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Micah is 9!

My last is having his last. The last year of being single digits. It’s a bit of a watershed year in many ways for Micah as 9 will forever be remembered as the year he moved to Australia. I wonder how he will look back on this year when he is older? Will it be with fresh memories of the tears and homesickness that flares up from time to time? Will it be with nostalgia as he remembers old friends and new? I wonder if he will remember this as the year that he lost Bunny for good? (Or if Bunny will magically find his way back to us, even from halfway across a city.) What else will memories of being 9 bring? My prayer is that they will be memories he is glad to have – memories that contribute to building a young man who is like his verse-sake: Micah 6:8.

In the past year, Mr Micah has made some big leaps towards that, but he also struggles with his own sinfulness in ways that are wide out in the open for all to see. We jokingly (and often, not so jokingly) call him King Micah when the entitlement attitude comes out. Anger is still one of the emotions that can barrel out of his small frame with all the force of a speeding bullet. But, just as quickly die down too. His poor (not so poor!) ears have heard chastisement over and over – stop being so loud; think about others; don’t be so selfish; no hitting! But, there have been huge striding attempts towards putting into practise some of the advice he is given: today, choose to serve someone else, and not yourself; speak in a gentle, kind voice; ask how you can help. It’s a joy to catch him being gracious, kind, gentle and considerate. Sometimes, there’s a little bit of gentle side correction about pride and self-righteousness to go with the praise when we do catch him doing well.

This move to Oz has forced Micah out of many comfort zones. Some have been so hard and bring tears to my eyes remembering his own tears.  Talking with his grandparents on Skype is one of the hardest things – his face usually crumples up within seconds of seeing their image on the screen. Talking about Gracie the cat, still at home; or Johanna, our much-loved and much-missed housekeeper, has Micah dissolving into tears again. How this boy of mine wears his heart on his sleeve! Ever since very little and still to this day, Mr Micah’s emotions are out there. Angry? You’ll know in a second. Sad? Tears will rain. Grumpy? That curled up ball on the couch with his back so obviously to the world won’t take long to be teased into a tickle-fest. For, while he feels his big emotions strongly, he also doesn’t hold onto grudges. And that is one of the many things that we love about Micah – his ability to bounce back so easily from any mishap or frustration. They’re short-lived and soon enough he thinks that the same person who drove him nuts seconds ago is actually his best bud and deserves a few Micah hugs.

And boy – that is something that hasn’t changed one little bit over the years. Micah is a hugger! Most of us love that about him – except the non-huggers in our house! I pray that one day he marries a hugger too, so that he can speak the same love language with great joy. In the meantime, I’m grateful to be the recipient of most of his hugs and while I don’t always treasure them as I should (especially on the back of another frustrating Micah moment), I am glad for them.

I pray that they don’t diminish. Instead, I pray for changes that will be hard but beneficial. Already, I see glimpses. A far better attitude towards his school work. Still not his first love, but now with a growing sense of responsibility. A “catching” of himself before he launches into a King Micah moment and an “about turn” in his attempt to do/say the right thing instead. A better attitude towards playmates, especially now that he has had to start from scratch with friends – lots of reminders to be gracious and give kids a chance are slowly sinking in enough for him to take them on board, albeit tentatively. And … Less grumping and more doing of chores! Even today, as I took 5 minutes on the couch, he and Sam chose to hang laundry I had planned to do myself.

I love the joy he gets from doing good. I love the joy he gets from reading more and more – nowadays, he can be found reading for enjoyment and not just school. I wasn’t sure the day would ever come! I love how he throws himself into his plans and projects. Lately, he has decided to be a songwriter. Of course, he needs drums, piano and all the instruments required to complete the whole song. In the meantime, I get detailed demonstrations and scraps of paper are filled with his scribbled verses. Albeit, the same one over and over! But, hey, a message that includes “God, you rock!” is worthy of repetition!

Of course, Lego is still a firm favourite and his #1 pick on his birthday wishlist. He can’t wait for our cat to join us and he wishes he could have kept the carpet python we found in the garden of our rental house here in Brisbane! He loves every single minute of time spent playing with his dad – so much so that he’s swapped out his birthday mommy date with another daddy date instead! He rollerblades around like a crazy one and loves giving my heart failure with new tricks. And birthdays – he loves loves loves LOVES that it’s his birthday. For weeks and weeks, we’ve been reminded. I have reminders programmed by Mr Micah on my phone and alarms set to wake me up. His parting words to me as he went to bed on the eve of his 9th birthday were to remember to wake him at 7:30am with presents!  I know that his little body will be full of bounce and excitement all day long and I can’t wait to see him enjoy being (finally!) 9.

