It is the birth day of our second child – our first daughter. Four and a half years ago, she was about to graduate from college with a degree in Religion for Pastoral Ministries with a youth-pastor focus, and with a co-youth pastor position already lined up. Her partner in ministry would be her partner in life – her waiting husband. A huge parenting shift was about to rock our world as she would become our first-to-be-married kid.
Several transitions were soon to unfold as she walked bravely into her new life apart from ours. I wrote a keepsake letter to mark this milestone and initiate her as a woman of her own household. Initially, the idea was a request from one of her bosses, the Resident Director of the college apartment complex where Ashley served as a Resident Assistant. I remember her calling to say the letter was perfectly timed, that she needed it so much. The words ring only truer four and a half years later, so it is fitting to share this on her special day.
May the treasures weaved through these words find their way into your own heart. If it pricks a tender place, let the emotions come. Invite Jesus into what you experience. If it is tears, ask Him why. If anger, let Him show you the reason. If joy, be specific as to why. If this inspires you to write your own letters, grab a pen or keyboard and let your true heart bleed onto the page for the one(s) you love.
P.S. to find out where the last four and a half years have looped her, catch the ending!
P.P.S. (does anyone do these anymore? ha!) my writing skills have improved since this letter, but it is still a precious treasure.
Ashley It is hard to believe, at times, you are here in this place and stage of life. Yet, at other times it feels like the natural progression it is meant to be. The closing of one chapter is like the closing of a loop, with a cliffhanger leading, pulling you right into the next chapter. Each loop is interlocked to both the previous loop and the one that is yet to come after it. As a baby, I held you close, inhaling the sweet scent of freshly washed, baby-fine hair nestled at my neck. As a toddler, I watched you explore the things around you with wide-eyed wonder and expression so clear it reminded this mama to stop and savor the every day beauty often taken for granted. This wonder carried you right into childhood. Learning to read opened a world bigger than you imagined, and your awe and wonder toward God exploded. You would read your Bible not because I told you to, but because you just genuinely wanted to read about Him as much as you could – bringing it to me with exclamations like, “Mama! Listen to this! Isn’t it beautiful?!” Oh, yes… It would be so very beautiful! The beauty you understood of God morphed into the way you saw others. When you went to public school for the first time as a fifth grader, often you told us you just wanted everyone to know the God you had come to know. The way you saw it, every broken heart was a possibility of beauty in the making. Then came your own broken heart as a teenager. For this, I am truly, deeply sorry. Your body, your mind, your heart, your spirit, it all took a cruel beating. I know it’s been a long, painful road… (you can read the story of why by clicking HERE; she was in a traumatic 4-wheeler accident along w/her baby sister) When you were a baby and a child, you clearly exhibited another strong piece of your personality. Determination. It showed up everywhere in everything. From fighting your brother four times your size in the side-by-side stroller for my set of car keys (and winning) while being so severely underweight, listed as “failing to thrive,“ to the very first day you rode your bike without training wheels. Wobbling crazily on a bike at high speed down a steep hill, speeding between a mailbox and a tree while narrowly missing both, only to flash a look over at your dad and me with a HUGE smile and that belly laugh. (permission to cry now at this memory?!) I’d like to believe that determination God weaved into your being is part of what pulled you through the darkest years and nights as a teenager. The same determination has pulled you through college, through more than the continuous changing of classes and schedules but also the continuous changing of roommates, and even the ever–changing of jobs. Through both the successes and the failures in it all, your God-given determination has helped you conquer so much. Equally, your gift for seeing the beauty and wonder of God has led and is leading you back to wholeness. Now, here you are at the end of more than just another school year, but the end of college altogether, and even your college jobs, including your Resident Assistant job. Yet, as this chapter closes, there is this huge cliffhanger: the call to co-youth pastor with Jeremy at Gateway church. The closing of the loop, with a cliffhanger leading, pulling you right into the next chapter. Each loop interlocked to both the previous loop and the one that is yet to come after it… Your new life, with Jeremy, which started in the current chapter, is definitely leading you right into the next. There are also the true friends you’ve made and the mentors from both school and church who have expressed their commitment to you in the next chapter of marriage and co-youth pastoring. There is much to be had between the pages. Much beauty. Much wonder. Much to embrace. Much to be learned. With much determination needed. Through your growing up years, my role was to nurture, protect, and empower you. Now, as your mom, my role at this stage in your life is to initiate you as a woman. Ashley Nicole, you ARE a woman. You are everything, beautiful and glorious, wonderful and fierce. Your feminine vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness. With it, you will allure your husband, reach many teens (and others), and one day mother your own children. I bless you to embrace your new life apart from mine. Not without me, but apart from me. I bless you to start your own family, create your own home, and do ministry. I will always be here for you, yet I will not be in your way. I celebrate you and your new life. I have no doubt in your capabilities to play your part well in the story God is weaving and telling through you. I love you with my whole heart. Forever and always. Love, Mama P.S. When life starts wobbling crazily and you narrowly make it through, remember to cry out to Jesus to “catch your heart”; then flash that smile and let out that belly laugh on the other side….
This precious child of mine is now a mother. Wait for it… to TWINS. And I couldn’t be more proud or more continually in love with her. Who, but God, knew she would need determination to get through parenting two at once?!
This year involved yet another string of transitions as she took time off to stay at home with the babies, and her husband became Resident Director for the men’s dorm of the university where they graduated. Now she is serving the same Religion department who shaped her: as an enrollment counselor for graduate studies (a program her husband is also in). Talk about cliffhangers and loops!! She deserves a all the celebrations and love this birthday for who she is!
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