In my favorite poem by Robert Frost, Nothing Gold Can Stay, he reminds us that like the seasons of nature, life is one season melting into another, and quickly fading away. This is my attempt to document each season in my life and my family.

First Day of School

Filed under: Abby Jo,Elijah,Hailey,Kids,Kyra,Logan,Owen,Photos,School — Rachel at 5:29 pm on Sunday, August 10, 2014

The kids started school again. I can’t believe summer vacation is already over. It went by so fast!

Kyra started 7th grade, Elijah is in 5th grade, Owen is in 3rd grade, Hailey is in 1st grade, and Abby and Logan are starting kindergarten. All but the wonder twins have had their first full day of school already. Logan and Abby’s first day of Kindergarten is Wednesday, and then they have a couple more days the following week, before starting a regular schedule.

The kids were all kind of excited about starting school again. Even the ones that didn’t particularly want to do school again were looking forward to seeing their friends. Abby Jo is definitely the most excited. She cannot wait to start Kindergarten. I was happy that she got Mrs. Suddeth, who was Owen’s Kindergarten teacher. We wanted Logan and Abby to be in the same class, but they put them in different ones. They said they don’t like putting siblings in the same class.

I’ll be starting school again soon, too, and then, boy, will our schedule be hectic. We are going to have a lot to get used to!

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Our First Family Vacation

Filed under: Abby Jo,Elijah,Family,Hailey,Kids,Kyra,Logan,Matthew,Owen,Photos,Trips — Rachel at 5:14 pm on Sunday, August 10, 2014

We went on our first family vacation last week. We went to Panama City Beach, Florida. It was so great. The trip itself was a wedding gift from Matthew’s Uncle David and Aunt Jennifer. We were floored by their generosity. We had so much fun. Nothing went wrong. The weather was perfect. My mom went with us to help with the kids. It really couldn’t have been a better vacation.

We spent all of our time at the beach or the pool. The only different things we did were on two days we rented a pontoon boat and drove out to Shell Island. That was fabulous. It was the most  beautiful, pristine beach, and we had it all to ourselves. Along the way, we did a little fishing, dove for sand dollars, caught about a hundred hermit crabs, and even found a starfish. We swam, boogie boarded, snorkeled, sun bathed, built sand castles, caught jelly fish, and the kids procured a small fish that they put in little pools they made in the sand and connected with tunnels. Oh! I almost forgot. I took Kyra and Elijah parasailing, which they absolutely loved.

That’s our trip in a nutshell, and, now, for what everyone wants anyway…the photos! Enjoy.

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At Our House Today

Filed under: Family,Me,Poetry — Rachel at 10:52 pm on Monday, July 14, 2014

My day today was very reminiscent of a different time in my life.

Today, I didn’t have six kids, but only the four I gave birth to. My day moved just like days past. Like there had not been a divorce and a lover and a breakup and a marriage and a new family.

There was just me. And my babies. And the slow comfortable way we move around each other.

There was the food we like and hugs and kisses. There was a long, uninterrupted conversation in the kitchen while I cooked.

There was snuggles in my bed in the morning and at night. And a bedtime story and prayers.

And it was all so much like it used to be.

Except they’re older. And I’m a different me. And our “we” was not complete.

 

My Summer Reading

Filed under: Reading — Rachel at 10:46 pm on Sunday, July 13, 2014

One of the best parts of this summer for me has been all the free time I’ve had to read. I’m so thankful that Matt works so hard to provide for us and I have got to spend the summer not working. I worked so much the last two summers that I really didn’t get to do a lot of things that I wanted to do. This summer has definitely been different.

I thought I would share what I’ve read so far. You can click on any of the pictures to read a description of the books. I have to say, I’ve enjoyed all of them.

These three books in the Divergent trilogy were recommended to me by my daughter. I actually bought her the first book for Christmas, after seeing the trailer for the movie. She became quite obsessed with them, and insisted that I read them. They were very good, and it was very nice to read fiction after the rigor of nursing school.

Misery has been sitting on my shelf, waiting for school to be over so I had time to read it. It has been on my list of books to read since I read Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir last summer. He wrote about writing the book, and I couldn’t wait to read it. It did not disappoint. I had seen the movie when I was a teenager, but had forgot all but the highlights. I really enjoyed reading this one.

