Happy Father's Day Ben!!

June 18, 2017

I know it's Father's Day and not "Husband's Day"... but since our kids are young and can't say much, I want to give a shoutout to my best friend! I love the love that you have for our boys. They adore you. I think it's the sweetest thing on earth to see you take them up in your arms, hug them, and kiss them as you whisper "Daddy loves you."Henry thinks you're the best (as do I), and his little face lights up when you talk to him. Spurgeon looks forward to you coming home from work, and when he hears you pulling in the driveway he gets excited and does his little happy dance! You're never too tired after a hard days work to take on Spurgeon in a wrestling match. He laughs and thinks it's just the greatest thing when you let him tackle you! You get down on the kids' level to build block towers and read books. And I think Spurgeon would agree, you're way better than me at making all the different voices of the characters you read about during story-time. 

You've changed countless diapers, and let's be real-- I heard you holler from the changing table that "Mr. Pebblesmith needs to lay off the Goldfish and eat some prunes." He did. And it worked. Ha! You've dealt with diarrhea and diaper rash cream like a champ. But still can't believe you were a Dad for 17 months before earning the official badge of Fatherhood: getting peed on (and yes, of course, it would strike on a Sunday morning, during church). 

You lay down with tired babies and sing to them as they're falling asleep. When our one-year-old was in a routine of waking up crying at least once or twice in the night, you would pick him up, snuggle with him until he went back to sleep, then lay him gently back in his bed. When he finally started sleeping through the night at 16 months, I think it was one of those bittersweet moments... because a solid night's sleep is amazing, but as your baby outgrows each phase it makes you realize just how quickly they're growing up. 

You've dealt with ear infections, illnesses, and trips to the doc. You've set multiple alarms on your phone in order to get up in the night and check on a sick baby, and you've dosed out meds when needed.

You've gone on a million bottle and pacifier hunts, searching under literally every piece of furniture until the missing treasure was found. "Babe, you'll never guess. It was in the washing machine!" Your slippers have gone missing and have eventually been found in the laundry hamper-- along with a pile of books and toys. And speaking of laundry, you know you're a mature father when you discover late at night that a kid just peed or spit up on your side of the bed, and changing the sheets doesn't even cross your mind. I'll just throw a bath towel on it for tonight and call it good. (P.S. Wouldn't you agree that our washable mattress cover is on our list of Most Valuable Investments? The mattress has been spared 1000x.)

You've run to the store for diapers more than I have, and you know by heart that Spurgeon wears size 5 Huggies Little Movers and Henry wears size 3 Pampers Baby Dry. And even when forget to bring a grocery bag, you can pile those 4oz 78¢ Aldi's organic fruit and veggie purée food pouches a foot high, because you know they're nearly twice the price anywhere else. After Spurgeon found that he could turn upside down and shake water out of his sippy cup, you saved our hardwood floors by  shopping around for a quality spill-proof replacement. With the busyness of life with littles, we don't always make it to the gym. But on days when we miss out, you'll often turn the living room floor into our workout pad, and Spurgeon loves it 'cause you let him be involved! He thinks it's great to climb on your chest and ride along when you're trying to do sit-ups, and he gets down on the ground beside you and wants to mimic when you're doing push-ups. Of course his favorite is when you put him up on your shoulders and just give him a ride around the house! He feels like he's on top of the world.In our cozy little house, you don't have an office or a study, but you've learned to work efficiently, even in the midst of a noisy environment. You grab a glass of cold brew and your stack of theology books and take over the glider rocker in the baby's room, using the ottoman as your desk. You've had to fidget with prying those almost-adult-proof baby-proof outlet covers out when all you want to do is charge your laptop! But even in the midst of college studies, you welcome interactions with the kiddos-- to ooh and ahh over Spurgeon's Crayola artwork or to talk to babbling baby Henry. I'm grateful that my sons have you as to look up to a role model and a hero. You'd be the first to say that you're not perfect. Often as we lay in bed at night, you'll take my hand in yours and pray for our sons. You pray that God will give us wisdom to be good parents, to be patient and loving. But most of all, you plead with the Lord that He would do a work in Spurgeon and Henry's hearts-- that we might faithfully teach them the gospel, and that they would come to know Jesus Christ from a young age. You're such a tender-hearted daddy, and I feel so blessed to have you as my husband and the father of our children. Words cannot even begin to express the appreciation we have for you. We love you so much.

