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Happy Birthday to Dessy

June 13, 1983 was this amazing day…

So, this may be the latest I have ever been in posting a birthday blog, but the added days have only made me ever more grateful for you, the day you were born and all the days since…

dessa at tea

I know, I know – I am always reminiscing about the days you kiddos were born and how those sacred, over-the-top-amazing moments changed my life forever. Maybe I see them through rose-colored glasses, but your arrivals were, to me, so monumental, so divinely, lightening-bolt powerful. Well, I mean they were like day six in the garden of Eden, the day God made man in His image. That’s a pretty big deal, I’d say.

And you own June, Tre-Tre. You own June days and purple irises and rose bushes in full bloom. You are the sound of cheering at church ball games and yellow layettes and a handmade diaper bag in dotted-swiss, Easter green, embroidered by Grandma with love. You are a hot summer and a headful of black hair with big, lacy barrettes that had plenty to hang on to. You are the baby girl who arrived to two of the sweetest, giggliest big sisters who mentioned you in their nightly prayers, calling you Twe-dessa-Christina (even though it should have been Tredessa Christine).

Dessa studio 818

You were born in to love, a mommy and daddy who were still newlyweds, madly in love with each other and church life and our three little girls and afternoons splashing in the backyard wading pool while the radio played, “Never gonna let you go...”

You just slipped in unobtrusively and cuddled into a little corner of our lives and hearts and then we were 5, our little tribe.  And 1983 is so special in my heart for your arrival. And June became a month I revere and romanticize for your birth. And you, my little mystery, were heaven-sent, without a doubt.

dessa and ryan

Happy Birthday to Tredessa Christine, my 3rd baby and the centerpiece of the little Rhoades familia.

Hey, Dessy-Pooh, you are an extraordinary woman, you are! I am still thanking God He sent you to us, He formed you and fashioned you in very interesting and distinct ways. You possess such strength, such deep-rooted fortitude, I’d put money on you over a tornado any day. Best of luck to the winds and waves that try to defy you, one who so deeply understands her place in God’s heart. They’d just as soon die down and whimper away than try to quench the fiery wall that is Dessa. Seriously.

Dessa and Eva right after birth

Intrigue and espionage, power and war

You, my sweet (hasn’t the whole family always known?), could run America with your brain and mighty valorous heart, the wisdom of God and your anointed insight! The FBI or the CIA would be in good hands with you at the helm, if you decided against a bid for the White House, that is. :)  I leave nothing outside the realm of possibility, for you, an Esther, a Rebekah, a Deborah, for sure – you are a viable leadership option for the healing of this nation in the hands of God. I for sure BELIVE that! Now if you can somehow miraculously do it without becoming a politician…

But that is the thing. You could and you will do amazing things in your life (because you have already started and accomplished so much), but your strength is that you are willing and always content to wait on God’s timing in your life, for your life.  So few of us have mastered that or want to. The vision that speaks of the end (Habakkuk 2.3): Give it to me now, we demand. But not you, Dessy, you wait with a twinkle in your eye, a knowing in your heart, a calm spirit and determination in your step.

“For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.” Hab. 2.2-3

And you have a wisdom beyond your years and haven’t you used it to challenge my imprisonments, to bring enlightenment and yes, even some correction to your ol’ momma? You have. I will answer that for you, you little booger.  ;)  And I take it from you.

But what else could I do from a daughter who has repeatedly, intentionally received the counsel of her mom and chosen to accept all God had for her through even me for her own life? I love that you know we were paired by God on purpose and that you have searched for the treasure in it, even when it has been hard to find at times! I appreciate you giving me credit for many of your wonderful attributes even though I know you far surpass me in most everything you put your hand to…perhaps just – everything!

I love that you still look for the things you can learn from me and call for baby advice when, like your sisters, you are a completely incredible mommy, so much smarter and better equipped at it than  I ever was, but still, you ask me, “What did you do when...” and “How did you handle..?” And the years roll back – back – back and I am in 1983 again and just so grateful to God for the blessing of you that June day you were presented to me from Creator and for the blessing of you now.

