It seems I'm on a roll. This blogging might actually catch on this time...maybe. I try not to pressure myself but then that leads to, well...no pressure. A little goal is good every now and then and maybe if I can set a goal of a post a week, well, let's not get ahead of ourselves. I think I'll just enjoy it while it lasts instead.
Today's post will be four notes to my children (my three sons and my step-daughter). They will be written in the order of their birth first to Ashlee, then Cal, DJ and last Ephram. Without further ado...
It's funny, when I first met you I had all these ideas about what I thought our relationship should be like. It's such an immature thought really. How could I possibly know what it would be like to know someone I didn't know. I've learned that with my "non-step" kids as our relationships have changed day by day from the moment they were born. Yet, for some reason, with you, I thought I knew exactly what you needed in a step mom. I was so wrong.
I don't have to tell you that I tried to parent you too much. You were there, you remember. I also don't have to tell you that I thought I knew how your dad should parent you, I'll bet you remember that too. I knew everything ;). What I didn't know, or who rather, was you.
I am so glad I have gotten to know you instead of continuing to try to make our relationship fit into my mold. I have come to know an incredible young woman with big dreams and a generous heart. It inspires me to see how deeply you love your family and friends. You are compassionate, almost to a fault. Sometimes you forget to protect yourself and I hate seeing you get hurt because of that.
I can't tell you enough how much it means to me that you embraced Cal and DJ as your brothers from the very beginning. It was such joy to see the three of you make jokes and get along and make a real attempt to be friends. When you visit, it thrills my heart that the three of you stay up all night talking, even if I am dying to know what you are talking about.
You have always had a special love for children. You are amazing with them. It's like you were born knowing how to make each child feel special just by being around them. This is a gift that has been amazing to watch you use with your baby brother Ephram. I am always blessed to see that though there are many miles between the two of you, love has not been lost over that distance. You have made yourself very special to him and I know that the relationship he has with you is one that he will value for his entire life.
I want you to know what it has meant to me, too, to have a relationship with you. For starters, I am so excited every time you come because when you are here, I am not the only girl in the house. You bring the pink back into my life. I always wanted a daughter and I thought I wanted one to be able to dress and fix her hair. I didn't get any of that with you. You were way beyond anyone trying to dress you when we met. What I did get though, was much more. I had to learn to love a daughter who was already forming her own opinions about the world. I had to learn to love a daughter who didn't always agree with me. I had to learn to love you for who you are and to enjoy the times when you have let me in. I am so grateful for knowing you and for being allowed to be a part of your life, no matter how small or infrequent our visits are, I am always glad you were here.
I hope that as you grow and mature I can still be a source of friendship for you. I hope that I can be a good listener and, when you ask, I hope I can be a godly advisor. I pray that my words to you point you to Jesus and remind you that you are loved. If I could direct your path so you would do all the things I thought you should do, I probably would. But, that wouldn't be the journey God has for you. I want to be an encourager to you on that journey, your journey, wherever that takes you.
Most of all I want to thank you for having an open heart towards me. I am a better person for the relationship we have and I can't imagine what it would be like if we hadn't grown. It's been amazing to know you and I can't wait to see what God has for you in your life.
My firstborn. My eldest son. I can't say enough how much I love you. I should stop there because words are cheap, but humor me if you will. I have some things I'd like to share with you.
When you were born there was no way I could have begun to prepare myself for what I would feel when it came time for you to leave our home. It wasn't even in my thinking to look that far ahead. It was as if that moment would never come, except that it did.
I was so young when you were born but so determined to do everything right. I had no idea that I couldn't have even guessed what that might mean. I wanted the best for you but unfortunately didn't want the best for myself, as a result of that, you had to live through much immaturity on my part and some reckless choices along the way. I cannot apologize enough for that. You didn't get the childhood you deserved and I am a big part of that.
Nevertheless, you have grown into an amazing young person on his way to being a godly man. I see in you the desire to live and grow and love people along the way. I love to watch the way you give yourself to knowing people and your life experiences have taught you not to judge when they could have made you bitter. Sometimes I even want you to be tougher on those around you because that is what I would do, but, you are like you, not me. I am grateful for that.
When you decided to move out I was so sad to see you go. You bring life into our family and your presence cannot be replaced. However, I have learned how much I depended on you to keep things fun and light and since you've been gone, I've had to grow some myself (with more growing to do) in order to not let the darkness I am often prone to take over. My life is forever changed by the time you lived under my roof. It has been a privilege to be your mother.
I am praying for you. I know that God is designing you to be a man worthy of His calling and I look ahead to how that unfolds in your life. I am grateful for the godly people God has placed in your path and can only hope that you continue to seek out those people as you make plans for your future. I pray to be a source of encouragement and wisdom for you, when you allow it, and am grateful for the ways that you allow James and I to speak into your life. It says something about you that you come home to discuss your plans with us. We very much appreciate it.
I want to caution you on something though. It is easy for people like you who are surrounded with friends to forget to reach out to Jesus. Don't forget Him. Ultimately He is your best friend and will go all the places with you that no one else can follow. He sees your deepest hurts and still hears the prayers your prayed from an innocent childlike heart. He doesn't forget those prayers and He is faithful. Trust Him with your life Cal. Let Him make you into the man He wants you to become even though it would be easy to just be your own man. He loves us too much to leave us on our own.