Happy Father's Day! 

-Jes (for the boys)

Happy Father's Day, Dad!

June 18, 2017

To My Dad: 101 Things I Am Most Thankful For:

I realize that God is the ultimate giver of every good gift (James 1:17), but for these things specifically, you have been God's channel of blessing to me! It’s not in any certain order, and this is in no way a conclusive list of everything I love about you… but I just started writing…and kept writing, and writing… and by the time I finished and decided to count. It literally just so happened to come out to 101! So here it is!

 

Happy Father’s Day, and “Thank you…”

 

-for praying for all of us kids by name;

-for praying with us;

-for teaching us the scriptures from a young age, leading us in family worship and faithfully reading the Bible to us;

-for the Bible stories growing up that had us on the edge of our seats, and the times when we thought we'd die of suspense because you'd say "Do you know what happened next? Well, I guess we'll just have to wait till tomorrow night to find out!" And we'd all exclaim "Daddyyyyy!!! You HAVE to tell us!!!!";

-for all the life stories and practical analogies growing up that brought big concepts down to my age level;

-for being real, and in humility asking forgiveness for wrong attitudes, mistakes and failures;

-for trusting in God's Sovereignty, that He is in control and that even in the hard times He is working every situation for our ultimate Good;

-for your example of praising God in all things, even when the road is rocky;

-for choosing Sunday worship in a family-integrated church;

-for being patient and teaching me consistently to do what's right;

-for relating with us in every stage of life-- remembering the challenges of the tween/teen/young adult life and giving stories from your own life that we can identify with and learn from;

-for unconditional love;

-for telling me time and again that the Bible is the "Owners Manual for Life," and that it contains all the answers to life's problems, and encouraging/helping me to search them out;

-for teaching me that God's ways of doing things are often just the opposite of our natural inclinations;

-for recounting to us the stories of answered prayers in your life, from childhood and on;

-for teaching us that although people will let us down, God is a faithful friend;

-for teaching us by example that meekness isn't weakness, but rather great strength under control;

-for family vacations and road trips of the past, and for continuing to invite your married kids to join in when they can;

-for prioritizing our favorite family camp that we still look forward to every year, and all the spiritual growth and commitments I have made to God during those special times;

-for purposing to speak with soft words even when you're upset, and asking forgiveness if you spoke with harshness;

-for special birthday lunches at the restaurant of our choice;

-for family bike rides;

-for encouraging us to pursue the areas in which we are individually gifted;

-for letting us use your tools to be creative and build things;

-for giving us chores and working along side us to show us how to do them right;

-for wanting us to do our best, but not being a perfectionist;

-for all the injuries you sustained at night by stepping barefoot on a stray Lego or a Hot wheels car left upside-down on your floor;

-for all the times you let us "help" you with projects, even when it took 2x as long and sometimes made more of a mess than if you'd done it by yourself;

-for being our taxi service before we could drive;

-for giving me the keys on my 14th birthday and enduring with much long suffering the sudden "rocket-launching" accelerations and "brick-wall" braking of the learner's permit days... (Now 13x over!);

-for caring about my opinions and for taking them into consideration when making decisions;

-for all the fun day-trips to Silver Dollar City;

-for family meetings;

-for teaching me that God always answers prayers, but doesn't always say "yes"..sometimes He says "no", sometimes He says "wait";

-for reminding me that God is "painting the canvas" of my life and He sees the bigger picture, and He does all things well. We don't always understand this in the moment, but God is working all things together for good of his children.

