a seed of faith

Jackson, tonight I had the incomparable joy of hearing you ask Jesus to save you.

Who knew that a conversation about wildcats in South Carolina would turn into a redemptive conversation that would lead to you wanting to follow Jesus? I sure didn’t anticipate it as I painted the swing set and you sallied back and forth on the red swing below. But Jesus knew. He knew you’d want to know if bears lived in North Carolina and if wildcats lived in South Caroline. He knew I’d tell you about my Pop-pop’s stuffed wild cat that was mounted on his wall when I was a girl. He knew you’d ask if my grandpa was in heaven…Jesus knew it would go like this:

You asked me if I was going to heaven and I said yes. You asked what heaven is like and I told you it was the best thing you can imagine, but better than that because God was there. Then you wondered what hell was like and I explained it’s the worst thing you can imagine, and worse, because God isn’t there. You asked what was in hell I said fire and darkness.

You asked again I was going to heaven and why I was. I answered, “Because I have asked Jesus to save me from my sins and I was sorry and repentant for my sins. I asked Jesus to save me because I knew I wanted to follow him all the days my life.” And then Jack, you said, “Mom, could you help me do that too?” I said, “I would love to.”

So later in the evening you and I prayed together and you asked Jesus to save you. I’m so glad Jack! So glad that God takes conversations about Wildcats and turns them into redemption. So glad that you want to follow Jesus. Dad asked you why you wanted to go to heaven and you said “to be with God.” I can’t think of a better reason, because He wants you to be with Him forever. He made the way for you to be with Him forever!

I love you, Jackson and my deepest prayer is that you will follow Jesus all the days of your life. God has begun a good work in your heart and I know that he will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. I pray that this seed of faith that God has planted in your heart will grow to be a mighty, strong oak with deep roots. Sink yourself deep into Jesus, Jack. He loves you and promises to be with you all along this journey of life. He is FOR you. Chase after Him with every bit of your heart, soul, mind and strength.

Love, Mom

Photo by jomegs - Google Chrome 7292014 114601 PM.bmp

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Jackson is Five!

 

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What day is today, Jackson?: My birthday!

How old are you? Five.

Who made you? God did.

Where do you live? in North Branch

What is your favorite thing to do with Daddy?  Go play at the playground.

What is your favorite thing to do with Mommy? Go to the store.

What is your favorite thing to do with Taylor? Play babies.

Who is your best friend? Reegan.

What is your favorite book? Trusty the Train

What character in a book do you like best? Thomas the Train

What is your favorite Bible Story? David and Goliath

What is your favorite thing to build? Towers

What is your favorite food to eat? Apples

What is your favorite thing to play? Hide and seek

Where do you love to visit? North Carolina

What song do you like to sing the most? Glory to God

If you could buy anything at the store, what would it be? Spiderman

What is your favorite animal? Horses

If you could buy someone a gift, what would you buy and who would it be for? I would buy a toy house for Reegan.

What would you like to be when you grow up? A police officer.

What do you enjoy doing outside? Playing football.

What holiday do you love celebrating? Fourth of July

What is your favorite work to do at school? Painting

What is your favorite restaurant? McDonalds

What is your favorite special treat? Popsicles

What do you love most about being a big brother? Taking care of Taylor and my brother

What do you want to do today on your birthday? Play mini-golf and eat at the Drive-In!

What was your favorite thing about being four? Going to the beach

What are you most excited about in turning five?! Playing with my friends.

out of the mouth of jack 2.0

on Saturday we put up our Christmas tree and Jackson put the star on top. We asked him, “what does the star on the Christmas tree represent?” He look a bit puzzled and then said, “Mitt Raw-men-ee?” (Say, WHAT?) I have no idea. I tried to follow his mind track and got nowhere. We corrected this little misunderstanding, of course.

lately in the motherhood

The kids are in a fun stage that usually leaves me laughing during the day and exhausted by the time they go to bed. I’m quite certain I’m biased as can be, but they sure seem like clever, adorable, sweet and sassy little people that I’m so glad belong to us.

