I recently went to my niece’s graduation party. She is a precious, beautiful, smart, and talented young woman and it was a joy to celebrate her. She is my sister-in-law’s firstborn, the oldest grandchild on my husband’s side, and the pioneer woman for all the cousins. I started babysitting her when she was 2 years old, even though she didn’t even need me – she could have run the household then. A photograph of her as a 3 or 4-year-old stayed on my bulletin board through high school and college. And now she’s in between those 2 worlds – high school and college. I felt so many emotions as I watched her. She celebrated with her cute group of friends, seemingly unaware of how these events can affect family members. When I was the graduate, I was the same way. I enjoyed celebrating graduation with my family and friends. I loved having my car painted with “Senior” slogans. The whole thing was just fun. I thought about my mom and how the separation would be hard for both of us but I absolutely didn’t get it. Now that I am a mom, I almost tear up every time I see one of those painted cars. I think of that Senior’s mama and family members and there I am in traffic all weepy.
When we came home from the party, I was holding our daughter, EK, close. She fell asleep all snuggled into me and I studied her. I love the way her little lips smoosh up against me when she’s sleeping. I love how her tiny hands are already marked with lines and wrinkles completely original to her. I love the gentle song of her breathing. I kissed her palm over and over as I drank her in. I cannot imagine giving her a graduation party. The gap between babe in arms and woman in college is just too giant for my mind. In a way, my sister-in-law is closing a chapter on her child-raising days. That is an enormous change, a giant difference in everyday life (and one that she will handle beautifully). I’m not so sure about myself.
The whole thing got me thinking – what do I want to make sure EK knows before we reach that graduation day? I mean, there are really hundreds of things – how to behave like a lady, how to be resourceful, how to bargain hunt, how to be both tough and gentle, how to include people from all walks of life…the list goes on and on. But what are the things that I would fight for, that I would stop everything for just to make sure she knows? Here are my top 3… (and these go for my precious little men too, I’m just particularly sentimental about girls right now)
1. I want her to know who God is – that He is faithful, fierce, conservative, liberal, just, true, jealous in a good way, creative, funny, protective, intimate, and grand. I pray that He is her first love. I pray that she stands secure because she stands on Christ the Solid Rock. Our God truly known is truly irresistible.
2. I want her to know that God always protects her soul. There are countless ways in which God protects us daily. I believe that each moment is packed with mercy. If God removed His merciful hand from me, I would immediately crumble into an abyss of self-destruction. His protection is truly immeasurable. That is a worship-provoking thought. Here’s another – His protection is not always, possibly not often, found in the absence of hard or hurtful circumstances. In fact, there is a precious and unique soul protection that only pain can provide. (I’ve previously written about this here.)
3. I want her to know that after her relationship with God, people are the next priority. The value of people cannot be overstated. It’s in these relationships that our Christianity plays itself out. I pray that she’ll learn from the greatest lover of people, Jesus Christ. His life on earth was marked by consistently setting aside his own schedule for the soul in need, no matter what the outward appearance.
I guess an easy summary of my “top 3” is Matthew 22:35-38. I’ve prayed these verses for each of our kids from the moment I found out about them. It’s Jesus’s response to the question, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
Lord, thank you for my niece and the beautiful woman You’ve made her. Thank you for using one of her chapter endings to make me purposeful about our chapter beginnings. Thank you for being faithful throughout all generations. Teach me to love you with all my heart, soul, and strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. Thank you Father. Amen