Friday, August 5, 2016

#1 on the college list

a can of febreeze. that's it. that's the single, only item purchased for our son heading off to college in just a couple of weeks. 

one. solitary. can. of. febreeze.

he came home with it from the grocery store last week --- proud, sure of himself and, i could tell, feeling quite accomplished. that college list thing? yep, he's all over it. he's on it. off and running that boy is.

that boy with his one can of febreeze.

and some of you begin to chuckle because you might remember my posts from the last two years when our daughter -- our first born -- headed to college. (click for emily's dorm room) you remember the crafty bedskirts, the homemade headboards and the chalk-painted dresser. maybe you remember the preparation, the attention to detail and the oodles of time and energy we poured into her new place. the design hoopla of dorm sweet dorm ... and then some.

and now child number two gets ready to leave. the son. the boy-man. the outdoorsy-kinda-guy. the one who would be happy with nothing more than his eno, his hyrdoflask and a big bag of beef jerky. (oh, and the febreeze. yes, let's not forget that).

last week when he brought home his air freshener, i just had to ask. i asked him why he made that his first (and only) purchase. i mean, come on people, let's get real here: we all know the list for college supplies is long. maybe it doesn't include homemade headboards for the guys dorm, but there are still some things this son of mine is going to need living in a state separate from his parents.

his answer regarding the febreeze: "well, mama, i don't really know. it just seemed a good place to start and i'm pretty sure we'll need it."

how self-aware, i thought. good for him. he might not seem ready, but, perhaps with his easy-going-it-will-all-work-out attitude, he, actually, is.

you know i've pushed him a little on this topic. feigning nonchalance, i've casually asked if he and his roommate have discussed things like who is bringing the sofa, the microwave, the mini-fridge or the x-box. i realize we aren't going to whip up a design sample-board or even come close to determining a coordinating color scheme, but still ... there are things. my mind goes to the nittiest grittiest things like toilet brushes and shower mats and laundry hampers. i mean, how can it not? i'm a mother. i've been running a household for over 25 years.

when asked if his roommate, kevin, and he have talked about any of these things, he rolls his eyes and comes back with, "oh mom, we're good. we're just gonna pick up things as we need them."

(and, you, who know me, laugh. again).

let's be perfectly clear here: my son knows exactly what he's doing. oh yes he does. he's been around his mama for almost 19 years and he knows he is driving me plumb crazy. he knows my home (or dorm) decorating fingers are flat out itching to pick out a comforter and some throw pillows.

he rolls his eyes.
he smirks.
shrugs his shoulders and chuckles under his breath.

because he knows me.

but, what's more: i know him. 

i know i can't pin this kid up against the wall in target and demand he select a shower caddy and a foam mattress pad cover. it won't work that way. i've been his mother far too long. and this boy who sees himself as a bit of a survivalist (living, mind you, in suburban atlanta) is heading off to college soon --- but in his way and on his terms. and if it means sleeping in his eno and gnawing on a stick of beef jerky, then so be it. at this point, after almost two decades, the boy has shown his true colors. and though i'm pretty sure his future places of abode may have nothing to do with color schemes or design detail, i also have the beautiful knowledge that God spared nothing when he designed my boy. He made him exactly like this: simple, easy and definitely not one bit worried about what his freshman dorm room will look like.

and i love him. just as he is.

it's true, there's a pretty good chance i might try to hang a picture or curtains in his dorm when he goes, but the real truth i need to hang on to is that my son (with his one blessed can of febreeze) knows exactly who he is and is, actually, pretty darn ready to do this college thing.

though college lists contain a whole lot of important stuff, i have yet to lay eyes on the list from samford university where tyler will attend. i don't know, maybe the very first item listed for the boys' dorm is, indeed, a can of febreeze. that's possible. in fact, quite believable. but, regardless of what any college has suggested, i know, for us parents letting go, the #1 thing we want on our kids' list is the confidence that they know who they are, and even more importantly, they know Whose they are. 

and there's always parents' weekend to hang those curtains ...

Sunday, July 24, 2016

lost and found


he took time to call and let us know what he'd found. said he had no idea why it just now appeared, but there it was one morning, sitting on the counter in the camp office.

"right away i knew it was a special bible," he told me.