Dessa and Stormie

So, let me speak this blessing and prayer over you as we celebrate the day you came and the life you are leading, woman of God, devoted daughter, admirable human being:

God make you righteous and strong and able. May your Creator deal with you as He does with the Daughter of Zion in His Word. His patience and loving care for His people is sure and He considers it an affront to Himself when the enemy threatens His royal offspring. And so I remind Him daily to guard and protect you the same way.

May God bless you and watch over you and keep you.

I pray that not only will He see you and notice you and hear you, but that you will know He does. I pray that not only will He hear your prayers and hear your heart’s cry and answer you in days of trouble, but that you will never forget to call out to Him.

You are quiet and not given to voicing every little thing, but at the faintest whisper from your lips, I pray God is watching and will attend to you, as He promised. May He bless you, spirit, soul, body, in fruitfulness, mothering, love and marriage, may He bless you.

I pray that you will prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers. I bless you on the occasion of the celebration of your birth and life with the blessing of God and His watchfulness over you.

May God shine His face toward you and show you favor and great grace.

I know your light and life make God smile. They make me smile. So, I pray that the warmth and power of His outrageous love for you and Ryan and Evangeline and all the little Faalands-to-come will just radiate like fire in you, through you, around you and for you.

Write words that will change everything, Dess. Soak in the Word of God for all you’re worth and love it and live it and stand on it for your home and marriage and life and mommying and calling and walk worthy because you are {in Him}. Bring order to chaos,  spread numbers on sheets and make accounts whole and holy (those things you do so very well) . Speak out what God tells you because your words bring life to the lifeless, hope to the hopeless, and courage for the battle.

May God be favorably disposed towards you, and may He grant you peace.

I pray God just face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball gives you His absolute approval and you have the courage and grace to just receive it and soak it in. So that all those dreams you and Ryan have –  dreaming of ways you can support the things of the Kingdom, all the plans and aspirations that are bubbling up in both of you to change the world and make a place for the Presence – may you be courageous and bold and strong and take hold of them.

{Remember the little girl whose favorite worship song for many years was “Be bold, be strong, for the Lord thy God is with you! I am not afraid, I am not dismayed, for I’m walking in faith and victory, yes…”? I do! I believe her battle cry took root!}

And may you live in peace, peace with God and with man and may your household be a place of rest and joy, refreshment and grace.

Dessa, steampunk photo shoot for work

Beloved daughter, treasured friend~

I couldn’t have dreamed you up. You are beyond anything I could have asked for or even thought a daughter should be. You have been a delight since I first laid eyes on you in Kokomo 31 years ago. You’re a peacemaker, a thoughtful friend and an honoring daughter. May you receive and reap the full benefit of all you have given and sown to be so. I love you truly, madly, deeply, my darling daughter, my girl-child.  {With love from your oh-so-thankful mom}   

My Stephanie, on the day we celebrate your birth

“So we all love a wild girl keeping a hold

On a dream she wants.”    ~Carl Sandberg

stephanie is february

Oh, Stephanie, Happy Birthday…I am thinking of the day you came and all the days you have changed our lives…

I was browsing through your baby book and 1st year calendar, neither of which I kept well at all, I am sad to say.  But I saw enough to stir intoxicating memories of really treasured times in the early 80s with a little girl who won my heart as I reached through the small opening in your “incubator” and you wrapped your tiny fingers around my pinky.

Everything about your impending birth, from the life-and-church filled, busy days leading up to your almost 6-week early arrival to the months that followed were just amazing light-filled, Technicolor, fun, happy, frazzled and most cherished days.

You were born to one big sister and some young, energetic, wildly-in-love parents who were over the moon about every single part of the pregnancy and expectancy of you. Our Thursday night birth classes were highly romantic date nights to us. We’d drive home in a buzz, planning and dreaming, the radio playing Chicago or Air Supply!

It’s odd to think that when you were born, boy or girl? was still a surprise! That, coupled with your early arrival {which was a real surprise}, left us pretty unprepared for what was happening.  We thought maybe we’d have a boy and name you after your dad, or maybe name you Christopher Michael, or Tristan (yes, “Tristan” was a name on the short list).

So when the administrator came to ask your name, we were a bit befuddled.  We hadn’t much time to choose and so your name came, heaven-sent, I think now.

