Cowardice and Confidence / Pulling Weeds

Flip flop.

Flip…

And…. Flop.

My unstable heart is at once cowardly and confident.

This synchronous dichotomy just goes to show I have a lot of growing left to do.

My fears’ root is the sense that I have to be THE ONE: The one to prepare and execute the perfect plan that ensures success. It all depends on me, you know. Every outcome derived from my choices is, of course, my responsibility. I sink under the pressure.

But my confidence recalls that good works were already prepared in advance for me to do by a Lord who lovingly calls me his masterpiece.

My confidence recalls that there’s nothing I can do to screw up so bad that God can’t fix it.

My confidence recalls that I’m of even more value than the birds, who do not plant or harvest or store up food in barns – because our Heavenly Father feeds them.

Fear that delays our obedience is a distraction, and mere deception. The enemy has seen what God does through those who trust him enough to obey. He will help himself to their insecurities or pride – whichever thread he can readily pull – and unravel the whole divine plan.

Or so he hopes.

You see, he is really no match for our Creator.  He may be stronger than I, but I am not myself alone. I am indwelled by the living God, and that is the extent of the battle plan I need.

So I am choosing to dig up that weed of fear – its roots are frail anyhow. Let my cowardice give way to that confidence which remembers I am not THE ONE. The perfect plan was never mine to assemble, but His.

So –

Breathe. Grow.

Go.

Jesus responded, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm. The disciples were amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”

Matthew 8:26-27

What has your heart flip flopping right now? Me, I’m leaving my job and my income to raise three little boys and pursue a peaceful and life-giving home. No biggie, right?

 

 

 

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9 Years Ago

20170408_132305Nine years ago today you left. A lot has happened since then. Nine years is actually a long time; if you live to be 90, it is 10% of your total life. You only got to be 40, so it’s about 22.5% of what you got to experience here. It’s almost 33% of my experience that you’ve been missing. I’ve never really thought about it that way, but you’ve been gone for about the last third of my life. You’ve missed out on a lot, Mom.

One month from today, Carolyn and I will celebrate 11 years married. I know if you and I were talking right now, you’d joke that that’s WAY too long. But hey, you never made it past three years. Haha. However, it was that instability and constant state of change that made me into an adapter and pushed me to seek good resources and guides along life’s path.

Two months from now, we will celebrate the fifth birthday of your oldest grandchild, Charlie. Named after your dad, of course. He’s awesome – as expected. He has my dimples, charm, and will. Every day, I get a feel for what you got to experience with me and I understand why discipline probably wasn’t the easiest thing to administer with me. Thankfully, I have an amazing partner in Carolyn, and we talk through each of those challenges as they present themselves and try to continually steer Charlie in the right direction, helping him to be the best version of himself he can be, instilling discipline without dampening his spirit or uniqueness. You would really enjoy spending time with him and plotting and scheming tricks on Mommy and Daddy (especially Daddy).

Jase, my second boy, is nearly two-and-a-half. He has an amazing laugh, the cutest facial expressions, an over-abundance of dimples, and an attitude that lights up a room. His favorite spot in the world is on top of my shoulders, which he refers to as “mum-mum.” I have NO idea how he came up with that name for it, but we’ve accepted it at this point. His vocabulary is increasing exponentially every day. It’s amazing to hear him learn people’s name and identify who is and is not present at the moment. Not to mention animals. He points out EVERY animal that he sees, some trees, a lot of “gucks” [ducks] that go “gack gack”, and biiiiig trucks. He is sweet and loves to snuggle and just be with you. He’d probably be the one to keep you grounded and leave our home feeling loved.

