Happy Birthday, Courtney

My love,

As we’ve now had more than a year of the family tradition of writing birthday letters, it seems only right that I compose this one for you. These letters always seem to serve the dual purpose of remembering God’s goodness and saying a blessing for the coming year of life. There is much I have to say of both for you.

Looking back, it is clearer than the most perfect diamond that God our Father has been working all things together for good for you. The sweet little girl who grew up under her mother’s godly example, the years of shining in music, our path into a renewal of the gospel in our hearts, the addition of child upon child—what a ride! All of it has been part of the tapestry Dad has weaved of your life, whether painful or exhilarating or dull.

Still, what I find weird is how much harder each subsequent year is than the previous one. Sometimes I can’t decide if that’s good or bad—though ultimately I always lean on God’s goodness that it is, in fact, good. In particular, to say that adoption has owned almost every waking moment of the last year (plus!) is no exaggeration. As stupid as it sounds, I really expected that adoption would be so much easier than this. I thought with six bio kids under our belt, adopting more would be only marginally different.

I was far more than marginally wrong.

I say all of this because adoption is not just part of our family, but also part of our tapestry. In many ways, it’s overshadowed so much before it that I can scarcely remember those days. We’ve had to fight the good fight of faith together and that fight hasn’t always gone well. We’ve learned weakness in excruciatingly new ways.

But here enters the grace: for his grace is sufficient for us and his power is made perfect in weakness. We always knew that was true with your Crohn’s. Now we know it’s true as parents. Our weakness is a very real reminder of the great grace Dad gives us moment to moment to moment. So while the happily ever after of adoption doesn’t really seem attainable yet, I rejoice because the sufficiency of Jesus has been on display for us in a new array of colors.

That’s not the only thing worth remembering from the last year. God the Spirit has knit our church together in a way we’d always hoped would happen, but were beginning to despair never would. Yet it did. Those ladies are now your best friends. Our church is our family and the ones who are there for us in times of trouble and distress. How blessed we are to have that!

We also can’t forget to rejoice in God for his healing power: your Crohn’s is in remission! We never even thought of that as a possibility, but God gave us more than we could ever ask or imagine. And how cool to see the culmination of years of prayer, beginning with asking our elders at Cedar Grove to anoint you with oil and pray over you. God is far more faithful than we ever expect him to be.

The last year has been both hard and good, both discouraging and hopeful. Bittersweet. But any bitterness will one day be washed away in eternal light and joy. And until that day, there is joy to be had now as we rest in the finished work of Jesus to provide for us and sustain us.

I want to bless you as well. And there are some specific things I have in mind for you, as the Lord wills.

First, the Lord bless you in mothering all of your children together. May the struggles of adoption blur into the joyful struggles of motherhood. May this be the year when we see the family as the new whole it is.

Second, the Lord bless you in your friendships and fellowship. May the transitory and fragmented friendships of our whole lives transform into deeply rooted friendships with your sisters in Jesus. Overlook offenses. Find the good. Be quick to encourage. The Enemy would love to see the relationships you’ve built be torn down and trampled. May it never be so.

Third, the Lord bless your music. He gave you that musical mind, those vocal chords, that harmonic intuition. Some things may have been sitting on the shelf for a while, but it’s time to dust them off. You have my full confidence. I know you and know what you’re capable of. May God grant you humble success.

Lastly, the Lord bless your heart. The darkness has always chased you, but you have prevailed in Jesus. Truly, more and more all the time. But the Accuser rejoices to find new ways to coat his flaming darts with pitch. May the Lord hand you a new shield of faith each time the arsenal gets an upgrade. And may that shield never fail.

One last thing: I love you. I never tire of saying it. And I mean it more than ever. You captivate me and constantly surprise me. You make me smile and laugh and sing. You help me carry my burdens. You are the perfect fit for me. You’re lovely and vibrant and vivacious. I praise you in the gates (the interwebs are my gates) because you are strong and beautiful and holy. You are a blessing to each life you touch, mine more than any other.

Happy birthday, my heart.

Love,
BB

Advertisements

Candid Parenting

Recently when we were out, our oldest daughter asked to take a picture of Court and me. This is the final result: 

image

But that was actually the second take. Right before the first picture was snapped, another child starting throwing a fit. And the camera was timed just right to catch our candid parental reactions:

image

I think Courtney’s face says it all…

How We Plan to Use This Blog in 2014

If you’ve followed us for any time on this blog or our family blog, you know that blogging used to be much more of a priority to us than it’s been in the last couple of years. Life happens and this seems like the easiest thing to drop.

In the coming year, our goal is to be more consistent with our blogs. Both of us enjoy writing. We aren’t necessarily good at it, but we enjoy it. We prefer communicating through the written word, probably because we feel like we can say things more concisely and clearly. Writing also helps us empty our heads and process things we’ve been working through. It’s honestly helped us be better children of God, better spouses, better parents, better friends, because we’re putting things that have been buzzing in our minds into organized thoughts. A bunch of random ideas suddenly turn into plans.

This is hard for either of us to say or think, but we also realize it’s possible our blog could help others. We don’t expect it to help even most people who read it, but there will be a handful. God’s used many other blogs and authors to help me understand who he is and who I am. And even though we feel as though most of what we say on here in insignificant, I know God can use anyone–even us.

