Monday, January 30, 2017

A birthday letter

Dear Lily,

This morning a picture from my facebook feed popped up: A picture of you and I hours after your birth. I realized that I couldn't remember what those first few days were like. As I sat down to write your birthday letter, I re-read the letters I wrote you from last year. I can't remember which nuances in your personality have been apparent since birth and which ones have just sprouted up. And Lily, you've grown sure (nearly two inches in just a few short months) and changed quite a bit, but you are still the same beautiful, independent firecracker you've been since birth. 
You are still fierce and creative and wise and soulful and funny and sensitive and bold and cautious. You sing at the top of your lungs and constantly dance around rooms. You love stories - audiobooks, picture books, chapter books and movies and fairytales. You love to color and paint. You draw wonderful pictures.  Your feelings are easily hurt and you love to always be first. You love rainbows and fairies, princesses and unicorns. But, lately you seem to be learning a little more just how the world works and just exactly how you fit in. Each new experience buffs your edges and softens you – from wild and reckless to smooth and refined.

I remember, so clearly, standing in a phone booth somewhere in Dublin, Ireland, the last days into my semester long study abroad stint. The phone connection was static-y, but I was on the phone with your grandfather. We were talking logistics of the pick-up at the airport in Los Angeles. I made an off-hand comments that my time abroad had changed me. "I was changed," I boldly said. He laughed and said that I could not ever change. He claimed that we never change, we are always the same.

That comment has always stuck with me – because, Lily, we do change. We evolve. We grow. That is part of God’s great design. Hebrews 13:8 say “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” He is the only one to stay the same, but we change. It's human. Even mountains move with time, and the rockiest of boulders become smooth from sand and wind and water. Part of me aches to keep your edges in their purest form. They’re a part of you, the spikes on your cactus, and a portion of me wishes the world – the culture pressures and social nuances and the sandy hourglass – could never file down your spikes. But, I know that change is inevitable. 

I once read that, when Michelangelo was asked how he managed to sculpt such beautiful creations, he replied: “In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.” And I suppose that’s the beauty of it all, Lily. Your father and I aren’t really the sculptors at all. Our statues have been created by something bigger than us, and our job is to withstand the chiseling – firm enough to stand, soft enough to be carved.

I see these attributes in you now, five beautiful years around the sun. You are marble, Lily. You swirl with strength and sensitivity, with steadiness and flexibility. And someday, you are going to make a beautiful statue – even despite the rusty, imperfect tools your father and I are working with. You’ll stand tall and beautiful, a house for whatever light you choose to shine. 
I love you more than all stars in the sky and all the water in the oceans.

Love, Momma

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Brand New

Over the past few weeks I have found myself cleaning out closets and re-ordering spaces around the house, recalibrating our home after the holiday whirl. We dug right into our first new years project creating a dedicated office space. We have packed up a few bags of baby/kid clothes we no longer need, boxed up books we have outgrown and filed away paperwork no longer needed. These sort of inventories often offer the best sort of reflection, a practical accounting of days and time and space. 

Truth be told, 2016 was a bit of an emotional roller coaster for me. I’m usually the type to look for the best in a situation (or at least the humor in it), but this past year smacked me around a bit. I spent the better part of the year feeling ungrounded and disconnected. I struggled with a lack of clarity and focus. Honestly, this past year I have felt more like a shadow of who I once was. Like there were two of me - the woman who laughs at jokes and the woman who cries in the closet. The woman who wants to tell the world about her hurts so that people understand – and the woman who wants to shut the world away because she can’t trust that others will understand.

While I am so happy to be marching away from 2016, this past year also taught me about letting go of failure and disappointment. This past year taught me more about dreaming despite heartbreak. It taught me about the power of voice and the value of silence. It’s funny how such powerful lessons can be woven amid difficult circumstances.

I know that everybody under the sun is making resolutions right now, and our family is too. We are goal orientated by nature. We wrote out professional goals, we created personal goals. We made a list of books we hope to read as a family. I am training to run the Boston marathon, and raise money for an organization that is near to my heart. We want to build a bookcase in our living room and fix up the front yard with a proper walkway and perhaps a porch swing. We want to hike in Lassen National Park and explore the big island of Hawaii.

But, mostly my goals for 2017 include finding a lighter approach. Recently, I was reminded of a marvelous quote written by J.K. Rowling, "Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light." And this is what I want to remember this upcoming year: Let my light shine. I want to shift my focus back to the wonderful. whimsical aspects of life. I want to dance. I want to play. I want belly-laugh. I want to explore and I want to continue to look for the beautiful parts of life even in the messiest of days.