Giggles…

Dear Harper,

HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Today (9/6) is your 4th birthday. It is so hard to believe that we welcomed you to this world four years ago. The older I get, the faster time seems to pass. I’m sure you don’t feel the same way, but one day you will understand what I’m talking about. Nanna and I are so proud of you and I hope today is a wonderful day filled with fun and giggles.

Speaking of GIGGLES, that’s what I want to talk to you about. Each one of my grandchildren has a special trait that is unique to that child. Hudson loves to tell me about dinos, Ellie has a smile that lights up the room, and Benny is constantly running around and his nickname (Bizzy) is the most appropriate of all of you. But you Harper…your unique trait is GIGGLING! Even as I am writing this, there is a big smile on my face because I can just hear you.

When you see me, the first thing you do is run to give me a hug and you GIGGLE. It is a sound that I believe originates in Heaven itself. God knew what 2020 was going to be like — especially for Poppo — and He gave you the ability to make me happy with a sound.

One of our favorite things to do right now is to watch Bluey (for those of you without grandchildren…Google it). Bluey has awakened your imagination and you love playing games that you have seen on Bluey. So, we play “Keepie-Uppie” and “Heavy.” And as soon as we start playing…you guessed it…you start GIGGLING and I start laughing. All you have to do is say, “Do YOU mind?” and with the little GIGGLE that follows and I start laughing — OUT LOUD!

For the adults, 2020 is not going to win any awards for our “Favorite Year.” The “virus” has created a new normal for our lives. And it has affected every area of life. For me personally, it has been a tough time dealing with all the decisions that I’ve had to make. There is always stress in the life of adults, but with all the things going on this year…my stress level has been super elevated. That’s why I think God gave you this gift to GIGGLE. I can’t explain it, but that GIGGLE has a way of lowering my stress level like nothing else can.

One more thing that I love about you is your “motherly heart.” Whether you are playing with your baby dolls or standing in the middle of the room with your hands on your hips talking to your dad, brother and Poppo — it is apparent that you have a mother’s heart. When you grab your baby dolls, you immediately tell them that “mommy is going to take care of you.” That is so sweet.

You have at least 3 great role models for this “mother’s love.” You mommy, your Nanna and your Nonnie are all special ladies who love their families with unconditional love. As you grow and mature, you watch them and follow their examples. If you do that, you will one day be a wonderful mommy yourself.

In Job 8, the Bible says, “He will yet fill your mouth with laughing. And your lips with rejoicing.” You have certainly provided that much needed laughter for Poppo. I love you and can’t wait to see how you grow and mature this year.

Remember…no matter what happens in your life, you can always count on the fact that Poppo and Nanna love you…unconditionally. I will always be a cheerleader on the sidelines for you (and your brother and cousins).

Thank you for the GIGGLES…keep doing it…it sure brings a lot of happiness to my life. And by the way…you are still My Favorite RedHead!

Love,

Poppo

Dear Hudson: Happy 6th Birthday

webmail.valleygroveDear Hudson,

I hardly know where to start. Six years ago, you changed my life! I became a POPPO on June 22, 2014 — which is also the day you were born. Since then, we’ve added 3 others to our little club, but you are the one who first called me POPPO.

I wish I had written down all the fun things we have done over the last six years. You are an expert in dinosaurs, snakes, monsters and Bakugans (For those of you reading this…Google it). I learn something new every time we get together. There is never a dull moment when you are around.

Something happened yesterday (6/21/20), however that reminded me that you are growing up. For 5 years, our Sunday afternoon routine has been to eat lunch with the family and then watch a few cartoons on TV and take a nap. You are the only one of the grandchildren who ever liked to take a nap with me. The other 3 don’t like naps AT ALL. About 6 months ago, you informed me that you were too old to be taking naps. In fact, you said, “Poppo, Vaughans don’t take naps. They PLAY!” I guess I knew that day would finally come, but it was just another reminder that you are getting older.

BUT…yesterday, after you played in the pool with Harper, Ellie and Benjamin…you said, “Poppo…you want to go lay down and rest a while? It will be like old times!” So, you made a pillow fort on my bed — we watched 30 minutes of cartoons and we took a little nap. You were right…it was just like “old times.”

My guess is these “old times” days are going to be fewer and farther between now that you are going into the first grade. You are making new friends and you are playing baseball and getting busier and busier. I just want you to know that I cherish these days.

On another note…as you grow older you are going to interact with more and more people. Some of them will look different than you, some will talk different than you, some will come from a different part of the world than you. I want you to remember this…ALL people — no matter who they are or what they sound like or look like are made in the image of God and they ALL deserve our respect.

In Matthew 7:12 Jesus said, “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

Scooter…we live in a world right now that doesn’t seem to remember this teaching. There is a great deal of selfishness in the world, but Jesus said that you and I need to be different from the people in the world. When we meet people, we are supposed to show them a love and respect that acknowledges the fact that we all bear the image of our Creator. If we can do that…perhaps we can change the attitudes of people in our little part of the world.

