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Monthly Archives: July 2013

“Well, did You grow up hungry? Did You grow up fast? Did the little girls giggle when You walked past? Did You wonder what it was that made them laugh? And did they tell You stories ’bout the saints of old? Stories about their faith? They say stories like that make a boy grow bold, stories like that make a man walk straight …”

Dear Monkey,

You’re lost. Are you in a trash bin somewhere? Maybe you got picked up with the other blankets and washed and you are waiting for someone to notice that you don’t belong there. Maybe you are behind a desk somewhere, one of those things that will be gotten to when there’s time. Maybe you are on some kind of great blanket adventure in another city, backpacking and sleeping in youth hostels while you drink wine and pretend you know how to smoke. Maybe you are sitting under a pile of other things left on a plane. All I know is that you are not here and that’s not right.

You’re old as far as blankets go, and far passed your ability to keep anybody warm. Your print has faded and your edges are frayed from 3,614 nights of being wrapped around this little blonde boy. You’ve never been apart from him, you’ve been in every car trip, every sleepover, every asthma attack and late night breathing treatment. You’ve visited four emergency rooms. You started off wrapping him up in puppy softness, his tiny hands and feet poking out because he really didn’t like being swaddled. I know you’re not supposed to let your baby sleep with a blanket, but sleep deprivation will make you forget those rules, and you were the magic key to sleep. He grew, and you did not. Time passed from swaddling to teething to superhero cape. And now you are less played with, but no less loved. You have your place of honor on his pillow, ready to snuggle with whenever wanted.

And you’re still wanted.

While he grew in my belly, I slowly grew out of the fear that we would lose him. We lost babies before so my heart was cautious, not wanting to get too attached to him. I chose names with trepidation, and looked at baby clothes like one would look at a beautiful piece of jewelry, seeing that it’s lovely and thinking maybe, maybe someday I could have something that beautiful. Around five months into the pregnancy, my doctor smiled and said “It’s a boy!” I don’t know why, but something about being able to think about my son loosened the grip of fear just a bit. I decided it was okay to relax a little and get excited about being a mother. I went into a store and wandered over to the blanket section.

I can get him a blanket. That’s not assuming too much, right? And if something happens, I can donate it.

So I searched until I found a sweet blue blanket with white puppies on it. You were bought and carefully placed in an empty crib.

When Josiah got old enough to talk, he couldn’t say “blankey”, but he could say “Monkey” so that became your name. It was confusing for more than one babysitter!  Once, a friend called while we were on a date because a toddler Josiah was crying pitifully for “monkey” and the friend had given him every stuffed monkey he could possibly find and Josiah just kept crying for you. When it was decided Josiah would go with his dad on a mission trip to Ethiopia, we talked about whether or not he would take you. Josiah was worried he wouldn’t be able to sleep without you, but he also thought maybe, maybe it was time to start letting you go. We decided to experiment for a night. Josiah lasted twenty minutes before you were back in his bed. I thought you probably sighed in relief too.

But in all the excitement and craziness of the flight, you got left behind on the plane. He discovered it as soon as we got home. I haven’t seen him cry that hard, maybe ever, and I joined right in. We called the airline and they are trying, but so far they can’t find you. This afternoon he wanted to take a nap, and asked hopefully if the airline had called.  I watched that hope trickle out of his eyes when I said they had not found you yet. This boy, the one with who’s almost as tall as me, the one who has to be reminded to stop and kiss his mother, the one who laughs when I can’t figure out the math problems on his homework, the one who flew thousands of miles away to share the gospel with grown men and women, I held this boy as he cried and I cried too. And now I sit here as he naps restlessly next to me, praying and trying to accept that you might be gone forever.

I still hope that someone finds you and realizes how important you must be to someone. But I want this more- I want to learn to hold loosely to the things in this world. It’s easy to say that until you actually lose them. But the truth is, he’s upset about losing you, but I’m upset because you represent something to me- that tiny boy that I longed for, that idea that I mistakenly believed would complete my life and make it mean something. I made being a mother my god, and you might have been a blue with white puppies idol. Not having you is one more step into letting this boy go, and that is gut wrenching. (Today I thought- if I cry this hard over a blanket, you better go ahead and set up my Xanax IV when he goes to college. ) Not having you is one more tiny step towards trusting Jesus to be the source of comfort, the source of joy. To enjoy the things of this world, but not to find life in them. Not having you is a reminder to me that blankets and babies make terrible gods, as blankets fray and get lost and babies grow and leave.