And, as 9 gradually moves towards 10, I will continue to pray that he will enjoy his days, but more so, enjoy Christ and love Him forever.

Kiera is 15!

Ten years ago, one of the first posts I wrote here was the “Kiera is 5!” birthday post – starting the tradition of posting a special message to my kids each year. Today, I watched a clip of Kiera at the age of 7, along with a 1-year-old Micah and a 5-year-old Katie, all in the bath. Both these memories seem quite literally like yesterday. But they’re not. And, in as short a space of time, Kiera will be in her 20s and quite possibly having children of her own. How is that even possible? While I love this current teen “age”, I also feel a deep sense of mourning for the younger stages which now seemed so fleeting. And, I also feel a touch alarmed at the thought that she is now entering the same age that I was when I started dating her dad! Thankfully, she is a far more mature 15-year-old girl than I ever was (and is entirely forbidden from dating and marrying until she’s 30! 😝)

So, here we are! Kiera is 15! And, in keeping with the tradition of writing to my kids in their older years, here’s a letter to Kiera on her 15th birthday:

Dear Kiera,

What a year it has been to tackle these early teens! To think that this time last year, we had no idea that today we would be spending your birthday week moving into a new house, in a new country with all the familiarity of home so very far away. It has been such a huge shift in your life. And, while you’ve battled against it in some ways, you’ve also embraced the opportunity for change in ways unexpected. I’ve watched from the sidelines as you’ve forced yourself to face social situations that you don’t naturally gravitate towards. I’ve seen your many attempts to rise above homesickness, frustration or overwhelmed feelings, choosing instead to seek the good in so many situations. You’ve helped behind the scenes and showed gratitude over and over. I can’t count the numbers of times you’ve said “thank you” these past weeks, because they have been so very many. While I can’t quantify your words of gratitude, I can qualify the warmth and calm it brings me. I can also say without doubt that some of my happiest moments this side of the world have been to see you smile – the delight when you get another message from a friend from home; that satisfied smile of unadulterated enjoyment when you get to dance and act again; the end-of-a-good-day grin and banter with dad. And, more recently, the laugh-out-loud smiles triggered by your real-life and online interaction with teen friends this side of the world.

And then, there’s been so many other moments to rejoice over – not least of which have been the deep discussions and concerns you grapple with.  That doesn’t sound like something to rejoice over, but to us it’s a sign of your growth and maturity and your owning your faith as you choose to live for Christ. Coupled with the new friends you are making who share your interest in delving into God’s Word with better understanding, our rejoicing is with great gratitude to God for answered prayer.

From 14 to 15 has been such a crazy time, but also such a good time. A stretching time. A time to explore new things and to grow in independence. It’s been a year where you’ve accumulated so many great memories – of friendships, events and experiences. It’s been a year you’ve had to tackle numerous disappointments, often with deep emotional wounds – yet, time and again you choose to “look on the bright side” or “see the lesson to learn” or “find an opportunity to love another” even while you struggled with the less attractive feelings that come with disappointment. It makes me so proud to watch you battle against bitterness, each time making that conscious choice to put things into perspective. And, even in the midst of disappointment, you’ve had so many good times. I think of the fun you had playing Jane Eyre and having the shared on-stage experience with your sister. The hours of Waterfront Theatre School where you got to spread your wings a bit and grow. The memories of intensive cousin time. The sweet friendship you made out of the blue and your Friday schoolwork mornings with your dear homeschooled friends – so bittersweet now that we are so far away.   And now, in Australia, I think about how much you’re loving your new acro class; your vlogs and screenwriting course that have you bringing to life a story idea from years gone by. I think about the new friendships just forming. I think about the things you’re looking forward to – learner’s license by 16 😱; independent public transport; musical theatre opportunities galore and much more. So many good things worth enjoying!

My sweet Kiera – 15 is a crazy age to be. And while I can’t quite believe you’re so old (!) already, and while I am horrified how little time we have left with you in our home, I am also enormously thankful that the Lord gave us those years with you and we are so looking forward to the years that the Lord grants us together in the future. My prayer – as you know – is that all of us in this family will choose Him  first daily. I continue to pray this for you – that you will allow our Lord and Saviour to continue to mould and shape you to be more like Him every day of your life. I also pray that this year ahead will bring about opportunities to grow in Him; to rejoice in new friendships; to explore and stretch your wings just that little bit more; and to grow in character.

