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Love with Abandon Project- Fall 2014 Launch · October 28, 2014

I'm so excited for this fall launch!  It's been a year since my last opening.  And we have some great new color combos and a fun, new simple design!

If you are new to this project, you can read the backstory here. Basically, the LWA Project was born out of my desire to give back my effort and energy that I had put into our adoption and mission trips, to benefit a broader scope of orphan care and orphan prevention.  So I set a goal to raise $6,000--- $1,000 each for 6 different ministries and families.

An update as to where we are now: to date we have raised $2580 total, which is close to half of my goal.  I have paid out to one of the six ministries/families, and a few donations have been given directly to the beneficiaries. THANK YOU for all you have done to support this effort!!

While I would LOVE to see the $6,000 goal met while the store is open for the next two weeks (shirts! shirts! shirts for everyone! :)), realistically I won't quite get there.  And I'm ok with that.  My plan, once I have the totals from this fall sale, is to go ahead and divide whatever profits I have to date (minus the $1,000 I've already paid out) between the remaining five ministries/families.  These sales are alot of work, and I'm just not sure when I will have the chance to do another push.  So I plan to distribute what I have, and if in the future I feel I can do another store opening, then I will.  Luckily my husband will be in Ethiopia in January and will be able to personally deliver those donations to the ministries located there.

So that's the update.  Now for the store!!

The store will be open for 2 weeksSHIPPING IS FREE FOR THE NEXT 24 HOURS!! Also, if you want to knock out some Christmas shopping, I am giving one FREE item for every 10 items you purchase--so make a list, check it twice, and them email me if you'd like to take advantage of that offer!

Here's a sneak peak at the new design!

I am super into black and white right now--anyone else?!  And the black marble baseball tee--seriously, it is AWESOME.  You will love it!

And if you're coming to my open house on Nov 4th, I will have stock of some of the new tees in hand!  YAY!!

(Speaking of the open house, even if you don't want a shirt, you can shop from one of my other vendors and benefit the LWA Project--so check out my list of vendors!!)

Thank you again for all of your support!  NOW--head over to the store and check out the new goodies!!  Use the code FIRST24 for free shipping for the next 24 hours!!

Not your everyday love story...but it's ours · February 14, 2013

 Feb 14, 1993

 20 years ago today I married my best friend. I was 18 years old, still in high school, and we told no one.  He was home on leave for the weekend, and he flew out the next day.  20 years later, it's still the best Valentine's day I've ever had.

That's the short version of our story.  It's a love story, for sure.  But it's not a conventional one, to say the least. : )  In fact, in my wedding album (yes, we eventually had a wedding), my grandmother wrote, "There's the old fashioned way; and then there's Rachel's way." : )  But then I've never liked to think that God works the same way every time, part of the fun is experiencing His faithful love as He creatively navigates us through all sorts of twists and turns in life.

The story begins when I was 13.  I met Joe in youth group.  Well, I met him AT youth group, he wasn't IN youth group. : ) He was one of our leaders.  He was 25 at the time, in college full time, working full time, and in the middle of earning his commission with the Marine Corps.  He volunteered with the youth in our church, and we all immediately loved him.  He obviously loved the Lord, was a great teacher, was gregarious and loud and fun, and he quickly became a favorite amongst the guys and girls alike.
He spent more and more time with all of us kids since he was one of the few adults who didn't have the demands of a family at home.  Joe worked with my dad at the church, and they became fast friends as well.  He ended up in more and more of my family's social circles, and we saw each other often.

My dad had been diagnosed with cancer about a year before I met Joe, and as I started high school, he got sicker and was in and out of the hospital.  My mom was working full time, and Joe became a helper to my mom, driving my brother and me back and forth to the hospital and wherever else we needed to be.   Joe was a wonderful friend to me, but also to the rest of my family, and we all loved him.  But there was something special between us, nothing we really ever talked about, but something.  I thought he was awesome, but never really let me mind go anywhere further than that.  But he was quickly becoming my closest friend.

In the spring of my freshman year, my dad passed away.  Many friends came to our home and stayed with us.  That night, my first though was that I wanted Joe to be there with us--and he was.  It was a moment of clarity for me, how much I wanted him near when I was hurting.

In May of that year, Joe graduated from college and left Houston for Quantico, VA.  He had a 4 year commitment in the Marine Corps.  I was so sad for him to leave.  But before he left, he told me to enjoy high school, have a blast and live it up--- but in three years, he'd be back for me.