I’d love for you to be returned but I won’t stifle our tears if you’re not, because I want to demonstrate what it looks like to grieve with trust that God loves us. More than a beloved blanket, I want Josiah’s childhood to be remembered as the beginning of his walk with Jesus, where he learned how to take a deep breath and say “I don’t like it or understand why, but I choose to trust You.”

Love,

Josiah’s Mom

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*This blanket was left on a Lufthansa flight 438 on Sunday, July 28th at around 1:45pm in DFW. If anyone has any information, please email me at brandy.followingbutterflies@yahoo.com or tweet me @brandyb77  PLEASE SHARE!

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“There are watercolour ponies on my refrigerater door and the shape of something I don’t really recognize, Drawn by careful little fingers and put proudly on display a reminder to us all of how time flies…”

Selah is at camp this week, so it’s been rather quiet around the house. She was excited about going to Pine Cove, but also nervous. Sometimes she struggles with being able to put words on what she is feeling, so we can tell that she’s sad/scared/anxious, but she can’t articulate why. This year, I have really worked with her on writing down her feelings and possible ways to deal with those feelings. Aparently, she took this to heart, because I was cleaning her room and found a list she made.  I am beyond curious to find out how many of these she accomplished this past week….

Things I can do at Pine Cove Camp

1. eat pudding

2. find Black Beauty if she lives there

3. Pray for a baby sister- NO BROTHERS

4. Tell girls about when Taylor Swift said hi and touched me (read about that here- http://followingbutterflies.org/2013/05/28/i-dont-know-why-all-the-trees-change-in-the-fall-but-i-know-youre-not-scared-of-anything-at-all-dont-know-if-snow-whites-house-is-near-or-far-away-but-i-know-i-had-the-best-day-with-you-t/ )

5. drink so much sprite

6. remember to ask whats your name first

7. ask if I can sleep in the stable. maybe they let me or maybe they wont. pray for yes. Obey if she says no.

8. don’t brag about Taylor Swift that she’s my BFF

9. Don’t drink the pool

10. tell my counselor about Jesus if she doesn’t know. she might already know.

11. I can give my fairy costume away to a girl who likes it.

12. remember to hug GENTLY like cotton candy

13. find a girl that is lonely so she wont be lonely because we can be friends

14. Think about sunday

15. im not going to think about daddy and josiah and malachi and mommy so I don’t want to be so sad

16. be brave and get on the lip line

17. maybe the horse can sleep in my cabin

18. tell my counselor if the music is too loud. maybe she will take me to ride the horses.

19. find a boy with brown skin to look at so i can think about sweet little Mally muffin

20. smile at girls so they might like to play with me

21. that’s all I can do

Coming clean- I totally cried reading this. I love that she wants to binge drink sprite, think about her dog, get on the *zip* line, and adorably try to manipulate her counselor into taking her horseback riding again. I LOVE that she is thinking about how be a good friend, how to be generous, and how to share the gospel with her counselor (LOL). What a sugarpie.

Stay tuned to find out which goals she reached!

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Have a question for Mama Mondays? Email me at brandy.followingbutterflies@yahoo.com

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“Till we know the pain of a broken heart, we can’t walk through the fires we didn’t start, So just hold on to the way it is tonight, learn to love through the darkness and the light, I’m on your side Oh, I’m on your side…”

Turn on any news channel and it won’t take long to hear something about the pro-choice/pro-life debate. Here in Texas, the conflict has been especially tense as our government seeks to regulate abortion clinics. Running alongside this debate is a growing group of people who are raising awareness of the adoption aspect of abortion, and we’ve seen an increase in churches who are choosing to support families who want to adopt in ways they haven’t before. “There is no such thing as an unwanted child!” is the rallying cry, as they seek to send the message that abortion isn’t the only option when an expectant mother does not want to parent.

