The heat was sweltering in the two-story house on Esdale Lane. The only sounds in the living room were Matlock and the whirring of a small, oscillating fan by the stairs. Grandmama sat quietly in her chair counting cross stitches, and I was sprawled out on the couch reading a book.
I perked up when I heard the jingling of Pop Pop’s keys. “I’m heading out to Coffee Club,” he said, his deep voice causing Grandmama to lose count. “I’ll be back in an hour.”
“Oh, Pop Pop, can I go with you? Pleeeeeeease? Please, Pop Pop, please let me go!” I begged from across the room. He nodded his consent, and I jumped up off the couch. As quickly as I could manage, I ran upstairs, put on my shoes, and ran back down to meet Pop Pop by the door.
We walked out to his boxy car, and the passenger door groaned and creaked as I opened it. Heat that could bake cookies escaped from the car as I climbed in, and it took both hands to pull the heavy door closed. I reached for my seatbelt, and the metal buckle was as hot as a branding iron. I hot potato-ed the buckle between my hands until it cooled enough to fasten it.
Pop Pop slid into his seat behind the steering wheel, and he reached for a tiny notebook he had tucked away in the visor and a pen he had tucked away in his shirt pocket. He clicked his ball point pen, logged the date and mileage, returned the tiny notebook to its spot in the visor, clicked the pen again, and returned the pen to his shirt pocket – a ritual I’d seen him perform hundreds of times.
I looked up at Pop Pop with a “please” in my eyes, and he looked back with a twinkle in his. He reached for a small, cardboard container and peeled back the plastic lid to reveal colorful hard candies that glistened in the summer heat like stained glass in church windows. I took a moment to ponder my options and settled on a pink and green piece. I popped the candy in my mouth as Pop Pop popped the car into reverse.
“Can we listen to ‘How Much is that Doggy in the Window?’”
He rummaged through his cassettes to find the right one and inserted it into the car’s tape deck. The familiar song filled the car, and we sang in unison, “How much is that doggy in the window? Ruff ruff! The one with the waggly tail …” I giggled with delight as Pop Pop sang my favorite song with me.
As we continued singing, I reached for the only “toy” Pop Pop kept in his car, an old plastic alligator. In the heat, he felt rubbery and sticky, like he could melt any moment. I made him walk through the air a little before returning him to his home on the dash.
Within minutes, we reached our destination. I hopped out of the car onto the hot, gravelly asphalt and made sure I had everything I needed: Jelly shoes? Check! Homemade Jams? Check! A ponytail with enough swing to make Jan Brady jealous? Check! My favorite guy in the world? Check!
Pop Pop held the glass door open for me, and we walked into Donzelle’s, a family-owned restaurant in our small town, as a bell jingled behind us to let everyone know we were there. The Coffee Club members waved “hello” from their table, and a kind waitress greeted us. Mr. Russell (my best friend Kara’s daddy) stepped out of the kitchen. He teased me and flicked a dish towel in my direction as Pop Pop told him we were there for Coffee Club. The waitress and Mr. Russell both nodded as Pop Pop led the way to the club’s table.
I stood tall and straight as we reached the table. Everyone knew Pop Pop, and it was obvious they respected him. I wanted to be on my best behavior and make him proud.
“Who’s this young lady you’ve got with you, Mark?” one of the gentlemen asked as he leaned back in his chair.
“This is my granddaughter, Rachelle,” he replied. “Rick’s oldest.” I beamed at Pop Pop’s glowing introduction.
“Pop Pop, can I sit on one of the twirly stools?” I bounced anxiously as I awaited his answer.
“Yes!!” I darted toward the twirly stools and hoisted myself onto one. I began twirling, and the kind waitress walked over. “What’ll you have, sweetheart?”
“One Pepsi coming up!”
I twirled again and again until she placed a glass of Pepsi on the counter in front of me. The glass was already sweating from the heat. I took a big sip through a plastic straw and sighed with satisfaction. Coffee Club Pepsi was delicious. I glanced around the walls at the local memorabilia as I continued sipping my Pepsi. The memorabilia didn’t hold my attention long before I was twirling again.
I twirled and looked at my shoes. I twirled and looked at the ceiling. I half-twirled side to side without removing my arms from the counter. Then, I turned and half-twirled side to side without removing my elbows from the counter.
As I twirled, I didn’t catch much of what Pop Pop and the other club members discussed. I heard bits of politics, family stories, and sports related jokes. Pop Pop’s deep laugh resonated above the rest. I smiled with pride as I caught glimpses of him during my twirling. He was the smartest, handsomest, bestest guy at that table, and he was mine.
I began twirling with my tummy on the seat, my knees tucked in, and my feet in the air as I hugged the stool, and I heard Pop Pop say, “Gentlemen, I think it’s time for us to go.” He nodded for me to meet him at the checkout counter, and he reached for his wallet.
