Sunday, December 31, 2017


I'm on the west coast ringing in 2018.

It's strange that family and friends eastward have ushered in the new year already, but I quite like the extra hours in 2017 to remember these twelve months.

Some years seem like big years. Extra-memorable. Noteworthy.

2017 didn't seem like that when it was happening. But then I reflected on some of my favorite moments, and then it was big, memorable, and noteworthy in its own way.

I don't ever want to forget these memories:

most festive getaway
July 4th to Gulf Shores with Bethany and Christie

tried for the first time
Paddle boarding in Gulf Shores

non-fiction books i loved
Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life by Tish Harrison Warren
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick M. Lencioni
The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller

most challenging book
Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God's Work by Timothy Keller

most helpful book
The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron

(and subsequently) couldn't stop talking about
The enneagram

favorite beach-read
Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

marked off the bucket list
Traveling with Mom on her first trip overseas

not on the bucket list but did it anyway
Deep-sea fished for snapper on that fun short getaway to Gulf Shores

proudest achievement
Successfully assembled this racetrack for Little Man with Katie in Santa's Workshop on Christmas Eve

most fearful moment
Accepting a new position at work

most painful moment
Every single time I work out at Orange Theory
best view
From the top of Lincoln Cathedral in Lincoln, England

unexpected celebrity sighting
The Queen riding past Mom, Linda, and me in her Bentley as we walked along the sidewalk of Buckingham Palace 

moment that was better than i imagined
Walking the grounds of Wimbledon with Mom

performing arts high
Cirque du Soleil: Luzia in Atlanta with Bethany and Christie

felt like a kid
Watching Cirque like this for the entire performance:

favorite (and most overdue) trip to visit a friend
Kerrville, Texas, with Nikol, to visit Bost

most peaceful surroundings
Bost's family ranch in Kerrville ...

... and their family farmhouse that took my breath away

most indulgent meal
Hot and Hot Fish Club in Birmingham, for Bethany's birthday

spent my birthday
With Bethany at Gianmarco's in Birmingham

u.s. cities visited for the first time (albeit brief)
Norman, Oklahoma
San Antonio/Kerrville, Texas

biggest surprise
Crossing paths with Christopher in Terminal B of the Atlanta airport, both of us on layovers at the exact same time

best money spent
$110 to renew my passport

podcast that kept me company on my travels
Up and Vanished

podcast i binged the fastest

songs i repeated a million times
"Amen" by Natalie Taylor
"Burden" by Foy Vance

favorite albums
Tell All My Friends by Will Reagan & United Pursuit
Wounded Heart by Jeremy Adamiak 

netflix obsession
The Keepers

most magical day
December 8th, when it snowed 7 inches in Birmingham

sweetest taste
THE SNOW ICE CREAM FROM THIS SNOW (it was all-caps worthy)

No matter what time zone you find yourself in, here's hoping 2018 is a year of moments worth remembering, even if it might not feel like it while it's happening. Happy New Year!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

to carter, on the occasion of your sixth

"Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Dear Carter Christopher,

Today, you need both hands of fingers to show me how old you are. It's not a rite of passage, but it sure does remind me how fast the years pass.

It is thrilling to watch you try new things: Fishing (you didn't wanna touch it).

Riding a jet ski (you warmed up to it).

A community kids' 100-yard dash (you didn't like people watching you).

Hiking (all things are possible with Goldfish).

In your class this year, we watched you become quite the lover of learning. Your capacity to absorb and retain facts, figures, and other obscure information surprises me in nearly every conversation. Dinosaurs, construction equipment, the solar system. All of it fascinates you. I hope you never feel ashamed about being smart. Your mind is a gift.

And another thing about that mind of yours: you talk a lot about the things you think about. It's possible your parents were punked when doctors raised concern about speech delays when you were two. Because these days, you can't stop commentating, asking questions, and telling pretty terrible knock-knock jokes. (I laugh at them anyway.)

