Monday, August 20, 2018

to carter, on the occasion of your seventh

"The more I wonder, the more I love."
-- Alice Walker, The Color Purple

Dear Carter Christopher,

If there is a number that seems like a threshold unlike others before now, seven might be it. Traces of baby continue to be cast off, and glimpses of boyhood are peeking through.

Your hair is still light and laced with a touch of strawberry, and those hip glasses of yours still frame the open windows to your soul, but chubby cheeks and baby belly are nowhere to be found.

Your heart is still tender and sensitive, and the introvert in me loves it so much that you request time by yourself, to be away from Lukey's wild puppy little-brother love, or to sit in the quiet after a noisy, overstimulated day at school.

That one's still got a death grip bro-crush on you. I'm not sure he'll ever get over it.

Meanwhile, your mind is in overdrive most of the time, learning, imagining, questioning, considering. Not long ago, you mentioned that you would forgo marriage one day, so you and Lukey could "be like the Wright Brothers and invent things instead."

#lifegoals, I say.

You're emerging as this wonderful mix of sensitive and cerebral, of thoughtful and thinking, of creative and curious. I hope you always manage to be both/and.

Some days, your mom and dad wonder if they'll survive this lifelong parenting gig, but I want you to know they are so good at it, and so fully present with you, even when they feel like there isn't an ounce of energy left.

Here are a few thoughts they have about this past year:

I'd describe Carter's personality with these few words:
mom: Soooo curious, friendly, creative, sweet.
dad: Inquisitive, imaginative, tender-hearted.

Carter is happiest when he ...
mom: Is wrestling with his dad and brother, exploring in nature, or creating a new invention.
dad: Is snuggling with his momma.

Carter is not-so-charming when he ...
mom: Fights with his brother!
dad: Hits, kicks, and teases his brother.

My proudest moment as a parent this past year was ...
mom: Watching how proud he was of himself when he passed his swim level. This was huge because just 3 years ago, he fell in water over his head and subsequently was terribly fearful of swimming for a long time after. Through private swim lessons, aquatic PT, and lots more group lessons he has overcome all his fear and loves the pool. He now is excited to learn butterfly!
dad: Finding Carter helping Luke get his shoes on completely on his own. Seeing little glimpses of compassion and helpfulness is insanely encouraging.

(Those goggles are my favorite.)

Carter's best qualities are ...
mom: His mind and his heart. He is very curious and eager to learn all the things. He holds onto information in a way that is beyond amazing. He is loving to me in such a sweet way. He still will hold my hand, ask to snuggle, and lately he has been asking for mommy/Carter talk time. He has a gentle and sensitive heart.
dad: His laugh, his dance moves, and his desire to be loved.

My heart broke a little bit this past year when ...
mom: He came home from school and told me they had a drill where they hid in the closet from bad guys. I don't know how to talk to him about the world we live in without scaring him terribly. Being a parent these days is not for the faint of heart.
dad: He struggled to get in the door to school in the mornings. 

The hardest question Carter asked me/us this year was ...
mom: Are you going to die someday? Am I going to die? This year had some really sad moments of loss. He did not take them lightly. It was painful to watch him process the hard/scary parts of life and death.
dad: Is Satan around us all the time? Does everyone die? What if Jesus doesn't have time for me? Take your pick.

After his seventh birthday, I'm most looking forward to ...
mom: All the new things he will teach me. Inevitably, he asks me questions each day I don't know the answer to and have to look up. His mind is always working. I'm just trying to keep up.
dad: Seeing him make a solid friend or two that he can bond with.

This year has passed like a freight train, fast and sometimes thundering, because when a tender heart like yours begins to contemplate this broken world, there's a collision of sorts. You're wondering why in the world things here just don't make sense sometimes.

Recently I heard a chaplain of a children's hospital teach about ministering to the patients under his spiritual care. His number one piece of advice was to wonder aloud with them.

Rather than ask questions that could be awkward, or offer trite platitudes, he said to genuinely consider, I wonder how you must be feeling ... Or with the parents, I wonder how you're processing ...

This counsel resonated with me, because when we wonder, we don't have answers; all we have are the humility to consider someone or something outside ourselves, and the hopeful possibility to connect.