So it was Stephanie (“crowned one,” “victorious crown,” “crowned in victory”). Stephanie May (for the merry-merry month in which you so delightfully arrived). And from that moment, we were a household of children, multiples of babies and little girls and dolls and stuffed animals and chatter {oh, the chatter} and heart-warming conversations. You started a party, you and your sister, that was so much fun we could barely call a halt. stephanie fall 13

But you were so tiny, your lungs undeveloped…

And when I was too stupid to even understand how very grave the situation surrounding your entry was, when I should have insisted on going to Indianapolis in the life-ambulance with you back in the days before they knew what damage might be caused by ripping a baby from her  mommy minutes after birth and saying, “Stay put,” I am so glad God gave you to me and kept you safe.

I am so grateful there was no distance ever in my heart from my tiny, tiny girl-baby, with me at Howard Community in Kokomo, you at James Whitcomb Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis. I promise you, Stephie, I got there as fast as I could. My heart was beating with yours, my love never once let you go. There was much we didn’t know back then, but I know God went with you and He held you until I could.

It was years before I realized, after reading preemie studies, that as much as my empty arms were missing you in those first hours and days, as much as my longing was breaking my heart, you had to be wondering where I’d gone, too – the sound of my heart and my blood pulsing nearby… I am so glad they understand these things better now.

But you were always passionately burned into my heart and soul. I fought my first bloody battle with the enemy for you. For this child I prayed… I hope your tiny little center-of-being somehow knew it was so.

It was all a whirlwind after that. God healed your lungs – poof – breath of life into them.  You thrived, you developed, you healed so quickly it surprised the medical teams. But no wonder there: you were anticipated, received, welcomed, adored, sung to, kissed, snuggled and loved, all 4 pounds, 8 ounces of the baby we brought home just 12 days after being told it would be “months.” steph and tris xo Like a movie scene going fast forward on the DVR, I remember a wisp of a baby girl in a yellow carrier/car seat (so dangerous by todays standards I can’t even find a picture of one on Google). I can see a very small baby girl whose eyes would search the room, taking in details, cheeks full and kissable. A little night owl she was, from her earliest days. Like her daddy.

Mixed up days and nights, tiny appetite, staying tiny, wearing doll dresses…

The baby girl “catches” up to growth statistics at one and becomes a toddler in a teal-blue Martha Miniature dress, and at once her humor is notable, her conversations with Sunday School teachers get replayed for the awwwww-factor.

She giggles and sings. Oh my goodness, the singing! She falls asleep with a song and wakes up in melody…

Her hair, like silk, grows thick and shiny, her rosy cheeks and pink lips the stuff Hollywood pays big money to obtain. Laughter and utter hilarity reign nightly in the yellow room of three sisters on Armstrong Street. She chases and teases her big sister. Soon she is leading younger siblings about, teaching them everything she knows (which is a lot).

And there is a gentleness behind her eyes, a knowing, something deep taking place in the middle of a big, noisy familia.

She goes to school and becomes a thoughtful friend, a bright student, a girl who cares for issues and the earth and animals and other’s hearts and feelings.  People comment, “Stephanie is special,” I swell inside. “Stephanie is a rainbow, a multi-faceted, colorful girl.” “Oh, look at her,” I often heard when sharing photographs, “she is just beautiful.”

Years speed by and she is smack-dab in the middle of silliness and mayhem, but also close and soft-hearted {mystically sweet}, a hand-holder.

Her hair gets curly at puberty, just like her mommie’s  did and her humor becomes sharper, her wit more keenly developed. And while traditional, public school methods (not to mention home school) could not capture her brightest shine or contain her unique genius, it also could not dull the quantum creativity, the kaleidoscope of sparkling treasure and color emanating from her brilliant, astute and observant mind.

Girl becomes beauty becomes alluring becomes woman becomes Tristan’s fascinating wife and then a mommy herself.

steph with gemma And even still, Stephanie {my second-born and much-beloved daughter}, so accomplished and courageous, so influential and efficacious, stands at the youthful brink, just hitting her stride, just beginning to be all and do all she will, all for which she was created and healed to be and do.

