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.)