To my Sweet Peas,
The new year is well underway, and along with it, the burning pressure to DO ALL THE THINGS. So far this year I’ve added natural soy wax, clean-burning soy candle wicks, grass-fed beef gelatin, mini silicone molds, a light-up globe, an industrial-sized butcher paper roll, floating bookshelves, a reading teepee, and reusable snack bags (bye-bye, toxic plastic baggies) to my Amazon wishlist. Somebody stop me.
I am goal-driven by nature, and I LOVE the kick in the pants that a fresh start and a clean slate bring. Hand-poured, essential-oil-scented soy candles? Check. Homemade, honey-sweetened fruit snacks? Check. Home library and daily blob mapping? (Yes, blob mapping is a thing.) DOUBLE CHECK.
And then I remember that your birthdays were 4 and 3 months ago, and I still haven’t composed your annual birthday letters.
Well, we can’t win them all, can we?
It’s not that I haven’t known exactly what I want to say. It’s that the message I have for you was big and awesome and life-changing in its delivery to me, and I’ve felt completely unequipped to do it justice in my delivery to you.
But in the words of William Stafford, “Lower your standards and keep writing.”
So here goes.
My precious girls, in the wake of your second and fifth birthdays (how did this happen??), what I want to say to you is this:
You make me brave.
I’ve shared with you my intense fear of water, shared with you the way our Father used that fear, coupled with a certain appropriate song, to minister to me in the dark days I spent begging for LaynieCakes.
But have I ever shared with you the song He used to minister to me in the dark days I spent begging for Crosbie Kayt?
(Hint: It’s about water.)
I can’t get away from this fear, can’t get away from this metaphor of drowning to my goals, my desires, my hopes, my dreams, my plans.
Your dad and I spent nearly a year praying and petitioning on our knees for a second child to be added to our family, and during that time, there was one song that played in my senses and my surroundings nearly nonstop:
You make me brave
You make me brave
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves
You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the love that made a way…
(You Make Me Brave, Amanda Cook & Bethel Music)
There were many months, while listening to this song, that I silently fumed to God, “Yes, I want more of You. But for the love, I DO NOT want to dive into the waves.”
And then one Sunday morning, it happened. Laynie begged to go stand at the platform during praise and worship, and I stood and watched while she twirled and raised her hands to Jesus.
The song started playing. And I broke wide open.
“Okay,” I whispered. “You’ve got me.”
As those words flowed over me that day, I realized there is no safer place to be than in the fearsome depths of His sovereignty. I am terrified of the unknown, terrified of the darkness of the ocean, but if He is there in the swell alongside me… Why should I be afraid?
I surrendered. I told Him I trusted Him. And I gave up my every last desire to feel the feathery kicks of a babe moving inside me one more time, please God, just one more time.
I still wanted a baby. But I wanted Jesus more.
And I found out exactly one week later I was pregnant.
At the moment of my surrender, He had already fulfilled my deepest desire.
That song is precious to me.
But where I thought He was using those words to make me brave enough to face a life without you, I’ve found He was actually using them to make me brave enough to face a life with you.
I knew that bravery would be required to do the hard things of parenting, to lead and guide and disciple and shepherd. (Not to mention the bravery of foregoing sleep for months on end. LORD, HELP US.)
What I didn’t yet know was that bravery sometimes looks much different than what the world wants us to believe.
Sometimes bravery means not following your dreams, means not working harder and not doing more and not saying yes to the opportunities that excite and thrill us.
I received several such opportunities in the weeks leading up to your birthdays, and I even said “Yes!” to one with an enthusiasm that I’ve not experienced in a very, very long time.
But as soon as the plans were set into motion and the details began falling into place… my heart grew heavy within me. Because while this opportunity was a good one, was exciting and thrilling and promised the benefits of social and financial success… I slowly began to realize it would take my attention away from you.
And in this season of our lives… that’s an outcome I’m simply not willing to accept.
So I said “No.”
I weighed and measured that opportunity carefully, and when my heart told me that it would cause my affections to be divided, I walked away.
I turned down an opportunity I desperately wanted to chase after.
I turned it down because… you make me brave.
You both make me brave enough to put my dreams and plans on hold, brave enough to release expectations and standards I so carefully constructed long ago. You make me brave enough to know that this work that happens here, this daily living in the rhythms of His grace, is the most important work that will ever busy my hands on this earth.
You make me brave enough to believe that every day spent serving you, every day spent striving to show you the face of Jesus, is slowly building a harvest that will reap blessings for entire generations of our family.
You make me brave enough to believe that anonymity for your sakes, for the gift of witnessing firsthand your tiny lips part as you descend into sweet slumber each sleepy afternoon, is worth so much more than the false securities of notoriety, success, influence, and financial freedom.
You make me brave enough to believe in the importance of this work I do when no one is watching.
I have some big dreams planted deep in this heart of mine. They’ve been lying dormant there for as long as I can remember, and I’ve pretty much been counting on the fact that there will come a day when I hear a still, small voice whisper, “Now… It’s time.”
But where I once longed achingly for that day, I now find that those tiny, invisible seeds have shifted within their place deep in the soil. Those dreams slowly, painfully began evolving and transforming the second I held LaynieCakes for the first time, the dual shock of her traumatic birth and her carrot-colored curls resulting in my inability to utter anything other than the words, “Oh, Laynie… oh, Laynie,” while oceans’ worth of emotion rolled down my cheeks.
Where I once saw book deals and manuscripts and a life that was surely going to “make a difference for the Kingdom,” I now see scrambled eggs and math worksheets and piles of laundry more ominous than I could have ever imagined. I see chubby little fists rubbing sleepy eyes, I see drippy, lavender-scented curls fresh from the tub, and I see the tedious, yet oh-so-sweet sanctification that is fleshed out in our daily communion with each other.
And I couldn’t possibly ask for more.
Because you, my girls, are my greatest dream.
You are my greatest Kingdom work.
I have friends who are living big, inspiring, amazing lives. They are chasing dreams and crushing goals and actually doing ALL THE THINGS while still nailing it as mothers. And I think they’re so brave.
But I also know that’s not my story.
I know that these years will pass all too quickly. And I know that as you need me less and less, perhaps those tiny, invisible seeds will once again creep to the surface and whisper to me of ambitions and desires long dormant. And perhaps one day I really will hear that still, small voice whisper, “Now… It’s time.”
But even if not… I’m content to spend my days here in this home, in this sanctuary, raising up the two little ladies for whom I would gladly dive into the waves.
I’m content to say “No” to dreams and plans that shift my attention away from the work that’s been given me in this season.
And I’m content to quietly, anonymously sow the next generation of seeds that have been so faithfully entrusted to my care.
Because you make me brave. And despite what the world may say, we know deep in our hearts that sometimes the bravest thing you can possibly do is lay down your dreams for the sake of another.
Happy Belated Birthday, my loves. Thank you for making me braver than I ever dreamed possible.
I love you every day,