I have read Kelle Hampton’s blog, Enjoying the Small , for years, since right after her daughter was born and she blogged about her birth story. Bloom was about her journey from having a baby unexpectedly born with Down Syndrome to reaching a place of acceptance and appreciation of her daughter and all that made her wonderful. Very good book!

The book that has had the most impact on me so far, though, is The Happiness Project. It has made me totally reevaluate my thoughts and attitudes toward my own happiness. Being raised in a fundamentalist church, I heard over and over that I don’t deserve to be happy, and that happiness shouldn’t be our main concern. I’m starting to think that I have had a very warped understanding of the importance of my own happiness, and this book has inspired me to focus more on understanding what makes me happy and why. I highly recommend this book to everyone. The author, Gretchen Rubin, also has a blog that is a very interesting read. Check it out.

I am currently reading her second book about happiness, titled, Happier at Home. So far, I’m enjoying it as well. She’s a very intelligent writer, and I appreciate all of the scientific tidbits and historical quotes that she inserts into her narrative.

 

 

After a trip to the used bookstore yesterday, I have several other books that I am hoping to be able to read before I start back to school. I’m really excited about them.

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I know I’m a total book nerd, but I absolutely love reading.

What are you guys reading? Let me know in the comments!

My Birthday Post

Filed under: Abby Jo,Birthdays,Family,Friends,Hailey,Kids,Kyra,Logan,Love,Matthew,Me,Owen,Photos — Rachel at 1:34 pm on Sunday, July 13, 2014

My birthday this year turned out to be the best ever. Matthew worked really hard to make it special for me.

On the 2nd, Matt arranged to have our small group meet at Roane County Park to celebrate my birthday. We grilled burgers and hot dogs. The kids played at the splash pad. Matt made me an absolutely delicious triple chocolate cake, and even had candles for me to blow out. Everyone sang to me. It really is the simple things in life that make you feel so loved. After we ate cake, we went swimming in the lake. I had so much fun swimming with Matt, and jumping off the dock with him and the kiddos. It was a great day.

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On the 4th, my actual birthday, Matt had arranged a surprise party for me at our house with our families. I found out about the party a couple days before, but Matt took care of everything. It was the first time that me, my parents, and all five of my brothers have been at the same place at the same time in a very long time. I even got to see my brother, Aaron, who I hadn’t seen in over a year. Matt invited everyone, grilled the burgers and hot dogs, asked my mom to make me a cake, and made sure everyone was happy. My mom asked me what kind of cake or pie I wanted, so I requested the cake that she used to make for me when I was a kid. It is so good, and was very nostalgic.

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One thing that was very fun for me was that my little brothers, Lucas and Seth, brought their guitar and drum set to play. We had learned the basics of “Don’t Stop Believing” in the couple of days before the party, and we played it together…Luke on guitar, Seth on drums, and me on piano. I’m pretty sure we drove everyone else crazy, but we had so much fun. Before everyone got there, we even sang a bunch of old hymns together. It was nice.

After a couple hours of hanging out and eating, we all loaded up and went to Kingston Park to watch the fireworks. This is my one family tradition that has been the same nearly every year since I was a young teenager. Last year, the fireworks got rained out, and we didn’t go. Every other year, though, we have been down at the lake to watch the show. It was exciting for me this year to share that experience with Matt, Hailey, and Logan, as well as Matt’s parents.

I don’t know if it was just that I am generally happier right now than I have ever been in my life or if it was because it was the first birthday with Matt and he worked so hard to make it special for me, but I can honestly say this was the best birthday I’ve ever had. I felt loved and celebrated, and I got to spend it with all the people that mean the most to me.

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Matt, Abby, and Alice (aka Grammy…Matt’s mom.)

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Mammy, Kyra, and Hailey waiting for the fireworks to start.

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This one is of Owen, Abby, and Logan climbing on Papaw John’s back.

 

Bucket List for my 31st Year

Filed under: Birthdays,Me — Rachel at 1:54 pm on Thursday, July 3, 2014

I’m thinking a lot about the typical things one might think about when their birthday rolls around. Well, if one is me, these are the typical things one might think about. I think about how I’ve grown as a person in the previous year of my life. About new experiences I’ve had. New friends I’ve made and new relationships started. I also think about the coming year, and what I want to accomplish and become.