"jody when y'all bring the kids up to camp next week, stop in and i'll make sure to get this back to you."

and so we did.
yesterday, we brought home our son's old bible, left at summer camp who knows how many years ago.
sweet to see, again, that little, blue leather bible we gave tyler on his 10th birthday.
marked up, worn out and, yes, one summer, sadly, somehow left behind.

lost, but found.

tyler is now almost 19 and too old to attend camp highland. but last week his younger siblings were there. no telling what they all left behind. the camp's founder and director, bill chapman, probably won't be making a personal phone call concerning a discarded towel, a single tennis shoe or a forgotten toothbrush, but how grateful i am that he called us about tyler's bible.

after retrieving the kids and the bible, we loaded up the car: tired campers, musty sleeping bags and suitcases stuffed with all levels of foul looking laundry ...  and we began our trek home from this dear place in the north georgia mountains. with my husband driving, i had the chance to thumb through my boy's old, blue bible. a reunion of sorts. and though i struggle remembering anything these days, i clearly remembered the moment -- the birthday -- when we gave it to him nine years ago. what's more, i could picture this bible on his nightstand. for many years i'd go into his room in the morning to wake him and find the bible close by my sleeping son.

it was this bible he read from after accepting Jesus as His Savior many years ago. bill was absolutely right, it is a special bible. and i'm thankful to have it back.

but this next morning,  as it sits here on our own kitchen counter, i keep thinking about not lost and found things, but about lost and found people, particularly kids. maybe it's that my own kids are getting older and now at an age where they are faced with decisions determined by their personal beliefs. they are well into a season where their faith isn't about something their parents wrap up and present to them like a birthday gift. no, that might kind of work when they are little, but at some point it has to become just them and Jesus. our job as parents -- pointing, directing and guiding our kids spiritually -- will always be important, but there certainly does come a time when we must move out of the driver seat and allow them to take over the wheel of what they really, truly, absolutely believe.
... or don't believe.

and for so many, i know this is a time when parents watch their children fearfully. 
afraid they will become lost. flounder. fail. even, fall away.

it's a scary time.
it's a real time.
and, inevitably, it's a wake up kind of time.

with 4 of our 5 kids already crossed over the teenage line, i know, full well, what it looks like to begin letting go -- of all things: physical and spiritual. and because (thankfully) i have teens who talk pretty freely and share (at least some) things with me, i know, also, the temptations and tests they face daily. i don't know it all perfectly, but i have an idea of what this world is worshipping when it turns its back on belief in God.

i also cannot ignore what the studies say: surveys are showing that somewhere between 70 and 80 percent of church-raised kids leave their faith after graduating high school. that's an awful lot of kids being raised in noah's ark themed nurseries saying no to religion as young adults.

at a heartbreaking and more personal level, i've watched this happen in my own world with friends and family.

no matter what we might assure ourselves of, or comfort ourselves with, we know that it is entirely possible that those little ones singing sunday school songs in our backseats might grow up and someday cease in sharing our beliefs.

it happens.

recently i had a conversation with a woman who's daughter is running fast and far from Jesus. the faith her parents taught her as a child she now deems "a mere fairytale." this mother-friend of mine wept to know how lost her daughter has recently become.

the rejection is real.
the heartbreak is real.
but, real also, is the hope.

there is hope. and that's the message i wish us all to hold tight to. like that little, blue bible and that phone call from our friend, the camp director, bill. getting lost is all too possible, but, oh, dear ones, the joy of being found. and, the good news: it's exactly why God sent His son -- to find.

to find you. to find me. to find all of us who have wandered away and become lost.

Jesus, God's son, came to rescue, to redeem and, ultimately, to reunite God with his children.

in that recently found bible is the story of the prodigal son -- the boy who left home and ran from his family and his faith.
maybe it resonates with you.
maybe you can imagine.
maybe you know exactly what that story looks like in your own home.
or maybe you just fear it.

but, loved ones, the story doesn't stop with the boy's running away, but with the father's running toward him. when the father saw his world-bruised son limping up the lane, ravaged and repentant, he ran to him, embraced him, and celebrated him all they way back to his home.
how lavish this father's love.
how lavish our Father's love.

there's hope!
there's no place too dark, no sin too deep, no wound too wide that cannot be run to and wrapped up in the wild love of our Father's eternal embrace.

