Category Archives: A Few Thoughts

It’s Been Four Years

Roots

It was 2011. I had been praying about my word for the year. Just as the calendar turned to January 1, God gave me my word: ROOTED.

A usual, I didn’t know what God would choose to teach me through it over the year, but I knew the context. Immediately, this verse came to mind:

“Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.” — Colossians 2:6,7

At the time, I so wanted to be built up in Christ. I had deep longings for service, for opportunities, for His direction. Although I didn’t understand it then, He was telling me, “You must be rooted first.”

It’s helpful to think deeply for a moment on the purpose and function of roots. An agricultural society would understand the significance more readily than our culture that scarcely knows how to grow anything other than mold in the fridge (myself included!)

Roots serve multiple functions:

1) Roots anchor the tree. Without the roots, without the deep penetration into the soil, the tree could not survive. What we see when we look at a beautiful tree is only half the reality. The other half lies beneath, doing the work that allows the beauty to be exposed.

2) Roots take up minerals and water from the soil, transforming into life-giving sustenance for the tree.

3) Roots store food for use in later growth — in the trunk, branches, and leaves.

Over the course of the year, God showed me what it meant to be rooted. He taught me that the reason I so often felt beaten down was that my roots were shallow. I would let them grow for a while and then pull them up when waiting caused me to lose interest. He taught me that without being rooted, I could not be nourished. Yes, of course, I would survive temporarily, but wilting and dying was inevitable. He taught me that the more I rooted, the more I could store for when the heat and drought came.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose trust is the LORD. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream. and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield.” — Jeremiah 17:7-9

About halfway through 2011, my roots began to take hold. Beginning when I was twelve years old, God’s word fascinated me. I remember my spirit being quickened the first time and in the thousands of instances that followed, I had no trouble believing that God’s Word was truly living and active. However, wanting to read God’s Word and actually doing it are two very different things.

I’ve shared my story before, the most important resolution you can make,  and what my Bible time looks like on a regular basis.

But today, I am reflecting on what regular and systematic reading of God’s Word over the course of four years has done. Never has the benefit been more clear to me than over the last six months.

As I mentioned before, I didn’t expect the wave. And after feeling better for a few weeks, I certainly didn’t expect another wave to come crashing down. And yet, it did. Already weary from before, I scarcely had breath to keep going.

“If Your law had not been my delight, then I would have perished in my affliction.” — Psalm 119:92

I read that verse a few days ago and it was all very clear to me: had I not found my delight in God’s Word and intentionally rooted myself in it, I would have perished. Whether that death would have been physical, spiritual, or emotional…I don’t know. I don’t want to know. What I do know is that God’s Word has sustained me. Is sustaining me. It is my life. My strength. My song. My deliverance.

That is because Jesus sustains me. He is my Life. My Strength. My Song. My Deliverance.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and Word was God…In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.” John 1:1-5

As the wave recedes, I am thankful once again that I have rooted myself in the Word. I am standing strong with joy in my heart, even as I tend to my emotional and mental injuries. This is only possible because I have been well-nourished and well-supplied for the future.

Is it any wonder we have given ourselves to the cause of the Bibleless people? If I know the One Thing that can truly save and satisfy, how could I be loving to do anything but work to ensure everyone has it? And how could I be loving to not encourage those of you who already have it to saturate yourself in it? There is no alternative to growth, to survival. The 180,000 million people who wait for their very first word of Scripture in a language they can clearly understand need it just as much as you who have to blow the dust off your cover every Sunday.

Why not start today? Why not open those pages and let the living word of Christ penetrate your heart and spirit. Become rooted. There is nothing more beneficial you could do with your time, both for now and for eternity.

Off the Face of the Earth

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No, I didn’t fall off the face of the earth. Though at times, I wonder…

Jason and I had a week away together — our first whole WEEK away since we had our first child in 2003. It was wonderful. We kept it simple; we went camping.

We talked. We worked. We prayed. We planned. We rested. We walked. We took pictures. We remembered why we chose each other so long ago and why we still choose each other today.

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Being married is a good thing. It’s a hard thing. But it’s a good thing.

We’re now catching up on life and getting ready to spend some time with our dearest friends. It might be next week before I am around these parts again.

