Guard Your Heart

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Dear Daughter,
I watch you, bare feet running. Long hair swinging. Bright smile shining. Those slender legs that keep you chasing after baseballs, basketballs, volleyballs and bouncy balls. Those hands that touch the keys on our beautiful piano. Hands that swiftly know how to plait a braid of gold or twist a strand of chestnut brown into a bun. You are such a beauty. And I often think how precious you are to me. Right now. Right this moment.
But of course you always have been.
That beautiful baby girl I held in my arms the day after Mother’s Day, thirteen short years past. Tiny bundle of love. Little dark head, which I tucked inside a crocheted pink bonnet no bigger than my palm, two ribbons of pink gently tied beneath your elfin chin. Petite frame- so small that the health nurse wondered if you were starving. Your mama worried she wasn’t feeding you enough, so we supplemented and prayed it would be enough. So much to take in with a fragile baby girl cradled carefully in my arms.
I loved you then. I love you still. I love you even more.
That little toddler who waddled around our house, two fingers firmly fixed inside her little rosebud lips. White blankie trailing close behind. Always ready with an impish smile. That little princess, wearing tutus and fancy dresses and all things frilly and extravagant. The little diva, a girl who always had time for a show, but never wanted to get her own hair brushed. Singing, dancing, performing, entertaining- it was your business many an evening after supper dishes were cleaned and things settled down a notch. Her daddy’s heart wrapped around her baby finger.
That little girl. Where did those tender years go?
After all the gymnastic lessons, figure skating, swimming and soccer days have ended, the elementary school years passed, we are now left staring wide-eyed into the next phase of your life: the teen-aged years.
You are so loved- you always have been. And sweetheart, you always will be. You are ours.
You’ve always been so precious.
Darling Daughter, you are just too precious not to caution and advise. I want you to know that a mama always thinks of what lies just around the corner. And what I see is this:
All things shiny and appealing, but which are not always revealed exactly as they seem.
All things fascinating and interesting, but which are not so exciting as they might offer to be.
All things promising and thrilling, but which are not always as stirring as might have first been pledged.
All things previously prohibited and forbidden, but which now beckon to you with enticement and allure.
All these things- they are not always what they claim to be. There will be lies, false claims and misrepresentations. There will be promises made that might not endure the test of time. Words spoken that will prove to be short-lived and disappointing. Arrangements agreed upon that will not necessarily be followed through. This is the reality of the passage of time and growing up. It is part of the world we belong to: broken promises, shattered dreams and ruined opportunities.
Sometimes in the growing process the floor falls beneath us and our world seems to be caving in around us. This is part and parcel of growing older. There is always the good. But there is the bad as well.
In all of these growing pains, there is one thing of which I must insist. That is, you must work to always keep your heart from damage and harm. And darling, there is only one way to protect your heart. If you can covenant to yourself and to our God that this heart of yours is worth protecting, that it is truly as precious and valued as your daddy and I say it is- that God Himself has said: then you will learn the secret. The secret to nurturing a heart is to safeguard it against anything you know that could intentionally harm it. Guard your heart as if it were fashioned from the most valuable material known to humankind. For in truth- it is. It is the most important part of you. It is where your soul meets before God Himself. It is sacred and holy and precious.
It is the most precious place that lies within you.
Sweetheart, guard your heart as if your life depended on this very act of purposeful intention.
You are getting taller. You are stretching and blossoming into a beautiful young woman. You are no longer my little girl- now my teenager; and we are entering through passageways to different rooms that serve to welcome and greet us both. We are learning how to take this journey together, and I pray we will always walk side-by-side in this excursion. Pray that you will always walk by His side in this journey.
While I learn to let go of your hand little by little, you are coming to find ways in which to hold on to His hand more and more. A Hand so much greater than my own.
I love you now. I will love you still.
Guard your precious heart.
Love ,
Your mama

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Happy 13th Birthday, Sam!

My son is celebrating his thirteenth birthday this month.  I can hear him up in his room right now playing risk with two of his cousins, and my heart just swells with love.  Here are thirteen things I now know- that I didn’t know then…and all because of becoming Sam’s Mama.

