Friday, August 24, 2012

A Letter to My One Year Old

Dear Precious Baby Boy,

As I sit here on the eve of your first birthday, I can't believe how much joy and laughter you have brought to our lives! You are the happiest little boy with your big cheesy grin and your delightful laugh! I couldn't have asked for a sweeter, more precious baby!

You were such a surprise to me when I found out that you were growing inside of me, and you haven't stopped surprising us since! From the day you were born when you decided to turn face up right before delivery, or when you came out weighing not the average 7 lbs. that our doctor had been assuring us of, but instead a whopping 8 lbs. 15.7 oz.!!! Honestly, I'm glad that one was a surprise, because I'm not so sure how well I would have handled it knowing you were such a big boy already!! :)

Your daddy and I are so in love with you! You are so easy going, and so much fun! You are such a character, and are constantly looking for ways to make us laugh by playng peek-a-boo or dancing in excitement! I can already hear your teacher now telling us that you like to make all the other kids laugh instead of pay attention. Not that I'm complaining, because I always liked having those students in class to add life to the group, which is exactly what you do in our home. I didn't realize it before you were born, but we were missing out on so much before you joined our home, you have breathed life into our lives! We are so incredibly blessed to have you as our son, and I thank the Lord daily for the gift He gave us, when He created and formed you and planned for you to be the boy you are and join our home. I can't imagine life without you, and wouldn't trade you for the world! (Well, most of the time, but there were those few months, when you surprised me yet again with no longer sleeping through the night for almost 3 months straight, where I did consider trading you in...but I didn't!! And I'm so glad I didn't!!!)

I know that the years are going to fly by before you are all grown up and gone, because this first year has gone way too fast already, so when I tear up and cry just humor me, please, because to me, you will always be that sweet, baby boy who needs me to rock him to sleep every day for naptime as you play with your hair and beams at me from your bed where you're snuggling with your stuffed animals when I come to get you up. You'll always be my little man who squeezes me around the neck and opens your mouth as wide as you can to give me kisses on the cheek! I love you my sweet, sweet boy, and I am so incredibly happy that I get to be your mommy forever! Happy 1st Birthday, Ryder!! This day will always hold a special place in my heart, because this is the day God gave you to me!!

Love Always,

Thursday, August 23, 2012

What is Love?

What is love
Oh baby, don't hurt me
Don't hurt me no more
Oh, babydon't hurt me
Don't hurt me no more
What is love
Oh, I don't know why you're not there
I give you my love, but you don't care
So what is right and what is wrong
Gimme a sign
What is love
Oh baby, don't hurt me
Don't hurt me no more
What is love
Oh baby, don't hurt me
Don't hurt me no more
(Are you head bobbing? Cause I totally was! :) Don't judge!)
What is love? It's one of those deep, emotional, and intrinsic need kind of questions that everyone asks themself at some point. I thought I knew what love was until I became a mom. I thought I completely understood the whole unconditional love thing, but I really had no clue until Ryder came into my life. Well, that and being exposed to a very conditional love from others in my life.
So let's start with this, 1 Corintians 13, also referred to as "the love chapter" in the Bible says,
"If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of  prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Recently, I noticed somthing very interesting (at least to me) in verses 2 and 3 of this passage, they both say, "but if I do not have love," and then end with these two statements, "I am nothing" and "it profits me nothing" or in the New Living Translation, "I have nothing." So basically, if I don't have love in all that I do, I am nothing, and I have gained nothing! It also speaks to the idea that love isn't about you, it's about the other person. It's patient, it waits on the timetable of another. It's not arrogant or boastful or jealous, love puts the other person first and doesn't try to one up them or be better than them. Love also doesn't get angry easily or keep a record of wrongs, because it looks for the best in the other person and places that above all their faults. It doesn't seek it's own way in things and then grumble or complain when they don't get their way. Love is inerrantly selfless.
Love, unconditional love, is an absolute must in building relationships with people. But it's that part about being unconditional that I never really dwelt on. I love people, I genuinely enjoy other people's company, and I usually try to give people the benefit of the doubt or find the best in anyone, but I never thought about what it means to love unconditionally.  That kind of love is totally selfless and sacrificing for the good of another without any thought to your own benefit or comfort. In many ways that defines motherhood for me. I have given up many a sleepless night for Ryder, I gave up my body for 9 months while pregnant and was sick often, not to mention the 8 months I nursed him, and I quit my job to stay home and raise him, which has greatly diminished the amount of extra cash flow in our home at this time. However, I don't say any of that with a mindset of, "Look what I did for you? Aren't I so great? Shouldn't you love me more or do something for me in return?" I don't feel that way at all. I did what I did because I love my son, and I want the best for him, even if it means giving up things for myself or changing my way of life, and I don't consider any of them sacrifices. I consider it a priviledge and an honor and above all a blessing to be Ryder's mommy, and I will gladly do that at any cost because I love him unconditionally. I love him the way my parents love me and my sister. I learned to love Ryder by the way God loved us: I John 4: 9-11 says,
9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
 11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.
I couldn't have said it better myself, God loved us so much that He was willing to die for us, what are we willing to do for the ones we love?
Is our love for them conditional? Do we have expectations of gain from showing them love or do we simply love them for who they are and how precious they are in God's sight?
I wish I could say that everyone in my family knew how to love this way, but unfortunately, we're not perfect and there are many in our family who love on a conditional basis of "What's in it for me?" My hope and prayer is that I will never be accused of this kind of love, and that my children will grow up only knowing an unconditional love from Tyler and I and our Heavenly Father, and hopefully we can break the trend of selfish love that is so prevalent in our world today. Because what is love other than sacrifice and servanthood?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

