10 years

Dear Wren and Lydia,

Tomorrow marks 10 years since your dad left this world. I can’t believe it’s been that long already. So many changes…so many different people have come into our lives, we’ve traveled, moved, added family, lost a few close friends and family, you’ve graduated, lived in a foreign country…just so many changes.

Life is strange the way time seems to stand still when it’s at its hardest points and then amazingly enough keeps moving forward regardless. Nothing stays the same.

There have been too many changes for me to list really.

This is good…for the most part, it means we’ve kept living fully alive. We haven’t pulled the shades and packed it in. We’ve made the choices along the way to keep living and moving forward. (Maybe an occasional pause to regather…but always upward and onward.)

But it does mean, the distance between your dad and you feels greater with each passing year. I feel it too.

I can tell you this…at the age you two are now, 18 and 20, these are years and memories that I have forever etched in my memory of your dad and I. And even though you haven’t been around him in 10 years…it’s amazing to me how much of him you carry within you. Just pure dna I guess.

Wren the way you’ve started running sound at our church and playing on the worship team, the way you’ve gotten into your new millennial group and are volunteering to serve regularly, these things are all reminders to me of who your dad was.

Lydia the way you’ve embraced Ecuador, serving, a different culture, independence, and opened your heart down there the past 3 months makes me think of your dad and his missions trip to Nicaragua. He absolutely loved that trip. And I know he would’ve done more if he had more time to do so. He would be so proud of the experience you’ve just had.

Ironically enough…you are coming home on the 10th anniversary of his death. So many emotions for you this week Lydia. I think you might just need to sleep all weekend at home just to recover!

Wren today you got a tattoo on the back of you neck that is beautiful. Simply “I love you Lauren, Dad”, in his writing. It seems so good for me to read those words on your neck and see your dad’s handwriting. Love it.

This life is not what I planned. It’s not what your dad planned. But…it’s life. And this life is still profoundly beautiful and sacred, probably even more so because we’ve all experienced loss.

Nothing is meant to be taken for granted. Not a single day.

For today and always I want you to know that although I’m always moving forward, changing and growing, living fully alive…I will never forget your dad and how much I love him.

Some day he and I are going to have a whole lot to catch up on.

In the meantime God is my Redeemer. Here and now.

When your dad died I had the verse “I will never leave you or forsake you” etched in my heart and mind. It got me through, just that promise of God’s presence in my life. He has been and will always be enough.

But let me tell you…the fact that He has brought Dane to our family, to be a dad to you two and a husband to me is nothing less than miraculous. I will always be grateful for the way God has taken broken dreams and created beauty regardless. This is something that only God can do. He is my Healer. Yours too.

I’ve watched you two adjust the past 3 years to having Dane in our lives. The first year was really tough. We can all admit it. It was just hard. The second year a little bit better. The third year has been a breath of fresh air. Mainly because you’ve let go and fallen into the love that is there waiting for you. We’ve become a family. These things take time.

You lost a huge part of your hearts and lives on May 5, 2007. Your dad didn’t choose it, didn’t want it that way, but that’s how it went down.

Today…I mainly just want you to know that I haven’t forgotten. I never will. Your loss is different from mine. I had my dad until just this past year. I guess I just want to encourage you to live each day fully present and aware. I want to help you relax and trust that God has good plans for you, plans you can’t even imagine right now. And I want you to know that God is actively redeeming everything, here and now and/or in heaven. Either way….He cares, you matter to Him and honestly girls…your dad’s love for you is big enough that no matter where he is I know he’s pulling for you.

Can you even imagine how much he can pray to Jesus directly face to face on your behalf? How cool is that? Who knows how aware of your life he is…maybe God gives him a glimpse. We don’t know. I just know the kind of love your dad has for you is not bound by this earth and it’s limitations. I think we just have to trust that someday it will be clear and redeemed.