Taylor:

  • started saying “peas” while signing “please” in the last 2 weeks.
  • will say “bah-bye” and kind of wave/open/close her hand when people leave.
  • cuddles her baby doll in her little rocking chair and says “bay-bee, bay-bee”.
  • discovered a love for climbing. On the furniture short enough for her, up and down the steps, over toys, etc.  (wonk-wonk. :-/)
  • all of the sudden loves books and has stopped pulling forbidden books off the shelf in favor of her own board books.
  • is very much enamored with the very small ride-on, motorized Jeep toy. She figured out how to push the button to make it go and wants to be on it all the time if we’re playing outside.
  • bawls her eyes out if she sees her daddy leave without her.
  • finally has more hair coming in! And I think, praise be, that Kyle’s genes are coming through for me! Her hair definitely has a reddish cast to it and some curls are appearing. I’ve always wanted curly, red haired kids. And since Kyle had red curls from infancy to his late teens, when it started getting darker (and started disappearing altogether), I figured marrying him was a good bet for that. 🙂

Jackson

  • “what you got-for?” = What did you forget? Anytime he means to say forgot or forget, he says “got for”. I love it.
  • At a stoplight, we observed a man next to us who had a very long (like ZZ Top long) beard. Jack’s sincere comment? “That’s a vewy nice beard.”
  • After a bath, he was cleaning his ears out with a q-tip and declared, “I’m getting the boogers out.”
  • “Mom, I’m finding for my toy gun.” Finding for = looking for. 🙂 We’re working on that one.
  • He really likes the soccer gold (goal) Uncle Nate and Aunt Kar-yah (Karla) gave him for his birthday this summer.
  • Kyle got a cut on his hand and Jack asked if he was “blooding”.
  • When he sneezes he announces, “OH! I gah-bwess-you’d.” Is that similar to turning Google into a verb? I think so. 🙂
  • “Last night” is his measure of time for anything we did in the past. A few weeks ago we took a harbor cruise of Lake Superior in Duluth. About a week later Jackson said, “Mom! We went on that boat yast night…and we went around the barber. Yet’s do that again!”
  • loves “Blues Clues”, “Dinosaur Train” and “Mr. Rogers” these days.

We’ve reached a stage where Jackson is more aware of things and pays pretty close attention to things that are said/overheard and simple explanations are not enough anymore for this big boy.  The other day on the NPR were talking about the girl in Pakistan who was shot in the head, Malala. I hear his little voice pipe up, “MOM! THEY SHOT A GIRL?!!” I’m thinking: “Great. Now I get to explain the Taliban and their oppression of women to a 3 year old.” Needless to say, we’ve been a little more vigilant about what he hears/sees now.

Or another example – last week we had an appointment with an adoption agency to talk about their programs and interview their director. Enter “explain adoption to Jackson”. 🙂 He got it pretty well I think. Later that day I was looking at adoption programs for various countries online and Jack saw the pictures of kids and said, “So, which kid we gonna adopt?” I hope we can help him understand this crazy process for his little brain. He seems cool with the idea of having a chocolate colored brother, so that’s a bonus!

And of course, a recent picture. 🙂 That’s all the news that’s fit to print!

 

from the mouth of Jackson

“Mom! The asquitos are eating me all gone!”

(coming in from the hot, humid outdoors into the air conditioning after a water gun fight) “Oh brrr – can we make it hot in here?”

This morning I was serenaded quite often. I heard strains of You are My Sunshine, Tell Me Who I Am, 10,000 Reasons, How He Loves Us and Oh Dear, What Can the Matter Be. I love that our kids love music. Makes my heart sing.

Jack is a very helpful boy. Often we hear, “Mom, what I can help you with?” or “Dad, what can I help you for?”

