Notre Dame de Paris and Legacies at Easter

Notre Dame de Paris and  Legacies at Easter

Photo by Stephanie LeBlanc on Unsplash

On Monday, April 15, when the very first sparks caught deep in the forest of Notre Dame Cathedral’s 800-year old oak beams, my husband and I were singing the closing hymn, “On Eagle’s Wings,” at the funeral of a beloved man. His name was Jim, and he was the father of one of our dearest friends.

The church was packed, full of people whose lives had been touched by this husband of 51 years, father of 4, grandfather of 11, friend to hundreds, and volunteer whose time and contributions touched the lives of thousands through a long list of organizations within his community.

During the homily, the priest told a story about visiting the grave of Christopher Wren (1632-1723), the architect of St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the first person entombed within it. Wren’s gravestone reads, in Latin: “Reader, if you seek a monument, look around you.”

Wren’s monument was the entire building. Spectacular, of course, but buildings do fall down.

Jim’s legacy is one of love and connection. It is a baton that has been passed on – and will be – for generations to come.

I was so grateful for the priest’s reminder as I drove home, thinking about people I love – people very close to me – who are currently suffering. Some have been fighting health battles for months with no end in sight. Others are dealing with very emotional issues – facing new realities, changed expectations, and daunting unknowns.

Like a devastating fire, suffering leaves marks on us and changes the way we move forward in our lives.

The temptation is to believe that a happy ending requires that we – like Notre Dame – be restored to some version of a former glory.

We think that with enough rest, medicine, good food, positive words, and advice from experts and well-meaning friends we can shore up our mental and physical strength and proceed as if nothing ever happened.

But what if we’re not supposed to? What if suffering – in all its forms – has a larger purpose?

What if it is supposed to change us forever?

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…who encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction….” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

Our suffering is allowed so that we might be brought closer to God’s face and then, in turn, use our experience to boost others on their journeys.

We are to pass the baton of Love.

So Jim’s life becomes a message of hope to us, just as Jesus’s resurrection – which we celebrate this weekend on Easter – is the tangible sign that with God, even death is not an end but an entryway.

Perhaps the Cathedral of Notre Dame will be rebuilt, but it can never be the same. The story must go on and be fashioned anew.

On Monday, we sat with our grieving friends and remembered that Jim was a man who gave generously of himself. He was beloved, because humans are attracted to the image of God reflected in a kind person.

Easter is coming. Suffering will end.

May Love be our guide to build legacies that last.

God the “Father” – When Language Falls Short

God the “Father” – When Language Falls Short

Photo by Dylan Sosso on Unsplash

I call God my “Father.” But the word falls short in many ways.

Let me preface this by saying I have a gentle earthly father. One who spoke to me in childhood with kindness and patience, and talks to me now with respect and care. I always knew his intentions were good. I understood that he loved me, even when he disciplined me.

But many people don’t share this experience. The word “father” is a powerful trigger for deeply complex, old and painful wounds. It becomes very difficult to think of God in heaven as the Best Dad Ever when you perpetually wonder why you were paired with one here who left you aching.

I’d been ruminating on this subject for a few days when a long-forgotten memory sprang up while I was sitting in a streak of warm sunlight at my kitchen table, early one spring morning.

I’m four years old and it’s Christmastime 1976 in New London, CT. My parents are shepherding a Bible study group for cadets at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, where my father is an alum and is now working in the Admissions Office. This evening, some cadets are caroling at a retirement home, and my parents decide to take me along. I am the only child in the group.

I’m hiding from the tall, loud adults in my handwoven gray and ivory Icelandic sweater – each strand of it thick and soft – and distracting myself from the strange surroundings by playing with the round pewter buttons on my belly and twisting the thin belt between my fingers.

We walk through long corridors, passing room after room, singing “Jingle Bells” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” Through most of the doorways, I see only feet. Feet covered with blankets. On beds. In wheelchairs.

