To My Daughter as She Begins Kindergarten: oh, the places you will go

It began with a painful and exhilarating walk into the hospital, five and a half years ago.

And left us walking out of that hospital 24 hours later, with no baby in the backseat.

Instead, our footsteps took us, every day, multiple times a day, into the nearby NICU, where we paced around worriedly next to your isolette.

After we were able to be discharged from the NICU, we carried you into our home to meet your big brother, and our trek was almost completely confined to those walls for many months as we learned to care for your skin.

Months turned to years, and finally, our steps became your steps. You let go and learned to walk on your own… cautiously, carefully, never too far.

We’ve spent the vast majority of the last 5.5 years by your side…pushing your swing at the park, shuffling into doctors offices, piggyback rides up to bed.

And tomorrow, you will walk into your classroom to start a new journey. And only you can determine where you will go from there.

My sweet child, on this day before you begin Kindergarten…

Oh, the the places you’ve been – and the places you will now go.

I know you will stand for big things, because of where you’ve treaded before. I know your pain has brought forth great concern and compassion for others. I know your fears have elicited deeper empathy and understanding. And I know the courage you’ve had to cling to has found a strength and capability that we are grateful for.

I have been asked, again and again, how I am feeling, if I will cry as I walk away from school tomorrow.

If there will be tears, they will fall because of pride for who you are and the impact I know you will make on those you walk beside. If there will be tears, they will come from the gratitude of this milestone, not from the grief of any kind of loss. Because there were more than a few times that we didn’t know if we’d see this day, if we’d get to experience the excitement of you starting school.

That kind of uncertainty changes a person, a mother. It molds your emotions for new changes into those blooming with celebratory appreciation rather than nostalgic back-pedaling.

When I say “I can’t believe it’s here,” I don’t mean that the last five years went quickly. I mean that I can’t believe you’re here, going to full-time school. From your arrival as a critically ill newborn who has already climbed some tough mountains in your short life, I am awed by the way you are thriving today. Loving deeply, living big and wide and loud.

Tomorrow, you will take your steps into your Kindergarten classroom. You will walk into new relationships, new feelings, new challenges.

And I pray with each step that you never forget who you are: an ambitious, compassionate person lovingly created by the Lord just as you are, with many gifts to offer the world and the opportunity to make a huge positive difference in many lives as you strive to live out your God-given purpose.

Happy First Day of School, beautiful girl.

Leaving room for Joyful Monotony

Summer has settled upon us and ushered in a new season lacking in routines and trending in refereeing daily arguments (my go-to line: “figure it out!”)

I resolved a while ago that this summer would be different than last.

I did my best last summer, but it was too much. With the launch of my book in August, a couple of big trips that took us to opposite ends of the country, and a very full season for Evan in his career, most of our days felt like a spinning top that took a long while to slow, finally throwing me out, off balance, somewhere in the middle of the fall.

As the end of school approached this year, I recognized a huge desire to do a little less seeking and striving, and a little more being and growing. And the thing about that is that you need to leave room for it.

It’s not so much a feeling of burnout as it is a heightened awareness about this way of life I’m currently desiring. A simple change: a wanting to feel and think and even write but without the need to consider documenting, capturing, publicizing it all.

It’s not about the calendar season, but a personal season for me right now where I’m finding myself setting comfortably into the middle. Sometimes, the appeal of trying to become the best, the most, the greatest takes over, and it’s easy to forget how wonderful the middle is; it’s really quite freeing.

I’m currently reading the book The Life You’ve Always Wanted by John Ortberg, and though the title is a bit cliché, the content is stirring and compelling. Ortberg quotes G.K. Chesterton in a section about the joy that resides in the heart of God.

Chesterton reminds us that children have abounding vitality, a free and fierce spirit, and they usually want things repeated and unchanged. ‘Do it again!’ they exclaim over and over. Adults, however, are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But “perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony.”

Every day, God says to the sun and to the moon ‘Do it again!’ And they do. And he never tires of marveling at their beauty.

As this new season approaches, a summer filled with opportunity but also repetitiveness, I’ve been making room for joyful monotony.

In Romans 12:2, God invites to be transformed – not to transform ourselves. To do this, we need to allow room in our lives, space in our minds, to let Him in.

I’ll be stepping away from my blog for the next couple of months, to enjoy the middle without striving, to savor the joyful monotony of these summer days.

I only have one summer where my kids are 5 and 7, and each day opens with bouncing excitement about the “adventures” that await us – in between chores and camps, there is the clear blue of the pool and the sweetness of a surprise doughnut treat and the spontaneity of a picnic dinner with friends at the park.

Do it again?

Yes, we will. Yes, we have the space. Yes, we have nowhere else to be but the joy we are experiencing right here.