The first is twelve

When I gave birth twelve years ago for the very first time, I had NO idea of the journey I was embarking upon.  I was young and naive and didn’t have a clue about being a mom.  And this little girl that they placed in my arms would be nothing like what I thought a little girl would be like.  From the start she was fiercely independent, curious about the world around her, strong… She was feisty and fun, yet headstrong and determined to do life on her own terms.

I had a lot to learn about raising a daughter, about being a mom, about parenting in general… a lot to learn about myself.  My patience has been stretched, and I’ve seen ugly come out that I didn’t know I had.  I’ve had to learn to humble myself and ask for forgiveness.  I’ve had to learn to stand my ground even when it hurts.  I’ve had to let her learn some lessons the hard way, and take the brunt of her anger to protect her from lessons she’s not quite ready for.

Each day with this freckle-faced beauty is a new experience.  We have to find that delicate balance between letting her spread her wings and fly while shielding her from some of the nastiness the world wants to throw her way while she’s still so young.  We’re always trying to let her be the beautifully unique individual God has created her to be, yet steer her in the direction of His good plan for her life.  It can be so hard to know how much is too much or not enough.

As my girl grows, our challenges grow.  She’s intelligent and inquisitive- sometimes too much for her own good.  These days we battle more than we embrace, and while I know she doesn’t believe me, it hurts my heart to make her angry.  Yet in spite of our differences, there are so very many things I adore about her… So many things that bring me such joy as a mom.  So, for her 12th birthday, that’s what I shared with her- a list of twelve things about her that make her uniquely her own, those things that I love most about her.

And she loved it… See, I’m learning more and more that my kids don’t always want all the stuff.  Yes, they come up with wish lists and there’s always some latest and greatest item they’d like to have, but most of the time they want me.  They want my attention.  They want my affection.  They want my words of affirmation.  They desire a mom who loves them and wants to be with them, a mom who is present.

As we jump on into this next year, our last year without a teenager in the house (*gasp!*), my goal is to work on that.  Less impatience, less rush, less busyness, less technology… And more being.  Being present.  Being involved.  Being attentive.  I only get one shot at this, and I’m a bit ashamed at the time I’ve wasted… But it’s never too late for a new beginning.  After all, His mercies are new every morning…

Happy 12th birthday, my Rae of sunshine… Thanks once again for teaching me a little more about life ❤️

Eleven

Y’all, I have officially been a mom for eleven years.

How is that even possible?!

But here we are, when it seems like I was just changing her diapers and learning to be a mom for the first time, and we are suddenly in our preteen years.  No more changing diapers, but instead rapidly changing emotions- and still learning to be a mom.

That’s the thing with your firstborn- you’re constantly still learning to be a mom for the first time.  Every day is unchartered waters, a leap into the unknown.  When she was born, I had never had a baby before.  When she turned two, I had never had a toddler before.  Last year was my first year as the mom of a double-digit-er, and now I’m a mom of an eleven year old for the first time.  It’s a steady stream of adventure.

It’s also a steady stream of change that I often don’t see coming.  One day she’s frilly dresses and hairbows, and the next is Converse high-tops and bandanas on her head.  She’s playing with her dolls one night, and when we wake up it’s all about texting her friends and listening to music.  Playdates have turned into “hanging out,” and I dare not buy her clothes anymore as she has her own definitive style that I know nothing about.  Mom and Dad were once pretty cool to be around, but now we get the “look” and eye rolls.

No, my baby girl isn’t much of a baby.  She’s independent and strong-willed and feisty, and certainly has an opinion all of her own.  It’s a balancing act of letting her grow and develop her own person, yet still filtering out a lot of the junk out there in the world and expecting things like manners and kind words and respect.  It’s spurring her on in the right direction and praying with and for her, yet loosening the reigns just enough to let her put what she’s been taught to the test.  It’s still training a child in the way she should go, yet encouraging her to take ownership of her relationship with Christ.

This parenting thing isn’t easy.  There are days I cry, days she cries, and days we cry together.  We lose our tempers more than we should, talk a little louder than we should, and let words slip out that we don’t really mean.  I’m not always right and she’s not always right and we are learning slowly that it’s okay (and even good) to admit when we’re wrong.  In eleven years, I’ve learned that I mess up- every day.  I’ve learned that being a mom takes a lot of humility, a lot of patience, and a lot of grace.  It takes a lot of Jesus.

I’ve learned that our days are a lot smoother when we spend more time in the Word.  I’ve learned that nothing stops an argument faster than praying- even if it means praying out loud over her yelling in the heat of the moment (if you haven’t tried it, you should- totally worth the shock value).  I’ve learned that sometimes all that yuck that comes out is just a cry for help, or attention, or even just a hug.  I’ve learned that no matter how big and brave she gets, sometimes she just needs her mommy.  And I’ve learned that no matter how many times I mess up, there’s always grace to cover.