I was floored and excited and speechless and shocked-- I knew he loved me, but it had never occurred to me that "we" were ever a possibility.  Joe had dated quite a few different girls since I had known him, and unbeknownst to me, each one eventually always asked him, "What's the deal with Rachel?"  And he would tell them, "Oh yeah, Rachel.  She's awesome.  I'm going to wait for her."  (Needless to say none of those relationships lasted very long. : ))

Well, he left, and we wrote.  This was before cell phones and email.  We picked up pen and paper and wrote and wrote and wrote.  And more and more, I realized how much I loved him.  Any romance we ever had was long distance, developed through letters and phone calls across the miles, and I can see the sovereign wisdom of the Lord in that.  It was weird enough, with 12 years between us, and the distance helped keep some sense of privacy to our relationship and some normalcy to our lives in the meantime. (I still have every. single. one. of those letters.)

Joe went from Virginia, to Hawaii, to Japan, and back to Hawaii.  He'd come visit me when he could, and I went to visit him as well. There were many wonderful airport reunions and many horrible airport goodbyes.  By the beginning of my senior year of high school, I knew I wanted to marry him.  It was just a matter of timing.  We would talk and dream about the when and the how and long for the day that we didn't have to say goodbye anymore.

 So when he was home for the weekend in February of 1993, and we were sitting around with my mom and my brother eating chinese food, and he slipped me a secret handwritten fortune in my fortune cookie--"Wanna get married tomorrow?"….well, I knew my answer.  And I smiled silently at him across the table.  Since we knew nothing about what to do to get married quickly, we pulled out the yellow pages. The first add we saw said we'd get a free limo ride with our wedding service, and so we were sold!  Apparently a man named Mr. Kipperman owned a pawn shop, and he was also ordained and did weddings in a small chapel in the back of his pawn shop.  Once we called, he was thrilled to marry this soldier and his girl before said soldier was whisked back off to defend our country and freedom!  : )

So then next day, rings in hand, we made our way to Kipperman's pawn shop, and with the background sound of a cheesy cassette playing "here comes the bride", we held back laughter as we took our vows.  To our chagrin, the limo wasn't available--but we did get a free tshirt that said "I got married at Kipperman's pawn shop"--I know, just as good right? : )
We managed to avoid being on the news, who were there doing a story on Valentine's day elopements, when we explained we were trying to be discreet.

Joe flew out early the next morning.  He of course told the military immediately (spouse=more money) and a few friends.  I kept my secret for a few weeks and then finally told my two closest friends.  But that was it.  I was planning a trip to spend 6 weeks with him in Hawaii after graduation, before he had to leave for Japan for the next 6 months, and my mom was having a hard time with that.  But she let me go, and shortly after I got there, called and said, "Did you all get married?"  She figured we'd do so as soon as I got there--- she didn't know we already had several months before.  So the story spilled out and we told her everything.  In her gracious, loving way, she congratulated us and the next day sent champagne and flowers.  Later when we were face to face and had a chance to make amends for the way we somewhat skirted her parental authority, she just smiled and said she loved us and always knew the Lord had brought us together.

Since Joe had to go to Japan for 6 months, I decided to go to Texas A&M for the fall semester.  He flew directly from Japan to Houston for Christmas, and when I picked him up from the airport that Christmas eve, I knew--I would never have to say goodbye again.  On January 8th, 1994 we had a wedding with all of our family and friends present--who all knew by then that we were already married.  It was a wonderful celebration.  And then we headed off to Hawaii for Joe's last 8 months in the Corps.

In the years since then, we moved to Dallas for seminary, had a set of twin boys, moved to Nebraska for our first couple of churches, had a couple of girls there, and then moved to New Jersey, where Joe pastored and we lived for almost 6 years.  Five years ago we moved to Florida, and the years have been full of church planting and adopting and kids growing and seasons of life shifting.  It has been a wonderful ride and it's still an adventure!

I was 18 when I got married.  I was young but I knew what I wanted.  I knew I was head over heels in love with Joe.  I knew he would lead me well and love me well.  I knew there was no other man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.  And I knew I was ready to start life together as soon as possible and not waste one more second apart.

 I look back and still can't believe the basic truth that altered my life so many years ago--that he chose me.  He chose to love me. 

And he still makes that choice every day.  Because now he has seen all there is to see of me, and it is not always pretty.  But he has loved me well for 20 years, and that kind of love has taught me much about tenderness, communication, patience, spontaneity, forgiveness, and sacrifice. He has loved with words and with actions, accepted me as I am, and has always encouraged me to discover God's purposes for my life and pursue them with abandon.

