Friday, February 22, 2013

I'm not ready for this.

I'm not sure how it's possible that my Hannah Kate is five years old already.  When I think back on the last five years, it seems like just yesterday we were bringing her home from the hospital.  But, yet, so much has happened during these five years, too.  She was born in Mississippi.  We lived there for such a short time, only two years, but that's such a distant memory now that it's hard to believe we ever lived there at all.  And then we moved back here, and we built our house.  Mason started kindergarten.  Ellie was born.  There's been a lot packed in these five years.  And now it's almost time.  But I'm not ready for this.

Before Christmas, the application process for the Academy began, and I completed and submitted Hannah Kate's application for kindergarten.  Unlike our first experience with this process, we did not have to participate in the lottery to gain entrance into the program because siblings of current students are automatically accepted.  So, of course, we received our acceptance letter a couple of weeks ago. 
It's official, I guess.  But I still have a few more months so I'm choosing for the time being to just not think about it.

Who is going to help me with all of my errands and be my little lunch date on those busy days?
Who is going to bound down the stairs and announce, "Hey mom.  I've decided to be an elephant today!" all the while she's wearing her stethoscope like an elephant's trunk?
Who's going to be the sweetest, bestest big sister ever and help me take care of Ellie and play with her so I can fold clothes and clean the bathrooms?
And, I promise, Ellie was actually really happy like this, but, of course, in the five seconds it took me to grab my camera, she wanted no more of it!
I have spent every day of the last five years with my girl.  I am so going to miss her!  I mean . . . look at this . . . who wouldn't?!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Ellie: 7 Months Old

My Dear Ellie:

You are seven months old!  I guess it's time for me to start planning your first birthday party now!  It'll be here before we know it . . . it seems like just yesterday we were bringing you home from the hospital.  It also seems like you've been with us forever, a part of us forever.  And, I guess, in a way, you have been.

So this month marked your third round of antibiotics for, what I believe, was the same ear infection that began just before Christmas.  But I took you to the doctor again this past Monday, and Dr. K said your ears look perfect.  I am so thankful to have that behind us, so thankful for a healthy baby girl.  You weigh 14 lbs 7 oz.  You are 25 1/8 inches long.  You are in the 10th percentile for weight and almost 25th percentile for height.  You have a big head though!  Your head measures in the 75th percentile!  At your last check-up, the nurse even measured your head again because she thought she'd made a mistake when she saw the stats for your weight and height.  But I assured her it wasn't a mistake.  Your brother and sister always had big heads, too!

You sometimes wear a size 2 diaper and sometimes a size 3.  I know that doesn't make any sense.  It just seems like the size 2 is a bit too small, but the size 3 is too big.  So it just depends on the day, I guess.  You can still wear some 6 month outfits but are moving on up into 9 month outfits.