"but we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of your was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found." ~ luke 15:32

that prodigal son's return party wouldn't have happened without the pain of his wandering away. i don't get why that has to happen, but, perhaps, sometimes it does.

maybe sometimes we have to be truly lost, in order to be truly found.

is it possible, that for some, it is better to leave and lose and, even get lost a little, in order to authentically live? to live, not in our pretending faith passed smoothly down from our parents, but in the gift of real grace that only God can really give.

there's not a parent out there who wishes their child to leave his faith or become lost. it goes against every part of our parenting instinct. of course we all pray that our children discover a deep and authentic relationship with God early on and never have even one day of doubt.
i pray that for my children, too.

but, we know, that isn't always the way it works. and in light of all that i am hearing and watching around me, i want to encourage those of you who have experienced otherwise. moms and dads, i don't know what kind of wandering or rebellion you might be facing, but i want to encourage you to hang on. hang on to the hope that our faith isn't based on a mere magical fairytale, but is about a real Father who will run hard the distance to redeem His children.

and like tyler's bible, it could take some time. it might even return a little worse for the wear, but there's joy to see it recovered and restored and (re)placed right there on his night stand.

the parenting road is not an easy one, but be reminded: our children, first and foremost, belong to Him. they are the sheep of His pasture and our good, good Father sent His own Son to come to the lost, to find the lost, and to bring them back to His fold.

  "and when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. and when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'rejoice with me, for i have found my sheep that was lost.' just so, i tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance." ~ luke 15:5-7

Friday, May 27, 2016

clinging, graduating and skydiving

he was 18 months old and he followed me everywhere.

ev-er-y-where.

like i couldn't cross the kitchen without him toddling after me, arms outstretched and hands clinging to my legs.

cling-ing.

you know what i'm talking about. ever have a little one like that?

that was my oldest son.
my tyler.
the one who graduated high school last night.
the one who walked across the stage with arms stretched out receiving his diploma. and he didn't toddle. no, at 18 years old it is now a strut, a saunter, a smooth step and confident gate in the direction, not of his mama, but of his future.

it's the way it should be, and yet, i cannot help but remember this boy as a toddler who never wanted to leave my side. out of our five children, tyler was by far the most clingy. a true mama's boy. a child slow to warm up to new situations, a little boy who cried when dropped off at sunday school or preschool, a baby who always wanted to be held.

and now he's 18 and taller than me. his voice is deep, his shoulders broad, his hugs, quick, and i am pretty sure he hasn't clung to my legs in well over a decade. and this morning he will wake as an official graduate. he will head off to college in a couple of months and another chapter of life will begin. it happens every day, all the time, around the world ... and, yet, to this mother sitting here this morning, it seems almost impossible.

im-poss-i-ble.

he's nothing like that little toddler guy, but everything like him as well.  i know, that doesn't make sense. it's confusing, this mama thing. the changes didn't come overnight. i had some preparation. little by little i've been watching my boy turn into a man. i've watched him grow from clingy and crying to confident and capable. i've watched him grow from a child afraid to a young man full of adventure.

and it's an amazing thing.
it's beautiful.
it's a gift.

recently i did a short post about his great love of adventure. and while assembling a few pictures into a photo collage, i just had to laugh. was this really the same little boy who clung to my legs as a two year old. this young man out in his kayak, up on a mountain, flinging himself off a cliff? was it really him? how did this happen?



and how fitting that, yesterday, graduation morning, my son, the same boy who wouldn't stay in a room without me, went skydiving. he and a few of his friends celebrated their graduation day by jumping from a plane 14,000 feet up in the air.

as freaked out as that made me, i also couldn't help but think it perfect. these children who go from sticking like glue to our sides to, yes, skydiving. this is what motherhood feels like: one day we are doing our best to make dinner with them attached to our hip, and the next, we are releasing them to go jump from a plane 14,000 feet in the air.



yes, of course, somewhere in between there were sleepovers and summer camp and solo bicycle rides and a few thousand soccer games ... but for a moment it feels like we are the ones who jumped. because, we all know, when our kids jump -- be it from high school or preschool or planes -- a part of us jumps too.

whatever they do, wherever they go, a little piece of us travels along.  because "go" and "do" they will. and should. life is meant to be lived, not clinging to our mother's skirts, but as an grand adventure embracing what God has already written for us.

a few months ago, i was at the brooklyn flea market in nyc. i stumbled upon an old world map from the 1800s, brought it home and had it framed for tyler's graduation gift. on the back of the frame we wrote: "have I not commanded you? be strong and courageous. do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." ~ joshua 1:9

and so the next adventure begins, tyler. 
go! explore! dream! discover! we are excited for you, son. and we take great peace in knowing God will, indeed, be with you wherever you go.

and wherever that might be and whatever God will call you to do ... just know, even if you don't need me in the same room anymore, i'm still here. i'll always be here. i love you.