2020 has already been a doozy of a year and we are only half way through. I don’t know what the rest of the year will bring, but I do know this…

Nanna and I love  you very much and we always have and we always will. You won’t always make decisions that we agree with, but that will NEVER change the way we love you or your cousins. We LOVE being your grandparents.

And Scooter…whenever you feel like you want to have a day that reminds you of “old times,” I will always be ready. You can call me any time and I will always be there for you.

Happy 6th Birthday Hudson. I love you forever.

Love,

Poppo

 

Happy MOST UNUSUAL Birthday Benjamin

0May 29, 2020

Dear Benjamin,

It’s been one year since I met you. I knew right away we were going to be buddies. The only time you aren’t happy is when we put you down for a nap! Otherwise, you live up to your nickname BIZZY! You are constantly on the move trying to find your next adventure. Smiling, laughing, almost walking — but ALWAYS in the middle of everything going on. Poppo can’t help but smile every time I look at you. Your smile and laugh are infectious.

Speaking of infectious…your first year has been an unusual one. New words have come into our vocabulary  — some that haven’t been used in 100 years. Pandemic, quarantine, COVID, social distancing, shutdown, virtual school — what a mess. Several months ago, a terrible virus infected literally millions of people around the world. In the United States alone, before it’s done, more than 100,000 people will have died from this virus. We have never seen anything like it. In addition to producing much physical sickness, it has also caused A LOT of mental sickness. “Social distancing” was intended to keep us safer because we wouldn’t be as close to one another as normal, but in many cases it caused “social isolation.” Distancing is good — isolation is not good.

We NEED each other. We were created by God to be in fellowship with one another. Because of our desire not to make other people sick, our distancing had the unintended consequence of causing many people to be isolated. We are finally starting to get out and around people again and boy does it feel good.

Nanna and I had not been able to see you or Ellie for over three months except on FaceTime (for which I am so grateful). But seeing and talking to you over the phone is just not the same as being able to hug you and play on the floor and outside. Nanna and I have worked very hard for the last 5 weeks to make sure we didn’t expose ourselves to any unnecessary germs so we could be here to celebrate your birthday. I can’t tell you how excited we were when we got here this week. You can tell by my smile in the picture just how excited I was to see you! I was afraid you might not know me right away since you had only seen me on a phone screen, but I was wrong. As soon as you saw Nanna and Poppo — that big old grin covered your whole face and I knew you were as excited to see us as we were to see you.

You reminded me that no matter how much distance there may be between us, the love in our hearts for one another is so great that distance doesn’t matter. Nanna and I were not going to miss your first birthday for anything and thankfully, we are able to be here with you.

You won’t remember this, but the world that we live in will change forever because of this virus. Your “normal” is going to be different from the “normal” I have known. That’s not necessarily good or bad — it just is what it is. In other words, we accept it and adapt. Throughout your life, there will be many times when you have to change and adapt. Hopefully you won’t have to do that because of a severe sickness like this, but that’s the way life works. Nothing stays the same forever.

But I want you to remember this. No matter how much things in the world may change, there are two things that will NEVER change. God NEVER changes. The Bible teaches us that. In Malachi 3:6, the Bible says, “For I am the Lord, I do not change.” Benny…that’s GOOD NEWS! No matter what happens around you, no matter how much your life and the world around you may change…God NEVER changes. You can always trust His Word and you can always trust Him to do what is right. I don’t always understand the way God works, but I believe His Word and therefore I know He never changes.

The second thing that will never change is that Nanna and I will ALWAYS love you. I try and remind all you grandkids of this each year on your birthday. We may not always agree with your choices in life…but I promise you that our love for you will always be unconditional. I love you because you are you — not because of anything you do or don’t do.

I’m thankful for the technology that allows us to see and talk to you during this time we are quarantined, but nothing replaces the ability to physically be present with you and experience your infectious laugh IN PERSON. I thank God that we have been able to do that for your first birthday.

I can’t wait to see how you grow and develop over the next year. Hopefully, we won’t have any more pandemics and we can physically get to experience all the fun we want. I love you BIZZY — you are my little buddy.

Love,

Poppo

Happy Birthday to My Favorite Red Head

E4D7DABA-DA1C-442A-A93B-EF7741DCE3FE.JPGDear Harper,

Tomorrow (9/6) is your 3rd birthday. My how time flies. I hardly know where to even begin. I cannot describe just how much joy you bring to our lives. This year has been marked by your ever-developing personality. We’ve actually started calling you “Miss Sassy Pants.” Your facial expressions are beyond description. Just looking at you, I break out in a great big smile.

You continue to show us your BIG heart. Whenever Poppo has a “boo-boo,” you are the first to be concerned and to give me a kiss quickly followed by “Is that all better Poppo?” And it most certainly is.

