**All photos are shared with permission from Krista Browning Photography. Krista loves capturing the emotion of people’s stories through pictures. She is based in South Florida, but she is open to traveling to meet your photography needs. You can find her by clicking on the following social media platforms | website | facebook | Instagram | Pinterest. We are honored for her to have donned a disguise and hunkered down in some bushes on a hot Flordia afternoon to capture these moments for us.**
It all started just over 14 years ago.
She, a 7-year-old pig-tailed blonde sporting glasses and watching out for her 2 younger brothers. He, a sandy-headed 5-year-old ready to run with the big dogs, and do whatever his big sister said because she had convinced him she was the boss of him. It was the first day of a weekly sports club with a pavilion full of kids. New faces fully anticipating a morning of sports and yet slightly nervous about making friends.
She’s the baby. But really she’s an old soul, this youngest of ours. Years ago, when this Mama thing was so new, exciting and terrifying, I wondered how we would ever survive with the house being all quiet and almost boring when the older three had grown up and journeyed out to make their own way.
You know how sometimes you make plans for something and you’re just sure they’re going to be awesome? And then they’re not? They’re actually better? I love it when that happens. That was our story a few weekends ago and it was so sweet.
Our church family started a wonderful tradition a few years ago. We reserve a cabin, or three, in the Smoky Mountains and spend the entire weekend just hanging out and enjoying the views. Or hiking, playing games, fishing, cruising Gatlinburg or doing nothing … basically whatever strikes our fancy at the time.
It’s such a fun balance between being away and being together. Oh, and we eat. And maybe nap. And then we eat again. And enjoy the views.
Our family drug in pretty late Friday night this year. I was up early Saturday morning as part of the breakfast crew, which obviously called for coffee. I was a little surprised when the mug had the name of a Bed & Breakfast where we had stayed for two nights as part of our honeymoon almost 25 years ago.
I sipped my coffee as we finished up breakfast and then headed out to the other cabins to let everyone know breakfast was ready. As I was heading back I noticed a little tree house off one of the rooms of the main cabin, and that’s when it dawned on me.
Made a little sweeter this year
It was the B&B where we had stayed, and suddenly it’s like I saw and remembered so many details. The latticed brick entryway floor and beamed ceiling in the kitchen. The deck stretching across the entire back of the large cabin. The little bridge out to the private tree house that at one time held a hot tub.
I was so excited I could hardly stand it. I quickly found another mug with the name of the B&B on it and poured Steve’s coffee. When he showed up a few minutes later I led him out to the little tree house deck to show him the view.
As if that wasn’t awesome enough, his expression showed the exact moment he recognized everything. Even our teenage girls were impressed with the story.
What are the odds? There are hundreds upon hundreds of cabins for rent in the Smokies, and we just happened to be at the very one where we had honeymooned.
I had actually searched for the B&B a few years ago to surprise Steve for his birthday, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. We ended up camping for his birthday and it was great fun. And this better-than-expected surprise was such fun to share with a few of our kids and each other 25 years later.
My own reminder to notice the details and savor the surprises
So I guess my reminder in all of this is to pay attention. I’m sure at some point it would have dawned on me where we were staying, but I’m so glad it was at the start of our weekend. It made our time even more enjoyable and special.
And the other lesson? Coffee. First thing. Every day. You’re welcome!
What sort of better-than-expected moments have you celebrated lately?
I’ve been praying for a few friends and dear boy mamas this week who are struggling as they send their little guys off to school. And as I crawled into bed a few days ago, a picture of my boy on top of a mountain popped up on my phone. Along with it came a flood of thoughts about my own little ones, most of whom are girls and all of whom are now taller than me.
And then a picture of a friend’s little guy looking so small and forlorn reminded me of my own who had a habit of hiding behind my leg when someone spoke to him. And now? Well, now that timidity is unrecognizable, partly because of my hubby’s encouragement to let our boy be a boy and grow into who he was wired to be.