Nikon (our golden lab) is notorious for injuring himself while playing catch. The other day was no exception, when he jumped into Kyle’s throw to quickly. Kyle checked his mouth to see if there was any damage done and Jack asked, “He is blooding?” (Translation – Is he bleeding?)

And the most common word out of his mouth at this time: “WHY?” Yes, its driving me absolutely crazy. Yes, I’ve used “BECAUSE I SAID SO” to answer. 🙂

jackson is three.

three years ago, at 2:52am on July 17, we welcomed Jackson Keith into our lives and our world was forever changed. Meeting him for the first time was amazing. Getting to know him and helping to shape his little life these three years has been a privilege, a challenge, and a gift.

To my son, at three:

Dear Jackson,

Today, three years ago, you burst onto the scene. The nurses told me I was a rock star for the two hours of pushing it took to get you out of your cozy home and into this crazy world. Your dad kissed me so sweetly, in triumph and appreciation, as the doctor weighed you – I knew he thought you were amazing already. These three years have been just plain great. Hard at times, sleep deprived a lot of the time, but full of those incredible moments that take away your breath. The ones that make me want to forever remember them. To tuck them into my heart and keep them always. Thank goodness for cameras and iPods and video footage of your life – because I feel like its passing in a blur and I can only remember what you did yesterday. 🙂

Your tender heart and praise filled mouth make me so very happy. My day is riddled with choruses of “the sun comes up, its a new day gawning, its time to sing Your gongs again…bwess the Yord, oh my soul, ohhhh my sowl…” and “how He YOVES US, OH HOW He YOVES US” and I couldn’t love it more. The incessant question of “why” could very well be stricked from your vocabulary, but I know it comes with the territory of a three year old. I’d rather have your inquisitive self than any number of quiet hours to think uninterrupted thoughts. 🙂

Your delight for life and your grateful heart are really incredible. You aren’t without selfishness of course, but you often thank us for taking you places and doing things with you without being reminded or prompted. Most recently, you thanked me for your birthday party (which I loved throwing for you!) and for getting you lollipops.

You love to play sports. Baseball, golf, soccer…you do it all with gusto and intensity. Intense would be a good adjective for you at this age, little man. You feel, speak, play, interact, and just do life intensely. You love music. It’s super fun to see you get out your pretend guitar and “play” with the music on the “way-dio”. Current favorite songs? Tractor, Tractor by Andrew Peterson and Randall Goodgame and Dynamite by Taio Cruz. You like books. You will sit for quite a while and look at books, and of course you love being read to. Some of your favorites right now are “Halfway Herbert” by Francis Chan and anything by Richard Scarry.

The biggest change in your life so far happened in October when you became a big brother to Taylor! And what a great one you are too. You love her so much (sometimes a little TOO much, poor girl) and she thinks you hung the moon. Her face lights up like a Christmas tree when you walk in the room. Your cheerful, “Good MOWNING, Tayer!” is the sweetest thing. I hope you’ll always be good friends. Even when you’re 16 and 14, and 28 and 26. And 87 and 85. 🙂

Jack, your dad and I pray that the Lord would be the blazing center of your joy, intensity and passion. That you would TASTE and SEE that He is so, so, so Good. And that His love and grace would shape you into a boy and a man that follows Him no matter what.

I thank God for your life and how it is shaping my own. I thank Him that YOU are my son. Your dad and I love you so much. Happy Birthday, Jack-boy!

Love,
Your Mommy

road trip!

we had SUCH an amazing time on our recent trip to Tennessee. It’s been 5 years since I was last in that beautiful state – in 2007 I made three trips there (one with Kyle, one with my mom and one for my grandpa’s funeral). Since then, a lot has changed in our family, namely adding our two kids! I’ve been wanting to introduce them to my extended family there ever since Jack arrived on the scene, but it hadn’t happened yet. So it was high time we headed down there. Mom joined us for the trip, which was our first official family road trip (well, further than WI anyway).