-for always looking for the good that God can bring out of a tough situation;

-for recounting to us the miracles God has done for you;

-for the example of being open about your Faith in Jesus Christ and sharing the good news with others;

-for realizing that when it comes to parenting, more is caught than taught;

-for forgoing hobbies that could consume your free time and pull you away, and choosing instead to do things together as a family;

-for being ministry-minded, even when we were all young, and thinking of creative ways for us to catch a vision for serving others (raking leaves/stacking firewood for the elderly, singing in nursing homes);

-for teaching us about political activism from a young age, by letting us be involved in your runs for political office, passing out flyers door-to-door, campaign rallies, taking us to the polls to see the voting process, hanging out at election night watch-parties, and taking us to the capital during your time as a State Representative;

-for taking us with you to Lincoln Day dinners;

-for prioritizing sticking together as a family, even when that meant uprooting life in our hometown and moving halfway across the state of Arkansas to live in a rental home during your times of serving in the state legislature, and then doing it all over again during Josie's 6-month stay in Children's Hospital;

-for homeschool field trips and hands-on learning experience;

-for reminding us that life is the greatest classroom of all;

-for reminding us siblings in the midst of squabbles that we are each others best friends, and to "treat others how you'd like to be treated";

-for praising character you see in us to us personally, and sharing those positive things with family and friends;

-for bringing words of correction to us in private with an attitude of restoration, but avoiding open criticism which demeans;

-for not arguing as a couple in front of us kids, but choosing to work out and discuss conflicts in private;

-for being an example of a godly marriage-- we have always been confident of your love for one another, and it is evidenced to us daily by the words you speak and your endearing affections;

-for taking a date night each week, and prioritizing your marriage;

-for forgoing the common holiday focal points and making Christ's birth the center of our Christmas, and His life, death and resurrection the summation of our "Easter" celebration;

-for your thriftiness and teaching us to bargain hunt (pawn shops, auctions, clearance racks), and modeling to us wise use of the resources God has given you;

-for teaching us the value of hard work;

-for years and years of food, room and board!

-for the cell phone you got me on my 16th birthday, and for paying the accompanying phone bills!

-for the hours and hours of late-night talks, gaining wisdom for life;

-for teaching us to lay tile, frame a wall, paint, wire an electrical outlet, change the oil, change a tire, and so much more!

-for pre-marriage counseling;

-for financially covering so many of my wedding expenses;

-for time and effort put into helping us remodel our home;

-for making 7 trips from the car to the house carrying in "sleeping" children after a long road trip (even though you knew half of us were probably just pretending, so we didn't have to get up and walk in on our own two feet!);

-for 100s of family basketball & kickball tournaments;

-for the years and years of Thursday & Friday nights that you spent playing broomball with us, and then the trip to Braums for ice cream afterwards!

-for paying the bills for dental cleanings (and for the threat of making us pay you back if the dentist found any cavities!);

-for the special exception to the "no climbing on the dining room table" rule, because you always let the birthday kid sit in that very prominent place when it was time to open gifts;

-for dealing with stomach bugs and flus, even in the middle of the night, and hugging and kissing the sick ones knowing that increased your chance of coming down with it yourself;

-for comforting me during a thunderstorm, telling me not to be afraid, and explaining to me that this magnificent sight was "God's firework show";

-for hotdogs, s'mores & tent camping with us in the backyard, even when half of us didn't stick it out all night and went back inside to our beds;

-for 100s of games of hide and seek (We never did find your special hiding spot, btw! Often, you'd still be hidden out long after we got tired of searching and gave up!);

-for teaching me how to roll my socks into a donut and fire them at my brothers and sisters (lol! Then Mom would have us all come to the laundry room for a sock unwading party before she could throw them in the wash!);

-for changing hundreds of diapers;

-for eventually buying a toilet auger and DIY so you didn't have to keep calling the plumber, and you could extract the apple, toothbrush, matchbox car and poopy undies (flushed by an embarrassed potty-trainer trying to hide evidence), all by yourself!

-for the special times when we went out to eat (yes, we most definitely took advantage of kids-eat-free, the modern day policies of "2 children per paying adult" probably happened because of us ??)