Now let me just say here, there are so very many times I’ve messed it up, this Mama thing. My boy and I have had our share of tough days and hurtful words and we still have plenty of room, and prayers, for our relationship to grow stronger with each passing year. But through it all, I’m so grateful for God’s grace to help us remember the beautiful moments and to cover those that were just plain “less than” in one way or another.
So for all you Mamas of boys struggling in these first few weeks of school and for those who find yourself still waiting for your boy to return home, please know that you are being prayed for and that you are brave. And perhaps find a little encouragement in the flood of thoughts that bombarded my memory on the other side of this grand undertaking of raising boys into men …
Dear Boy Mama
Dear Boy Mama,
Yeah, it’s scary. This releasing them into this big world when we’re never quite sure they’re ready.
They’re sure, sometimes. Other times, not so much.
As hard as it is … we let them go. Their first big day could be heading off to kindergarten, or it could be more like our oldest whose first day of “real school” included car keys and college textbooks.
At some point, they’ll toss the phrase “I was born ready, Mom” or some other cheesy cliche over their shoulder as they head out the door as if to prove their readiness to both themselves and you all in one fell swoop. You might as well know they very well may be trembling inside a bit too, but seeing you believe in them helps them to do the same.
Either way, we let them go and quickly find that when they return they’re full of stories. Some comforting, others not at all and sprinkled throughout there may even be a tear or two. You’ll listen to their stories and wipe the hurt from their eyes as needed. Then they’ll tell of newfound friendships, those also falling into the same categories of comforting, not so comforting and those capable of bringing a fresh flow of tears.
Laced throughout are a few stories about new things they’re learning and suddenly you see a deeper passion ignited in their eyes than had been there before.
Then they grow. And they grow. Typically a good 6 inches in some random summer when we looked away for a mere moment. And suddenly we find ourselves looking up at them in conversation instead of the other way around.
And the shoes and adventures seem to grow one right alongside the other. All the while their voice is deepening and their personality is emerging with greater confidence than ever before. And prayerfully some of those encouraging friendships of days gone by have grown deeper with each passing year.
Before we know it they’re heading off on some grand adventure to do daring things of which we would never approve were we standing there beside them. Nothing illegal or immoral mind you, just daring and bold. Definitely bolder than we feel watching our hearts waltz right out the door to conquer the world, or maybe just their little corner of it.
They’ll send pictures. Maybe not lots and lots of them, they are boys after all, but they’ll send the coolest of their collection. You’ll gasp at how close they are to the edge of safety and, from where you sit, sanity.
Yet you’ll beam because deep down in the very depths of your soul you know they were made for this. They were formed for this scaling of mountains and this swinging from trees.
You’ll hear, more than once mind you, “Love you, Mom!” just before some daring feat or grown-up decision. And you’ll want to look away for a split second just hoping it to all turns out okay. Somehow you know this “Love you, Mom!” is a veiled request for affirmation of some sort because we’re all wired to need such things from those whose opinions matter.
They’ll drag in a good kind of exhausted from the adventure of it all. And you’ll hear more stories. Oh the stories, and more pictures if you’re lucky, but mostly you’ll see the light in their eyes from the sheer excitement of it all.
And you’ll just smile as you listen and soak it all in. Every sight, sound, smell and touch of them and who they’ve become. And then you’ll smile even deeper knowing that this learning to let go is the greatest gift we can give these young men of ours.
The freedom to scale the scary mountains that lie before them. If not for scaling them, how could they ever be ready to move them in the days ahead? And who’s to say it’s not precisely that for which they were created?
It’s our gift to them, this letting them go, season by season. And thankfully it comes bit by bit, for our hearts could never handle this letting go all at once.
And their gift to us? It’s the coming home. It’s a way of saying “Love you, Mom!” for letting them go in the first place. For believing in them enough to unclutch our hands for them to fly. For being the voice in their head cheering them on. For a Mama’s hug, because there’s just nothing quite like it, and perhaps a batch of their favorite cookies too.
So smile deeply, Mama. Yes, your lip may quiver. That’s okay. As you well know, this being brave often happens in the face of fear, not the absence of it. You’re brave enough to give one of the greatest gifts you possess. And those always seem to come with more sacrifice than we believe we have to offer.
