Happy 20th Babe!!

Dear Jamie,

Our trip to Disney World and Vero Beach this past week where we celebrated our 20th Wedding Anniversary turned out to be a trip like none other. Getting away and spending quality time together was something we both needed.

The theme parks, the resorts, the beach, and all of the fine dining restaurants made our trip memorable.

With God’s mercy and grace, we have accomplished so much over the last 19 years. We have accomplished way more than I ever imagined we would be able to. I recently found a paper I wrote about 13 years ago when I was in college. My assignment was to introduce myself and to tell about my future aspirations and goals.

In that paper, I listed that my dreams and goals for the future were to own a farm with horses so kids could come and have an outlet and to have a house large enough so we could become foster parents one day. I didn’t even remember writing that paper or putting those things as my dreams! I guess life just got busy for a few years after college as I was raising our babies and teaching. But, I am so thankful God remembered. Not only did He not forget, but He also made those dreams that I had forgotten or maybe just put on the back burner come to fruition. He worked on your heart along the way, too. He put us both on the same page in His timing. Isn’t that amazing?

There have been wonderful times, sad times, and bumpy times along the way. But, God has seen us through them all. He has held our hand as we have welcomed each baby, toddler, or child into our family. He has helped us keep breathing during births with complications and challenging foster care cases. He continues to give us hope as we trust Him on our journey.

He keeps us strong as He helps us raise all of these kids He’s given us. I think it’s easy to say our days are never boring and are always somewhat chaotic; however, it’s also very easy to say that we are so blessed! You will always be my greatest adventure!

I’ll love you forever and some more. You have always been my biggest encourager. Thanks for celebrating 20 years with me this past week!! I can’t wait to celebrate 20 more!

Love Always,

Amanda ❤️

1 Corinthians 16:14 – Let all your things be done with charity.

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Happy 6th Birthday AJ

Dear Abel,

It’s hard to believe you are already 6 years old. I’m pretty sure I start every birthday letter with words very similar to those. The years just pass by so quickly.

You have grown so much this year. You still have the cutest grin and the biggest blue eyes. You make me smile many times each and every day.

The Lord has worked so many miracles in your life this past year. He healed your lungs and you learned how to drink thin liquids without aspirating! That’s such a big deal for you and truly a miracle from the Lord. After all of the surgeries, medical tests, and specialist appointments you have endured over the years, I definitely feel like you are finally free from all of those things! I am almost positive that the last surgery that you will need was most likely this summer.

You have the most tender heart and have such a strong desire to do what’s right. We loved watching you be a part of a football team this year. Seeing you run the ball and pull those flags brought so much joy to our lives.

I hope you loved your new Spider-Man bike. You are slowly learning how to ride without training wheels. Jayce was so excited when he saw you riding all on your own!

You are so special sweet boy. Thanks for loving all of us so well. We will love you forever and a day.

Love Always,

Mommy

Abel’s Birthday Interview

How old are you? 6

What is your favorite food? pizza

What do you hope you never have to eat again? hot dogs

What is your favorite thing to do? play

What is your favorite animal? donkeys

What makes you happy? puppies

What is the best memory from when you were 5? going to the beach

What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 6? go see dinosaurs

What would you like to be when you grow up? Stitch

What is your favorite song? Jesus Loves Me

Where is your favorite place to eat? McDonalds

What is your favorite book? books about snakes

Where would you like to go on vacation? Bald Head Island

What would you like the world to know? I don’t know.

Jeremiah 14:17 – Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for thou art my praise.

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Happy 12th Birthday, James

Dear James,

Happy Birthday, buddy! It’s difficult to come to terms with the fact that you will be thirteen in less than 365 days! I will have three teenagers in the house oh so soon.

You are growing up quickly. I know you can’t wait until you are an official teenager. You’ve been begging for your own phone for years. But, you know you have to at least be 13 before that can happen.

I’m so proud of how much you have matured this past year. You have overcame so many fears. You are once again enjoying singing in the choir at church. There was a time you felt like singing just wasn’t going to be your thing. I’m proud of you for trying it again.

On vacation, you swam in the ocean like a champ. I really couldn’t believe how well you swam under all of those waves. You had a blast every single day while we were at Bald Head Island.

