Happy SECOND Birthday, Nan Louise!

 Nan Louise,

Two years with you have brought so much laughter into our hearts. You've grown and changed so much this past year, as I knew you would. I ended your one year letter saying that I knew I would look back on those pictures and think your face looked so baby-like-- and it does! And while you don't have MUCH more hair [which is definitely red], your big personality has only grown bigger and bigger by the day.

When you began this second year of life, you weren't yet walking [which didn't stop you in the least from getting what you wanted], but very quickly you started walking and by day two you were running. You are easily our most active child-- you climb and run and get into things and onto things your sisters would have never dreamed about, but that just seems to be your trademark: making sure we don't compare you and that you are your OWN person. I think often the third child can just be lumped in with the rest of them, but due to your special brand of spunk you've made sure that's been impossible for us.

We found out at your one year well-check that we needed to schedule you with an eye-doctor. You handled that appointment well, and our doctor decided to see you around age two. At your last appointment we discovered you have astigmatism and will need glasses. Since it wasn't super severe, our doctor thought we could wait one more year before getting you fitted for those, so this will be your last year without glasses. I think you're going to be so adorable in whatever glasses we find for you. If you have any issues with your vision, you haven't shown us anything in the least bit.

Nan, you make the craziest sounds! You growl and screech and even your normal talking voice is a gravelly little thing. You can mimic just about anyone-- the tone of their voice and the look on their face. When your sisters are crying you either fake cry with them, or you hug them and try and make them feel better. However, when YOU are upset and Becks tries to hug YOU, you usually shove her away rather fiercely. Generally you accept hugs from Blythe at any time.

You and Blythe have always had a special relationship, easy from the start. But you and Becks have grown so close during this school year while Blythe is away. Sometimes I find you sitting on Becks's lap, or you're playing "moms and kids" together. One of your favorite games to play together is to try and sneak up on robins in the yard and catch them. You haven't been successful yet, but I'm afraid you may be one day! Overall you seem to like animals, at least from a distance. You can spot any bird in the sky [calling most of the "eagles"], or any horse or cow in a field.

You communicate very well, and say a million and one things. You aren't super easy to understand [to others], but even if someone doesn't understand you exactly, you make sure to get your point across! When someone picks you up, if you want something, you grab their shoulder and say, "Go. Go!" or "Over there!" or "Come!" And for some reason you are really hard to resist. You also understand about 98% of what we tell you or ask you, and I think the other 2% is already just "selective listening." The other day we were at the grocery door by the cold section that is just open-- with butter, and yogurt, and juice. While I was grabbing what we needed you looked at your dad and told him to "shut the door!" You kept repeating it, waiting for him to do what you commanded, but we just stood and laughed and laughed. There was no door to be shut, but you were cold and demanded someone take some action!

You really love to be outside. You like to play in the sandbox, or ride your little bike/car, or jump on the trampoline with your sisters. You like to swing, but now refuse the baby/toddler swing and have to be in a big swing like Blythe and Becks. I'm convinced you would be this way even if you were the oldest and didn't see them-- you just like to live on the edge a little. You are doing things way before they ever did: in part because you're our third and we just kind of let you/need you to, but also because you adamantly refuse most help or assistance of any kind.

We are just getting ready to move you into a room with your sisters. You've had your own room for two years, but now your soon to be baby BROTHER is kicking you out. We are really excited to watch you become a BIG sister. You don't have a great track record for having "gentle hands", but I have learned that little ones seem to catch on pretty quickly. We are praying the same will hold true for you.

Some of your current favorites include being outside, playing in Papa's truck and crunching on his coke ice, playing with your sisters, looking at "bideos" of yourself on my phone, horses, running naked through the house, having PopPop "hold you, hold you,", suckers from the bank,  being scratched and having "Jesus" [Jesus Loves Me] sang to you, and jumping off the couch into a pile of pillows.