Your favorite thing right now is to dress up like a Princess or a “ermaid.” I guarantee you are the most beautiful “ermaid” I have ever seen.

You are also now able to give your brother as good as he sends. Funny thing about that. I’ve noticed that sometimes you are the instigator and yet Hudson is the one who gets in trouble. The old adage, the person who passes the second lick is the one who gets caught is proving to be true. You’ve learned how to get your licks in and then look at us with a pitiful little face to make us think you are the victim. We are slowly learning that there is a little devious side to that Princess personality. I LOVE IT!

A year ago you were just starting to talk and I couldn’t understand everything you said. Today…I can’t shut you up! LOL You ALWAYS have something to tell Poppo. And I’m learning that I love every story you tell me…usually because your facial expressions are so dramatic. I hope you continue to develop your story-telling ability. It will come in handy later in your life I think. Who knows…you might grow up to be a professional story-teller.

As our vocabularies develop, our view of the world grows and changes. Now that you are better at communicating, you are better able to express your emotions and let others know what you are thinking about. That is very important. In the same way, because you are able to communicate with us better…we can also share things with you that we believe are important.

My earliest memories of my life begin at about 3 years old — the same age you are today. Some people claim they can remember things earlier than that, but not me. As a matter of fact, I sometimes have trouble remembering things that happened THIS MORNING!

My love for God came early in my life and for that I can thank Granny and Popple (my parents). I grew up in a time when the church was the very center of our lives. EVERYTHING revolved around the church. It was the center of my community. My parents taught me from a very early age about how much God loved me and how important it is to serve Him. Granny and Popple taught me by their example how important God is.

The Bible says that the greatest commandment is to love God. You learn to do that by watching others who love and serve God. Your parents and your grandparents all love God very much. And we all do our very best to serve Him every day. I hope as you grow and mature, you will see that in our lives and that you, Hudson and your cousins, Ellie and Benjamin will follow that same path.

In a poem called “Death of the Hired Man,” Robert Frost wrote that home is “something you somehow haven’t to deserve.” He goes on to say that home is a place where “when you go there, they have to take you in.” In my life I’ve been somebody’s child and also somebody’s parent, and I think home is much more than that.

For me, home is where I truly learned what was important in life….and it started very early in my life. My parents did their best to live what they believed. Nanna and I tried to do the same thing with your daddy and Aunt Deeves. Now, your parents are doing that for you and Hudson.

Someone has said, “what you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying.” I think there is a lot of truth in that saying. As you continue this journey in life, our prayer is that you will always see how much we love God and how much we love you. The Biblical commandment to love God is written on our hearts and that’s why we talk so much about it to you. We want you to love and serve God the way we have.

As you grow older, I’ll share some stories with you about how God has ALWAYS provided for us. Even when it looked like things wouldn’t work out…God ALWAYS shows up and takes care of His children. I’m at the point now that I can say the same thing David said in the Scripture…“I have been young and now am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread” (Psalm 37:25)

I can’t wait to see what year 3 brings to your life. In the midst of it all, I KNOW this…God never forsakes us or leaves us. I want to teach you that lesson now so you will have confidence in it when you grow older. No matter what happens — TRUST GOD…He never fails.

As always, I want you to know that I love you with a love that cannot be broken. The whole world may one day turn its back on you…but you can count on this…Poppo and Nanna will ALWAYS love you. I won’t always agree with everything you say or do, but I promise my love for you is unbreakable!

Happy Birthday Little Bit. Keep smiling and laughing. Keep loving and enjoying life. YOU inspire me. You truly are my favorite redhead!

Love,

Poppo

PUNKINDOODLE…It’s Your Birthday!

IMG_3447.jpgDear Ellie,
Today (8/21) is your BIRTHDAY!!!!! I’m so excited. You are 2 years old today. WOW. Time is flying by. I remember very well the day you were born — we had a total eclipse of the sun. That should have been a clue or a warning for us that you were going to be something special.

I’ve told you this before, but when your mother was born, I thought I had met the most strong-willed child in the history of the world. And then you came along and said…”Hold my sippy cup.” It’s funny because now your parents are learning what it is like to parent a child who believes that the whole world is here just for you. I LOVE IT!!!

This past year brought a BIG CHANGE to your life. We had no idea how you would react when Baby Benjamin came along, but you have proven yourself to be a wonderful big sister. At first, you weren’t sure you were going to like having him around all the time, but I think he has grown on you. You help momma and daddy take care of him and he absolutely adores you. When he’s upset…you are able to calm him and he just loves looking at you.

One of my favorite passages from Dr. James Dobson’s book, The Strong-Willed Child is this one…

“Harshness, gruffness, and sternness are not effective in shaping a child’s will. Likewise, constant whacking and threatening and criticizing are destructive and counterproductive. A parent who is mean and angry most of the time is creating resentment that will be stored and come roaring into the relationship during adolescence or beyond. Therefore, every opportunity should be taken to keep the tenor of the home pleasant, fun, and accepting. At the same time, however, parents should display confident firmness in their demeanor. You, Mom and Dad, are the boss. You are in charge. If you believe it, the tougher child will accept it also.”

