Friday, May 5, 2017

Happy Birthday, Sammy!

Oh, Sweet Sammy. You're eight. And we are so proud of the delightful young man you are growing into.

I was thinking about you today ... happy and content, quiet and at ease. You quickly take responsibility for your actions, and you love to grow. You blend in well with our crazy family. But never think that you are anything less than completely precious to us.

You've always been a sweet and happy child, and it's been delightful to see you grow in areas of excitement. You're really starting to get the hang of school and you always try hard at whatever you're working on. Of course, you also love video games and Legos and Star Wars and you love sharing your passions with those around you. And we all love hearing about what's going on in your head.

You're sweet and tender with the little ones in the family. And you never forget to thank God for His kindness and to pray for those you love. Thank you for that. You always bless me with your prayers.

There's no denying the fact that you, dear Sammy, are growing up. We love you and we're proud of you. Remember your joy in knowing God's love for you, son, and remember His great sacrifice in sending His Son. As you keep your focus on Him, He will guide you and take good care of you.

Happy, happy birthday, Sammy! We love you!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Happy Birthday, Talia!

Our sweet, beautiful baby girl...

You're one, now. I'm not sure my heart can handle that. But I guess as parents, we don't get to decide these things.

You have been such a beautiful blessing this past year. There have been a lot of losses and heartaches, but you have been a joy ... our "dew of heaven."

I commonly describe you as our very first laid-back girl. You're an easy baby ... you sleep well, eat well and love life. You dance and sing and talk and laugh. Even when you get a birthday tooth and you want to be held all the time, you still are delightful and will cheer up when your siblings sing.

We love you and we're so thankful that God gave you to all of us ... you are a sweet and perfect gift!!

Happy, happy birthday, sweet Talia!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Happy Birthday, J.J.!!

Jeremiah Joseph ... It is your fourth birthday. And we are so very thankful that you are part of our family!!

Lately, I've spent a lot of time thinking about the season before you were born.  We were busy with six little kids, and we had recently moved into our new house which required a LOT of work and that kept us busy, too. But it was a sad season ... we had experienced great loss, and my heart cried out to God, asking Him to give us another baby. And your siblings were crying out to God and asking Him to give them another sibling. And I know other voices echoed ours.

And do you know what God, in His generous kindness did? He gave us YOU. (And then your baby sisters. And more recently, a baby brother that went to be with Jesus before we got a chance to meet him).

You were a chill, laid back baby even before you were born, and we have loved every second of getting to know you. You're happy and tender, sweet and caring. You love fully and laugh fully. (And you're a good sleeper. Which is probably why you have gotten away with sleeping on the floor in Mommy and Daddy's room MUCH longer than any of your siblings ever have. Ahem.)

You've been working hard to learn how to talk this year, and your very first and favorite sentence was and is, "I. WANT. HUGS!!" I'm pretty sure your next sentence will be, "I want TOAST," but that's a story for another day.

You love airplanes these days. Your Grandpapa is happy about that.  Whenever you run, you're arms go out as wings and more recently, you've started spinning an arm in front of you as a propeller and making awesome engine noises when you're trying to get my attention.

We hope you have a wonderful year, dear son. We hope you run and jump and laugh and play and hug and eat ... and we hope you know how very loved you are. We have a good God who gives good gifts. And we are thankful for you!!

Happy, happy birthday, J.J.! We love you!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Happy Birthday, Selah!!

You made it! You're nine years old!! Isn't that AMAZING?!?

Selah, you are such a beautiful, delightful daughter. You're full of life and love and fun and creativity. You're kind and thoughtful, bouncing and adventurous. You are an amazing big sister. You're a great little sister. You are a good friend. You are a joy.

And we're so thankful to have you as our daughter. 

We hope you have a beautiful year. We hope you grow in knowing how very, very loved you are. Even when your mom is grouchy. Even when your dad is distracted. YOU are fully, wholly, wonderfully loved. We love you, but more perfectly, God loves you. And we hope that with each passing day, you become more knowledgeable, more secure, more rested in knowing the height and width and breadth and depth of that love.

And we hope and pray that in that knowledge, you continue to blossom and grow. Because you are a precious, precious gift. And we are so very thankful for you.

Happy, happy birthday, Sweet Selah! We love you!!

Friday, November 4, 2016

Happy Birthday, Kiki!!

A long, long time ago, there was a mommy and daddy who had a little girl. Then they had a boy. And another boy. And then another girl. Then they had another boy. And another boy...and a couple years later aNOTHER boy. And then, they had a precious, sweet little girl (YOU!). And then aNOTHER girl. But let's get back to YOU!

Two years (and two days -- sorry for the belatedness of this post!) ago, you broke our streak and bounced joyfully into our world. There was GREAT rejoicing by your older sisters and your brothers...oh, they cooed.

I don't think you've stopped bouncing since. You are a bundle of joy...You sing, you dance, you babble up a storm. You bat your eyes and stomp your feet. You love to be carried and happily yell at "Yaya" (Eliana) or "Mi'gey" to chariot you up and down the stairs, even though your little legs work just fine.