So, in that spirit, I’ve created a bucket list of:

31 things I want to do while I’m 31

  1. Graduate from nursing school.
  2. Pass the NCLEX.
  3. Finish my novel.
  4. Go on a belated honeymoon with Matthew.
  5. Institute and maintain a date night every single week with my man.
  6. Take a different kid on a date once a month. (With six kids, it works out perfectly. I’ll get to take each kid out twice in the coming year.)
  7. Go on a family camping trip.
  8. Write more poetry.
  9. Exercise at least five days a week, every week.
  10. Go to the beach.
  11. Try a food I’ve never tried before.
  12. Go fishing.
  13. Go skinny dipping.
  14. Record a memory for every day of the year.
  15. Take more photographs with a real camera.
  16. Start an IV on an actual patient.
  17. Make out with my husband under a waterfall.
  18. Go on an overnight hike with Matt.
  19. Read at least one book a month during my school year.
  20. Buy a real Christmas tree.
  21. Run two miles.
  22. Visit a city I’ve never been to before.
  23. Go to an art museum.
  24. Plant a vegetable garden next summer.
  25. Blog five days a week.
  26. Learn to cook a new meal.
  27. Send out Christmas cards.
  28. Spend more time with mine and Matt’s families.
  29. Learn to play soccer.
  30. Pray more often.
  31. Stop cussing.

Birthdays!

Filed under: Birthdays,Kyra,Owen — Rachel at 9:06 am on Thursday, July 3, 2014

Two of my children recently had birthdays. Kyra Joy turned 12 on June 20, and Owen Shane turned 8 on June 26. I cannot believe that they are already this old. Kyra will be entering 7th grade in August, and Owen will be entering 3rd grade. It’s going by so fast!

For their birthdays, we had a family (and a few friends) birthday party at our house. I also took Kyra and her friend, Haley, to the movies to see “The Fault in Our Stars” and to dinner. I think they enjoyed their party, and they seemed to like their gifts. Matt and I got Kyra an art set and a sketch pad. She’s really into drawing lately. We got Owen a giant troll toy to go with a castle playset I got him for Christmas, and a bunch of clothes that he really needed. They got lots of neat stuff at their party, and a load of cash and gift cards, as well.

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Kyra opening her presents with her friends.

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Owen opening his presents.

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Mammy made Owen a dragon cake for his birthday.

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For my book loving preteen, Mammy designed a cake to look like her latest favorite book.

Our Love Story: The Beginning – Matt’s Version

Filed under: Love,Matthew,Our Love Story — Rachel at 6:49 pm on Sunday, June 29, 2014
Table of contents for Our Love Story
  1. Our Love Story: The Beginning – Rachel’s Version
  2. Our Love Story: The Beginning – Matt’s Version

Matt has made me a very happy wife by guest blogging his version of the beginning of our story. Leave him some love in the comments section, and maybe I can talk him into guest blogging again in the future.

 

As my first marriage ended, the kids and I had a lot of changes going on in our lives. Besides the divorce, we had moved to Tennessee, I had a new job, Hailey had started Kindergarten, and Logan was in a new preschool. I had been alone for a long time, and I was tired of it. I wanted someone to spend time with and talk to. Someone who cared about me.

The problem was, I was incredibly insecure around women. I had no idea how to meet one. I kind of envisioned a mom at school drop off, or t-ball practice, or maybe church. Other than that, I didn’t have the foggiest. I’m not a bar guy. Never have been.  I wasn’t interested in a woman that I would meet at a place like that anyway. I felt very poorly about myself anyway.  My marriage hadn’t just ended. It ended badly, and some things were said that made me feel pretty un-datable. On top of that, I had full time custody of my little ones, so I was asking for women to, not only consider me, but the prospect of motherhood as well. I had a sense of duty to the little ones to find somebody that would be good to them and a good influence for them. All that said, I was not desperate. I had been alone for a long time. I could do it. I just didn’t really want to anymore.

