Award Season

It happens every year around this time. Social media lights up with the happy news of  college acceptances, dances, parties, and school awards. Smiling faces beam as parents share the accomplishments of their children. And of course they should celebrate these things. When hard work pays off there should be recognition and celebration, right?

 

1-IMG_5349

While I am not an advocate of giving awards for just continuing to breathe (that’s its own reward, eh?),  I admit I sometimes get weary of watching some awesome kids get overlooked again and again while other equally awesome kids get rewarded over and over. The overlooked ones endure the season of ceremonies, parties, and graduations, never once hearing their name announced and yet they have so much to offer the world. The world just doesn’t know it yet.

So here’s to the brave ones, the kids who sit alone in the cafeteria day after day and still show up.

The kids who don’t get invited to the parties and proms, who are left at home to see on social media all the fun they missed.

The kids who work extra hard and study for hours for that big test, only to receive a disappointing grade yet again.

The kids who get pushed around in the school hallways or on the playground by bullies and get back up time after time.

I see you trying. You matter. You’re a winner in my eyes.

Here’s to the ones who have a less-than-ideal home life, who worry about what’s going to happen next.

The ones who don’t live in a house, who live in a shelter or with family, or even in a car.

The ones who hate for school to end because with the school year ends the hot meals they can rely on at least five days of the week.

The ones who see violence and abuse in the home, sometimes against themselves, for whom school represents safety.

You deserve a medal. And a safe home, and a hot meal, and relief from worry. You’re a winner because you persevere.

The kids for whom simply sitting still in class and paying attention require monumental effort.

The ones who struggle at reading or writing or math because they have a condition like dyslexia or dysgraphia or dyscalculia, and it’s invisible so it either goes undetected or unassisted. (yes, those are all real things)

The kids who fly so far under the radar that they fade into the background and are forgotten by both classmates and teachers.

You are special, intricately crafted in the image of your Creator. You are made to do big things. Don’t ever forget that. You’re a winner to me.

The ones who don’t make the sports team or the Honor Roll or the class play, but still keep trying.

The kids who feel like they are not good at anything because they don’t fit the world’s mold.

The ones who are talented and gifted, but not in the ways that a school or the world normally recognizes.

Keep trying, dear ones. People are noticing and applauding you, even if you don’t see it. You are uniquely gifted by the One who made you.

One day these children will grow up and it’s quite likely that none of them will remember who won what award in 3rd grade, or 6th grade, or 11th grade, unless perhaps they were one of the award winners.

For all the kids out there who are feeling left out, not worthy, and unseen in this season: I stand and applaud you. The world needs you and your uniqueness. I wish I could hang a medal around your neck just so you could have a tangible reminder of how special you are.

For everyone who loves one of those kids, keep loving them wholeheartedly and without reservation or condition. They need to know someone’s in their corner and that they have a safe place to land so they can become all that God created them to be.

And for all you teachers out there going beyond the call of duty, I honor you for the way you love “your” kids. You share your heart, your wallet, your talents, your time, and sometimes your lunch to give them the best school experience possible. I see you, and God sees your sacrifices for these precious ones. They are jewels in your crown, treasure being laid up in Heaven.

Hang in there, sweet ones. Your time is coming.

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. – Romans 5:3-4

Hope is a Dare

Recently I took my four-year-old granddaughter to a new-to-us playground and had a fantastic time. She was absolutely enchanted with all the play equipment and cried when we had to leave. The next day I decided to take her back and as we were driving, out of the blue she started telling me why she wouldn’t be able to play there again. Basically she told me that “they” had probably taken the whole thing down so she couldn’t play there.

At first I thought it was just pessimistic thinking and I tried to cheer her up. After all, I was driving her TO that very playground and I was pretty sure that nobody had plans to disassemble it any time soon.

She continued to insist that the playground would be gone.

Somebody took it apart in the night and she could never play there again, she said.

swings

It was right about then I realized what she was doing: she was insulating herself against disappointment. She was afraid to hope.

My little one wanted to enjoy that park so much that she was scared to look forward to it. She was preparing to have the rug jerked out from under herself. I felt my heart break a little for this baby who already felt the need to protect herself from hurt.