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All I Wanted

PTS | All I Wanted

 

All I wanted for Mother’s Day was to go camping.

This was my twelfth Mother’s Day. And after all these years, I know myself and my family very well. I have no need of breakfast in bed (seems silly when I wake hours before everyone else!) I don’t need to be showered with gifts (we have far too much stuff as it is). I don’t need a fancy Sunday lunch (we had our favorite New York Style pizza because it’s what we all love).

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All I wanted for Mother’s Day was to be with my family, doing what we love best: camping.

Back in February, after returning from a camping trip to the Everglades, I wrote this:

LOVE camping…what I love about camping is that it strips all the extra stuff away. I don’t worry about doing laundry. I don’t worry about cleaning up. I don’t worry about checking email. I don’t put on makeup and I often don’t even bother changing clothes. When all of those little tasks are taken away, you are just left with time. Time to read, time to play, time to sleep, and time to talk. We did all of those things.

Yep, it’s all I wanted.

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Camping takes all the things I love best and throws them together:

family time
being offline
taking pictures
watching my kids play
lazy schedules
simple but yummy meals
playing outside
being in God’s creation
time to snuggle and read
hiking
warm fires in the cool breeze
seeing kids explore and imagine

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We left after church on Sunday and stayed two nights. Staying fairly local (a state recreation area just 45 minutes from home) meant more time to play and less time to drive. It was perfect. The kids played and explored. They founds bugs and lizards and a turtle. We swam in the lake and hiked for miles. We watched a blue heron who visited a number of times. The kids got dirty, sandy, and sweaty. I couldn’t have asked for a better Mother’s Day Gift (though the dozens of post-it notes with all the reasons they love me covering our dining table on Sunday morning comes pretty close!)

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I’m thankful for these twelve years of being a mama and all the joy these kids bring to my life.

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We Have the Time

PTS | We Have The Time

I remember the stress and frustration clearly.

Baby number five was a few months old and the stress scales began to tip. My mental to-do list and want-to-do list far surpassed the hours on the clock.

I climbed into the shower, wishing fervently that no child would notice I had escaped for a much needed respite from the dirt — physical and metaphorical — of motherhood.

I prayed in earnest,

“Oh Lord! I just need more time. If only I had time, I could do so much!”

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That might have been my first heart-wrenching plea for more minutes in my hour, but it was far from the last.

“If only I had more time!” 

My dreamer idealist heart screams at the universe for its ritualistic passage of the minutes, hours, days, months, and years.

“Oh that box of photos? I have been meaning to deal with those. I just haven’t had the time.”

Sitting down and reading with the little ones is so important; I just wish there was time for it.”

“I really wanted to take that family a meal, but I ran out of time.”

“Those books that have been brewing in my heart for so long would be written if only I had more time.”

And then the self-sympathy tries to help.

“There will be more time later.”

“When the kids are older, you will write.”

“If you get more rest, you’ll have the time to do that tomorrow.”

“If you could just structure your time better, think of all you could accomplish!”

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I then pick myself up, feeling encouraged and hopeful that the time that always seems to be missing will be found somewhere with the missing socks and pens.

But the frustration quickly finds it’s way to its usual place, and back on the carousel I go.

But then…

My eyes fall to wise words, words from a woman who all too well knows the pressures of motherhood, suffering, servanthood,  and ministry.


Frustration is not the will of God. Of that we can be quite certain. There is time to do anything and everything that God wants us to do. Obedience fits smoothly into His given framework. 

Elisabeth Elliot, Discipline | The Glad Surrender


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Time. To. Do. Anything. And everything.

Impossible, I think. Save for the caveat:

“…that God wants us to do.”

And there it is: the key to unleashing the frustration and endless chasing after minutes.

We have the time; we must pray for the discernment.

1000 Miles

©janetphillips_may7_2014_web-12A year ago today, I arrived back in the United States with six kids (Jason stayed for another month). Before leaving Indonesia, I completed the last of the 1000 miles I set out to walk/run during our year. You can read more about that journey HERE.

As I think over the past year, with all of its joys and struggles, I am aware of how much my quest to cover 1000 miles was part of God equipping my mind and spirit for what was to come.