So in preparing for the new year, we are setting the goal of posting at least three days a week. On this blog, we’ll be covering a variety of topics related to–you guessed it–parenting. I kid you not, we already have 40+ posts written between the two of us that we just never published. Yeah. We’ll get on that.

I’ve also been writing a series of blog posts on raising babies with the goal to turn this into a self-published eBook at some point this year or next. Not looking to have a New York Times bestseller here, rather a simple go-to for anyone who might find it useful.

Our family blog will mainly be used for goings-on in our own home, including bringing back our monthly family updates. We’ll also use this space for other random ponderings. And Bill has spent a lot of time getting content ready for a website describing our house church fellowship–what we do and why we do it. That should be ready in a few weeks.

We look forward to joining you here in the new year!

Future Plans

Bill just posted an update on our family blog to explain where we’ve been blog-wise the past several weeks and to answer some questions about what we have planned for our family’s future. Now that things are a bit more settled with our house, we feel we can put time into this blog again, something we put on hold intentionally while our time was being drained.

I link to the update here simply because the church context we’re about to enter is going to have a huge affect on our kids and our parenting, so we hope to be able to speak into that in the future. Meanwhile, we have much on our brainstorming list to post about, so feel free to keep checking in with us.

Tied up in Knots

So, I had planned to have my follow-up to Friday’s post up today.  I’ve written three drafts.  I’ve hated all three drafts.  My brain is all tied up in knots.  I can’t get my thoughts to go the way I want them.  I can’t make the point I want to make–which is especially frustrating, because it’s an important post to laying the foundation for this blog.

So, I’m asking for you to pray for me.  I’m feeling spiritually stunted at the moment and unable to get my thoughts where I’m trying to go.  Please pray that God would release my mind from befuddlement by the Spirit.

Getting Started…

We began our parenting endeavor in May 2005 with the birth of our firstborn. Until that day, we were perfect parents. Now we understand that practice most definitely does not always make perfect (of course since we thought we were perfect in the beginning, I guess we had nowhere to go but down).

With the realization that we weren’t in fact as brilliant in the parenting realm as we originally thought came the reading of books, the picking of wise friends’ brains, conferences, online research, observations, classes. We were ready to confess that maybe we were a little off in the beginning, but it wasn’t anything we couldn’t fix. We just needed more knowledge and steps to follow. Oh yes, and help from the Lord.  That’s usually last on our list…

We’ve tried. I mean, we’ve really really tried. Yet our kids are still jacked up, and so are we.

Are you convinced yet that we’re qualified to write a blog to help others be better parents?

The truth is, when we had our firstborn, we thought, and I think were taught, that that baby was not a human being; he was a robot. As long as you programmed him correctly and stayed consistent, he would act exactly as he was supposed to. If his wiring ever got off, it was because we had failed to program the discipline, routine, family worship, heart-probing, memory-making, individual time, gospel-centered, or unconditional love system correctly. And those are simply the tip of the iceberg of the troubleshooting we could do.  And like all really great Christian parents, our troubleshooting/how-to guide was the Bible.

But the Bible isn’t a how-to manual.  It’s a collection of writings by authors pointing to the great Author, the one who made and owns everything.  And the Author has written a tapestry of stories weaved into the One Great Story.  And, amazingly, he isn’t just the Author of the Story, he’s also the Hero.  This story is by him and about him, not us or our kids or our homes or our stuff or our blog wit.

Here’s the thing.  If there’s One Great Story and it has One Great Hero—Jesus, by the way, if we weren’t clear enough—then everything we do is part of that story.  We don’t get to live our lives like they’re our own or like they’re isolated.  Instead, we’re part of the story of the Hero, who put down the Author’s pen to rescue the antagonists of his story.  Thus, we live our lives in that greater story, under the kingship of our humble savior.  And when we view ourselves apart from that story or treat the Bible like a DIY book instead of the story of the Life-Giver, we’ve missed the point altogether.  It’s like reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and using it as a guide to lay yellow bricks.

We want to share with you our journey, our footnote, in the One Great Story.  We want to show you how we’re fighting the inner law-lover in each of us that just wants to know what to do and what not to do, dang it!  We want to show you how we’re fighting to parent in Jesus, not like Jesus.  We want to show you that we spend most of our time bumbling along the path, because even though the Author has already finished the Story, we’re not there yet.  But we don’t want to miss a thing.

Our hope with this blog is that you’ll see some real parenting, messes and all, of two people who desperately want to look at Jesus instead of ourselves, our children, our circumstances, or anything else. We invite you into our home to observe us fail miserably and prayerfully grow in looking to the cross instead of our failures. Yes, you’ll see some practical outworking of how the Bells do things (serious emphasis on our family name here–this is not law nor will it be best for even most households), but please, please, please don’t let that become a main thing for you.  That’s not the point.  We want to share with you how God keeps humbling us and reminding us that every time we think we’ve got it and we’re the bee’s knees, we missed Jesus again.  And we hope you’ll find encouragement (and hopefully some laughter!) in the midst of traveling with us on this bumpy journey calling parenting.

Bill & Courtney Bell