You see that last line? I made it bold — not necessarily for you but for your parents. When Nanna and I were raising your momma, we had to remind ourselves of this particular truth many times. I would say to myself…”Keith…YOU are the parent. YOU are the boss. Now get in there in act like it.” Many times it didn’t work because your momma would smile at me or saying something that would make me forget why I had been upset to begin with.

I tell you that because I see your momma every time I look at you. I’m 30 years older, but that little girl in my arms in the picture I have posted with this letter is a spitting image of her momma. Every time you and I are together, it brings back such wonderful memories for me. Every time Nanna and I visit you, we have so much fun and you bring so much joy and happiness to our lives.

You are a daddy’s girl and I’m so happy about that. Your daddy will teach you what a Godly man acts like. That will come in handy when you are in your 40s and we allow you to start dating. Right now you have daddy wrapped around your little finger — pretty tightly I might add. He talks a big talk, but I see how he responds when you bat those beautiful eyes at him.

You live in a world today where many children don’t realize just how special they are. For whatever reason, they don’t have a “cheering squad” in their life to encourage them and help them grow to be the person God intended for them to be. I thank God that you have that “cheering squad” in your life. Your parents, your Poppo and Nanna, and all your family are just crazy in love with you. But I want to remind you of just one more thing on your second birthday.

You are loved and cared for by God. Isaiah 43:4 says that “you are precious in My sight, and I love you.” No matter what happens in your life — don’t ever forget that promise from God. People around you may disappoint you and let you down — but God will never let you down. He will never leave you alone and His love for you is everlasting.

Ellie, your smile and your laugh is infectious. You brighten up the room when you walk in. I have a feeling God is going to use that gift in your life in a very special way as you get older. We need more laughter in our world. Unfortunately, as we get older, it seems we laugh less. You make sure that Poppo is always laughing. You (and your brother, Benjamin and your cousins, Hudson and Harper) remind me that our life story has a happy ending. Because of you, I am reminded each day that I am loved and accepted — not for what I do but for who I am. I don’t care how bad my day has been, all I have to do is FaceTime with you and Benjamin or talk to Hudson or Harper and all is right in my world. Thank you for that.

So, now we begin your third trip around the sun. I bet it’s going to be a hoot. I can’t wait to see how you grow and mature in this year. I have a feeling that I’m going to enjoy watching you and your parents navigate through the “terrible twos.” I’m already giggling as I think about it.

As always…Nanna and I love you unconditionally. Nothing you will ever do could make us love you any less. I may not always like your behavior — but my love for you is not based on your behavior. My love for you is based on the fact that somewhere in that little body of yours flows just a little bit of Poppo’s strong-willed personality and I LOVE IT!

Love,

Poppo

 

Dear Harper…Happy Birthday!

Dear Harper,

Today (9/6/18) is your SECOND birthday! Where has the time gone? It seems like you just got here and now we are celebrating another birthday. I guess Poppo truly is getting old — just don’t tell anybody I said that.

I cannot begin to tell you what a joy you are in our lives. Your laugh is contagious and you absolutely light up a room with your smile. It was obvious when Hudson was born that he was a strong-willed child so we thought you would be our calm child. Well…not so much. You are giving your big brother a run for his money in that department. You may have outdistanced him just bit because you have the shrillest squeal I have ever heard in my life. I have a cousin, Natalie who had a very high pitched voice when she was a child. I kinda kidded her about that all her life. I’m beginning to wonder if your shrill squeal is my payback for making fun of Natalie. If so, I would like to publicly apologize to Natalie right now for that. You have her beat! When things don’t go your way…that squeal makes dogs howl all over the neighborhood!

You are also becoming our little princess. The funniest thing you do to me right now is this. When I ask for a kiss, you often tell me no. But then you present your cheek to me so I can kiss you! You won’t give Poppo kisses, but you allow Poppo to kiss you. Thank you, your highness.

But Little Bit, there is something else very special I have begun to notice about you. You have what I call the “second child personality.” I doubt there is scientific evidence to back up what I’m about to say, but I’ve noticed this before. Your daddy has this trait, your Aunt B (Poppo’s sister, Brenda) has it, and when I got to know your momma…I discovered she has it as well.

As your little personality has developed, I’ve noticed that you have a tremendously big heart. I noticed it first in the way you take care of your “babies.” Whenever you hold a baby doll, you love it and then bring it to Poppo and want me to love it too. That is so cute. But it goes way beyond that.

Second children seem to have this compassionate part of their personality that is greatly enhanced over the first child. I see this in you already. You are always concerned about everybody else. You want the approval of your big brother, you want to make sure everybody else is happy and you are quick to give a hug or to ask “you ok” when we sneeze or even cough. It seems that you have this inner instinct that causes love and compassion to be your first response to others.

