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Dear Luke,

Today you are three years old. I am sad at how fast the years are flying by. Truly, life is a vapor—here today, gone tomorrow. But I have so much joy when I reflect on how you are growing and thriving and soaking up the joys of childhood life. This morning as I was hurriedly showering before you woke up, I was thinking about the answered prayers that your three years of life are. When I first learned that you were growing inside of me, I prayed earnestly that God would sustain your life and bring you safely into the world. He did just that, and not only that. He has given you three years of healthy life. What grace! As I look at your precious little life, I am reminded that “all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Col 1:16b-17). It is God who sustains all things, particularly human life. Even more particularly—YOUR little life. On each birthday He gives you, may we remember that and ascribe to Him glory and thanksgiving. 

Lukie bear, you are such a unique child. You are animated, expressive and endearing. You are witty, smart, and strong-willed. We think you have some sort of auto-photographic memory. Seriously. The way you perfectly remember so many things you hear amazes me and scares me a little bit. You never, never, never stop talking {except when you sleep, and not even then sometimes}. Right now, you are an almost even mixture of sweet and sassy, depending on which characteristic you feel like “turning on” at the moment. You are not flexible. You like things lined up “just so” and struggle to react well when things don’t line up “just so” {I’m sorry! Your mama struggles with this too.} You bring me SO much joy. You also test my patience. You make me laugh and cry and pray and wonder how I can ever be a faithful parent. You are a constant reminder to me of my need for grace. 

I love your passion. I love seeing the world through your eyes. You are so observant. You notice and point out shapes, colors, and letters in the most unusual places. I delight in your excited “OHHH MAMA!” when you see something that really thrills you for the first time {usually some sort of vehicle}. I love celebrating the victories of toddlerhood—those times when you are kind to your brother, when you poop in the potty instead of your pants, when you bravely jump in the pool and go under water for the first time {like a boss, might I add}, when you try the big water slide for the first time, when you are friendly and polite to people at church, when you loudly recite a Bible verse we’ve been working on, or when you take your dirty clothes to the hamper without arguing when I ask. 

Our most basic {yet challenging} goal and prayer for you in the year ahead is that you will understand the importance of obedience and submission to our authority {and start to practice it}, so that you will one day experience the delight that comes from submission to our all-wise, all-loving heavenly Father. Our day-to-day life and interactions are the training grounds where this process is taught and learned, and let me just honestly say that it’s been hard. Really hard. But even on the hard days, I’m trying to keep the long-term in view. Mothering you through these toddler years isn’t just about winning the battle and surviving the day. It’s about training you up, directing you in the way you should go. It’s about showing you that true life is to be had only when we run toward God in surrender rather than away from Him in rebellion and a sinful quest for autonomy. Sweet boy, I ask you to forgive me when I become consumed with the challenges of the day and lose sight of the bigger picture. Forgive me when I lose patience, raise my voice,  and fail to extend grace to you as it has been extended to me. 

The other night as I was praying with you before bed, I said, “Lord, open Luke’s eyes to see his sin for what it really is at a young age. Soften his heart and make him sad over his sin against you. Help him to repent and run to the cross of Jesus to find grace and forgiveness.” Although you don’t fully understand my prayers for you yet, in typical, two-year-old-rebel fashion, you whispered, “I cannot run to the cross, Mama!!!”

I chuckled but also marveled at the truth you spoke so honestly without even understanding it. Because the reality is that none of us have the ability or desire to run to the cross until the kindness of the Holy Spirit plows up the soil of our hardened rebel hearts and makes them soft. So, our continued prayer is that the Spirit of the living God will do just that in your heart. We pray that our great, merciful God would draw you near, cleanse you, and use you for His Kingdom and glory. We pray that He might be your greatest satisfaction. 

I love you, Lukie. You are such a precious gift. Happy 3rd birthday! 

When iniquities prevail against me, you atone for our transgressions. Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple. –Psalm 65:3-4

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The things he says (part 2)

To say that Luke is a verbal child is kind of an understatement. It would be more accurate to say that he never stops talking. And he talks to us like he’s a little adult. The things he says keep us rolling. I’ve been drafting this blog for a little while, writing down the funny things he says as they happen so I won’t forget them.