As he paid our check, I asked if I could have a dime to buy a peppermint. “It helps kids who are sick!” He obliged, and I rejoiced in my peppermint. I twisted the crinkly paper, unwrapped the peppermint, popped it into my mouth, and skipped out of the door Pop Pop held open for me.
I skipped back to the boxy car. Back to the hot seat belt buckle. Back to the clicking of the ball point pen and the logging of the mileage. Back to the rubbery alligator. Back to the doggy in the window. Back to Esdale Lane.
“Thanks for taking me to Coffee Club.”
“Buddy, be gentle!” “Soft hands, soft hands, soooooooft hands.” “We don’t grab our friends in the eyeballs.” “Oh, buddy, we don’t greet our friends with our teeth!”
Teaching my ten month old son social skills has been a bigger challenge than I anticipated. Honestly, I thought because he is such a personable, loving, friendly, outgoing baby, social skills would come naturally. I never considered I would have to TEACH him how to interact with his peers. So, when certain behaviors (small things, nothing major) started creeping up, I was shocked.
Can I tell you the truth? I was embarrassed.
I hate admitting that to you, especially because I am SO INCREDIBLY proud of my boy. As in, I’m THAT mom who gushes about her kid nonstop. Yet, I felt embarrassed when my son acted less than perfect in childcare among his peers.
After a couple of weeks feeling this way, I paused and prayed and thought about WHY I felt embarrassed. Two reasons came to mind: First, I struggle with a good bit of insecurity that goes all the way back to elementary school, and I really want my son to be well liked. Second, I feel like my son’s behavior is a direct reflection of my parenting, which means I feel like everyone is judging me by every move my son makes.
Right in the midst of this struggle, I started reading Total Family Makeover by Melissa Spoelstra. She encouraged me tremendously in the introduction of the book. Seriously, if I had stopped reading before chapter one, this book would have changed me.
Spoelstra encourages her readers that our children are not our report card. We need to lift the pressure off ourselves that causes us to feel like good parents when our children succeed and terrible parents when our children fail. She points to the example of Adam and Eve. They had the perfect parent, and they still disobeyed. We don’t look at God as a terrible parent because of their sin. We need to give ourselves and our children grace.
The remainder of Spoelstra’s book is packed with practical steps we can take to disciple our children in the Christian faith. Each chapter focuses on one area of discipleship, and I love the way she organized the content. The chapter starts with a section on modeling a certain habit and then shifts to practical ways we can train our children to practice that habit. We can’t teach our children to develop disciplines in the faith that we don’t practice ourselves. (If we try, they’ll see right through us!)
As a mother of a baby, I found Spoelstra’s book timely. I have wondered on many occasions how I would disciple my son. When should I start? Is he too little now? He isn’t too little for me to start modeling disciplines of the faith to him. He can see me spending time in God’s Word. I can read to him at bedtime, pray with him, and sing him songs of the faith throughout the day. As I continue growing in my own faith, I will have more to model to him. As he grows older, I can refer back to Spoelstra’s book for practical ideas to transition out of modeling into training.
If you’re in the stage of parenting where you’re surrounded by littles looking to you to meet their every need, this book is a good fit for you. If you have children who are seeking some independence, this book is for you. Maybe you have teenagers and fear it’s too late to start discipling them. This book will encourage you as well.
The thing I appreciate the most about this book is that Spoelstra doesn’t approach discipling our children as something else to add to our checklists. She doesn’t provide her readers with 100 things to do to be better parents or to be more spiritual or to gain God’s favor in their lives. Instead, she points to Scripture over and over again, constantly showing how Jesus modeled and trained his disciples in the spiritual disciplines. She is encouraging and suggests trying a few small changes that will have a big lasting impact. I don’t think you’ll read this book and walk away feeling guilty or burdened with the weight of discipling your children. Instead, I think you’ll feel encouraged and see that you can, in fact, disciple your children and point them to Christ.
Intrigued? Want to read Total Family Makeover for yourself? Enter to win the Total Family Makeover Family Night Giveaway!
Begin to build your family discipleship and become the key disciple-makers in your children’s lives with Melissa Spoelstra’s new book, Total Family Makeover. Disciples are made, not born. Whether your children are babes in arms or teenagers getting ready to leave the nest, making disciples at home starts with you! Give your family a makeover with this practical approach to helping your children learn what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
Plan an evening of fun, pizza, devotionals, and games with your family! Melissa is giving away a Family Fun Night Prize Pack.
One grand prize winner will receive:
- A copy of Total Family Makeover
- A copy of Deep Blue Family Devotional: Fall 2016 – Summer 2017
- A copy of CEB Deep Blue Kids Bible Bright Sky Hardcover
- A $50 Pizza Hut gift card
- Qwirkle Board Game
Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on October 7. The winner will be announced October 10 on Melissa’s blog.