I can’t tell you how happy that makes us. I can’t tell you how many times you have come over to me, asked me to hold you and then you put your head on my shoulder and just gently pat my back. You don’t always know what kind of day I have had or what kind of foolishness I’ve had to deal with that day, but you seem to know that laying your head on my shoulder and patting my back will make it all better. That, my darling is a God-given gift.

Just this week, Hudson was riding his bike down the driveway at our house. Nanna and momma and I were all out there watching and encouraging him. I was holding you. All of a sudden, I looked at you and you had both fists balled up and you were screaming to Hudson — “PUSH, PUSH.” When he was able to ride the bike, you raised those arms and just screamed, “YAY!!!!!” You were as excited for him as you would have been for yourself had you accomplished the same thing.

Oldest children don’t always see the importance of things like that. I can say that because I am an oldest child. In the Bible, there were two sisters — Mary and Martha. I think Martha was an older child. The Bible says she was always distracted doing things and being busy. That sounds about right. Mary, on the other hand was more observant. She sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to Him teach (Luke 10). I think you may turn out to be my Mary in a Martha world.

Many people unfortunately believe that you have to be busy and doing something all the time. Those people (like Poppo) sometimes miss opportunities to show compassion — not because we don’t care, but because we are too busy. I think second children — like you, your daddy and momma, and your Aunt B — are able to see things I don’t see. You all see how important it is to show compassion and to be encouraging. I’m thankful for that.

It’s so much fun for Nanna and I to watch you, Hudson and Ellie as you grow and mature. Each one of you has special qualities that God has given you which I know each of you will use one day to glorify Him. We love all of you so, so much.

I’m looking forward to watching you go through this second year. You are a typical two year old — we all see AND HEAR that. But you also are a special child — the second child. You seem to see through eyes of compassion. I pray that gift continues to grow and mature in you.

Remember…Nanna and I love you UNCONDITIONALLY. No matter what you do or where you go, we will ALWAYS love you. That doesn’t mean I won’t correct you when you misbehave, but I promise to always be your biggest cheerleader in life.

You truly are #MYFAVORITEREDHEAD. Happy birthday Little Bit. I love you.

Happy Birthday PunkinDoodle…Tell Your Momma to Sweep the Porch

Dear Ellie,

Tomorrow (8/21) is your first birthday! It’s hard to believe you have been here a whole year. I’ve always been told that the older you get, the faster time flies. I didn’t believe that until I turned 50. Now it seems like time flies faster and faster every day.

Your first year has been so much fun. You are DEFINITELY your mother’s child! That makes me laugh right out loud! Several times (especially recently), your mom has called me and I can hear you in the background throwing a little “fit” or screaming because the attention is not on you at that moment. I just smile…because I consider this PAYBACK from God to your mom. I think she spent the first four years of her life believing that all the rest of us had been sent here to entertain her.

Every time Nanna and I see you or Facetime with you is special to us. We don’t live as close to you as we would like, so our visits are extra special. When I was a little boy, there was no such thing as Facetime. Shoot…there was no such thing as cell phones either! That explains the title to your first birthday letter from Poppo. I have a little story to tell you.

When I was a little boy, my grandmother (I called her Mammy…she didn’t like that by the way), lived in Roanoke Rapids and I lived in Potecasi. Today that wouldn’t mean a lot because people travel that distance every day to go to their job, but when I was a boy, you only went to Roanoke Rapids a couple of times a month if you were lucky. That meant I didn’t get to see Mammy very often.

Well, every couple of weeks, Mammy and Uncle Genie (he was my step-grandfather — my granddaddy died before I was born) would make the trip from Roanoke Rapids to Potecasi to visit with us. They usually came on Sunday afternoon after church. I didn’t always know when they were coming but there was a sign I looked for that was a pretty good indicator of their impending visit — my momma (Granny) would sweep the front porch.

Big deal you say? For me, it sure was. You see, nobody ever came in the front door of our house. The only two people I remember using our front door were Mr. Jernigan who drove the dry-cleaning truck and G-Buck. Mr. Jernigan would stop out front and come to the front door to see if we had any dry-cleaning that needed to be picked up. He usually showed up around 6-7pm usually while we were eating supper. He didn’t come in to visit because he was working. G-Buck usually showed up at the front door around 1-2AM every six months or so when he had “had a snoot full.” That’s another story for another day. It was a long time before anybody ever explained that one to me. All I knew was my daddy usually left to take G-Buck somewhere — so again…no visit.

BUT…when Granny would come home from church and grab the broom and shoot out the front door, I knew big doings were about to happen! When she swept the front porch that meant Mammy was coming to visit. Now, Granny probably has a much different recollection of this process than me — you can ask her about it some other time.