So I decided to put myself out there. I went back and forth about it for a while, but I finally made a Match.com profile. I was more nervous than I thought I would be. I wasn’t very good, especially at that time, at selling myself. What would I say? What picture would I put up? I went on for a couple of weeks, and found somebody to talk to. She was nice enough and I could tell she wanted to be asked out, but I wasn’t feeling it. Then I saw this beautiful woman with pretty eyes and freckles. She had a comment in her profile about not needing a dad for her kids because they had a dad, but she was looking for someone to make her happy. She seemed so confident. She met my “want list”. I wanted a Christian, a woman with confidence, smart, someone who would want to spend time with me. She seemed to have all that, and I thought she was smoking hot. So I messaged her, not expecting to hear back. I didn’t normally overtly flirt with women, but I ended with a comment about her eyes. I wanted her attention. She messaged me back pretty quickly and after a couple of days, I told her a joke and she “lol’d” politely and sent me her number. The first text I sent her, I sent to the wrong number! Somebody with an 859 area code is probably still confused about that. She told me to tell her something that would impress her. I told her I’d been to Iraq twice. I thought for sure that would impress, but, no, she said lots of people did that. So I told her that I’d been to 15 countries and a couple of territories and that seemed to do it.

We started texting a lot, and then late one night, it was Friday the 13th believe it or not, she texted me and said she had just gotten back from dinner with a friend and was thinking of me. I had the feeling she had been on a date, but I figured, if she was texting me instead of that guy, I must be doing pretty well. I had looked up things to do in Harriman that day because I wanted to ask her out. I didn’t feel right asking her to drive to Knoxville for a first date, and came up with a picnic idea. Frozen Head was the only park that was on the map I was looking at, so, after some back and forth, I took a leap. I asked her out and she responded pretty quickly with an emphatic “yes!” So I floated picnic at Frozen out there, and she told me that was her favorite place ever. So things were looking up.

We were going to meet at Kroger that Sunday afternoon. I dropped my kids off with my brother and went to the store for supplies. I was so nervous on the drive out.  30 minutes to second guess what I was wearing, what I would say, even how to date. I hadn’t dated in SO long. I didn’t know how to do it. Did I shake her hand when I met her? Quick side hug? And what the heck did I do at the end? Hug? High five? Surely it wasn’t appropriate to kiss goodbye. Surely societal norms of not kissing until at least the second date still held true. Oh crap, what happens if I want a second date? Did I ask her today? Did I wait two days? Oh crap, what if she said yes to a second date? Did she expect a kiss then? What if our first kiss was terrible because I forgot how? Then I pulled into Kroger, and all that went away.

She was so pretty, sitting there waiting on me. I got out to open the door for her. That was in her profile, she liked that old fashioned chivalry stuff, but I would have done it anyway. Old fashioned is kind of my MO. As soon as I closed her door and walked around the back of the car, I was grinning. She looked really good. We drove out to Frozen Head. The thing that struck me was there wasn’t a single minute of the awkward silence that I expected. We chatted away. I found out that her last name was my ex-wife’s maiden name. I got a good laugh about that. I got the sense very early that she wanted to know me; she didn’t want me to put on a show. So I told her the truth, told her about me, my insecurities. When we got to Frozen Head, we picked a spot that was quiet, but not too secluded. I wanted her to be comfortable. We talked as we ate, and decided to go for a walk. We walked to the first waterfall, and she asked if I wanted to hike up the hill to the big waterfall. Of course I did. She led the way up the hill, talking the whole way. I was really impressed with this chick. We talked and talked. I felt so comfortable with her. She was so engaging, so confident, so beautiful, and so intelligent; she seemed to hang on every word I said. I already wanted to see her again, but here’s where my self-doubt starting screaming at me. “She’s out of your league” it said.  “She’s just being nice” it told me.

On the way back to her car, we stopped at the gas station to get a drink. Dr. Pepper for me; Diet Dr. Pepper for her. She had her bank card in her pocket and thus got it out faster than I got mine. We argued about it for a second, but she said, “You can make it up to me by buying me dinner sometime.”  That made me happy! No more pressure. She seemed to get the fact that I was new at this dating thing. She talked about how she’d gone on dates with a few guys, but none of them made the cut for a second date. I asked her if I made the cut, and she said that I did. I didn’t want to leave but it was almost dinner time already, we’d been out five hours. Much longer and we’d have to do dinner, too, and that was almost like a second date. Then I’d have to figure out if it counted  as two, and decide on the kiss thing!