You wrapped up preschool earlier this summer. I will never know why 4- and 5-year-olds are treated like PhD recipients, with the fanfare and caps and gowns, and I'm shocked they didn't hood you. But gracious, this photo melts me.

Your exuberance is stunning, and I savor it, because if I'm honest, when kids grow up, these moments are fewer and further between. I want to remember this innocence.

Your mom and dad have things they want to remember about this year, too:

I'd describe Carter's personality with these few words:
mom: Curious, smart, loving.
dad: Ultimate snuggler, inquisitive.

Carter is happiest when he ...
mom: Is riding his bike, swimming, or wrestling with his Dad. He also loves trips to science museums and aquariums.
dad: Is riding his bike or swimming in the pool.

Carter is not-so-charming when he ...
mom: Talks back or yells at me.
dad: Talks back and kicks or hits his brother.

My proudest moment as a parent this past year was ...
mom: Conquering swimming-related fear and seeing him become a kid who loves the pool again.
dad: Seeing Carter's resiliency. It was a tough year for us and for him. But he hung in and has really done a great job transitioning to another new place. He is excited about his new house, his new school, and is magically sleeping through the night (mostly).

One time this past year when I thought I was going to lose my mind was ...
mom: When I realized that he NEVER stops talking in the car and wants an answer to everything. ALL. THE. WORDS. ALL. THE. TIME.  It is exhausting!
dad: The long trip back from Maine to Delaware. They did as well as could be expected, but there was a lot of talking, melting down, and unkind words from the backseat the last 2-3 hours of that trip.

Carter's best qualities are ...
mom: We are continually blown away by his mind. His memory is really incredible. He loves to know facts about all kinds of things, and because of that, we have all learned a lot over the past year about dinosaurs, sea creatures, bizarre animals, and outer space. We also are in awe of how kind and tender he is with small children. He loves to make them laugh and smile. And we love that he still LOVES to snuggle and be read to each night.
dad: His questioning mind, his smile, his gentleness.

My heart broke a little bit this past year when ...
mom: He began to realize how big the world was and that he is just a small part of it. He developed more fears of things. He began to suffer from separation anxiety. It was hard to see my previously brave boy struggle in a way he never had before.
dad: A few times (as I mentioned before, tough year). It was maybe midway through fellowship, and he finally broke down when I had to leave the house to go to work. He would not let me go, voicing that he didn't want me to leave, and crying uncontrollably. It was a breaking point, and he made it known. Next, we were discussing our move to Fort Mill, and he was upset and crying, then asked how long it would be before we would have to move again. Third, asking when he could see his friend, Mack, again after we moved. That hurt. We also got a tough diagnosis this year that was a gut punch. That hurt too.  

I laugh out loud when Carter ...
mom: Laughs! He has a great laugh.
dad: Laughs really hard, attempts to tell jokes, and when Luke makes him laugh.

After his sixth birthday, I'm most looking forward to ...
mom: Seeing how he likes school and what new interests he develops.
dad: Seeing him start kindergarten and find kids that will be his friends for years.

Yes, Little Man, this year was trying at times.

But you need to know that Jesus never promised an easy road, so I imagine that every year from six until ninety-six will have its share of not-so-great.

It's why in my very first letter to you, even before you were born, I confessed to being afraid of the world you were coming into. It can be a scary place, and people can be unkind.

Tomorrow, in fact, you start kindergarten in a new city, and at a school new to you. It might be scary, and you will probably meet an unkind classmate (or two or ten).

Hard days are coming, whether in kindergarten or otherwise, and when they do, I hope you'll remember this year, and that despite the challenges and fears and anxieties, you've managed to laugh, snuggle, and show resiliency.

I hope you stay close to your family who loves you the most. I hope you find humor where you can, and laugh as often as you can. I hope you choose friends who will walk the hard roads with you. I hope you always go back to Truth to ground you, and not to changing circumstances.

And I hope you keep learning, because then you will know the value of bad times, and that even hidden in all the hard, there is goodness to be found.