I’m a little afraid of what’s to come.  I know we’re inching closer and closer to the day that she’ll really spread her wings and soar, and I won’t be able to shield her from the ugliness of the world.  She’ll have her heart hurt and she’ll slip along the way, and she’ll have to make those tough decisions that cause you to lose sleep.  Eventually she’ll decide who her friends are and where she wants to go and how she’s going to live.  She’ll have to choose courage when chaos abounds.  It will become her choice to be kind or brave or wise… or not.  And she will have to face the consequences of those choices.

And what can I do?  How can I ensure that she’ll choose correctly, that she’ll allow God to direct her steps, that she’ll stay on the path He has for her?  I can’t.  But, I can continue to show her how to pray, how to turn to God’s word daily, how to apologize, how to be kind, how to love… and I can pray, every day, for her present and her future.  If nothing else, eleven years of mommyhood has taught me the power of prayer!

Happy eleventh birthday to my firstborn “Rae” of sunshine… How blessed I am to know love like this.  You are the one that taught me about love at first sight.  You inspire me to be strong and brave and sure of what I believe, because you are strong and brave and sure of what you believe.  I admire your willingness to stand your ground, to forge your own path, and to not be easily shaken.  You challenge me to be a better mom- and a better child of God.  I love you to the moon…

rae

Happy 9th birthday to Raegan

Nine years ago I birthed a blessing straight from heaven… my Raegan.  This morning I crept into her room and smiled as I saw that beautiful freckle-face, eyes closed, mouth gaped open, snoring softly… how could it be that nine years have passed?  She is my firstborn, my baby, and now she perches on the cusp of young womanhood.  She is fiery and independent, full of words and thoughts and opinions of her own.  How did that happen?  She’s full of life, as she’s always been, but that life is becoming more and more her own with each passing day.  I’ve tried so hard to teach and instruct her, yet now I find that I have been learning all along… learning to be a mom, learning to make and accept mistakes, learning to bend, learning the true meanings of love and grace… learning that this crazy life is full of surprises and unplanned events, and none of it is about me.

So, happy birthday to my sunshine in what so often can be a dark world, to my firstborn, my daughter, my Rae… so glad that God gave us you.

Raegan’s Testimony

I am so proud of my baby girl! On Tuesday, March 8, 2011, she gave her heart to Jesus. This is the most proud of her I have ever been! Her passion and determination have already been such an inspiration to me. She has asked questions about becoming a Christian for several months now, but never with any persistence. On Monday, her teacher asked to speak to me, and they both told me that she had been asking about it all day and she thought she was ready. Well, my logical brain thought this was great, but wanted to make sure everything was clear before we proceeded. So I pushed her off until that evening, and then we sat down to talk. I talked and talked and asked a thousand questions, and she just kept asking me if she could pray. I ended up telling her not yet and sent her to bed.

By the next morning she was barely talking to me, and she went to school as usual. When we got home that afternoon, she asked me if she could go be alone in her room. After a few minutes, she emerged from her room and told me she had to talk to me. She sounded like such a little adult! She informed me that she did not need me to ask Jesus in her heart, that she could do it on her own, and that she could go in her room by herself and do it, and that’s what she was going to do. She told me she would wait until bedtime if I wanted her to, but she was doing it no matter what.

Whoa. What a wake-up call for this mom! I was so ashamed of myself for trying to push her off until I thought she was ready, and for not having that same determination in my walk with Christ! She knew the Truth, and nothing was going to stand her way of getting right with Him. Imagine what this world would be if all of us Christians had that kind of fervency for the things of God!

I realized that I wanted to be a part of the biggest decision my daughter would ever make, so I sat down with her right then and led her in the sinner’s prayer. It still makes me weepy to think of the light in her eyes when we finished praying. She looked at me with those big, bright blue eyes, and the sweetest little smile… that face will be forever etched in my mind. She put her hand over heart and said, “Mama, He’s in here now, isn’t He?” Praise the Lord, yes He was and is! It’s so hard to explain, but as she sat there and I looked in her eyes, there seemed to be such a peace and a joy in her that I had never seen.

Raegan immediately wanted to start telling people her good news, and she did. She spent the next hour on the phone with everyone she could think of, and for the next week she told every person she saw about her decision. Again, what a testimony to me… am I that excited to share with everyone the good news? How many people have I told? She may already have me beat when it comes to those numbers!

I realize that Raegan is young, and that as she grows in age and in her walk with Christ she’ll have questions. But I do not for one moment doubt the decision that she made, nor the change He has already brought into her life. I just pray that as a mom I can give her every opportunity to grow more in love with Him every day.