This Was The Best Day Ever!

shell1

It was a slow sort of weekend.

Bray had the baby at the ranch for the weekend and I was hanging out with the eldest and little lady.  Friday work travel left me exhausted, so we had little on the agenda outside a Saturday morning swim play date with the eldest’s best school friend.

This followed another slow sort of weekend filled with boat rides and cook outs at the farm.

I noticed something.

The kids loved the pace as much as I did.

In fact, as Saturday began to draw to an end, and all we had done was swim (an awful lot) and nap and play and treat ourselves to Mexican food for dinner, I received this pronouncement:  This was the best day ever! 

I’ve received those pronouncements more and more as we’ve dialed down for the summer.  Why?  Well, in their words, because we got to swim and play and have our friend over (or go to our friends or see grandfather).  It was the two hours of swimming, or the individually wrapped Starburst, or the half hour of snuggles during a Disney movie, that shot a particular day to the top of their list.

This is one of the things I’m learning from my children.  They can seize the day.  With both hands.  They can live right smack dab in the middle of the moment.  They can rejoice in the simple pleasures. They can love more than anything the downtime they get with their favorite people – mommy, daddy, siblings, or close friends.

When the baby returned last night, he rushed in with his Cars rolling suitcase in hand, eyes sparkling, and said, I brought you sumfing (my heart will break when he starts saying something).  He pulled out a needle and thread, sea shells, and a smooth rock.  He lined them up and said, I thought you’d love them.  I brought some for sister too.  Oh boy did I love them.  I hugged him and expressed my delight and was reminded for the tenth time this weekend about the beauty of simplicity.  The joy of sharing your smallest discoveries.

We lose so much as adults.  The ability to experience wonder.  The skill to see the best in every experience.  Children remind us how to do it.  So I’m continuing to rework my schedule.  To allow for these moments.  And more importantly, to take delight in the small moments of every day.

When We Have To Stop Being Scared For Our Kids

kidssafeA dear friend of mine received words a few years ago I can’t wrap my head around, “Your daughter has cancer.”  They only found the tumor because her eye had begun to bulge.  She was four.

Over the course of a year, she trekked back and forth to Texas Children’s Hospital through overnight stays and treatment courses, until the tumor shrunk.  Now there’s just a shadow there.  A reminder, she tells me, to never forget to lean on God.

She has a ministry to families with children that receive a cancer diagnosis.  They don’t all have the same outcome.  I just saw a note on Facebook from one of the families she knows – a father sharing his story of how he’d been given another four years with his precious girl here on Earth.  He said, “At 8:47 this morning, she was ushered into the presence of Jesus…Our daughter had cancer.  But now she is with our God who is bigger.  Trust Him with us.”

I sat at the computer and cried.  Cried for their family.  Cried for all the families that are up tonight because of an overwhelming medical diagnosis leveled at one of their little ones.  Cried because I can’t imagine walking through that valley.

This daddy stood in the midst of His grief and asked people to believe God even in the middle of this darkness.  Because He believes there is a reason.  One he can’t understand and can’t know, but he believes in a God who is bigger than the pain and unfairness who has a plan.

I worry.  All the time.  About big things and little things, most of which will never happen.  Instead of trusting God, I allow myself to drown in fear over illness or dangers or the bad people in the world or negative messaging in the world or broken hearts or broken bones or whatever else could assail my children.

On the night this father received his daughter’s diagnosis, he shares what he read in Sarah Young’s book, Jesus Calling:

Entrust your loved ones to Me; release them into My protective care.  They are much safer with me than in your clinging hands.  If you let a loved one become an idol in your heart, you endanger that one – as well as yourself…When you release your loved ones to Me, you are free to cling to My hand.  As you entrust others into My care, I am free to shower blessings on them.  My Presence will go with them wherever they go, and I will give them rest.  The same Presence stays with you, as you relax and place your trust in Me. 

I don’t know how I would react when faced with the words my girlfriend, or this father, received.  But I do know we have to stop being scared for our kids.  We have to stop worrying over anything that could ever assail them.

A college friend of mine wrote she’d started praying differently for her girls.  Instead of praying every night that God would keep them safe, she prayed they would know Him.  She quoted hearing Jenn Hatmaker say, “Don’t be the reason your kids choose comfort and safety,” and went on to say she didn’t want to be the reason her kids decided to take a desk job rather than following a calling to Africa to work because she had instilled fear into them.  She closed, with, “Raise BRAVE kids.”

Oh there’s so much that could happen, friends.  Good or bad.  Earth-shattering or groundbreaking.  And it will happen, no matter what we do with our late night contemplations.  Maybe we can all step out together and pray for peace and trust that He will be there no matter what.

Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him. Nahum 1:7

So do not fear, for I am with you. Isaiah 41:10

What Matters Most?

priority

There are all sorts of top five and top eight and top ten articles, research studies, and books synthesizing the most critical aspects of leadership.

Do you know what most of them leave off of the lists?  Priorities.  Setting your priorities. 

This weekend I heard that a dear law school friend of mine lost her husband.  They married not even three years ago and their son just turned one.  I found out just after I’d heard about a family in my friend’s cancer ministry losing their daughter to the disease.