You have also recently found a new hobby. You have battled in airsoft games with your friends and siblings. I love hearing you tell me how much you have enjoyed being around your friends once again.

One of the biggest steps you took this year is how you willingly took your COVID vaccine after you watched your great-grandpa pass away due to COVID complications. I’m so proud of you for taking such a big step and making such an important decision in your own life. I heard you pray many times in 2020 for COVID to leave.

I know you will feel safer traveling to Wyoming with Neannie, Pawpaw, and Jacob. I know you feel relieved to finally be out and about again. We all do! I hope your trip goes so well for all of you.

Happy Birthday once again sweet boy! I had a blast celebrating with you with a Star Wars themed party. It was a blast! Stay strong in the Lord this year, and He will direct your paths.

Love Always,

Mommy 💙

James’s Birthday Interview

How old are you? 12
What is your favorite food? Sushi
What do you hope you never have to eat again? heath candy bars
What is your favorite thing to do? travel
What is your favorite animal? wolf
What makes you happy? seeing wildlife
What is the best memory from when you were 11? going to Bald Head Island
What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 12? help with wildlife rehabilitation
What would you like to be when you grow up? Wildlife rehabilitator
What is your favorite song? Help is on the Way by TobyMac
Where is your favorite place to eat? Mexican
What is your favorite book? Magic Tree House books
Where would you like to go on vacation? Alaska

Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

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Happy 7th Birthday to a Sweet Boy!!

Dear Jayce,

You are such a sweet little boy. You brighten my days. I can’t believe you are already seven years old.

I will never forget May 6, 2014. God showed me that day that He has a great purpose for both of our lives. His love for us is amazing!

I am so thankful that I have gotten to witness the last 7 years with you! I know this year is going to be a great one because you celebrate each day to the fullest. You are my little cowboy who loves to farm.

You are so energetic and full of life. You have so much love to give. Your hugs and kisses are like no other.

I had the best time celebrating your big day with you at Bald Head Island. We all wanted to make sure your day was special, and we spoiled you to the max. We wouldn’t want it any other way.

I love you sweet boy and always will! Stay kind and you will go far.

Love Always,

Mommy 💙

1 Corinthians 13:13 – And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Jayce’s Birthday Interview

How old are you? 7
What is your favorite food? plain cheeseburger
What do you hope you never have to eat again? tomatoes
What is your favorite thing to do? play outside
What is your favorite animal? goats
What makes you happy? seeing Mommy
What is the best memory from when you were 6? going to the beach
What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 7? play with Rachel
What would you like to be when you grow up? an artist
What is your favorite song? Raise a Hallelujah
Where is your favorite place to eat? Chick-fil-A
What is your favorite book? books about goats
Where would you like to go on vacation? the beach What do you want the whole world to know? God loves you.

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Happy 17th!!

Dear Jacob,

I lose my breath often when I think about having less than 365 days until you are 18! Watching you grow up has came with great blessings, but realizing that it won’t be long until you achieve adult status makes this mama a little sad at times.

I don’t ever want to think of the day that you won’t be here on the farm raising your chickens and ducks, fishing at the pond, or making fishing baits for others. You are always willing to help out whether it is building with your dad or fixing my hair when I feel too weak to do it myself. You are the best!!

You are so smart and are exactly how I imagined you would be at this age. You are using your talents to be productive and help others along the way. I’m so proud of you!!

Please help me slow this year way down because we both know that 18 is just around the corner. Year sixteen left just as quickly as all of the others have. No matter how fast each year comes and goes, you will always be my first born and my baby!

I love you more than words can describe! I hope 17 is your best year yet! Stay strong in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.

Love Always,

Mommy

Proverbs 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Jacob’s Birthday Interview:

How old are you? 17
What is your favorite food? seafood
What do you hope you never have to eat again? I like everything.
What is your favorite thing to do? raise chickens and ducks
What is your favorite animal? Bantam Chickens
What makes you happy? Taking care of my animals
What is the best memory from when you were 16? Hanging out with friends
What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 17? Have a successful homestead
What would you like to be when you grow up? A farmer
What is your favorite song? Any Christian song
Where is your favorite place to eat? Little’s
What is your favorite book? The Fishing Chronicles by Lane Walker
Where would you like to go on vacation? Wyoming. What do you want the whole world to know? Life is a lot simpler when you farm.