Along the same vein, recently there is an increased awareness of the ethical intricacies of international adoption. As many countries have either slowed considerably or completely shut down, we see sad reports of unethical practices, child trafficking, and agency fraud. Those who are blowing the whistles are sometimes labeled as “anti- adoption” and are accused of not caring about the orphans waiting in difficult circumstances. “There is no such thing as an unwanted child!” is stated again as some fight to make adoption overseas easier, faster, and without limitations.

Self confession- sometimes the debate is exhausting. Sometimes in the evenings, once the kids are finally whackamoled into bed, after dishes are done and I finally sit down, I have good intentions of reading and educating myself on all these issues, but then I fall asleep watching The Office reruns. It’s easy for me to boil this down to a simplistic view of being prolife=support adoption in all situations. I am prolife…but I think it’s important that we look at what that means.

I believe life is precious and orchestrated by God. I believe we are charged with protecting life, advocating for those who can’t advocate for themselves, and living in a way that places life above other things. So what does this mean for me?

It means that I realize that life isn’t simply brain and heart function. It means that I follow His example of not only protecting life, but protecting abundant life. It means that I put others ahead of myself and my desires…and this may mean I put another person ahead of my desire to parent. I believe this means that adoption isn’t the first or only option we offer to expectant mothers, and we love them enough to support them in emotional and practical ways so that they might be able to choose to parent. It means that when we are matched with an expectant mother, we make a choice to make sure she is counseled about her choice, even if it means she may change her mind. It means that we don’t make promises about open adoption that we aren’t sure we can or don’t intend to keep. It means that if we agree to a certain level of contact, we honor that commitment. It means that after we bring our child home, we are Christ-like in how we talk about birth parents. It means that if a child is removed because of abuse or neglect, our first goal should be that there would be full healing for the birth parents and the family can be reunited.  It means that we don’t see birth parents as a means to an end.

With international adoption, it means that we do not choose an agency that promises to get us a child faster than anyone else and has little to no accountability. It means that we take every measure possible to make sure that the child’s story is accurate. It means that we choose to become educated about the problem of child trafficking, because for some, our families are the face of international adoption. It means we work to increase domestic adoption within countries, because we acknowledge that staying in a country of origin ultimately is less traumatic for a child. It means we ask questions and demand answers. It means that we make a commitment to pray through each step, and trust that one of those steps may be to stop.

Prolife can’t simply mean protecting the unborn. It has to mean a respect and reverence for all life, including birth families.  Prolife can’t just mean that we believe the child in a womb is precious. It has to mean we believe the woman intent on aborting that child is precious. It has to mean we believe the doctor performing the abortion is precious. It has to mean we believe the politician that voted to make it possible is precious. Because while we may mean it when we say there is no such thing as an unwanted child, the truth is that in His eyes, there is no unwanted person, and no person that is less precious to Him. The man over the ocean that sells his child, the woman down the street who abuses drugs and leaves her child hungry, the woman who works tirelessly at the crisis pregnancy center… the caste system is our creation, not His. 

Luke 6:32-33- “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much!”

Have a question for Mama Mondays? Email me at brandy.followingbutterflies@yahoo.com

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This post was also published at http://www.mercyfoundministries.com

“A piece of canvas is only the beginning for it takes on character with every loving stroke, This thing of beauty is the passion of an Artist’s heart, By God’s design, we are a skin kaleidoscope…”

Dear Malachi,

You wandered into my room with an indignant look on your face and a tale of a sister who offended you on your tongue, but stopped when you saw my tears. I fumbled around when I realized you were standing there, but I couldn’t turn it off in time.

“Hey, dat boy has brown skin like ME!”