There’s more to write about the why and the faith to endure in all of that heartbreak, but I couldn’t write about some element of leadership on this Tuesday in the face of all of that.  How do all those blink-of-an-eye moments upend your life?  They change what you do and why you do it.

What matters most?

I can assure you, it’s not getting the promotion or the next job or winning the election or leading the project team.  That is your day job. It’s what you do. You can even love it.  That’s wonderful – I hope you do love your work.

But often the quest for the next best thing leaves you forgetting all the good you already have.  And your priorities get upended in the chase.  And people get left behind.

A good leader remembers why they are leading.  Who they are doing it all for.

I know my girlfriend is remembering all the moments she had with her husband and her son had with his daddy and not a night he worked late to pay for a vacation.  I know those sweet parents are treasuring every moment they spent curled up on the couch reading books with their daughter not the trip they took to land the big deal.  I know that I changed my mind at naptime this weekend when I planned to write, but my son reached out for my arm, drew it to his chest and pressed both arms around it, and said, “Please don’t go.”  I didn’t move.  I realize that time is fleeting and even if we both live into our eighties, he won’t always want me like this.  So I stayed.  And I got to the rest of it later.

It’s hard I know.  We work hard so our children or parents or family can have a good life.  We’re all so busy with deadlines hurdling at us like meteor shower.  Maybe that means we sit back down with a list and focus on who and what is important.  And if all that busyness isn’t getting us more time or more wins for those we love the most, then it might just be time to rethink what’s consuming our hours.

For the Husband Turned Father

JuneJuly2010 266It’s your fifth Father’s Day.

Serving as a father in addition to having one.

And we sit here on this Louisiana land as we have every Father’s Day we have celebrated together.

Although we sit a lot less now that they are nearly five instead of approaching one.

There have been late nights and early mornings.

Fishing trips and four-wheeler rides.

IMG_1489

Laughter and tears.

Joy and frustration.

And through it all you’ve been a strong and true father.

You are so present.  Engaged.  Constant.  You know when to be tough and when to be soft.  You know when to let it go and when to draw a hard line.

So on this Sunday when I traditionally would not write, I felt it important to lay down this written marker for them to look back and see what an amazing father you were over the entire trajectory of their life.

That you loved each one of them so uniquely.

IMG_2385IMG_2400

We know this time is fleeting.  Today, their hands seem so much bigger than those little hands five years ago.  They find trust and confidence when they find your hand.  I pray as their hands grow that they would never veer too far away from being able to reach out for your hand.  Because we trust that we are safe when we are hand in hand with you.

hand

Happy Father’s Day. 

And They Grow and Go

Train up a child in the way he should go… (Proverbs 22:6)

And go they are going.

I’ve spent more time than usual with the kids in the past few weeks.  We had a long Memorial Day weekend together at the ranch followed by a long weekend at my dad’s in Oklahoma.  Four and a half year old triplets are a heck of a lot of fun.  But being with them for six of the past nine days made me realize how quickly they are growing up too.

The baby words are far fewer though remnants remain and each misplaced syllable I treasure knowing it’s soon to be extinct.

They are fiercely capable of setting out on their own in ways they’ve not previously ventured.  The boys helped daddy and grandfather work cows.  Two of the three swam a lap in the pool.  One asked for his training wheels off his bicycle.

We hadn’t been to Oklahoma in a year, so the comments on the changes stopped me in my tracks.  We’ve been moving at such a fast pace this year that the slowed pace of the past few days made me take stock of how quickly it all flies by.

As I worked to fix my dad’s digital picture frame, I scanned through the SD card filled with the past four years of photos.

From this to this:

1Q 2011 458IMG_2464

And this:

June2011 007IMG_2251

And this:

Fall 2010 088IMG_2349

I am grateful for the singing in the back seat.  I am grateful that they still want to be picked up and want to cuddle during bedtime visits.  I love the mixing of verb tenses and still being labeled mommy and daddy.  I love that when I kiss their cheeks when they sleep their hand still reflexes like it did when they were infants.  I listen to the chatter in the hallway and tear up that their favorite thing is still spending time with us, “I wish mommy and daddy got out of work for the summer too.”

My favorite pastime is trying to remember all the funny stories.  How the eldest’s preaching the miracle of Blind Bartimaeus got turned into the youngest’s rendition of “Who turned out the lights?”  How little lady still says lellow instead of yellow and constantly reenacts (very dramatically) singing Let it Go from Frozen. 

And then you get an email from your preschool teacher that starts off with, “This is a first for me.  Today, I was asking questions about body parts…” (Are you a mother?  Have you ever met a child?  If you answered yes to either one of those questions, then you probably stopped breathing too…)  She continues writing that after she was asking the children about various body parts, she asks, “What is one part of our body that is under our neck?”  Some answers to the question were tummy, body, etc.  My little man is quietly taking it all in then responds, “Mrs. R, don’t you know that it’s your breasts and you wear a bra!” Ah yes.  My child.

I write less and less about them here because I know as they grow I will need to stop altogether.  But when I started writing this blog almost four years ago, it was purely an outlet for me to capture all the baby book memories that were fading away.  I looked back on some of those older posts, just like I scanned the SD card, and saw memories of their early one year old development, surviving a week without our nanny, the infamous poop smear story that the kids still retell, and so much more.

Oh those days were hard.  But even as it all gets remarkably easier, I’m sad to see those toddler days go.