I stay by my mom’s side, listening to her lilting soprano and the swish-swish of her arms against her yellow parka.

We finally come to a community hall, where people sit in high-back chairs and more wheelchairs along the perimeter of a ring.

There is a small collective sigh.

My mother begins stroking my blond hair and saying my name, my age, and things about me.

A woman in the middle of the circle, hunched over in her wheelchair, fixes her deeply wrinkled face on me and smiles like a cherubim. With great effort, she raises her left hand and holds it, trembling, mid-air.

My mother runs her hand down my back and inches me forward until I take the last few steps to this woman on my own.

She sits above me on metal wheels, but I look into her peaceful eyes and feel the radiance of my rosy cheeks, the warmth of my tiny body in my woolen sweater, and without thinking, hold out my small hands to hers.

We clasp our hands together on the armrest and I notice how hers are bluish and ropy with veins, but soft, tender, and pulsing with life.

Looking up again, I see that we share this: life. And a desire to love.

I don’t know her, but I like being with her.

Her presence takes away my fear.

She sees beauty in me. And I see it in her.

That was more than 40 years ago.

I’m back in my kitchen now, remembering that we are all made in God’s image. We bear an imprint of Him.

In that moment, I saw peace, goodness, stability, kindness, hope, trust, and love.

I wonder how many days passed before that gentle lady went to meet her Maker, and how many other people saw God in her eyes?

When we recognize that God is present in all situations, we begin to understand His character and heart.

We begin to see that every life experience carries a whisper of His grace.

I call God my “Father” in the language of my faith tradition, and I always understood Him to be the origin of everything and the transcendent authority. I prayed to the Father alone before I ever became comfortable with His son Jesus Christ – whom I viewed as a divisive figure bent on punishing me forever. By asking God the Father to help me trust Him and by spending time in Scripture, my understanding of Jesus changed, and now He is my dearest friend whom I often visualize sitting with me when I pray. I’m comfortable when I read the words, “[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” (Colossians 1:15)

But God’s qualities transcend the bodily distinction between the sexes. And God is continually drawing us to Himself.

God is neither masculine nor feminine, but both and all, and the more that I understand God as Creator, Friend, and Lover of my soul, the more I yearn to remember how this One Source of Life and Love met me in my past and beckoned me to Himself.

Do you want to remember, too?

I stretch out my hands to you;
I thirst for you like a parched land.

Teach me to do your will,
For you are my God.
-Psalm 143: 6,10

Creating New Memories of Dad

Creating New Memories of Dad

Ashe Gold

Have you ever revisited a memory only to discover that your recollection was, in some way, skewed?

This happened to me recently.

I was thinking back to when I was 12 or 13, spending a day with my dad. We were in Morocco. Epcot’s Morocco.

My folks had recently divorced. At the time, my sister and I were living in Jacksonville, Florida, with my mom but for reasons I can’t remember, this day-trip to Orlando was just for Dad and me.

We were having a blast – “hoofing it” as Dad always said – walking quickly all over the park to take in as much as we possibly could in 12 or so hours. Just before dinner, we stopped at Morocco, and as we admired the leather goods in the shops, I told Dad I needed to visit the ladies’ room.

There, I discovered what every adolescent girl dreads.

And dear God. I was not prepared. No purse. No supplies. Nothing.

Feeling slightly nauseous, with butterflies in my stomach, I marched outside. Dad was standing by a dim streetlamp, basking in the sunset over the man-made lake.

“Dad, I need a quarter.”

He looked down at me with his calm, bright blue eyes, smiled and asked, “Why do you need a quarter?”

“Uhmmm. For the machine in the ladies’ room.”

His forehead wrinkled and lips puckered in perplexity.

Time stood still for me.

Perhaps a millisecond later, he began to fumble ferociously for a quarter, patting his shirt pocket and the pockets on the front and back of his shorts without feeling anything. Finally, he found the handful of change, opened his palm, and fished out one shiny 25 cent piece.