Because the breath of life is so wholly, fully strong in her, the healing so complete – she will create Gardens of Edens, and place brilliant stars in night skies and build cities of ideas with long-awaited answers to mysteries. She will and she has and she is, already.

Oh my goodness, Stephanie. You are an amazing spring of crystal clarity and rich depth mixed with unstoppable determination. I sensed from the time you were very small that you thought deeply and felt keenly and understood beyond your years. You’re surely one of the smartest, most intelligent people I have ever met.steph and kids

And so I bless you, I bless your life…

I recognize and publicly receive the full beauty of God’s work in you, in your heart and life and teaching and leading and creating and informing and helping people. You were formed perfectly with great purpose and I just concur with the God of the Universe that what He has seen and planned and prepared for you is good and far-reaching. I recognize His iconoclastic call on you (to change the landscape for the better), His stamp of extreme approval and His delight in you and I thank Him for trusting me to be your mommy, then your mom, then a woman who admires and loves you deeply.

Like anyone else who is ever near you for even the shortest time, I have learned so much from you, received your grace and forgiveness so many times and been the joyful recipient of your humor and creativity, your thoughtful gifts {you’ve been especially gifted to give good gifts} and wealth of insight and knowledge on the world in general. I am so grateful to get to be near these things.

And so I bless you back and pray that all you have given comes back to you by the armfuls. I pray that the result of you helping hundreds, if not thousands of people toward renewed health returns to you in supernatural vitality and God-given strength (May the same power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead quicken and strengthen your mortal body, just as it did when you were born). I pray increased love and joy in your heart, total peace and  all the wisdom you need, when you need it. I pray you’ll prosper and find success in every area you put your hand to and continued favor from the God who sees.

Of all the things I ever gotten to be part of, of all the days God planned for me, of all the people in the universe to get to know, getting to be your mommy and know you now are the best things I can think of, more than I ever would have hoped or dreamed.

I love you, honey. Happy Birthday.


Happy Birthday, Stephanie-born-in-May

What do Broccoli Cheese Soup at the Big Wheel, birthing classes at Howard Community with the Loftises on Thursday nights, Princess Diana, a really ornery Tilt-a-Whirl operator at Indiana Beach Amusement Park (now fancily called a resort), the song “He Means More to Me Today Because of Yesterday” by the Sounds of Happyness, and a beautiful morning in May with the lilacs in full bloom have in common?

My Stephanie.  Second child, only preemie, the teeny-tiniest babe who caused faith to rise in my heart as I prayed to God for her in the dark night, me in the hospital in Kokomo – her fighting to breathe at James Whitcomb Riley Hospital in Indianapolis.  Thirty-one years ago.

If an old friend lets you down

And a true love can’t be found

Till the blue skies come around

I’ll be right by your side

You weren’t due until June, very late June, very-very late June.  But you came in May and it was beautiful and it was a surprise and it was meant to be.  And every May since, we are reminded of the blessing and miracle and joy and completion and maturity and faith you brought with you, and what it caused in us.

No don’t forget me now that we’re apart

Just open up that great big loving heart

And you’ll always be

You’ll always be

You’ll always be a part… of me…

The name.

As middle names go, May wasn’t even on “the list,” and was perhaps a little old-fashioned for the times.  But we named you Stephanie because of one our favorite actresses at the time (Stephanie Powers) and because one of my all-time greatest Bible heroes is Stephen (see Acts chapter 6).  And May was for the month, the merry merry month of May.  Because it was a magical, lovely time in our lives – all was right and beautiful and exciting and we anticipated your birth with great energy and expectancy. And yet, you were actually so unexpected on that Friday, 5 1/2 weeks before your “due date.”

Take your time to embrace romance

Teach your children how to sing and dance

Love may hurt but it’s worth the chance

I’ll be right by your side…

And haven’t you been so many unexpected things things since?  Haven’t you just always done and became and created and produced and added to and on and surprised and delighted and shined and sang and wrote and been successful and just grown up to be an unexpected bundle on wondrousness?  Haven’t you?  Yes, you have.

