Love Letter: Ivy

Ivy, my sweetest and most precious girl,

I could not begin to tell you what we were going through when we heard about you: death of my father, my grandmother, your Momma’s grandfather, and the passing away of your sister, Olivia.

These storms and the pains that we were going through in our own heart and souls tested the mettle of your Momma and Papa’s marriage and relationship and shook the foundation of our family to the bedrock.

Before we knew of you, it was dark. Joy was fought for and sometimes never won.

By announcing you, God reminded us that He is not far yet closer than a whisper. He promises hold infinitely true: eternal past, present and for the eternal future. He revealed that He has infinite mercy for us. He put on the most powerful display that we are indeed His kids and He is our Father in heaven. 1

He sustained us through your first three months in Momma’s tummy when we were so anxious about you making it since it wasn’t even a year ago that we lost your sister during the same trimester.

But even through the first half of you growing in the womb, your Momma never fell ill. Never got sick. Never got weak. With all of your brothers and sisters, well, it was a different story. We thought for sure your Mom would be too sick to even get out of bed or keep any food or water down. Nope. She was alive, happy, and strong. God is so good He heals and restores.

10636483_10152429461973097_1026668591772087158_o

 

Not only does He heals and restores the body but He went to work on my soul and our relationship. He began the work to heal my mind, heart, and soul and did the same for your Mom. In that, he gave confidence and peace to our family when there was none before.

And just like your brother, Eli, you were strong. Kicky and squirmy. And just like your Bubba, you stayed in your Mom weeks past what we thought was your due date. Smh. That might have been a mere indication—maybe even a prophecy—that you two were to be as thick as thieves. And by the Bub’s sweetness on you, I say that indication is coming to past.

11694116_10153053118113097_3533879553141188480_n

11537883_10152959672948097_1947790891371780137_o

 

But no matter how late you were, we knew that you couldn’t stay in your Mom’s tummy forever :) We knew you would get here. We knew we would be holding you soon.

11147214_10152958027133097_8858887730836898247_o

 

And just like the pregnancy, your arrival was just as sweet. You woke us up at 3 am. It was time. Calls to your midwife, Lynette, were made. Texts to our family and friends were sent. Your Ganna, Amanda Panda, and Alisa Pizza were on their way to help with everything.

10999587_10152958027038097_8264502012804589729_o

11537475_10152958027008097_6615245423281039176_o

11145015_10152958027073097_593701849113799800_o

Unlike the Bubs, we were able to take our time preparing our room for your arrival. No rush. No fuss. Breakfast made. Coffee poured. Siblings chilling.

And then you arrived. I was so ready to catch you just like I did before with Eli but your Momma didn’t want me to leave her side. I looked at her and was overwhelmed by her powerful love and gracious heart and breathtaking beauty. I thought about the incredible struggle and pain she felt in our marriage and in our lives to this point and we are still together. I decided I wasn’t going to leave her side. Not now. Not never.

10467104_10152958025863097_5672039422713151222_o

Besides, Lynette was a pro. You were going to be in great hands until you could get to your Momma.

11147197_10152958026663097_6984361199161655284_o

The moment you arrived: it was all the joy. The happiness. The sweet relief. The bliss. It was everything I could ever feel in one moment in time. I felt like cheering and yelling to celebrate your life and everything that the Lord has done in us and for us.

11846634_10153053117833097_3964413644539975706_n

10925505_10152959673778097_3147292053415510132_o

And I couldn’t stop smiling. My cheeks hurt because my grin was ear to ear.

11091020_10152958026893097_465750371932516363_o

Unlike your brother’s arrival, which was fast and furious, yours was what at one time what I called, “normal”, but that’s not it. Looking back, your birth was just like everything else your announcement brought: peace, calm, and joy.

1939593_10152958026473097_8074465249678798991_o

And your Momma. She never looked as beautiful as she did when she was able to hold you for the first time. She was all the love and joy and happiness and gladness that her little heart could hold and being poured out on you.

11033171_10152958025943097_2843448742641339087_o

I remember her cheeks and my cheeks were streaming with tears as I leaned over and kissed her deeply. I remember touching her face and looking into her gorgeous blue eyes and thinking to myself, “We made it!” God is so dang good to us.

11537952_10152958026173097_4610805000762432774_o

In the midst of an incredible storm in our lives, God sends you here. In so many ways, you are God’s mercy and healing for your Momma. You are God’s peace and restoration for our family. You are my prettiest and a joyful reminder that God is so mindful of me and He loves me so much.

11393435_10152958027253097_1044702002478278813_o

 

That’s why I kiss you with my very prickly lips a hundred times a day. That is why I dive my nose into your neck smelling your sweet baby smells. That’s why I don’t want our conversations to end. You are the best reminder of who God is and what he has done for us.

10295987_10152958027298097_1467050702009918947_o

I love you, my most gorgeous girl. You are my sweetest. My sweetest sweet. My Happiest Girl. My yin to Bub’s yang.

