could tell my teacher I got baptized.  I remember having my first real argument with a friend- the way hot tears streamed down my face when she stomped on a pretzel in the hallway and announced that was our friendship.  (Don’t worry Jord, we were BFFs again before the day was over.  Girls are complicated.  You’ll see.)  I can’t believe that you are old enough now to have your very own experiences.  Experiences that you may remember when you’re an adult.  I want you to have so many happy memories to look back on.  I cringe when I think of the sad memories you might have, too.  I want so much to give you all of the good things and none of the bad.  Still, I know how important it is to experience both.

There are so many conflicting feelings in motherhood.  Everything inside of me wants to hold on so tight.  I want to keep you close to me.  Keep you safe.  Keep your ears full of kind words only.  Keep your heart unbroken.  And yet, I let you go.  Because I have to.  Because it’s my job to.  Because I would be failing you if I didn’t.  Because there is someone amazing God is growing you into and I will not get in the way of that.  It’s the strangest thing to feel sad in the letting go and, at the same time, to be full of such pride in watching how strong and independent you are becoming.  I love every part of who you are becoming.  I still can’t believe I get to be your mommy.

Jordyn, Daddy and I found out that we were expecting you during a hard season of our lives.  It was so scary to have two toddlers, to find out that we were moving to a state where we didn’t know a single person, and to have to figure out how to do life without our extended family right up the street.  It was even harder to do that with morning sickness.  But you were the most precious gift from God.  Your sweet face made all of that other stuff seem small.  You and your sister and brother were the reason why we were determined to figure out the new life we had been thrown into so quickly.  Seven years ago you were born.  And these seven years have been so much richer because you have been in them.  When you were born, you made every single step  we took just a little brighter.

You still do that. 

You make every sweet moment sweeter.  You make hard moments sting a little less.  And not just for me and Daddy, but for so many other people, too.  You are so good at being compassionate.  You give out love like you have an endless supply of it.  Keep doing that, okay?  If all you accomplish in this life is loving God and loving others well, I will be the proudest mommy ever.  I already am.  No one can convince me otherwise.  Daddy and I love you higher than the sky and deeper than the sea, Jordyn Elizabeth.  Happy Birthday.DSC_5154-2

Layla’s 9th Birthday Letter

Layla Jean turns NINE on Monday!! Time for her annual birthday letter!

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My sweet Layla,

Nine.  Years.  Old.  WHAT??!  How is that even possible?  It is hard to wrap my brain around the fact that nine is halfway to eighteen.  I know how quickly the first nine years went by.  How do I slow down the second half?  It’s like I woke up one morning and you suddenly went from infant to big kid. From Sesame Street to Cupcake Wars.  From rocking you to sleep every night to telling you, “One more chapter, and then lights out!”  Will I one day wake up and suddenly find that you’ve gone from big kid to teenager?  How quickly will you transform?  Am I going to close my eyes for a moment and then open them to find you getting ready for prom?  How do I make sure I’m appreciating each moment God gives me with you?  I don’t know.  But I will continue to beg the Lord to help me savor every second, every season.  I hope you know, even when time escapes us, that I am so, so grateful for my days with you.

Layla, you are doing so great!  When you were a toddler you had so many words.  You would start talking and I would think to myself, “What is she going to be like when she gets older?  Who is that baby girl going to become?”  And now you are a child and I get to see who you are becoming.  I am so impressed.  You love science projects and crafts.  You have a hunger for reading.  You love Jesus and your family passionately.  You sing from your soul. You have the best laugh.  You are unique.  When we go to the library, Jordyn searches high and low for unicorn books, Bryson makes a beeline to the Sonic comics and stays there, but you….you are all over the place in the very best way.  I love to watch you go.  One moment you’re lost in a Judy Blume book and the next you’re reading about Harriet Tubman.  Oh, it makes my heart so happy.  Recently, you watched a history video about Rosa Parks and spent the rest of the evening reciting facts about segregation and Jim Crow.  You are only nine.  But you understand things I would have never expected a nine-year-old to comprehend.  Your hunger for knowledge is insatiable and I hope that never changes.