You absolutely LOVE to play with your toys.  You needs something in your hands at all times.  You are so intrigued by bright colors and sounds and buttons.  You also love really soft toys like your babies and your blanket.  We got you this activity cube for Christmas, and you just love it!  You will sit for long periods of time playing with it.  When I stack the blocks on top, you pull them down.  When I put a block in the center, you pull it out.
You are still not a great big fan of "tummy time," but if it means you can get to a toy you are trying to reach, you're okay with it.  You still prefer being on your back.
You are also beginning to really enjoy this jumpster you got for Christmas.  You have finally figured out how to bounce a bit. 
Your biggest accomplishment this month was learning to sit up all by yourself!  I still put the boppy pillow behind you most times, but, for the most part you sit up like a big girl all by yourself.  Everyone also comments on how straight you sit up and your posture.  You have tried to pull up on your activity cube several times.  But you aren't crawling or nearly crawling or showing an interest in going anywhere yet.  This picture makes me laugh.  I don't know if it's the flower in your hair or that ridiculous looking paci in your mouth!
And here you are, cute little naked baby! 
Besides sitting up, another big accomplishment this month is saying, "Da da."  Or da da da da da!  You LOVE to talk!  You talk all the time.  You also moan, "Mmmmmm," when you want my attention or when you are sleepy.  Here you are sweet, sleeping beauty.  You usually sleep on your right side and then end up on your back later in the night.  You are not a stomach sleeper unless Daddy is holding you.  You take a good morning nap.  You fight your afternoon nap like crazy, but we're working on something new with that.  By 8:00 you're really tired and ready to go to bed so you are usually asleep and down for the night by 8:30 or so.  Since you had that ear infection, you woke up A LOT during the night, and I feared you'd forgotten how to "sleep through the night," but you've been back to your regular schedule for almost two weeks now.  You wake up at 4:00am to nurse and then you go right back to sleep until 7:00.  I've been working hard to get you to drop that 4:00am feeding, but you just won't do it.  Two nights ago you actually slept until 6:00, and it was so. nice!  So, between you and me, why don't you try that again?!  And I know your hair has a reddish tint in this picture, but it isn't that way at all.  Hannah Kate is my strawberry blond.  Your hair is the color of Mason's.  It also looks like you're going to have straight hair.  Mason and Hannah Kate both have a lot of wave in their hair, but yours (or what there is of it!) is growing straight out and not curling a bit.  So we'll see.
You LOVE to eat!  Love it!  Your favorite veggie is butternut squash.  You also like sweet potatoes.  You actually like all your veggies except green peas!  It's hard to say what your favorite fruit is.  You love apples, pears and also blueberries.  Your meal times line up with ours now for breakfast, lunch and supper.  You are still teething, but I still don't see anything yet.  I just love that gummy, toothless grin anyway!  You also nurse at 4:00am and 8:00pm.  I still can not believe we are still doing this nursing business!  My goal from the very beginning was just one day at a time.  I wanted to make it to six months but didn't think I could do it.  Of course, you're such a little stinker that you won't take a bottle!  I say that . . . it took over a month of trying and FIVE different kinds of bottles.  But I finally found one you'd take.  Only you won't take it from me!  Abbie was the very first person you took a bottle from.  And you'll take it from your MawMaw, but that's it!
Another favorite memory from this month was your baby dedication.

In case I haven't mentioned it lately, you light up our world!  All of us!  Mason and Hannah Kate are smitten with you and you with them.  I absolutely love watching the three of you play together, watching the two biggies take care of you.  You are one blessed little girl.  And we are so blessed to have you!

I love you!

Friday, February 01, 2013

No Greater Joy: Mason's Baptism

I have NO GREATER JOY than to hear that my children walk in truth.  ~3 John 4


It is with much joy, excitement, humility and awe that I present to you not only my son but also my brother in Christ.  Mason made a profession of faith, asked Jesus into his heart and received the blessed gift of eternal salvation on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2012!  He was baptized on Sunday morning, January 27, 2013.
I have mentioned before that, to me, parenting is the most daunting ministry I've ever experienced.  I love all three of my children immensely.  I want the absolute best for them in all things.  I would love to protect them and shield them from all wickedness and wrong-doing.  I want them to make the best decision, the right decision, the perfect decision every time.  But it doesn't work like that.  At all.  I can teach them and guide them and discipline them and help them and give them advice.  But I can't make their decisions for them.  They do that for themselves.  They have a choice and free will.  I can honestly say that my children are good kids.  They really are.  They aren't perfect by any means.  But they, for the most part, behave when it's most important to do so, are respectful to others and usually make good choices.

But above all of that, my deepest desire for each of them is that they will pursue a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and be obedient to Him in all aspects of their lives, desiring to seek His face and His perfect will for their lives.  But here's the thing.  I can teach them.  I can tell them.  I can read Bible stories to them everyday.  I can help them memorize Scripture.  I can take them to church and church activities every time the doors are open.  But I can not make that decision for them.  I can't.  And there are no guarantees.  None.  And honestly, that scares me.  It does.

I've had the honor of being Mason's mama for 7 1/2 years now.  And even before that, I was praying for him.  I'll never forget . . . after Mason was born and we brought him home from the hospital, our Children's Minister's assistant called me one morning to check on us.  We'd only been home a few days.  And then she asked if she could pray for Mason.  I will never forget her prayer!  She prayed that Mason would love Jesus and come to accept Him as Lord at an early age in his life. 

And Deuteronomy 6:4-9 became my life verse for parenting:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!  You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.  And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. 