We've made our share of mistakes, and there have been very tough seasons in our marriage.  We are broken and human and prone to be insensitive and selfish by our natures.  But God's grace has covered a multitude of wrongs, and He has seen fit to take these 20 years and deepen our love for each other.  Just today Joe said to me, "Wow.  20 years.  Hasn't God been gracious to us?"  Yes, indeed.

20 years later

I made this video last year for Joe for our anniversary.


LWA Project Fall Launch & Partners!! · October 30, 2013

It has been a quiet few months around this blog as I've settled my family into our fall routine.  But it is time to launch our fall line of LWA Project items!!

There will be NEW ITEMS.  

As most of you know, this project was born out of my desire to support orphan care ministries that help prevent the need for adoption, both overseas and locally here in the US through the local church, as well as supporting adoption and caring for widows and orphans personally.  I can honestly say, I have spent more energy on this project than I EVER have to fundraise for a mission trip, and I am not far from matching my effort to fundraise for our own adoption. :)  And it has been WORTH IT.  I've already been able to write a check to the Waulk family to go towards their adoption this past summer, with monies raised from shirts that YOU bought and YOU reposted about!!  So THANK YOU, from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU.  This is a labor of love and as I've said before, it may take a while for me to get it done, but I'm in it for the long haul!  Even if it means I have to get creative in how I do it!

If you are new to the LWA project, you can read more about it here.  I am just as committed to reaching my goal as when I started, and there is work to do to get there!  I still have a little more than $4500 left to raise.  And I could use your help!!  You guys have been great to buy shirts and give and share about the project, but I want to take it a step further!

I'm inviting YOU to partner with me, as a Love with Abandon Project Partner!

It's super easy, and you could earn your own free shirt or tote!

Here's how:
  • share about the project with your friends and family, via word of mouth, email, blogs, facebook, twitter, instagram--WHATEVER!
  • On Nov. 4, send them to the store to purchase their favorite items! Under "note to seller" in paypal, ask them to put "referred by" and your name 
  • OR you can collect their orders yourself and email me with the details and we'll make payment arrangements
  • FOR EVERY $100 YOU DONATE DIRECTLY to one of the ministries/families in the LWA Project, YOU WILL GET A FREE TSHIRT!!
Seriously, are you as excited about this as I am??!!  Even if you already have the tees you want, you could help promote the LWA project and use your freebie as a Christmas gift!  OR buy 10 shirts to give as gifts, and get one for yourself for free!!!  Heck I'll even mail them for you to your recipients with a personal Christmas note--explaining that their gift also supports orphan care and adoption--and saving you a trip to the post office during holiday rush season!! Seriously?! You could be done with your Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving!  Holla!!!

Also, this is the time of the year that everyone is looking for end-of-year tax-deductible giving opportunities, and here's your chance to do that AND get a free shirt!! (All the links to the ministries are located in this post.) All you have to is give, send me a copy of your paypal receipt or the giving site they use, and let me know which shirt want!! C'mon, this is gonna be so fun!!!

SO ARE YOU IN??!!  Then let's do this!!!   

The LWA Project store will be open from Monday, November 4 through Friday, November 15th.  Two weeks.  Items will ship at the beginning of December and will arrive in plenty of time to ship/distribute or give for the holidays.

Let everyone know YOU are a LWA Project partner!  Start sharing, start posting--link to this post if you want to--and let's build some excitement and anticipation!!  (Feel free to use the LWA Project partner image above on your blogs or pages.  I'll have one up on IG (look under #lwaproject) that you can copy and repost as well.)

I'll be posting some sneak peaks over the next few days on facebook and on instagram...feel free to follow along and repost too! (For instagram, use the #lwaproject hashtag so I don't miss your postings!!) The store will open on Monday with the new items, and then you can post links directly to the store so friends and family can SHOP TIL THEY DROP!

Please feel free to message me with any questions you have about partnering with me.  I'm figuring this out as I go, so I expect I'll have some questions along the way!  I am so grateful for those of you willing to be a part of the project by purchasing, by promoting, and by praying for it.  Let's take it to the next level and see what God can do!!

Thank you friends!!

I am Miley Cyrus. · August 27, 2013

I am Miley Cyrus.

At one time in my life, I was a girl who just wanted to be seen as a woman.

At times, I have acted certain ways because I longed for the approval of certain people.

At others, I have deliberately acted differently that how someone wanted me to act because I was determined to be an individual.