For without this letting go for them to soar there would be no glorious homecoming now would there?
27 years ago, I walked into a singles group at a local church and met a slew of new people, some of whom became lifelong friends. And then there was this guy, who became my lifelong love. And today we celebrate 52 years of him!
I’m not really sure if it was his blue eyes, the ever-present smile, the infectious laugh or a combination of all three that I noticed first. Either way, I noticed. And I’ve been noticing ever since, along with a few other things too …
He loves his family well. Every Sunday of these past almost 25 years, save a mere handful here or there, he has called Mom and Dad Moore . Sometimes the rest of us join in and other times they spend the better part of an hour talking about everything and sometimes, nothing. As I see it, it’s one way he chooses to honor them.
He also loves learning and I see no stopping of that as he heads into year 53. One thing he’s definitely learned is the value of seeing what needs to be done and jumping in. He’ll gladly step way on out of his comfort zone to serve others in the most menial of ways when that’s what’s needed.
Did I mention that he’s the youngest of four? Four boys. It’s true. And that when God gave us our four, He chose three of them to be girls. Yep. That’s a lot for any guy to adjust to, especially when he’s been raised around older brothers. He’s taken to it well, this being a dad to girls, and the girls have taken to him too!
I’m not sure if it’s because he was the tag along on so many of his big brothers adventures or not, but he has a healthy sense of adventure. Granted, sledding isn’t the riskiest of behaviors, but moving from his forever home on the coast of south Florida to the icy Januaries of the Bluegrass was more than just a temperature shift.
Honestly, I’m not sure if it is considered adventurous or resourceful when you give two grown men the task of carving the Thanksgiving turkeys and they clean up the reciprocating saw and declare it the perfect tool for the job. Just walk away Mama, walk away, because sometimes boys just gotta be boys, even when they’re all grown up. And then all ten kids gathered around the table declare it one of the best moments of the day. Because dads just know how to make things memorable!
His adventurous spirit is only matched by this leading the rest of us right along with him. I’ve lost track of the number of missions trips he’s led overseas. Though I do know that he’s enjoyed such delicacies as Curried Goat in Haiti, Fried Guinea Pig in Peru, Whale Sushi in Japan and Balut in the Philippines. They all make the crawfish in that first picture up there look like nothing, even though I don’t think I could deal with eating a plate full of that sort of nothing for dinner.
The best part of these adventures, is when the rest of us have been able to come along with him. We’ve been blessed to be able to take 3 of our 4 kids to a third or fourth world country at the beginning of their teen years, and hope to bring the last one this next summer.
The kids have worked hard to save money for each of these trips and he has worked to help them glean every ounce of learning out of these experiences. We have thoroughly enjoyed these trips with each of the kids one at a time, and we wouldn’t trade it for anything. But as much as I’m always ready to go on these trips, if the planning and details were left to me. we probably would never have set foot in the airport for the first flight.
More than any of these things, he is a mighty prayer warrior. When I’ve called him at the office on the verge of a Mama meltdown, he doesn’t just say he’ll pray for me, we stop right then and pray. It felt a little weird at first, this praying on the phone, but I’ve found these moments to be some of our most encouraging over the years .
And our kids, along with their future spouses have been the focus of many of these prayers. I can’t ask for much more than a man who loves God with all his heart and prays fervently for those God has brought across his path.
Though his calm to my energy has been one of those glorious differences that we’ve had to work through, it has been such a steadying gift for me. Almost half of our years have been spent together, and I look forward to so many more birthdays to celebrate him.
Happy birthday babe! I love you more than you’ll ever know.
Just in case you get a little bored with seeing the same commercials over and over during the Olympics for the 27th time … Let’s revisit the Messy Family Olympics held every Christmas with the Moore clan in south Florida.
… this was originally posted in December of 2015 …
We can hardly wait for this year’s final video and 600+ pictures!
And yes, ideas are already brewing for next year’s contest and dethroning the reigning champions. Even though deep down, we all know the title really isn’t the point!
