We celebrated my oldest daughter’s birthday last week when she turned 7, an age I still can’t believe she could be and yet she is. It never feels like time has flown by as quickly as it has. So therefore, I thought that it was probably time to write her, and eventually her little sisters, a letter…which I think might be good for you too.
I can’t believe that this much time has passed us by, and although I’ve spent each and every day of it with you, from the moment I found out I was barely pregnant with you, on Daddy’s and my first wedding anniversary, I still just don’t know how you’re already 7. I want you to know some things, things I wish I had known earlier and that had come less painfully to me, things that I hope and pray you will hold tight in your heart and know deep in your soul.
Honey, you are so determined. You have been alert and aware of the world around you from the moment you were born, deep blue-gray eyes of new-baby-ness that peeked out at everyone and everything, almost trying to soak it all in and pay attention to the details. Your determined little mind worked so hard to grow you up too quickly, from crawling at 5 1/2 months to walking at 9 months, to wanting your space and independence from swaddling and cuddling, even at your earliest moments. You were determined to take on the world alone. Much as I tried to hold on tight to you and keep you snuggled up, protected, you needed alone time, to figure life out and to process everything your new-baby brain soaked up. You became so frustrated when you couldn’t easily accomplish huge tasks, delighted in mama’s and daddy’s praises and encouragements to keep trying, and yet rarely wanted alternative methods to try your tough tasks. You’re still like this now. You still strive to know and understand everything about everything going on in the world and in our lives, all of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Your determination to make meaning of the hard stuff of life on your own, without help, is true to your soul and yet hard for mama to know how to help. We have both spent enough time and enough of ourselves trying to go it alone, determined to take on life’s challenges on our own.
Darling girl, you are so sensitive. Your sweet soul takes on life and the world and sticks everything so deep inside you, that sometimes I can’t find the depths. Sometimes I don’t know how wrong things are until you suddenly can’t hold the tears back and I don’t know why. You have always, always known when something was wrong with me… when your tiny baby body would crawl into my lap and try to love on my sobby, melty mess-ness, huddled on the cold kitchen floor. When I’d try so hard to keep from upsetting you and to hide my own hurts from you, you’d still know. When bullying roared its ugly, mean words at you when you were only 3 years old, my heart shattered for you. You tried to be so brave and not to let your hurts show, sharing only questions of “why?” with me, and answers never felt right or enough to me. When the meanness took different forms and turned into sometimes-friends casting you aside because they had other friends and didn’t want you anymore… and even other adults, who should have been the closest, tightest protectors of your gentle, sensitive heart turned away and broke your trust by not keeping you and your soul safe from cutting words and cruel behaviors… I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry that they chose not to help your hurts and to help you and others involved to figure out healthy ways to handle these challenges, rather than you swallowing it all deep down and storing it inside for too long before uncovering the pain for me, months too late. You work so hard to handle everything inside, and I watch how the pain and sorrow bubbles up and over when you finally give in and surrender to it. I know this too well myself, as I am like this too. Words and actions churn deep within, swirling around in the abyss of my mind trying to make sense of it all, while the could-a, should-a, would-a guilt plays hard on the soul. We have both spent enough time and enough of ourselves burying everything deep within.
Baby, you are so very precious. You are free-spirited and sometimes feisty, oftentimes stubborn and sweet biggest sister, independent and yet cautious, driven and yet in-want of affirmation. You are exactly who you are supposed to be. As your sis says, “God made you, just the way you are.” You are His. You are Him, tiny pieces of Him in you that make you just as precious as you are. For all of your determination to take on the world by yourself and for all of your sensitivity about its cruelness, you are always His. It’s just my blessing, and your Daddy’s, to have been given your soul to cherish as ours and to be used by God to help you through life’s broken paths. As much as you and I sometimes clash in our stubborn ways or in my feeble attempts to rein in your sometimes overly free spirit, I know full-well that we are both being molded by our Creator. And so I want you to share some of my life lessons with you, so you will know that being molded and formed in God’s own image is hard and painful sometimes, but is more amazingly good than letting ourselves dig deep inside to find the answers we can’t reach on our own.