Then there’s Aaron, my third son. Yes, that’s right, three boys. Pretty much the exact opposite of your growing up situation. Kind of different than both of ours really. You were the youngest of three girls and I was an only child. Anyway – he’s our miracle baby. He’s only 7.5 months old but he has brought us tremendous joy. His birth was amazing and can only be described as having God’s hand all over it. After he was born, we discovered that he had an issue where part of his intestines were twisted and had atrophied. He had to have surgery and we barely breathed except to pray. At less than two days old, he was in the NICU post-op having had about a quarter of his intestines and his appendix removed. Yet he began thriving VERY quickly and exceeding every benchmark set by the doctors and impressing the nurses. Our spirits lifted as we saw God moving all around us and providing everything we needed during that time. Had this happened in the ’50s, he would have had only a 1% chance of survival. But I’m happy to say that he is thriving and when your eyes connect with his you can’t help but stare. His laugh is infectious and he is literally happy ALL the time. He’s the happiest baby I’ve ever experienced, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. He just recently started being able to sit up without immediately falling over, his weight is good, his size is good, and he’ll be crawling in no time. I think you would find a lot of joy in his smile and his bright eyes.

Carolyn has taken tremendous care of me. She loves me unconditionally. We work through whatever issue we are facing together. No matter what, she’s always on my side. She’s got my back and she loves and supports me consistently and in such a way that I’m amazed every single guy that ever meets her isn’t jealous of me immediately. Maybe they are. She always strives to be a better wife and a better mom and isn’t just satisfied with “good enough.” She puts up with my teasing and my quirks with a smile (most of the time), and she even teases back sometimes. I know she was always your favorite when I dated all the other girls during school and you were right, she was the one I should marry. I’m glad I did. Even my dad has told me that while you and he were both very skeptical of us getting married so young, that he is glad we went through with it and couldn’t be prouder of who we’ve become and how we are continuing to grow.

I’ve gotten into biking and woodworking and other random things. That’s more recent, but of course that’s what’s on my mind because it’s recent. Hard to think of everything we’ve done and been involved with over the last nine years. We own a home in Noblesville, Indiana. I know as a kid I said I didn’t think I’d ever leave Ontario, but we LOVE where we live now. It’s home. We live near a little airport and the boys get to see airplanes and hot-air balloons and all sorts of things take off and land there – it’s really cool. Remember going to the airshows a few times when I was little? It’s not quite as intense, but it’s every day when the climate is agreeable. And get this – I drive a minivan! What the heck, right? You’d laugh, but I’ll tell you – that thing is awesome. I’d probably make you ride in the back a few times so you could tease the boys while we drove somewhere to do something fun or explore something new. We like to do that from time to time and I think you’d be down for it.

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From what I know, your mother is doing mostly well. Your middle sister and her kids are doing well – all growing up and whatnot. Your niece even has her own little girl now. I’m not sure about your oldest sister and her girls really; I know one of them took your death pretty hard, she really looked up to you. I don’t hear from them much – or at all. To be honest, since you left, I don’t really have many ties to your side of my family. I’m not sure why, I just know that no one ever reaches out, and when I reach out it’s met with little or no response. Perhaps it’s because your loss was too painful and I’m a reminder of that, or they’re just too busy for someone they can’t see since I live so far away. Who knows? I’m not part of their daily lives and I get that. It’s all right, I’ve got my own family to tend to now and as you can tell, I’ve got my hands full!

Something pretty cool though, that I think you’d appreciate… Carolyn’s parents moved up near us a couple years ago. They live just about one mile away and we can walk or ride our bike there. It’s a very similar situation to what I had with Grandma and Grandpa growing up. The boys even go over there all day once a week. And we share meals together all the time. It’s wonderful.

I often think of things that I wish you could experience with us, or questions about myself when I was the various ages that my boys are in order to gain some insight or understanding as to where they are coming from and relate to them. But, I have relegated myself to just being patient and assume that I don’t yet understand what they are trying to communicate or what is upsetting them. Seek to understand, then help guide them through it. It works pretty well, but sometimes I get frustrated with a boy or a situation and it would be nice to hear you say, “Oh son, you were exactly like that. You think you’re going to talk him out of it? Yeah, right! Didn’t work with you – likely won’t work with him. There’s no getting past it, you’ll just have to let him run and fall and figure it out on his own.” And I’m sure Carolyn would love to hear some insights from a pure boy-mom. Especially the one who raised me, as those tips would be extremely relevant. When you were my age, you had a nine-year-old already. I’m sure you’d be full of useful lessons from your viewpoint of our experiences together. Oh well. It is what it is.

