6 years old


There you are, my six year old girl. 

It's absolutely true, what they say. You blink and, in that instant, 6 years have gone by.

6 years ago, at 6:41pm, they handed you to me for the first time, laying you right down on my chest. I close my eyes now and I can see that moment like a home video in my mind. I remember what I felt to hold you that first time, taking in every aspect of you, and feeling so giddy about your head of hair.

You were beautiful. You were here. You were ours.

As they rolled me out of the delivery room, moving me into recovery, with you snuggled next to me and your daddy walking right beside us, I just remember the greatest sense of peace and a very special kind of gratitude coming over me. 

To be given your daddy and then for us to be given you? Utter grace.

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And now we are here, opening the door to your 6th year. I can't wait to see what's on the other side. Something tells me it's going to be a rather wonderful year.

The other day daddy and I asked you what you were most excited about in turning 6 and you responded, without a moments hesitation, "Holding my baby brother." Sweeter words I've never heard.

Soon you will get to do just that. You will get to hold the answer to the quiet prayers you've prayed and the tender hopes you've carried. Daddy and I couldn't be more ready to see that moment. I know it's going to be just like the one I described on the day you were born. Utter grace.

And you, sweet Little Bit, are going to be the loveliest big sister. With all the plans you are already forming and communicating to us about what you are going to do with baby brother and teach baby brother and show baby brother, I know all the more that this little boy is so very blessed to have you.

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My mind is playing all the memories from this past year of your life like a slideshow as I write this to you, Little. We have seen the Lord work in boundless ways in you. Through the heartaches and the struggle, the victories and the celebrations, the many many "new things" you have tried and done, the countless ways you've been brave, the deep thoughts you've begun to have and slowly shared with us, the ways you've stepped out of what is comfortable to you, the ways you've loved those around you and learned to  respond when they love you, the beautiful truths that you are mulling over in your heart, the way you gently speak truth to us, the hundreds of times you've helped, and the desire that you have for all people to know God. It has been stunning to watch Him work so masterfully in your heart. I pray that so soon your heart comes to know His love for you is best, His knowledge of you is the deepest, and His desire for that eternal relationship with you is the greatest hope.

I love seeing all the pieces of you come alive even more with each year, all the characteristics and qualities of you that God knit together inside of me in just the way He had always planned. Those pieces of you are a tool He uses daily in my life -- you challenge me, you encourage me, you inspire me, and through you He shows me so much grace. Utter grace.

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To have you as my daughter, my hour by hour sidekick, my little companion, is to have a tangible picture of that utter grace looking right at me, with expressive blue eyes and the most contagious belly laugh. It's beautiful.

So on this, your 6th birthday, know this, my darling Anna Kate: I am so very thankful for you, so very proud of you and forever changed by being your mama.

Happy Birthday, my Bit!!

I love you with all my heart.

a "little" bookshelf

"The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go." -- Dr. Seuss

Books, books, and more books. The collection is ever growing in our home, which I love, as the smell of a new book and the feeling of breaking open its binding are the happiest of sensations. Pouring stories into AK's mind and heart has been an important piece of our everyday parenthood since we were putting her crib together. Books are constant companions, tools for our mind and our imagination, friends that are always near. Getting into scrapes with Anne, walking across the English countryside with Lizzy and Jane, wandering into magical Narnia with Lucy, fighting for justice with Atticus Finch; I've done all these things and these characters are beloved in my heart. I want AK to know these people, to have these adventures, to be inspired to always be learning more, to see heroes and heroines, and to come away with a greater love for the written word.

Sitting down and reading with Anna Kate, watching her discover the characters and stories that I know and love already or falling into an entirely new story together, is one of the dearest parts of motherhood for me. And when she stacks book after book on itself and plops down on the couch next to me to read every single one of them, my mama's heart swells. She's coming to love these stories, too, and I always want to be handing her more.

This list is just a few of the favorites that we started our bookshelves for AK with. Some I have loved since childhood, as well, and some we've come to know just in the past year. There are countless more that I would put on a list for you, but let's start here with these few dear ones. 

One Morning in Maine by Robert McCloskey // It's gentle and full of the sweetest simplicity, and every time we read it AK and I dream about living on the coast one day, chasing seagulls and digging up clams for dinner. 

Finding Winnie by Lindsay Mattick and Sophie Blackall // One of the best stories ever put to paper. Childhood come full circle in the sweetest possible way.

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney // I have loved this book for years; her travels, her work, her little cottage by the sea, and the lovely thing she does to "make the world more beautiful." Miss Rumphius would be the dearest kind of lady to know.

Corduroy by Don Freeman // a classic that I think must sit on every child's shelf.

The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman // 7 kids, insanely picky eaters, an exhausted mama, lessons learned, a happy ending, all wrapped up in delightful rhymes.