I took it from him without a word.

When I returned, he was fidgety. There was a crisp air of uncertainty about him.

“So,” he tried to sound casual, “Where would you like to eat? We can go anywhere in the world!”

So Dad. So typical of Dad to attempt humor just then. And I showed my gratitude with a grudging smile.

We settled on Japan, where, over my first-ever bowl of udon I also felt for the first time that necessary parting of ways – the separation that comes between the child and the parent, and in this case, between a girl and her father. Things would be unsaid. Experiences would be unshared. Life would be lived separately.

But there is more.

I used to think this story was about me and the time my monthly cycle began at Epcot Center. And it is – in a very small way. What’s more important however, is that Grace showed up that day, and taught me a lesson for life about men.

My dad is a gentleman through and through. That doesn’t mean he always responds with composure or perfect words the first moment of a challenging situation; it means that he will respond correctly when given the fullness of an opportunity. The distinction is important.

This little incident was a building block planted by Grace in my life. How do I know? Because my father’s response to me – initially awkward, but full of love and tenderness – was a foreshadowing of interactions I would later have with my husband. By looking back on this memory, I can see that I was being taught that today I am to give my husband room and time to respond with the love and compassion I know he has for me, even if the circumstances of any given situation take him by surprise.

Men get a lot of bad press these days, and yes – there are more than a few out there who are behaving poorly and thus becoming fodder for headlines, memes, and tabloids. But I’ve been blessed to know many good men – righteous men who through their actions, big and small, show their love and concern for the women and children in their lives. Fathers especially, who shepherd their families with perseverance and thoughtfulness. They aren’t showy or prideful about their contributions; they do it out of the purity of their hearts, and we would do well to honor them appropriately and regularly for it.

The love these men express is a reflection of the bigger Love – the eternal Love. The One that brought all of us into being through the free gift of Grace and uses individuals to do work in the world. Love is an unparalleled force that we cannot escape, and we desire it above everything else.

Relationships with parents can be complicated. Holidays like Father’s Day can stir up a whole host of emotions. But deep within, many of us want to feel or say something more than, “Have a beer on me, Dad!” “Play some golf!” “Take a load off!” or the generic, “Enjoy your day!” Even if our dads have passed on and our interactions were troubled, we want to have hearts of gratitude for these men who touched our lives so deeply.

The not-so-secret secret that Grace teaches is that gratitude is a practice that can be learned. So here’s an exercise for building gratitude for your dad (and indeed any man in your life) that you can try – today.

1) Think of time when he was tender to you. An isolated incident.

2) Visualize yourself through his eyes. Remember that you were his child. Consider how he must have felt as he looked at your face. However imperfectly he expressed his emotions for you, try to imagine the stirrings of his heart.

3) Add the emotion you feel from this “imaginative view” to your databank of knowledge about your dad. Assume his best intentions. Grant him a bit more grace in your heart and you will want to act toward him accordingly.

Can the past teach us about the present?

Does Grace always show up in our life’s story if we look closely enough?

I believe the answer to these questions is ‘Yes.’ And we can respond with gratitude today if we can gradually come to believe that there’s a God who was walking with us then, and who walks with us still.

He Knows

When I get goosebumps, I know I should pay attention.

This morning, I was brainstorming ideas for the 31 days of posts I’ll be writing in October and listening to music on YouTube when this video popped up. I hadn’t even selected it, it was just in a Christian music queue, but my hair stood on end as soon as I heard the tune. I listened to the words, and then felt that someone who visits my blog was supposed to see this today.

Whoever you are, this is for you. Though I don’t know what’s on your heart, He does.

Chicken Salad

I was making chicken salad for school lunches at 10:15 p.m. when Grandpa called to tell me something that, as he told it, struck both of us as funny. These days, his voice often chokes with emotion as he speaks to people he loves, and I cherish this. As a result, our conversations have a depth that goes far, far beyond the words spoken.