Now you can take the next few commercials to plan your own Family Olympics, the messier the better! I’m guessing you may have a few other fun games to add to the line-up too. Let us know in the comments below so we can add them to our line-up!
Seven years ago today Dad, Andy, Sarah and I gathered around Mama, hugged on her and prayed before she was wheeled into surgery to repair her heart. She requested that Andy play “Give me Jesus” on his phone and that’s how we spent our last few moments with her.
Jesus did heal her heart that day, not in the way we would have desired, but in a different way. Our hearts hurt desperately, but slowly and surely he’s been healing them with each passing day.
I’m so grateful for how Mama gave me Jesus, in a way I could understand and know Him, as a child, as a young woman as a wife and mother.
I’m even more grateful that this gift He gave me is eternal.
Almost three weeks ago, we put our youngest on an airplane for the grandest adventure of her life. She met up with her Grandpa and cousin and a team of about a dozen for this much-anticipated trip / rite of passage in our family. You can find a few more details and some of the backstory on the Russia trips here and here.
Today she returns home and we couldn’t be more excited. Things have been a little quiet around here, but we’ve thoroughly enjoyed seeing the other side of the world through her eyes. Here are a few of the highlights …
Prague, Czech Republic
They spent much of their first week taking in all that is Prague, Czech Republic, seeing some of the most renowned landmarks.
And lots of old Architecture …
From Russia with love
And then they headed to Russia to do a bit of sightseeing in Moscow and teaching English in a village.
Making new friends all along the way
Apparently for $4 you can get your picture made AND they will call you the Queen. Not a bad deal!
The pictures, snap chats and videos are coming to a close for this chapter. But they will be quickly followed by layers upon layers of stories that will spill out over the next few days and weeks. Those are always some of my favorites -seeing the world through the eyes of our kids and hearing about new friendships. Somehow in their telling of the stories, we feel like we too have been part of their grand adventure.
Besides, it’s been a bit too quiet around her without her fun personality bouncing around.
What adventures have you been able to enjoy this summer?
Part of Summer’s beauty is found in being outside and having a slightly slower pace to enjoy those around us. Granted, we don’t all enjoy the childhood privilege of having the summer off, but the pace tends to be slower in many ways. To quiet these summer days and create even more summer thriving, alfresco dining is a great option.
We spent this past week in Birmingham and found this wonderful little street cafe, Delta Blues Hot Tamales. It was just perfect! From the ivy covered patio entrance off a bumpy old brick street to the bamboo shaded tables and a nearby waterfall.
The food was delicious, but the atmosphere made it even more enjoyable, even at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. I was a bit beside myself to have found a dedicated gluten-free restaurant too, those are hard to come by!
Somehow, taking any meal out to the deck just makes it taste better. Whether it’s a few minutes alone, or gathered with family and friends, there’s just something significant about it. Maybe because it so easily lends itself to lingering a little longer after the eating is done. And picnics and summer? Well those two were made for each other.
With the freshest ingredients
If it’s just entirely too hot in your zip code, then the next best thing might be stopping by a local Farmer’s Market. We have several in our city throughout the week. It’s fun to browse the tables and find new fruits, veggies and flowers that I never knew existed, and fresh produce is always tastier than canned or frozen. Just think about it, if you have to go grocery shopping, it’s just more pleasant to do so surrounded by food laden tables, fresh flowers and the sound of the outdoors as opposed to the piped in music and fluorescent lighting of the grocery store, no matter how nice your grocery store is?
If it’s just too beastly hot or if your alfresco plans are hijacked by rain, just move the party inside. Throw a blanket on the floor and have an indoor picnic, followed by a game of cards, becausemost of us moms have no appreciation for frisbee in the house.
And a hint of extra flavor
While you’re at it, add a bit of fresh mint or fruit to your water or tea. It’s amazing how refreshing a plain old glass of water can be with a sprig of mint or a splash of citrus, or even some lemon essential oil if you forgot to pick up lemons.
What are your favorite tips and recipes for eating alfresco?