Try to be the best you can

Show compassion to every man

And always take the higher ground

I’ll be right by your side

Journey far and travel safe

Make this world a better place

And keep that smile upon your face

I’ll be right by your side…

I wasn’t perfect this I would admit

I was always trying to make the pieces fit

Just know you’ll always be

You’ll always be

You’ll always be a part of me…

You’re a trailblazer and  a trendsetter. The family looks at you to confirm cool because if it isn’t, you’ll be the first to know.  Your children are awed by you, your husband reveres you.  Your siblings recognize your gifts and your parents are pleased with how you turned out and in seeing God’s favor and blessing on your life.

And so I bring you the gift of these words and my prayers and wishes for you.  The theme is this: I believe in you.  And I hope you will open that gift with fearlessness and abandon, knowing you’ll always be a part of me, the best part of me.

 a birthday blessing for my daughter

Happy Birthday, Stephanie, amazing, blazing, sizzling daughter, strong woman and spirited girl.  Your life was ordained and has so much value.  I thank God for breathing into your lungs the breath of life, quickening your tiny mortal body 31 short years ago with the very power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead.  That healing will take you all the way to the end with great fire and presence.  Go get ’em, Steph! {love from your mom}

Don’t ask me how the time has gone

I’ve loved you since the minute you were born

So many times we have laughed and cried

I see you now it fills my heart with pride

You’ll always be

You’ll always be

You’ll always be a part… of me…*

*Pure Love, Rod Stewart


Happy Birthday, Stephanie May {our little preemie}!

Our second baby girl: ultra-tiny and way early.

I love you – yes, I do!  A  bushel and peck and a hug around the neck.  For almost your entire life, from such a young, young age, you’ve been a songstress, a singer, a psalmist.  You were the choreographing, twirling, flowing-fabric, scarf-dancing music track of the family ~ just skipping down the happy hallways of life.  Everything got a little more colorful and a little more ebullient when you came along.


Yes, I cropped Stormie (the other half of the trend-setting www.MayDae.com.  It Is not her birthday!  *smile

You were born to 

Heavy-with-flowers lilac bushes, your sister learning to wear “slip-slops” when she came to see you for the first time at the hospital,  purple irises lining established streets in Kokomo, a little charcoal gray house and a month with which you’re joined by name.   You were more than 5 weeks early and may have arrived because of a crazy carnival ride and took your first post-hospital nap atop an old pulpit in the corner of the fellowship hall while I taught a VBS class.  You were like a china doll, I was afraid to make noise.  We sewed and created and worked hard to prepare your space, we wanted everything to be just right –  and in that tiny pink and lace bassinet, you looked like a miniature. 

The rainbowgirl

God heals.  He is the Healer.  That is the blazing-across-the-skymessage of your life, Steph.  And the adversary gets no points in the battle for our baby girl.  With God’s blessing-kiss on the love between your dad and me, with your big sister praying to have a little sister all her own – you were sent.  But you know the enemy, he always tries to stop a miracle at its birth.  You live in the ranks of Moses, Jesus, even, with spiritual war- decrees against their very lives: Stop the miracle before it can begin to change the course of everything…

But God, who is faithful, healed you wholly and fully.  Breath.  That is what He gave you.  Unlike others who never had to struggle for air, you, like Adam, had to have a supernatural miracle of the very Ruach, the breath of God {the actual very Spirit of the Living God} breathed in to you.

And so, though I now see the miraculous in every day and can look back at the faithfulness of the One who created me and all the times He was saving me from myself and certain disaster, you were the very first miracle I ever really knew I needed.  And in the quiet, dark night following your birth, when your life hung precariously in a balance I didn’t even comprehend, when they’d taken you to James Whitcomb Riley Hospital in Indianapolis and you were not in my arms – I cried out for your life, and the Faithful One heard me and graciously granted my petition.

And though so much could have gone wrong, there could have been so many problems, later, He, by the driving force of His very breath in you, instilled so much color, so much texture and pattern and creativity and gifting and vivaciousness and animation.  His very Spirit filled your lungs and your heart and soul and personality and every rainbow has symbolized you since.

You are Rainbow Bear.  Always have been.  And it was confirmed by the laying on of hands more than once.  There is so much there.  May you always know in all things that you were created to declare in the heavenlies that God keeps His promise.

Happy Birthday, Stephanie.  I put some words together so you will know how & why I celebrate your birth and your life!