Ever since I was two, I’ve always lived at least three time zones away from him, but time and distance don’t stop love. His unconditional concern and care has been a steadfast light shining from afar. He’s a pillar of strength, solidity, and resilience in a family that has spread out through geography, marriage, and experience. And in that way, he bears likeness to another Father who is always present.

I can look back now and see that all the twists and turns of my life, some of them known to my family, some of them just aches within my soul, have been overseen by the guiding and ever-loving presence of God. He has been right there alongside me, however far the distance between us might have seemed.

I heard this song today and it prompted me to write. There must be some connection.

Transition

Two weeks ago, I was shopping in Whole Foods when I saw my friend. She was standing by the olive bar with a downcast face, spooning a mixture of fruits into one of the plastic cups provided for purchases. We’ve known one another for more than a decade and met through a playgroup when our oldest kids were babies. She’s always smiling – one those people whose eyes twinkle joyfully most of the time. But her sadness hung on her like a heavy robe. And I understood. Completely.

Our “babies” – two vivacious boys – had started Kindergarten that day, and though we knew the boys were fine and wholly ready for this stage of their young lives, the transition was going to be hard – for us. We’d both been ‘at home’ with at least one child every day for the last 12 years. And while the separation from them would be brief (7 hours can go very quickly), the days suddenly seemed quiet. Too quiet.

I told her, “I lost it while driving yesterday. Started crying. Not good! And he didn’t know what to do. Poor guy. I told him through tearful smiles, ‘I’m so excited for you! But I’m going to miss you!'”

Apparently, my friend had had exactly the same experience. While driving. And then there we were, hugging in the produce section of Whole Foods.

What is it about following routines that can trigger the deepest of emotions? When something in our lives changes, routines suddenly seem anything but routine. They become more focused, more deliberate, somehow. We start to think more about where we’re going, what we’re doing, and why.

So how have I spent my last two weeks? Doing some of the same stuff I always have, but I’ve also gone full bore into a long list of projects that I’ve been waiting to tackle…

Sewing.  FullSizeRender copy 2

Shopping for artwork for the barren walls of my office.  IMG_2441

RedoingIMG_2452 our daughter’s room…I cleared the knick-knacks out of the way, and my husband painted the color our daughter chose. (Can I just say what an awesome dad he is?)

 

FullSizeRender copy 5Thinking about taming our overgrown  yard. (Whoever sits on our porch is risking their life.)

 

 

Tackling years’ worth of albums and scrapbooks that haven’t been updated (or in some cases, even started!).

FullSizeRender copy 4

FullSizeRender copy 3And, deciding it was time to relinquish a few safeguards that are only required when parenting the very young.

 

 

So, I have my work cut out for me.  Rather, I’ve put some work on myself.

See, it’s easy for me to throw myself into these tasks, thinking that by going through the motions of improving the external, I can become ‘settled’ on the inside.

And over the last two weeks, I have certainly focused on the “shoulds” that have been pestering me for a long time.

I should beautify this house. I should get rid of the clutter. I should follow-through on projects I never finished. I should…I should

What an awful word. Should. It always makes me feel like I’ve fallen short. Of my capabilities. Of my responsibilities. Of my dreams. Of my expectations, however unrealistic, which are so often not exactly mine, but what I presume others’ expectations to be – of me. At the core, should makes me believe I’ve missed the mark – of ‘goodness.’

Separating what’s truly important from the ego in me that wants to just “get it all under control” takes effort, discernment, and quiet. The kind of quiet I can fill up with projects that aren’t intrinsically bad, but that might not align with what I know to be my calling in this life – to love and serve others according to God’s plans, not mine.

