We cross the street. I grab for her hand. And, she gives it. No pouting. No complaining. Just natural, the way a girl does with her mom. The way she has done a million times before. Sometimes skipping. Sometimes blissfully unaware of the Sofia traffic that will not stop for anybody, not even pigtails and fluffy skirts. Mom and daughter, hand in hand. Natural. The way a girl does with her mom.
But, yesterday, she turned 18. A woman. And yesterday, we celebrated because that is the right thing to do. We made it. We did it. Hand in hand, she grew up to be this amazing, God-fearing, God-serving, God-loving woman. And that prayer that her Daddy and I prayed every day; “God help her to to love you, live for you to, and to serve you every day of her life”; we see God honoring that, answering that, molding that in our little girl.
Today, well today, the rain is falling in big, crashing waves because a tomorrow that comes too soon means she leaves for Nashville … to become a college student. To walk paths in this world, make decisions, live out her faith without her Momma’s hand there to check the traffic, look both ways, guide her steps around pot holes and puddles, and get her safely to the other side.
So, in the midst of this rainy graduation celebration, I am thinking that …
it was right to decide she wasn’t really ours.
She was just a few days old and we we had her at Jim and Melody’s. Mark and Janey were there. We were the first of our close friends to have a baby. And, all of us were trying to figure out how to juggle a newborn with a movie night. After she had been passed around, she came back to me, and I remember there in the darkness, thinking, ‘You aren’t really mine. You belong to Jesus. And as much as I love you, He loves you more. So, we’ve go to do this growing up thing with that as a foundation: you are not ours. You are His.” That was a good decision.
I was never a perfect mom.
Remember the Sunday you wouldn’t get ready because you wanted to play with your music box and I was fuming mad because it was Sunday and people were coming for church? Right there in the dining room of our apartment, I lost it and I yelled at you and grabbed the music box. Did I even throw it down? Momma threw the temper tantrum? Or 7th grade, when you were being bullied and I didn’t realize how bad it really was. We pulled into the school driveway and you said, “I’m not going to school today” You never said you didn’t want to go to school. You loved school! But I made you go. I pulled you out of the car and made you go. I should have known. I should have listened better. I was never a perfect mom, but somehow, by God’s grace, you have grown into an amazing child of God.
growing up good looks different.
There was this moment at the stop light on Tsarigradskoya Shosse when God told me that my momma-expectations for your childhood, your education, your social experiences were not necessarily in tune with His. That was a day of revelation followed by freedom. I learned to stop trying to orchestrate your life for optimal ‘growth procedure’ and just relax into and enjoy the reality that God provided for you. Next year, as an MK trying to fit back into an American culture that you have never known, this is where God’s faithfulness will be key. He led your parents into this missionary life, which, in turn, created huge ramifications for you because you grew up missionary. You grew up good but you grew up different. Relax into God (I will too) and let’s see how he is going to help you through this tricky transition.
talking theology together creates wise kids.
Remember the poster on your wall with the different theological families and how you connected that to various people that you knew? Even then, you were trying to figure out how this faith thing works among people you love. For all of the black and white, God left a lot of gray. He isn’t scared of our questions, he welcomes them. He isn’t offended by our honest emotions, he knows them. And, if there is one thing that I am learning in this life, it is that facing your feelings, your questions, your fears head-on is always the best way. You gotta walk through them to the other side, Kid, not around them even when it hurts. Wrestle with God. But, be ready to accept that sometimes God chooses not to give us answers. Sometimes, he only gives us his presence and that is enough. So, on those days when your MK rhythm feels so out of sync with the rest of your new world, keep walking, keep connecting with God and with those around you.
teaching you that the world is not bad was good.
Sure. Satan prowls around like a roaring lion. And, the unbelieving world … a lot of bad, evil, sinful stuff out there. But, our story is about a Jesus who willingly gave himself for this world because he LOVED us. Loved people. So, choose to see this world with the eyes of Jesus. Ask Him to give you his eyes. And, remember, you were born for such a time as this, Esther-child; God meant for you to minister to this world, to this generation. Do not be naive about the temptations and the powers of darkness at work, but call upon the Victor of your heart to fight for you, to protect you. Pray. Be obedient. Be courageous. Be Jesus to your generation.
reading books out loud drew us together.
I will never forget the stomach ripping laughter of Junie B. Jones or the adventures of Narnia. That is us: curled up and reading together. Books are meant to be shared, aren’t they? You taught me this. And, remember our drive to school in Sofia when we created a story to make the long ride go quickly? Sophie would throw in great ideas from the back? We wove that story together over weeks. We need to write it. And remember how you cried when Harry Potter ended? I loved that about you. Books weave families together. We are bound together by a story that promises that goodbyes are never forever and that happily ever after in a kingdom with the one truly good King is true. You are already a part of that story, so READ it every day and let the words of Life be constantly, truthfully, fully woven into every word you speak.
taking long road trips and resisting the urge to entertain you every moment was life-giving.
That was an interesting lesson to learn. We spent so many hours on the road – more than the average family, I am sure. Sometimes, I felt guilty about not ‘entertaining’ you on those long car rides but in retrospect, I am glad for my decision. You learned to entertain yourself. You learned to find an imaginary world of exploration. I think you may have learned how spending time with yourself is life-giving. I love the fact that you and your sisters get itchy when we don’t have a long road trip. I love the fact that 19 hours in a bus through the Balkans is a great, Pink Panther memory. I love that you know how to settle into the journey and let God guide the road ahead.
trying to resist the temptation to treat you like a princess brings a happily ever after.
It was tempting. Oh, you had your share of princess dresses, remember? But, Daddy and I wanted you to grow up strong and capable. We wanted you to always know that God wants to and will change His world through you. You have specific, God-designed talents, a specific call; being a strong woman in Christ is part of His design. God’s story is full of strong women, leaders, called to all sorts of ministries. A princess complex doesn’t serve the kingdom well. Jesus made a radical, revolutionary statement about the role of women in the way that he lived and related to them within his culture. He broke every barrier for you. So, we always wanted you to believe that God can call you to anything He chooses and that your strength, grounded in Him, is enough to answer that call. You are not a princess but you are a part of a royal priesthood.
Sure, there are more lessons learned over this beautiful journey. But, I see that the sun is shining and a young woman is ready to leave for her graduation ceremony. Today, 07, June 2014, you take your first step across a stage and you do it without Momma’s hand. Natural. The way a young woman does. Walk tall. Walk courageously. Walk faithfully. This is your day. You were born for such a time as this, Esther-child.