"adventure is worthwhile."  ~ aristotle





Sunday, April 10, 2016

#nationalsiblingsday


they aren't my siblings, they're my children. but as a mother on this #nationalsiblingsday, i (of course) have a message for them. it's the same message i've been repeating since they were little and playing out back in the sandbox:

love each other well.

kids, God willing, you will probably have all kinds of friends; old friends and new friends, good friends and great friends. but, for the most part, you pretty much only get one set of siblings.

it's true, some days you'll wonder what God was thinking when He plunked you down under the same roof with this sister or that brother. you'll look at them like they have three heads and they'll look at you like you don't have anything close to a heart. you won't get them. they won't get you. you won't like them and, yep, you guessed it, they won't like you.

somedays.

and other days will be golden. you'll laugh and tell jokes and climb trees and collect bugs and ride bikes and watch movies and eat ice cream and share secrets and scrape knees and hold hands and play pranks and throw balls and hike rivers ... and grow up ... together.

but that doesn't mean there won't be times when you'll feel like they are all picking on you.
and you'll probably wonder why God had to go and pick them all for you.

but God did pick them. He picked them and He chose you. He designed your family. He determined the number. and, yes, He even knew the challenges. believe me, He knew the potential for drama and difficulties. He was well aware of the hardships and the hurts. (sort of interesting, don't you think, that the very first sibling relationship in the bible ended in murder. unfortunate, but true).

no one ever said that having sisters and brothers would be all sunshine and roses (just ask cain and abel).

but here's the deal ---
though it probably won't be the most perfect relationship, it is one worth pursuing.
though it possibly won't be the easiest relationship, it is one worth embracing.
though it's not always the smoothest relationship, it is one worth cementing.

it didn't happen by accident, it happened with design.

it happened for a purpose.

and kids, let me encourage you ...

look for that purpose.

seek it out.

value it.

care for it.

cherish it.

i know sometimes they frustrate and irritate and agitate. (remember, i am their mother). and what's more, i have siblings, too. i once got so mad i threw a juice glass at one sister. i stole clothes from another and called my brother every kind of bad name in the book. and that's only the tip of our family iceberg. i know it's hard. your dad, even he, with only one sibling to worry about, has stories of tying his sister to a fire hydrant and of her locking him out on the roof. let's face it, kids can be mean. teenagers can be ugly. even adults can have issues.

we all know how siblings tattle and taunt and, sometimes, i suppose, even torment ... but, hard as it might be, try to remember, the design is for treasure. 

that's been one of my greatest prayers for you, kids ... that, even in your inevitable sibling-trials, you would learn to see each other as treasure. as a gift. as something sweet and very good.

when you are young ... and when you someday grow old.

give each other grace.

learn to see past the differences and the division and love anyway. my siblings, we are all in our 40s now and though we haven't by any means achieved the pinnacle of sister-and-brotherly-perfection, we are willing to work together to build bridges to each other.
i wouldn't trade that willingness for anything.

sometimes it's hard work.
sometimes it's holy work.

it hasn't always been easy. in these 40+ years of sibling-hood we've weathered all kinds of things --- long distance. divorce. cancer. alcoholism. religion. politics. parenting. but we love each other and even in our differences we are not willing to dismantle what God beautifully designed all those years ago back on 171st street when the youngest of us came home from the hospital and we became complete.

kids, don't waste time fighting WITH each other, but make time to fight FOR one another.

3 john 1:4 says, "i have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." and, oh yes, this is absolutely true. but for us mamas, just after hearing that our kids are walking with Jesus, comes the joy of hearing and seeing and watching them walk well together ... in love.

my awesome siblings! (don't you want to know which one was involved in the juice glass throwing incident)?