In my recent study of Galatians, I came across this verse:

Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of the promise. But just as then the child of the flesh persecuted the child of the spirit, it is the same now.  (Galatians 4: 28-29)

Every day, I have a choice. I can be an Isaac, and live fully freed by the grace of God through the covenant he established with me when I recognized that Jesus Christ  came to set me free from the traps of my own making that separate me from God. Or, I can be Ishmael, Isaac’s half-brother, who was pushed into the wilderness, cut off from any of his father’s inheritance. Worse yet, I can live in a transitional spot, teetering between knowing and embracing the gifts of a Spirit-led life, while also entertaining the shoulds of my flesh, which followed outright will drive me to ruin and despair. Basically, my flesh can persecute my spirit. Where will I lean in this transition?

As a child of the Promise, I’ve experienced the priceless fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22). But to enjoy them in this earthly life, I need to stay close to Him.

My oldest son was poking fun at me the other day, prodding me about those albums.

“Mom, are you gonna cry over the photos of us?  Boohoo! My babies! Boohoo!”

As he curled his fingers into loose fists and rubbed his jolly eyes like an infant would, I returned his smile, but with a smug, knowing grin. It’ll be decades before he understands how much I love him and his brother and sister, that I would cut out my heart to save each of theirs. And then I think…

Yes exactly. You’d die for this child of yours. But the Way of eternal love is felt most acutely by fully embracing the present as the gift that it is. So don’t cry over the past. This is the start of a different era. Embrace your new freedom. Live within peace and gentleness. Focus on what has eternal value. Look ahead. Joyfully. 

There is an appointed time for everything.

And there is a time for every event under heaven—

Ecclesiates 3:1

Bump in the Road

image“Mom!” she yells. “Why are you turning around?”

“There’s a sign back there. I want to take a picture of it. For my blog.”

“Why?”

“Because.”

And for once. For once! She doesn’t press. ‘Because’ is enough of an answer. I thank the Lord for this small mercy.

I don’t know how I could explain it to her anyway….The many reasons why I called her grandmother yesterday, just because I needed my own mom for a few moments…

When I dialed Mom in Florida I looked at the clock and assumed I’d need 10 minutes to vent – to really get it all out. Ten turned into 30, and Mom listened patiently – to all the ways the state of the world had gotten me down. She offered only words of encouragement, a tiny bit of advice, and the gentle reminder that, “The devil loves to see us stewing in anger.”

Deep sigh…I know. I KNOW. And don’t our moms often tell us the truth? Whether we really want to hear it or not?

And then later I see a sign. Literally. A SIGN. Telling me again that all the things I vented to my mom about are just BUMPS. Bumps. And I have been forewarned.

This world is not perfect. And it will continually disappoint me because I was not made for it. I was made for more.

I crave the purity and loveliness of the One in Whom there are no imperfections. And so no matter what might fall or spring up in my path today, I must keep my eyes on eternity and on Him whose perfect sacrifice has washed me clean from the ugliness I loathe in myself and others.

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

– John 16:33

Look again at this photo. On the left there’s a father with his child on his shoulders. Dad carries the weary child, and from the new vantage point, the child can see a bit farther. It’s exactly the way my Father in Heaven wants to carry me. And you.

imagephoto

Use What You Have

For many months, my oldest has been trekking off to Taekwondo in pants that are about 3 inches too short. They look very silly, but he didn’t need a new pair. This pair fits him well around the waist. But yours truly hemmed them up last year, and then my son grew. A bunch. As kids are wont to do. And I’ve been busy. As moms are prone to be.

Anyway, the thick of summer is finally here and I’m tackling miscellaneous projects, so I broke out the seam ripper and have been undoing two levels of hems in these pants. My gosh I was thorough. Did I really need to use the smallest stitches on the sewing machine for these hems? Ripping them out is taking forever!! Lesson learned.

image

Nevertheless, I find a strange satisfaction in doing little bits of handiwork like this – picking up a piece of clothing that could be tossed aside or given away out of frustration and giving it a second life. I’m so grateful my mom taught me to use iron-on patches to reinforce the knees of jeans that are wearing thin, and how to fix a snagged sweater with a crochet hook. In learning little tricks like these, I also grew to understand that the usefulness of things can be extended, and that value is to be determined by what something means to us, not by what it means to others.