In your reading about activism, and in your every day life, you’ve learned a lot this year about bravery.  You did a project for school on Ida B. Wells and I watched you awaken to the idea that we can stand up for what is right, even if it is unpopular.  Even if it is hard.  Even if we are all alone in the standing.  As a young child, you learn to avoid consequences by following the rules.  When you get older, rule-following becomes more nuanced.  You are learning that people have had to break the rules when those rules were unjust.  You have learned that people have faced consequences for doing so.  You have learned that sometimes you have to stand up despite the consequence.  That being silent about unjust things for the sake of avoiding consequence is wrong.  I am still learning those things, too.  We can learn them together.  It is so, so important.  The world will need more of that kind of brave.  The kind of brave that I see growing inside of you every single day.  I promise to help you grow that bravery.

I promise to support you when you stand up for what is right.  I promise not to teach you how to be safe and quiet and comfortable.  I promise to teach you to be bold and fearless and strong enough to stand for what is right, even when the whole world tells you to sit down.  I promise to stand beside you.

Layla, you are nine.  And just like you have quickly grown from infant to toddler to child, you will inevitably grow from child to teenager to adult.  But I will be here for every part of it, baby.  I will be in your corner.  Ready to lead the way when I need to, ready to step back when I need to do that, too.  You are going to be amazing.  You already are.

Happy Birthday, Layla.  I love you with my whole heart.

Mommy

 

 

 

 

Bryson’s 8th Birthday Letter

Oh Bryson. How did this happen?! You’re so big now!

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I can’t even stand it! In one week you’ll be an 8-year-old and you are growing at a rate that far exceeds my ability to memorize every moment. But I wish I could. Because every moment with you is a gift. You are a gift, bud. Here are some things I want to make sure I don’t forget about your almost 8-year-old self:

-Fridays are your favorite day of the week. Mostly because of your love for video games. You aren’t allowed to play video games on school nights. But on “Fun Fridays” as we’ve begun to call them, we pick up a fun treat on the way home for school and then you get to turn on your Xbox and have at it! It makes you so happy. You’re very gracious about explaining how to play when Mommy grabs a controller and you are good at sharing the games with your sisters, too. You’ve even beat Daddy a couple times! And not even because he let you! You’re just getting really good!

-You like to protect people. Your big sister has come home from school a few times this year feeling frustrated. When you hear that someone has hurt Layla’s feelings, it is unacceptable to you. You say encouraging things to her and then every. single. time. you tell her you want to talk to the people giving her trouble. She gets flustered and says “Bryson, relax, I’ve got  this!” and you say “I’m your brother. I’m not going to let anyone hurt you. You tell me if they don’t stop and I’m going to talk to them, Layla!” You are gentle with Jordyn because you recognize she is smaller than you. You use your quiet happy voice when we are taking care of babies. When we cross the street you put your hand on my back and say you’re “keeping an eye” on me.  It comes naturally to you to look after others. That makes my heart so full. The world needs more compassion and compassion just flows out of you. I pray that trait will strengthen and grow the older you get.

-You are brave. When I was your age, I would get nervous when I had to talk to adults.  Daddy was the same way. But not you. The other day at Target you realized someone dropped an ID card on the floor. I told you we should turn it in. You said “I’ll take care of it!” and then walked right up to the woman working in the pharmacy and said “Excuse me, ma’am. I found this card on the floor. Someone lost it. May I give it to you?” and she chuckled at such grown up words coming out of such a little boy. I admire your confidence.

-You are bright. Sometimes you tell me about stories in the Bible that I had no idea you had even read. You come home from school and complete your homework with ease. You race through your work because it all seems to click so well and we are constantly reminding you to slow down when your brain works faster than your pencil. You are learning so much and starting to have your own ideas and thoughts. Never stop sharing them with me. I love listening to you.

-You are still my baby. And I’m thankful for that. You still love hugs and kisses. You aren’t yet awkward about showing affection in front of your friends. I know that won’t last forever, so I am savoring it. A couple of months ago I told you that when you were a baby there was a song that would put you to sleep if I rocked you and sang it quietly. So now, at bedtime, you’ll occasionally ask me if I can sing it to you again. I kneel down at your bed and you grab my hand and put it on your head. I pet your hair and sing you the same song I sang all those years ago. Without fail your eyes get heavy and your arms go limp. If I look hard enough, I can still see the little baby boy I rocked in my arms in the sleepy face of the great big boy that you’ve become. I treasure that.

-You have big dreams. You don’t just say you want to be a Pastor when you grow up. You talk about how your church will have a Lego center for the kids to build anything they want. And there will be a wrestling center close by so that you can still find time to be a pro-wrestler on the side. And if someone needs a place to stay, they can sleep at your church. And you will feed them. And no one will be allowed to say mean things to each other. Those are awesome dreams to have, sweetheart.

