Love, Mom

I’m working diligently today preparing for school. The computer program that we use for our main subjects allows messages to be sent between me (the teacher) and my children (the students). So, it is my habit to send them a message to read on their first day of classes each new school year. 
I’d like to share them with you and although Jesse and Josiah are out of high school, I want to include them and their loves.  
If you have children, no matter their ages, don’t assume they know how you feel. Tell them. 

Dear Jared, 

You can do it!

Love, Mom

(I kept his short because he has severe dyslexia and I wanted him to be able to read my message stress free. I’ll be encouraging him more verbally.)

Dear Jonathan,

You are growing up right before my eyes! I believe in you!

Love, Mom

(He turns 12 this week and in that awkward in between age of figuring out this next stage.)

Dear Ruth Denise, 

I see so much potential in you. You can be a world changer. As a Christian, if we truly want to change the world, the change must begin in us. Let this be the year that big changes occur. Do it all as unto the Lord. 

Love, Mom

(She’s my go-getter, over-achiever.)

Dear Stephanie Nicole,

My little namesake, my little girl. You are going to have so many choices this year about who you will be, what kind of person you will become and how you will spend your life. Choose wisely. Always stop and think of what could come from a decision or and action. Dream BIG and don’t be afraid to pursue them. 

Love, Mom

(She tends to be both impulsive and timid.)

Dear Jeremiah,

I love you so much. You are one of my greatest delights in life. Stay close to God, follow Him with the same determination that you have now and you will do mighty things in His name. You can be the difference I the lives of hurting people by pointing them to Jesus. When things are hard, keep trying because you can never fail if you never quit. 

Love, Mom

Dear Jesse, 

From the first moment I saw you, you turned my life upside down and you’re still at it. The first to make me a forever mom and now the first to make me a mother-in-law. Now, you intend to be the first to make me a military mom. Go Jesse Boy Go! Run hard after your dreams and never be satisfied with mediocrity. 

Love, Mom

Dear Josiah, 

You’ve been one of the most determined people I’ve ever known even since you were a little boy who decided he wanted us as a family when we thought we were done adopting. You have a wonderful ability to set your sites on a goal and achieve it. I’m proud of you. I love you. Keep your eyes on Jesus and your path will be straight. 
Love, Mom

Dear Lauren, 

As my first daughter-in-law, you and I are having to learn about how this all works together. You are a beautiful person and you make my son happy. I’m so glad you are a part of our family. I’m so proud of your heart for the things of God and your support for Jesse as he pursues his dreams. 

Love, Momma Rodda

Dear Mikayla, 

As Josiah’s fiancé, you will soon be a part of this family and already a part of our lives for many years. You have been Josiah’s greatest little cheerleader and that means a lot to his momma’s heart. Thank you for loving my son. 

Love, Momma Rodda

   
   

Grandpa’s Blessing 

If you had known my Grandpa you might not would have been as fond of him as I was. He was, well, he could be quite abrasive to those who rubbed him the wrong way. Or perhaps it was to those he wanted to rub the wrong way. He didn’t pull punches, you always knew his honest and possibly offensive opinion. But, as for me, I adored him. He was a constant in my life. One of those always there people. A safe place. He potty trained me. He let me hold up giant bullfrogs after a night of frog gigging. He once asked me if I ever ran out of words. I answered proudly that I did not.
When he was diagnosed with cancer I was young newly married girl. I was devastated and heart-broken. It promised to be my first real experience with grief. 
He was so sick. He began to mellow, starkly so. Others began to see what I already knew. Under that rough exterior was a tender heart. I can’t begin to express my joy of seeing his heart soften towards matters of faith. His body was not healed but, right before our eyes, his soul was made whole. 
It was as if at the end of his life he could finally unwrap the grave clothes that had been wrapped in layers around his heart. I think sometimes that is what we do when we face pain and he had faced plenty. 
A rough childhood during rough times. The death of his first child as an infant when the umbilical cord wrapped around her in the womb. Her name was Charlotte. His time in WWII changed him forever. I was able to get him to share bits and pieces. It was horrific and he refused to talk about it much. The death of his oldest son and namesake as a young adult added to the layers of grief and pain. A house burning down to the ground and starting over again in retirement years. He knew about pain. 
But, there at the end of his days when physical pain was so intense, he seemed to be released from the emotional pain. It was a beautiful sight to behold. 
As we would come and go from the different states we all lived in, to visit with him, he began to say the very same thing each time we would leave. “Y’all be good to each other.” Every time, every single time, he would say that. 
After he was gone, Grandma took up the baton and she would say the same words. It became our family blessing. Our family banner. It was Grandpa’s Blessing. “Y’all be good to each other.”
Now, they are both gone from this earth and I feel confident that they are indeed being good to each other. 
As my children are growing and being married and becoming engaged, I find myself wanting to say those same words. I want to say it to others as well. I want to remind folks of the brevity of life and the importance of relationships and the power of love. I want to warn those who will listen of the dangers of complacency and the risks of compromise and the cruelty of unkind words. I want to tell them, I want to tell you. “Be good to each other.”

