She arrived on a November afternoon in 2001, and it took a while before she was breathing properly. She came early. Her little lungs lacked sufficient power and surfactant.
Nine years later, this child — heiress to my DNA — has my hazel eyes and a love for words and a hearty laugh and a tender heart that breaks easily, like her mama’s.
And now, I’m the one learning how to breathe. All of life spins by so fast, and I don’t feel ready. I’m premature.
I watch her shadow stretch taller, her courage grow deeper, her fingers grow longer, her spirit soar higher.
It seems every milestone arrives early, too early. I add another candle before it seems like it could be time again.
Father, help me catch my breath. And make the world spin slower, please? Because I’m not ready for the ninth candle on the cake. Didn’t I just add the second?
I know that my next words aren’t really true, but this is what I feel: I feel like my influencing work as a mother on this child is half over. I feel like I’m at the mid-mark of making a mark on who she is … and who she will be.
Nine years behind us, and nine short years ahead… Then, she’ll pack boxes and books and head off to college, God-willing. When she leaves, won’t her light slip out of her corner room with its lavender and lime-green walls? Will I be able to breathe in that premature moment?
Will it feel dark?
Even now, my lungpower is insufficient. I know this is what it must mean to have your heart go walking around outside your body. I’ve been upended and undone.
Like we do every weekday morning, she and I link hands and pray at the end of the country lane, before yellow bus #44 crests the hill.
I begin. I thank God for the gift of a child, and for this … the most important work he’s ever given me: to raise girls.
I sputter through the prayer, asking God to help me finish well in the second half (knowing truly and deeply that a mother never really finishes her work). And I pray I’ll be able to show her what it means to live for Jesus.
I choke out the Amen. I look up to find that my firstborn and I both have tears.
And this is the moment I know she really is growing up. Because for the first time, she understands that not every tear springs from sadness. She understands that some tears — these tears, hers and mine — spring from a deep well of gratitude.
Her eyes shimmer.
“Mommy,” she soothes, pats her mama’s shoulder and delivers a gift of words. “You are teaching me to love Jesus.”
That night, we drive north to the city, because my adventurous daughter wants sushi for her party. We celebrate with salty edamame and miso soup. We laugh at the seaweed stuck between our teeth.
She loves the salmon eggs on the top of her Daddy’s spicy tuna roll. Youngest daughter, with her chopsticks, eats only rice from a bowl, tolerates our sushi obsession because it’s Big Sister’s birthday.
The server brings ice cream, with a single candle. My nine-year-old wears a smile that stretches past her eyes.
She blows out the candle, but it sparks, reignites. She blows again. And we laugh because the trick candle won’t go out.
And I watch the girl, bright candle at the table with an inner-light that won’t go out.
And I can breathe again.
Today’s post is submitted as part of Ann Voskamp’s “Walk With Him Wednesday” series, where we explore spiritual practices that draw us nearer to the heart of Christ. This week, Ann asks: How do you GIVE thanks? I give thanks by offering up gratitude for girls … and for breath … and for candles.
(Head over to Ann’s today, to read about the Voskamp Christmas tree with no presents underneath.)
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Jennifer….now my tears…you have put into words what is in my heart….next year, when my baby leaves me, will her light go out in my home? She knows Jesus. She is a good girl. She does what is right and I am so happy to have helped her reach this age, this knowledge, and this love of Jesus. I will not receive the daily hugs and daily, "love yous" she utters, but I know her light will shine somewhere else, on someone else, but always in my heart! This day has to come and I am NOT ready for it and already wondering about how I will do it in a year and a helf!!! Love you sister, and Happy Birthday to my guest writer at Seeds of Faith!
that would be "Year and a HALF"…sorry, couldn't see to edit through the TEARS!!!
I could hardly breathe while reading this, having now (nearly) launched both of my grown children. At times, yes, it is hard to breathe. Learning to ask for Spirit-breath to breathe on them and through me.
"You are teaching me to love Jesus." Could there be sweeter, more beautiful words ever uttered by a child?
Both of my kids are now grown and I wonder where the time went. Yes, it was breathless. The fun. The excitement. The frustration. It was a great big package that took — that takes — my breath away. Love the poetry of this post
Happy Birthdays abound this day!
I know that feeling Jennifer. This spring my little girl will marry and fly off to another country to begin her new life there. And I don't even want to really think about it. The time has flown by, and she will always be my little girl.
Oh, what a beautiful, beautiful post! I am a mommy to 9 year old, too and not quite sure how this happened, either.