Bryson, I love you. But I also like you so, so much. Of course as your Mommy I’m proud of your achievements, but that pride dims in comparison to what I feel when I think about your character and who you are becoming as a person. I pray that more than being bright or successful or safe in your life choices that you will be brave. That you will do bold things without fear. That you will continue to stand up for what is right. That you will always remember that you are so richly blessed so that you may richly bless others in return. That you will love and serve others even when it comes at a high cost. And listen, I realize I’m asking you to live a sacrificial life when as your Mommy my gut instinct is to want to beg God to give you all the things and make your life easy and safe. But the narrow way is better, bud. Trust me on this one. And I promise you’ll never walk it alone. I will never stop being overwhelmed with gratitude that I get to walk with you. Daddy and I love you so much, Bryson. Happy Birthday!

Jordyn’s 6th Birthday Letter

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Sweet Jordyn-

In one week you are turning 6. That means this is the 6th time I’ve sat at the computer to write a birthday letter for you. The 6th time I’ve sat in silence and thought about another year that has quickly gone by. I also have 8 birthday letters for your sister and 7 birthday letters for your brother under my belt. Sometimes I get nervous I will sound repetitive. When these letters are printed and bound for you to keep, will they all sound the same?

I know I go on and on about my love for you, but I just love you so very much. I write a lot about how quickly you are growing and how much you have changed. That’s a common theme. But baby, it’s every Mommy’s common theme. The days are long, the years are short. Don’t blink. Time flies. Every tired mama with bags under her eyes and fierce love bursting in her heart knows these things. Feels these things. So you’ll hear them from me now and one day, Lord willing, I will get to hear you repeat these same motherhood mantras when you are a mommy. Some day, a long time from now, you will hold your crying baby close against your chest and rock back and forth in a foggy haze from sleep deprivation. Your hair will be unwashed and your shirt covered in spit up and I am certain I will think that you have never been more beautiful. When I watch you I will close my eyes and remember the days that I held you just the same. You will cry because it is so hard and smile because it is so incredible and then you will understand exactly how I feel about you.

Joyful- that’s the word I think of when I consider who you are becoming. I’ve told you many stories about what a happy baby you were. You are still so happy. What I love most about jordy (6)your joy is that you so freely share it with others. You go out of your way to make people feel the joy that you feel. Your laughter is contagious. Your smile starts on the inside of your sweet self and it radiates, making everything brighter. What I admire most about your joy is that it exists even alongside other feelings. It’s not that you’re never afraid. You openly share that sometimes things make you feel scared. But you trust us. And you trust God. And that makes you brave. It’s not that you’re unaware that the world can be hard. You’ve learned this year that sometimes cancer gets worse instead of better, that sometimes bad things happen to people even if they are kind or helpful. You have grieved those truths that are new to you in all the ways a child grieves. I have held you while you cried and cried along with you because I can’t protect you from sadness. But you have not allowed anything to steal your joy. And you are a reminder to Mommy that we can be sad about hard things and still laugh and play and enjoy the beauty that exists all around us. You are so good at finding beauty everywhere. It’s part of what makes YOU so beautiful. Sweet girl, the joy of the Lord is our strength. It is what keeps us moving forward when the world gets dark. And you have so much joy. So you are strong. Don’t forget that.

Jordyn, on your 6th birthday I want you to know that I love you. That I’m so proud of who you are becoming. And even though you are getting older and I can’t shield you from the difficult things that you used to be too young to understand, I am in your corner. I am for you. I am always praying for you, I am always ready to listen. And if you ever need reminding-I am here to assure you that the joy you possess is beautiful and strong and brave. And it is worth fighting to hold on to. I thank God for the joy He has given you and I thank Him for the joy I have simply because I get to be your Mommy. Daddy and I love you so much, our unicorn loving-belly laughing-ballerina spinning-sweet, sweet girl.

Love, Mommy

 

 

 

Layla’s 8th Birthday Letter

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I know I say it every year, but I cannot believe it’s already time to write another birthday letter. The days REALLY are long but the years REALLY are short. Miss Layla will turn 8 on June 26th…this is her EIGHTH birthday letter, you guys. I’m not old enough to have an eight year old! Just, whatever!! It’s not even right!

