It was just 4 years ago this morning that we welcomed Graham into this world. I’m going to tell you boys right now that this letter is going to be about how you three have changed our lives. It’s going to be dripping with sentiment. You boys might even roll your eyes – depending on how old you are when you read this. But right now I want you to know how I’m feeling in this moment.
I am exactly where I’m supposed to be – and I am happy!
You see, you boys have only known the Mama in me. And that is fantastic. But there was a time when I wasn’t Mama. And looking back, I can tell you that it seems so very obvious to me that I was just, well, lost. I flitted from one interest or hobby or career to the next, never settling down on one thing. As soon as I would learn something, I would get bored with it. And I gave myself every excuse in the world for this mental lifestyle. “I’m just interested in many different things”…”College doesn’t really prepare you for the real world”…”When I find a hobby, I throw myself into it 100% for about a week but then I see something new”…
All of those statements might be true. But it didn’t really explain me. They don’t explain why I was never happy. I have 2 degrees in widely varied fields. Both were interesting in their own rights. Chemistry was fun to study, but when I went to work in real life labs (2 of them), I found it to be gross drudgery, with lots of exposure to chemicals. You boys know that I am not some eco warrior, but when it comes to getting cyanide on your hands every day, there is a line to be drawn. Accounting was annoying to study but actually kind of fun to practice. I actually enjoyed analyzing financial statements of other companies. But even that grew old after reviewing the same companies for the 2nd year. I even tried something faster paced. I scheduled natural gas on a trade floor. It’s about like you see it in the movies. There are about 100 people in a wide open room where each person has at least 3 monitors and everyone is yelling. That’s great – for about a month. Then you really do get tired of the noise and the pace and the never-ending deadlines, and the push push push to make money.
The truth is this. I realized something 4 years ago this moment that I was afraid of. I realized I had spent 32 years training myself for the wrong life. I had bought into this idea that to fully embrace being a mother and raising my children at home was something only lazy people did. Seriously – how hard could that be? No bosses, no deadlines, and no strict rules of the business world…
Unfortunately, the world is training both men and women for this mentality. Look around you. I doubt you will find very many people who say that they want to raise a family, create a home, nurture their children, school them, and bring them up to be solid, incredible individuals that walk in faith with God Almighty. Because when you put it like that, it does sound like a lot. Instead, we are immediately trained to be working professionals.
Unfortunately, when we do become working professionals, we are afraid of something else –money. And not having it. I’m not about to say that providing for your family is a bad thing. Truthfully, it does take a good amount of money to put your family in a good and safe home and provide for their needs. As young men, I’m going to be spending the better parts of your childhoods preparing you for that future – because that is the only real future you have. Your sole careers are to provide for your families and bring them up so that they also have a strong walk with God.
I’m not going to lie. It’s been difficult at times for your Dad and me. We started out with nothing. We paid for our college degrees (and for that matter, when you boys read this, we may STILL be paying for those degrees). We had to come up with our own money for every single thing we have. Actually, wait, let me re-phrase that. Usually we didn’t come up with it at all – that’s really a nice way of saying we went into extraordinary amounts of debt.
And this worst part is this. The reason I worked so hard to have a very successful career is because I was afraid of having children and not having the money to take care of them. I was so afraid that we wouldn’t be able to make ends meet. I was afraid of our debt. I was afraid, I was afraid, I was afraid…
But 4 years ago, a very soft voice began to gently suggest to me that I had all of the wrong fears. You see, these old fears were based on the idea that your Dad and I had to muscle up and work and bring home money to provide for our new son. For the first time, I started to pay attention to the fact that maybe I was created for a much bigger job. I started looking around me, and realizing that the life I had put into motion that required me to work full time, utilize day care, and private schools, was maybe not part of the divine plan for our family.