After the porch was swept, I waited to see that green Oldsmobile pull into our yard. I was so excited to see Mammy. Your Aunt Brenda and I would sit on the couch and tell Mammy about all the things going on in our lives. It was a fun Sunday afternoon because we also got to sit in the Living Room — and nobody normally sat in that room. You only used it when you had special company. Here’s a picture of me, Aunt Brenda, Mammy and Uncle Genie. I have another one which I decided not to include because Aunt Brenda and I are half naked (LOL). I’d have way to much explaining to do if I put THAT on the internet. I’ll show you the picture some time because you can see just how happy we were.

IMG_0013.jpg

I’m sure you are wondering…”Poppo, why are you telling me this story on my first birthday?”

Well, go back to how I began. Nanna and I don’t live as close to you as we would like, so I hope that every time you hear that we are coming to see you, you get as excited as I did when I knew Mammy was coming to see me. Maybe we can develop our own “signal” to let you know that we are coming. With all the technology that exists today, that probably isn’t necessary.

Nanna and I love you very much and we enjoy every minute we get to spend with you and your parents. I’m so excited about this next year as you start walking and talking so that I can understand what you are saying. I look forward to watching you continue to grow up into the wonderful young woman that I know you will be. Even though we don’t see you every day…I can promise you, you are ALWAYS on my mind. I pray for you and I ask God to keep you safe and help you feel just how much you are loved when I’m not there to give you a big squeeze.

So PunkinDoodle…Nanna and I are headed your way later this week. We are coming to celebrate your first birthday with a party. There will be lots of family and friends there to celebrate YOU! And yes, this time, we are all coming just to entertain you. Tell your momma to sweep the front porch cause Poppo is on the way.

I love you with all my heart. Happy birthday PunkinDoodle.

Love,

Poppo

Scooter…It’s All About FAMILY

IMG_2638-COLLAGE

Happy 4th birthday Scooter (June 22)! I found 5 of my favorite pictures of us for your letter this year. I’ll admit, my eyes sweated just a bit as I looked back to June 2014 and saw how you have grown over these 4 years. It seems like yesterday, Nanna and I…along with a room full of others were patiently waiting for you to get here.

This has been another eventful year in our lives. You are growing into a wonderful big brother to Harper. It makes me so happy to see you loving on her and trying to take care of her. Don’t get me wrong…you have your moments with her, but for the most part you are doing what a big brother is supposed to do. Just this morning, when you saw Harper, you said, “Hi Harper. You are soooo cute!” I just love that.

You also became a cousin this year. Aunt Deeves and Knuckle Nate had a baby this year. From the first time you met Ellie, you were smitten. You call her Baby Ellie. In fact, we all call her Baby Ellie now. My guess is you will probably still call her Baby Ellie when she is 18 years old! You really love Harper and Baby Ellie — that makes me happy.

Whenever you see Poppo and Nanna these days, you want to know if we are going to do something FUN. Usually, the conversation goes something like this…”Poppo, let’s do something FUN.” “Like what Scooter?” “Well, I have an idea. Let’s go to the aquarium and see the sharks…or let’s go to Dollywood…or let’s go get pizza and play dinosaur games.” You have a list of things you like to do and you are always ready with an idea!

That brings me to something I want to talk about with you today. It’s one of the most important words you will ever hear…FAMILY. You are blessed with a family who loves you very much. Between Nanna and Poppo, Nonnie and Poppy and all the rest…I hope you realize just how much you are loved.

Family is important. In the Bible times, family was the most important part of life. If you wanted to understand society, you talked about family relationships. The ancient Hebrews spent much time sharing stories about family. We have lost some of that importance in our world today, but YOUR FAMILY — Vaughans and Hills — still believe that the most important thing in life is FAMILY.

Many people in the world today find their identity in what they do in life or where they live. There is a popular TV show today called Jeopardy. When they introduce the contestants on that show, they usually introduce them by telling where they are from and what they do. For example, if Poppo was to go on Jeopardy, they might say, “A Baptist preacher from Seymour, Tennessee.” We seem to boil people down to those two things in our world and I think that’s sad.

I want you to know that you are not defined by where you live or what you do, but who you are. And you are part of a FAMILY. The Bible paints a picture that teaches us that we are part of a family TREE. Each individual is a branch on that tree. As different members of the tree pass away, we are left with the leaves and branches of others who carry on the family tradition and family name.

Your Popple (my daddy), always taught me that the most important thing in life was your name. It didn’t matter how much money you made or what kind of car you drove…what mattered is what people thought about when they heard your name. When people hear your name — Hudson Keith Vaughan, I want them to think good thoughts. I want them to think of a person who treats all people the way he would want to be treated. I want them to think of a person who shares the love of Jesus by the way he talks and by the way he lives his life.

You are getting old enough now to begin to understand just how important family truly is. When you were born, I told you that no matter what you did or where you went, we would always love you — unconditionally. Families don’t always agree on everything, but at the end of the day I have learned that when the world turns its back on me, the people who stick by me are FAMILY. Don’t ever forget that.