Friday, March 25, 2016

sweet 16, california and counting


turning sweet 16 this week, the trip was meant to be a gift for our sarah. but without doubt, it has been a gift for me --- this weekend away with the two oldest daughters. california beaches and sunshine and the sweetness of good time spent with my girls almost all grown up.


one daughter just turned 20 and the other just about to turn 16.  these are the years not always set aside for a mother. these girls are busy with their college and their high school and their friends and their figuring out of life.

it's normal. it’s how it goes. it's what is supposed to happen.

they stop playing with their baby dolls in the next room over and they head out into the space of their own lives. it's real and it's right. and i imagine, it's the way it generally works.

but as mamas we watch it take place and we feel the pang. somedays we can't help but gasp at the abruptness of it all. one day, tiny children holding tightly to our hands and the next day those same hands are just a wave on their way out the door.  a quick kiss or a brief hug and off they go to their older-self things.

and i'm glad.

i'm glad they are finding things away and apart from me. i'm not saying it is always easy, but i know that it is good. they cannot grow up and be the women and men God has designed them to be out there without separating a little bit from me right here.

no, we're not talking about a total severing, only a tiny shift. somewhere between sever and shift there is a sweet space. a space to which they can return and a space from which they can roam. we don't always strike a perfect balance. we can’t. believe me, after twenty years in the business of mothering, i can tell you there is no perfect in parenting. it doesn't work that way. instead we dance --- around it and in it and sometimes all over it. they figure it out as they go. we figure it out as we go. it's the unspoken agreement we strike when they are first placed in our arms. there aren't operating instructions. there's no formula or road map or 100% right way.


our first morning at the hotel and wide awake ridiculously early (east coast to west coast issues) i sat in the coffee shop near a fireplace. across from me was a young woman with a book perched on the convenient shelf of her very pregnant belly. even with only a few sips of coffee in me, i couldn’t help but notice the book's title, baby wise. twenty some years ago in my first pregnancy, i, too, could have been found with this book perched on my belly. and because i have a penchant for striking up conversations with strangers, i was compelled, of course, to tell her. (--- not really about the belly thing, just that i had read the book).

the young mama-to-be excitedly explained this was her first baby and with great hope in her eyes, quickly went on to ask, "so, did this book really work?"

i thought of the two girls back in my hotel room oblivious to any time change and not anywhere close to awake. their tall bodies stretched out in beds, beautifully snoring in their deep morning sleeping. i couldn’t help but smile remembering the role of this book in my early parenting. remembering the days of new-baby-sleeping. remembering how i continuously consulted these pages as if they held every answer to the success of my newborns. by the time our family was complete, this book was ear-marked and water-marked and 100% mother-marked. the schedule, the feeding, the sleeping -- i was determined to make it work. dedicated to doing it right. and, mostly, of course, just desperate to get a little bit of sleep myself.

when you are in the throes of new mama-ness, it is hard to imagine the day when, with your daughters, you might travel to a hotel perched on the coast of california and eat fancy salads in rooms with beautiful views. when you're chasing toddlers across the sand and vigilantly hovering as they dance and dig in the surf, it doesn’t seem possible that someday your girls will sit still and quiet and content themselves with their suntans and their cell phones. (of course you'll watch them, but it will be for other reasons).  but in those early days it's downright foreign to think you might someday share makeup and jewelry and shoes and secrets. that kind of stuff doesn't quite compute when, in early-motherhood-survival-mode, we are desperately counting hours each day. hours of napping and hours of nursing.

"yes, it worked," i told her. it did. scheduling and planning and preparing ... that all does work. perfectly? no! but it works. it helps. for awhile. and then they grow up and we no longer worry about how long they nursed or how well they slept, because suddenly there are other things that consume us. other books to read. other things to count and consider. each season bringing something new.

i don’t have to count the hours in their schedules any longer, but i certainly do count the blessing of hours spent with them. and though i can’t credit any book with the sweet relationship i share with my girls, i am certain what we have with our kids does begin at the very beginning. it begins in those new baby moments when we count hours of sleep and wet diapers and spoonfuls of oatmeal. we count. it counts. every bit of it counts.

i wished this young mother the best, grabbed my coffee and headed back to the hotel room to wake up my girls. the sun was out and it was time for them to get up. motherhood might look a little different now with children who are teenaged and taller than me, but i assure you there is so much that is just the same.

in all of it, whether at the very beginning or somewhere in the midst of all grown up, we must remember the very best thing we can count is the blessings.








sometimes they even take pictures of you!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

dancing

it's a favorite night of the year.
a fairytale night.