I have been manipulated by the praise and affirmation of people as easily as I've been wounded by their criticism and critique.

I have allowed the culture to define for me what it means to be a woman and to be desirable.

I have believed the lie that beauty on the outside means someone has more value or is more worthy of my attention.

I have acted without thinking about the consequences of my actions or considering the people who will be affected by them.

I have crossed lines in the name of blazing my own trail and finding myself.

I have been willing to compromise my character to get something I want.

I have celebrated my rebellion and laughed off my stubbornness.

I have wasted, squandered, and exploited gifts and opportunities that have been given to me.

I have acted entitled to things I did not earn and did not deserve.

And often, I have looked down on others who have done these things, as if I myself have not been guilty of the exact same things.

At times, I have been the good girl, and at others, the bad girl.

But at all times, I have been the girl who needs Someone to accept me-- not because of who I am but because of who He is.

I need to be loved with a love that does not depend on my behavior or my appropriateness or my lovability.

I need a Savior who was willing to be crushed not just for my bad behavior but also for my haughty self-righteousness.

I need a Friend who is willing to forgive me, despite the fact that I repeat my offenses on a daily basis.

I need a Father who will guide me, because left to my own demise, I repeatedly choose a way that leads to death. 

I need a King who is good and fair and wise to invade my life, conquer my strong will, and overthrow the inept ruler I find myself to be.

I need a God who will accept me and Miley as we are.  But not leave us there.

I need Hope.

I need Jesus.  Every day.  Every moment.

My God, my God, why has Thou accepted me?
It is the mystery of mercy,
and the song I sing.

LWA Project--Update & First Payout!! · July 26, 2013

It has been an exciting week for the LWA project!  I got the chance to give my first check with the monies raised through the project thus far.

The Waulks' birthmom is in surgery right now--as I type!-- to deliver their baby.  On Sunday, I had the chance to give them their $1,000 from the LWA Project to go towards their adoption expenses.  We took a moment to get a cheesy photo (should have made one of those cardboard checks! :)), because I wanted you to see where your donations are going and BE BLESSED like I am---that buying and selling a few silly shirts are REALLY helping create, build, and sustain families!!  

So THANK YOU!!  For all of your support the last few months, for buying shirts and wearing shirts, making donations, and promoting the LWA Project.  It was a little scary to write that check, knowing it was a big chunk of what has been raised, and I still have 5 more checks I want to write for that same amount!  Right now, total monies raised through the LWA Project are $1370.00.  So that's still $4630.00 left to raise.  But the Waulks needed it NOW, and I'm trusting the Lord will raise the rest in his timing and with a little blood, sweat, and tears along the way.  :) I'll keep at it until we get there!! (Looks like we'll need a fall line of LWA tees!! :))

Please know, too--if you feel led to support the project families and ministries directly--the links are all in my original post.  Just send me a note and let me know so I can count it towards my project total.  But the money does not have to come through me--you can give directly--in most cases in a tax deductible way.

And pray with me for the Waulks--baby Liam should be making his appearance soon!  YAY!!

Before I could even get this posted, Liam arrived!!!
10lbs 7oz healthy boy!! 
Thank you, Jesus and congrats Josh and Christy!!  Love you both!!

LWA Project: the Waulk family [in the home stretch!!] · July 11, 2013

It's been a little quiet here, but the LWA Project is ongoing.  The store remains open and the efforts to bless each of the families and ministries continues.  Our first pressing deadline is upon us, though, folks!  We have a birth mom due and a baby coming! And we have some funds to raise ASAP!!  So I invited Josh & Christy to share a bit about their journey with you and hopefully encourage you to be a part of their story, too!

Josh & Christy Waulk are dear friends, and we have served together for the last several years in our church.  They are in the process of their second adoption--birth mom is due any day now!!  Josh has a word to share with you today--so listen in, and be sure and stick around until the end to see how you can be a part of bringing this little one home and MAYBE even win a little something as well!! ;)

Here's Josh:
I love the contributions of so many adoption advocates to the cause of bringing children into Forever Families.

Over the course of the past three years, we’ve witnessed men and women of God lead a charge that I believe history will show was pivotal in American church culture. With the Holy Spirit’s leading, these adoption warriors have helped to de-stigmatize a matter that at one time was taboo, and not referenced at family reunions. 

 My wife, Christy, and I were able to experience this firsthand at a recent family reunion of our own. My Cuban side of the family, the Perez line to be specific, gathered together for a ten-year fiesta that was marked with more than a few special moments. 

