September 24—17 years ago today- looked pretty much like this one. Clear blue sky and lots of sunshine. The opening day of the Texas State Fair. 87 degrees at 3:18 central time in Dallas. Accompanied by her dad and Dr. Payne (yup, that’s really his name), who very assertively instructed me to “Push, push, push!”, she metamorphosed out of her cozy cocoon and found her voice—loudly. In that moment, with her little arms and legs flailing uncoordinatedly, she made her way through the starting gate and her race began.
My kids birthdays are my favorite days of the year. All day long, I reminisce about the life we’ve shared….
This one, she’s answered to lots of names over the years, in-house derivatives of the one on her birth certificate—Woozy, Rosie, Roni, Roan- all terms of endearment for the babiest of all the girls in the family.
“‘Kin-a-‘kin” were her favorite words as a toddler. She’d speak them like a declaration as she pulled my shirt up, oblivious to public decorum. She wanted us to be touching belly to belly all close and warm.
Falasadie, Rushidi and Adona, the little, plastic orphan girls were the main characters in all of her dollhouse pretend stories with Robyn. As time went on, those stories became epics as they added chapters from their cozy twin beds drifting off to sleep at night. Sometimes, I can still hear their little girl voices giggling in my head.
There were teepee adventures in the yard and plenty of princess dress up too.
She started cooking on her Chico kitchen set and created the most marvelous concoctions made out of rubber beef and other such delicacies. Then, she starred in the homegrown screenplay, Once Upon 3 Cooks, as the exemplary sister who shopped and ate healthy. Later, we watched every episode of The Great British Baking Company together and nowadays she bakes, stir-fries and cooks “clean” with eclectic creativity and flair.
I’ll never forget the way she skipped up to the stage at the annual Awana awards night in her multi-tiered cotton “happy” skirt to receive her trophy for being unanimously selected by leaders as the first grader who best exemplified the spirit of Awana.
For years, she lived and breathed Adventures in Odyssey episodes on CD. From before she crawled out of bed in the morning to when she snuggled up next to Oreo at night, Whit, Connie, Eugene and the whole cast of voices were as familiar to her as ours were. Later, she sat behind the microphone at Focus on the Family headquarters in Colorado recording an episode in the mock studio and shared a Wad-fam-choc-sod in the soda shop with Robyn— 1 drink, 2 straws.
And those weren’t the only stories that put her CD player to good use. Audiobooks, in and out of order, were the order of the day for many years. How many times has she listened to every book in the Laura Ingalls Wilder The Little House on the Prairie series with the reader who sounds like a hoarse cowgirl or the librivox recording of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice?
Then there was every single Wildkrats episode she watched on the computer expanding her love of and knowledge about animals which she delighted to expound on.
In the hazy, lazy days of summer, you could find her jumping in the neighborhood pool or building sand castles on the shores of the Great Lake. And at twilight, she’d be catching fireflies in the peanut butter jar with the air holes drilled into the cap.
And she got older, she developed a voracious hunger for reading and writing. Her room became a solace for consuming stories quietly. She created characters and worlds and super powers, attempting to translate thoughts onto paper, exploring the complexity of good and evil. And she started retelling the best and truest story of all to children at church every Sunday morning. Then, standing up in front of a thousand people she told her very own story of being adopted by Jesus and got baptized.
More recently she’s been driving and working and studying. I admire her work ethic, her commitment and her integrity to the extreme. She’s learning how to take care of herself with kindness— getting acquainted with God’s unique design that is her and learning what it looks like to nurture it. Her soul is a mosaic of colors, every wavelength of light and dark all along the spectrum, creating a beautiful rainbow.
Lately, she’s taken up jogging and every time I watch her pound the pavement, I think about God’s words comparing life to running a race. It’s about focus. And training. And persevering. And I’m one of her witnesses. Cheering her on, I’m hooping and hollering, “You go girl!” from the sidelines. But Jesus, he’s running right beside her. When her pace slows, so does his. When she gets a second wind, he speeds right along with her. When she falls, he’s got the first aid kit and attends to her wounds. When she needs a drink, he’s the one carrying her heavy water bottle. When she’s about to give up, he gets behind her, like a wind at her back making her next steps easier and when she just can’t anymore, and she collapses along the side of the trail, he sits with her, patiently, until she’s ready to get up and run some more. Here’s the point: She does not run her race alone and she never will. In this fresh new year, the last one before her emancipation, here’s what I know is true. The steadfast love of the Lord never changes. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness, O God. (Lam. 3:22)
She got a new t-shirt this summer that she wears for self-inspiration. It’s black with big white letters saying, “I’ve got this!” And she does. She’s got this.