Our oldest is another year older. I don’t like it. I like it. All the feels.
Here’s the letter I wrote him this year. Along with his super handsome picture.
I joke all the time about how you aren’t allowed to grow up, threatening to kick you out of the family (or just kick you as Victoria said) when you turned 10 because you were being so disobedient. But truly, there’s a part of me that wants time to slow down. Twelve, only six more years of youth left, meaning about the same amount of time for you to live in my home. And my future planning heart is already breaking thinking about it. Good grief, you’re now half-way done with school! How did this happen?!
But it also makes my heart glad. Change is part of this world, sometimes big change and sometimes small. And you becoming a man will be a beautiful and needed change for this world.
You and I get each other in a special way. Though you and Dad are much alike in your strong leadership abilities, you and I are alike in our self-evaluation, in our rule-following and therefore striving to earn grace, and in our ability to connect with others. As a result, we tend to measure our worth according to the world and have a difficult time seeing that God has given us any giftings at all, believing the lie that we’re never going to conquer the sin we so hate in ourselves.
I always must tread lightly when offering you correction, knowing how similar to me you are and how you tend to fall into despair when it happens. So, my son who is quickly transforming into a man (sniff), allow me, as you did for me in a recent letter, to offer you some truth about who you are and what this way way way way way way way wiser person sees in you. 😉
You are more gifted in encouragement than almost anyone I know. You joke much but then are heavily burdened if you find out your joking hurt. The Spirit in you drives you to crave building others up. You know what it feels like to be torn down, and you can’t stand the thought of anyone else feeling that way. So you love. Mr. Mark is an encourager, clearly filled with the Spirit in his humility to never puff himself up but to take advantage of every opportunity to point out the good God is working. It feels like a rare gift in men, and you will glorify Jesus maybe more with this one than any others, because it’s odd and people will notice and be drawn to it.
You are bent toward truth and righteousness. This can obviously come out in wicked pride and stubbornness (you’ve never heard THAT before), but it also comes out in a boy wise beyond his years, who is more and more frequently spurring even his mother to truth that I have a difficult time seeing through my sinful heart. You don’t just take people’s word for it, but you consider and weigh to see if it’s within the right rules or just. You have the gift of truth and knowledge. Use it well, my boy. Dig in deep to the word. Don’t let video games or playing with friends or getting stuck in your head substitute for truth. Find it in your Daddy’s words he’s given you. His word is truth. It’s time for you to take this practice of immersing yourself in scripture seriously, past what we “require” of you. You will be swayed. Don’t let your pride fool you into thinking you won’t be. The world sounds good and wise, sometimes too good to be true, because it’s just a lie trying on truth’s clothing. You are beyond blessed to have two of the biggest truth-seekers I’ve ever known in your daddy and Mr. Dan. Watch them and learn from them. They are a gift to you.
You are a leader and a teacher. People will tell you this is because you’re the firstborn, but I’d argue that God set you aside as the firstborn to prepare you to be a leader. Your name means strong protector. As much as we must sometimes correct you for taking the role when it’s not your job, you care deeply for those weaker than you, and would give your life without blinking an eye to save another. You’re brave and courageous, and I look up to you. But it’s more than a concern for physical safety. You pastor the hearts of your little brothers and sisters, gently correcting them when they get theology wrong or are doing something you know isn’t good for them (this one amazes me because you somehow manage to almost always do this without self-righteousness!). This is so true of you that if Mom or Dad aren’t around, you have become the next trusted source. Your siblings will come seeking you for answers because they see and trust your wisdom, and they know you’ll answer them patiently and full of love.
You’re frequently concerned you’ll not grow into a man after God’s own heart. Oh, kid, live for today. Do not worry about tomorrow. Because today I see a twelve-year-old boy who already has a heart for Jesus and others. Why would God not continue to be faithful to you when you’re technically a man. You are already more noble and honorable than many men I know, maybe most men. I want to see you ask him more, have a bigger faith, remember my story with the lightning. The same is true for you. You are his son, a prince of his kingdom, and he’s promised he’ll give you what you ask in his name. He gave Solomon wisdom when he asked for it because it was a right request. You desire to have a heart like his, there’s no more righteous desire, so ask him. And don’t look at tomorrow and judge whether he’s answered. Trust him today. Then in 10 years, look back and see how he’s transformed you. You don’t remember the last 10 years of your life, but we do, and it’s built our faith that God does in fact answer our prayer and doesn’t let your foot slip. You’ll see it more clearly in the next ten.