Our life is amazing and we are so blessed. I’m sad that you’re not able to be a part of it. But in many ways you did help create it. The first two-thirds of my life with you helped push and teach and train me to become and develop and pursue who and where I am now. By good or bad example, by joyful or sorrowful experience, by encouragement or discouragement, and many other factors, God used them all to guide me to where I am. Willing or not, you were His tool in my life – and I am thankful for it.

I miss you at times, especially on this day when I remember receiving the news that would never speak with you or see you again. I would never give you another hug. You would never meet your grandchildren. You would never see the home I would make for myself. You would never celebrate another birthday, yours or mine. Although yours was just nine days away, you just couldn’t hold out (personally, I think you just didn’t want to be called “old” so you just kicked off before you hit 41). That you would never share a meal with my family. That you would never take a road trip and come visit. That you would never get another speeding ticket. There would be no more “firsts” in my life that you would be a part of. It was a tough day. Some years it still is. But, on my end, there is still a LOT of life to be lived.

I don’t really know how to end this, and I’m sure you’re not reading it. So anyway – I hope you’re having fun, whatever you’re doing. Thanks.

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I am NOT pregnant / Three choices when your imperfections are called out

“Will this be number three?” “Congratulations!” “How far along are you?”

Three joyful comments I have received in the last three weeks from sweet, ignorant passersby.

This is what a postpartum body can look like, folks! There are lots of variations. After five months, mine happens to be retaining its swell.

It’s not even a weight issue.  I’m just…

…   s   t   r   e   t   c   h   y   .

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I’m like the hair-tie that snapped back into form after the first ponytail. Then a mite less following the second.

But after the third ponytail was unleashed, it forlornly declared, “I will never be the same hair-tie again.”

Fact: I look pregnant even though I’m not. Just in case the bulge isn’t obvious enough, my pre-pregnancy pants do not fit, so I’ve been sporting maternity pants (aka  “pregnancy shapewear”) for an extended time frame. While I wait for the normal-human pants I ordered to arrive, what choices do I have when others notice my imperfections? I can think of three:

  • Offense.   It points fingers. Its focus is “they.” How dare they make such rude remarks! Haven’t they heard you should never say things like that? What a terrible human being.
  • Shame. It doubts. Its focus is “I.” I am disgusting. I’m an embarrassment. What’s wrong with me?
  • Confidence. It’s peaceful. Its focus is “He.” God made me. He loves me. Nothing else matters.

Being tighter in the mid-range would be lovely, and I could probably accomplish that with extensive workouts or surgerybut I don’t need a six pack to remember this truth tucked away in Zephaniah 3:

For the Lord your God is living among you.
    He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
    With his love, he will calm all your fears
    He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

Ahhhh….. that’s soooo gooooood. 

What do you think I chose when three darling, smiling citizens offered those congratulatory pregnancy comments? Offense? Shame? No – I laughed. Hopefully in a way that showed those cherubs I didn’t even have to forgive them.

And honestly, I appreciated their delight for me, even though it was misplaced. People can be so kind.

So the next time anyone points out your flaw – whether with happy intentions or spiteful, and whether the voice is coming from the outside or within – remember the choices you have. Consider Who sings the joyful song. And choose confidence.

Love, Carolyn 🙂

Where are you choosing confidence today?

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When you want to fight, but you have to laugh

Disclosure: I am entering the third trimester. Anything I say cannot be used against me, because I may be hormone crazy.

Yesterday, my husband made some thoughtless remarks. He has an exasperating habit of recognizing these tactless moments by absolutely cracking up. There I am, waving my accusing finger and using every muscle in my face to demand he apologize, and he just giggles from the gut, eyes shining and dimples delving deeper.

Inevitably, I become the most annoyed the moment I cannot keep from laughing. Fudge. He has foiled my righteous anger.

This encounter happens at least weekly. But yesterday was different. All I wanted was to hear him say, “You’re right, my Love, that was a stupid thing to say. You’re wonderful and I wasn’t thinking when I made that absurd statement about your widening hips. In fact, let me get you some ice cream. Chocolate ok?”