Looking back over our adoption journey, one tangible item characterizes most of it: paper.
Pages upon pages of applications.
Personal references from friends and pastors.
Printouts of PowerPoint presentations during orientation and training.
Notes about the process of adoption and financing adoption and caring for children post-adoption.
Flyers for our huge yard sale.
Books about adoption and orphan care.
Check after check that we deposited because of the generosity of others and the perfect provision of the Father.
Cards from friends encouraging us along the way.
So many thank you notes (I’m still working on those!) for so many different reasons.
Our profile book introducing us to expectant mothers.
Noting promises and the character of God in the margins of my Bible.
Setting up baby registries when we were matched!
Coloring pages in the hospital room with Asher’s birth mama.
Discharge papers before we could take Asher home from the hospital.
Reheating instructions on meals provided by sweet friends and family after Asher was born.
Finalization paperwork at the courthouse on Asher’s Gotcha Day.
Photos for Asher’s birth family.
A Mother’s Day card for the woman who loved him first.
After finalizing, I was anticipating one more piece of paper that I thought would change how I felt somehow. I thought I would feel more complete as a family. I thought it would give me closure.
Asher’s birth certificate.
When an adoption is finalized, the child is given a new birth certificate. His/her new name is typed neatly, with the date of birth, location of birth, and names of the adoptive parents* below. If you were to simply look at the birth certificate without knowing the whole story, you would never know an adoption had taken place. When you look at Asher’s birth certificate, it looks as though I gave birth to him.
The long anticipated day arrived, and Asher’s new birth certificate was delivered in the mail. Joseph handed it to me, I looked it over, paused briefly for a moment of reflection, heard Asher cry, and set his birth certificate aside to comfort him. The moment was over, and it wasn’t anything like I anticipated.
I think part of me assumed seeing my name on his birth certificate would give me this swelling feeling of being his mother, like really, for reals his mom. The thing is, I already was. I didn’t need a piece of paper to confirm that.
The moment we received the news that we were matched, I loved him as my son. The second the doctor held Asher in the air in the delivery room and I laid eyes on him, I was wrecked, completely smitten with him. When he stopped crying as I placed my hand on his chest, I was bonded to him. There was no turning back. He was and is my son. I was and am his mama.
I’m his mama when he smiles like me or when he sighs like me or when he raises his eyebrows like me. I’m his mama when I’m feeding him or changing dirty diapers. I’m his mama when he snuggles in close and when he would rather make us laugh than go to sleep. When he stares intently at my face trying to learn how to whistle or sound out a word. When he coughs in a restaurant and everyone turns and stares at me, wondering why I’m not helping him (it’s because he isn’t actually choking). When he learns something new, like how to move his bouncy seat across the room by jumping fast enough. When I soothe him and dry his tears at the doctor’s office. When I wash a hundred tiny pieces of clothing and put them on tiny hangers. When I cheer him on one more time as he pulls the chain to turn the light on in the living room. When I sing lullabies and he laughs or sings along or conducts the music. When I drop him off at the church nursery and tell them there’s a bottle in his diaper bag, just in case. And there’s a change of clothes, just in case. And my phone number is on his sticker, just in case.
When my eyes get all puddly because he is so beautiful. When I’m so tired and I desperately want him to sleep without me, but I also want to cuddle him for just five more minutes. When I run my fingers through his soft curls and imagine what he’ll look like as a teenager. When his chubby hand wraps around my finger.
When I’m “that mom” who wants to enroll her infant in voice lessons because he has perfect pitch. When I’m “that mom” who can’t stop talking about her baby and bragging about every little milestone. When I’m “that mom” who posts a million pictures, knowing people probably find it annoying on social media.
When I pray for him. When I hope for him. When I dream for him.
I’m his mama in a handful of big ways and a million different little ways. He is one of God’s greatest gifts to me, and he will forever be a part of me.
I didn’t need a piece of paper to tell me that.
*I’m using “adoptive parents” for the sake of clarity. Adoptive parents are simply parents, real ones. :O)
After reading an article I found in my Twitter feed, I was challenged about how much I’m focusing on my identity versus focusing on God’s character. That led me to revisit the list from my first video post. We can use the statements of who we are in Christ to lead us to a better understanding of God’s character, which will lead us into worship. Check out my latest video for a few examples!
A few months ago, I found out we would be going through Beth Moore’s Children of the Day for our Fall Bible study. This is a study through 1 & 2 Thessalonians. It looks like a great study, and I was eager to jump in. Knowing we still had a few months before we would even have our books, I decided to spend some time reading 1 & 2 Thessalonians. In doing this, I fell in love with the Thessalonian people!
If you’d like to learn a little about the Thessalonians, you can watch this video where I teach about the people with whom I long to be best friends.
If you’re in the Greenville, SC area and would like to participate in our Fall Bible study, you can can register here.