You stomp your foot and cross your arms and pout and holler, but you are sweet as pie inside. We are praying that you grow in patience and grace, that your little soul will know its need for our great big Savior. You have taught me a lot about that need, little one. Growing to a family of five was an adjustment, and while some things seemed to naturally expand, my capacity to be everywhere I am needed did not. And you're addition to the family has continued to teach me my natural need for a Savior is a good thing to be aware of. Many days while I read my bible at the counter, you climb up in my lap and you "pat the Bible" and we say together, "God's words are true." I pray you grow to cherish those words all the days of your life.

she saw a fly...and was "all done...foo fly"

 We still pray you are generous and that you are faithful in your relationships and actions. We pray you are attentive to others when in their presence, and that you walk with humility throughout this life. As I have ended all birthday letters, I want to end this one to you, sweet Nan, as well: We hope you understand the why behind our no-s. We hope you feel safe in the boundaries we set. We hope you feel freedom in the wide open places we leave for you. We hope you see God in our actions and in our words. We hope when you leave our little home for good and go out on your own that you'll look back on this simple little life we had together-- chaos and mistakes and messes and all-- and see that it was Grace that held us together; that you see that is was God's daily bread that provided it all.

We will fail you Nan, but know we also love you with no end and that we enjoy your presence and who God has made you is making you. Year two to three is one of my absolute favorites, and though this year will hold many many changes for our growing family, I plan on fully embracing this year with you as well!

Happy second birthday, Nanny Lou!
There is nothing you can ever do that will keep us from loving you.


A letter for my son

Blythe drew this before we knew you were a boy 
19 week ultrasound 
 Dear baby boy,

I have written and rewritten this letter in my head so many times, and every time I start in different places, so I don't really know how to start this right now. I guess I'll start here, which is where your story began:

About a year ago, your dad started talking to me about the possibility of adding another child to our family. A fourth child. The thought seemed so beyond what I was capable of and, quite honestly, I didn't know if I could do it. The physical needs the pregnancy, let alone the first year of your life, would take on my body seemed like such a heavy weight to choose to do again. But God, in His gentle kindness, like He always does, slowly and tenderly spoke to me. He reminded me that He gave me your dad and that I could trust that man with this decision; I could submit to him as he submitted to God. And more than that, God reminded me that He shows up greatly in our weaknesses, and that He would fill in the gaps where I know I am bound to fall short as a mother of four. [I wrote a little more about this in detail here].

That is where your story began, but that is not where you began.

I know we will talk about your sibling that I miscarried, so I know you will know about Jordan. [Here, Here, and Here]. But you see, you are not the fourth child in my womb. Last June I discovered I was pregnant, after releasing my fear of that to the Lord. Our family was excited and preparing, my body tired and growing once again. And then in mid-August, at 14 weeks, I found out that your sibling was no longer living in my womb. Jesus welcomed that baby, and we grieved that loss deeply. God was again doing a work in your mom and your dad.

We didn't discuss what this meant for our future for a long time-- we knew we needed to just enter the grief and walk with God and lean into the healing He was offering us so graciously and generously during that time. We named your sibling Jordan because I was drawn to the passage of the Israelites crossing the Jordan River into the promised land. The Lord stopped the flow of the river so they could pass. These same Israelites had already seen The Lord part the Red Sea. And in our grief I looked at this passage and I was learning that our God will always make a way. He is faithful, and He will get us to the other side on dry ground. So your dad and I leaned into that Truth.

After six weeks, I had a doctor's appointment to make sure I was okay physically, and though I was not "cleared" to begin trying to get pregnant again, I knew that this was the point that we could begin the conversation again. On the way home from that appointment I asked your dad his thoughts. We both agreed that this loss did not change the pull we felt God put on us to have another child. And then I said to him, "Another child will not heal or redeem this loss. Only God can do that. When we lost Jordan I wanted to know that truth deep in my soul before we considered trying again. I needed to know that I really believed Jesus is better than any child I could have [or have]. I needed to really believe that God wouldn't bring healing to us through another child, because I believed He would bring us healing simply because of who He is. And at this point, I believe that so clearly and deeply. If we never get pregnant again, or if we never try again, I know God is good and I know He has redeemed this loss in our lives."  When that loss was still fresh, I had journaled those words to God, but I knew, if I were being fully honest, that I didn't fully believe them like I did when I spoke them in the car that day.

And I want to make sure you know this part of the story fully, because I want to make sure that you know that we never once have seen you as a replacement for that loss, nor have we seen you as the redemption for that loss. You have always been separate; you are your own little life that the Lord has granted us. And whether we hold you here on earth or not, we are grateful for these months we have had with you.