-for the CASES of Children's Ibuprofen you had to buy when we’d get the stomach bug… and the disbelief on the cashiers face when you’d say"I've got a dozen sick kids at home."

-for inventing your Gourmet Barbecued Tuna recipe, and feeding us cold butterbeans with ketchup while Mom was away at a women's conference (first was a big hit, but just the thought of the latter still makes me gag);

-for trying to no avail to scrub mine and Jinger's Sharpie art off our white kitchen cabinets (that happened under your watch while mom was out grocery shopping)!

-for hours at the park playing freeze tag, riding scooters, and even getting on the see-saw with us!

-for teaching us how to build "Eskimo" forts (by packing snow into 5-gallon buckets), building super-sized snowmen with us, and driving us around the town to find the best hill for sledding;

-for buying a fixer upper house with a ton of fruit trees in the back yard! Hours of summer fun!

-for horse trough "swimming pools," and sprinklers to run through;

-for learners'-permit tests in a 15-passenger van!

-for limiting time spent playing video games and watching movies;

-for helping me get my first car;

-for the experience of remodeling houses with you;

-for believing in us and encouraging us to give 100% for God;

-for the example of how you've reached out and invested into the lives of others, from the beginning of your marriage and still continuing till this day (opening your home to homeless, church bus ministry, personally bringing people to church, leading bible studies, hospitality, love, giving financially, spiritual encouragement);

-for being cautious of the influences you allowed into our young, tender lives (movies, music, friends);

-for walking the walk you desired for us walk;

-for not making light of sacred and holy things;

-for not allowing put-downs in your relationship as a couple, or amongst us as siblings;

-for explaining the "still, small voice" of God which, though not audible, speaks to the heart;

-for loving to eat straight from a can! (cream corn, peas, pineapple, olives, & "ABC soup");

-for financially investing into family pets and teaching us responsibility in caring for them;

-for 13 years of music lessons, buying me a violin and a mandolin;

BUT MOST OF ALL, THANK YOU…

-for showing me Jesus Christ;

-for teaching me often that reaching Heaven cannot happen as a result of my good deeds outweighing my bad deeds;

-for teaching me that the free gift of God's Grace is Eternal Life through faith in Jesus Christ (the only perfect person who ever lived and walked this earth);

-for showing me that Jesus could forgive me for everything I've ever done wrong, and give me a clean slate to start over again;

-for leading me to the Cross where the innocent God-Man Jesus was put to death, not for sins of His own, but to pay the debt for all of mankind, and offer forgiveness to all who repent of their sins and trust in Him for their soul's salvation.

 

I love you so much!

I am so blessed to call you my Daddy!

Intolerant Tolerance?

June 11, 2017

Our American culture is becoming increasingly intolerant of the Christian worldview. It's ironic because so many preach "tolerance." Tolerance means respect for the other person at the very least, right? (Even if you don't respect their beliefs), but not to our society. I can disagree with someone's beliefs and let them know while still respecting them as a person. It's called respectful disagreement. But you know someone is intolerant when they attack you personally (not your beliefs) & name-call because your views differ from theirs. Let us all strive to hold firm to our beliefs and convictions but treat those who disagree with us with respect, thoughtfulness, and dignity.

In Him,

Ben

Happy Birthday Ben!