This past year, I believe, will stand out in my mind always as a year that shaped me. Through the deep pain and the deep gladness, I have learned to lean deep into the Lord and into who He made me. Never have I felt such a struggle between God’s purposes and the world’s, between my will and the will of my Father, and between the pull to life on earth and life in eternity.

This past year, I have learned about my deep selfishness and God’s deep grace. I have become more convinced of  a deep need to work and a deep need to rest. I have experienced God’s serious expectations of obedience as well as His deep grace in freedom.

I have grieved deeply for the piece of my heart left in Indonesia (reverse culture shock was far more arduous than I was prepared for.)

I have tasted the goodness and blessing of an amazing church family and have learned what the body of Christ truly looks like.

I have looked expectantly to the future, of a life using our unique gifts to give the great gift of God’s Word to others.

My 1000 mile journey, I am convinced, set the stage for the next 365 days. The lessons I learned over the miles were lessons God knew I would need.

  • I learned to persevere, even in the face of illness, fatigue, and bad cases of the I-don’t-want-to’s.
  • I learned rest isn’t optional, it’s essential.
  • I learned to use the downhills to my advantage and give myself grace on the uphill.
  • I learned that speed is far less important than tenacity.
  • I learned that sometimes, it’s better to just stop and enjoy the sunrise.
  • I learned that I am capable of far more than I think I am.
  • I learned that the choices I make affect the choices of others.
  • I learned that consistency is the catalyst for success.
  • I learned that the key to strength is to be torn down in order to be rebuilt stronger.
  • I learned that our future is always dependent on the choices we make today.
  • I learned that a specific goal is far more beneficial than an ambiguous desire.
  • I learned a little each day accrues faster than inconsistent bouts of determination.

God used my desire to “do hard things” to prepare me for what was to come. He knew what I would need in order to accomplish His will.

1000 miles prepared me for a much more important journey.

 

 

 

Preparing the Soil | April 30 2015

Consider

Preparing the Soil | April 30 2015

Only fear the Lord and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you. (1 Samuel 12:24)


CONSIDER: to think carefully about something, typically before making a decision;
to think about and be drawn toward a course of action


We make hundreds of decisions a day. Some big. Some small. In making these decisions we consider — sometimes at length, sometimes instantaneously — our feelings, our desires, our cravings, our laziness, our ambitions, and our values.  But what does God tell us to consider?

This morning, as I was tempted to worry again about all that needed to be accomplished, all the unanswered questions that fill my mind, all the feelings of guilt and inadequacy that plague me and weigh me down to the point of inaction, He reminded me:

“…Consider what great things He has done for you.”

Oh yes. That. What great things He has done! When I stop to consider and to reflect, the floodgates of memory open wide and I am overcome with His goodness. His grace. His patience. He has cared for me in the past. He will care for me in the future. He is caring for me now. He is caring for me in the joyful moments and He is caring for me in the pain (emotional and physical).

Our God is a God of memories. Through all of Scripture, God asks us to remember, to consider what great things He has done. The psalmists reflect and it comforts them. The Israelites set up stones of remembrance. The story of the exodus was told over and over so that those who couldn’t remember would remember. The passover was to be celebrated each year so God’s people would remember their great deliverance. We go to the communion table to remember what great things Christ has done for us.

As I go about my day today, I want to consider. Before making a decision — a decision to worry, a decision to be impatient, a decision to bow down to the god of my feelings — I want to consider God’s goodness: past, present, and future.

He has done great things for me. I choose to consider them.

 

 

And Then There is Today

©janetphillips_april27_2015_postimageThose who know me have heard me speak of “yellow bus days.” Those are the days I dream of a big yellow bus to take my kids far, far away. I admit to daydreams of a life where the kids are gone for seven plus hours a day. Think of all I could accomplish! I could clean and there would be no one to reverse my work. I could have a cup of coffee without having to microwave it three times before finding the bottom. I could shower on a regular basis and not have to answer math questions from behind the curtain. Oh, to dream!

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Homeschooling is hard. The educational component of it alone is enough to send prayers for the yellow bus. When your child’s academic progress and future depends mostly on you, the guilt flows freely. When you have to listen to struggling readers stumble over the same words again and again, the stress builds quickly. When you realize that no matter how many times you explain squares and cubes, the child will always say that 42=8, the feelings of defeat mount fiercely.