A few weeks ago, we went to the zoo with my parents and brother. Luke really wasn’t all that interested in the animals. He was, however, obsessed with riding the train. Shocker. A few days after the zoo, I said, “What was your favorite animal at the zoo, Luke? He thought for a second and responded with, “How about, what was my favorite train at the zoo?!?”

Sometimes he says things that surprise me:

Don’t put that on instagram, Mom. {What?!?}

You can’t get me to stop cryin’, Mom. It’s impossible! {For the record, he is a sass, and he was perfectly happy when he said this!}

Luke loves his yellow blanket. He sleeps with it and sometimes carries it around the house. The other day he ran in the kitchen and said, “I forgot my best friend yellow blanket in here!

I have to steal yellow blanket away to wash it when the filth gets to be too much, and one day after retrieving it from the dryer, Luke said, “I’m sorry Mom put you away in the washer, yellow blanket. Yellow blanket, I love you so!

Luke had to apologize to us for being disrespectful {Adam’s parents happened to be there too}. He said, “I’m sorry, Mom. I’m sorry, Dad.” I forgive you, Mom. I forgive you, Dad. And I forgive you too PawPaw”

He loves music and loves to sing. One of his favorite songs is “Behold our God.” He recently sang…”Behold our King, nothing can compare, come let us adore Him!”…Then had a revelation and said, “It’s kinda like a pear!” {realizing that “compare” rhymes with “pear”.}

Here is a declaration about monsters that I posted on instagram….

IMG_1189 And here’s one about Wal-Mart…{Like I said, SASS}. IMG_1227Luke is very into letters. He loves to sing the alphabet song and point out letters he recognizes on various signs, in books, etc. His favorite letter to point is “A.” He also loves to point out “M” and says, “That stands for you, Mama!” He also recognizes “D” for “daddy” and “W” for Wicks.

He loves to spell his name and says, “L-U-K-E! That spells ME!”

Luke likes to speak to us in imperatives. We are constantly telling him that he is not to command us to do things. The other day as we were driving, there were these things in the road that made a loud sound as I drove over them. Luke screamed, “Mom, do NOT do that, Mom!” Then, as if anticipating what I might say, he said, “I do not command you!”

He often commands us to dance or sing {or to stop dancing or singing…it has to be on bossy boy’s terms} or to “Cwap {clap} with me!” The whole family {including John Wicks} will sit around the table clapping.

Sometimes if I do something he likes, he’ll passionately declare, “Good job, Mom! I’m so proud of you!

The other day, he was sitting in Adam’s 4runner and said, “I like to ride with Daddy in his truck. I do not like to ride with you, Mom. I said,Aww! I’m gonna cry. He pulled my face close to his and said, “It’s ok. I’ll kiss it and make it all better.”

We’re working on potty training. He’s doing pretty well with “number 1” but adamantly refuses to do “number 2” on the potty, regardless of what bribes we use. We have gotten him to try a few times, though. One day he sat on the pot {for a lonnnng time} with no success, then finally made a tooting sound with his mouth and said, ” I did it, Mom! I poo-pooed in the potty!

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Oh, this boy. In some moments, he is the sweetest, most charming little thing I’ve ever met. In others, he is the most challenging, disobedient, argumentative child I’ve ever met {I hope some of this is the “twos”}. He keeps me laughing and on my knees praying for grace and strength and wisdom. He is a unique challenge and a precious gift. He has a knock-out personality! I love him so very much and cannot wait to see the person he becomes as he grows.

Luke tells the Christmas Story

This post should actually be titled Luke tells the Christmas Story to Doc and J-J.

I loved my parents’ response to this video. They both loved it and commented to me separately . . .

Mom: Doc was a little jealous that J-J got so much attention in this video! 

Dad: J-J’s head was a little bit puffed up about all that attention!

Each vying to be the #1 grandparent! They crack me up.

So thankful Luke is learning the story of Christ’s coming. Praying it will one day mean the world to him.

Oh, this kid.

He is something else. IMG_6775 He is wild and full of life— a talking machine. IMG_6780 He loves to say, “Well, good morning, Mama! Whatcha been doing?” or “Hi! How are you?” to friends at church.