You and JJ have been inseparable since Day One. You're his voice when he's not yet ready to talk, and you've gotten him into more mischief then his happy-go-lucky, laid-back self would ever have even thought to discover without you.

And with Baby Sister...oh, you're a bucket of sweetness. Your older siblings have taught you well how to cuddle and kiss and love on the babies...and you happily accept that role!

We love you, Sweet Girl. You are a gift from God and a joy to our hearts, and we are so incredibly thankful that He saw fit to add you to our crazy household. You fit right in and add a sweet spark.
Happy, happy birthday, Keanna!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Family Movie Nights

Have you ever had that awkward moment when you're showing a great movie from your childhood to your kids only to discover you didn't remember that particular scene, language, etc. being in the movie?

Or maybe there's a good movie that would have been truly great if only Hollywood had cut out a few things.

VidAngel solves these problems by letting you filter streaming videos. You can even customize your filters. It's a bit confusing at first, but basically you buy the movie for $20 and then sell it back within 24 hours for a $19 credit. Net cost per movie is $1.

We've watched a few movies now this way and have been very pleased with the results, so thought I'd share in case anyone else is interested.

Please note there is an ongoing legal dispute.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Happy Birthday, Danny!!

Hey there, Danny -- you're ten!!

You're growing up so quickly... and really, Sweetheart, you're doing a great job. You're sweet and attentive to your friends and family, you're eager to help out and you're typically cheerful about doing your chores, your schoolwork or what have you.

You're thoughtful and kind and you're funny. Even Talia thinks so. You get her to laugh more than just about anyone else!

And you're ten! How in the world did that happen?? It seems like just yesterday, you were my sweet, littlest baby...all cuddled up... and now you're pretty much ready to take on the world!

Just remember, in the process, that you're not alone...we're here for you, Danny. We've got your back.
And you don't need to be like anyone but who God created YOU to be. Your name means "God is my judge," and we want to remember that. This world will judge you, no doubt, as people like to do that to one another. But at the end of the day, you are accountable to God and God alone for your thoughts, your actions, and your deeds. And He is a righteous and good judge, a loving judge who made a way for you...He knows your strengths, and He knows your weaknesses. And He knows that where you fall short (and believe me, we all do), He has made a way for you. That's why Jesus came to this earth, and lived a perfect life on your behalf... so run to Him and know His love and His peace!

Love you, sweet buddy! Happy, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Happy Birthday, Wazowski!!

It's your golden birthday, Dude (and if, like me for much of my life, random readers have never heard of a golden birthday, it's the year of life that matches up with the day of the month on which you were born. For example, Mikey was born on September 11, so his eleventh birthday is his golden birthday. At least this is what my Minnesotan husband tells me. But it's cold in Minnesota. So there's that)!!

Mikey, you are one awesome kid. You can try my patience like none other, but then you flash your darn dimples and, yeah. I'm a sucker for your dimples. And your crazy bear hugs. I'm a sucker for those, too.

This last year has been a really good year for you. You've grown a lot. You can still try our patience like none other, but you seem to be growing in wisdom and self-control. We see more and more evidence of those characteristics in your life. You're also more quickly taking responsibility for your action and seeking a resolution. That's a sign of great maturity. Well done, son. Keep it up!

You have commentary for any and every subject matter that comes up, regardless of your level of expertise in the area. Seriously -- you should talk to your dad about getting your own YouTube channel. I'm pretty sure we could make some $$ off of that.

You challenge me and remind me so much of myself in so many ways. You're good at debate and you're quick to justify and defend. Just remember to justify the just and defend the weak and the righteous, and you will do well.

You're also passionate, emotional, and intense (and these are qualities that I've been accused of a time or two in my life, let me tell ya). And do you know what? Those are GOOD qualities. God created us with a full range of emotions. He never meant for us to be apathetic and disinterested in matters of this world. Just remember that our thoughts are the tracks that carry our emotions in the directions that they will go. So take your thoughts captive. Choose compassion, grace and kindness over self-interest and self-righteousness. Choose gratitude and contentment instead of self-pity and frustration. Choose mercy over anger and bitterness. Control your thoughts, and let those drive your emotions.

Philippians 4:8 says, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."

You have an amazing ability to put your thoughts into words, and when you grasp a concept, your enthusiasm in contagious. I love seeing you learn, and I love learning from you.

We love you, Mikey, and we are so proud of you. We thank God that He made you just the way He did. You're a gift to us, and we enjoy you so much. May you continue to grow more and more into the man He created you to be. Happy, happy birthday!!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Happy Birthday, Eliana!!