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Beyond the academics, homeschooling is still hard. The kids are home all day. They mess up far more quickly than you can clean up. While you read with the first grader, the toddler is pulling DVDs off the shelf. When you are doing grammar with the sixth grader, the third grader has slipped out to the trampoline, multiplication tables long abandoned. When you are snuggling and reading stories to the four year old, the fifth grader can’t find any of his work and therefore asks if he can go out to play instead.

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Yes, it’s hard. It’s really hard. And I have many yellow bus days. But then I have a day like today.

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A day when we laugh through group work because words like Hawaii and Oxygen can be said in all sorts of silly ways.

A day when wet rags are thrown and giggles abound during chores.

A day when KLove blasts in the kitchen and the kids discuss their favorite artists.

A day when the kids decide school is much more fun in the camper and they set up a home and pretend its an RV while they do their math.

A day when the big kids play with the little kids and the love just oozes from everywhere.

A day when the little ones splash and giggle in the bath and beg me to take pictures of their funny faces.

A day when we have a scavenger hunt in the afternoon and the bigs are paired with the littles and the tender moments threaten to make my mama heart burst.

A day when we can enjoy silly food during an indoor campout and the kids munch on “acorns” and “bear poop” and wash it down with “river water” and “bug juice.”

A day when I am cleaning in the kitchen and I hear wails of laughter as the kids have their first encounter with The Little Rascals.

A day when they don’t want the fun and togetherness to end and they drag their stuffed animals and sleeping bags to the camper and end their day chatting past their bedtime with their favorite people.

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Yes. There are yellow bus days. And then there is today.

One More

©janetphillips_april17_2015_web-11Having six children isn’t always easy. I am not sure it is ever easy. When people glibly say, “Oh, what’s one more?” I often want to…well…punch them in the face (kindly, of course).

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What’s one more? One more is eighteen years of caring for a person, a real person, a person with needs, feelings, desires, struggles, quirks, and dreams. One more means two to three more years of diapers. One more means another load of laundry, another set of dishes, another set of clothes to buy. One more means hours upon hours of training and guiding. It means another story at bedtime, another bath to give, another mischief maker squirting toothpaste all over themselves (oh, wait, that was the four year old).

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One more means another seat in the car, another place at the table, another bed to be slept in. It means another few years of phonics training, another year of memorizing multiplication tables, and another year of of preschool songs getting stuck in your head. One more means hearing mom an infinite number of times more a day (did you know that you could add to infinity? I didn’t until I had six kids who all feel the need to start each and every sentence with the word “mom.”)

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But over the last two years, I have learned yet again, that one more also means more hugs, more snuggles, more kisses. It means another person thinking you hung the moon. It means another little heart truly believing your kisses make the pain go away and the tears replaced by a smile show you, too, that there is magic in those kisses.

One more means watching the facets of God’s character displayed in new and amazing ways. It means having your heart bust with pride over first steps, first words, and first sentences. It means more dreams for the future, more memories to be made, and more love to be given and received.

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Most of all, though, when you look at that “one more” and your heart beats so hard as the love literally pumps through your very soul, you get one more chance to learn what the Father’s love is like for you.

Being a parent is a gift from the Lord. In allowing us to love this deeply, He offers us the opportunity to grasp in the tangible a glimpse into the deep love He has for us. The love we have for our children cannot compare with the breath and depth of God’s deep love for us. One more allows me to experience that again, to know a love beyond words, a loyalty fierce.

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This little man, my one more, is a gift beyond words.  A better understanding of God’s great love is worth the one more spilled milk, the one more round of the stomach bug, the one more birthday to plan, the one more lullaby to sing, the one more mess to clean up.

Why Did You Want to be a Mama?

Preparing the Soil | 4-24-15We sat on the couch together, snuggled in close. I was trying to keep her quiet as we sat in our weekly homegroup, the meeting continuing well past her four-year-old bedtime.

“Just a few more minutes, honey, and we’ll be done. I need you to be quiet.”

She switched positions once again, the movement giving her something to do. Then out of nowhere, she whispered, “Why did you want to be a mama?”