{Let it be noted that he is sometimes in a “mood” or worried that I’m going to leave him with someone and, thus, must be prompted to friendliness.}

He says, “Well, hi Daddy! Hi, John Wicksie!”

IMG_7026 He loves to sing The Itsy, Bitsy Spider and loves for me to sing Let the Little Children Come and All Aboard the Choo-Choo Train.IMG_7069 He is obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine. He loves to identify every moving vehicle he sees while we’re on the road. He screams . . .

It’s a firetruck, Mama!

It’s a police car, Mama! Say, Woooo-woooo!

It’s a flat-bed truck, Mama!

IMG_7100 He seems to have some obsessive-compulsive, perfectionistic tendencies. Bless him. I wonder where he gets that? He likes his trains and cars lined up just so. Once, when he got his trains connected just the way he wanted, he looked at my dad and said, “Perfect!” He gets very frustrated when he can’t make a toy work the way he wants or when things don’t go his way. We are already having to have a lot of conversations about how to respond when things don’t the way we would like. It’s a hard lesson. I know. IMG_7102 He’s a smart cookie. He files EVERYTHING we say away in that brain, and we just never know when he’ll pull it out. We have to be very, very careful. He rarely forgets something we read in a book. IMG_7165 He is passionate—either passionately happy or passionately unhappy. The former makes life for everyone else much more pleasant. IMG_7173There are moments when he fills my heart with so much joy and delight that I almost can’t stand it.
IMG_7248And then there are the moments when he tests my patience so much that I don’t think I’ll survive this season.

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He is a joy. He is a challenge. He is a little agent of my sanctification. He is a gift, and my heart is full of thankfulness. I love him so.

Fire prevention parade and the difficult twos

Fire Prevention week is one of those fun, small town traditions that’s hard to understand and appreciate unless you’ve been a part of it. But in the little town I hail from, it’s a pretty big, stinkin’ deal.  A whole week in October is centered around fire prevention activities. The firemen come to the schools and churches, and there’s a big banquet for the fire department in which the fire queen and her maids are presented. And then the best part. The fire prevention parade. School even lets out early for it. Growing up, we stood on the sidewalk in front of my friend Rachael’s house every year to catch candy and watch the firetrucks, floats, and marching bands parade on by. Priceless memories. photo (16)photo (27)Well, after years away from my childhood home, I feel like I’ve come full-circle. Because this year, my own child got to experience the fire prevention parade for himself. And from what I heard, he had himself a grand ol’ time. He loves nothing more than a good firetruck.

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I love this one of him hauling in his loot, sucker in mouth. Serious business.

I love this one of him hauling in his loot, sucker in mouth. Serious business.

I’m really glad Luke got to have this fun experience that I’m thinking will become an annual tradition. Even though I was originally planning to be there with him, I’m glad he got to make this first-time-fire-prevention-memory with just my parents. I think it was a special time for all of them.

And, to be honest, it was a refreshing time for me. L spent most of the week with my parents, and it was a much needed break for this mama. Because, even though he’s all smiles in the pictures, real day-to-day life with a two year old is not all smiles all the time. I now understand why they call it “the terrible twos,” although I think “the difficult twos” might be more accurate. Not every day is terrible, but every day is difficult. Every day brings challenges. There is testing, there is whining, and there is extreme frustration when things don’t go his way. There is more moodiness than I would expect from a 13-year-old girl. There is a seeming inability to grasp the necessity of first-time obedience, regardless of the consequences he faces. Patience, loving correction, and consistent discipline often take more intentionality and strength than I feel I have to give. Most days, I’m just worn slap out.

BUT.

In the challenges, and in my moments of weakness and parenting struggles, God is faithful. His grace is there, and it’s always enough. It is sufficient for me, and I am shaped by the hard moments and days.

And God is kind to give us many precious, joyful moments peppered between those fits. A hug, a kiss, an “I love you, Dah-dee” {the way he says “daddy” sounds somewhat British, and it’s completely adorable}. Excitement, passion, and the twinkling of bright blue eyes. And every now and then, first-time obedience with a hearty, “Yes ma’am, Mommy!”