I love you deeply. You’re the one who’s grown us the most as parents, mainly because you are the guinea pig, the one we make the most mistakes with and sin against the most. We’re always having to figure things out with you because you’re the first. And you’re always full of grace to these bumbling people who have the privilege to call you “son,” encouraging us and teaching us along the way. I get to see God’s grace in giving us this cool kid despite our rebellion and failures. We see the gospel in you, and our faith is built. May yours be built alongside ours.
Loving you in awe of God’s goodness,
Mom and Dad
Our January was crazy busy and really, totally awesome. We had so many fun experiences together!
The kids got the most fun building fort from one of their aunts and uncles. This puppy stayed in our living room for weeks, and they built with it every day!
For Epiphany, the kids get their big Christmas present from us and grandparents. This year–BIKES!! So much fun!!! Liam and Ariana build their own bikes through an amazing program we have here called Earn-a-Bike, so they got a skateboard and scooter instead of a bike.
And Epiphany is always celebrated with a king’s cake. This girl is the one who had Baby Jesus hidden in her piece.
Each month, we do a Rule and Drool day (Mom with girls and Dad with boys), but this month we switched it up with Dule and Rool day instead. I took my boys to play laser tag and arcade games, and Bill took the girlies to a Home Depot workshop. Fun was had by all (and Aiden and I stomped Liam and Josiah in laser tag. Just sayin’)
This little guy went straight to fake prayer one day when I started getting on to him. Hilarious!!
School is still going strong.
I have amazing helpers in the kitchen.
One of our neighbors, Baby Eve, has her own personal fan club with the Bell kids. Liam and Ariana have especially come into their own recently with some beginning babysitting gigs, and I love watching them just love on little ones. Be still my heart!
Our kids all get Mom-Dad-Kid-Time (MDKT) at least once a month. These two together are one of my favorite things.
Our monthly block party was at our house this year. We did hot cocoa around the fire pit, and it was FREEZING!!! And also such a sweet time! We had far more people than we expected and got to connect with some neighbors we didn’t know yet.
Bill and I made a platter at a pottery place together for a date night. This is the project before it was glazed and baked. It’s even more gorgeous now!
Always wanting to be in Daddy’s shoes, in more ways than one.
We got the Pie Face Game! Oh, my goodness, so much laughter!!!
I got to hang with this cute neighbor one morning, and I learned a whole new way to eat cereal.
We are ridiculously blessed that both sets of our parents really love each other, so we did a grandparents weekend this year. What a sweet time!!! We had game nights, went to the Rhythm Discovery Center and the Indiana State Museum, cooked for each other, and played Wii. I think the sleeping picture on the steps reflects how we all felt by the end. Totally worth it!!
On a sweet library and pretzel date with my baby girl.
Our church. I can’t say how much I love these people. But it’s way past the moon and back.
Aiden got glasses!!! Yeah, he looks adorable. Yeah, I said it.
I started teaching a Bible study, and I LOVE these ladies and this time we get together each week!
Lots of Children’s Museum time, including an impromptu visit with some friends there whom we’ve known for almost thirteen years now. We forgot to get a picture with them, but the mother and some of her beautiful kiddos are in one of the pictures below. Wish we could see them more often!
Heaven turned nine!!! Grateful for this girl.
Is there anyone who doesn’t love October?!!! Here are some of the ways the Bells spent ours.
Oh, and it became clear to me that my man hides behind the camera. Like he barely makes an appearance in any of these pictures.
Putting himself in my shoes, complete with mom’s face.
Washing toy dishes. V has really been turning into a little mommy lately. Sometimes good, sometimes…
Every year we go back to west Kentucky to visit our families. We clearly are terrible at taking picture while there because this is about as good as it gets. Though I love it so much because it’s my mom in her element: teaching, seeing God’s beauty everywhere, and simply enjoying her moments with us.
Aiden showing off his mad sleep skillz
The world’s best big brother taking his little brother for a ride on his bike
Racing to see who can count to 100 the fastest. One in English and one in Spanish.
Visiting a friend’s farm. This is one of the nurses who was there for Josiah’s delivery, one of our first Indy friends.