Most things that come out of her mouth prove to us her mind is far beyond her years, but this one I was not ready for.

What kind of answer is there?

I thought about my life as a mama. I thought of the laundry, the endless dishes, the sibling squabbles, the broken cups, the messy rooms, the constant noise. I thought about the number of times I have to say, “You’re being far too loud” and ” No, I can’t do that for you right now. You’ll have to wait.” I remembered earlier that morning, over and over again saying, “You need to do your schoolwork and then you can play.”

Was all this why I wanted to be a mama? Was this the reason on that February evening my freshman year of college I chose life for myself in order to hold onto the hope of a family?

No. Dishes and cleaning and laundry and refereeing were certainly not why I wanted to be a mama. They are part of the job, for sure. But they are the what, not the why.

Preparing the Soil | 4-24-15_4 Why did I want to be a mama? My thoughts wandered. What a question!

I guess I wanted to be a mama because I wanted someone to love. I had so much love to give and nowhere to give it. I wanted an outlet for the intensity of emotion I felt within.

More than that, though, I wanted to be a mama because I longed for a child to know they were loved, that they were delighted in.  I wanted them to be seen for who God made them and for them to know that in seeing the real them, they were cherished.

And it’s not just why DID I want to be a mama but also, why DO I want to be a mama? I don’t want the desire to be past tense, but past, present, and future.

I want to be a mama so that my kids know that even in this harsh world that will be filled with hurt, sadness, brokenness, and sin that they have someone who sees them, delights in them, cherishes them. I want them to know that facets of God’s character shine from within them and it is their joy and privilege to let that reflection shine bright.

I want to be a mama so my kids know there is always someone who is for them, who believes in them, who sees their eternal worth and significance.

I want to be a mama in order to see up close the beauty of God’s image bearers displaying to the world the glory of God.

I want to be a mama because I want to be part of God’s great work. And these kids, they are God’s great work. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10).

Preparing the Soil | 4-24-15_5I want to be a mama so that I can see the incredible transformation as God molds these children and shapes them into who He created them to be. He graciously has allowed me to play a part in that transformation and I want to do it with my whole heart.

My children’s young minds can’t yet grasp the seemingly abstract notion of a God who loves them eternally and completely, a God who sees their infinite worth, a God who delights in them and cherishes them with a life-giving, sacrificial love, and so I want to be a mama in order to stand in for God with something tangible that my kids can see, hear, and touch. I want to be a mama so I can stand in the gap and I can say to them as Paul said to the Corinthians, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

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I don’t do it perfectly. Not even close. But I can’t stop because of my lack of perfection. I have to have faith that as I stand in the physical gap for God, He will stand in the gap for me. I am broken, but He is perfect. “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)

God will do the work in my children’s hearts, minds, and lives, but He allows me to be a part of it. He will take this broken vessel and shine HIs light through it.

And so today, as I do the what of motherhood — the dishes, laundry, and refereeing — I want to remember the why.

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Just Like His Daddy

Nine. 

Seriously, how could he be nine?

Our sweet Levi Sebastian was born in Penang, Malaysia, and welcomed home at two days old to a dorm full of international students and two very young siblings (Alaina had just turned three and Caleb was not yet two).

It’s hard to put into words this little guy. He has been amazing from the moment he was born. He is sweet, funny, sensitive, loves to laugh, goofy, and full of sweet cuddles. He has never gone through a hard stage (in fact, a few years ago, we were at the zoo and he disobeyed me and I told Jason we should take him to the doctor because it was that far out of character for him).

I think the reason I am so smitten with him is he is just like his daddy. He is Jason in a little boy’s body. They are so similar that I can fully imagine what Jason was like as a child. The two were cut from the same cloth.

I am so thankful for his tender heart. I love the way he loves to play with his younger siblings. I love to watch him love to cook and take pictures (so I guess he got a few things from me!)  He loves to play any and all sports and he loves to joke around. He likes games of any kind and he loves puzzles (just like his dad).

To my sweet Levi Sebastian..I love you far more than words could ever express. You are such a joy in our lives and I look forward to seeing the man you will become. If you really are like your dad, I know you’ll be an amazing man and an incredible husband and father.

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