Happy 15th birthday, sweet girl …! Now let’s celebrate!

 

Katie is 13!

Ack! Another teenager woke up in our house on this morning of June 3rd, 2017. Now we have two! Katie is finally, finally, a teenager in the official capacity. Of all our kids, Kates is the one who was born a teen and has looked forward to teen years with as much excitement as she has for Christmas morning. Where Kiera has turned her nose up at “all things teen” – going as far as to declare her 13th birthday party to be in fierce rebellion against being a teen and thus choosing to go ‘full on’ kiddy-party style – Kates has embraced the teen party idea full on herself, inviting her friends over to “hang out”, eat junk food and chill. Games haven’t even been mentioned on her party plan. And I love it. I love that the girls are entirely themselves, with their own set of personality traits that they own with veracity. Yes, some days I wish some were with a little less veracity, but other days I’m in awe of these children that God has blessed us with.

And Katie is one such child. Wow. Looking back over the past 13 years has sent us down a tear-streaming journey of memories. How did our chubby-cheeked “Hamster Hayes” suddenly become this long-legged, beautiful teen? Really? It was yesterday she was caught with her chubby fist clenched gleefully around my mascara wand, black smears all over her face (evidenced in the photo below) and tottering around in my heels. Today, she’s giving me make up tips, and I’m the one borrowing her clothes! Okay, so she still totters around in my heels, but these days they fit her like a glove! Timewarp stuff.

I remember well hearing the saying, “the days are long, but the years are short” when my kids were still preschoolers and toddlers. I remember thinking that there was truth in that, but that my days felt more long than the years short. Today, I feel a desperate sense of wanting to slow it all down. Yes, those toddler years were hec.tic. Our sweet Katie-Kates knew how to pull out the stops and throw the most blood-curdling temper tantrums. Going back over the blog posts from the past 10 years, a common theme is “oh my goodness, this is hard!” From when she was a tiny tot, Kates has been our fierce, but compassionate child. Independent, but needy. Brilliant at puzzles, figuring out anything technical and hands on, picking up on the emotions of others, and yet often finding new tasks and big changes to be insurmountable and scary.  Confident in relationships, Katie has always been the one to find the child who needs extra attention and make them feel at home; she’s the one all the little kids flock to, like bees to honey – the favourite cousin; the much-loved big sister figure to our church friends’ littlies. She finds herself at home in just about any group of people, be it adults, teens, kids or a brand new bunch of people she’s only just met. There are no pretences – just honest, fresh-faced interest in other people. It’s no surprise that her friends’ list for her birthday party eventually had to be cut down. Nor is it a surprise that her friends include people from all sorts of backgrounds and contexts and that she embraces them all. Even when she was undergoing an operation to remove that pesky eosinophilic granuloma from her forehead, her compassion and thoughts mostly centered on those around her. So often, her compassion has me in awe, and in shame …

We started a tradition when Kiera turned 13 of presenting our kids with a special book made up of words of wisdom from close friends and adults in that child’s life. Overwhelmingly, amongst the beautiful words of wisdom, was thanks to Katie for being inclusive and caring with their children – genuinely and sacrificially caring. When I was 13, little kids were foreign creatures to me and the last thing I felt like doing was hanging out with them, never mind caring for them. I marvel at this nurturing side of my newly minted 13 year old.

Along with Katie’s compassion and open friendliness comes an impulsivity that sometimes serves her well (inviting friendships) and sometimes acts as a disservice (acts of disobedience that happen almost without realising). As she grows older, she has come to be more aware of this impulsivity. Sometimes she despairs deeply over her own actions. In moments of great frustration, she will ask me why it is that she did what she did, or behaved in a particular way that she hates. Her own bewilderment with herself gives me – strangely – hope and joy. Hope because she doesn’t like acting out and wants what is good. Joy, because she is able to articulate and recognise the heart of it all. There have been some prototypical tussles within herself of wanting the independence and adventure of being older. This has worked itself out in both positive and negative ways. But the positives have been awesome.