For us, seeing our first adopted daughter’s name on the family tree, with her home state of Kentucky listed, was a matter of personal significance and joy. Her name had been grafted into the family, just as our names have been grafted into God’s family. We rejoice over her. 

When I first became acquainted with the blossoming adoption movement a few years ago, the picture of the Gospel put on display for the entire world to see was encouraging. I was compelled to get involved financially in the adoption of other families, and I was compelled to get involved as an adoptive dad, myself. 

It’s not as if I needed extra motivation, though. 

As a couple struggling with the realities of infertility, adoption was our road to growing a family. Infertility and adoption were both realities given to us by God, and both would change our family forever. 

In response, we embraced the adoption movement. We wanted to put the Gospel on display through this gift of God’s grace. We wanted to celebrate the miracle that we saw other couples celebrating. And, celebrate we did! 

But, for all of the theological implications of adoption, for all of the hype surrounding the numerous Christian books on adoption that were released during the season in which we brought our precious Karis home, I’m left with this conclusion when I reflect back: 

We just wanted to have a family. 

When you look back on human history, we see this undeniable pattern. Movements come and movements go. It’s a reality that I don’t think we should always fear. We have a natural propensity to not want to see good things fade away, but often times, God allows those good things to pass from the scene, so that we might experience something even better. 

I’m not suggesting that the Christian adoption movement of recent years is fading or ought to fade away. But, for me, as an adoptive dad who is hoping to adopt again, I’m choosing to leave the theological significance of adoption to the theologians and conference speakers. 

For me, the most important theological significance of adoption, in this season of life, is being a dad, and receiving the joy of seeing my wife become a mom. It’s just that simple. 

Today, we are within two weeks of our birth-mom’s expected due date. We’ve walked with her for several months now. We’ve prayed over her, and over the little boy growing inside of her, thankful that she chose life. She has, to this point, made a courageous decision in the face of insurmountable odds. 

We look forward to seeing how God completes this story in the years to come. 

For now, we commit to being the kind of parents to this child that God would have us be, for His glory. We commit to raising this little one in the fear and admonition of the Lord. We commit to providing for him in every way that our Heavenly Father allows. As He has loved and freely given to us, so will we love and give freely to this child, and all of our children. 

We can’t wait to meet him. We can’t wait to be parents, again. We can’t wait to introduce him to Trevor, and to Karis. We covet your prayers and generous, faith-filled donations to this effort. 

Here are the final details on how you can help us bring our little boy home: 
  1. Pray that God provides for a safe delivery for both baby and mother, and that He provides the needed financials in order to complete this adoption. 
  2. Consider making a tax-deductible donation to our adoption via PayPal, or you may join our iPad Mini Giveaway. Both links are located on our blog
We have an estimated $7,500.00 left to fundraise. 

According to our estimated due date, we have less than two weeks in which to see God move. 

That’s all the time He needs. 

We’re praying that His people will move with him.
Just $7500.  Chump change!!  Let's do this friends!!  Pop on over to the Waulks blog, and give a little! A $25 donation gets you entered to win an ipad mini!  [Be sure and let me know if you do, so I can count it towards our LWA Project total!]  Can't wait to see them FULLY FUNDED!!

Sixteen · June 7, 2013

Letting go is a better grip.
                      -David Crowder

Sixteen years ago this week my life changed forever.

When I found out I was pregnant I was 21 years old.  I had been married for almost 3 years, but it was a little earlier than we had "planned" to start a family.  I had always known I would be a stay at home mom, and while I looked forward to being a mom--I didn't know if I was ready yet.  I loved the freedom we had--just Joe and me.  I loved my job and I loved working.  I enjoyed my independence.  I enjoyed my sleep.  I knew this meant a big shift for me, and I felt unprepared and inexperienced.

Sure, I ran and got a copy of What to Expect When Your Expecting.   And it was fun to skim through it, look at sketches, and compare the size of the fetus to a walnut.  But mostly, I began to voraciously read anything I could get my hands on about caring for babies and child raising and parenting.  THAT was what terrified me.  While in my womb, this kid seemed to be fairly easy to handle, pretty good at fining for himself. Granted, my ankles looked like sausages and I had to pee every half hour,  but all in all--he was fairly low maintenance.