Maybe we shouldn’t have to be reminded of something so seemingly obvious. But, I think we do. Too many times we are more focused on being right, proving our point and guarding ourselves against being taken advantage of that we forget. We forget that faith and family and friends are what matters. We forget to be good to each other just because we can. 

Today, this weekend, I pray that we will all look for opportunities to be good to each other. Take my Grandpa’s blessing as your own if you’d like with my blessing. Remind yourself and remind others. “Be good to each other.”

 
  

Living and Loving Large

Here at our little homestead, love is in the air and I’m glad because in the end, love always wins. I say that a lot because I believe it a lot. 
Both of my oldest sons have declared their love and their intended in the short span of a few weeks. Jesse was the first to grow our family by giving us our first daughter-in-law and their special day in July was sweet, intimate, unpretentious and perfect. 
    

  

From their first date 3 1/2 years ago to their first month of marriage, it has been a journey of young love with a few detours and u-turns. In the end however, love always wins, it really does. 

  
This month Josiah has proposed to his intended and declared his love. Our family will be growing again as a result. We are in fact multiplying and increasing, not only in size but in love. This #xlfamily will continue to grow because of the miracle of love. 

  
  

One of the most intriguing parts of being a #momofmany has been observing and celebrating the unique personalities of each child. Each member of our family brings their own giftings, talents and strengths. They are different. They enjoy different things. They struggle with different things. They dream different dreams and have different goals. Sometimes there will be conflicts or head butting going on. I know all about this as I am a chief head butting champion.  
But, when I occasionally glance around me and am startled by the enormity of such a family or when I occasionally am caught off balance a bit with all the changes taking place, I remind myself of how I longed for these days. These very days, when my home and my heart and my life would be overrun by children and family and love. 
I’m living my dream. Albeit a sometimes chaotic, loud, hectic, dream that wears me out, it is my dream to live large and love large. I’m living my dream and I am glad. 
So, welcome to our newest Rodda, Lauren and welcome to the next Rodda-to-be, Mikayla . I pledge to love you as best as I can and celebrate your unique gifts and talents. I promise to do all I can to support your loving relationships with my sons. I promise to pray for you, cheer you own and celebrate your victories. 
I’m very new in this roll as a mother-in-law and in many ways I feel like I’ve slipped into brand new shoes that are yet a bit uncomfortable. I may need a little time to learn how to walk this new path, break in these new shoes and get used to this new dance, but I will. Then together, we will celebrate this splendid thing called love. Because, of course, in the end, love wins. 

  

James, a Friend During Difficult Days

After so many years of reading the book of James in the Bible, you’d think I’d have it memorized by now. I don’t have every word memorized but, I am familiar enough with the letter that James, the brother of Jesus, wrote that I often turn there for correction and guidance and comfort.
Do you know what often causes me to turn to James? Difficult people. Do you know a few of those? I sure do. I first became best of friends with Brother James about ten years ago. My son who is about to turn twelve was a toddler and still our foster child at that time. Difficult times were upon us. I had developed a difficult relationship with his birth mom. It was complicated and it was difficult. 

I wanted to reach out to her and help her. I did. I sometimes kept her other children. I sometimes ran errands for her. I tried to help her because I loved my son, her son, our son. I tried to help her because I loved Jesus. 

On days when I felt that my best efforts were frustrated and realized there were no easy answers, I would turn to James. On days when I felt foolish for so diligently helping the one person who might take my son from me, I turned to James. On days when I felt trapped or resentful or weary, you know it, I turned to James. 

James became my mantra, my plumb line, my consistent go to when I needed reminding that my first allegiance was to my Lord and doing His bidding. It helped me to set aside my personal feelings of feeling a bit taken advantage of at times. It helped me trust the Lord with the eventual outcome when I worried about losing my son who had come home straight from the hospital into my arms. It helped me to see beyond the often irrational, unreasonable actions of a young woman who seemed to be her own worst enemy. In short, it helped me be what I claimed to be, a Christian. 

As a matter of fact, the book of James became so important to me during that time, when the day finally came for our adoption of our precious son, we gave him James as his middle name. I never wanted to forget the struggle and subsequent relief that those difficult days provided. 

Today, I found myself turning once again to James. I am once again facing a difficult situation. But, truthfully, that’s pretty much how things are in this life. Whether it’s a difficult co-worker, a difficult fellow Christian, a difficult family member or even a difficult stranger, people are often difficult. 

So, the real question is, not whether they are being difficult but how will I respond? Will I hold my tongue? Will I extend mercy and grace? Will I maintain my Christian testimony? Will I remember whose I am and the mission before me?

What if I truly try and my best efforts are treated scornfully? What if I am worried and concerned about the eventual outcome? What if it seems to make no difference at all. 

Well, then, my friends I will remember the many times before when there have been difficult days. I will remember that God was enough then and He is still enough now. I will do my best and I will trust God with the rest. And so should you. 

“Do any of you think you are religious? If you do not control your tongue, your religion is worthless and you deceive yourself. What God the Father considers to be pure and genuine religion is this: to take care of orphans and widows in their suffering and to keep oneself from being corrupted by the world.”

‭‭James‬ ‭1:26-27‬ ‭GNT‬‬