I didn’t fully obey this voice right away. But once I realized what I had wanted in my life was so wrong, it was hard to know how to undo it. I would have to walk away from a 6 figure income. It’s not like you can just do that when you amass the kind of debt your Dad and I had. At first, we resisted it. I squared my shoulders. I went back to work. I sat on the trade floor and did my job. When your Dad and I got off of work, we would race home to pick up baby Graham from the daycare. Every day we did, we got such precious few minutes with him. Even fewer with each other. And always, we were tired, rushed, strained. Daycares, even nice expensive ones like we used, are still less than ideal. We fought the never ending diaper rash, the constant ear infection, croup, fever, bronchitis, the constant request to have time off of work…We tried a nanny for a while, and that helped a little but then you had to deal with the irregularity of a single nanny that would sometimes show up late, or forget what seemed like obvious things…
All the while, I’m trying to do the impossible. I’m trying to pump breast milk (which took about 45 min several times a day), and getting very few chances to feed Graham and nurture him and hold him close. I had to pump because I worked. You see how life starts to pile up and you start wondering, what in the world am I doing all of this for? I stopped nursing long before I should because I simply couldn’t do it all.
And that…that is when I believe God moved. You see, not long after I stopped nursing, I found out we were expecting Justin! It only took us a few months after we realized we were going to be parents again that there was simply no way to move forward the way we were doing it. And I realized that I had never spoken up to your Dad and told him that I wanted to do exactly one thing – I wanted to be Mama. I wanted to be home raising you boys. That was the job I wanted more than anything in the world. You see boys, I was too scared to tell your Dad that I had spent our entire adult lives together pursuing the wrong things. But I realized this – If I didn’t speak up and tell him, I would lose the chance to have something that the gentle voice of God was telling me was VERY important. That voice, while gentle, was very urgent at that point.
Your Dad has been amazing. It’s not that it wasn’t scary. It was. It’s hard to walk away from that lifestyle. But I believed, and he believed, that doing so was truly being obedient to God. Everything came together for us when we did. Your Dad was promoted – nearly 3 times the following 2 years. God has looked out for us. I believe he let us carry on while we wanted to muscle up and carry our own burdens, but when we finally stopped and chose to have faith and be obedient to him, everything came together for us.
I think there is a lesson there for you boys. If you find yourselves hitting a wall on every front – work, home, finances, family…Maybe you are carrying a burden that you are just not supposed to carry. I’m not going to tell you that work isn’t going to be hard. It’s designed to be that way. You wouldn’t be paid if it weren’t. That is and always will be a part of your job as men of your homes. What I am saying is that there are only so many stresses you can have in life. And one thing I realized when I started staying home is this – taking care of a home and a family requires a lot of work. But it’s so very vital! You see, your Dad didn’t have to worry about his own laundry when he got home anymore. Prior to my leaving work, we all kind of lived out of the dryer. We didn’t have time to get up to speed on laundry. We ended up washing what we needed and drying it while we were in the morning showers. Your Dad didn’t have to help come up with food at the end of every day. We finally quit living off of fast food. Instead, he could come home and have food prepared (or nearly so). He could come home, get out of the work clothes, and begin his family time. We quit facing constant sickness. I was able to nurse my baby the way that I should. I realized that your Dad and I were both living lives we shouldn’t and it was causing strains that we didn’t even know were there until they were gone.
Here was the biggest thing – I realized that if I had just put my faith in God, he would have taken care of us all along instead of us just taking care of ourselves. I found this in Psalms 37, and I want you boys to take this to heart.
25 Once I was young, and now I am old. Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned or their children begging for bread. 26 The godly always give generous loans to others,and their children are a blessing.
I realized one day that your Dad and I, being so worried about money and taking care of ourselves, and trying to plan for when the best time would be to have children, we were actively turning down blessings from God. I realize that I wished so much that we had you boys much sooner in our lives. I wished I had much more time to have more children, because children really and truly are a blessing.
There is one more thing. It’s up to your Dad and me to help you boys out. You shouldn’t have to feel like you are going to start out in this world on your own, nor should you boys get the idea that there is some nobility in doing everything on your own. That kind of pride will only harm you. For our part, we took a great deal of pride in that we did it all on our own – and it only cost us. It cost us in our relationships with our families. It cost us in our relationship with God. It cost us in the relationship with each other. And finally, it cost us because we turned down the lives that God wanted us to have early on. We will never know what we missed out on by not following in faith in God, and letting him bless us as He chose.