Little Man, watching you grow up is one of our greatest joys. Happy Sixth

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

to luke, on the occasion of your second

"It's the merry-hearted boys that make the best men!"
-- Irish proverb

Dear Luke Taylor,

Two years! I know these two are only a glimpse into the man you'll spend a lifetime becoming, and I imagine you'll surprise us more often than not. But on this birthday of yours, I can't help but wonder if we will look back one day, a long time from now, and see traces of you in these pictures, and stories, and memories of our Littlest.

Will you care about your hair?

Hard to say.

Will you impress a date with sophisticated table manners?

I don't know if the odds are in your favor, and I'd hoped for more progress by now, but I still dream big for you.

But for all the things we can't know about you as a grown-up, there is plenty to know and love about you today.

You climb everywhere. Onto tables, up playground ladders, into cabinets, out of your crib. Nowhere is off limits, including the oven. That day your mom found you sitting on the oven door was, well, a reminder to keep a very close eye on you and your curiosity. (No scars from that venture. The oven was off.)

One day after watching your scaling shenanigans, Carter named you Mr. Monkey, and I think he was onto something.

And gosh, your brother. You love him to pieces. You look for every chance to play with him, to follow him, to mimic him. Every day you wish you were walking with him into school, but settle instead for crashing the occasional big event, like inserting yourself into his class's Halloween parade. (I love that video so much.)

You fight like brothers do, but you are happiest when you're on top of with him.

He is your person. I hope that's the case for a very long time.

You still hold hands with your mom and dad, and they know to soak up these moments, because every time you march yourself boldly into your Sunday school classroom, they feel the dull ache of these early signs of self-reliance.

They adore you, the one that made them a happy family of four.

When they reflect on their second-born on his second birthday, here's what they will remember:

I'd describe Luke's personality with these few words:
mom: 90% sweet, 10% sassy.
dad:  Happy, animated, and laid-back.

Luke is happiest when he ...
mom: Is with Carter.
dad: Is wherever his big brother is.

Luke is not-so-charming when he ...
mom: Throws his food on the floor during meals.
dad: Bites Carter.

My proudest moment as Luke's mom/dad this year was ...
mom: Watching his love for his brother grow and develop. Carter is Luke's favorite person.
dad: When he said "Carter" for the first time.

My un-proudest moment as Luke's mom/dad this year was ...
mom: When he bit Carter out of anger.
dad: When the neighbor brought Luke back to the driveway after she found him in front of their house the next street over. It's never good when the neighbor says, "I know you can only watch them for so long until they go missing." Fail.

Luke's best quality is ...
mom: His love of people.
dad: His smile.

I laugh out loud when Luke ...
mom: Gives one of his huge smiles.
dad: Says "Cheese!" for a photo; when he falls asleep sitting up like an old man; and most recently, when he attempts to say his own name.

After his second birthday, I'm most looking forward to ...
mom: More language developing and being able to talk to him even more.
dad: New words, and more firsts!

Yes, yes, our hearts explode when you smile and giggle and dance and snuggle your people.

But don't get a big head, Lukey, because that's never the full story, and you can count on me to shoot straight with you when it comes to the full story about human nature. You can be demanding and stubborn and unlovely and naughty. You push the boundaries and cross into the forbidden some days. When you don't get your way, we hear it loud and clear.

Those things don't scare me though, because those, child, are merely symptoms of our total depravity, and I don't know a single grown-up who is immune.

So when I think about that day a long time from now, when we reminisce about your two-year old self, maybe you'll still rock your epic bedhead, and mercy, I pray you're more refined at the dinner table. Maybe you'll be climbing real mountains by then, and it would be dreamy if you loved your big brother as much as you do today.

But more than any of that, I hope you'll still walk yourself into church on Sundays, never far from the arm-lock of Jesus, and always grateful for His grace to keep you close. That would be celebration-worthy, indeed.

In the meantime, we'll swoon at your smile and delight in this merry heart of yours. You're going to make one of the very best men.

We love you now, and we'll love you then, Littlest. Happy Second.