I love you Cal and am eager to see your life unfold. I so wish for that to happen in a place that is close to me but I know that no matter how far away God may take you you will always be a part of our family and you will always be my son.
As I sit to write this to you I am even now at a loss. So much I want to say and at the same time afraid of trying to say too much. We're just at this weird place in our relationship, you and I, and I don't always know what to do about it. Tonight, I pray that my words to you are encouraging and hope filled. I think that's what you need right now.
Just like Cal did, you had to suffer the pain of having a young, immature, reckless mother. I had lists of things that I thought I could check off that would make me a good mom and even though I earnestly tried to check those lists, I often fell short. By my choices, you were born into a family already broken. I thought if I could be tough and strong and make you guys behave that I could make up for it. Mostly, I just put a great gap between you and I that I try so hard so often to close.
Of all my children, you remind me most of myself. I wonder if that surprises you. I think you worry that I think you will be like your dad. I don't. I worry that you'll be so busy trying not to be like him that you'll end up like me. And the truth is, without Jesus, that's no better. Even with Him I am prone to failure. What I want most for you is for you to work hard at being who God designed you to be and for you to be confident in that.
You and I are naturally inclined to dark moods. Sometimes it's really tough on me to see you that way because I know it's lonely and difficult. I want you to know though, there are some benefits to it. You are a very compassionate guy. I am so proud to hear you tell me of the people who feel comfortable talking to you and telling you of their hurts and fears. You take those hurts into your very heart and I see the pain you feel with your friends. I want to encourage you to let that pain drive you to prayer. That's what it's there for. To lead us to the throne of God so that we might be broken for ourselves and others in His presence. Use that gift and trust that as you do Jesus is at work in you and in the lives of those you pray for.
One way that you are not like me though, one way that you are all your own is in how incredibly talented you are. You have gifts that I dreamed of and tried to cultivate. I see you pick up your instruments and play things you learn and make up and I am so delighted that God allowed me to have a son who could express himself through music. I hear you tear yourself down about all this and it breaks my heart. You have no idea how amazing you are. We hear the sweet sounds drifting from your room and are so blessed to have you here playing your music. Give yourself fully to this. I know God wants to use your gifts not only to bring glory to Himself but to bring you closer to Him. He has an amazing plan for you. Something that we could never begin to dream up, just keep working hard, on you, on your music and on your relationship with Jesus. It won't be worth it to go on the journey without Him.
I haven't let you know enough how much I appreciate how you've stepped up as a big brother since Cal moved out. You have done a great job of pouring into the kids and letting them know they mean something to you. It's hard to have a sibling so much younger than you, I realize, but you are handling it with grace and love in a way that my teenage self would not have been capable of. You mean the world to them. You mean the world to all of us.
Most of all I want you to know that I am on this journey with you. Until it's time for you to leave our home I am taking each step with you, sometimes graciously, sometimes not, but always here. I hope and pray that you come to know what you mean to me and to trust that I see you as Jesus sees you, fully redeemed.
Boy, you were my second chance at mothering a small child. I had no idea what I had missed the first time around until you came along. I am so grateful to have been given that chance with you.
You're still little in my eyes but oh how the time has flown. I was just looking at some baby pictures of you yesterday and I can hardly believe you will be six in just two short months. It's gone too fast for me. I want you to be tiny and helpless again so I can be your mommy forever, but that isn't how it's going to be.
Ephram, you were the glue that put our crazy family together. You are still too young to understand how Cal and DJ have different dads and Ashlee has a different mom. That just confuses you when we talk about it. One day in the not so distant future you'll understand. When you do I will explain to you that you coming into our family was God's way of giving us all someone we would love and be connected to before we were even connected to each other. You're the one who belonged to all of us and we all belonged to you. You are quick to remind us of this all the time.
I am so enjoying watching you learn about a God who changes everything. I hear your questions and watch your face as we learn about Him. It's like falling in love with Jesus all over again. I hope that your daddy and I create a safe place for you to learn about Him and grow and ask questions as they come up. I hope we make it safe for you to fall so we can teach you to fall into the arms of Jesus. I hope that we live a life that makes Jesus attractive to you. I hope you see Him in us as I hope to one day see Him in you.
I fear for your little heart sometimes. It is so easily frustrated and broken. I can relate to that but long to direct those feelings in you so that they come out in healthy productive ways. It's not easy to feel as deeply as we do little man and it's even harder to learn how to manage that. I pray that as I learn, I teach you well.
Ephram, you are the youngest and although I think we have many years ahead, I know better. In no time you'll be gone and I will be wondering where all these years went. I pray that until then I can fill them with a childhood that is joyous and eventful. I hope to help you use your gift of loving people so much so that you can grow into a man who continues to love and is not afraid to show it. You bring joy to many sweet boy. You bring much joy to me, I love you.
Y'all still with me? It's getting heavy I know. I promise this letter writing thing wont' last forever and maybe I can throw in a few lighthearted posts every now and again to keep you with me. Until then I hope that peeking into my heart towards those I love will encourage you to dig into your own so that you can let those you love know what they mean to you.