What We Do for Fun

When you first meet a new friend inevitably the question is asked, so what do you like to do for fun? Tyler and I dread this question. While many of our friends say things like go hiking or camping or play golf or tennis, Tyler and I are well, just not the sporty, out-going type. In fact, while we were dating, most of our dates consisted of eating somewhere new, going to see a movie, or just sitting and talking, not very thrilling hobbies in comparison to our friends. Separately, I like to read and sometimes write, and Tyler likes to play video games, but again, nothing impressive or interesting to share. But we do have one fun obsession that we don't often share with others, so I'll let you in on a little secret!

Tyler and I are roller coaster fanatics! We love to go to amusement parks and try out as many roller coasters as we can! In the past five and a half years of marriage, we have been to five different amusement parks together. We try to go to one a year, although we had to take a year off last year while I was pregnant, so this year we doubled up.

Our first roller coaster adventure was to Busch Gardens-Williamsburg. We've actually been there twice, once while we were dating and then again a year after we'd been married. We've ridden every roller coaster in the park, including the Big Bad Wolf before it's retirement after 25 years (which at the time was how old Tyler and I were!), but our all-time favorite has to be Griffon! What an experience, 205 foot, 90 degree free fall at 75mph!! I was totally terrified and considered backing out on riding it, but it was an awesome ride, and we totally turned around and went right back on the Griffon again!

Big Bad Wolf


Our second adventure was to Universal Studios Islands of Adventure in Orlando, FL. Unfortunately, we got there a few months before the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened, but we had a great time none-the-less. Although, I'm still holding out hope of going back someday so I can visit Hogwarts and sample some Pumpkin Juice in Hogsmeade (yes, let the nerd comments begin!). Our favorite ride by far was the Incredible Hulk coaster, it surprised us by shooting us off from 0-40 mph in 2 seconds! It was suh a shock, but so much fun! We also rode the Dueling Dragons, and were sure to ride both sides just in case one was better, and on that particular day the red dragon was shut down shortly after we finished riding it, which made me feel even braver in taking the plunge!

Incredible Hulk

Dueling Dragons

Our third park was Busch Gardens-Tampa, FL. The rides were all pretty similar to the park in Williamsburg, but were named in accordance with the African and Asian theme of the park. Although the rides were tons of fun, a huge plus was the animal exhibits. We basically got to ride roller coasters and visit a zoo all in one trip! It definitely topped the charts for me in amusement parks that we've visited!!

Sheikra (the same as Griffon in VA)

Scorpion (similar to Loch Ness in VA)

Then there was this year, we doubled up and took on two new parks. We started in April with Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN for our 5 year anniversary. We loved the ride the Winged Eagle, and what impressed me the most was that before entering the ride, each visitor reads the sign with the verse, Isaiah 40:31 across it. I loved seeing the Christian theme throughout the park, and we were pleasantly surprised to find so many fun rides and great food! It is a beautiful park too! And of course, we took the tour of Dolly parton's museum filled with her sequinzed dresses and rhinestone shoes and guitars. The woman has some serious bling in her wardrobe!! :)

Our most recent park visit was this weekend at Carowinds in Charlotte, NC. It was a last minute decision to go, but I think it was the absolute best park we've visited so far! It's not only an amusement park, but also a waterpark (which is another favorite of ours, we've been to Emerald Point and Water Country USA), but we never quite made it over to the water rides, because we were much too busy riding the 13 different roller coasters in the park! We rode every type of roller coaster you can imagine, wooden (the Hurler and the Goldrusher) and metal ones, ones where your feet dangle below you (the Afterburn), and ones where you are simply held in at the waist with nothing to hold onto (the Intimidator, which is probably the longest and scariest roller coaster I've ever been on!!), and then theres ones that flip you upside down repeatedly (the Cyclone) or that throw you backwards (the Cobra), and there's even one that you ride staning up, the Vortex. But by far and away, the craziest coaster we have ever ridden, has to be the Nighthawk, where you are lying down on your back going up the track backwards only to flipped over facing head down suspended from a harness as you dive towards the ground! It was insane, and yet totally fun, so of course, we rode it twice! :)





You might wonder why two quiet, unathletic people like us love roller coasters so much. But to be honest, I really have no idea! It's only been in the last 10 years, that I decided that I'd even try riding a roller coaster. I love the thrill, the anxious anticipation as you await getting on the ride, and the rush as you soar through the air, screaming at the top of your lungs. It's the closest I've ever come to being called a  risk-taker! Maybe it's the friendliness of those in line with you as you prepare for the terror that awaits you; we've made many friends over the years while waiting in line for these crazy rides! Another favorite has to be the lovely pictures they take of you while riding, why anyone would ever purchase them to bring home and display is beyond me, but I love stopping by the screens afterwards to see the horrendous face I'm making as I tempt fate once again! Most include me mouth wide open and eyes squinched tightly shut while Tyler grins ear-to-ear, he's the fearless one! :)

So I suppose in answer to the inevitable awkward introduction question, "What do you guys like to do for fun?" the answer would have to be, "We like to take our own lives in our hands, tempt fate, ride at heart stopping speeds, and take death-defying falls! What about you?" :)

Loch Ness at Busch Gardens-Williamsburg