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Happy 9th Birthday, Jayla

Dear Jayla,

It’s hard to believe you are already 9 years old. I think I type something similar every single year as I write your birthday letter because time is not slowing down even though we wish it would every now and then.

You always tell me that you aren’t growing up, and you aren’t leaving home because you want to stay with me forever. I’m starting to believe the second part since you still sleep snuggled up beside little Lucy and me every single night.

You say it’s my fault that you don’t want to sleep in your own bed because I’m the one who put you in my bed the day you came home from the NICU. I guess you do have a point.

All of your siblings accuse you of being my favorite because you are always close by my side. You never want to be too far away, and even though I don’t play favorites, I’m thankful you love me so well.

I’m sure there will be a day when you spread your wings and fly on your own. But, right now, I’m soaking up every minute I have with you. You know how to love in a fierce way. We’ve been through a lot these past few months with losing Papaw Paul and Grandma P., but the sadness has brought us closer. I’m thankful we have each other to lean on. I love you so much sweet girl.

Love Always,

Mommy 💕

Psalm 4:8 – I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.

Birthday Interview:

How old are you? 9
What is your favorite food? Tacos
What do you hope you never have to eat again? Pickles
What is your favorite thing to do? Ride horses
What is your favorite animal? Dog
What makes you happy? Mommy and Daddy and my family
What is the best memory from when you were 8? Spending time with Mommy
What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 9? Hike to the top of Molly’s Knob
What would you like to be when you grow up? A doctor
What is your favorite song? Love Broke Thru by Toby Mac
Where is your favorite place to eat? Taco Bell
What is your favorite book? To Kill a Mockingbird
Where would you like to go on vacation? Disney What do you want the whole world to know? The Lord loves you.

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Life is Hard, but God is Good

Dear Grandma,

I knew this day would come, but I’m not prepared. Even though I’ve wondered when this day would get here every day for the past several years, I’m still not ready. I’m not ready to say goodbye. I’m not ready today. I won’t be ready tomorrow or the day after that. We don’t know when God will take you, but we know, it’s not going to be much longer.

We have all watched your health decline and your mind slowly leave. You look peaceful right now lying beside me. But, I hear you slowly slipping away. I’ve been holding on to hope that you will open your eyes, look at me, and say my name. As much as I want to hear it one last time, I haven’t heard you say Amanda in several years. You are just tired. You have fought so long. And, boy, have you put up a fight!

I have told dementia that it is not my friend so many times. I even wrote a blog post about it once. This disease has robbed us of so many years with you. We don’t understand why. The only response that we have is God is still good.

We know your pain and suffering has to be for His glory. He has used it as recently as tonight to show me areas that I really need to work on in my life. He has a way of turning really tough situations into something to be used to point others to Him. I’m so thankful for that.

I love you. I am so grateful that I have had you in my life for so long. In my eyes, you are still such a young grandma. When I was in middle school, I used to brag to my friends that my grandma was the same age as some of their parents.

That’s why it’s so hard right now. You still have years left to live. Your mind was taken from you way too young. I know I have to stop focusing on that. My kids are afraid. They are afraid their grandparents, their mom and dad, and even when the time comes, they might suffer with dementia and Alzheimer’s one day.

We all know we shouldn’t live in fear, but watching you decline from this horrible disease, has changed us. It has created a whole new thought process. It has made all of us think, “What if it does happen? or “If it does happen, how early will it come?”

These thoughts make me cry out to God and ask him to have mercy on all of us. We do not want to have to suffer the way you have unless it’s His perfect plan. We don’t want our family members to see us suffer the same way you have had to.

We don’t know God’s plans. And, honestly, that scares me and punches me in the stomach more times than I care to admit. What are we going to face in the years to come? Can we handle what is ahead of us?

The answer is simple. Yes. We are all going to be okay. No matter the outcome. No matter what He has chosen for us. Even if dementia or Alzheimer’s is in our future, He will continue to give us grace. He has given us so much grace and mercy this entire decade with you as you have declined. And, even through the fear, watching you suffer has taught my kids how to really love. You have taught them how to take care of others and how to be selfless. Thank you, Grandma!