But instead he questioned, still laughing, “Do you really believe I don’t love you, that I’m a bad husband, that I don’t say nice things to you or do anything to help you?”

Well, no…

Wait, was he hijacking my righteousness? That’s not fair. He’s the one who made those ridiculous comments! But it was too late. My eyes were opened.

Guys, I am so weak right now. Three months to grow before baby comes, and I already lose my breath just by standing too long. Any work in the kitchen requires just enough stooping to aggravate my lower back, and so I’m not participating in meal prep or dishes. And picking things up off the floor? Fuggedaboutit. Don’t ask me to wrangle the kids, or my heart might pump itself right out of my body. Honestly, I’m pretty pathetic, and I know there are about 12 or 13 weeks ahead where I will wish I were as physically able as I am today.

But Lyle doesn’t complain. He just does what needs to be done.

So moments after my righteous finger-wag, I found my opened eyes erupting in tears. “You’re so AWESOME!” I cried. No, not shouted – cried. As in “Boo Hoo” cried. That he was awesome. “I’m so worthless right now! But you’re so awesome!”

Of course, he laughed harder. And I obviously went directly to bed.

Today I’m thanking God for the man he gave me. That he can laugh instead of fight. That he serves rather than complains. I’m praying that God would use him in marvelous ways, and that I posted this story before he could share a more embarrassing version. Also that he would read between the lines about the ice cream.

I hope this inspires someone to laugh when you could fight, and be grateful today.

Love, Carolyn

(For your enjoyment, pictured below is the giggling kid wrangler at the strawberry patch…)

Dimpled Kid Wrangler

 

 

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Just Like You

My grandfather told my mom occasionally when she was a little girl, “Trina, one day I hope you have a child just like you.” She always took that as a sign she was his favorite and he wanted more kids like her… Until she had me.

It’s worth noting that I was an only child.

Mom and I were both strong-willed and determined. As most kids do, I just wanted my way and would impose my will with resolve and a set of powerful dimples gifted to me by my dad. Since Mom was equally determined and willful, we were at odds quite often.

When I was younger, the scuffles were built around minor things we eventually overcame, such as lacking the money for a ride at the fair, not getting pizza for dinner, and being denied when I wanted to stay up and watch a TV show due to bedtimes. (Don’t be fooled who won that battle – I had a TV in my bedroom and she had to go to sleep sometime).  Other times it was the crazy clothes I wanted to wear that day, or Mom’s financially-savvy decision to buzz-cut my hair herself.

As I grew older, the altercations ignited over more substantial topics that shaped how I would deal with life as I grew into adulthood: drinking, my dad (a man my mother disdained), trips I was allowed or forbidden to take, or the constant family and lifestyle transitions, which were happening each time she divorced and remarried. Once I became a Christian, we brawled over my participation in church, the Christian college I was set on, and my decision to move to my dad’s place when I became tired of the oppression (which, of course, lasted a whole two or three days, but was very dramatic for everyone).

She passed away eight years ago today. I am twenty-eight years old, and she would have turned forty-nine nine days from my writing this.

My mother once told me she hoped one day I would have a child just like me. Sounds familiar. And I received him: my firstborn. My beloved Charlie – named after my mom’s father who was one of the more stable and influential voices in my life growing up.

Charlie is determined, strong-willed, and has my dimples, not to mention bright blue eyes and a smile that will melt you where you stand. He is a force to be reckoned with. Unfortunately for him, I was him – so I know how he operates. But fortunately for him, I watched how my mother dealt with me and have applied what I learned to a completely different worldview. How is it different? I will marry only once, I will not ground my children from church, and I will do everything in my power to nurture Charlie into the leader and influencer God created him to be. He will learn discipline with love, excellence with grace, and instruction with mercy. He will impact the Kingdom of God in one form or another, but his natural tendencies will carry him far.

My second son, Jase, is still a baby. I cannot yet clearly see where he is heading or how his temperament will develop. But he has a gentle demeanor and loves to talk with you. He will likely be a communicator of some sort and an encourager and lover of people. I will endeavor to strengthen those traits as well, but will have to heavily rely on my wife for help with that.