Oh my sweet, sweet Eliana Joy... bear with me, Child. You mama is about to go on a bit! ;)

You know, of course, that my name is Christina Joy. My mama always said that my name meant, "the joy of the Lord is my strength." Growing up, I always loved my name, especially paired with my middle name, and considering the meaning. But I didn't realize until I was a bit older that when my parents gave me that name, that joy was what I was meant to claim.  You see, in my youthful interpretation, I always thought of it as an expression of where my mom was when I was born. My dad was working hard far away; she was home with three babies under three years of age... that can be hard and tiring work! She needed the joy of the Lord to strengthen her!

As I got older, I came to realize that I, too, needed the joy of the Lord to strengthen me... and even in my name, I was given the direction and the way in which I could find that strength in Jesus. What a gift.

Twenty five years separate each of us, my mom and me, me and you... and yet as she prayed and blessed me with that precious direction in my name, your dad and I were so honored to pray and bless you with your name, Eliana Joy. You know that Eliana means "God has answered me" and when paired with your middle name, I always think of it as "God has answered me with joy."

Of course, you could interpret your name as an expression of where Daddy and I were when you were born -- we were so, so thankful that God answered our prayers for a child with you! What a gift and what a blessing -- and that is an accurate interpretation.

But, Sweet, Sweet child... don't forget to personalize the meaning of your name. It's for you, too. And we've seen that in you in the last few years. You are so, so beautiful. You have such a sweet spirit, a generous heart, a forgiving nature, a humble strength that produces joy in leadership and in service. You've embraced the heart of God that forgives you of your sin, and in doing so, you've found that God has answered YOU with joy. What a treasure it is to see you walk in that strength and kindness. As John Piper says, "God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in Him." You've found a worthy God, and we see Him glorified in you.

During this morning's service when the pastor was talking about ministry and people, I started to think that I could easily replace the word "ministry" with "parenting" and the word "people" with "children." It is not always easy to parent (I know you've heard the stories of when you were a paint-peeling two-year-old!), but when we think of you (and your siblings, of course), you make it a joy to be a parent. Thank you.

Okay. Rambling done (maybe). Now you're twelve years old. Two-thirds of the way through this foundational adventure called childhood. Keep following your dreams, and don't be afraid to share them with others. You are a quiet warrior, a gentle leader, a humble joy... and we pray that you will be blessed with the knowledge and peace of how very, very loved you are, precious one!!

Happy, happy birthday, Eliana!!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Happy, happy birthday, Elijah!!

DUDE!! You're six!! You've been telling people all day that you're "TURNING SIX" today, and so you're five and you'll "act-chew-wu-wee (actually) be six tomorrow." Technically, you're correct, since you weren't born until 11:59pm. (I know, I know... I tell you that every year. And I also always tell you that these next 18 days are my favorite of the year because when people ask me how old my kids are, I can now say I have an 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, and 6 year old. Of course, I have a few others, too, but their ages don't line up so nicely.)

ANYHOW, Little Dude, YOU are AWESOME!! We have had so much fun with you this year. (As I wrote that last sentence you ran back and forth in front of me 147 times while enthusiastically telling me some crucial information about one of the games that has your attention. I forget which one. But needless to say, it took me a long time to write that sentence.)

Enthusiastic is a great word to describe you. Energetic, confident, generous, compassionate and wholehearted are some others. So many times this past year (or two), I have told others how much I love five-year-old boys. Five-year-old boys are so sweet and loving, and they look at the world and see it for its very best. At least, if all five-year-old boys are like you, that's what they do. I have a feeling that I'm going to be saying some awesome things about six-year-old boys now.

We love you, Elijah. You're a gift from God. You love Star Wars and Luigi and the Wii U. You are tender and caring with babies and toddlers. Sammy is still your best friend, and you love the color green.  You'll take the time to stop and talk to anyone. You love people and know that they love you right back. And when given the option to pick any cupcake you want, you make sure it's the most beautiful chocolate cupcake you can find, and then you give it to your Mommy. (Well, you give it to Sammy and your Mommy to share, but then Sammy tells your Mommy she can have it all. Seriously. You boys are the best!!)

We hope you have an awesome year, Sweet Buddy, living and learning and loving even more. Happy, happy sixth birthday, 'Lijah!! We love you!!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Happy Birthday, Sammy!

Sammy! Seriously?!? You're SEVEN!!

Huge!! Gosh, we're enjoying watching you grow up. You're steadfast and reliable, easy going and fun to be around. You're loyal -- you've loved all things Star Wars and Mario and Luigi for how long now?

You are oh-so-sweet to your mom and in this last year or so, you've added your youngest brother and baby sisters to your list of sweet devotions. You also never forget to pray for your Grandmama and Grandpapa whenever it is your turn to pray. (Thank you. That means the world to me.)

Elijah is still your best buddy but you've broadened your horizons and enjoy playing with "the big kids" or chatting it up with random friends (and your parents' friends count as yours!) or strangers, even, if they'll let you tell them what's up with your favorite video games!

You're huggable, lovable, and wonderful. We thank God for you and truly enjoy how He made you -- and who He is making you to be. You're a precious gift, dear son, and we pray that you have the best year yet!