Dear Sam and Gwen,
Today marks one year into this long deployment and there are so many things I don’t want to forget to one day share with you. This is why I write. God has given me, as your mama, the privilege of watching you endure, grow, change, love, laugh, learn, and persevere through a year you probably won’t remember. I’ve said this year is one that I will remember…but I hope something sticks deep in your memory about this year. And I hope it’s some small way of how extravagantly Jesus loves you.
This was us a year ago today.
There is a lot of sacrifice in life and since you are a part of the military community, you are beginning to experience a taste of that. Some people never deploy. Some deploy a lot. I hope you will always honor those who serve our country, and yet you need to know that while Daddy served, you served too. You were brave (and clueless) when he left and while I saw stress come out in various forms, you adapted and changed. While you were always secure being left with babysitters and friends before deployment, you both walked through seasons of anxiety/crying when I left. I had to not read into it too much and just leave. But we soon figured out that if you were with each other, you found security. I hope the deeply rooted companionship between you two remains.
Sam, if you ever read any of this blog one day, you will see how hard you were to train to pee in the potty. We started in March…and hey! We’re finally seeing some incredible success. I did see the day come when you wanted to wear underwear, though I doubted it would happen. I did see you start owning up to ‘doing it all by myself’ when you really wanted to. And I saw how intense you are in your playing, only to ignore your inner signs to actually walk away from your toys to pee. I do trust you’ll fully get it and I’ll be glad you won’t go to Kindergarten in diapers.
Gwen, you became a full on toddler in these short months. You were breast feeding and had very little blonde hair when Daddy left. And now you have the most beautiful eye-catching white blonde curls that everyone comments on. You embraced being a toddler and have always played better with bigger kids. Bubba was one of your first words and it clearly indicated the role he plays in your life. You have learned so much (good and bad) from him and you truly are lost without him. When you wake up before he does, you wander around with your hands out asking, ‘Bubba?’ You have been content to play by yourself when needed, for which I’m grateful.
Sam, I got to watch you learn to ride your balance bike, listen to you as you recite books you’ve memorized, and count to thirty. Your brain is scary smart and I pray God uses your ability to learn for good endeavors. I expect to see you really start reading this year and then hopefully teach your sister to do so. smile. You can’t stand it if I’m reading to Gwen (while you’re occupied with watching Bob the Builder or Fireman Sam) and you’re not involved. You love attention and love to welcome others into our home. You make people laugh and can be so silly. You are obsessed with firemen and building…and desperately want to ‘rescue’ people. While your eating manners have improved, I look forward to watching you eat without a bib and not spill everything down your chest. I think you’ll be ten before that happens…please prove me wrong.
You endured a surgery and many sleepless nights (or should I say, I endured your surgery and sleepless nights) and you can now breathe through your nose with your mouth closed. Your shirts aren’t stained from the constant drool that used to flow from your mouth since you had such a hard time breathing. I’m also grateful you don’t snore anymore.
Gwen, you are a funny one. The way you ‘spit’ when I’m brushing your teeth. The way you love your bed and bedtime. The amazing way you communicate what you want. The way you want me to fix your hair and put piggies in. Your dramatic screams when Bubba is all up in your space. The way you look for your belly button. The way you stand up in my hands like a cheerleader. Your beautiful smiles that make everyone glow. The way you say ‘Buddy buck’ (buggy buck), ‘star’ (up above) and pizza (poop-uh). I love that you want to hold my hand. That you remind me to pray at mealtimes. The way you scream ‘Je-duh loves me’ (Jesus loves me) with your tongue sticking out. You are a keeper and I wish I could bottle you up. (most of the time.)
And then I took you both to Bahrain. As a single parent. Though we were a traveling circus and got all kinds of looks and comments, you both did exceptionally well considering what was asked of you. You rose to the occasion and didn’t make me pull all my hair out. You adjusted to new schedules and were like famous rock stars in Bahrain with your blonde hair. While I’m so glad we did that trip, I won’t be doing it again for a long time. Maybe when you’re potty trained and can haul your own stuff through airports.
Sam, you overcame a major struggle with biting and made it through the end of the MDO semester without biting. I seriously doubted you could make it til December, BUT you did. Whether it was the onion, the praying, the talking, or being bit by Gwen…God changed something in your heart and head to get it and I’m grateful. I learned a big lesson in how little my faith is.
Gwen, it was an incredible thing to watch you bond with your Daddy when we went to Bahrain. You were never scared…you took to him right away…almost like he had never been gone. You love to stand on your head (with one leg up in the air) like Daddy. You ask where he is now that he’s gone again. You know Daddy loves you and it thrills me to see the incredible father-daughter bond you already have. As a good friend said today, you are such a light. You have been to me a burst of light that has brought me so much joy…you are so much fun to be around. You love to love and your eyes clearly communicate it. I hope the joy and radiance your life brings now is just a glimmer of the light God will shine through you as you grow.
Sam, you have been a constant security for Gwen. I have loved seeing how you include her in your building projects (on your terms, of course). You make her feel at ease when nothing is familiar. You let her be with you, read with you, and mimick you. She loves you more than you know and would follow you anywhere. I do hope you will lead her good places and not always into trouble with you. I pray you take on your responsibility to care and protect her as one of your most important jobs.
You have both shown me how real grace is. Somehow we escaped the past year without a trip to the ER…even when you fall 6 feet out of swing or tip over a giant shopping cart on top of you and your sister (ahem). We haven’t been super sick after traveling a lot and being around sick people. Lots of near mishaps. God has held us together. Grace is such an extravagant gift.
I’m proud of you both and have been honored to teach, train, instruct, love, discipline, pray, laugh, sing, and dance with you. Thank you for trusting me, for giving me hugs, for getting another book when I didn’t want to read the one you chose, for listening when you didn’t want to, for making me laugh (like when you call your penis, ‘peanuts’), and for humbling me in this journey of motherhood. You have driven me to Jesus and made me realize how desperately I need help and guidance. I hope your understanding of the Gospel is made more tangible by how we live, even though its messy. I hope a seed was planted this year that Jesus is the only one that can hold all things (us) together.