Now, in fairness, we all have to deal with disappointment, and I don’t believe my grandgirl has had any more disappointment than other kids her age.

But I sure have caught myself in the same line of thinking. Afraid to hope for the best. Scared to believe that God has anything good for me. Thinking that if something seems too good to be true then it probably is.

I’ve been a settler most of my life. Not the kind that explores new territory, but the kind that “settles” for less than the best. “Good enough” has usually been my “best”. I don’t think I’ve done myself any favors with that attitude.

I don’t set my sights very high because somewhere down deep inside I don’t feel like I deserve anything better than “good enough”.

I don’t dare to hope for more because what if I don’t get it? Who wants to set themselves up for that kind of disappointment?

Ultimately I lay that failure to hope squarely at the feet of my shaky faith.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11:11

I don’t dare to hope because sometimes I have trouble believing that God is good, and that He is on my side. I try to pretend it’s humility but it’s really a weak confidence in myself and in Him.

If I can believe Him then it’s safe to hope in Him because even if things don’t go the way I hoped, He will be there to help me pick up the pieces. One of my favorite passages in scripture is in Daniel, when Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are brought before the King to answer for their refusal to worship the golden statue. Right before they are thrown into the fiery furnace, they lay it all out:

 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:17-18

Paraphrase by Kim: We know that He can, but we accept that He may not save us for reasons of His own that we cannot understand. Either way, no thanks. We will not worship your man-made god.

That is faith, friends.

We know that He can, but we accept that He might choose not to. (This truth is especially wrenching when I think about my history of miscarriage and infertility.)

In the end, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were indeed thrown into the furnace, but just as they predicted God delivered them and the fire did not touch them.

He can be trusted. He has proven Himself over and over, even though He doesn’t have to.

Even when the situation seems impossible, He can see the ending.

I don’t have to be afraid to put my hope in a God who can protect three men in a fiery furnace. And that same God is for me and has good things planned for me. Why is that so hard to believe?

Hope feels like a dare to me. Hope is standing on the end of a diving board not knowing if the pool below is full of water to catch me, or an empty hole promising only a hard fall.

divingboard

The truth is that either way He will be there to catch me.

Emily Dickinson said:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

I don’t pretend to understand all of it, but it sounds like hope is hard to squelch. I can pretend I don’t care and expect the worst, yet hope can still be quietly singing the tune without the words.

My sweet girl was thrilled to see that the playground was still there, just as she left it the day before. We’ve been back since then and she has never again mentioned the possibility that it would be gone.

So maybe it takes realizing how my hopes have been fulfilled over and over to keep hoping even during those times they’re not.

And just a little bit of faith.

No More Waiting: What Happened and What I Learned

One day I know I will laugh about the whole house situation and it will be even clearer then than it is now that God just moved.

Because He did.

You remember that we were looking for a bigger house, one that would accommodate our family of now-seven. We found one that we all loved and made an offer, which was accepted. But there was a hiccup, and we didn’t know if we would actually be able to complete the contract. And I was a little wigged out by all the waiting. (Okay, a lot wigged out)

That hiccup dragged on and on, and we decided to look at some other houses (around 15 of them) just in case this one fell through. We did find another one that suited us and we felt that we would be happy in either house. And then we waited some more. A deadline was set for our original dream home and last Sunday was the day of reckoning. Just as the clock ticked down and we began to prepare an offer for the “backup home” we received word that our original contract was going to go through. Right when we were ready to give it up and move on, God moved.

I wasn’t sure how to feel. I had spent an entire weekend imagining myself in one or the other of those two homes and then telling myself to stop thinking about it until we knew something for sure. Now we did know for sure and I admit to feeling a little regret over the home we didn’t buy.

Our prayer had been for God to put us in the home He wanted us to have, and we believe that’s what He has done.

At any rate, we are moving again, almost exactly a year to the date we moved to Virginia. God has a sense of humor.

He also has an exquisite sense of timing. Even when we thought He’d dropped the ball and forgot about us, He still had a plan. His timing is just different from ours, that’s all.

So what did I learn from all this worrying and scurrying?