This year, Katie has ventured out to try more things that she once shied away from. She took it upon herself to do the Trinity Drama Exams, despite great fears of the exam context. She ended up scoring a high distinction and loved every minute of it. Her joy was infectious. Her confidence has grown and for the first time, she even auditioned for a role in a theatre production of Jane Eyre. The surprised delight on her face when I got the message that she was cast as Helen, young Jane’s consumptive friend, is one I will never forget. Her venturing out to try new things, to push a little harder in areas where she was once too scared, to give a little more, have all been both delightful and encouraging.

Those are words that I feel many times when I look upon my daughter. Delight. Encouragement. I delight that even though she’s a tall girl, almost my own height, that she still loves cuddles and hugs just as much as she did as a little girl. I am encouraged by her desire to honour and serve Jesus. And I’m encouraged when she despairs when she struggles to do both. I love her sense of humour and how she teases her dad. I am delighted when I see her playing with her brothers, or patiently helping them with school work or in the kitchen or creating art projects for them to enjoy. I am sooo encouraged when I see her tackling new things; big things; scary things and when she overcomes old fears – like heights (ziplining) and gaps in stairs (no more!). The list is long, but mostly, I am so encouraged by the growth I have seen in this precious girl of ours over the years.

As we have been thinking about the years ahead, we’ve felt it pressed upon ourselves to chose for Katie a special verse that will serve as a good reminder and encouragement for the complications of the teen years. It took us much prayer, consideration and thought to settle on 2 Timothy 2:22:

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
 Along with this verse, comes another verse that we also felt was a poignant one for Katie. That is Philippians 1:9-11:
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
When we consider the teen years and all the temptations and complications involved, coupled with our impulsive, people-loving daughter, we knew that discernment and a pursuit of righteousness are worthy attributes to look forward to. In our special letter to Kates, we highlighted the following:
The teen years often carry over “youthful passions” into the adult years. It’s an ongoing act of obedience to God to pursue the things that honour Him. Not all passions are bad, however. But the ones that Paul speaks of the kind of things that we may want to pursue, but that do not bring glory to God. Paul reminds us that a far more worthy pursuit is godliness.  The traits he highlights are traits that we hope you will pursue wholeheartedly as you seek to serve and love Jesus all the days of your life.  It will take prayer, like Paul prays in Philippians 1: 9. It will take time spent in God’s Word gaining knowledge and discernment. And it will take being alongside others who also call on the Lord – they are those whose hearts God makes pure, as Paul points out in 2 Timothy 2:22.
Together with the meaning of your give names (Katie Ann – Pure Grace), we pray that this ring and these verses will be a lifelong reminder of the goodness there is to be found in the pursuit of godliness. We pray that as you navigate these years ahead, with all the changes and challenges you will face, that you will continue to love others deeply, in the light of the gospel, and that you will seek to honour Jesus in all that you do. And as you do, we want you to know that we will always be here for you. No mistake is too big; no foolish decision is too weighty a burden for us not to carry alongside you. And where we may falter, Jesus never will. ALL your burdens you can take to Him.
Lastly, we want you to see these gifts – especially the ring and the chosen verses – as a symbol of our love for you and our commitment to you. We want to be parents who choose Jesus first as we walk this road of life with you. When you read this letter, look at your ring, or read your verses, we hope that you will remember our love for you and that Jesus loves you even more, especially when we fail.
Happy 13th birthday, dear Katie-Kates!  We love you hugely.
All our love, Mom and Dad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Micah is 8!

And Micah is 8!

Every year that my baby turns one year older I feel my heart constrict more tightly than I would like. On Sunday, I got to cuddle my godson – all 6 months of him. Everything about that was familiar. It was yesterday that Micah snuggled against my chest in the very same ergo… wasn’t it? But, no, 7 1/2 years has passed since then and while it feels like a flash, so much has gone into these past few years in the life of Micah. And with it has been my graduation from a mom of babies and toddlers to a mom with teens, tweens and rough and tumbling loud, dirty, very physical boys.