We started out on a slightly overcast Wednesday morning, as soon as we got everything loaded after Kyle came home from work at 6am. We hit the road at about 8am and went through the fertile plans and rolling hills of Wisconsin, instead of down I-35 during rush hour. 🙂 We’re so smart. Armed with snacks galore, toys, books a plenty, one movie on the iPad, games on the iPod and Adventures in Odyssey’s to listen to, we were in good shape. Mom took driving duty first and I was on kid duty. Kyle, the warrior, slept.

We got hung up in some traffic in Chicago, which was par for the course, but arrived at my dear Lindsey’s house at 9pm, after 13 hours on the road/in the car. The kids did AWESOME. Nary a fuss out of either of them! Jack loved listening to Odyssey, Taylor was highly entertained by being able to see Jack directly behind her and everyone had a smooth ride. It was with gratefulness, however, that the kids fell into bed at Lindsey’s in northwestern Ohio. We had fun chatting it up with her, Marcus, Jessica and Janelle into the wee hours of the morning. The visit was far too short, however. I love Linz way too much to live as far away as we do. 😛

When we woke up, we enjoyed a few more minutes with Lindsey before she headed to work, then we took some pictures outside her house and hopped back in the car for a little drive to Uncle Pat and Aunt Annette’s house for lunch. Annette was already in TN for a scrapbook weekend, so we just saw Uncle Pat. The last time I visited them, they still lived in their house in town. Now they have a wonderful, charming and pastoral (I think I even uttered the word “bucolic”) little hobby farm on the edge of New Knoxville. We enjoyed lunch with him and his grandson, John; listening to Kyle and Pat swap cop stories. The boys played so well together and we were all glad for a chance to stretch our legs for a while! But all too soon, we had to get on down the road. We made another pit stop along the way for the incredible ice cream at Graeter’s in Cincinnati. I’d never been to Cincy – it seems like a cool town with lots of neat history.

Kyle navigated us through a terrific rainstorm while crossing Mt. Jellico and Jack was overheard saying, “We having fun, Mom!” with 250 miles to go before arriving, road-weary, at our final destination: Aunt Tamara and Uncle Rick’s home in Sevierville. :happy sigh: We settled into our guest quarters and slept so well.

It was odd and sad to be in TN and not see my grandparents. This was my first trip down there since they both went to heaven. Passing their street, going places they used to take me when we visited when I was a kid – it was all bittersweet. I was SO glad to bring my family there, but so sad that Grandpa and Grandma didn’t have a chance to meet my kids. The first morning in TN, I smelled honeysuckle on the air and imagined they were smelling it too…only in heaven it was even sweeter.

We did a little puttering around Pigeon Forge and Sevierville that first day. Papa and Grandma Meri bought Jackson some new Keens and we hit up the ol’ favorite of the Apple Barn for some more apple butter for the pantry and their fantastic apple dumplings. That night was a big birthday party for my cousin’s daughter and a friend of my other cousin. Everyone got to meet Jack and Taylor and it was such a fun night with family. I wish to heaven that we’d snapped a picture, but I forgot to. 😦

On Saturday, we were SO happy to see Karla! She was able to come over from NC with her friend, Ashley for the weekend. Jackson was so very excited to see her and made quick friends with Ashley too. That morning, my cousin Meriam joined Kyle, the kids and I for a hike up to Clingman’s Dome! One of my favorite spots in the Smokies. And it was a perfect day for it – not too chilly, not too warm. Jack was super duper excited to go through the tunnels and up the windy mountain roads, and did a good job hiking the 1 mile to the top too. It was so nice to spend extra time with Meriam. It’s been several years since we’ve seen each other and never have we had a chance to just sit and talk like we did while we drove to the dome and back. 🙂 One of the highlights of our trip for me! Later that day we had fun at a carnival fundraiser for my cousin’s kid’s school and spent time just hanging out as a family.