Yes baby, he does. He did. You asked me why I was crying, and you made me smile when you assumed I was crying because I too must be upset that your sister had taken your favorite green lego. I picked you up and told you that I was crying because something sad happened to Trayvon Martin, and I was sad for his parents and for many other people. Such a simplistic answer for an ocean depth problem. You wandered away, and I began to think back…

When I was about four or five, I was talking on the phone to a family member, and I mentioned that I was having a friend sleep over to my house. This person said, “She’s not black, is she?”  The tone was amused, but the warning was clear- she better not be. I remember thinking how strange that was, and wondered what didn’t I  know about black people to make this question important?  My little brain went into imagination overdrive- did black girls do something weird overnight? Were they like Gremlins?  Was having a black friend against the law? This family member wasn’t a bad person, but beliefs and attitudes are ingrained early, and it was clear to me that having a black friend wasn’t going to be okay.

I wish I could tell you this story like I’ll tell you about VCR’s or Pluto being a planet, things that used to be but aren’t anymore. I wish I could shake my head and tell you that I’m so glad those conversations are past ideas, and that we have learned from our mistakes. I wish I could tell you that Trayvon was followed because of so many other reasons besides the color of his skin. I wish I could tell you that I hear more words of forgiveness and empathy than the words “justice” and “thug”. So now we talk about what to say to our young black sons about how they could be perceived. This is new territory for me love, but I do want you to know a few things.

You love the story of the Good Samaritan. Like many boys, you are drawn the the idea of rescuing someone, of good winning over evil. You like the idea of being the hero.

You don’t know yet the pain of being mistaken for the thief.

It’s just a theory, but I imagine when that Jewish man rolled over and opened his swollen bloody eyes, he might not have been relieved to see a Samaritan standing over him. I imagine he might have wondered if this Samaritan was coming to finish him off, or take anything else he had left. I imagine his hatred welling up mixed with fear, adrenaline surging as his body prepared to fight off yet another enemy. I wonder if his mind flashed back to gazing down the road at the priest walking towards him and the pain he felt as that man, a man who claimed to love God, quietly crossed the street, avoiding eye contact. As the Samaritan hoisted him up, I imagine he braced himself for what was coming…only to feel tender hands gently attending to his wounds. I imagine his eyes warily watching as he was dressed and taken to a place of rest, where he was physically cared for and healed. As the days stretched on, I wonder how he made sense of what happened. I wonder if his heart changed. I wonder if the next time he went to a dinner party and someone made a snide comment about “those Samaritans”, he was silent or spoke up about the man who saved him.

So as your mama, I know I need to talk to you about walking late at night and hoodies and yes sir and hands where they can be seen and eye contact. But I also need you to know this- it’s so much easier to be the priest with impressive words and clean hands, but Jesus’ words were offensive and His hands are scarred. It’s not enough to talk about love, you have to actually love. So baby, when it happens, when you are pulled over unfairly, when you are scolded for something your white friends are doing too, when the girl says no to the date because her parents don’t approve, when people tell you that you are too sensitive and racism doesn’t really happen nowadays, when you are called a n***er or an oreo, when you are mistaken for the thief, I want you to jump down in the ditch, alongside the dirt and pain, and love them. Take chances, bind wounds, love extravagantly and unexpectantly.

Because love changes everything.

I don’t know if it changed the Jewish man’s heart, but I promise you it changed the Samaritan’s. That love can soften suspicious eyes. That love disarms angry crowds. That love took a little girl, confused and afraid of having a black friend, and turned her into a mother of a beautiful black son. Thank you sweetheart for being part of what He’s used to change me.

Love,

Mama

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Have a question or subject for Mama Mondays? Email me at brandy.followingbutterflies@yahoo.com

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Mama Mondays- “Ventolin you cause me so much grief, Having asthma it can be so annoying, Yeah but at least you haven’t got other diseases , Yeah yeah yeah, I know you’re right, in an attack…”

“My son has severe food allergies, but he is having trouble accepting the limitations of his new diet. Do you have any suggestions for helping your child deal with a chronic condition or illness?”