Our annual front porch shot taken by our neighbor, Lori. Oh, look, there’s a Bill!!!
This year’s Halloween costumes. My absolute favorite part of this is how Sneezy (Heaven) is so sanitary to sneeze into her elbow!
Books in bed in the morning with my littles
We found a fantastic new place to walk with a ginormous hill built for sledding. And notice who’s taking the picture and conveniently not in the picture…
Our university choir had a reunion this year, and our whole family got to go! Our kids heard a choir and a marching band for the first time, and it was so much fun to let them in to a bit of our past. Here’s monkey boy cheesing it up.
This year we threw a block party with our neighbors across the street on Halloween. Candy and s’mores. Here are the hostess ladies. Isn’t Lori gorgeous?!!! Seriously, this friend radiates Jesus from every pore.
Since we’ve been terrible at family updates on here, I’m just going to give a run-down of the last three months.
Most of the post is in pictures, but one sweet part of our summer was spending a few days with Bill’s sister, brother-in-law, and our nephew in Nashville, TN. We haven’t spent much time with just them in a few years, and this was our first time to really get to know our brother-in-law since their wedding last summer. So much fun just hanging with them and swimming in their amazing pool! Unfortunately, we didn’t take a single stinking picture while we there. What?!! I promise it really happened, though. 😉
The summer was kicked off with Victoria’s Strawberry Shortcake birthday party. Though we always celebrate birthdays, the 5th and 10th are themed friend parties, so this was an extra special one for our Vi-Vi.
Strawberry picking with friends has become a tradition for our family, though this was Bill’s first time.
Aiden and Liam finished up spring soccer. It was Aiden’s first time to be old enough to play.
All five girls did summer dance. Ariana often helped watch the dance instructor’s little cutie, and I love this picture!
Lots of playgrounds and parks. The second picture is our favorite state park, Turkey Run.
We got free tickets to see our professional soccer team, Indy Eleven. So much fun!
Lots of goofing around. I am seriously loving the tween stage!
Sweet time with my littles while the older five were at camp.
Getting an infected tooth pulled.
The baby’s birthday, who may not technically be a baby anymore…
Fun in a new exhibit at the Children’s Museum.
Celebrating Bill by putting together a puzzle he was gifted with. His kind of day.
Repurposing a Craigslist find. Wish I’d taken a before picture.
Liam having his first experience shooting a gun on a father/son night.
Riding on the zoo train together.
This was probably our sweetest memory of the summer–family camp in Michigan. So much fun!!! Beaches, activities, fun food, new friends. We kind of wanted to live there. Descriptions of the pics: 1. Fun on the beach. 2. Getting ready for a gathering. 3. Our family assistant working hard. 😉 Seriously, this lady was amazing!!! We invited her to live with us, but she said no. I think our awesomeness was too overwhelming for her… 4. Awkward human pyramid with Juan, a wood man challenging us to “Love One (Juan) More.” 5. The beach and lake. Bill even got to go water skiing. 6. Whole family picture, including our family assistant, which just felt right. She’s in her 20s. Really.
I did my first wine and canvas. I don’t do creativity, so shut it. 😉
Josiah and Aiden started pre-K Handwriting this year, so they’ve been introduced to the infamous Mat Man, a part of their curriculum.
Doing school with some of our dearest friends. First is our best-face-forward pic, second is the real deal.
For school, Liam and Ariana took a bread-making class. They made two loaves of bread, three types of rolls, pizza crust, and cinnamon rolls. All 100% on their own!
Liam, our guinea pig child, is turning into quite a little man. He follows after Jesus, blows us away at times with deep thoughts, loves all things with an electric screen (TV, Wii, tablets, computers, etc.) and legos, experiments with humor, and always has something to say. He’s sensitive, funny, and concerned for others. Babies and little ones are his favorites, and he still isn’t above the occasional cuddle with mom.
Liam challenges me. He talks openly about Jesus to anyone, never fearing what they might think. He loves people all the time no matter the circumstances, and there’s no difference from one person to the next. There’s much I learn from him.
He’s also the perfect big brother. He equally protects and annoys his many younger siblings, and they all think he’s the best. I tell him he often reminds me of my own big brother, a high praise.
So grateful to have been given this kid nine years ago.
With his favorite brother
Being goofy with his sister
Love this kid