“And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” — Matthew 28:20b, NLT
As Christmas and 2014 come to a close, my younger daughter Mari had a cry for the ages last night – one that seems a fitting final post for the first calendar year of my blog about writing and life.
She’s just trying to get over sucking her thumb. And when such a major chapter closes, it seems like the world is coming to an end. So, of course, everything came into question.
“I can’t stop sucking my thumb! I can’t! But I don’t want my thumb to fall off! And I don’t want to get braces!” (Crying).
“Then pray and ask God to help you stop,” I said gently.
“I pray about it every night!”
“Really? What do you say?”
“I say, ‘God, when I suck my thumb, please don’t let me get braces!'”
I laughed inside — isn’t it just like us: we don’t want to change but we don’t want the consequences…
“Maybe you should pray that God helps you to stop, instead.”
“But I can’t stop!”
“Oh, but you can stop!” I said. “Just say, ‘I can.’”
“Say it again.”
“Say it ten times,” I said.
“Say it twenty times,” I said.
“See? Yes, you can!” I said. “And remember our favorite verse…’I can do all things’…”
“’I can do all things’…”
“Through Christ who strengthens me,” we finished together.
It was a temporary reprieve, and as I tucked her in, we said our prayers and a good night, and she went to bed.
Five minutes later, she came halfway down the stairs, crying again, the bigger questions starting.
“Mom, will Ani still be my sister when we grow up?” (Crying)
“Of course, my girl. You will always be sisters.”
“But she’s going to be a teenager one day, and I want us to live in our house together forever!” (Bawling).
“Oh, Mari. Don’t worry. We’ll be together for a long time. And we’ll always be together no matter where we are. Because we’re together in our hearts, first, right? Like me and your Aunties: we don’t live close to each other, but when we talk on the phone it’s like we’re right next to each other.”
“But I don’t want to get married. I want to stay in our house!”
“Sweetheart, you don’t have to worry about any of this now.”
“I want to stay a kid. I don’t want to grow old. I don’t want any of us to grow old!” (More crying).
What could I say? My own elderly father-in-law in the hospital, my husband and I and other family members facing health challenges of our own…
“Don’t worry, honey, we’re together and we love you. And God is always going to be with you and love you, no matter what.”
“Mom, when we go to heaven, can we come back to our house after?”
“No, my girl, God says he’s preparing a new home for us in heaven, so we don’t have to come back.”
“But I don’t want to grow up and move!”
It was such a cascade of questions, with even more that followed. So we hugged, we cried. I escorted her back to bed and held this little bundle of questions and needs, whispering answers and telling her I loved her, until she relaxed.
Aren’t we all such little bundles?
Sure, we’ve been tired and overextended this holiday and are getting over colds. But still, it is amazing to me how a girl so young, who still sucks her thumb, could come out with such far-reaching questions instead of obsessing over her brand-new Christmas presents.
And when I checked on my older daughter in the next room, afterwards, she had been listening, half-groggy, and gently said, “Mom, I think you helped her.” I hugged her just as tight.
It all humbled me and reminded me of the most amazing job in the world that I’ve been given – to be their mother, a forever role and yet a temporary steward of their lives until they are able to take hold of it on their own. And what an added privilege it is to be a writer and put such precious life lessons on paper, whether in a blog, play, film, article or novel, re-living and re-learning the highs and lows all over again and hopefully encouraging others.
Last night was also a reminder – as the sandwich generation experiences so often – of how precious this life is. Each day brings both unthinkable challenges and extravagant blessings. Awful mistakes and joyful accomplishments. And as 2014 comes to a close, I’m grateful for both sides of the spectrum, and everything in between, because we are closest to God and most in touch with his strength, love and redemption when we embrace it all – and when we hold on tight to those we get to love each day.
Postscript: Tonight, when I put Mari to bed, it was a bit different:
“What is it, my girl?” I said, ready for the weight of the world to come out again.
“I think I’m going to be a doctor,” she said. “Or – a fashion designer.”
“That’s great! You can do anything you set your mind to.”
“But I guess I have to grow up to be a doctor or a fashion designer.”
“You’re right. It’ll be okay.”
“But first we have to stop sucking that thumb. I know you can. And when you stop, you’ll be a big girl! It’ll be like a whole new chapter in Mari’s life!”
“Chapter?!? But Mom — my life isn’t a BOOK!!!” she said, laughing.
“Oh, but it is, my girl. It is.”
Onward to 2015.