Twenty-one years ago I was walking in the days of great expectation.
My first was to be born at the end of a long, hot summer, smack dab in the middle of one of only three months I had told God I did not want to have a baby. He grinned and said, “August it is!”
Throughout my childhood I had fantasized and romanticized what a big brother would look like–the way he’d protect me and stick up for me, and how his best friend would be my first kiss. No wonder in addition to choosing the month I’d give birth, I ordered a boy first. Once again God grinned and said, “Girl it shall be!”
I marveled at the life inside me.
I’d watch her swim from the outside in, the ripples across my swollen belly an ocean of miracle. My pregnancy was enviable, that daughter of mine never giving me a moment’s trouble. Except for the time she swam down to my right foot and it swelled like a blowfish. I’m sure I was a comical sight, splayed on my office floor with my leg hoisted across an office chair, begging her to go back to where she belonged. It never happened again.
I thought I had an intimate acquaintance with love – the always-longing I had for my mother, the appreciation for my father, the deep affection for friends, the blood I shared with my sister and brothers, the passion I had for my husband – but nothing approximated the bond between a child and her mother…between me and my babies. Nothing. And I know that’s how God himself loves me, and I’m supposed to love him most of all – and I hope to one day, I pray to one day – but if I’m speaking reality and practice and feelings, I’m not there yet.
Which I think God already understands, and I know already knows, so why pretend otherwise?
So this baby girl of mine has a super power and it’s called Speeding Up Time and I absolutely hate it! The 21 years since her birth have passed in a fraction of the time it took the 21 years preceding her birth. The brothers who came after her share this ability and I wish I could find the antidote for its reversal.
Which oddly gives me an appreciation for eternity. And God. This God of the Bible who’s not constrained by linear time, who sets eternity in the hearts of man. Oh God, your mysteries! That you’ve offered real and eternal life that begins (and ends?) in knowing you? Three children you’ve given me and in each I see your glory; in each I sense your wonder; in each I know you better.
How can I not praise my God for the precious, personal, physical conduit that leads me to him?
My firstborn, my baby girl, the first to toddle off with a piece of my heart is the one I’ve prayed for the longest. “Guard her heart, give her hunger for wisdom and truth, guide her through storms, reveal yourself to her in mighty ways,” I beg. To her…
Make the Gospel irresistibly real…
Give her the mind and heart, then hands and feet of Christ.
And God grins and says, “Okay,” and only then do I realize that sometimes when God gives me what I want, it comes at great cost.
When she was little, she needed me in ways that sometimes wore me out; my touch could stop the most frantic of tears, soothe her thrashing spirit, bring calming reassurance.
When she was around five, I remember leaving a birthday party when most of the mothers, my friends, stayed to visit. She was glued to my side watching the party from a safe distance. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to play with her friends, but I was her first choice. For her sake I left, palpable, throbbing ache in my chest, perhaps the first time I experienced the feelings of parenting with an open hand.
My baby girl likes to be called baby girl and there’s little doubt she’s my favorite daughter.
She’s a senior in college now, and I’ll be damned if writing that didn’t just drag tears to my eyes and make me curse.
It’s been 15 days since I’ve seen or talked to her, 71 days until I see her again; I don’t even know when we’ll get to talk. Two emails tell me that she eats rice three meals a day (with her fingers, not forks) and her weight in fresh mangos. She’s mingling with street dwellers, kaibigans, which translated from Tagalog means friend. She’s been present with Jesus in the form of people who love him. She’s overwhelmed and doing well and already knows it will be hard to return to finish her last year of school.
She leaves chunks of her heart where she serves. Having children of her own one day is the only thing I suspect will tug harder.
Now that she’s not so little, I need her in ways that likely wear her out…but mostly I keep that to myself.
I’m packaging care in a cardboard box, filled with sparse comforts and encouragements plenty. If two words out of the blue gave me hope, surely a few more will lavish the love they’re intended.
In faded letters, beloved is tattooed on her foot. It marks the time she believed in the deepest parts of her she was and is beloved. When I think on that now, all I hear is
How beautiful are the feet of the messenger who brings good news,
the good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns!
I wonder what she’ll get tattooed on her other foot.
She’s 22 hours away by air, 8,773 miles from home. She’ll return two days from her 22nd birthday.
I imagine she’s walking in the days of great expectation.