So, weird as this may seem, whenever I settle into the couch and start ripping out hems or mending holes, I feel rich. I’m not rich, mind you, but recognizing that I have what I need within the walls of my home makes my heart swell, and I remember again that my life is overflowing with blessings.

One day a few years back, I almost fell over in surprised joy at this feeling of abundance. I had been telling friends that I thought my husband and I needed a bookshelf. We just had so, so, so many books and no place to put them. We were busy with two kids at the time, and our basement was a wreck, with toys, extra furniture, and boxes of books shoved every which way and all over the place. No organization whatsoever. I couldn’t stand it, but of course, no one but us was going to fix it. No fairy godmother was showing up with a magic wand to whip everything into order.

My complaints had reached a climax and I was climbing over the stuff in our basement’s back room, where a door leads to a storage area. In a rant about buying more containers to clean up and compartmentalize the mess, I wasn’t thinking about what might be in that storage room.

Right behind that white door was a basic 6-foot bookcase my father-in-law built 40 years ago. It was exactly what we needed. It was right in our house all along. And I had completely forgotten about it.

So how often do I forget about what I actually have? Every day. It’s so easy to look around at what others have and think they have it better than me. Better hair. Cuter clothes. A prettier house. More worldly success. Some vague happiness that is greater than mine – as if that can be measured. As if what they are showing on the outside is in any way a true reflection of what’s really happening on the inside.

This is exactly what the evil one would like for me to think about, right? And these malicious whispers in my head that would divert me from the Life that Jesus came to bring to me are lies. Lies. Jesus tells us the devil “was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44)

So do I have what I need to fight these thoughts? If I have access to a Bible and a mind to pray, I do. But I’ve found that no matter how wonderful it feels to fill up on God’s Word, be it on Sunday at church, or during Bible study with my friends, I cannot walk through this life and expect the satisfaction of those times to last. Daily immersion is required. I cannot run on fumes.

And why is that? Because God is alive! And I have a relationship with Him. Every time I seek Him out the experience is new. He opens the doors to show me what I have forgotten or neglected to see – in myself, in the world, in all dimensions of my life. He plants His Word in my heart. The more I read it and pray on it, the more I recall it when I become challenged. Baffling situations are less intimidating, for I am confident the Lord is with me. I know the feeling of His presence.

Sitting with Him, studying what I have right here with Him, blesses me beyond words. And that’s why I come back, to use what I already have, and to more deeply appreciate the lasting, eternal value of His endless love. All glory is His forever.

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

–  2 Timothy 3:16-17

High Hopes for Women

My daughter’s blonde hair falls in soft waves around her shoulders and a few inches below them onto her back and arms. I’m studying her dewy, perfect skin as she leans on a pile of pillows in a pink cotton camisole and striped flannel pajama pants. Her red glasses frame curious, spirited blue eyes, and she laughs aloud as she reads words, words, words that delight her and inspire her…..to read on….to learn….to love life even more than she already does.

If you’ve ever been transfixed by your daughter in this same way, you know how it feels. I marvel and wonder…Who is she today? Who will she become? What will she hope for? What will she share with the world?

My reveries for my daughter are born of the trust that she will learn, she will have opportunities, and she will live her life in freedom. Blessed am I, indeed.

Now, imagine the horror of seeing your beloved daughter (or wife, sister, mother, cousin, or friend) attacked by an angry mob – a mob who beats her with sticks and stones, drags her under a car, burns her body, and tosses it over a railing onto the rocky banks of a river. This is what happened to Farkhunda last week, a 27-year woman who was murdered in Afghanistan, falsely accused of burning a Koran. I stared at her blood-covered face in the Washington Post yesterday, and thought, “‘[I]n the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.’ (Genesis 1:27)….Made in the image of God.”