Happy Birthday, sweetie-pie.  With love from your momma

Happy Birthday, Jovanie!

See Jovan’s posts from last year here and here.


Happy 22nd Birthday, Jovan Marie Rhoades!  Happy birthday, o daughter who joined us later than the rest, by a covenant vow to the one son.  Happy day, Jovanie, careful and attentive mommy, devoted Rocky-lover.  Happy day and life to your gentle heart and creative spirit.  Thank-you for that world-lighting smile and for the easy laugh you share.  Thank-you for choosing our family.  Thank-you for knowing you were born to be a Rhoades and joining the ranks of the chattering as if you’d always been here.

Though from the time we met, it was always obvious you were sweet-spirited and kind, respectful and honoring (and loved Rocky like crazy!), who could have known what an amazing woman you would become?  Who could have divined that the same radiant girl who captured my son’s heart by her beauty, both inside and out, would also be such an amazing wife – watching over Rocky, staying close to him, living the adventure that is life with him?  And could we possibly have fathomed  what a loving, fully-devoted, and thoroughly enchanted-by-her-baby mother you would be?  You are doing it right, with Averi, Jovan!  You were born for this!


So, I wanted to give you these gifts, not wrapped in glittery paper or festooned with deliriously happy bows (although that imagery does make one think of you), but rather a snapshot of the things I am believing God for in your life, the prayers of my heart for you.  These are the gifts I pray you will open and receive on your birthday for the coming year:

  • I pray that you will go after understanding, wisdom and spiritual insight with all your might.  It is easy after, having been the baby of your growing-up family and then being the youngest in ours (your married-in-to family), to sort of let “the big kids” take charge and  maybe, at times, walk all over you.  And it is true, they are a couple of steps ahead in life and they have some things to share, but God has placed important things in your hands.  He has called you to a place of responsibility as a wife and a mommy and there is no one else who can take that place.  So get wisdom, sweet daughter!  I pray God will pour it out on you as you pursue Him for it! 
  • Fearlessness in the battle.  There is an enemy, Jovan.  He will fight you for your family.  But to be forewarned is to be for-armed.  God looked through all eternity and knew He could trust you for this job.  You are gentle, yes.  You are careful not to run over people’s toes.  But I also see the warrior spirit in you – absolutely aware at every turn where the battle lines are drawn.  I pray for God to be your to be your shield of protection and your deliverer.  I pray He will give you the needed courage at the right times and that you will have no fear – because you are not alone!
  • The joy of the Lord for the strength you need.  I am praying for an outpouring of an abundance of clear, sparkling, life-giving rain to wash over your heart and mind.  I pray you will be known as one who laughs right our loud in the face of danger!  I pray that you will have everything Jesus promised in the area of joy: complete joy, and a full measure of His joy.  I pray you get so much joy – it will splash on everyone else! (Ps 28.7; Ps 4.7; Jn 18.11; Jn 16.24; Jn 17.13)
  • A double-dose of continued creativity.  You are becoming such a “virtuous woman” in the Proverbs 31 sense.  I admire that in you.  I love that you are sewing things for Averi and constantly looking for ways to create beauty and comfort in your home.  I see how energized you are in the creation process and I am praying more of that for you!
  • The ability to receive the love admiration that surrounds you.  You are likeable.  You are loveable.  You are some one people want to be around.  You are accepted.  There is nothing wrong with you.  You are the person God created you to be – He did not make a mistake.  And?  You are alive and you are well because of His hand on your life, His call in your heart.  It is OK for you to be thankful about that, to unabashedly enjoy living.  So enjoy it!  Receive all the love that surrounds you, my sweet girl.  Breathe it in!  Grab it with both hands, free of guilt or trepidation.  Live and love!

Happy Birthday, Jovan.  I love you with my whole heart.  You are worth so much to me.

We are blessed to call you one of our own…Mom

NOTE TO SELF:  Investigate-are there any pictures of Jovan without Rocky and Averi in them?  Anywhere??? 

pictured – ALL with her life loves: Jovan with her cherry cheesecake at the family celebration a few days ago; Jovan and fam in a farm field a few weeks ago; Jovan at a big pasta night a month ago;  and Jovan where you will often find her – on the floor playing with Averi.

