Monday, September 15, 2014

Blue Cotton Memory Guest Post

It's been a long time since I've welcomed another blogger into this space, and I'm so excited to welcome, today, my sister in Christ Maryleigh Bucher of Blue Cotton Memory. Maryleigh calls Tennessee home and feels kindred in that respect. She's a little ahead of me in the journey of parenting, and since finding her in the blogosphere, I've so appreciated her her words of wisdom. I'd shared with her about Cade's starting high school, this fall, and asked her to write a back-to-school, guest post to share with my readers. I was blessed and encouraged by her words and trust that you will be, too.


Dear Brandee,

Your son’s just started high school. I can just see that first day. He’s all ready to go out the door, catch the school bus: back-pack stuffed with school supplies, water bottles, - not lunch because he wants to try their lunch, to see if it’s different. . . better. His back pack isn’t heavy, yet. There’s room for books, but not as much room as he’ll realize he needs.

You probably watched him walk to the bus, like independence on training-wheels, that walk up to a doorway to a new era.

You’re more left behind than ever. You can’t walk him out, stand with him like you did in the primary years. You can’t just pop into school to see the teacher at the end of the day to pick up nuggets and morsels of what’s really going on.

Hands-off time has begun – kind of like on the cooking competitions you see on t.v.  when that buzzer rings, hands fly off – and up.

He pulls himself up through those bus doors that will take him to a school where everything is possible – booze, drugs, PDA, friends who lift up and those who pull down, teachers who encourage and discourage, believers, non-believers – it’s all in there.

. . . . and you just let him go. . . .

When you just let him go, remember the other back pack – the one you can’t see – that soul back pack that you started filling the day he was born.

It’s a bottomless back-pack containing everything he’ll need. You’ve filled it with God’s word, a power supply that works anywhere, love, encouragement, motivational speeches, stories to inspire,  maybe even a rebirth certificate so he knows to whom he belongs. God’s filled it, too – with spiritual gifts, love languages – and a plan.

It’s a back-pack that is designed to fit lightly, easily, like the second skin to the soul.

But God designed all children differently. Some will wear that back-pack always. Some will set it down, walk off and leave it. Some will empty it out and fill it with other things. Some will use parts and pieces of it.

Why? Because each of us is designed differently. We meet God differently, take different pathways to Him. Some children, teens and adults are coachable and make those connections between what you tell them and how it applies. They don’t have to experience it to believe mentored cause/effect.

Some do have to experience life to understand cause/effect. Coachable? Not yet. They need hands-on experience about why bad is bad and good is good. They’ll pull everything out of their back-pack, re-evaluate it time and again – and, eventually, faith realized, they’ll put the good stuff back in.

You can put the same exact thing in each child’s soul back-pack – but they all won’t treat it the same. Some of your teens will go into high school coachable, utilizing what you filled their soul-pack with. Some won’t.

That’s when mothering is the hardest.

Don’t think you’ve failed if they set that back-pack down, empty it out. God’s not surprised. He knew they would have to learn by experience. He’s the designer, after all.

The hard part of parenting a teen is that it’s more hands-off than on. It’s letting them take control of their souls – and the soul back-pack.

Remember, there’s a no-fail response in every soul-back-pack. God put it there.

Like the cooking competitions when the buzzers ring – hands-off - hands-up.

. . . . that’s right – lift holy hands to a Father who loves your teen even more than you do, raise them high for intercession – and in the raising of the hands, give each challenge, each bad moment, God’s got it – and He won’t drop it!

And, if your son sets that back-pack down, God knows where it is and will help him find it.

If your son’s emptied everything out, God will help him find all the good stuff that was in it, too.

While you’re praying, on the hard days, ask God to allow you to see your son as He sees your son.

See him as God sees him because on some days He’ll need some who can when he can’t. See him in the faith and hope of God’s plan.

Be, Friend, like the centurion, who asked Jesus to save his servant (Luke 7:10) – who interceded on behalf of his servant for him to be saved – Have that kind of trust.

Be like the Canaanite woman, who interceded for her demon-possessed daughter (Matthew 15: 21-28) – have that kind of faith

Be like the father, whose son was a lunatic and ill – who, even the disciples (church people) didn’t quite understand how big God was yet, who Christ healed – who encouraged us to have the faith of a mustard seed so that mountains can be moved – and broken people healed (Matthew 17:14-20).

As you take your hands off, Brandee, lift them high – and if they get heavy in the midst of a great battle, like Moses against the Amalek, know that God gave you friends Aaron and Hur who will help you hold your hands up in prayer so that the battle can be won. (Exodus 17:10-13).

Brandee, you’ve filled your son’s soul-back-pack the good things, the God-things. It’s an independence-with-training-wheels time. You have to trust God – hands off - and up!