  • I know more of patience now than I ever did back in the year 2000.  I was so young and so impatient.  I was not really yet aware that life is about taking deep breaths, counting to ten and exhaling.  I know that now.
  • I know more of understanding.  I thought I knew, but I didn’t even know the half of it.  I am so aware now that learning to understand other people and even myself is a process that takes a lifetime.  I love relating to my son in this special way- through identifying with him, reflecting on what ways we are the same and what ways we are different.  He has been a treasure trove of discovery for me and has made me more self-aware and more people aware than I ever was thirteen years ago.
  • I know more of compromise.  Man, did I ever learn about give-and-take over the past thirteen years.  Mostly about give, but isn’t that the best part!  I learned that sometimes I need to pick my battles and sometimes I need to just walk away.  Sometimes I need to lean in to the hurt, and sometimes I need to just smile and reach out my arms in an embrace.
  • I know more of compassion.  I have learned so very much about this one.  About empathy and caring and kindness.  The other night, my beloved son took my rough, cracked feet in his hands and rubbed out the pain.  He was my masseuse for about forty-five minutes.  That’s compassion.  And I am learning so very much about how to be compassionate and caring even as I watch him interacting with me and those whom he meets.
  • I know more of listening.  I take five to ten minutes each night and I try to lay down with each of my children.  As Sam is the oldest, I usually save him for last.  I love that bedtime chats are so chill.  There is so little pressure to say anything profound.  No need to argue and sway the other’s point of view.  All that’s necessary is a listening ear.  We draw closer when we listen better.
  • I know more of sharing.  Mostly, I share everything now.  It started when I shared a tiny space inside with four little Gard babies.  And what’s mine is theirs- and has been, ever since.
  • I know more of forgetting.  I have a really, really hard time with this one.  But today, as I proudly watch my son- knowing what a fine young man he’s grown into, I am a little more inclined to forget those other moments.  The ones where he and I disagreed.  Where we clashed.  And to disallow those moments where we were not on our best game- because life is about remembering what’s golden.  And sometimes choosing to forget what’s not.
  • I know more of forgiving- and being forgiven.  Children are among the most forgiving people on the planet.  They love so unconditionally.  I wish sometimes I could be a three-year old again.  They are so amazing at this- forgiving and moving on.  My son has had to forgive me so many times- I couldn’t even begin to count.  He is amazing at this.  And I am learning more and more of how to perfect an attitude of forgiveness in my life as well.
  • I know a (little) more of relaxing.  Not much, but a little.  I even stopped the housework today to play x-box with my kids.  And that’s saying a lot.
  • I know more of loving.  Loving isn’t easy.  It’s hard work.  Whoever says it isn’t is…either lying or freaking superhuman.  I think love is hard.  But I can do hard things.  And hard things are often the most rewarding, when you think about it.  Raising four children is one of the hardest things I have ever done, but also one of the most blessed experiences of my life.  Do I love every minute of it?  Nope.  But I love the people I am committed to.  And that makes it a wee bit easier.
  • I know more of being present, of being in the moment.  I am trying to work on this one too (do I really know anything, or just think I do???), but being in the moment for me is stopping my own agenda and noticing what is going on around me.  Like the spider crawling across her web.  Like a mother cat carrying her kitten.  Like watching my youngest write a story- face scrunched up in concentration.  Or noticing the expression on a child’s face when their feelings have been hurt.  Or being in tune with that child who is not feeling comfortable and settled.  It’s being present in those happy and sad moments.  And letting time stand still, even if for but a moment.
  • I know more about parenting.  I think.  Parenting has been a gig that I thought I could learn from a combination of watching TLC, reading those What To Expect Books and listening to my mother.  In the end, I had to learn things the hard way.  Trial and error.  Along with a little help from a blog I now read faithfully.
  • I know more about purpose.  My purpose in life is to live well.  To live nobly, faithfully and compassionately.  To live worthy of my calling before my God.  Before my family and before my beloved children.  I have been called to be a mama.  I don’t think callings are ever easy.  They require sacrifice and courage- something else I wasn’t very good at thirteen years ago.  But, I am learning.  And I am trying to be faithful to that which I have been called to do- to live my life well.  And to be the best mama I can possibly be.  That best runs the gamut.  Some days, being the best me is not screaming at my kids and trying to be civil at least 50 % of the time.  On other days, the best me throws slammin’ birthday parties like it’s 1999.  My best varies.  But, what never varies is the purpose.  And that purpose has been my driving force throughout my life.  Being a mother didn’t change that purpose.  It just made it deeper.  Richer.  And more widely encompassing.

 

 

I love you, Samuel.  I remember little scrawny you the day after you were born.  I remember feeling I could never love so much or so hard.  But I was wrong.  Today, I love you more.