My third son is on his way, but not here yet. He currently only goes by the name Chickpea. Who knows what adventure he will bring along with him? God knows. And God trusts my wife and I to handle it.

I heard someone recently joke about having a second daughter. He was hoping for a son to wrestle with. A friend and father of girls encouraged his ego:  “When God sees there’s enough man in the house, he doesn’t think he needs to add more.” I turned to my wife, pregnant with our third son and teased “So, what does that say about me then?” She replied ever so lovingly, “It means that God trusts you enough not only to be a man, but to raise men.”

Psalm 127:3-5 says, “Sons are indeed a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them…”

Through all of the trial, hardship, difficulty, persecution, struggle – and still, her love and sacrifice – my mother surely had no idea what she was doing to me and within me. How could she have known what she was forging? Out of the hottest fire comes the strongest steel. Perhaps she did not know how to set me up for all God made me to be, but God took what she offered and turned it around. After He did – and as He continues – a person is developing that grows Men of God. It is my heart’s passion.

So thank you, Mom, happy anniversary in Heaven, and happy birthday in a few days. And thank you, God – you have redeemed what was directed toward destruction and made it a powerful and valuable resource for Your Kingdom. I am truly honored to be among Your creation and useful for Your Purpose.

“Grander earth has quaked before, moved by the sound of His voice.

Seas that are shaken and stirred can be calmed and broken for my regard.

 Far be it from me to not believe, even when my eyes can’t see.

And this mountain that’s in front of me will be thrown in the midst of the sea.

 Through it all, through it all, my eyes are on You. Through it all, through it all it is well.

Through it all, my eyes are on You and it is well with me.

 So let go, my soul and trust in Him. The waves and wind still know His name.

 It is well, with my soul.”

– From It is Well, by Kristene Dimarco

 

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Advent Doors / He came so he could say

“Christmas is getting CLOSER!” my growing boy exclaims excitedly, gesturing his huge tiny hands to display a decreasing measure. We press open another paper door on his numbered nativity picture calendar.

“Baby, do you know what Advent means?”

I know he does not. “I’m not a baby, I’m a big boy,” he sternly reminds me.

“It means something wonderful is coming, Big Boy! Something we watch for and wait for and hope for – Christmas is coming! Do you know why we celebrate Christmas?”

I know he does not.

“It’s when we remember that Jesus came to Earth. Jesus is God! He packed his great big power up tight into a tiny little baby, just like your little baby brother. Can you imagine God like that? Why would he do that?”

His blue eyes glance up at me for the slightest of moments. What can I say to help him understand?

“Listen, Big Darling Boy. God came to live like us so he could say to us:

‘I know what it’s like

To have to share my toys even when they’re my own,

And obey my mother even when she tells me no,

And treat people kindly even when they’re in my way.

I know what it’s like

When my baby brother comes first

And all I want is a sandwich, but I have to be patient

And wait with a good attitude.

I know what it’s like

To lose my shiny penny that I had big plans for

And also my friend when he moved far away.

I know what it’s like

To get the green one instead of the orange and blue,

To feel like it should be my turn now,

To want someone else to do my chores for me

but to do it myself anyway.

I know what it’s like

To get frustrated when others don’t understand what I’m building,

To breathe in and choose peace when they don’t see what they’re doing,

To muster the courage to do what God designed me for,

Even when it’s scary.

I know what it’s like

To be hurting and heal

To feel tired and rest

To repeat the same words over again

And wonder who will ever hear me.

I know what it’s like

To feel the pressure of lack, but find a miracle in spite of it.

To wrestle against worrying that squanders joy, and win.

To ask God with wailing to change his plan,

Even though I know he won’t, and he shouldn’t.

And even though I know what it’s like

To laugh so hard you don’t make a sound,

To squeeze your most precious friend inside your arms,

And to uncover another’s buried treasure,

I came because I want YOU to know what it’s like

To feel the weight of the world lifted off you

The darkness uncovered

Your shame removed

so you can breathe again.

Because I know what that’s like.

It’s Heaven

Come to Earth.’”

“Christmas is getting CLOSER!!!” my son shrieks again, those huge tiny hands held mere inches apart. “Can we open another flap?” he pleas.