First of all, I learned that worrying does absolutely nothing to move things along. It tricks you into feeling like you’re doing something, yet nothing changes. All worry does is fray nerves, steal sleep and breed impatience. It preoccupies your mind and takes your eyes off God. In Matthew 6:27 Jesus says, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Of course not! There comes a time when you have to admit you are helpless, then you lay it down and you let it go.

There comes a time when you have to(1)

Secondly, I discovered that it’s possible to have peace in the midst of the storm. Now, I know buying a new house is not exactly on par with a life-threatening illness or natural disaster so please forgive my first world problems. But when the Bible talks about peace that passes understanding, I know what that means. It means peace that is out of your control, peace that has no logical reason for existing. It means when you have every right to be falling apart, God sends a supernatural peace your way.

Thirdly, there is overwhelming relief in laying down my burden at His feet. I had to do that over and over again. Every time it came to my mind, every time my squirrelly brain started up with the “what if?” chorus again, I closed my eyes and pictured myself opening my hands and laying my concerns at the foot of His throne. Simplistic? Maybe, but it worked for this girl.

And lastly, I found that waiting won’t kill me. I am terrible at it and I make so secret about that, but I survived. I’d go so far as to say that I came out better than I started. You have no idea how much it pains me to say that.

God once again proved Himself to be faithful, although He didn’t need to prove anything to me.

It’s about to get all crazy up in here again as we box up seven people’s worth of stuff and move it to the new place in June, but I’m confident that God is going before us to prepare the way. At least this time we’re moving seven miles away instead of 400.

If anyone needs me, you can find me behind a wall of cardboard boxes.

Walking Through Uncertainty, Part 2

My cat is doing just fine now, thanks for asking. :-)

As this post goes to press, my family is playing a waiting game concerning a very vital aspect of our lives: where we’re going to live.

See, a few weeks ago our little family of four expanded to seven when my grown daughter, son-in-law, and small granddaughter moved in with us. The plan is for them to stay with us until my son-in-law finishes college, which should take a couple of years. And we are glad to have them, because up til now they’ve lived about eight hours away from us and it’s hard to be the best Nana of them all when you’re that far away.

So my husband and I decided that for the sanity of all concerned it would be best to sell this house and find something roomier so we wouldn’t be all up in each other’s business all the time. We put our house on the market in early March and it sold in six days. That’s right, six days. One day I’ll get around to writing a blog post about the sheer madness of that time but it’s still a little too fresh right now for me to find it funny just yet.

Our new hobby was looking at houses for sale, and there were surprisingly few that met our size and school zone criteria. After one false start with a house that had safety issues, we found it. It was (is) beautiful. It had plenty of space, a nice yard, and (wait for it…) a pool! I could totally see myself living in that house for a long time. So we negotiated and agreed on a price.

kennadoor2-001

But.

There’s a contingency. Without going into too much detail, it appears that a lot of pieces will need to fall into place for us to purchase this house. It could easily go either way. And so we wait to hear, not knowing if we are moving and if we are, where exactly we will land. It’s hard to plan when you just don’t know what’s coming.

Meanwhile, there’s a buyer out there with a contract on the home we now live in who is proceeding in good faith.

And we are doing lots of waiting. Waiting. Waiting…

I detest the uncertainty, yet it’s at those times of vulnerability and waiting that I can grow by learning to lean on God for peace of mind.

My default setting is to worry the situation to death, imagining all possible outcomes to ensure that I’m not surprised by any of them. I try on all the resolutions for size, testing the fit and feel of each one so that whatever result I get, it feels at least little familiar. Or so I think.

I don’t think that’s what God means when He tells us we can trust Him.

Trusting Him means believing that He is for me and He has my best interests in mind. That’s not always easy for me.

I try to insulate myself from disappointment by anticipating it. If it’s a new job, I tell myself that someone else is more qualified than I am and will certainly be offered the position.

If it’s a dream, I hear my inner Doubting Thomas saying that I’ll never really be able to do it. After all, how many other dreams have I had in the past that I’ve had to abandon? And the old chestnut, “You’re just not good enough.”