When Mason was about 18 months old, we began having a family devotion time at bedtime.  We would let him pick out the Bible story from his children's Bible each night.  There was a period of time where he picked out David and Goliath for at least six months straight.  But it didn't matter.  We read it.  And, by the time it was over, he had it memorized and could say the whole thing himself.  During this time, we also taught him how to pray.  We've done this every night since.  Only now Mason and Hannah Kate take turns each night picking out a Bible story.  If it isn't a school night, we'll sometimes let both of them pick.  Here Mason is at two years old (isn't he adorable?!) with his Bible during our family devotion time one night:
And so during those first few years of reading Mason's Bible together everyday, we simply wanted to teach him the Bible stories so he would become familiar with the Bible and with the people in the Bible, their stories and experiences.  He can tell you all about creation, Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham and his family, David, Daniel, Jonah, the disciples, the life of Jesus.  About two years ago, we began going a little deeper with our discussion, especially when Mason really became fascinated with the events surrounding Jesus' death, burial and resurrection.  We began to talk about things like sin and what sin is, grace and what that means for us.  We talked about why Jesus died on that cross.

About a year ago, I knew the Holy Spirit was tugging at Mason's heart.  He began to ask questions.  He began to even be aware of his own sin.  He really embraced Jesus' death on the cross and started understanding that Jesus did that for him.  He memorized John 3:16.  Every once in a while, he'd ask a question out of the blue that I was just sure was going to lead up to the big moment of him wanting to ask Jesus into his heart.  This past summer, he I thought it was going to happen in the middle of Hobby Lobby!  I don't even remember what his question was or how the conversation got started, but I remember stopping in the middle of the aisle and asking him if he wanted to pray.  He said no.  But I kept praying.  And at the same time, I wondered what that moment would be like and when it would be.  I wondered if I would even be there for it or if it would happen somewhere else with someone else and then he'd tell me later.

So it was Christmas Eve.  I'd been busy all day, having taken Ellie to the doctor that morning and then spent all afternoon in the kitchen.  But I stopped to put Mason and Hannah Kate to bed.  At that point, Ellie had just been diagnosed with a double ear infection, and she still wasn't feeling good and hadn't been sleeping.  She was very fussy.  So Seth stayed downstairs with her, and I did the devotion time with Mason and Hannah Kate.  Honestly, I didn't think much about it.  I still had a cheesecake to make so I was a bit preoccupied.  But since it was Christmas Eve, I recommended that we read the story of Jesus' birth.  We'd read it a thousand times.  And they knew it.  But it didn't matter.  That's what we read.

And the day before, Sunday, we'd talked about Jesus' birth in our Sunday School class.  I teach Mason's class.  I told them that the whole reason Jesus was born was so that He could die.  I even talked about Savior and Redeemer and grace and salvation and forgiveness.  I made a poster for each word, wrote the definition of each word and put the posters on the wall in our classroom.  After we talked about them a bit, I told the children to let me know if they had any questions or if they wanted to talk to me about giving their heart to Jesus.  No one said anything.

As we finished reading the Bible story and were about to pray, Mason interrupted me.  He told me that he wanted to ask Jesus into his heart and that he wanted to go to heaven when he died.

Time. stood. still.

I caught my breath.  I gathered my thoughts and whispered a quick prayer for wisdom and discernment and help.  After a moment, I asked him why he wanted to ask Jesus into his heart.  He began to answer my question.  But then he couldn't.  He started crying.  So I gave him a few minutes, tried to encourage him, tried to soothe him.  At this point, he was sobbing.  So I just waited.  I asked him why he was crying.  And then he finally managed to tell me that he was crying because he sinned and did bad things and didn't want to and that's why he wanted Jesus in his heart.


Godly sorrow brings REPENTANCE that leads to SALVATION and leaves no regret . . .
~2 Corinthians 2:10

So we prayed.  Mason prayed.  He began his prayer with, "Jesus, please put me in your heart . . ."

And then we talked about the ABCs . . .
     A - Admit to God that you are a sinner and repent and turn away from your sins.
     B - Believe that Jesus is God's Son, that he was born and died and rose again on the third day and is alive.
    C - Confess your faith in Jesus as your Savior and your Lord.

I asked Mason to explain each one of them to me, and he did.  We talked about sin some more.  We found Romans 10:9-10 in his Bible and read it.