You are the fifth child I have carried in my womb, and it has not felt the same as the first, I will tell you that much! It has already been hard on my body, and I have been so mind/body/soul exhausted. But we are halfway, you and me. And every time I get to see or hear your little heartbeat,  I am overwhelmed with gratitude for you: YOU, the idea of whom I was fearful to even entertain a year ago. I thought, when I heard God tell me I would grow as my family did-- that my weakness would reveal His strength-- I thought He was talking about in the day to day chaos of a family of six. And I believe He does mean that, but I know now He also meant He would fill in the gaps of my journey to that point. And so my gratitude for you comes from this place in my heart that has grown, that maybe didn't even exist, when your dad and I first started praying about having another child.

Way bigger than I was with any others at this point! 
And we just found out you are a BOY! A BOY!!! Oh my word I don't even think I've still processed that fully. Another thing I did not foresee on this crazy ride!

And now we are here, almost 20 weeks, and your dad and I cannot wait meet you. We pray we get to hold you on this earth, for what a beautiful day that will be. Your sisters are beyond excited and I know they will overwhelm you with love and kisses once you make your debut.

Thank you, sweet boy, for already bringing so much growth to this family and to my heart. Thank you for already showing us more of who God is.

The girls wanted to make pink and blue cookies the day before the ultrasound...
...and they picked which color they predicted: blue for boy, pink/reddish for girl. [To be fair, Nan just grabbed the closest one]



To my dear, sweet Blythe Kathleen: 

You are now six! SIX! This year as you transitioned from five to six we all had to take a lot of transitions with you. When you turned five it still felt like you were still this little kid. You had some toddler chubbiness clinging to you, and if I looked at you just right, I could still see my little baby Blythe. But over the year you've grown taller, you've slimmed down, and you are looking very much like a big girl to all of us now.

You learned how to swim this year, and by day three you said, "I can dive in, you know?" And then you just DID IT. You DOVE in the deep end! And that is what this year, this transition to the big number six, has felt like all along-- it has felt like you getting your feet underneath you at new things and gaining confidence with every step.

You started T-ball this summer, and you really enjoyed it. You were a good teammate, cheering on your friends, and your dad and I saw more and more just how coachable you are. We would work on an adjustment to your swing, or how you were standing in the batter's box, and at your next at bat you would march up to the tee and take your time getting everything set exactly as we had shown you. That coachability will go a long way, girl!

You started Kindergarten...and never looked back. You adore you teacher, you love to read, PE has been a favorite, and you've made so many new friends. You weren't so sure about recess in the beginning, because it was SO hot outside and you sweat SO much. But it grew on you. You've been named citizen of the month, you were voted "class president" by your classmates, and you won second place in an art poster contest. You've really started figuring out how to write you thoughts as well which is so much fun. I think the only thing you haven't mastered is focusing long enough at lunchtime to actually eat your lunch! Your first Saturday home from school I asked how you were and you replied, "Good, cause I've been busying around with all that school stuff!" You also informed your sister, "Becks, you're going to learn A LOT when you go to Kindergarten, like not to scream...and...whatever." You also think it's pretty awesome that Stacy is at school too. You told me, "Everyone at school calls Stacy Mrs. Blythe, and they don't know she's my best friend." I miss you a lot during the day-- we had spent all our days together since you were born!-- but I am grateful that you are excited to go to school every day. You are just starting school, but you have years and years of it ahead of you. May you learn and grow in big ways, but more importantly may you show kindness and grace and by joy to others. May you make friends, but more importantly may you be a friend when someone needs it most. May your little light shine brightly in the halls of your school not just this year, but always, and may God use that place for His glory and may you get to be a part of that story.

I've felt more and more this year the truth that I have so little control over your life... and you know what? I am grateful for that. I am so grateful that as you take these steps into the world further and further away from me that I don't have to feel out of control, because God is right there with you. I know He will lead you and guide you, and I pray daily that you look to Him and pursue Him with each step your feet so confidently take.

Blythe, you continually impress us with your kindness and generosity toward your little sisters. Even today, on your birthday, when you opened your gift that was a set to paint horses, you counted and saw that there were three and immediately divvied them up among the three of you. This year I have watched you grow in your relationship with Becks. You two will play for hours and hours and rarely or barely need any intervention. Obviously, things sometimes get stirred up, like the time you came to me and said, "MOM! I'm having a big fuss with Becks!" But one time I overheard you two playing and you said, "Becks, can you please get two pieces of tape for me?" Becks said she could and retrieved the tape, to which you responded, "Wow. I can't believe how polite we are being to each other!" But usually, even when your younger sisters aren't the most polite to you, you have a lot of patience and try hard to be kind to them. I also taught you this year how to get Nan out of her crib and change her diaper, and you love to do that some mornings for me. And I love it too!