May 19, 2017

Lately, I've been looking back to when we first met, reminiscing over the many providences of God in how He brought us together, and just thinking about how blessed I am to do life with you! 
When first I laid eyes on you, a dapper seventeen-year-old young man, I never could've dreamt of what the future held for us. It was 10:15 a.m. on a Sunday morning.  I was late for church as I came scurrying through the door with a couple of siblings in tow. In the midst of this commotion, I spotted you, the "new guy", and our eyes met for a second. During the service, I looked over in your direction a few times. You'd grown a handsome goatee that yielded a more aged look, and I was convinced you were at least in your early 20's! Our first conversation was slightly awkward because we both wanted to say "Hey!" but we were a bit nervous. You tried to break the ice. "Is that an iPhone?" you questioned, pointing at the device I was fumbling around in my hands. I held up my beat-up iPhone 3 in a lime green case, "Yeah, it's an ancient one." You were an android user at that point (though I've since converted you), so I guess that was a genuine inquiry. That was pretty much the extent of our first conversation, as siblings walked up and we got pulled away. 
Leaving church that day, I had no clue if I'd ever see you again... but you'd be back! Three weeks later, you showed up at our church again, and afterward, my brothers invited you over to our house to hang out for the afternoon and have supper with us. After that, just about once a month you would make the 3 1/2 trek up from Hot Springs to NW Arkansas. You told me that you were finishing up studies at your community college and that you were thinking about transferring to the University of Arkansas. So of course, you wanted to familiarize yourself with the area and make friends up here. I convinced myself that that was it, and refused to think that you had anything else in mind, bBut my sisters started to tease me about you. 
I'd found out your age, and calculated that I was 2 1/2 years older than you. Surely he wouldn't be interested in an older gal, I reasoned. He's a teenager, and I'm already twenty! But on the other hand, it seemed that you already knew I was older and were trying to wait as long as possible to let me in on that fact. Could this mean that he does, in fact, like me, and is trying to avoid being written off because of his age? 
Over those next few months, we talked a lot during your visits. And the more we talked, the more I started to fall for you. It was as if I couldn't help myself. I didn't know many guys in their 30's with the passion for Christ that you had! I was amazed by the depth of the spiritual conversations we would have. You went deep with God. You loved the Scriptures. It wasn't for show or a facade. You weren't putting on to try to impress anyone. You were genuine.
We talked about our favorite books, favorite preacher, and what we'd been learning in our study of the Word. You told me how you were all into Charles Spurgeon and had listened to hundreds of his sermons while you were working early mornings at the golf course. You bought me a copy of Charles Spurgeon's "Morning and Evening" devotional and wrote a note on the front cover. 
I looked forward to every time I'd get to see you, and started to realize just how much I missed you when you had to leave. Between visits, we'd text a lot. Sometimes I felt like my heart was running after you too quickly. I always wanted to have my phone on me so I could read your texts the second they came in, but then I found myself thinking, Maybe I should wait a couple of hours to text him back so he doesn't think I'm crazy about him. But I was crazy about you! You'd become my best friend. 
 
We'd talked about everything, big things, small things. We asked every question we could possibly think of. I loved everything about you-- your smile, your laugh, your sense of humor, and I could tell that you loved me too, though we'd yet to speak those words. 
 
And then it happened... you told me that you loved me. I cried. (And I'm not a super emotional person!) 
 
A few days later, you took me on our first date. I don't even remember what we ordered, but whatever it was, we didn't eat much! I could hardly believe that this was real. You? Me? Together! Felt like a dream. 
 
We knew we wanted to spend forever together, but we still needed to get some things together before we were prepared to take that next step. I told you to buy me a ring from Claire's. I didn't care if it turned my finger green if it meant we could save up quicker for our future together! But you reminded me that you wanted it to last forever. So you worked hard and continued saving. You picked out a gorgeous princess cut diamond that you had set in a unique band-- unlike anything I'd ever seen before! 
Nearly a year later, the day had come. There we were in a gorgeous glass chapel. The sun was setting, and the aisle was lined with flickering candles and red rose petals. You knelt down on one knee and ask asked me to be your wife. My eyes were watery with emotion as I looked into your eyes and whispered "Yes!" 
 
We chose our wedding date and began planning! Neither of us preferred cake, so we opted for an ice cream sundae bar instead. Our wedding coordinator had to have thought we'd lost our minds. "Y'all do realize you're having a November wedding, and an outdoor reception, right?" Ha! We had lost our minds. We were on cloud nine!
I found my dress, and it was perfect! I ordered all the attire for my bridal party online. When bridesmaids dresses came in, half of the girls loved the fit, and the other half? We won't even get into all that. The groomsmen's pants arrived, and they were awful! From the front they looked like normal, navy dress pants, but the entire back side was an elastic waistline. Not even kidding. I made you try on a pair, and I couldn't stop laughing. To make things worse, all your groomsmen would be wearing suspenders. It was a grandpa's dream outfit. Haha! Thankfully, we were able to exchange the pants in time, and everything turned out just fine. 
 