Tears immediately welled in my eyes at this point:
"And this is the moment I know she really is growing up. Because for the first time, she understands that not every tear springs from sadness. She understands that some tears — these tears, hers and mine — spring from a deep well of gratitude."
Oh and then when she gifts YOU with these words?
"Mommy," she soothes, pats her mama's shoulder and delivers a gift of words. "You are teaching me to love Jesus."
You are blessed, blessed woman!
One day, before you realize what's happening, she'll be learning to breathe with her own child, and you'll be learning to breathe as a grandmother.
Such a tender, touching post, Jennifer. I can completely relate. I went through the same feelings when my boys were young. Seem's like I blinked and they grew up on me. Now, our oldest son is engaged and getting married next year…
…I just might need a breathing treatment to get through that one!
Not long ago, I did a tribute to my mother at the blog entitled "her finest hour." In it I talk about her finest mothering moment, and how it has come to me as a 44 year old woman, not at a child. So don't be surprised, sweet friend, if your best mothering days are yet ahead of you. In many ways, she'll need you more when she gets into adulthood than now. That's not to say "hold onto now" because now is so very, very good. "Now" shapes your heart for "then." And when you get to "then" you'll be grateful for every deliberate, intention effort you've made into these current moments beneath your feet.
Blessed Thanksgiving to you and yours.
Jennifer, you really know how to paint a heart the color of gratitude.
This post was precious.
What a wonderful beautiful moment while waiting for that yellow bus. God bless you Sister! Take it one day at a time!
Teary-eyed with you. Isn't it nice how we're thankful for the now when we think ahead to their leaving?
Your relationship with your daughters… you always wake something in me for mine.
Thank you so much for such a beautiful post, it really touched me as well, my youngest has just finished Grade 11 and I can't believe how quickly the years have flown by, if only I could take that time back, my baby boy is nearly fully grown, well he is fully grown, he's a head taller than me LOL but as I keep telling him, he'll always be my baby no matter how old he gets. I pray that our teachings will stay with him as he gets older and goes his own way, that's all we can do, the rest is up to Jesus.
That expression of utter delight is priceless…as are your words, dear friend. Always.
Add my tears to the rest–I'm never far from the ache of the incremental letting go, and never more than in moments when she (my 14-yo) squeezes me tight too. This is the most agonizing joy sometimes, but so worth the tears it wrings out of us!
Oh Jennifer, we're 5 months apart on this motherhood journey, and I feel the "prematuity" of it all!
It seems surreal at times, I look at him and remember the baby he was and wonder about the man he will become…and pray…I pray that the love he has for Jesus now will continue to grow and mature along with him. Boy, do I pray! 😀
Happy Birthday to your sweet daughter, Jennifer.
Her light won't go out. I never knew this. And it is a gift, it is.
such a wonderful Mother you are.
Thank you, I needed to read this. I am the first time mama to nine and a half month old twin girls. So often I've found myself wishing they were just a little bit older, so that they could sit up/walk/entertain each other. When truly, they are with me for such a relatively short time. God gave them to me to care for and raise–what a privilege, not something to be wished away, so that I can have it a little easier. I love the picture of your daughter–breathtaking! I'm sure you don't need a camera to carry that image of her around with you forever. Blessings to you!
Your post brought a flood of memories of my now 29 yr. old daughter! I remember her asking me is I had sad or happy tears! Now I watch her with her soon-to-be six yr. old and I am thankful He, not me, carried her in His arms when I fell so short. I remember her telling me how she realized, as a new mom, that her faith had to be real for her so when she told her daughter about Jesus, it was because He was real to her! Know your shortcomings and failures only prove His faithfulness!
(here via Ann)
I can relate to every word of this, but it's only the sixth candle will be ready to light in two short months. I have two little girls too, and sometimes feel like my chest might cave in when I think of them bursting into the world on their own.
One thing that gives me hope is knowing that for me, I realized I needed my mother more than ever when I went to college. I needed her warm, encouraging voice on the other end of the phone. She sent me cards and care packages and advice and stability.
And THEN when I became a mother (many years after I left dorm life behind), oh my WORD. It was a whole new level of needing my own Mommy.
Thank you for this. I'm going to go hug my girls extra tight and try to breathe slowly today. And then I'm going to call my Mom. 🙂
My almost 7 year old boys (triplets) were born at 31 weeks – and there is not one day that goes by that I am not reminded of where this journey started and the fragility of each life. The time is moving so quickly and they are reaching milestones so fast…and there are mama's tears every day and a prayer of thanksgiving as I witness this miraculous transformation. Thanks for sharing your story today.