Farkhunda studied at an Islamic school and wore the head-to-toe garments conservative Muslim women reportedly favor. Her father said she believed education for women would help them in domestic life. But it seems she was lynched for expressing ideas. So very dangerous in her part of the world.

Everything within me wants to yell, “It’s not fair!!!! Do something! She deserved better! She should have had space and safety to let her mind and spirit soar. She was a gift! Her sisters are too! Don’t you see!!?!?”

But no, they don’t see. The men who killed her didn’t see. The mind of a mob is a terrible thing. Convinced of it’s ‘right’ judgment, it is capable of the worst kinds of cruelty.

But we do, we say. We see. Farkhunda was born with certain inalienable rights – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And governments are instituted among men to secure these rights. How I love the ring and resonance of these words.

Yet, do we see? Do we all see? Are we overlooking the most important point?

If we are to seriously take up the cause for women’s rights in Afghanistan and elsewhere, we must first remember by whom those rights are granted to us. We must raise this Truth in every argument. We cannot lapse in our appreciation of, lapse in our desire for, or lapse in our fervor for, the profession of this Truth. Inherent natural inalienable rights were endowed to Farkhunda by her Creator – The Lord of the Universe – and until the hearts of mankind come to know this Truth, the violence and bloodshed will continue.

Last year, I gave my daughter a gift – a framed verse of a Proverb – which now hangs in her room. It’s there to give her a vision….Of a woman grounded in Truth, fully aware that her pricelessness has been inextricably forged into the fiber of her being, and sure of her purpose in this world because she looks with confidence to the One who brought her into it and promises to be with her in the next.

This verse is my prayer and hope for my daughter, for the women who knew Farkhunda and carried her coffin, and for women everywhere. May the girls of the world be seen for who they are, and for Whose image they reflect.

“She is clothed with strength and dignity,
and she laughs without fear of the future.”
– Proverbs 31: 25

Day 30 – Baby Love

On my husband’s side of the family, we had a new reason to be grateful this Thanksgiving – our newborn niece – who was exactly 7 weeks old on the holiday itself.  She is a beautiful and tiny little cherub, with long fingers and long legs. It was fun to speculate about what she might do with her life, and to study her face, trying to discern whom she most closely resembles.

The immediate family ate dinner together, and my husband’s large extended family joined us for dessert.  Many had not seen the new princess before.  Something happens to a person when they “meet” a newborn, especially one in their family, for the first time.  Their face noticeably softens, tension drains from their shoulders.  They stop moving and often fall silent for several seconds. Scientists say women’s pupils dilate when they look at a baby’s face.

I think staring into the eyes of a newborn we are meeting for the first time is awe-inspiring on a deeply subconscious level.  Newborns are people in their purest possible state.  And it just might be the closest we can come to seeing the face of God.

I looked around the room at all of those people and for a few minutes saw babies everywhere. We all were, of course, just like my niece. And someone took care of us, however well or imperfectly. The people who brought us up did their best to love us, and they were babies once too, loved by imperfect people.

Some of us are blessed to be parents to babies now growing.  I am humbled every day by the realization that I make tons of mistakes, and that while I start out with the best of intentions, and I love my kids so much it hurts sometimes, there is One far greater who loves them infinitely more than me, and He proved it by dying for me on a cross. He alone, of all babies who grew up throughout time, did not have the stuff inside that makes me do things that leave me knowing I’m guilty, or ashamed. Thank goodness for Him, because He forgives me for messing up, and can show me how to try again, and how to love myself and my babies better the next time.

And there’s another thing I’ve learned from Him, but also from watching parents here whose babies have gone to heaven heartbreakingly young.  And that is, that a living parent NEVER stops loving their baby.  In fact, love never ends.  I am so thankful for the assurance I have in knowing that. Because I too am a baby.  And my Father is the Living God.

“I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
as long as I’m living
my baby you’ll be.”

― Robert Munsch, Love You Forever

 

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My daughter (9) holds my niece’s hand.                                     She was 7 weeks old on Thanksgiving day.