11218188_10153062781468097_2124375425792225987_o

I will always love you. I will always protect you. I will be there to make you laugh and hold you tight when you cry. And I will fight for you, and us, and we, and me until my very last breath.

11027483_10152958026323097_8731128987778668166_o

You mean the world to me. I thank God that you are a part of our lives forever.

11427267_10152958026978097_1261523868836050829_o

I love you, Sweet Girl

10929124_10152959672583097_4805143518051376434_o

Love for life,

Papa

11415571_10152959673583097_1658898061914010815_o

1966110_10152959672903097_7746337729704938900_o

Notes:

  1. Hosea 2:14-23

Going All In

I was sitting here thinking the other day how amazing you are. That you’ve been a mother for 14 years. In that, you have spent nearly all of your energy and might trying to be the best mom you could be. You’ve spent almost that long as a wife and when you weren’t, you still tried be healed, be made whole and devoted your energy so that you can become the best wife ever.

IMG_3081I just wanted to tell you that you have accomplished what you set out to do. The fruit is in your incredible kids. They are the best bunch of kids I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. And by God’s amazing grace and your sweet love, they are my kids too. (Like I’ve done nothing and all of sudden, I get to be in their lives and they are a part of mine. Because of you, I’ve definitely won the parent lottery.)

And if you were trying to be the best wife, you’ve succeeded. The way you have loved me is way beyond anything I could have imagined. When I am trying to learn how to love, you actually live it. And it’s the strength of this marriage is the fruit of your love. We are strong because of Christ in you. It is evident you are a woman after God’s own heart.

There is no way we could be where we are without you. You are my Captain Amazing because you are amazing. Thank you for loving me and us and we. Thank you for saying yes. Thank you for your life.

You have a beautiful legacy.

1604718_10151910241338097_952947029_n

Thank you for letting me be a part of it.

I love you.

– J

IMG_3022

11751863_10153032700898097_3665010056348724993_n11036991_10152959737923097_2722382200935053709_n1966110_10152959672903097_7746337729704938900_o

The Loveliness of My Girl

After one year of being married—in a God-honoring love between me and my wife—there is so much more I want to say: God’s will so perfectly clear, God’s love lavished upon us and God’s tender and painful work in me.

But above any of that, I want to think about things that are true, pure, honorable, commendable, and lovely (Phil 4:8) and today, on our one year anniversary, I want to write about my wonderful wife, Amber.

We officially met on April 21, 2011. From the moment I saw her, I knew that I was done looking for a wife and she was the only girl I wanted. I wanted to live life with her and spend every single day of my life loving her. I fooled her into saying, “Yes” (best thing I have ever done in my life) and here we are today, married, raising a house full of kids and loving one another.

In the short time we have been together, this is what I know about her:

One, she gives an immense amount of love, grace, and mercy—even to those who to try to tear her down. In the couple of times when this has happened, she would confide in me and my response was to rip the world into two because the world has tried to hurt my Girl. In the midst of my just anger and frustration, I still noticed that she still gave grace and love. That quiets and humbles me (re: blows my mind). Likewise, when I have messed up, said or done something stupid, she responds in lots of love and grace. The effect is profound. Instead of me being crippled with condemnation and mindlessly spitting out vows I cannot possibly keep, I now have the power and the freedom to make things whole again and love her even more in return.

Two, her patience is endless. For example, I have neither skills nor talents when it comes to details. I see the world from 30,000 feet. Yet, in being head of our home, I am in charge of the budget. Every so often, I will miss something in the budget and our budget will get off track. I think to myself, “Argh! She is so much better with eyeing the details and knowing when things are out-of-place.” In other words, I think it is would be much easier and more successful for us if I gave up, stop trying, and let her do it. How does she respond? She responds with kindness and patience. She lets me learn from my mistakes, and we keep going forward. Her hope is in Christ and from that, she believes in me as her husband, lover, and friend. Sometimes I don’t get what she sees in me but I thank God every day that she is in my life and that she loves me the way that she does.

Three, she is freakin’ wise. I wish I had better adjective than freakin’ but that’s the best way I can describe how wise she is. She keeps my feet on the ground while I am trying to reach for the stars. She keeps me focus our kids’ lives and what is going on with them now. She keeps me in the moment when I want to skip ahead months and years down the road. More than often, she will say to me, “We don’t always have to do it my way.” To which I will respond, “We have to do it your way because your way is more biblical than my way. Your way makes more sense and I didn’t see it until just now.”

Every since I have been married, I have tried to stop making sense on how good God is and stop figuring out how good her love is to me. All I can do is give thanks to Him and try to love her better. Every day of my marriage, I know that I got the better end of the bargain. I am the blessed dork that got the hot smart girl. I am the lucky son of a gun who gets her good lovin’ every single day.

I love you, Amber. Forever and always, I do.