Ad maiorem Dei gloriam.
What a beautiful tribute to motherhood and to your precious baby girl. =)
My baby girl is only 4 hours away and I miss her terribly so I cannot imagine having her even farther.
Thanks for sharing such a heartfelt story.
Do you know who Katie Davis is? She’s from Nashville and through an initial short-term missions trip ended up dropping out of college, adopting 13 children in Africa; it’s an amazing, beautiful story.
Anyway, while I miss my daughter something awful, I cannot imagine the void left in Katie’s parents’ hearts. Their daughter is living the gospel, but SO far from their home….
But when we can’t hug our babies when we want? 4 hours away? 4 days away? Does it matter how far if they’re out of reach?
This is just beautiful, Robin. So is she. And so, my dear, are you. Thanks for this.
You do my spirit good, Diana :).
Such a beautiful tribute to a daughter who obviously shares your compassionate and Christ-like spirit!
She is so much braver and kinder [and a thousand more things] than her parents. Though I wish I could take credit, it’s totally a God thing :).
I am a momma to two littles and one who lives with Jesus and this hits home so hard. So beautifully said, so wonderfully true the words of scripture played out in a mother’s heart. I’ve prayed those prayers over my daughter and now I question the wisdom in my practice. 🙂 I cannot imagine a greater peace though, than knowing she is His.
You are an extraordinary mother, with remarkable children. Thank you for modeling so very well to those of us shortly behind.
All theses cliches you hear when you’re parenting littles? THEY’RE SO STINKIN’ TRUE!! Time flies, don’t blink, they grow up so fast–all of them are spot on! But the days can be so long, and sometimes getting to the end of the day is the best you can do.
I’ve gotten so many things wrong in parenting; the things I can see could do me in if I let them. BUT…a few things I must’ve gotten right. And I’m thankful for whatever they might be :).
I hear you, darling. My oldest (who just turned 23 on the other side of the world) has been serving in East Asia since last August. August of last year, that is. And how exactly do you survive when your heart is walking around outside your body ON ANOTHER CONTINENT? Somehow, you do it. But ain’t no way you do it outside the grace of God.
Bless you, sweet mama.
We are Deep South folks, like you. Today is our daughter’s 21st birthday and she is a rising senior in college. She is a million miles away from us in Kenya for two months. Wow. What a coincidence. I just sent this blog post to my wife who I am quite sure is having a tough day today with her baby girl across the world on her 21st birthday. Thanks for posting this!
(tried to post this once and it failed so forgive me if it posted twice)
Our daughter turned 21 today. She is a rising senior in college and we today, we find her 8,000 miles away, deep in the heart of Africa serving. She’ll be gone 80 days in total. Wow. What a coincidence.
This blessed me and I passed it along to my wife who is, I am sure, hurting not having her baby girl at home on her 21st birthday.
anyway, thank you for posting this. Blessings on your daughter as she serves the Lord.
I know your heart aches with missing her, but oh, she is such a beautiful reflection of you and your husband, but also the love she has for Jesus.
What a beautiful tribute to your daughter. She is all those things because they were passed to her from her beautiful mama.
I am a bit jealous of her right now. 🙂 tell her to make sure she goes to McDonald’s over there and get an apple pie and cram it into a carmel sunday and enjoy it for me. They still sell the deep fried apple pies from when we we’re kids, before everyone went health nuts and they started selling baked apple pies here.
I also miss the rice and gravy they sell at mcd’s over yonder.
Praying for her to have a wonderful summer over there and praying for you too as I know you miss her so much it aches.
If she misses home too much tell her there is a Krispy Kreme donuts shop in the SM mega mall. 🙂
The Krispy Kremes… Only if she is in Manillia.
Well you know this gives me all the feels, right? Because, senior year. And because time in Haiti and your girl in Manila and I’m not sure, but the American dream is slipping away from sounding like a dream.
All my siblings live 5 hours away. It was a bit further when we lived in Florida. I missed the joy of growing up with them and being near them to share life and experiences.
I can’t imagine having someone thousands of miles away and only being able to talk by Skype.
Prayers and blessings 🙂
Robin I just can’t believe she’s a senior. I thought she was a junior, at the very most! I remember you sending her off to college like it was just a few months ago.
Oh man. This made me cry a lot. But it felt good! Thank you for sharing your heart, not just with us, but with the whole world. 🙂