If it’s a thing (like this house), somehow it seems too good for me, like I shouldn’t aspire to such nice things. I should stick with something small and humble. (and there’s nothing wrong with small and humble, by the way) So I tell myself it won’t happen, that way I won’t be disappointed.

I’m stifling any flicker of Hope, basically – not even giving it a chance. And I don’t want to be that person walking around without Hope.

Apparently there’s a part of me that feels undeserving, believing that I am unworthy of whatever it is I’m reaching out for.

Yet I don’t believe God sees me that way, so I’m working hard to see myself through His eyes.

He loves me enough to send His Son to die for my sins.

He calls me His Beloved.

He has a plan for me.

He works all things out for my good.

He is for me.

   For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. – Jeremiah 29:11

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28

I’m holding tight to those promises in the uncertainty.

 

 

Walking Through Uncertainty, Part 1

As I’ve written before, I’m a girl who likes to know what’s coming next. I don’t like waiting and I don’t like uncertainty. Honestly, I don’t know anyone who does. Impatience is pretty much a universal human condition, wouldn’t you say?

Lately things around my house have been uncertain to the extreme.

We have a dearly loved cat who has chronic health problems. We recently learned that he will be on medication and prescription food for the rest of his life. He was already high-maintenance even without the addition of meds and special food. But our middle daughter LOVES that cat, and he’s a sweet boy (for the most part) so we’re committed to dealing with the medication and food for the next few years.

IMG_7694

A few days ago I noticed that Elvis (yes, that’s his name) was looking a little scruffy. His food was going untouched. He was not grooming himself and he was “leaving his mark” in the house in places other than his litter box. This is not good for many reasons, one of which is that we just sold this house (which I will cover in the next post) and also because hello, the smell. And I don’t think I can take the sadness of my teenager if something happens to this cat.

I did some research (what did we do before Google??) and started taking some steps to help him recover. I already knew from what the vet told us a couple of weeks ago that a recurrence could be the end for Elvis because there was nothing else they could do. I also started preparing my teen for the possibility that Elvis might not make it. The whole house went into Cat Watch status.

And I prayed. Listen, if you don’t think God cares about the details, you are dead wrong. Nothing escapes Him. If we care, then He cares, because He loves us.

Then I walked through the uncertainty. Or more accurately, I wallowed, crawled, and moaned through the uncertainty. I did what I could do and I prayed for God to do what only He could do, and I waited. Have I already mentioned how bad I am at waiting? Because I am.

It seems like such a petty thing, to pray for a cat’s health, yet I believe God cares because we do. My middle girl has been through a lot of changes in the past year: moving to a new state and trying to adjust to a new school (and struggling), along with normal teenaged hormonal changes. I cannot imagine the blow to her fragile and still developing sense of stability if she lost her furry companion. But I also knew that if God allowed it to happen, He would get us through it somehow.

So for the last few days I’ve been walking the tightrope of okay/not okay and trying to prepare for every eventuality, although there’s no way to really do that. I’ve been a bundle of nerves, all over a cat! And I think that while I’ve prayed for God to intervene, I haven’t allowed myself to actually believe that He would.

I watched IF:Gathering online in February and near the end, the speaker asked everyone to take a rock and write on it a word God had impressed upon them. Ever since then I (along with some sweet IF:Voxer sisters – you guys know who you are, and I love you) have been challenging myself to really believe God.

Believe that He is good.

Believe that He is for me and my good.

Believe that He is who He says He is, and His word is true.

Believe that He answers prayer.

Because I go to Him in prayer with all my concerns and then I’m surprised when He answers. Why is that? Am I missing something critical in my spiritual development? A sense of expectancy, perhaps?

Ultimately, I think there is a part of me that feels undeserving. If I was truly deserving then it would be some kind of earned justice and not grace (unmerited favor) when God sends blessings my way. I also have a hard time sometimes seeing God as a loving Father who wants the best for me. These are things I’m working on, and like the father of the possessed boy in Mark 9,  I say, “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief!”