while in grade school, our older girls attended each january and this weekend it was bella's turn.
her feet in gold slippers and her hand in her daddy's. 
off they went to the father daughter dance at perimeter school.

a magical moment for her. let's be honest, for him, too.

wild horses wouldn't keep my husband away from this chance to escort one of his princesses to the ball.
except last year.
last year, when he had to cancel and couldn't attend.

this same weekend, a year ago, rick had to change his plans. as much as he wanted to accompany his little girl to her dance, his own mama was battling cancer and in her final days of life. it was hard to explain to bella. he knew her excitement. he knew there was a brand new dress hanging in her closet. he knew how much she was looking forward to this evening. but he knew, more than anything, he had to be with his mom.

 yes, his little girl needed him, but his mama needed him more.

there would be other father-daughter dances with his girl.
there wouldn't be many more days with his mom.

though, last year, rick's mom, marilyn, wasn't twirling around a dance floor in gold slippers and pink tulle, it was just as precious a time that weekend. the final days of cancer are no fairytale, but her spirit was still shining brightly. and it was just days later his beautiful mom left this earth and was dancing in the arms of her Heavenly Father.

oh these fragile moments of life. so full of beauty. so fraught with the bitter. threads of sweetness dancing through both. precious and painful.

this year, his little girl holding his hand on the way to her dance.
last year, his loving mother holding his hand on her way to heaven.


"teach us to realize the 

brevity of life, so that 

we may grow in wisdom."  

                           ~ psalm 90:12




Sunday, November 15, 2015

too many cooks in the kitchen? (not at all)



i've heard a lot of adoption stories, but the cooks have always had one of my favorites.

it was years ago, our connor and bobby cook were in preschool together at peachtree corners baptist. bobby's parents, martha and andy, were preparing to adopt a little girl from ethiopia. they had two biological boys and were adding this third child.

"wow," i thought. "so cool."
this was before our own adoption. but, you know how it is, when God is working on something in our hearts, He draws us to the stories of others. 

as the cooks were getting close to their travel date, martha told andy, "someday, i would really love to go back to ethiopia and adopt a second child from that country as well." 
andy, in typical husband fashion, answered, "we have YET to go for the first one. one thing at a time, martha. one child at a time." 

a few days later, andy was home and a call came from the adoption agency. it had been discovered that the baby girl they were matched with had an older sibling. would they take him as well? 
andy quickly told the woman, "yes, yes we will!" 
the agency woman hesitated and then (strongly) suggested he might want to speak with his wife about it first. 
"don't worry, we've already talked about it." andy replied.

and so came home sydney and andrew.

in the past couple of years this sibling group of 4 became 5 when little michael was born. the cooks' nest was full. as a fellow mom of five, i can assure you, no mother with this many children is looking around wishing she had more. i mean it happens. and it's good. but, typically, there's no time to be drumming our fingers at the kitchen counter and pining away for more small people under our roof.

but the cook-kid story continues.

this year, sydney cook and our bella are in 2nd grade together. several weeks ago bella came home from school with a prayer request. "mom, we really have to pray for the cooks. they are going to adopt five more kids... and soon! mom, that means they are going to have ten kids. isn't that awesome? wouldn't that be so much fun? i'm so jealous!"  
umm ... yes, fun. uh-huh. jealous. i wasn't sure i heard her correctly. "oh, honey, i'll have to ask mr. or mrs. cook about that. but, yes, we will pray."

i almost wrote it off as the outlandish tale of a couple of second grade girls.

andy is the director of Promise686 -- our adoption/foster care ministry. he and i were working together on the concert/fundraiser this past october. so, in one of our meetings, i asked him and he confirmed sydney's news ---- yes, indeed, God had crossed their path with a sibling group whose mother was dying of cancer. there was no father and these children would need a home.  

the children were part of a wonderful church community which was helping to care for them, but after the mom passed away (about 6 weeks ago), there wasn't one family who was able to bring all five under their roof. the children would have to be split up. (ages: 17, 14, 12, 10 and 2).

as director of Promise686, andy hears lots and lots of stories of kids in need. as martha wrote in her blog post, "typically when a family like this crosses our path through Promise686, we share with many others and watch it unfold for various people." but this time, this sibling group and their situation captured the cooks' attention ... took hold of their hearts. and the Holy Spirit began whispering into them ... "what if?" 