This year you also had to face a few hard things, and you handled them with grace and thoughtfulness. First, you had to say goodbye to your cousins as they moved overseas to follow their calling. We had been able to spend a couple of weeks with them, and you have always had a special bond, especially with Ellie. But you said goodbye and you prayed for them and you continue to ask questions about them and show an interest in them. It was a big and tough goodbye for someone your age. And shortly after they left, you had another tough goodbye: your baby brother or sister went to heaven. You had been so excited for this little life, already looking forward to welcoming him or her into our home. And yet, when your dad and I told you, you asked a couple of questions, and accepted it. You bring baby Jordan back up from time to time, and your so kind in how you speak of your sibling. I was very proud of the way you handled this situation as well.

 You still love to draw. You are constantly drawing or creating something. You're imagination blows me away. And another huge love for you this year was HORSES! Horse everything for you! You think we should actually get a horse, but so far I've been able to talk you out of that. You are playing horses all the time with your sisters, and I find lead ropes and apple cores around the house and I know it's been a good day of horse play. Another thing you still love is your friend, Torri, as well. At Christmas you got a set of friendship necklaces from Nana, and you chose to give one of them her. For your birthday when I asked what you wanted to do, at first you said you wanted to go to Silver Dollar City, but when that wouldn't work you decided you wanted Torri to come to our house and have a game night with you. You said that would "be EVEN BETTER than Silver Dollar City." And of course, Torri agreed.

Your little mind is always turning, and you never miss a beat even if you don't know something exactly. [Example: you asked me for the "fly swopper"]. One of my favorite examples of this this year was at Thanksgiving when I overheard you with your cousin George [almost 5]. The topic of Indians came up and George insisted they weren't real. But you said, "Yes! Indians invented Thanksgiving!" George, also not missing a beat, quickly said, "No! Jesus did." And in true Blythe fashion you responded, "Yes, The Indians, the pilgrims, AND Jesus." You also got a diary this year, and your first entry was, "I stortid as a baby in the hospitol and Mommey had me on March 23 and I grow up from a baby to a kid and I trnd 1 2 3 4 5 and 6."

 Blythe, your dad sings each of you girls a little diddy that he made up specifically for you, and as you know yours says, "Blythe Kathleen, she's my beautiful, wonderful, silliest girl. Anyone can see that this girl is so sweet, cute from head to feet. She's my beautiful, wonderful, silliest girl." And you really are all of those things to us. We absolutely love how silly you can be. You've always had a great sense of humor, and it only continues to grow as you get older.

Since you were being knit together in my womb we have prayed four traits over you: joyfulness, compassion, modesty, and hospitality. We continue to see these grow more and more in you. Just tonight I was reading you the book, "The Oak in the Acorn." In that book the "Mom" oak tree tells the little acorn, who is scared and timid to fall away from the branch of his mother, "Inside of you is a great oak. Just be the tree God made you to be." And with each birthday I know we are getting closer and closer to that break from the branch. You are six now, and I already see traits that God is developing in you that He will use to do great things with you are 16, and 26, and 36. Lean into Him, Blythe. Be the girl that He made you to be.

We love you so deeply and so abundantly, and just know that our love pales in comparison to our great Father's love for you. May you know your worth and identity in Him always. We will fail you as parents because we are broken and sinful, too, but He is always trustworthy, always True, and always faithful. And He is pursuing you, sweet Blythe. Like I have said in all my letters to you:  we hope you understand the why behind our no-s. We hope you feel safe in the boundaries we set. We hope you feel freedom in the wide open places we leave for you. We hope you see God in our actions and in our words. We hope when you leave our little home for good and go out on your own that you'll look back on this simple little life we had together-- chaos and mistakes and messes and all-- and see that it was Grace that held us together; that you see that it was God's daily bread that provided it all.

Blythe, you are a rare one in this world in all the best and most beautiful ways.

Happy birthday, Blythe Kathleen! There is nothing you can ever do that will make us stop loving you.