Just today, I was able to smile at some of the things that happened a several years ago as your mind began to change. I smiled at the time you fed the fish every few minutes because you couldn’t remember you had just fed it. I chuckled at the time you gave the cat a plate full of pretzels because you thought it was cat food. I also smiled thinking about the day the kids got you on their horse! I didn’t know how in the world I was going to get you back down. I’ve smiled because if I don’t I will not stop crying.

You are my last grandparent. This chapter in my life will most likely close sooner rather than later. That’s a tough pill to swallow. We lost your mama just a little over a year ago and Papaw Paul just a month ago. Grandma Yvonne has been gone almost seven years now, and Papaw Pennington since 2002. That’s so hard to believe! You have missed him so much. The pain was almost too much for you.

Growing up, I never even gave a second thought to the day you all would leave me. I’m glad we didn’t understand how difficult these days would be when we were little. If we understood how badly these days would hurt, we wouldn’t have been able to breath. We wouldn’t have been able to live. We wouldn’t have been able to enjoy each day we spent with you. We wouldn’t have been able to laugh as we explored the woods behind your house, we wouldn’t have sang to the top of our lungs as we traveled to the beach every single year, we wouldn’t have participated in backyard baseball, kickball, or badminton, and we wouldn’t have celebrated each holiday to the fullest! Those holidays always brought all the fried chicken and mashed potatoes anyone could ask for! You loved to cook for your family. I have missed that so much these last ten years. I have missed you!!

Sometimes in life, we focus on the negative things of the past. But, God has a way of making those memories disappear, and He allows us to focus on all the really good times we had! He opens our eyes to how wonderful our lives really were. How wonderful they still are. He shows us the truth.

I’m thankful I’m learning how to breathe through all the hurt. I’m learning how to accept God’s love and His plan. I’m learning how to be molded for His glory. God has used your sickness to show me how important it is to trust Him.

There is one thing for sure, this life is not getting any easier. I know as the days go by, it’s just going to get more difficult. But, God is good even though this life is hard. I can’t wait until you get to see Jesus not because I’m not going to miss you, not because I’m ready, and not because it’s going to be easy to say goodbye. It’s because I can’t wait for you to be free again. I long for you to be whole again! I know you are so ready. I love you, Grandma!! 💕 I love you so much!! And, I know you love all of us, too.

Love Always,

Amanda 💕

Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

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Happy 4th Birthday!

Hey Sweet Boy,

It’s hard to believe you just turned 4!! The day before your birthday, you were so excited that the next day you were going to be turning four years old. You kept saying, “One more sleep until it’s my birthday!”

You are so cute! You keep all of us on our toes each day with your mischievous ways, but we wouldn’t want it any other way. You are smart, funny, and always finding an adventure to carry out as you play.

You love exploring the farm and digging in the dirt. You love chasing chickens and feeding the sheep with Jaden. You would play outside all day long no matter the weather if you could.

We had so much fun celebrating your birthday! If God chooses, we hope to celebrate many more birthdays with you. We love you more than anything! We hope this year is this best one yet! We will love you always and forever!

❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

Birthday Interview:

How old are you? 4
What is your favorite food? cake
What do you hope you never have to eat again? salad
What is your favorite thing to do? pop balloons up in the air
What is your favorite animal? elephants and sheep
What makes you happy? Mommy makes me happy.
What is the best memory from when you were 3? Going to McDonalds
What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 4? eat French toast and waffles
What would you like to be when you grow up? work with Daddy at his work
What is your favorite song? Baby Shark
Where is your favorite place to eat? McDonalds
What is your favorite book? the book about oceans
Where would you like to go on vacation? to the beach
What would you like the world to know? “Me love to go to McDonald’s” 😜

Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

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Happy 11th Birthday

Dear Abagail,

Happy 11th birthday, girl! I can’t believe you are already 11 years old. Time is definitely going by way too quickly. It’s hard to imagine that over five years have passed since we first got to meet you! Your reserved yet somewhat strong personality helped you stand out in the crowd. You were quiet until you needed to let others know exactly how you were feeling!