If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

Mason wanted to know when I'd asked Jesus into my heart so I told him (in case you're wondering, it was 1988, and I was 10 years old, and I was at VBS and my teacher asked me to go to the pastor's study to get a stapler for our craft and I knew it was my perfect opportunity to tell him I wanted to ask Jesus into my heart because I'd been waiting until I could tell him without anyone else being around).  And then he asked about his daddy.  So I told him.  This conversation continued for nearly 45 minutes.  And then I asked Mason to pray again.

He did.  "Jesus, please come into my heart."

And I did.  "Thank you, Jesus."

And then I hugged him and kissed him and tucked him underneath the covers of his bed.  I came downstairs, took Ellie and told Seth to go upstairs because Mason had something to tell him.  And so Mason told his daddy that he'd asked Jesus into his heart.

As for me . . . well . . . like I said, I'd always imagined what the day would be like when each of my children would profess Jesus as Lord and Savior of their lives.  But IT WAS NOTHING LIKE I IMAGINED!  I thought I'd want to shout it from the rooftop.  I mean, I did, but then again, I didn't.  I can without a shadow of a doubt say that that was one of the most humbling experiences of my life!

Oh, that my own heart would be grieved enough for my own sin that I would sob tears of repentance like my son did!

Just humbled.  And in awe.  In awe of the awesome power of God, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the voice of the Holy Spirit that calls us and draws us to Him.

The next day was Christmas.  And as we went to church and later gathered with Seth's family, I did not say anything to anyone about the events of the night before.  I wasn't ready yet.  Besides, it wasn't mine to tell.  It was Mason's.

As we were getting ready to open presents, Mason came over and sat beside me.  I could tell something was on his mind.  But I didn't ask.  He eventually leaned over and whispered in my ear, "Mom, is Jesus still in my heart?"  He was so timid, almost on the verge of tears again.  To which I responded, "Oh yes, sweet boy, He is!  He isn't going anywhere!  He's there forever to stay!"  And he was relieved and went on his way.

The next day . . . I don't remember exactly what happened . . . but Mason started crying.  When I asked him what was wrong (he has a tender heart, can't you tell?), he told me that he sinned by doing something mean to Hannah Kate but that he didn't mean to or want to.  And so we had the conversation that just because Jesus is in your heart doesn't mean you aren't ever going to sin again.  Oh, the faith of a child!  I shared with him 1 John 1:9:

 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

He'd also been asking about baptism, and I told him that we'd talk to our pastor about it when he returned from his vacation.

The next day (Thursday, December 27), Mason had a doctor's appointment.  After that, we had planned for him to ride to Cocodrie with his Aunt April to meet everyone else (Seth, PawPaw, Uncle Troy, Avery, Beau, Uncle Barry and Abbie had already gone down to the camp in Cocodrie) and spend a couple of days fishing.  After they arrived, April sent me a text to let me know they arrived safely.  She said, "we had a great time and a great conversation!  He is a hoot!  And he told me he asked Jesus in his heart!!"  So I responded how excited I was that he'd shared that with her and told her that we were going to talk to the pastor about baptism.  She responded, "Oh we covered baptism as well.  He wants Brother Bud (our pastor) to do it.  We covered me, Troy and the boys - dates for profession of faith and baptism.  We passed a wreck and he said we should pray for them.  I said you are right.  I told him I was praying right then - he said he was only doing his at bedtime - cracked me up."

Yeah, there are still some things we need to work on!  But his conversation with April again confirmed in my heart the change that had taken place in Mason's heart.

So when Bro. Bud returned from visiting his family for the holidays, we told him about Mason's profession of faith.  He met with Mason and talked with him as well regarding his decision and what that means.  He also asked Mason to memorize Romans 10:13, which he did.  By this time, two weeks had passed, and Mason was hot to trot to get baptized.  But the first thing he had to do was "walk the aisle" (Sunday, January 13).  Mason can be shy sometimes so I wasn't sure how he was going to approach this.  I was shy as a child, too.  I can remember very well walking the aisle.  I was so nervous.  We always sang Just As I Am as the hymn of invitation at my church growing up, and I waited until what I knew was going to be the last verse before I left the spot where I was standing and walked down that aisle.  But not Mason!