Sunday morning, Mom, Karla, Ashley and our family all piled into our van for a drive to and around Cades Cove – a TN vacation tradition. Why? Because 33.5 years ago, my parents exchanged vows to have and to hold from that day forward in Cades Cove. It’s where it all began for our family! Not to mention, its an absolutely beautiful part of the Smoky Mountain National Park. It was another positively gorgeous day and we saw baby bears, deer, turkeys, and woodpeckers in the park as we drove around. We stopped to take pictures in the field where my parents were married and at “The Tree” in Cable Mill, where we’ve taken family pictures ever since I was a wee little lassie. Precious memories.

We said goodbye to Karla and Ashley and had another family supper with my cousins, complete with homemade ice cream by Uncle Rick. SO yummy. Another fantastic day in the books!

Jackson is ALL about golf these days and we thought he would really love to go play mini-golf. We decided that would be our one “splurge touristy” thing of the trip. So while Mom and Aunt Tam kept Taylor, we took Jack to Professor Hackett’s Adventure Mini-Golf (or something like that). It pretty much made his life. LOL. It was so fun to see him get so excited. He even got a hole-in-one on the last hole! However, the excitement of that was overshadowed by the fact that the ball went into the hole and never came out again. 🙂 “I didn’t want it to go in da hole and down the tube, mom!” We grabbed Five Guys fries and Sonic burgers on our way back to the house for much needed naps after our fun excursion.

That evening, Kyle and I enjoyed a lovely date to Texas Roadhouse and a movie back at the Harrell’s on their big screen. We had to catch up on Captain America before The Avengers came out later that week. My mom was so sweet to put our kiddos to bed and love on them so we could escape for a while. I loved every minute of the time we got to spend together with our kids over this trip. It was a really neat week of sharing memories of my childhood with the people I love the most in the world.

We had ONE last day in Tennessee on Tuesday before we made the two-day trek home. And of course, we went back to the mountains. Jackson just plain loved hiking and going to the mountains, so it wasn’t a hard choice. I’m really glad that so far, our kids are up for the crazy adventures we like to enjoy. The hike of the day was Laurel Falls. Worth every bit of the 2.1 miles up. The last time I had hiked to Laurel Falls was when I was 15 or 16, with all my cousins and aunts and uncles over the week we celebrated my grandparents 50th wedding anniversary. The trail had a few more potholes and worn spots than I remembered from 15 years ago. 🙂 It was a beautiful hike and a lovely time in the mountains.

Vacation was wonderful, but going home is always lovely too. We left the Harrell House and went north to Indiana, where we stayed with my mom’s cousin Steve and his lovely wife Janet and saw my great-Aunt Doris (94 years old – hale and beautiful!). It was weird to drive past the Meridian St. exit in Indianapolis (where I went to culinary arts school 12 years ago) and painful to miss visiting with dear friends like Jamie as we went a little further north to be closer to home the next day. Steve and Janet told us tales of their farming life and we slept with the windows open and the crickets serenading us from the green fields of the Hoosier countryside.

One more day of driving – Adventures in Odyssey (Jack pronounced it “Awentures in Ossadee”) and a showing of “Babe” got us through Illinois, Wisconsin and then, we were at the Minnesota border! The kids did great again – until we were 5 miles from home. Jack didn’t take a good nap that day, so he was just DONE. Like my butt was DONE with the sitting business. We tumbled into the house and were greeted with a lovingly prepared by Papa Keith meal of penne and meatballs.

I’m so grateful we were able to make the trip – a huge thanks to my parents for making it possible financially, to Toyota for building the lovely Sienna minivan, to Lindsey, the Harrell’s and the Hurley’s for the lovely places to stay and the tasty meals, and to God for creating this beautiful country of ours. Traveling it by car was a delight and a fun adventure we won’t soon forget.