i think this would be a good time to tell you that andy and martha are two of the sanest, calmest, coolest people i know. they weren't drawn to the drama or the desire for attention ... not at all. they are just people drawn to Jesus who could not and cannot ignore His voice.

and in a just a few quick weeks the cooks have prayerfully come to the decision that Jesus was calling them to welcome five more children into their family. 

simple 2nd grade math: 5+5=10. kind of gives the saying, "too many cooks in the kitchen," a whole new meaning, right? yes, it's a lot, but it's not too many. martha and andy have been repeatedly reminded by their God that there is nothing too much or too many or too mountainous for Him. He has continued to give them an incredible peace in this situation and they know He's got this. He knows exactly the right number of kids for this family. writing this, i'm reminded,

"but even the hairs of your head are all numbered." 
~ matthew 10:30

"He determines the number of the stars; 
He gives to all of them their names." ~ psalm 147:4

and God also knows the exact number of cook kids in the kitchen!

i know some of you are reading this and feeling like that lady on the phone from the adoption agency years ago  --- "are you sure? don't you want to talk about this further? ask your wife (again)? put it all out on paper? process it? plan for it? prepare?"

i know all of your questions are good and logical and prudent, but andy and martha have given their answer, "yes, yes we will!" 

they aren't doing this to be heroic.
they aren't doing this because they think they can handle it.
they aren't doing this because they are currently holding it all together. 
no.
they have said yes, because they've heard God's whisper and they know it is He who holds and handles and has it all. 

HOWEVER, that doesn't mean they don't need our help. 

andy is the director of a not-for-profit ministry and martha, is home caring for her kids full time, consider what that might mean financially. this isn't a family who is doubling in size because they happen to have excess funds squirreled away. not at all.
for just a minute, consider also what it might take/cost/require in your own home to bring in an additional five kids. i have been part of a team helping the cooks in the past couple of weeks and i assure you, it is monumental. 

it is also incredibly cool. i was at martha's a couple of days ago and i don't even know how to describe the scene. there's this amazing community of people coming around them: quick home renovations, new rooms for kids, walls down, walls up, meals made, appliances swapped out, babies watched, items donated, carpools driven. so much is being done ...

 --- and there's so much more to do.

these precious children arrive THIS COMING FRIDAY. 

how can you help?

below i am attaching a couple of links -- martha's blog, care calendars, needs, etc...)
please click on the cooks' blog below to find the "donate" button!

it's a wonderful opportunity to support this family who is trusting God for daily provision. i rarely use my blog to ask anyone for money, but i am going to blatantly do so now. if you've got a few dollars to donate ... this is, most certainly, the time and the family!

i'd also love to ask you to please SHARE this blogpost and/or martha's blog! 

the cooks' blog: surrendering to the unknown

all the information you need to pitch in!
CHILDCARE / ERRANDS : For those of you who wish to give your TIME: 
Point of Contact for this area:  Mary Michael Massie marymichaelma@gmail.com
CHILDCARE
Care Calendar #223725 code 3660
ERRANDS

MEALS: For those who wish to use your TALENTS:
Point of Contact for MEALS:  Katie Gettman kgettmann@gmail.com
Care Calendar #223753 code 3410

DONATIONS: For those who have the ability to give of their RESOURCES:
Point of Contact for Donations: Jen Style,  jennifermstyle@yahoo.com
**link yet to be determined and accompanied with a list of items that need to be donated or bought.**

the cooks at christmas last year! can't wait to see the 2015 picture!
first time all the kids got together! 

Monday, October 19, 2015

a girl and her dad


last weekend, before my daughter's high school homecoming dance, a bunch of the kids got together for pictures. i imagine, that's a pretty normal thing all across america --- the boys, the girls, their parents all meeting up somewhere for half an hour or so of photos and flowers and chit chat.

it's possible, here in johns creek, georgia, we might tend to take that a little further than most. i don't know. that's probably a different blog post altogether.

anyway, there we all were: handsome boys in bow ties and beautiful girls teetering around the lawn in high heels. and the parents, us too. shoes a tad more sensible, but clunky cameras slung around our necks, right there in the mix helping pin flowers and arrange hair and make small talk.
doing the things we parents do.

mostly we were invited because someone had to come and click the shutter on all those cameras. it's okay, we knew our role and were perfectly good with it. i'm pretty sure there isn't a one of us who would want to go back to our sophomore homecoming dance.