In the mean time…I am so grateful for you two. You are my daughters but you are also my best friends. And I am so grateful for the family we’ve created in our old home here in Alton the four of us…learning how to love one another well.

I love you girls. All is at rest. All is well. We can trust God…always.

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Girls and Mark at camp

Love your momma who wishes you didn’t have to have this kind of loss so young…but knows that it’s helped to shape you into the remarkable young women you are. For that I’m grateful and I know your dad would be so proud of you two. (I’m just gonna say…he is…present tense 🙂

Fighting against indifference

Dear Wren Jewell and Lydia Ann,

It occurs to me today that one of the most important things to me at least lately is just the idea of staying in the game and what that means as it translates to real life, relationships, etc. I can’t remember where I heard it the first time but the opposite of love is not hate…it’s indifference. It’s easy to become indifferent to life on many levels. To become numb to others and life in general. I think indifference just kind of sneaks up on us without us even realizing it.

You’ve seen me go through many different phases and feelings on the idea of prayer. But lately…I think the whole goal of prayer for me is to just be able to stay in the game with others. To express care and to encourage myself to care when it would be easy for me to become numb or indifferent. I’ve gone through the logic of prayer chains and amounts of people praying and what difference does it make anyway as if we need to raise our voices louder for God to hear us. That whole line of thought seems absurd to me. But…when I think about prayer as me keeping some skin in the game I realize…it works and is of value. And thus prayer chains become a place where the masses rise up and express care.

Prayers of thanks…well they cause me to keep my eyes lifted up. You know I’m a hopeless optimist…but girls this world, well you have to be deliberate about keeping your perspective up, it doesn’t just happen. When I express thanks to God or even just take time to express appreciation for the small and big things in life, my load feels lighter. I’m not sure that it is…but at least it feels like it.

Prayers for others…well, there are so many relationships in life and although I’m a push through, work hard, take initiative kind of girl…I have found that in many situations it’s not about me. There’s not anything more I can do or say, plan or create, it’s simply about me letting go to God without me becoming indifferent. There is a difference. Letting go can mean…I don’t care anymore. That’s not helpful. But letting go to God…well that means me saying I do care but I realize it’s not about me in this moment.

Prayers for the world…it’s easy to become numb here simply because it’s so overwhelming when you look at the news and realize all of the evil, abuse, poverty, corruption, etc. that exists. Where do you even start? But it’s important even when it’s heavy and overwhelming to pray and continue to care even when we don’t know how to help. Every once in awhile an opportunity will arise, an idea will come to our minds or we will see how we can do something to help. In the mean time…we can’t let ourselves become indifferent.

Girls…take some time and think through your feelings towards yourself, others, the world, God, etc. Where do you notice indifference creeping in? Who have you wanted to write off? What situations seem hopeless? Where do you find yourself feeling numb? Those are probably precisely the areas where you need to pray through back to caring, loving, giving, sacrificing…

Your words won’t cause some form of abracadabra to occur. God is not some wizard that we need to cast a spell. He isn’t deaf. He can hear one small thought just as easily as 1,000 people praying. I don’t believe numbers are necessarily what sways Him to act.

There are still many things I don’t understand about how prayer works, but I can tell you, it’s my guard against indifference.

No wonder Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies…prayer causes us to care. Even when we don’t want to.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s public or private, what time of day, or for how long. The place doesn’t matter. But do try to cultivate a prayer life that includes checking your heart for hurt and indifference.

I am more convinced than ever that our primary thing on this earth we are to be about is loving. I have found that is impossible for me without prayer. Therefore I pray.

For me…it’s often in my own head. It’s before I go to sleep at night with Dane. It’s a running conversation with God all day long. It’s when I feel hurt, afraid, or overwhelmed. It’s when I am so happy I feel like I could burst. It’s outside when I see nature. It’s just about me trying to be on the lookout for God all day long. He is present.