Of course, I play the piano at our church.  And my back is to where we sit.  So I couldn't see Mason.  But I knew exactly when he began to make his way over to Bro. Bud at the front of the church.  I knew because there was a collective gasp across the room (you know, the good kind).  I hadn't even made it through the introduction of the song before Mason had already left his seat to walk to aisle.  I was finally to a point where I could look down, and I saw him on his knees at the alter praying beside Bro. Bud.  I'm not going to lie.  That was a sweet moment.

Mason wanted to get baptized that very moment, but it doesn't quite work that way.  And since we already had Ellie's baby dedication scheduled for the following Sunday (January 20), we didn't want to do it then either.  Unbeknownst to me, Mason went up to Bro. Bud that Sunday and told him he wanted to be baptized the very next Sunday (January 27).  And Bro. Bud excitedly agreed.

Before Sunday School began, Bro. Bud came into our class and spoke to Mason again for a moment.  He explained what it was going to be like to get baptized and what Mason should do.  He also gave him an eternity bracelet, the ones where each colored bead means something in God's plan of salvation and your walk with the Lord. 
Here Mason is waiting (not so patiently) to get baptized.  I had to get him dressed and then play the piano before the baptism took place.  As soon as I saw him in the baptismal robe, I couldn't help it.  I couldn't hold it in any longer.  I was so full.  I really didn't want to cry because I knew Mason would be concerned about me and think something was wrong.  So I explained to him that I had happy tears (as if that makes any sense!) and that I was so very proud of him.
And finally the moment that he'd been waiting for and looking forward to. 
NO GREATER JOY for this Mama's heart than to see my son being baptized as the public profession of his faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ!
After Aunt April went back home to Houston, she sent Mason a really sweet card to congratulate him and told him to let her know when he was going to get baptized.  So I texted her to let her know it was going to be last Sunday.  And even though it was short notice and only a week away, Uncle Troy, Aunt April, Avery and Beau made the trip out here to celebrate with us and see Mason get baptized!  That was super special!

After church we all ate lunch together at PawPaw and MawMaw's house.  Here's the "kids' table."
And since Mason's favorite is cookie cake, I got him a cookie cake! 
 After Mason was baptized, our church presented him with a new Bible.  It's a beautiful navy blue leather bound Bible with his name engraved on the front.  Pop and Mimi sent him a camo Bible cover that fits his new Bible perfectly (that was a surprise to even me)!  PawPaw and MawMaw gave him a devotional book, and Uncle Troy, Aunt April, Avery, Beau, Uncle Barry, Aunt Ashley and Abbie gave him a special cross necklace.  Avery and Beau have one similar to it.  If you look close enough, you can barely see it in this picture.
So when I mentioned in my Christmas post that I'd received the best. gift. ever. this Christmas . . . well, this was it!  And one more thing.  Christmas Eve.  I also shared that I probably love Christmas Eve more than Christmas Day and felt that way as a child, too.  There was so much fun on that day and so much anticipation leading up to Christmas morning.  I also loved Christmas Eve because it was every Christmas Eve night that we would eat supper at Grandmother's and open presents.  I just loved it!  There's a lot of tradition and a lot of memories at Grandmother's.  In particular . . . Grandmother would always have a birthday cake for Jesus.  It was always a white cake, and there was a manger scene on top.  There would also be three candles on top.  We'd sing Happy Birthday to Jesus and then blow out the candles.

One year . . . I don't remember what year . . . Grandmother added a little twist.  She asked each of the grandchildren to go around the room and tell something that we wanted to give to Jesus for His birthday.  Well, of course, none of the boys were going to go first.  And, as the oldest grand-girl, I guess all of the other girls looked to me to go first.  So I did.  And I gave the perfect, church girl answer.  I was going to give Jesus . . . wait for it! . . . MY HEART.  Of course, all of the adults were so proud of my answer.  My cousins, well, I'm sure they (Jennifer in particular) were gagging, but they followed suit.  And, as it turns out, all eight of us were giving Jesus our hearts!  And year after year, we did it all over again.  Jenn, Niece, Ashley and I often look back on this and laugh, mostly them laughing at me.

But how sweet of the Lord . . . to draw my son into a saving relationship with him on Christmas Eve!