Great question! My oldest has severe asthma, and my daughter has ADHD, so each of them deal with some aspect of these on a daily basis, whether that is taking medication, avoiding certain foods, and/or structuring their environment and schedule to help them. For the sake of focus and brevity, I’ll just address situations that are not life ending because one, I don’t feel qualified on a mom level to address that, and two, while some issues may be similar, I think they are different enough to just focus on life altering conditions. Both of my kids were diagnosed at an early age (three and four), so when they were that young, most of the “coping” involved just teaching them how to take their medications, how to avoid triggers, and soothing them when symptoms came. To be honest, I didn’t tell Josiah what asthma was until the last few years- up until then, he just knew that sometimes it was hard for him to breathe and he needed medication to help with that. I have had conversations with Selah about ADHD, but at this point, she has a minimal understanding of what that is. But as they have grown older, we now deal with as many, if not more, emotional aspects of chronic conditions than physical. Some points to consider-

It helps to be healthy– “this hurts me more than it hurts you” is a phrase typically used with discipline, but it applies here as well. Watching your child struggle is so hard. I have sat with many mamas who fight tears as they describe what their child endures physically, emotionally, and especially socially. Managing your child’s condition can be exhausting, and taxing financially as well. Statistically, couples who deal with a child with a chronic condition are at higher risk of divorce.  All that to say, you can’t do this alone and you can’t do this if you aren’t healthy. There is a temptation to allow your child’s condition to define your family, but this hurts you AND your child. It is a lot of pressure to feel as though you are the focus of the family or to feel as though mom and dad’s moods and relationships depend on what is going on with them. When you allow your child’s condition to define the family, you also send your child a message that their condition is the most important part of them, of who God made them to be.  Take care of yourself, take care of your marriage, and take breaks. Find friends who understand, but also find friends who will encourage you to take off the “mom” hat occasionally. No doubt, there are times I need to talk to my girlfriends about my frustrations with breathing treatments or sensory issues, but I also need to be able to go out to dinner and NOT talk about it. I need to be able to have a date with Wes when we don’t talk about insurance or new doctors or triggers. Remember that your child’s condition is a *part* of your story, it is not the main plot line.

Remember the siblings– sometimes it is easy to think about your children as having separate experiences but in many ways, they are intertwined. Think about this- a sibling may feel the same feelings you do of love, protection, exhaustion, sadness, guilt, and anger…but lack the advantage of maturity, perspective, friendships, or freedom of choices to be able to cope. If you have a really hard day with your child, you might go for a walk, take a bath, call a friend and go to bed early. However, a sibling might have the very same day, but is told to be kind, be patient, get their chores/homework done. Siblings may also struggle with resentment over how much time or energy a child requires, but may be unable to understand or express that. This has happened very recently in our house over chores. Because of some of Selah’s sensory issues and focus issues, there are certain chores that I do not allow her to do, or I help her do. One afternoon, she was having an especially hard day, and so I asked Josiah to take one of her chores. He argued with me about it, and then dissolved into tears. At that point, I gathered him in my lap and it all came spilling out- his frustration over inequality with responsibility, his sadness over watching his sister struggle socially, his feelings of guilt over being mad at her for things she can’t really control, etc. We recently decided to cancel a trip to Colorado for several reasons, but the biggest reason was that Josiah was really struggling with asthma and Colorado’s elevation is always hard for him. Selah expressed some sadness over this and asked me “I don’t want to, but can we go to Colorado and not take Josiah?”, but then later expressed that she felt guilty for asking me that.  Ask your child questions- don’t assume they will open up to you about this. Make sure to give them breaks too- while we want our children to learn to serve others and be selfless, they also need their tanks to be filled too.

Allow them a sense of control-I remember a girl I went to high school with who had severe asthma, and her mom used to come up to the school daily to give her a breathing treatment. She wasn’t allowed to go out or spend the night with her friends because they were scared she would have an attack and not know what to do. I always wondered if she would attend college or if she would feel like she needed to live at home because of her asthma. Having asthma is a bummer, but sadly, it was the suffocating love of her parents that crippled her.  I hope Josiah never has to experience as asthma attack so severely that he would need to call 911, but I do have to make sure he knows how to do it. Right now, at nine years old, Josiah knows how to operate his nebulizer and inhaler, how to determine if he needs one or two vials of medication, when he needs an inhaler, and he is working on knowing what situations would trigger breathing problems. He takes medication every morning to help with his allergies and if he doesn’t take these meds, it is almost a certainty that he will have an asthma attack. The goal is that he becomes responsible for taking his own medication without my reminder. This past year, he has forgotten several times and I have to go up to school to give him his medicine. By the third time, I told him that I would give him a consequence if I had to bring him medication again. I realize that this may sound harsh, but the truth is, giving him control over his own health not only teaches him responsibility, but it gives him a sense of power over the disease, which increases his confidence. Yes, this is scary when you are talking about a life threatening condition (certain allergies, diabetes, etc), but parents, we have to resist infantilizing our children out of fear of what might happen. When I follow Josiah around, asking him constantly if he needs his inhaler or covertly checking his lips and fingers for a tinge of blue (not that I’ve done that. That’s crazytown. It was just an example), I send him the message you can’t handle this. When I turn down a play date for Selah because they might serve her something with food dye (something that she reacts to), I am saying to her I don’t trust you to speak up about what is good for you. Again. Hypothetically.