“…this daughter-in-law, who loves you so much, why she is worth more to you than seven sons!” Ruth 4.15 The Message

Liquid Joy – Tara J. Powers


Happy Birthday to my first-born.

May 9, 1979 was such a special day, I could not have comprehended it at the time.  There was no way for me to know at exactly 7:16 p.m. when you made your first appearance, how my life was about to change, how God was going to make Himself so real, His love so apparent, my life so blessed by your coming.  I didn’t realize at the time that you were going to be a river of “liquid joy” that would wash over my heart and gift me and cause me to flourish in a way I’d never had the opportunity to before.

Liquid joy.  That was a name Lisa Bierer gave you when you were about 12 or 13.  It summed you up beautifully.  From the time you arrived, I’d never seen such unabashed happiness and innate joy in a human being.

I was serious and sarcastic.  I was un-trusting and wounded.  You slid down the very rays of the sun into my house and life and arms and coaxed the hope in my heart to grow and believe life could be different.  You refused to leave me in my hidden guilt-driven, shame-based stupor, but even as a toddler, pulled me into the merry-go-round that is life.  You lived your whole life (almost) as a joyfully obedient girl, a big Jesus-lover, full of compassion and mercy for everyone around you.

Us. Est. 1979

You grew and you blessed us all.  First, there was just me and you.  Then dad came along and we were a family.  Because I was so young and naive and really stupid about being a mom, you, naturally as the first born, had to help teach me what it was all about.  For all the siblings who followed, you stood in the gap and represented them, watched over them and defended them.

The giggles and laughter and make-believe and street ball-games and bike races and tether-ball matches that never ended and babysitting businesses and new neighbors as friends and pretend weddings and dress-up and bread sticks from mixes and first boyfriends and ska and singing competitions and basketball and volleyball teams and Five Iron Frenzy and funny fashions and crazy hair and piercings and innocence and sweetness and exuberance and passion – these are all things Stephanie and Tredessa and Rocky and Stormie have to thank you for.  I adore you for them all.

When you were 14, I was going through some heartbreak.  You were praying for me and came to me with a song to listen to and you carefully gave me a word of encouragement, a word of rebuke, too, really, but with utmost caution.  I listened and as I stood doing the dishes, listening to the song and thinking about what you’d just told me, I was strongly aware that God Himself had sent you and I trembled inside from both the discipline of it and the awe that my little Tara was so sensitive to the things of God.

Hope seemed lost for a time.  There were those days when the enemy of your soul set out to rip you away from God’s plan for your life.  It was a time of grave danger to your heart, your mind, your soul, your spirit, and even your physical being.  You’d been away from home for quite awhile, but had returned for a couple of months and when you were leaving again, the enemy tried to tell me I was losing you (to this poor choice/direction you were taking) for good.  That morning before you left the house (and you saw the hot, stinging tears shoot from my eyes as I plead with you not to go), I wrote this in a notebook:

8.4.02  It’s the morning of the day Tara is moving out, disentangling herself of the strong emotional ties we have – trying to make her own way, trying to shine to us, not realizing that I have already seen her light so bright – spots dance before my eyes.
Already the house seems empty.  Already a void grows.
I have to trust God that my sorrows over what could’ve been –
the seeming loss of all hope will give way to what He knows can be greater-
and that in all things
He is at work, making a way and that
His love will not let her go.

And it didn’t.  His love didn’t let you go and when things seemed the most hopeless – God was about to turn it all around.  Those days were hard, my love, but I am so thankful that I learned to pray during that time.  I learned to battle for what was God’s and I grew in faith. I will ever cherish what was accomplished for God’s glory and for you!


You are an incredible mother to Hunter.  I love how you love your husband, Dave.  I am inspired by and admire your work for the kingdom of God.  I am so pleased with you, honey.  Your mommy is so pleased with you! God gave you to me (what a gift).  I gave you back to Him.  And look at what He is doing!

Happy Birthday, Tara…Love, mom

NOTE TO SELF:  I was so honored to have Tara with me last night at the Chapel Hill MOPS group! Give her an extra hug for that!

(photos: Tara and I when she was 2 and Tara with her husband, Dave, and son Hunter – who is 2!)