Though every moment is not fun, there is a deeper joy in the parenting journey we’re on with our little Luke. Joy in the good and the beautiful. Joy in the hard and the not-so-beautiful. The sovereign hand of our Father is faithfully weaving together the tapestry of our lives. Every thread of joy and hardship has it’s place. Nothing–not even the difficult twos– is wasted in this process of making us who He wants us to be.

2 years old

Luke Stevens Rice,

You are my absolute favorite 2 year old! AND one of the coolest kids I know. A year sure does make a big difference. You’ve changed so much in your second year of life—from a babe to a boy. 

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As always, I feel happy and sad watching you grow. I’m so glad you’re thriving, but the  realization of how quickly our time with you as a little one is flying by makes my heart sting a little. This is such a sweet stage (have I said that about all of them so far?). I don’t want to forget it. 

You are talking ninety-to-nothing. You just about wear us out with all that talking, but we love it. You’re LOUD and exuberant in almost everything you do. You’re smart. You don’t miss a thing, and you have an excellent memory. You light up a room with that big, infectious smile.  

You love to say “OH YEAH!” and “OKAAAAAY!” and “ALRIGHT!” You are working on counting to ten, and you’ve almost got it. You say, “One, twoooooo . . .” Sometimes you think 4 comes after 9. 

The other day, we were shopping for some clothes. I pointed out a shirt with cars on it. You ran over to the clothing rack, grabbed the shirt and loudly proclaimed, “I’ll TAKE it!”

You still love your sleep and require a lot of it. You sleep 10-11 hours at night and take a good afternoon nap. You recently transitioned from your crib to your “big boy” twin bed, and you’ve done great. . . better than I expected. You screamed when I left you the first few nights, but you never got out. You stay in your bed and play (with a ridiculous amount of toys/books) until I come and get you in the mornings. You are a slow mover in the mornings and you enjoy your “wake-up” time in bed. This makes things easier for me when I have to nurse and tend to John Wicks in the mornings. Every morning, I ask you who you dreamed about. Every time you say something different. Sometimes it’s Doc or JJ. Sometimes Thomas the Tank Engine or Nemo.  When we transitioned from nursery to big boy room decor, you would run into your room and exclaim, “BIG BOY BED! BIG BOY CURTAINS!” 

Your favorite food is fruit. When asked what you would like to eat, you always, always say fruit. You would live off it if you could. You also love veggies, cheese, cereal, yogurt, black beans, brown rice, and chips. You’re daddy gives you sips of diet coke at restaurants when I’m not looking. You love it. You think all soft drinks are coke.  Sometimes you’re a great eater and other times you are more picky. Just depends on if you’re in a growth spurt, I think. 

The biggest thing we are trying to teach you right now is that you are a person under authority and that first-time obedience is required. We talk a lot about how failing to obey us is ultimately failing to obey God. You see, we are all persons under the authority of God. God exercises His authority over you through us right now. He has commanded children to obey their parents (Eph 6:1). We want you to understand that you have to obey, not just because we are bigger than you or because we “say so” but because our good and right God requires nothing less, and we desire to please and obey Him.

This is a hard lesson. You like to test the limits and see if we really mean what we say. Sometimes when I tell you to do (or not do something) you look at me with this clear look of mischief and rebellion in those sparkling blue eyes. You often try to get as close to the line as possible. But, by God’s grace, (and discipline) you are learning. Our greatest prayer is that through this training, you will learn that you will never be able meet God’s standard for perfect obedience on your own. BUT Jesus did. He is your greatest need. Our intention is to point you toward the Gospel and your need for Christ.

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You are the sweetest big brother. When you see your brother, you exclaim, “JOHN WICKSIE!!!” and then you say, “LOVE!” You want me to hold him down so you can love him. When he’s on his playmat, you’ll crawl under there and just lay beside him. One day, you were “talking” on your play phone, and I saw you hold it up to JW’s ear so he could say “hellwo.” I can’t wait until the two of you can really play together. 