Acquire and teach perspective. Saying  “it could be worse” is rarely helpful to a parent who is overwhelmed and sad about their child’s condition. As a mom, I spend A LOT of time with doctors, therapists, teachers, etc, trying to help my kids, and there are times when it feels like it’s all just too much. And then I walk around an orphanage in Ethiopia and see a child who can’t walk, talk, see, or hear. A child who spends 23 hours a day lying flat on a cot. A child who rarely gets touched. I see a picture of a baby hooked up to wires and tubes in a hospital in Dallas. I see parents talk about chemo and radiation and stats. I see parents who don’t dare make plans for next week, much less further in the future. I see a single mom who works full-time and spends the rest of her day with her nonverbal autistic child. A child locked in their own brain and whose frustration causes him to lash out violently at others.

So I do have to remember that it could be much harder.

Parents, these are times when you want to have an answer to “why does God allow suffering?”, not just for yourself, but for your child.  In the times Josiah has asked why did God let him have asthma, I have told him-

*We live in a broken world, and part of that includes that our bodies don’t work the way He designed them to…but there is coming a day when they will for the ones who choose to follow Him.

*He allows suffering sometimes to bring us to a place where we see how good He is, how He provides for us, and so that we lean on our relationship with Him instead of just head knowledge of Him…but there is coming a day when we won’t need faith, because we will  SEE everything that He is, and our relationship with Him will be perfect.

*I don’t know…but there is coming a day for those who love and follow Jesus when we will know.

Parenting is crazy hard, and parenting a child with a chronic condition adds another layer. But I believe these things are true. I believe that my kids belong to Him. I believe that He loves them more than I could ever love them, and that He has a plan for their lives…including the ways that He will allow them to learn to endure. My prayer is that throughout that suffering, they will learn to trust Him, and that they will learn that by seeing Wes and me trusting Him.

Have a question or subject for Mama Mondays? Email me at brandy.followingbutterflies@yahoo.com

Follow me on Twitter @brandyb77

“I do” are the two most famous last words, the beginning of the end, but to lose your life for another I’ve heard Is a good place to begin ‘Cause the only way to find your life Is to lay your own life down, And I believe it’s an easy price for the life that we have found…”

Dear 19year old me,

I sit here, thinking about that day sixteen years ago when you slipped on that heavy white dress, the one you regretted having long sleeves the second you stepped out into the Abilene sun.  You will look at the adult staring back in the mirror, and hush the scared child inside. When you steady your shaking hands with flowers, you’ll carefully arrange your expression to look calm, serene, bridelike. Girl, I’ve looked at the pictures often-the fear is hidden pretty well, but slips through occasionally. You mean the word forever, but…it’s going to be great, right? Right? I mean, you know you’ll have fights, you’ve already had them, but you love him and you are sure that whatever happens couldn’t possibly that serious. And ministry? You feel ready. You know it won’t always be easy, but you also think how great it is to be marrying someone who is steady, so sure of what he wants. You don’t realize it now, but you crave security, both emotionally and financially. You are convinced this man, this boy, will give you all of that.