I want to be the kind of person who prays about a problem or concern and waits expectantly, knowing God will answer and that His answer will be for her good, whether the answer is “yes”, “no”, or “not now”. But I’ve also been so disappointed by people in the past that it blurs my view of my Father, and that’s not fair to Him. And in the end, even though what I was walking through was painful at the time, all those experiences have formed me into the person I am now and I can honestly look you in the eye and tell you God worked things out for my good (Romans 8:28).

And speaking of good things, I’m happy to report that Elvis the kitty is showing positive signs of improvement. I think he’s going to be just fine. Now if we could just find a house to live in…. (to be continued)

Confessions of a Lent Failure

I stink at Lent.

In my defense, I came late to it. I’m from a Southern Baptist background (that’s “Southern” with a capital “S”) and didn’t even know what Lent was all about until a few years ago. Mostly Lent, to me, meant self-deprivation – you know, somebody is always giving something up for Lent.

Now I belong to a church where Lent is actually a thing. We are encouraged to use the 40 days leading up to Easter to prepare our hearts for the celebration of the death and resurrection of Christ. It’s a beautiful idea but I fail in the execution. Part of my problem is that I am a poor planner. Let me rephrase that: I’m actually a pretty good planner with terrible follow-through. I believe that makes me what is commonly known as a procrastinator.

Also, basically it’s 40 days of waiting. I’m terrible at waiting. And 40 days is a long time, am I right?

But then comes Holy Week.

Something happens to my heart during Holy Week.

I’m once again overwhelmed with emotion at the perfectly choreographed series of events that culminated in the resurrection of Christ.

DSC01589

It’s like (as with so many other things) I suddenly look up and realize – it’s almost here. It’s coming and if I don’t wake up I’m going to miss out, and my heart starts beating a little faster.

Palm Sunday rolls around and I read about how they shouted “Hosanna” and laid down palm branches for His donkey to walk on, and I think He knows. He knows that all these happy faces who are greeting Him like the King He truly is, they’re going to turn on Him in just a few days. How can you enjoy the accolades when you know they will become jeers in mere days?

I think about the disciples and how confused they must have been at Jesus’ words. He’d said all along that He had to go away and prepare a place for them, but even with the miracles they’d seen, they couldn’t know what was coming.

The players in this drama couldn’t have imagined that they would be witnessing the greatest sacrifice and then the greatest miracle the world has ever known, and it was all for them. And me. And you. And all of mankind.

I think about His mother Mary, because I’m a mother and I cannot so much as even think about the idea of watching my own child die that way, for I have no doubt that she saw Christ as her much-loved son as well as her Saviour.

Each day of Holy Week weighs heavy on my heart from the gravity of my sin. My sin that led Him to that cross.

The last supper.

The betrayal of Judas.

Peter’s denial.

The travesty of a trial.

The beatings.

The march to Calvary.

The mockery.

The darkness.

The agony.

And in the midst of the agony, mercy for the man hanging beside Him.

And for the ones persecuting Him: Father forgive them..

And mercy for me.

That Good Friday seemed to be anything but good.

Love drove Christ straight to that cross and love kept Him there.

(And now I get to write my two favorite words in the whole world…)

But God…

But God had a master plan, and it was not for His Son to stay in the grave.

Three days later He came back, just like He said He would.

(I wonder sometimes how I would have responded to Jesus in those days. I have the advantage of history and seeing Him proven faithful over and over, but those who walked with Him had to take Him at His word.)

God doesn’t leave us dead in our sin either. Easter is a reminder of the way I was once dead inside but given new life in Christ.

file0001327025014

I think maybe I save up all my Lent meditation for Holy Week because now it seems like I can’t stop thinking about Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Better late than never, I suppose.

(If you’ve managed to read my ramblings to this point, thank you for your patience.)

How about you? Do you do anything special to prepare for Easter?

Good Mom, Bad Mom

I bought a level at the home improvement store last week. It’s not fancy but the perfectionist inside me is clapping her hands with glee because finally perfection is within reach, at least when it comes to hanging pictures. I love knowing that I have a tool to let me know just how close I am to the ideal. If I’m little off in my placement, the little bubble inside the level will show me, and I can adjust accordingly.

levelToo bad there’s not a tool like that for parenting.