Micah 2015-20162

Looking back on this year in the life of Micah, I’m struck by the constants as well as the changes. Micah has always been a fierce little guy. Loves fiercely; fights fiercely. He demands hugs from everyone and can’t quite get enough of the squeezes and cuddles, especially from me. Kiera, his big sister who is not the huggy type, has rationed him to one hug a day from her. Yet, still he adores her and will milk those hugs for all they’re worth. Every morning, I’m not awake more longer than a few minutes before this little guy tiptoes into my room and comes to claim his morning cuddle. If I so much as dare leave the house without a goodbye hug, I will find an unhappy face and wagging finger of chastisement at my car window before I can even back out of the driveway. Even Gracie, our 6-year-old cat cannot escape his squeezing affections! But, even while he loves big, he fights big too. Impulse control is not his strong suit and it can be quite exhausting refereeing his frustrations and his sense of injustice.  While he is the youngest, he certainly treats everyone else in our family like he is equal and/or superior in every which way!  No flies on this guy! But, still, so much maturity has taken place over this past year. Remorse is more ready. And with it a better ability to articulate his frustrations.

It’s a funny thing, this “growing up” business. I took part in a homeschooling talk recently as a “veteran” homeschooling momma giving advice to newbies. The other “veterans” were mommies who are further down the road than me and their advice reminded me once again that my Micah is very much a late bloomer. I started all the school-y things with my kids at a similar age to kids at school. But, Micah has never taken to it in the same way that his siblings did. I find myself oscillating between frustration and resignation. He would much rather be playing, playing, playing than ever learning to read, write or do arithmetic. Yet, in each of these fields, when he doesn’t concentrate too hard on trying NOT to grasp the work, he gets the concepts and flies through them. In just the last month or so, I’ve watched him move from not knowing or caring how to spell anything, to suddenly being able to spell words as if second nature. I’ve caught him reading everyday sign posts and billboards, despite his continued insistence that he can’t really read. He reads his readers with fluency, and yet, somehow there is a lack of confidence that he truly can tackle chapter books. For this guy, formalised learning is probably not the best approach. Yet, tell him a story and he is there. Ask him practical things and he will figure them out. Money? no problem. And once again I’m reminded that he quite easily fits into the ‘better late than early” mould of formal learning. And, I’m the one who needs to chill! 🙂

Micah 2015-20161

Micah’s favourite things revolve around people and fun. He is fiercely loyal to his bestie, Jemma. He loves playing with his siblings and friends. He loves Lunch Bunch on Wednesdays, can’t wait for drama classes each week and coming home from kids’ club on a Friday night has Micah hyped up and excited from the fun and games. While he loves running around, biking and generally outdoor fun, he hasn’t loved organised sports all that much. He is sensitive to unkindness (although he is happy to dish it out!) and too much boyish rudeness and mean remarks at soccer and cricket on a Friday afternoon had him determined not to take part. We put him to the test by making him fulfil his commitment for the second term. Stubborn to the core, he chose to quit even though he loved playing soccer. He would much rather play tennis with a coach he adores. Greg is the epitome of patience with smart-mouthed, excitable young boys. And Micah can’t say enough about Greg.  He started drama classes and took part in his first stage play this past Sunday – nerves galore, but he loved every minute and wished he could do it all over again! This year, Micah has discovered Minecraft, Michael Jackson, and alternative parody in the form of Parry Grip. Much to our consternation. His taste in music is as eclectic as his taste in movies. Top of his music list would include pop, rock, country, metal, and rap from the last 50 decades. Movies wise? He is just as happy watching Barbie and Ever After High as he is watching typical boy-fare. Top of his list is reserved for Star Wars, however. Star Wars pretty much influences his hours of Lego play, story-telling, and gift list!

Micah 2015-20164

Being the youngest, I often forget that Micah missed out on many of the childhood rituals the others experienced. He doesn’t remember Bible stories in bed, because he only remembers our current set up of couch time and Bible discussion. He doesn’t remember many of the nursery rhymes of his baby years, because the older kids’ musical tastes ruled the radio. It surprises me time and again when he comes home to tell me something he learned at church, as if he’d never heard it at home! Like we haven’t read or spoken of these things with our kids time and again over the year. But, then I remember that the simpler versions of the stories of the Bible aren’t read quite as much by us as they were when the older three were little. And I’m reminded how blessed I am to have other teachers in his young life to reinforce our own teaching. Best of all, is sitting with him while he reads aloud his Bible stories to me and he exclaims, “this is my favourite one!” and begins to tell me what he loves about the Bible.  He is a little guy who struggles with big emotions. But those big emotions give him a big heart. And his heart longs to see everyone safe in the arms of Jesus. I pray that this continues to be his desire, each and every day of his life. And that he will indeed act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God as he seeks to love and serve Jesus.

Micah 2015-20163

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