My mom taught me how to pray and the importance of prayer. All my life I have watched her pray first, in the middle and last when life happens. At times it’s felt a little ‘not enough’ to me. But age has a way of teaching us and I can tell you…her prayer life is one of the things I admire most about her. I know I am prayed for every day. I don’t see my mom often. But those prayers make me feel loved even 10 hours away every day. I know I can call on her and ask her to pray specifically about anything. That kind of care and love are priceless. I hope that I am always able to do the same for you girls. And for all of our family honestly.

Fight against indifference in your life. Stay in the game no matter what. No one is meant to be just written off. No matter what.

Love your momma who is praying for you always. Sometimes our very breathing is a prayer. That’s how I feel about you two.

Sending you to Ecuador

Dear Lydia Ann,

In just a few short days you are heading to Ecuador for the first time by yourself on a 3 month adventure all your own. We’ve talked and planned for it so much in this past year, but now that it’s on the horizon…within sight it seems a little surreal doesn’t it?

I’m writing to reassure you…you’re ready. You absolutely are. Yes there will be things that are stressful. Times when things don’t work out and you might not know what to do without asking for help, but the good news is…we adults, well we pretty much know how it feels to be stressed out, unsure of ourselves and in need of help daily and it’s ok. The sooner we all admit it…the sooner we can find solutions and come to peace :).

You’re going to make new friends and you are so ready for those friendships. I want you to know…anyone who chooses to be your friend is incredibly lucky to have you as a friend. You are such an encourager and loyal person. You are a good listener and even though I don’t always laugh at the jokes you would like me to, I can tell you I have laughed my guts out from time to time because of how hilarious you can be. Believe in yourself. You’ve got what it takes to make friendships for life. You have experienced great joy, great pain and loss, great triumph, etc. all of these experiences, the entire first 18 years of your life will give you exactly what you need to move into this next season of life.

Find what you have in common with other people. Especially the people of Ecuador. Honestly, we all have far more in common than we tend to realize. Don’t highlight the differences…instead focus on the common threads that pull us all together like love, belonging, wanting the best for ourselves and our families.

You are ready to deepen your walk with God in a personal way. This excites me greatly! I know with confidence that He is going to be at work in you in a special way this next 3 months. I look forward to hearing all about it. Stay open. Listen to His still small voice. Journal. Pray. Reflect. Pay attention. Don’t live one day on autopilot. Expect to hear from God. He will heal you in ways that you don’t even know you need right now.

Lydia…we’ve had a good time the past couple of weeks putting together our puzzles, coloring, watching Grantchester, cooking in the kitchen, going out for coffee, etc. I have cherished every moment with you more than you know.

I am very proud of the woman you’ve become. Honestly…very proud. I believe in you. I want the best for you always. I want to give you wings to fly and to fly high. God has plans for your life and this is just the beginning.

I want you to know that home base is always here for you. Your roots will remain no matter what comes. Your safe place where you can let go and just be yourself without fear and know that you will be loved forever is right here within these walls where I’m typing.

Lots of changes coming. I know how you feel about change…Excited and yet traumatized :). It’s going to be ok. I promise.

Cling to God. Trust in Him. Focus on loving others. Take good care of yourself always. We can only give out of the overflow from our own hearts. If we don’t take care of ourselves there is nothing to give. Sing. Praise God. Keep being totally yourself.

I love you. I loved you when I saw you the first time. I have loved you every step of the way, even on the days that were hard, we’ve had a few of those :). I love you more today than I ever knew I could…love is funny, it just continues to grow and multiply the more it gets used. I know I will love you even more as the days and years go by.

I’m excited for you. You know me, nutty for adventure! I expect to hear some hilarious stories…that means you’ve got to take some risks and live with complete abandon. (Pretend like I’m right there with you 🙂

Much love, Always and forever, from your momma that will soon be putting you on a plane to South America!! Who knew that this would be part of your life story even a little over a year ago?!? Not us…but God knew…