 

 

 

Sweet Layla-

What a year this has been! We have watched you grow in so many ways! You are reading at a 4th grade level and have a passion for books. You love coming home from school with facts and will gladly share all the details of your day. You are inquisitive and have a healthy hunger for learning new things. I hope you will always love to learn. Where it is a challenge for you to keep focus and stay calm, you have a determination that more than makes up for it. Math was tough for you this year. As soon as you got a hold on one topic, it was time to move on to the next and you spent many nights frustrated. But you did. not. give. up. And your hard work paid off when you brought home an award for making straight A’s the last 9 weeks. Can I let you in on a secret though? Had you brought home straight C’s this year, Daddy and I STILL would have been proud because we watched how hard you worked. It will always be effort over achievement. Remember that.

Your school accomplishments are great, but what means more is the personal growth you have made. You made the big decision to be baptized and bravely stood before the church and told of your love for Jesus. You have learned to manage some of your fears and anxieties through prayer and through worship. It makes my heart so happy to see who you are becoming. We have challenged you by sharing some of the hard things that are happening and you have impressed us over and over again with your bravery, and with your joy. Your resilience so beautifully reflects your big faith in God.

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Layla, at 8-years-old you are old enough to figure out when things aren’t quite right, but still young enough that you’re not always able to figure out WHY things aren’t right. I know that gets confusing. It won’t always be that way. And when you ARE always able to discern what’s going on there will be a part of Mommy that’s relieved and a part of Mommy that is super sad that I can’t protect you from how dark the world gets sometimes. But I know you’ll be able to handle it. I know God will equip you.

There is a quote that says “A small light can do a great deal in a dark place.” Layla baby, YOU are that small light.

You know how you can light birthday candles with all the lights on in the kitchen and it really doesn’t look like much? But then you shut off all the lights and those little tiny flames are enough to make the whole room glow? Like the candles are at their best when it’s darkest? Sweetheart, you are JUST like that. When the world is at it’s darkest your joy is that much more beautiful. Your shine is that much more intense, that much more needed, that much more appreciated. Always, always be that light. Because it’s a dark world sometimes. There are hard things happening all around us. But you keep choosing love. Keep choosing joy. Be the light our world so badly needs. It might seem small, but it is enough. And it is beautiful. You, my love, are so, SO beautiful.

Layla, on your 8th birthday I want you to know I see you. I see the way you love Jesus and the way you love others. I see your diligence. I see your joy. And I am SO proud of what I see. I love you very much and am more grateful every single day that God let me be your Mommy. Happy Birthday, sweet girl.

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Bryson’s 7th Birthday Letter

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It’s pretty typical that once November comes around I find myself looking through old photos. My mind drifts back to November 8, 2008- a 4 month old in one arm, newborn in the other. Experiencing adoption and giving birth all at the same time for the very first time. What a whirlwind! It doesn’t matter how often I reminisce, I’m always shocked by how tiny you were and how quickly you grew.

Bryson's Birth (207)I remember this baby. I remember not believing that you were mine to keep. I remember how strange it was to recognize that you did in fact come from me…that every kick and push I felt in my womb matched the way you stretched and moved your tiny infant body. I knew you. And you knew me. I would watch you and my heart would pound with admiration…my son…there is nothing like a mother’s love for her son. I still feel my heart pound with admiration at the thought of you, sweet boy.

Did you know that the moment he found out I was pregnant, Grandpa said you were a boy? He said he just knew it. And we believed him! So the dreaming about what it would mean to have a son started early! I imagined all the legos, all the horseplay, all the stinky dirty goodness…and those things are now a reality. Every bit of good as I imagined, too! But YOU…who you are as a person…you are so much more than I imagined.

I hoped that you would love Jesus. But when I catch you up past your bedtime reading your Bible…when you see a “lost dog” poster on the side of the road and your first reaction is to pray with conviction that God will help that family find their dog and help the dog not to be afraid…when we are listening to worship music in the car and I look in my rear view mirror and see you with your eyes squeezed shut singing hard and whole-heartedly to no one else but the Lord…your love for Him amazes me.

I hoped that you would love others. But when I see you share your toys with Safe Families kids…when I watch you compliment and praise those around you…the way you are so intuitive about how people are feeling and the way you long to cheer them up…when you bear hug Daddy for no reason or grab my hand in a store…your love for others amazes me.

DSC_0224You are smart, you are empathetic, you are funny and strong and brave. Every day you move a little further away from being the baby who slept peacefully in my arms and move a little closer to being an adult who will no doubt make the world better. It is the hardest thing to let go of that little baby but the most exciting thing to watch God’s plan for your life unfold. Happy 7th birthday, sweet boy! Mommy and Daddy love you SO very much!!