For your seventh birthday, I'm asking the Lord to take this mind of yours that wonders about inventions, and creation, and hard truths, and lead it to also wonder more about Jesus, and who he is, and why he loves you to pieces.

And I hope that when you wonder, you'll come to believe what's really true:

There is death, but it has lost its sting to a King who has conquered it.
There is an enemy, but he's been defeated by a victorious Warrior.
Our hearts can hurt, but we have hope in eternal healing.
In our times of fear and loneliness, there is a Father who's right there, and will not leave. Ever.

This is the kind of wonder that'll change your world. I want that for you.

Happy Seventh, Little Man. We love watching you wonder.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

to luke, on the occasion of your third

"A child's life is like a piece of paper on which every person leaves a mark."
-- Chinese Proverb 

Dear Luke Taylor,

1,095. That's the number of days we've known and loved you, and it means that today, you turn three.

Your world exploded this year in many ways, and it's a thrill to watch you navigate it. You moved to a new house in a new city, and started school, and you have embraced all things new.

A year ago, you were marching into Sunday School like a boss. Turns out, it was prophetic of how bravely you'd dive into preschool. Your mom said for months leading up to that day, He's ready. And she was so right. You love "your school," you love trying new things, and you love meeting new people.

It was like that backpack and lunch box gave you mad superpowers.
You wear yourself out some days.

It's hard being three.

But it's also hard being stubborn. You have a tiny bit of a hard head. One morning, you demanded a fifth snack before lunch cheese stick and when you were denied, you kicked the garbage can in contempt. It sure wasn't graceful, but it was darn funny. You were clear, if nothing else.

It may drive your parents crazy some days, but I'm trusting that one day this will of yours is harnessed and used for good.

Your hard head is rivaled only by your mischievous smile.

I cannot imagine all that you're thinking.

You still love your brother like mad, and you desperately want to pretend like his introvert boundaries just don't exist. You love him so.

Speaking of loving, your mom and dad are tickled at watching you grow up, and here are a few things they will remember about this year:

I'd describe Luke's personality with these few words:
mom: Shy (when not with Carter), loving, sassy, opinionated (the boy knows what he likes and what he doesn't!), lover of books!
dad: Wide open, playful, fearless.

Luke is happiest when he ...
mom: Is with Carter, or when he sees his dad is home from work.
dad: Is with his brother.

Luke is not-so-charming when he ...
mom: Spits his drinks all over the floor on purpose.
dad: Tells you he's not talking to you, but talking to Carter instead.

My proudest moment as Luke's mom/dad this year was ...
mom: How brave he was starting school. He is not afraid to try new things. I admire that.
dad: Watching a confident and proud Luke walk into his first day of preschool with book bag on his back, and lunch box in his hand. Big smile.

Luke's best quality is ...
mom: How much he loves his family. He often tells me he misses his dad and Carter during the day, and he greets them both with a huge hug when they are reunited.
dad: His playfulness.

I laugh out loud when Luke ...
mom: Says, "Carter I not talking to you - I talking to Daddy!" at the dinner table with such sass and attitude. He wants to make sure we hear him!
dad: Decides to put on his bike helmet, foregoes the bike, and just runs around instead.

After his third birthday, I'm most looking forward to ...
mom: Watching him continue to make friends at school and develop his own interests.
dad: Poops on the potty where poop actually goes in the potty.

When I think about you on your third birthday, and about how this childhood of yours is like a piece of paper, I can't help but wonder about all the people leaving their marks.

For now, you're tucked safely inside a family who snuggles with you, wrestles with you, plays with you, FaceTimes with you, disciplines you, teaches you, and models for you the very best they know how. Mercifully, you've been guarded well, harbored from danger and hard things and suffering.

It won't always be this way -- it's just how this world of ours is -- and in the natural order of life, as your own borders stretch and expand, new friends and teachers and coaches and neighbors will begin to leave all sorts of impressions.

It's been said that a person is the average of the five people with whom you spend the most time. Whether or not that's true, I want you to know that I'm asking the Father to surround you with people your whole life who are kind, compassionate, funny, generous, and uplifting.

Trust me, it would be one of the very best gifts you'll ever know.

1,095. That's the number of days we've known and loved you, and it means that today you turn three.

Happy Third, Littlest. We love watching your canvas become a masterpiece.

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!