When we got back to Kroger, I got out and walked around and opened her door. My heart was beating 900 mph. Now what?! We lingered for a minute. Another second or two and I probably would have kissed her, but she came forward for a hug. I liked it. She felt nice. We parted ways and started texting again pretty quickly after I left. At least I wasn’t like the Friday night guy, and have her texting someone else. She asked me the next day if I was talking to anybody else on Match. I said I had been talking to someone, but I lost interest. She told me she’d get off Match if I would, but she wanted to know if I was as interested in her as she was in me.

I canceled Match that night.

Our Love Story: The Beginning – Rachel’s Version

Filed under: Our Love Story — Rachel at 2:06 am on Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Table of contents for Our Love Story
  1. Our Love Story: The Beginning – Rachel’s Version
  2. Our Love Story: The Beginning – Matt’s Version

I have decided to write mine and Matt’s love story, for posterity’s sake. This is the beginning, from my perspective. I’m hoping he will share his, as well. 

After my last relationship ended, I decided that I was going to start dating. Problem was, the type of man that I was interested in dating is few and far between in my neck of the woods. Not to mention, how do you go about meeting men? It wasn’t that I couldn’t meet “a” guy.It was the easiest thing in the world to sit down at a bar and have a guy buy you a drink.  I wasn’t interested in just any guy, though. I wanted to find a guy that suited me, and I had a long list of criteria. He needed to be intelligent, above all, and kind. He needed to respect me, and like me for who I am. Those things were non-negotiable, but I also wanted a man who was a Christian, who was funny, and who had good grammar. If he was good-looking, too, that would be the icing on the cake.  I wasn’t looking for marriage. I just wanted a boyfriend…someone to hang out with and do stuff with. I decided that the best way to go was an online dating site.

It felt a little weird at first, but it also seemed like the most logical way to meet the type of man I was interested in. Over the course of about three months, I went out with several men. I don’t have any online dating horror stories to share. All of the men that I went out with were nice and respectful and treated me like a lady. I enjoyed almost every date I went on, but none of the guys were right for me. I could have went on dating these guys, but I knew there was no future there. I tried dating a couple of them anyway, just for the companionship, but they were really into me. I felt like I continuing to date them when they obviously liked me more than I liked them would be wrong. One guy even offered to help pay for my college if I needed it. These guys were way more into me than I was into them, so that put a kink in my casual dating plans. Turns out, guys have feelings, too. Who knew? So, I was considering just cancelling my account and waiting to meet someone the old fashioned way.

While I was considering this, I got a message from a man whose profile I hadn’t seen. His profile picture was him in uniform, and his screen-name was dadof2. The tagline on his profile said, “If you’re lookin’ for your bad boy, you ain’t lookin’ for me.”  That told me a lot about him before I ever even opened his message. He was so sweet, and he ended his first, short message with, “I hope this isn’t too forward, but you have beautiful eyes.” I messaged him back right away, and we hit it off immediately. After a few back and forth messages, I said, “My name is Rachel, by the way.” He replied, “Nice to meet you, Rachel. I guess that’s a good place to start. My name is Matt.”

I gave him my number pretty quickly, and we started texting each other. He was the first guy that I really wanted to ask me out before he did. I’m sure I was overly eager to say yes when he finally did ask me out. He suggested that we go on a picnic at Frozen Head State Park. He hit it out of the ball park with that one, not knowing that Frozen Head is one of my favorite places. The only problem was that I had never met him, and it was against every dating rule I had to get in a vehicle with a man I had just met and ride forty minutes from my own car to hang out in the woods where my cell phone didn’t work. For some reason, though, I didn’t have any apprehension about it at all. I told Amy where I was going, but other than that, I threw caution to the wind.

We went on our first date on September 15. We met in the Kroger parking lot. Just in case I didn’t like him in person, I didn’t think he needed to know where I lived. He pulled up in a pickup truck, and I was all smiles. He was so handsome in person. He was wearing jeans, a button up shirt, and a brown hat that had the silhouette of pine trees in front of a sun on the front of it that said “Morning Wood Lumber Company”. I didn’t notice what his hat said till later on, but I laughed out loud when I did. I hopped out of my car, and we introduced ourselves. It’s always slightly awkward, that first meeting, but ours was the least awkward I had experienced. He just seemed so friendly and sure of himself. It was very attractive. He opened the truck door for me, and I climbed in. As we drove away, I had a few excited butterflies, but, for the most part, I felt very relaxed.