Maryleigh is a wife of 31 years, a mom of 5 sons ranging in ages from 28 to 13. She is a seeker of solutions to challenges, the perfect white cake recipe, the washer of the Blue Cotton Blanket, trying to raise sons to be strong, manly men who love God and show the love of Jesus Christ to others through their words and actions. Trying to live grace and joy through the journey, she writes at her blog Blue Cotton Memory.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Family, Pt. 2

After our time in Virginia Beach, my brother-in-law Terry, his wife Jill, and their younger daughter Adalynn Grace spent a couple days at our log cabin. (Their older daughter Jasmine was in another state, spending time with Jill's mom.) I didn't use my camera very much but did take some photos of our fishing just down the road:

Poor Cade was with us at the beach, too, but somehow I failed to photograph him, there?

I'd come up with some ideas for sightseeing, but in the end, everyone was content just to hang out at (or very near) home. I'm thankful for in-laws with whom I enjoy spending time. Aside from the days of preparation for my mother-in-law's funeral, these were my first with Terry's family but without my mother-in-law. I missed her so much and knew her absence was felt even more painfully by Jim and Terry. We all agreed, though: she would have been so glad for our being together. She wanted her sons to be close.


I mentioned in my last post: Andrea and her bunch are the only relatives who live within an hour's distance of Jim's and my log cabin. Over these recent years of my having little ones, Andrea has spent far more time here, in Powhatan, than I have in Petersburg, where she lives. I'm so thankful for her and so proud! to claim the title "great aunt" to Andrea's granddaughter (Brandi's daughter) Haven Mae. Here are some of my favorite photos of the little kids' and my summer happiness in both Petersburg and Powhatan with this part of our family:

How is my baby big enough to hold a baby? Waaaah!

So out of focus, but I love the expressions!

I have a few photos of precious moments among my parents and children but will save those for a future post about Charleigh's birthday celebration. 

Monday, September 8, 2014


I've blogged exactly half our summer. I don't know how I fell so far behind: living, I guess. Now it's back-to-school. In years past, this has saddened me, but at the start of this school year, I became both a high-school-band mom and a home-school mom. I can't stop smiling. I want to write more about these things, but I want to catch up, first.

I especially don't want to let summer slip away without my sharing that some of summer's greatest blessings were opportunities to visit with family. Andrea and her bunch live about forty-five minutes from us, and I have some cousins at the beach; otherwise, our relatives are outside of Virginia. We love living here but miss our people.

I grew up (Have I told you this?) with grandmothers who were best friends. It was the strangest, best thing. I could very well attend a family reunion of my dad's people, for example, along with my mom's parents and sister. After we moved to Tennessee, my four grandparents drove south together, to visit. If I mailed a letter to one grandma, she would call the other to share it over the phone. (Would it be wrong for me to pray for Cade's mother-in-law to be my best friend?)

Anyway, all of it came back in a rush, this July, when great chunks of our family happened to be in Virginia Beach at the same time. Jim's brother's family drove from Ohio, and my parents, brother's family, and my mom's family (many of her siblings and their children/grandchildren) drove and flew in from all over the country. Jim, the kids, and I slipped over for a little more than twenty-four hours. We walked the boardwalk with Jim's brother's family, and the next day (a rainy day) visited Nauticus with Jim's brother's family, my brother, and my brother's older son. That afternoon, Jim and I put his brother's younger daughter in the seventh seat of our minivan and drove to Sandbridge to visit with my parents, my brother's family, my mom's family, and--get this!--two of my dad's nieces, their husbands, and one niece's grandson, all gathered in the same house.

I know that's terribly confusing, but trust me: it was beautiful. I hope my photos bring you some small measure of the joy those twenty-four hours brought me.

Jim and Chip on the Boardwalk

Clementine, Niece Adalynn Grace, and Chip on the Beach after Dark

Clementine, Adalynn Grace, and Jim's Brother Terry on the Boardwalk

Adalynn Grace at Nauticus

Terry and Adalynn Grace, with My Crew...

I didn't come close to photographing everyone in the house in Sandbridge, and I'm not going to label out the collages, below. Still, I think I captured the spirit; at least, I feel a little weepy, just now, looking over the photos.

Jim, the kids, and I connected with family a few other blessed times, too, over the summer. In my next post, I'll share some of those photos.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Charleigh Turns 4

I just read over the birthday post I wrote for Charleigh, last year, and it warms my heart how she's so much the same. I feel like I knew her, I know her, now.

She's physically powerful in a way that none of her siblings is or has been. She doesn't know her own strength. She slams into us out of love. Out of love, she durn near pulls our arms from their sockets and squeezes out our very stuffin's.

She climbs my body as if she were Jack, sometimes, as if my leg were a beanstalk. She can whine like none other. She can become both Pete and Repeat, placing her demands on an endless loop. She can wear a mama down, if I'm being honest.

But I know--and try to remember!--to scoop her up when she's working me, because chances are: her love tank's gone empty.

I have much to teach Charleigh about being filled and fulfilled, and I know, already: parenting her effectively will require my entering much of my old pain. I feel a little intimidated by this, sometimes, but mostly unafraid. I believe God chooses us for one another; don't you? It seems possible that I was chosen for Charleigh because of that (my old) self, and this. I believe I can and will take care of her, now. Based upon something the Lord whispered into my spirit, I believe Charleigh will take care of me, later.