I know you wouldn’t believe me if I told you, but if I could take you to lunch and give you a glimpse of what is to come, I’d tell you that the man you love will show his hand early on, on the way to the airport for your honeymoon. He will lose his temper over some lost travelers checks. You’ll be confused and hurt, but you’ll reason that he’s stressed and tired and the wedding probably overwhelmed him. This will be the first of many times you will reason away the little voice that whispers that these displays of anger aren’t right. I’m going to be blunt- you have no idea what loving someone means. Don’t get me wrong, you love people, you have family and friends, but you’ve never had to deal with conflict or confrontation in a loving biblical way, so you will do what  “feels right”, and I can tell you unequivocally that almost every time what feels right is what feels the most comfortable. At this point, you don’t realize that you believe that if you have conflict with someone, they will leave you, so you will work hard to keep peace. You also believe that the boy you love might not love you as much if you expressed that sometimes you aren’t sure you agree with what he believes about Jesus. You will automatically assume that based on the differences in your backgrounds, it’s much more likely that he is right and you are wrong, so you will keep these thoughts locked away in your heart. You’re also about to painfully misinterpret some scripture, and it will cause you great suffering.

“Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives.” 1 Peter 3:1

You will decide, quite conveniently I might add, that this means that if Wes does something that is painful or harsh towards you or others, you should not talk to him about it. You will cling to the “without words” part, and place great hope in the idea that Wes will be overwhelmed by your love and change. Honey, it’s not going to work, and you will convince yourself that it’s not working because you aren’t being kind enough, hospitable enough, submissive enough, not enough, not enough, not enough. You’ll change the way you dress, the music you listen to, the language you use, future goals…all in an attempt to become “enough” to win him over. This hamster wheel will never be satisfied. And with each turn of the wheel, a small brick of Bitterness and her sister Despair will build up around your heart. There will be a point when you decide that if you can’t be good enough for this imperfect boy to love you, then surely a perfect God couldn’t either. And you decide that while you might be failing the wife test, you’re going to ace the mom test. If we sat together, I’d hold your hand and brace you for what is coming.

In the next seven years, you’ll trudge down the quicksand road of infertility. It’s a twisted upside, a silver lining made of poisonous mercury, that infertility gives you and Wes something to blame your marriage problems on. I know, I know you won’t believe me now as you smile and pose for pictures, but there will be days when you sit on the floor late at night after he is asleep and cry as quietly as you can, and make mental lists of what you would need if you left him. It’s not that you don’t love him. You just feel like you are drowning in this ocean of expectation and shame and anger and apathy.

At this point, you’d probably roll your eyes and tell me what a fun and uplifting lunch date I make. I don’t blame you. You’d probably look at me and say if things are going to get so bad, why even bother getting married? Surely this means Wes Butler isn’t the right man for you, he can’t be your soul mate, right? Surely this means you got duped into marrying a man who somehow hid his temper and legalism until after the rings. I mean, it really doesn’t seem like there’s much hope, and who wants to live like that?

You’re going to have kids. You’re going to get your master’s degree. You’re going to move to Dallas and attend a great church.

You’re going to smile and tell people that sure, sometimes you argue, but things are really just fine.

You’re going to stand in your living room after putting your two babies to bed and scream at your husband about who is going to get custody of those babies.

You’re going to tell Wes that you don’t think there is any hope left.

You’re going to really believe it this time. 

And then…you’re going to humble yourself, set aside your arrogant pride and speak up.

Years later, you’ll sit at a computer as you watch your husband sleep, and just close your eyes in complete awe at what God has done.  You’ll think through all of the tools that were used to rebuild what had been lost, and thank Him that He used all those imperfect tools, imperfect people, imperfect timing and methods, to resurrect your marriage. You’ll smile when you think about how hopeless you thought your marriage was, forgetting that He parted the sea, He fed the thousands, He created the earth, He raised the dead…and you thought you were beyond His reach.

Do you want to know the best part? It’s not even a happier marriage. It’s not the kids or Wes. It’s that through all this pain, you will learn that you. are. loved. You will learn about the nature of Jesus, and how He sees you. You’ll get to take all this mess and pour out into others who are suffering to give them hope.

You’ll get to know your Daddy.

So, take a deep breath, pick up your flowers and get ready. You don’t know what’s coming, but He does. And sixteen years from today you’ll laugh a Naomi and Sarah laugh, grateful and amazed at how He restores.