I can’t dwell on that. I can only pass along the lesson. We will be training you boys up to know God, and to put your faith in Him. We will also be paying close attention to Proverbs 13: 22, “Good people leave an inheritance to their grandchildren, but the sinner’s wealth passes to the Godly”. This means that we have a responsibility to help you boys out with your own families. Does this mean that we will set up events so that you won’t have to work for your families? Nope. I imagine you boys will work hard all of your lives. And that is part of God’s plan also. But does this mean that we hope to help provide for you so that your wives don’t look at the world in fear and believe that their only meaningful contribution is in the form of money? Yes. That is our goal. We believe that we can make a difference in your lives.
I believe that after all the lies I told myself, God is helping me to see that my fears were really about Him. I didn’t believe that God would take care of me enough. You see boys, even at 36 (which I turn tomorrow), I am still learning about the grace of God. And I am overwhelmed.
I can hear you boys knocking around upstairs so it’s time to start breakfast. It’s your birthday today, Graham. Happy Birthday. Know you are loved. Know your life is special, and put me on the path to knowing God in a way I had never imagined. Know that you have helped give me faith that I never had before. Thank you for your laughter, your challenges, your hugs, and your love. You remind me that I am a “child” of God, and every moment I spend learning about Him, He cherishes. Much like I do with you boys.
You are all so very loved!
A psalm of David.
1 Don’t worry about the wicked or envy those who do wrong. 2 For like grass, they soon fade away. Like spring flowers, they soon wither.
3 Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. 4 Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.
5 Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you. 6 He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
7 Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes.
8 Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper— it only leads to harm. 9 For the wicked will be destroyed, but those who trust in the Lord will possess the land.
10 Soon the wicked will disappear. Though you look for them, they will be gone. 11 The lowly will possess the land and will live in peace and prosperity.
12 The wicked plot against the godly; they snarl at them in defiance. 13 But the Lord just laughs, for he sees their day of judgment coming.
14 The wicked draw their swords and string their bows to kill the poor and the oppressed, to slaughter those who do right. 15 But their swords will stab their own hearts, and their bows will be broken.
16 It is better to be godly and have little than to be evil and rich. 17 For the strength of the wicked will be shattered, but the Lord takes care of the godly.
18 Day by day the Lord takes care of the innocent, and they will receive an inheritance that lasts forever. 19 They will not be disgraced in hard times; even in famine they will have more than enough.
20 But the wicked will die. The Lord’s enemies are like flowers in a field— they will disappear like smoke.
21 The wicked borrow and never repay, but the godly are generous givers. 22 Those the Lord blesses will possess the land, but those he curses will die.
23 The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. 24 Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.
25 Once I was young, and now I am old. Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned or their children begging for bread. 26 The godly always give generous loans to others, and their children are a blessing.
27 Turn from evil and do good, and you will live in the land forever. 28 For the Lord loves justice, and he will never abandon the godly.
He will keep them safe forever, but the children of the wicked will die. 29 The godly will possess the land and will live there forever.
30 The godly offer good counsel; they teach right from wrong. 31 They have made God’s law their own, so they will never slip from his path.
32 The wicked wait in ambush for the godly, looking for an excuse to kill them. 33 But the Lord will not let the wicked succeed or let the godly be condemned when they are put on trial.
34 Put your hope in the Lord. Travel steadily along his path. He will honor you by giving you the land. You will see the wicked destroyed.
35 I have seen wicked and ruthless people flourishing like a tree in its native soil. 36 But when I looked again, they were gone! Though I searched for them, I could not find them!
37 Look at those who are honest and good, for a wonderful future awaits those who love peace. 38 But the rebellious will be destroyed; they have no future.
39 The Lord rescues the godly; he is their fortress in times of trouble. 40 The Lord helps them, rescuing them from the wicked. He saves them, and they find shelter in him.