~ You don’t have to bury your hurts and your sorrows and your joys deep inside, and you shouldn’t. There are too many times in your life where you’ll be upset by words or actions or events that have the ability to crush your soul and drive you into deep sadness. You simply cannot hang onto all of that mess and not be affected by burying it and not sharing the burdens somehow, with someone. It isn’t healthy for you, and it isn’t healthy for those of us who love you beyond measure, who will gladly help you figure out how to deal with the hurt, rather than become consumed by it. There are too many other seemingly easy escapes from reality and from pain that will tempt you some day, drugs and alcohol and men and eating disorders – permanent solutions to temporary problems – escapes that will impact you for a lifetime and that are more difficult to undo than whatever hurt you’re running from or burying deep inside. PLEASE talk to me, to Daddy, to your sisters, to a counselor, to a minister, to God Himself, before holding in what you’re going through. I know that sometimes it seems like just talking to God about your inmost emotions seems like a one-sided conversation, and that you can’t see overnight results, and that His words are not loud enough to drown out the painful ones. I also know that talking to God NEVER falls on un-hearing ears or sears into an un-caring heart. God is always there, always available, always waiting to share your weighty burdens and lift them from your shoulders. You just have to let Him. His Love is more than enough to take on your burdens.
~ You really can, and should, set boundaries in your life and with other people in your life, but don’t build up walls. Your sister reminds us both, at the most important of moments, that God made everyone, and that He made each of us like Himself. There is so much good to find in every single person you meet, because there is so much God in each of them. Sometimes you will have to look a little harder or listen a little closer to find the good in someone, but it’s there and it needs to be known. There is so much good in you, so much God in you. We each have choices in how we use the good that God has blessed each of us with, how we find it in others, how we share it with others, and how we are the good and the little bits of God that the world needs. That being said, there are also choices that people make that are not good, and are not of God. And you don’t have to stand silently by, and let their not-good, not-God decisions affect your soul, your core, your health. It’s ok to say, “I love you, but I don’t love your words, your actions, your choices. I love you, but I don’t have to choose your words, actions, or choices as my own.” It’s ok to say, “I love you and God loves you, just as He made you to be, but I’m not responsible for your not-good, not-God choices. And until you make good, God-choices, it is better that we take a break or spend less time together.” It’s ok to say, “I will always love you, but I am not responsible for your choices. I’m responsible for my choices and my reactions to your choices.” It’s ok to say, “Enough is enough. You are welcome to come back into my life when you decide to start making good, God-choices, and I will continue to love you as I always have.” Because those not-good, not-God choices hurt God just as much, if not more than those choices hurt you. And He doesn’t want that either. Sometimes setting boundaries for other people’s behaviors and that impact on your life lets them find Jesus. Sometimes setting boundaries lets you love other people better because their choices are not as directly impacting your relationship with them and your relationship with God. God’s love is more than enough to mend even the most broken of situations.
~Jesus is always more than enough – more than your deepest sorrow, more than your heaviest burden, more than your secret-est secret, more than your happiest joy. As much as I want to tell you that I will always be with you, that won’t be true. As much as I want to protect you from everything the world throws at you, I simply can’t. As much as I desperately would take all of your worries and fears and burdens upon myself, I shouldn’t. I simply refuse to lie to you or to mislead you. And since I don’t know how many days we will be blessed to share, and I don’t know what will happen in your future that I could prepare you for now, and I just haven’t figured out how to feel less or worry less… that leaves both of us in desperate need of God’s love and of Jesus’ sturdy shoulders and saving grace. I cannot strip away from you the opportunity to grow closer to the God who created you in His image, who loves you beyond measure and who wants your heart to unburden itself with Him. I won’t have all of the answers, and I won’t know how to solve your problems. God will know. I won’t be with you every moment of every day, especially when you leave my little mama-nest and fly off into the world on your own. God will be there. You won’t always want to tell me everything that’s bothering you, and that’s ok, sort of. But you need to tell God, as He already knows what’s happening. We won’t know the path that you will walk from one day to the next, one choice after another, year upon year. God knows where you are going, and He wants to walk with you, if you’ll let Him. He’ll be there anyway, even when you don’t want Him there. Walk with God. His path will always lead you Home.
God’s love is always more than enough. Jesus’ grace is always more than enough. It is the only place where, in your heart you will know that enough is finally enough.
Love you, baby girl, and your sweet sisters too, more than you will ever know.