We love Charleigh exactly as God made her: argumentative, defiant, exhibitionistic, fearless, generous, loving, rebellious, sassy, and strong-willed (strong-everything!). We haven't words to tell how thankful we are for all the light she catches and casts among us.

Kicking up fairy dust. Honest lens flare in this photo and the next.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Belated 7th Anniversary Post

Dear Jim,

You were cutting up ham and pineapple for our $5, cheese pizza from Food Lion...only it was a free pizza, as it turns out, because you'd worked your magic, again. We had some manner of tension between us after the big "band booster" meeting, and it was more of the same: how you get on my nerves with your penny-pinching even as I'm so thankful I've never not had gas money.

I squeezed between you and the pizza on the stove because it never fails: if we can bring ourselves to touch, the bad feelings evaporate, and I said, "If you weren't so good-looking, it would so be over, by now." I watched you laugh because that's your line, and I appreciated all over again how you're a whole head taller.

"What happened," I asked, moving to the other side of the bar, "to those days when I could just sort of shake my tail feather and get whatever I wanted?"

"Brandee," you said (and you were wearing your serious face), "what have you ever wanted that you didn't get, eventually?" And when I tried to think of something, I couldn't. Which means there's definitely an adopted baby in our future, Jim?

But seriously.

Thank you for taking such good care of us. I know it hasn't been easy what with my not working outside the home these past six years. I know you've wished a million times that you could just turn the bill-paying over, but you've known that--even if I did my very, very best--I wouldn't see all the ways to save money that you do. Just so you know: I think you're a genius. I think you put Dave Ramsey and Clark Howard to shame.

Thank you for providing everything we need and so much of what we want.

I'm satisfied, and those exact words ran through my mind, early yesterday morning, as I turned my back to your fur and heat and settled down to sleep. Your arm was flung above my head, and I reached out and caught your great hand with its curved fingers. I ran my index finger across your knuckles and down into the valleys between (and back).

And I thought to myself how it's been like that with us: up and down, up and down, up and down, up and down (and back). But maybe the important thing is: through it all, I've never wanted to leave. There's a whole world outside of the up n downs, but I've never been tempted by it. I just keep bumping along, and I guess you do, too. We just keep choosing one another all over again.

Seven years married.

I love you so much.


Thank you, Chuck E. Cheese Machine.

6th Anniversary Post 
5th Anniversary Post

Friday, August 22, 2014

A New Venture

It's time. To learn more, please click the image below (or visit to travel to my brand-new, sister blog.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Repost: A Letter to My Teenage Self

Dear Brandee,

You'll turn 16 in a few, short weeks. Don't do that thing you're on the brink of doing. What a big bunch of hype for a whole lot of totally not worth it.

I get you perfectly, some twenty-two years down the road, and you're putting a truckload of unnecessary pressure on yourself. You know that--by the time Mom was your age--she'd been dating Dad for something like three years. She married him at 17. You're feeling frantic and even a little old. It would be funny if it weren't so tragic.

Sixteen is not old. Take it from me: 33 is a pretty good age to marry, and your body will be capable of growing a baby even at 38. I know, I know: Mom is 37 right now, and the thought of her, pregnant, is unfathomable. But she's more of a hottie and a spring chicken than you realize.

Stop thinking about Mom and her timeline. Stop it. Stop it! I understand why you're doing it (She's amazing!), but stop it. You'll never be her: never, ever. (Do let her teach you to sew, though, and cook...and can food.) You're what happened when two people collided: two! You're at least 50% Carl Shafer and, at the end of the day, wholly yourself. Concern yourself with becoming who you are. Allow your life to unfold in its own way, in its own time.

Because here's the thing: you have perfect instincts. You're headed for the right college. Also, the boys in your life worth loving are the very same ones with whom you never consider intimacy. You tell Mom: you love them too much to risk losing them. You're wiser than you know; you'll love them, still, over two decades from now, and you'll know how to find them. Don't try to date the one because--even though the two of you never cross any lines--that unnecessary history will complicate things down the road.

Your memories with your three boy friends will become some of the ones you'll cherish most. Make more of them. Go to your junior prom with Matthew. Spend even more time riding with Jason. Spend even more time swimming with Mark.

Enjoy more fully your family, your girlfriends (especially Carlena, Sonia, Annie), your church youth group, your high school band. You're getting ready to leave Scott County for good; make the most of what time you have left. Spend more time listening to what James Watson and T.L. Lay have to say. Love on Stacey even harder. Go ahead and track down Hoyle Hutson and tell him you're sorry for acting out in his sixth-grade science class because--by the time you actually feel sorry (having tried and failed to teach a bunch of heathens)--he'll be in the ground.

Or don't change a dad-burned thing.

I'm not going to lie to you: you can save yourself a whole heap of trouble, here. But--even if you don't--it'll all be ok enough, in the end. The Lord will go with you wherever you go, and you'll fall in love with Him one way or the other: even though you'll find Him different than how they teach Him in the little, white church. He lives in your heart, and He's more faithful than you can possibly fathom.

I love you.
Your 38-year-old Self

**I wrote this letter a couple years ago but am reposting in response to the prompt “A Letter to My Younger Self” at The High Calling. You can read other offerings and join in the fun by clicking here.