“Tomorrow, Big Boy,” I reply, with some peace. I remind my heart as I promise him. “Tomorrow, another door will open.”

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The Life of Jesus Starring Charlie (2015)

Jesus never sinned. Not even as a three year old.

This is difficult for me to imagine.

Have you ever seen a film where a character’s mind and body are being controlled by some other force? A magic spell, a brainwash, an evil robot, a venomous snakebite? They’re wreaking havoc on the city until someone says, “Friend! I know you’re in there! Can you hear me?! Snap out of it! This isn’t you! Come back to me!!!” You see a flash of recognition. Whoever is “in there” starts battling their abducted mind and body to break free and stop the crazy. In most cases, the “evil self” is defeated when someone believes in the hero enough to help them remember who they really are inside.

This is the only way I can make sense of Jesus as a threenager: A war between his fleshly urges and the nature of God within him.

Picture this:

Mary has made her famous Rum Raisin Cake {virgin version}, and has told 3-year-old Jesus, “Don’t touch the last piece here, baby, I’m saving it for Papa Joe.”

Jesus is tempted – he sees the cake. He wants the cake BADLY. He creeps to the counter and presses his squishy little nose up close enough to smell the cake. A bit of drool dribbles out of his open mouth he and gulps hard.

And the Holy Spirit is SHOUTINGSTOP THIS! I know you’re in there, Jesus!!!! Don’t throw it all away now!!! Snap out of it! YOU ARE GOD FOR CHRIST’S SAKE, YOU CAN OBEY YOUR FREAKING MOTHER!!!!

And this child… this singular child in history… takes a step backward… slowly… then another… and finally, exits the kitchen.

MAN! Do you think it was like that??? How else could it have happened? Did he run off to his room to cry over his disappointment? I think that’s possible – emotions can betray you, but they are never sin.

Each year I stop to reflect on the life of Jesus as a child. We have no records of these years, but we know he was human and God together. So I use my kids as a reference – what was Jesus like at their age? (Here are some thoughts from 2014, 2013, and 2012).

This year, my son Charlie was 2 ½ – 3 ½. Here are some things he did – can you imagine Jesus in a similar position at three years old? Reflect on his tender little preschooler heart. Maybe he didn’t do all of these (you know, GOD and all…), but I know he must have done some. What do you think?

This year, Charlie:

Met his baby brother.

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Crashed through a huge snow castle he made with dad to rescue mom from the dragon.

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First dentist appointment.

“Special Breakfast” dates with Mom on her days off.

Loved being read to and hearing the song Aunt Nette sings.

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Picked out bouquets for Mom at the store with Dad.

Played in the pool all summer.

Attended vacation Bible school.

First Schutz Family Reunion and day at the lake.

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Whining. Lots.

Applied rules to his mother that he learned at the babysitter. (No, Mommy does not have to keep her hands to herself).

Made his brother laugh like no one else.

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Was always pulling over his stool to climb up on.

Learned how to “turn on” the charm *like his dad.*

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Made up lots of words and sounds.

First fishing trip.

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Lots of playing pretend.

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Outgrew two sizes of socks and skipped a shoe size.

Helped with house projects and chores.

Called from his bed, “I’m awaaaake. It’s daytiiiime.”

Asked for fireworks all the time.

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Made applesauce with Grampa.

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First trick-or-treat.

Tantrums.

Lots of creating and crafts.

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Developed a love for game of tag.

“Played” with a toad until it… stopped… playing…

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Escaped our view at the grocery store.

Potty trained.

Collected stones so he could kill giants like David.

Loved washing things (aka playing with soap and water).

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Started choosing showers over baths.

Oh, the delay tactics…

Learned a *real* knock knock joke. (Interrupting cow wh-MOOOOOOOO).

Met a new friend at the playground and told her, “God is bigger than giants.”

Swallowed a magnet.

……..

What have your kids done this year? Do you think Jesus did anything like that? I hope you’ll comment and give us all more to know him by.

Love, Carolyn (like singin’ at Christmastime!)

Luke 2:40 “And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.”

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