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I’ve never seen someone so passionately in love with moving vehicles. You could take or leave other toys, but if it has wheels, you’ll play with it for hours on end. You were so excited about your birthday party. You kept saying, “CAR PARTY, TRUCK PARTY, TRAIN PARTY!” You’ve probably watched the movie “Cars” about 1000 times. 

Luker, you are such precious little boy. We love you more than words can say, and we pray that God blesses you with many more years of life. 

I’ll love you forever!

-Mama

Luke’s 2nd Birthday Party

In my two short years of having children, I’ve already developed a love/hate relationship with birthday parties. On the one hand, I wouldn’t trade celebrating the milestone of another year: taking pictures, making memories, eating good food and cake amidst precious themed decor, blah, blah, blah. On the other hand, though, I would trade the extra expense, time, and stress that go into pulling together a child’s birthday party at my own house. I do it to myself though, y’all. I mean I should have done what any sane mother of two under two would do: buy a pack of Lightning McQueen plates, cups, & hats, and call it a day. That would have certainly made the Mr. Boy happy. BUT NOOO! I have to go all pinterest crazy and fly into a complete creative-juices-flowing-crafting- frenzy that I truly do not have the time or energy for. It’s the over-achiever in me, I tell ya. That cursed over-achiever that insisted I make all A’s and now insists that I keep my house spotless. I keep saying, “Next year I’m going simple. Family party and cake only.” Christy told me she’ll believe it when she sees it.
SONY DSCThat said, I am so pleased with how Luke’s “HONK, HONK! BEEP, BEEP!” vehicles party turned out. We had the party a little over a week before his actual day, and the sweetest group of “little friends” and family came for an evening cookout to celebrate the birthday boy. Most importantly, Luke had an absolute ball. Last year he was kind of clueless, but this year, he knew it was his party. And he ate. it. up. Just watching him enjoy it made my effort worth it.

{He was so excited that he even posed for a little pre-party photo shoot in his very own red car on his very own road. Shocker. He is never this cooperative.}

{Note the paparazzi in the reflection!}
SONY DSCSONY DSCSONY DSCHe looks like such a big boy in this picture below. I can hardly stand it.
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SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSCThere aren’t enough words to thank “Aunt Chritty” for all her help in pulling this party off. {No, I didn’t misspell her name. . . we actually call her “Chritty.” }. She came a day early and helped me deliberate over how to arrange the table, duct tape trash bags to the front porch, make cars out of fruit, clean the house, and a million other things. She even made the most ADORABLE cookies you have ever seen to give as favors. A truer friend is hard to find, and I’m so thankful that we still live close enough to see each other fairly often.

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All the paper items for the party were orderd off Etsy. As much as I would like to take credit, no, I did not design them.SONY DSC SONY DSC Pretzel sticks also made by Christy. SONY DSC The fruit cars were a big hit with the kids. Of course, the idea came from Pinterest. Is anything original anymore? I guess I can take credit for my trashbag road. All me. 🙂SONY DSC SONY DSCAdam smoked a Boston butt, and he outdid himself.  I must say, it was fine. Ask anyone.
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The cookie favors. CT should start a business. Seriously.SONY DSCSONY DSC Not bad for a $19 Kroger cake. I was a tad worried, but they came through!SONY DSCL was a little shy when everyone started singing to him. . .

photo (5)but he warmed up quickly and by the end of song said, “YAY!!!” while clapping his little hands.
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SONY DSC SONY DSCThe weather was unbelievably cool for an August evening, and the kids had a blast playing outside on all their riding vehicles.

IMG_6544 (1) {Luke was immediately enthralled with his new Richard Scarry book: Cars and Trucks and Things that Go.}IMG_0052

Our sweet neighbors even brought over this awesome little roller coaster. It was a hit. So much so that the youngest ones {including Luke} had a few meltdowns about having to wait their turn.
SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSCAll in all, it was a great night. Everyone stayed and visited for a while, and we just savored that two-year-old birthday sugar high happiness that resonated through our house. Our little Luke is so full of life and enthusiasm, and I still find it hard to believe that it was two whole years ago when he joined our family. He has changed so much and brought us so much joy. But that sappiness is for another post, maybe on his actual day. I’m thrilled we had such a fun, successful party. And now this tired mama is even more thrilled that it’s over! 🙂