Raising children is a figure-it-out-as-you-go adventure. Read all the books you want but not much can prepare you for the actual moment they place an actual real live baby in your actual arms. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to parenting, which is a cruel trick, because just when you think you’ve figured out your first child, the second one comes along and whatever you did with the first one doesn’t work for the second one. And don’t even get me started on the third one and the ones that might come after.

I’ve been a mother for over a quarter century now. It has stretched me in more ways than I can count, and I’m not just talking about the stretch marks of a body that has adjusted to carry a new life inside.

I’ve been a working mother and a stay at home mother as well as a work at home mother. (By the way, they’re all hard and it’s high time we stopped trying to shout each other down about whose way is right. But that’s another blog post entirely.)

So how can we know if we’re doing it right? It’s not by measuring ourselves against other mothers because that’s just a sure way to feel inadequate (if we’re looking at the amazingly put-together Mom in the car line) or smug (if we’re looking at the Mom in Target with a toddler having a full-blown tantrum in the aisle). Neither is going to end well.

It’s not by asking our friends because let’s face it: friends (good ones, anyway) see the best in you and will loudly congratulate you for feeding your kids whole-grain Eggos for breakfast instead of donuts, while forgetting all about the time you forgot to pick up little Susie at preschool because you were getting your hair done. They’re biased, as they should be.

It’s not even by measuring our kids’ behavior because even the most well-intentioned parent sometimes has a child who goes off the rails. And sometimes otherwise “good” kids make bad choices that lead to “good” parents feeling bad about themselves. Not that I’d know anything about that myself. (Just kidding. If I knew how to do it right I wouldn’t be writing this blog post. I’d be writing a how-to book and counting my millions.)

You could wait until your children are grown up and ask them what they think. This is especially helpful if they have children of their own because somehow, raising their own little blessings provides perspective you just can’t find anywhere else.

The truth is we are all doing the best we can at this parenting gig. No one’s perfect. No one approach works for all kids. Some moms stay home, some  work, some work at home in between parenting kids. Some kids need strict discipline and some fare just fine with loose boundaries.

The “right way” doesn’t exist.

There’s no magic formula for parenting. We’re all scientists in the lab of real life conducting our own on-going experiments with wildly different results.

But I did come up with a short quiz to let you sort of take your Momming temperature and see how you’re doing.

Here’s the first question: do you love your children? I don’t mean do you like them. Even the best mother will admit (if she’s honest) that there are occasionally times she doesn’t like one or more of her children, or more accurately, her children’s behavior. But overall, do you feel love toward the kids themselves?

If you answered “yes”, the second part is this: do your children know that they know that they know they are loved? Do you tell them? Do you show them? Do you love them in their love language? Do you love them enough to do the hard things, the things they might not like? Do you blow kisses at your middle schooler when you drop her off at school, totally negating any cool factor she’s managed to accumulate? Maybe that last one is just me.

If you can answer “yes”, I’d say you’re doing a fine job.

Now, of course there’s more to parenting than just loving your kids but the truth is most of those other things will flow out of that all-encompassing, throw-yourself-in-front-of-a-train, indescribable-but-yet-I’m-trying kind of love. When you act from that place of love, your kids are going to know it, even if they can’t put words to it. Even if they can’t understand why you do what you do. Even if they throw mean words back at you and appear to reject it. (if you relate to that I’m going to go out on a limb and guess you have a teenager)

If you’re loving your kids and showing it to them with words and actions, you’re doing it right, Mom.

Remember this on the days when nothing goes the way it should.

When you burn the toast and set off the smoke detectors twice in one 10 minute time period.(True story)

When the kids go to bed without a bath for the third night in a row.

When everyone has cereal for dinner because you forget to plan ahead.

When you’ve lost your temper and raised your voice. Again.

When you have to dig the gym uniform out of the dirty laundry because you forgot to wash it.

When you plop your littles in front of the TV so you can finish reading the last chapter.

When you lock yourself in the bathroom for fifteen minutes because it’s the only place you can be alone.

Because Mom love means that the bad days won’t happen every day, that many more days will be marked by hugs and sweet words and time spent making memories.

And because your kids might not tell you, I will: you’re doing a great job, Mom. Keep it up.