Happy birthday, daughter.
Today is the day. You’re fretting about getting older. Looking for a fine line around the eyes. Thinking about a new skin product. Examining your waistline. Daring to try on a swimsuit. You might even let a tear slip, but no one will ever see it. Not you.
But I just might.
Most everyone (at least here in the south) is quick to attribute their maturity, wisdom and spiritual growth to their parents. And truly, mine get lots and lots of credit. But it was you that had a major impact on who I am today and especially who I am spiritually. You came into this world on your own terms – reluctant. Even with lots of coaxing, you weren’t coming out. That was your first act of defiance. “If you want me, come get me.” And it certainly wasn’t your last.
As a newborn, you flatly refused to nurse. I nearly starved you for 2 weeks and the doctor kindly said, “Forget nursing. Give her a bottle.” And you gladly agreed. Meals were difficult to prepare when you were a toddler because you always wanted to be held. As a pre-schooler you still insisted on being rocked to sleep even though your infant brother would lie down and go to sleep on his own. (Good thing.)
During your preschool years and your teen years, the days seem endless and the challenges never-ending. Pushing the boundaries, testing the limits, seeing how close you could get to the edge of the cliff instead of how far away you should I stay. That’s my girl. But graciously there was a respite. Those elementary school days were, do I dare say, “easy.”
I wanted to do all the wonderful things with you and for you that my mother did for me. But I knew it was impossible. My mom is truly a ‘natural at motherhood.’ I’ve seen her calm another mother’s screaming colicky baby by simply holding her. I’ve seen her stop a raging tantrum with a mere look. I’ve heard her threaten a prowler that she’d shoot him when armed only with a broom. My mom actually had freshly baked cookies or doughnuts waiting on me when I arrived home from school each day.
I knew I couldn’t compete with that. So, I tried to do the things that were ‘natural’ for me. We walked and we talked. Each day, as often as possible, we’d walk down the road to the creek or to the barns and we would talk. You would talk, ask questions, ask more questions, then ask some more questions . . . And I would listen. Other days, I would talk. Trying to use my childhood experiences to teach some valuable life lessons. I told stories of working on the farm with my dad. How those experiences shaped my work ethic. I encouraged you to read. I talked about the excitement of going to college. And yes, the subject most parents dread – the opposite sex.
Those were the moments I treasured. Those were the moments in which mothers thrill. All my hopes and dreams, my goals and desires for you were funneled into those talks. My dreams weren’t fame and fortune or lofty careers. My dream was for you to be you, and more importantly, for you to find happiness in you. Contentment. Peace. Fulfillment. Truly knowing that you are, ‘fearfully and wonderfully made.’ What more could a mother want for her child?
Those years flew quickly and before I knew it, you were a teen. That independent, demanding, single-minded toddler re-emerged only this time in the body of an adult. Scary. But I don’t know who was more scared: me or you. The high school and early college years were rough. Really rough. Some days (actually nights) I didn’t think I would survive. But, those were the years that I grew, and grew, and grew in my reliance upon God.
Your teen rebellion forced me to dig deeper in my faith than ever before. No longer did I pray shallow prayers, but I came to understand what it meant to be unable to put into words my needs but the Holy Spirit interceded for me. I came to understand that I WAS NOT, nor ever had been, IN CONTROL. Of you or anyone else. You challenged me to challenge my faith. Was it deep enough, strong enough, bold enough, audacious enough to walk me through the fire. We never know the depth of our faith until it is truly tested. And test you did.
My prayer journals increased exponentially. Night after night I prayed, searched scripture, cried, prayed, searched scripture. And night after night, God met me and provided me comfort, hope and assurance that we would survive.
But we didn’t survive.
Because even in the midst of your most obnoxious days, she was still there. That little girl. My girl. The one that made me smile, delighted me with her curiosity, amazed me with her creativity and thrilled me with her love. So, I survived clinging to those moments. But I thrived because of the relationship I was developing with Christ. And as cracks began to develop in your shell of independence and autonomy, that curious girl would seek answers. She would ask questions. She would search the Word. And she began to thrive.
Honestly, because of your tenacity and determination, I really expected that you would be a high-powered professional totally focused on her career and her salary. I couldn’t imagine you managing a household or raising children; it seemed too restrictive, too limiting for your independent spirit. I was wrong.
Can I say it again? You thrived.
Today you hold two professional licenses. You are a loving and super-devoted wife of 13 years. (Thirteen years???) And most importantly, the rock-star mother to four, yes, FOUR children. The youngest two babies are less than one year difference in age. The eldest child was born with a chronic disease that requires intensive daily treatment and therapies. But from all outward appearances (and the expectations of her mom) – she’s just like every other kid. And the other child, well, let’s just say, “the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.” She’s a lot like her mom, high-spirited, independent and fiercely loyal to friends and loved ones.
So, can I say it again. You have thrived.
Day by day I see you growing, changing and becoming an independent woman that is dependent on the Lord. A woman that is becoming even more beautiful on the inside than she is on the surface. (And that’s really purdy!) A woman that wants her children to treat others with kindness, respect, dignity, compassion and love. A woman that makes her mother very, very proud. You reached my goal for you; for you to find happiness in you. Contentment. Peace. Fulfillment. Truly knowing that you are, ‘fearfully and wonderfully made.’
Happy birthday. And thanks for making me grow.
aka “Mimi” to my five grands!