Letter to My Daughter: Home

Dear Baby Girl,

You just turned 10 months old. Earlier this week, we spent Christmas in one of the more unlikely places I’ve come to call home: Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I grew up in a suburb of Atlanta that was overwhelmingly white and upper middle class, and I was unprepared for the neighborhood of inner city Milwaukee where your daddy grew up. One of the first times your daddy got really irritated with me was when I tried to pet a pit bull stationed at a neighboring house. “Don’t touch that dog!” he told me. “He hasn’t been raised to be a pet.” That neighborhood was the last place I thought I belonged.

But in your grandparents’ house at 30th and Hampton, I found a grace I hadn’t expected. When I met your grandparents, I encountered a welcome that astounded me.   “As long as you’re here, you’re our family,” they told me, back when your daddy and I were just dating. As soon as your daddy and I got married, they called me “Daughter.”   I didn’t regard my trips to Milwaukee as an exercise of spousal duty, but instead anticipated the return to the safe haven where I was fully known and fully loved.

Christmas day this year, I passed through the threshold of the house on 30th and Hampton not like a stranger, but like the prodigal returning. It felt like coming back to where I belonged after a long exile. “Welcome home,” your uncle said to me as I walked in. I realized that he was right—somehow, by the grace of God, that place had become my home, and yours too.

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There’s a lot of history there. The fireplace mantle roughly outlines the story of the lives that unfolded there—baby photos, triumphant graduates, prom dates, wedding, grandchild (that’s you!). There’s the wall where the tennis and wrestling trophies, musical awards, and team photos showcase the pride of two parents. There’s the poem about selfless marriage love that chronicles the forty years your grandparents spent together on this side of heaven.   There are the dents and scratches in the floor and the walls made by the brothers’ (mainly, I gather, your daddy’s) misdeeds. There are the semi-functional control pads with which your daddy and his brothers battled for Super Mario supremacy. There’s the weight of memory that this was the first house to which your daddy and his younger brother came home and also the place where your grandma died. It’s been one of my life’s greatest honors to be woven into the history of that house not only through marrying your daddy, but also through the love your grandparents and uncles have extended freely to me.

When I think about the home we want to make for you, I think about the house on 30th and Hampton. It’s not so much about the physical house, but about the capacity of a place and a people to brim with so much life. It’s about the potential of a family to stick fiercely together through hard times and good, and yet to welcome strangers like your mommy with hearts and arms wide open. It’s about faith that builds a foundation for everything else, so that when the unthinkable happens, the home may shudder for a moment, but it never falls down. It’s about a place where you are fully known and fully loved.

If we make a home like that for you, we will have done well.

Love,

Your Mommy

 

 

 

 

Letter to My Daughter: Pain

Dear Baby Girl,

You’re 9 months old now, and you are nothing but a joy.  You babble constantly, interspersing a few words intelligible to me in the midst of your own private language.  You crawl and try to stand up.  You enchant everyone you meet with your vivacious personality and cuteness.

I wish I could say that in this season, all I’m doing is relishing in your adorableness.  The truth is, Baby Girl, that I’m in a season of unexpected pain.  I wake up in the morning feeling its heaviness descend on me before I even remember what caused it.  I go to bed wondering if the next day will be the same.

I’m learning how to be a parent in this season.  I never meant to let you see me cry.  Of course, when you were born and I held you while the midwives repaired the carnage, crying was pretty much the first thing you ever saw me do.  At first, I didn’t mind crying in front of you, because I realized that you didn’t notice the difference. But now, as I see the glimmers of empathy emerging in your character, I worry.  Will letting you see me cry scar you?  Will it make you feel like I don’t love you enough?

The other day, you and I were sitting at the table, eating our lunch, and I started crying.  You looked at me curiously, as if to say, “What’s the matter, Mommy?” I said to you, “Mommy’s fine, Baby Girl.  Nothing’s wrong.”

Then I realized that was complete bull#$%@.  I was lying to you about my feelings. The last thing I want to teach you is that you have to pretend everything is okay.  I don’t want you to think that the only acceptable feelings are those that are social media-worthy.  I study biblical lament, after all…what was I thinking?

So here’s what I want you to learn from me, for those moments of your life when you, too, will climb emotional mountains you never thought you’d face.

I want you to know that there’s no shame in your tears.  I’m guessing that you, like me, carry big emotions.  While not every moment may be the most opportune for their expression, your feelings are worthy.  Empower yourself to find the space in your life to let them run their course.

I want you to know that we worship a God with whom we can entrust the totality of our beings, who does not wince in fear or disgust at the sight of our most jagged places of brokenness.  God does not reject our grief, but holds it and shares it in his own being.  In taking on flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, God committed to sharing fully in an existence marred by pain of all kinds.  We can trust the Christ who cried, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” not only to accept our deepest hurts but also to weep along with us.

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I want you to know that no matter how long or painful the night is, morning is coming. Sometimes the movement of our God is almost imperceptible, like that moment when the world hovers between winter and spring–winter’s chill is still in the air even while the first flowers of spring are blossoming.  But even now, I believe the final victory over all that breaks us is already won, and the full unfolding of God’s restoration will come upon us.

Next time you see me crying, I’ll say to you, “I’m not okay right now, Baby Girl. But one day, all will be well.”  And I’ll hold you in my arms until the tears pass.

Love,

Your Mama