The months, weeks and days leading up to the wedding seemed to pass so slowly. We must've had fifteen different married couples tell us that they could remember being where we are and that "Time flies by!" And they were right, in regards to after the wedding. But before the wedding, time doesn't fly by. It crawls by at a snail's pace. 
 
But the day did finally arrive! We were happily married and off on our honeymoon! Life together had begun,  and it was wonderful. It's only gotten sweeter since! That's not to say that every day is easy. Marriage is blissful, but it is also hard work-- and by God's grace, you work at it harder than anyone else I know. I thank God for giving me you. 
 
When I think about what you mean to me, it's hard to put into words. You're one of a kind. You're a gem. You've influenced my life in ways you probably don't even know, and have helped me to be a more well-rounded person. You love me just the way I am, and you're not out to change my personality at all. But at the same time, you encourage me to be all that I can be and to push myself to do hard things. For instance, when interacting with new people, I love it that your outgoing personality can keep the conversations going and I can just sit back and chill. But every once in a while, you encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone by saying "Hey babe, maybe you can talk to that girl over there. She looks lonely. You'll do great! It'll be good for ya!"
I feel comfortable asking you for an analysis of how I've handled a particular situation, and I appreciate your straightforward answers because your method of delivery is kind and loving. You're honest, but you don't tear down with your words. You're a good balance of both truth and grace. And we all know that one without the other can lead to some serious problems. 
The love adorable smirk that comes across your face when I mispronounce a word-- like "hanger", and then the back and forth of 
Me: Well how do you say it?
You: Without the hard "g" sound.
"Whatttt? No way. That sounds weird."
"Babe, you don't say the hard "g" sound at the end of the words 'sing' or 'hang' do you? So say 'hang' and then add '-er' on the end."
"Ahh, still sounds weird!"
I love that we can let our guard down around each other, whether that manifests itself in a deep heart-to-heart conversation, or in expressing our corny sense of humor that we're glad no one else is around to witness. We come up with the most hilarious nicknames for each other, and get ourselves laughing over our ridiculous jokes. Anyone listening in would think we were nuts! 
You've seen me at my best, and you've seen me at my worst. You hold me when I cry. You pray for me when I cannot pray for myself. You leave notes of encouragement for me to find when you know I've had a tough day. You're tender and compassionate. Nine times out of ten, you're the first one to apologize in an argument, and this always turns things around. When we're disagreeing about something and things are feeling heated, you'll look me in the eyes and crack a smile, lean over and kiss me and say "I love you, Jessa Lauren." It's impossible to stay mad at you for more than a minute! 
You are so tender with our children. Spurgeon loves wrestling with you, and playing hide & seek. Henry loves "talking" to you! His face lights up and he gets so excited when you're around! You change diapers and get up with fussy babies in the night. 
Friends are so encouraged by the conversations they have with you. You direct conversations to spiritual things, and people come away desiring to know Christ more. 
You love not in word only, but also in deed. You are compassionate to the hurting. You desire to help people in need. You're observant of the person on the street corner with a cardboard sign, and you always have a gift card for a local restaurant where he can find a hot meal. You take time to listen to people's stories. You remember people's names. If you tell someone you'll pray for them, you actually do that. It's not an empty promise. 
 
You rise early in the morning to have time to pray and study your Bible before work, even if it means going on 4-5 hrs of sleep at a time. Your relationship with Christ is priority to you, and that has made a greater impact on me than you will ever know. I am thankful our sons have such a godly example to look up to.
 
There's is just so much more that I could say, but I shall close for now with this: I know that I married up. God has blessed me beyond measure in giving me you! I am so thankful for you! 
 
Happy Birthday, Lovey!