That’s why we love you so much. In 2018, two years after we met, we got to scoop you up and bring you home with us. And boy did you let your voice be heard! You started to work through all your hurt and pain, you stomped your foot a few times, and you began your healing process.

We are so so proud of how much you have grown. After your adoption last year, you finally learned how to take deep breaths, and you have learned how to let go and live your life to the fullest. I’m so thankful you have trusted God to help you navigate the ups and downs each and every day.

Your life has not been an easy one to navigate. But, we will continue to be here with you every step of the way. We love you and are so excited to celebrate number 11 with you. We would be completely lost without you. We love you more than unicorns and bunnies. Keep smiling and keep showing this world how strong you are!

Love Always,

Mommy ❤️

Ephesians 6:10 – Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.

Abby’s Birthday Interview:

How old are you? 11
What is your favorite food? Lasagna
What do you hope you never eat again? Hotdogs What is your favorite thing to do? Play with Buttercup my bunny
What is your favorite animal? Bunnies
What makes you happy? My family
What is the best memory from when you were 10? Going to Bald Head Island with Neannie and Pawpaw and the TobyMac concert
What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 11? Go to Disney
What would you like to be when you grow up? Hairstylist
What is your favorite song? Backstreet Driver by TobyMAC
Where is your favorite place to eat? Taco Bell
What is your favorite book? A to Z Mysteries
Where would you like to go on vacation? Hawaii
What would you like the world to know? I have the greatest family in the world!

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One Last Letter

Dear Papaw,

When COVID first hit, I remember telling Jamie that I didn’t want our family to become a statistic because I didn’t know if I could handle our family looking different because of this virus.

Truth is, as of today, like so many other families right now, I no longer have a choice in the matter. You fought so hard, but your body finally said enough is enough. The good Lord took you home. He took you home to be reunited with Grandma, all of your siblings, other family members, and your many friends. We already miss you so much!

You taught me so many things in my forty years, but some of the most important ones are to always be kind, to smile often, to love like Jesus, to work hard and save every penny possible not just for myself but for others who may need it, to take time and visit the beach, and to enjoy every meal I can get. Grandma’s cooking couldn’t be compared to anyone else’s. We all learned to love food because of her. You both made sure we were always fed.

Thank you for always having your door open. I won’t ever forget picking beans and breaking them in the basement, swinging on the swing set in the back yard, picking apples, eating dip dogs and onion rings, and your neck rubs as I sat in your kitchen. I won’t ever forget you being here for football games, special occasions, your great-grandkids’ birthdays, and holidays.

The last time I entered your door was just a few days before Christmas. I will cherish that moment forever and so will all of the kids. I wish I would have opened your door more often in recent years. Sickness, being a mom to so many, and life in general seemed to get in the way too many times. But, thank you for always checking in on us and showing us how much you cared.

Not having the opportunity to open your door once more has came too quickly. While you were in the hospital, I was looking forward to the day I could run up your steps and through your door. I was counting down the days until I could see your smile and sit and talk with you about how God healed you. I was longing for you to finally make it back home. I always said that you were going to outlive us all. And, I truly believed it.

We both know that’s not going to happen. But, as I sit here, I can imagine how grand your heavenly home is. I might be just a little jealous. This old world seems to be crumbling around us.

Your strength and determination have taught me to keep going and never give up no matter what’s going on around us. Thank you for loving all of us so well. Thank you for teaching me so much and leading by example. I don’t ever remember a time in my life where you criticized me for anything I was doing. I could have used some criticism every now and then. You chose a different route: unconditional love. Your life always showed me how I needed to be living.

There was never any question whether you loved us or not. You simply showed it. I will miss our talks about your bowling scores, my kids, and all the times we reminisced about the past. Most of all, I will miss hearing you say, “I love you, too, sweetheart.” I long for just one more visit and just one more hug, but I know Heaven is too sweet to wish for you to be back here with us.

You really were the greatest grandpa! Enjoy your final destination and reward. You deserve it so much! It was an honor having you love me for forty years!

I love you, Papaw and can’t wait to see you soon. Life goes by so fast, so I know it won’t be much longer.

Love Always,

Amanda ❤️

Matthew 25:23 – His Lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

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