Love,

Me

p.s.- You are gonna regret that Rachel haircut. Think it through.

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“But I will carry you to Jesus, He is everything you need, I will carry you to Jesus on my knees…”

Thirty six years ago, a woman held her brand new baby boy in her arms and named him Wesley. She, like most new parents, thought he was just perfect, and probably the best little boy ever born. She wondered what the future might look like for this child, and what paths he might walk down. She prayed many things, but above all, she prayed that her son would love Jesus.  She wanted her boy to make a difference.

There is a boy somewhere, a boy who lived in a part of town that wasn’t safe to go out and play, in a family that wasn’t always safe either. He had never been to summer camp, but that summer he got to go and it was just like he saw on the movies. Wes was there, and it was the first time a man had looked at this boy and wanted to know more about him. It was the first time he experienced safe touch. It was a small glimpse into what having a big brother must be like. The boy went home with memories of what a s’more tastes like, of the scent of bug spray and mesquite, of finally seeing the stars…and the feeling of someone caring. He didn’t quite understand all of the things he heard about Jesus, but he understood that this Wes was kind, so he thought Jesus was probably kind too.

A girl came home to an empty house, to make her own dinner and take care of herself. It’s lonely at her house, and although she’s learned to be independent and act as the adult in the house, she wonders sometimes what it might be like to have involved, even overbearing, parents. She thinks back to a few months ago with a mixture of irritation and begrudging appreciation at Wes encouraging her to wear more modest clothing. She wonders why he even cares. It’s not the first time he’s butted in, with boyfriends, future plans. He seems to think she could do great things. He seems to think God has big plans for her. She doubts it, but it’s nice to hear. She watches him, and wonders if it’s possible she could actually have a healthy marriage someday. She doesn’t even know that he and his wife talked about asking her to live with them, because they love her so much. She doesn’t know he’s cried over her. She chooses to go her own way often, but there is a place in her heart that reminds her of the words Wes told her about how much Jesus loves her.

He sits, devastated and alone, filled with shame. He thinks he will never be accepted again. His life is in complete shambles, his marriage is over, and he’s made too many bad decisions to count. He thinks that if anyone knew the things he had done, the places he had gone, the lines he had crossed, they’d never want to be around him. He’s heard that nothing is beyond the redemptive power of Christ, but this, surely this was. Surely no one would ever love him again. He calls an old friend, thinking that he’s already lost everything, so if Wes rejects him too, he probably deserves it. He pours out all the shame and is shocked by what comes back- pain and sorrow, and love and forgiveness, and words of hope and a future. He hears “I am no better than you” and it floors him- how can this be true? He starts the long journey home with sore tired feet, and stumbles often. With each step and each fall, Wes is there to encourage him and remind him of what is true. He starts to understand the difference between knowing and doing, between head and heart.

A few hours away in another state, a little girl is born. Her life is pretty different from his. She grows up thinking she might get married, but not for a really long time, at least until Luke Perry notices her. She never thought about the possibility of meeting her husband in college. She never thought about wanting to get married four months after meeting him. And after they marry, the road turns rough and she begins to wonder if it will ever get better. The walls seem too high. But Wes surprises her with his humility and gentleness. He reminds her that forever means forever. He leads her to a place of following Christ in a way she didn’t know could happen. She never could have guessed their marriage would have healed. She never would have imagined she could love him in this way. She would never have imagined she would understand how Christ loves her because of the way he loves her.

My precious husband, happy birthday is a common thing to say, but for me I say it’s happy because of the ways you have been used to bring people to Christ. I know sometimes it may feel like the pain is great in this world and it’s easy to wonder if you make any difference. But for every example that I know of where your love has changed someone, there are countless more that I don’t know about. Without your obedience, love and courage, there could have been three babies without homes and one more divorce in the world. You are flawed, but there’s beauty in the flaws because they leave room for God’s redemption and grace, and that is the most beautiful thing ever.

Happy Birthday my love. Thank you for all the joy you bring me and the encouragement you give me to follow Jesus. I’m proud of you and so proud to be yours.

Leave a comment for the birthday boy! I’d love to hear more of these stories : )

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