I’m looking forward to many more adventures this year. There are some people who think I put too much emphasis on Nanna, my children and my grandchildren. They think I post too many pictures of you, Harper and Ellie on social media. You know what? I don’t care what they think. I believe that my greatest accomplishment in this life is my family. When I’m gone, I don’t want people to talk about my preaching or how I was as a pastor. I want them to remember one thing…Keith Vaughan loved his FAMILY.

A man who Poppo admired a lot was Menachem Begin. He was the Prime Minister of Israel. Here is something he said and I truly believe it’s true.

“Peace is the beauty of life. It is sunshine. It is the smile of a child, the love of a mother, the joy of a father, the togetherness of a family. It is the advancement of man, the victory of a just cause, the triumph of truth.”

I love you Scooter and I am so thankful to God that He made you a part of MY FAMILY. Happy birthday.

Love,

Poppo

#MyFavoriteRedHead

Image-1.jpg Dear Harper,

HAPPY BIRTHDAY! You are 1 year old today. It’s so hard to believe. 365 days ago, you made your grand entrance and our world has not been the same since!

You are no longer “the baby” of our family. Baby Ellie was born a little over 2 weeks ago and that makes you “the middle cousin.” I think you will do just fine in that role. You met Ellie over the weekend. Everybody got along just fine and I bet ya’ll are going to be best buddies.

The title of your letter is a little different. I’m not even sure what a “hashtag” is, but this one has become your signature line when I post pictures of you. I think people use “hashtags” to call attention to special things they want lots of people to see. When Al Gore invented the internet I don’t know if he knew all the trouble he would cause, but when I post pictures of you, Hudson and Ellie…it makes the world-wide web a much happier place…I guarantee! You are the prettiest redhead I know and you certainly are #MyFavoriteRedHead.

You are still my “Little Bit” but in recent days you have discovered just how much fun it is to EAT! I haven’t seen anything that you don’t like. That’s good. Don’t be a picky eater. Food is just too good to miss out on things by not trying it. I’m having to buy extra Little Debbie oatmeal cookies because you really like those. You need to understand that I don’t share my Little Debbie cookies with just anybody — but you are just too cute and too special for me not to share with you.

You are a jumping bean! That’s your favorite thing right now. You hold on to my hands and jump up and down and laugh. Nana calls you Tigger (from Winnie the Pooh) because you jump so much. You are a bundle of energy and you are curious about everything — especially Rosie. Rosie is a sweet girl and she just lets you pull on her ears and play with her paws. She loves it when you and Hudson come over to play.

There is one more thing I want to talk to you about today. It’s been weighing on my mind for a while, and I want to make sure you understand this from the very beginning.

We live in a crazy world right now. People are not always nice to each other the way they should be. That makes Poppo very sad. I was taught that it didn’t matter what color your skin was or where you came from, God loves all people and He wants us to treat each other the way we would want to be treated. Our family has always tried to live by that rule.

Most of the time when you and I are together, we like to sing. And one of our favorite songs says, “Jesus loves the little children. All the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white; they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

That is not just a song to me. That is the way I always want to see the world and it is the way your parents and your grandparents want you to see it as well. We don’t judge people based on the way they look or where they come from. We are supposed to love all people because God made them. It is wrong for us to treat others differently just because they look differently or talk differently or come from a different part of the world from us.

Remember the Bible verse that says, “For God so loved THE WORLD” — that means EVERYBODY in the world is loved by God —  “that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). That means that Jesus came to this earth and died on the cross so that all of us can have a personal relationship with God. NOBODY is left out. Anyone who admits their sin and believes in Jesus will be saved. As you grow older, we will talk much more about that.

Right now, I just want you to learn early to treat everybody the way you want to be treated. Everybody will not always do things that are lovable — but we love them anyway because God loves them. Don’t ever treat people differently just because they don’t look like you or dress like you or talk like you. I think this is one of the most important lessons you can learn in life.

I’m sorry to tell you that people will not always treat you nicely. Sometimes they will talk about you and they may hurt your feelings. That is NOT FUN. When it happens, always remember that Poppo loves you more than anything and I will do my very best to make sure you always know that you are loved and that you are special to God. There is nothing that you cannot do if you trust God and follow Him. As you learn that lesson, always remember how bad it feels when people don’t treat you nicely. That will help you understand what other people feel like when they are treated unfairly. I pray that you will always share that special smile with everybody you meet. It will sure brighten somebody’s day!

Well, here we go. Today begins your second trip around the sun. I’ve made almost 55 trips and you, Hudson and Ellie have made the most recent ones my favorites yet. I can’t wait to see what happens to us this year. Whatever comes our way, always remember that God loves you, Nana and Poppo love you and there is absolutely NOTHING you can ever do to change either one of those things.

I love you Little Bit. You truly are #MyFavoriteRedHead.