The best way I know to describe those first few moments of getting to know each other is that I felt at home. He felt familiar to me. As we drove, listening to country music, and talking about all the things you talk about when you’re meeting someone new, I just felt like we were already friends. Conversation was so easy. His smile was so engaging. I knew that this guy was different.

By the time we entered the park, the butterflies were long gone, and we were both talking so easily. I pointed out some of my favorite things, and we stopped at some secluded picnic tables beside of the creek. He carried the picnic basket to the table, spread out a tablecloth, and unpacked a perfectly lovely picnic. Everything from chips and pinwheel sandwiches to cookies and sweet tea. It was so perfectly picturesque. After we sat down before his wonderful spread, he bowed his head to say a blessing. I could tell by the way that he talked to God that it was something he did regularly, and I liked him even more.

After our picnic, we drove up to the Panther Branch trail head to go on a hike. As we walked through the woods side by side, we told each other our entire life stories. I told him all about my marriage, including my painful divorce, and all of the ways I contributed to it. I told him about my relationship with Amy. I told him about my children. In return, he told me his story. We hiked to the highest waterfall, sat on some rocks, and talked for at least an hour. It never felt like oversharing. It felt perfectly natural to open up to this man. Part of it was planned. I fully intended to show him all my dirty laundry right off the bat. I didn’t want to risk falling for someone only to have them change their mind about me after I opened up to them. The part that wasn’t planned was how I wanted to tell him everything else. I wanted him to know who I was, and how I became who I was. By the time we left the park, we were fast friends.

On the drive home, I let myself start thinking ahead. Surely he would ask me on another date, but for some reason I got a little nervous. Did he know how into him I was? Was he just as interested in me? Was he going to try to kiss me? I had a rule that I didn’t kiss on first dates, and, other than a sneak attack from this one guy who I was not at all into, I never had. I decided on the way back to my car that, if he tried to kiss me, I would definitely let him. I don’t remember what I said to him on the way back, but I made it obvious that I wanted a second date if he did.

When we got out of the truck, he walked around, and, for the first time, he looked a little nervous. I knew he was going to be a gentleman and not try to kiss me that night, so I stepped toward him for a hug. He wrapped his arms around me for just a moment, but, as I leaned into his hard, muscled chest, I knew that it would not be the last time. He opened my car door for me, and I got in. I didn’t want to leave him, but we had already spent five hours together.

I felt high on the drive home. When I got there, I told Amy, “I could marry this man.”

Somehow, I was pretty sure I would.

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(This is the first photo of Matt and I together. It wasn’t taken on our first date, but a few weeks later.)

Measuring Up

Filed under: General — Rachel at 12:43 am on Tuesday, June 24, 2014

On my bathroom wall, there’s a series of pencil marks on the wall. Short lines with the children’s names and dates written beside of them. There are new marks every six months or so, tracking my children’s growth. It’s always quite the production when I measure everyone. They stand, heels against the wall, shoulders square, and I place a thin book on their head to make a level mark. They’re always very excited to see how they’ve grown.

Today, Hailey and Logan were looking at the marks on the wall, and I noticed them doing something I’ve seen my other kids do a hundred times. They attempt to measure themselves, and they misjudge their height because they try to measure themselves at eye level. They don’t see themselves as I do and measure from the top of their heads, but they look at the mark on the wall that is eye level and decide that is how tall they are.

It hit me today. That has so often been how I have measured myself. I cannot see myself from someone else’s perspective. I see only from my own viewpoint. I hear people say nice things about me, and I don’t believe it because that is not what I see. Over the last few years, I’ve learned to measure myself differently, though. I have had a few people speak truth into my life over and over until I could hear it. They told me that I was taller than I thought I was. They placed a book on my head, and drew a line on my wall. They said, “Look! This is how tall you really are. You’re bigger than you thought, huh? You’re growing.”

I have grown. Sometimes I feel like I’ve made no progress, because I look out of these same eyes and nothing has seemed to change. However, when I look at the marks left on my wall, I can see that, yes, little by little, I have grown.

I don’t feel small anymore.

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