Last night we put up your big pictures from the past all along our kitchen wall for your graduation party we’re having this weekend. And of course…all of a sudden it feels like time has rushed by. We’ve had so many days together. When I think of all the memories I couldn’t even recall everything we’ve done, the meals we’ve shared, the shows we’ve watched and the places we’ve gone. You’ve had a full childhood just as all children do I suppose.
Good days and bad. Hard times and times of fun and laughter. Times when we played hard and times when we worked hard. And lots of change. The changes in the 11 pictures I see hanging on my wall are incredible. I remember you at each phase. I don’t look at the old pictures much, but this week I’m glad they are hanging above the table where we eat because they are a reminder to me of the beautiful girl God made you to be.
These days you’re growing up fast. You’re in college, more independent it seems by the day. This is good and the way it should be. You’re headed to Ecuador to live for 3 months just a short 4 months from now. I’m so excited for you and yet realize that the day you leave will be really strange. It’s one thing to talk about adventures, dreams and plans and quite another to step on a plane by yourself to fly to another country! But I’m excited for you and pray and believe it will be life changing for you in a way that I could never give you back here at home.
As I look at your childhood pictures I see the spark in your eye, the smile and passion, life and energy of your youth. Ironically the pictures that are hanging are the ones that represent your life before your dad died. We have many good pictures of you from after that time as well, but I find it interesting that what I’m looking at is you before your greatest loss.
Loss has changed you. That’s how it works for everybody. You are not unique in this. Everyone will experience loss and everyone will be changed because of it.
I want to encourage you to remember the joy and spirit of your youth as you become a young adult. Yes you need to be responsible and get an education. Yes you will have bills to pay and eventually I hope and pray will have your own family to take care of. But in all of this growing up be sure to keep some of your youth with you.
Do you know what I feel when I go on a bike ride with Dane down the bike trail? I feel like a kid with my hair blowing in the wind. Do you know what I feel like when I take on any new adventure? I feel like a kid that is striking out into the great unknown wondering and excited about what I might do or experience. Yes I have adult responsibilities that I must fulfill…but I also still love to be outdoors, I still love to get wet, to ride my bike, to run, to notice flowers, to walk through the woods, to go new places and see new things.
The best way to not turn into an old grumpy person is to hang on to your childhood in small ways all your life long. Never lose your wonder. Never lose your passion. Never lose your easy smile and expressive self. Never lose your sense of humor.
Take a long look at the older people in your life. You can tell real easily who has hung onto their childlike spirit and who hasn’t. Some people think that when you become an adult there is no longer room for child things. They’re wrong. Life can be very fun. Life can be full of adventure. Life is meant to be lived fully. When I look at your pictures I see fun, adventure and a little girl who was full of life.
Sometimes in the heaviness of life we lose this childlike part of ourselves. It’s only natural. Life can be very wearisome, a burden to bear at times. Real stuff happens and it hurts. There are some hard times and days when we wonder if we can even go on. There are tears to be shed and sorrow to be felt. It would be strange if we just glossed over that or acted like we didn’t feel any of that.
But ultimately…we all have a choice about where we choose to live. You can choose joy. You can always choose joy. Doesn’t depend one iota on your circumstances. It depends instead on a steady reliance in God and appreciating the beautiful life He has given you.
Remember the days when you were just grateful to play in the backyard no matter what the weather? Remember being caked in mud, or jumping on the trampoline with the sprinkler on underneath? Remember swimming at Raging Rivers? Remember fires at Richard’s house? Remember watching videos in the car while we took long road trips? Or dancing around to videos you used to watch at home? Remember the shows you and Lauren used to make up and put on?
I have so many good memories of your childhood.
I hope you do too.
I have more pictures of you than of anyone on the face of the earth because I used to just snap pictures of you from moment to moment because your expressions could change and you were so photogenic.
I know in this season of life it may seem like all of that is a distant memory. It’s hard to transition from childhood to adulthood. Right now the adult part looks real enticing…independence, freedom, etc. Which is good by the way. But…in the transition don’t ever throw the baby out with the bath water. Hang on to the humor, the joy, the life, the fun, the good memories, the adventure and excitement of youth.
Just glance at your pictures this week as they hang on the wall. Look at that little girl’s eyes. I think you’ll see what I see.
I swear from the moment you were born you had a spark in your eye. And that red hair…well let’s just say you were never made to just blend in. You were made to shine.
Don’t you ever believe or act as if you don’t have value or allow yourself to be a wallflower. That’s not who you were created to be. You are not a dandelion my girlie…you are a beautiful sunflower. Stand tall and proud of who you are and shine.
Love your momma who feels a little misty eyed by a precious redheaded baby who has fast become a beautiful young woman. I can’t express strongly enough to you how behind you I am, no matter what, for always and forever. It’s almost your time to fly…I say spread those wings and soar baby girl.