so we posed the polished-up kids and did our own dance to the choreographed click click click of our cameras. 

i believe at one point, sarah's date, baxter, pulled out his phone and snapped a picture of the parent group crouched behind our lenses. (baxter, i'll need that ASAP).

but in the midst of all the homecoming photo hoopla, i noticed something ---

when i wasn't looking through the lens of my camera, i was looking around at the teenagers and their parents and i saw several of the girls taking pictures, not just with their dates, but with their dads.
pretty girls and proud dads. arms around each other. smiles on faces.

and it was beautiful.
it is beautiful.

tonight, editing through my pictures, the reality of this important relationship struck me.
what a gift to see my girl perched on the arm of her dad. don't get me wrong, the date thing was super cute --- really nice guy from a really nice family. plus, bonus! his mom and i are friends, too.

but these almost grown-up daughters and their dads. wow. that's just something special. and it's not something to take for granted. it doesn't always work out that way. it's definitely not a given. but when it happens, it's a tremendous gift --- for them, and, yes, even for us mamas.


julia and her dad, bill
marth ann and her dad, john
gracie and her dad, mark
sarah and her dad, john

in the past fews years, this has become so pressing on my heart. when i talk with young mothers in groups or one on one, it's something i stress --- the importance of fostering a strong connection between our husband and our daughters.

it's huge.

it's something worth working at.
something worth encouraging.
something worth fighting for.

and let's be honest, it's not always perfectly easy. it's a funny relationship, right? i mean are there any two people groups probably more different than teenage girls and middle aged dads? i swear sometimes i hear them communicating and it's like they are each speaking their own foreign language. i'm often caught somewhere in the middle -- sort of understanding both of them -- and trying my best to mediate.

mostly it's funny. sometimes it's frustrating. but always, it's worth fighting for.


i've been watching my three girls with their dad for all these years -- i've watched them fish and throw football, ride bikes and row kayaks. i've listened to them laugh at movies and sing silly songs on long car trips. tell jokes and stories and all about their day.  i've seen my girls snuggled up on his lap, safe in his arms and high on his shoulders. i've noticed it all ... their dad-daughter connection. their special texting and talking and teasing with each other. wrestling and wild. quiet and serious. sweet and supportive.

my husband gives to these girls. easily. quickly. abundantly.
yes, he gives the credit card for a new dress or an occasional trip to the nail salon, but it's the other giving that most matters --- the giving of his time and his attention. the giving of his approval and his heart.
even the giving of boundaries and consequences, "no, sweetheart, you cannot wear that outfit. please go back upstairs and change."
i don't doubt for a minute my husband would give his life for his girls.

and they know it too.

even when they don't see eye to eye, they know their dad would do anything for them.
i'm pretty sure they've never once doubted the depth of his love.

and as the mom over here in my corner, all i want to do is jump up and down and cheer them on wildly.  i long to encourage them both in the building of this incredibly powerful and important relationship, because i know how life-giving it is for both of them.

it's not just about getting to that moment when daddy walks his little girl down the fairytale wedding aisle.
it's about growing our girls into mamas and wives and women who know they are fiercely loved no matter what.

it's about girls being sure they have someone strong on their side.

someone in their corner.
someone watching their back.
someone safe.
someone solid.
someone sure.

i am grateful my girls have all of those things in their dad.

but here's the deal, i also know that some girls don't have that in their earthly fathers.
i don't know your stories or your situation, but i know, for certain, if that's the case, it surely must hurt.

we girls, we need our dads.
we do.

but, sweet one, if your story doesn't include this kind of man, i want to tell you something else i know with certainty ---- even if your earthly father is absent, your Heavenly Father is always available.

and there's no father with a more faithful, steadfast and unconditional love than Jesus.

  "I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you." ~jeremiah 31:3
                         
psalm 68:6 says describes God as "Father to the fatherless." that's not just for the orphan, but that's also for the girl who don't have a dad present in her life. be assured, God is present and He's pursuing you with a passionate love like no human can even begin to understand. and though having a physical dad's hand to hold is a gift, God's hands are truly what hold us and help us and shape us.

"but now o Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of you hand."  ~ isaiah 64:8


so thankful for our dad's, but need to post a few pictures of these cute kids and give a shout out to the great dates saturday night ... y'all are darling.