Love,

Poppo

Every Poppo Needs A…

Poppo:Ellie

Dear Ellie,
I don’t even know where to begin with your letter. For every grandchild, I write them a special letter from me on or around their birthday. I started it with your cousins Hudson and Harper. Now, it’s your turn.

I think I have been expecting you for a little more than 31 years. When your momma was born, I KNEW that one day she would have a little girl who would bring as much joy to her as she brought to me. Your momma is the definition of “Daddy’s Girl” — always has been, always will be. Based on my very early observations, I have a feeling you are going to be a Daddy’s Girl too. That’s a good thing. As you grow, I will teach you how to use that to your every advantage. I’m already watching you wrap your daddy around your finger and I’ve been standing back and smiling because I KNOW what’s going to happen.

There are a few things I would like to share with you as we start this journey of life together.

First, and you already know this. God loves you, your parents love you, and Nana and I love you. Those are three things you can ALWAYS count on. I don’t care what happens in your life or where you go in life, our love for you is unconditional. There is absolutely nothing you can ever do to make us stop loving you.

I think you already know how much God loves you. I think all babies know that because I believe that the last place you lived before you were in mommy’s tummy was in Heaven. You were quite stubborn and didn’t want to join us in the “real world” yesterday (8/21/17). I wasn’t there, but your daddy told me that he thought you had latched on to mommy’s insides with your toes and weren’t going to turn loose! That sounds about right. I know if I had to leave the warmth and comfort of Heaven and my mommy’s womb, I’d want to stay too. We will do our very best to make you feel safe and loved here too. Don’t worry.

The second thing I want to tell you is about your nickname. I actually titled your letter, “Every Poppo Needs A…” as a little tease for your nickname. Every time a grandchild is born, I get to know them a bit and then give them a name that is special for them and that I call them. I call Hudson, Scooter — you will understand that soon enough. I call Harper — Little Bit because she was so tiny. I decided on your nickname before you were born.

When your momma was born, she was the first grandchild for my parents, Granny and Popple. Popple is the one who started this nickname thing. Oh how I wish you could have known him. He lives in heaven now, but I feel like he is with me and I am trying to be as good a Poppo as my daddy was a Popple. The grandchildren called him Popple because of your momma. That’s the advantage of being the first grandchild. You get to pick the names of your grandparents and the rest of the grandchildren basically follow along. For some reason, your momma couldn’t quite say Pappa and it sounded like Popple. So that was it.

It didn’t take him long to give your momma a nickname. She was his Punkin Doodle. I have absolutely no idea what a Punkin Doodle is but that’s what he called her. Popple had a very special relationship with my sister (your Aunt B) and your momma. I always wanted that kind of relationship with my daughter too. And I have it with your momma. I’ll tell you everything you need to know about your momma as you get older. She thinks she rules the roost, but I’ve just let her believe that for almost 32 years. There are some good stories I will tell you. Stick with me Ellie and you will be running this house in no time flat!

Back to my story. After Popple went to heaven, there was nobody who called your momma Punkin Doodle any more. Popple called your Knuckle Dustin, PeeWee and I always have called him PeeWee and now YOU can call him Knuckle PeeWee! But when Popple died, the name Punkin Doodle faded away.

The more I have thought about it, the more I have realized that Every Poppo Needs a PUNKIN DOODLE….so there you go. That’s your name. You are my Punkin Doodle. After having met you, it fits. I still don’t know what it means, but when I saw you, I knew I had made the right choice. My daddy would be proud of me and he would so love you.

The third thing I want to tell you is that this family is CRAZY! The more I hang around them, the more I realize that the only sane ones left are Scooter, Little Bit and Poppo! You have joined a very exclusive club. You will meet them all — Nana, Knuckle PeeWee, Aunty Em (I just decided that’s what you would call her), Granny (don’t even get me started) and ALL the rest. It can be overwhelming sometimes, but again…stick with me. I will guide you through the maze of craziness and you will come to love all of them. They really are cool people!

Finally, I want to tell you about your momma and daddy. They have their quirks but I can already tell that they love you more than anything. They have that look in their eyes when they look at you. Your parents are going to teach you so many things as you grow that will help you later on in life. I have watched them mature and grow since they got married and I’m convinced they are ready for the challenge. You won’t always agree with them and there will be times when you don’t like them very much. That’s ok. Just remember they are doing the most important job that God every gave to people — raising children. They are going to tell you about Jesus and they are going to show you what it means to love Jesus and follow Him. Watch them, listen to them, cut them a lot of slack — they really are doing the best they can.

You are a blessing and miracle from God for us. I look forward to watching you grow and I can’t wait until you are big enough to play with us. It’s going to be a blast! I’ve gotten quite good at this whole Poppo thing, if I do say so myself.

Punkin Doodle, always remember that God has a special plan for you and there is absolutely NOTHING you cannot do when you follow Him and trust Him. Nana and I love you and I promise you can always count on us.

Welcome to our world! Let’s go have some fun.