 But--what about after this rug-rat entered the world??!! Suddenly, it was up to me to make sure he eats enough and sleeps enough and poops enough and learns to walk and learns to spell and learns to ride a bike and be kind and love Jesus??  Suddenly I was the one responsible to make sure another human being didn't eat crayons or pull the dog's tail or fall down the stairs or play with matches or date too soon or do drugs or--heck, basically make sure he makes it to 18 in one piece!!! That's alot of pressure, people!!  So I read everything I could get my hands on, afraid I would be the one parent that security stops at the exit of the hospital and says--hey, what idiot signed a baby over to this lady??!!

But as the days went by, the idea grew on me (literally!), and by the time I went in for my sonogram at 22 weeks, I was excited.  Would it be a boy or a girl??  Either sounded wonderful.  The doc had told me I was gaining a bit too quickly, and might want to ease off the big macs, but hey--if I knew anything about pregnancy, I knew that it was my chance to really give Joe a run for his money at dinnertime since I was, after all, eating for two. :)  And hey, maybe I was further along than I thought!  That was a possibility too.  We watched the little monitor of the sonogram machine for anything that resembled shape of a baby, and hoped at least the doctor could make sense of the one dimensional black and white mumbo jumbo.

Doc smiled.  He pointed to a white blob.  Look--there's your boy.  I smiled and looked up at Joe. He had tears in his eyes.  A son. We were sharing a moment together---when I felt the doc abruptly move the wand through the goopy jelly all the way to the other side of my stomach, and said, "Aaaaand, there's another boy."

'scuse me??!!  TWINS.  Joe made some crack about becoming a TV evangelist, and I asked the doc if he was sure he knew how to use that thing.  Maybe he read the tea leaves wrong.  But he was pretty confident.  We were having TWO babies.  Not just one.  He smiled and said never mind what he said about my weight gain.  Looks like I was allowed to have all the big macs I wanted.

So if I had built up any hope that all my reading over the last few months had prepared me even the slightest to be a mom-- it vanished.  TWINS.  TWO babies.  Now I was REALLY gonna screw this thing up.

Luckily, I have a husband who finds joy and privilege in challenges.  He was over the moon.  When I asked where the heck we'd put the second one, he said we'd get another crib and another car seat and another stroller--no biggie.  When I was put on bedrest for 8 weeks, he picked up the slack all while working full time, finishing his last semester of seminary before graduating, and candidating for a pastoral position.  I knew from day one--we were in this together--and that helped. He was the first to change Josh's diaper and the first to give Nathan a bottle in the NICU.  Sometimes I think I learned much about mothering by watching my husband love those babies so well. 

And, it turns out, as days went by, and babies grew into toddlers who grew into little kids who grew into bigger kids,  I felt I was in a rhythm.  Certainly not that I had it all figured out, but I had grown into this role and mostly knew what I needed to do. I nurtured, I cocooned, I loved, I protected, I instructed, I corrected, I held tightly and I did everything in my power to communicate: you are mine and I am proud of you and I will always love you no matter what and I will always be right here by your side so you can feel secure and safe and treasured and adored.

Then, something crazy happened.  These two eldest of mine, they became teenagers.  And I began to wrestle.  Because what had worked for years wasn't exactly working anymore, and I sensed that wasn't all a bad thing.  They were changing, and I, too, had to change.
The teen years are the counterintuitive stage of parenting. Everything inside of you as a mom tells you to hold tightly, shelter and protect your little ones from harm and difficulty and pain.  It's on you and you alone--no one else will fight for your kids like you, no one else will have their best in mind or put them first like you, no one else will be responsible for them ultimately but you.  They need you 

But then, they're teens, and--they don't.  Maybe not overnight, but it can feel that way.  Now you're suppose to nudge them away from you, towards more independence and more responsibility, to a place where they don't need you.  Let out the rope.  And let go.

Yes, into the unknown.  But not into a void.  Into Hands that can be trusted.  And hoping not necessarily that they will always do the right thing.  Because they won't. But praying that they will pursue Grace, and find just that-- both in overcoming and in failing.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.
                                                                       Hebrews 10:23
Letting go.  And holding on.

Josh & Nathan-- 16 years ago you gave me the title and profession I am most proud to bear.  I thought I knew what love was and what it meant to be in love, but I never understood the nature of love until you came along. You bring me great joy.  Yes, you are handsome and funny and smart.  Yes, you've accomplished much and are good at so many things I lost count a long time ago.  But watching you become men--- embracing your gifts along with admitting your weaknesses, being strong yet remaining humble, taking leadership while respectfully submitting--- is has blown me away.  Thankful for the men you are.  Happy 16th Birthday.