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans // The whimsy of the illustrations in the Madeline books feels, to me, like Paris must feel: dreamy, fanciful, full of art. 

George Washington's Cows by David Small // Hilarious and happy. A lighthearted piece of "history." ;) 

James Herriot's Treasury for Children by James Herriot // Some of the most tender, gorgeous stories from the heart of a faithful British veterinarian and the illustrations are at the top of some of my forever favorites list.

Our Corner Grocery Store by Joanne Schwartz // This was a library find that was read about 136 times in the span of the few weeks that we had it, so it had to become a staple on our bookshelf. It's delightful. 

Paddington by Michael Bond // Truly, what's more charming than a bear who travels to England from darkest Peru with suitcase full of marmalade??

Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson // The "Bear" books were a Chick-Fil-A kids meal discovery that won a spot in AK's heart a few years ago and have sat on our shelf ever since. There's a whole sweet little collection.

It's just a handful of a list, but it is a beautiful place to start. 

Happy Reading, dear ones!

"when can we have a baby, Mommy?"


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"Mommy, I'm going to be the BEST big sister." She said these words, out of the blue, as we were driving one day and the road ahead instantly became blurry because of the tears that filled my eyes. "Yes, sweetheart. Yes, you will be," being the words I could force out with decent control.

And I believe those words with every piece of my heart. This tender, brave, strong, beautiful little soul that made me a mommy will be the BEST big sister a baby could know, if the Lord chooses that. That "if" is the hard part; the piece that makes these conversations we have with AK some of the most painful we've faced these past 3.5 years. These are the conversations where my heart sinks to its deepest and the tears flow the heaviest, because if I could, I would move heaven and earth to make that big sister dream a reality for her.

When we wander through the baby section at Gap or Target to buy a gift and she says, "We should get one of these for our baby!" When I watch her sit in awe as I hold a friend's newborn baby and she gently strokes baby's head or tiny hands. When she pretends she's playing with her "little brother and sister." When she asks me, "When can we have a baby, Mommy?" When those imploring blue eyes search my face for answers. When she asks if I have a baby in my tummy, too, and I have to say "no" and her little eager clasped hands drop to her side. Whenever I see the painful side of our reality right now touch her heart in really tender ways, that is when I especially wish that I could tap into some secret formula that makes all the pain go away and place in her hands a snuggly pink or blue bundle that's all her own.

But as much as my mothering instincts want to put up a 10 foot high fence and hire some Jedi-like warrior to guard and protect her from any sort of pain or sorrow, I know that isn't actually the best thing for her. She's been given to me, to us, to train and teach, to mold and guide, and one of the hardest parts of that is letting her come face to face with the truth that "all is not right in the world." We have to let her see the tears run down. We have to say the actual words. Obviously, in a way that is right and good for her 5 year old heart and mind to digest, but we still have to look into those imploring eyes, pull her on our laps, hold her dimpled hands, and say, "we don't know."

As hard as it was the first time to explain to her the little pieces of "why" that we can and as much as the gut-wrenching feeling never goes away when we have to explain it again, those moments sit apart in my mind because those are moments where we get to plant little seeds of glorious truth. We don't have to leave it at, "we don't know", kiss her forehead, and set her down with a despairing heart. We get to add, "but He knows and He's going to right this world one day," kiss her forehead, and set her down with a hopeful heart. We get to use this longing that all of us have, a longing that aches until we feel our hearts might break in two, to teach her about the character of our sweet Savior, His perfect love, His gentle presence, and the beauty that He spreads across even the hardest pages of suffering. We get to tell her about what we've learned, about what we are still learning. We get to be real with her about the struggles we face and tell her about how the Lord has met us there and refueled our hearts and minds with all the truths of Scripture He's planted there. Goodness gracious, we get to tell her about HER, the most beautiful answer to longings and prayers that He allowed to be placed in our arms 5.5 years ago. We get to say, "look in the mirror. you are one of the best, dearest pieces of God's grace." We get to tell her about hope, hope that does not disappoint, that will bring complete satisfaction and fullness of joy when Jesus is our Savior. 

We have been given the sweetest task to guide this little one, to take her hand and not just walk ahead of her a step or two, but let her walk right alongside us, being real about how much the pain hurts, yet pointing her to the One who gives us a multitude of reasons to smile and laugh and find beauty among the ashes. Most of all and more than anything, we pray that she knows Him as that good good Father. So, we must let pages of her story be marked up by our present reality, the hard and the beautiful, entrust those to His wise hands, and watch to see all the ways He chooses to use them. 

"You know, Little, like we always talk about, we can stop and pray to God anytime about how we want to have a baby," J told her at dinner a couple nights ago. "Yeah! Why don't we pray right now?" That was her reply, with the biggest smile spread across her face.