Tabbitha, our oldest daughter, attends a wonderful preschool where her dedicated teachers work with the students on a wide variety of things. When I picked her up on Friday, Tabbi wore a sparkly, 500- watt smile and had a charming little prance in her step. I quickly learned that the preschoolers had begun a new project that promotes Godly confidence, and encourages each child to realize that he or she is special and valuable to God and to loved ones. It's called Star of the Week.
Might not sound like a big deal to you, but to our four-year-old wonder it was akin to hitting the big jackpot.
It didn't hurt that her teacher let her take home the Star of the Week information in a reusable zebra-print bag. She loves zebra print. As Tabbi and Heather say frequently, "I get it from my mama!" Good taste is contagious and apparently genetic as well.
We use that word loosely around these parts (wink).
Upon our arrival home and celebratory hugs from her siblings regarding her preschool coronation, we looked through the information packet to see what needed to be done for Tabbitha's big week. We were responsible for an "All About Me" poster that went into detail about our family, her favorite foods and sports, and wishes that she has, such as going to Disney World and receiving a Nintendo DS (more on that later). She also had the Great Nursery School Honor of bringing not one, not two, but THREE of her favorite toys to show her class, sort of like Show and Tell on anabolic steroids. Seth assisted her in collecting those toys and placing them in the bag for her big debut. The school asked that she bring her very favorite book in as well to be read to the class sometime this week.
I have to tell you though, it was the last part of the assignment that produced a large lump in my throat. The teacher encouraged the family of said Star of the Week to write a letter to her to be read before the whole class. The sheer idea of writing down all Tabbitha means to our family caused a large tear to pool in each of my eyes. It was moving, exciting, daunting, to even consider finding vocabulary to express the way my heart almost bursts with love for her and her brother and her sister.
Seth and I tried our very best to design a composition that was preschool-friendly but also extremely meaningful. It made me want to do another letter - one I could show to her later in her life to help her understand what she is worth to Christ and to us. I thought I would share, in hopes that you may also realize that the things I say to my daughter, God whispers to you tonight too.
The first time I laid eyes on you, my heart was stolen - for always, for good. It was not a traditional way for a mother and child to meet - after all, most mommies don't see their babies for the first time the way I met you, but it didn't stop me from looking into your sweet eyes and falling in love, never to fall out. Maybe it was how you carried yourself and independently hopped from the carseat and out of the caseworker's little car, or the gentle way you kept an eye on your siblings to make sure that they were never more than an arm's length away. You walked into our home as though it was just another foster home, and the wary look on your face that told us you weren't expecting much from us.
Who could blame you after what you had seen and the weight of the world you carried around on your tiny shoulders? This world will let us down, beginning the moment we draw our first breath. The people God created are flawed inside and we need Him. If we don't know that we need Him or attempt to do it without Him, we fail. The thing about that failure is it never just affects the one who fails. Life is not fair, princess. But I take joy in telling you that there is One who has never failed you. He never will.
He is the One who introduced us. He is the One who KNEW I would be so much less without you. He is the One who decided you would be our little girl when you were being knit together inside the belly of another who loved you very much - so much she gave you life even though it meant great sacrifice on her own part.
People didn't think we would make it, you and me. I didn't even think we would make it, especially at nighttime, when your daddy and I found ourselves in the silence, in the still place where inadequacies scream and Satan speaks his native language, whispering lie after lie after lie -- most of those deceitful whispers swirled around my lack...
You'll never be a good mom.
She will never trust you.
God is disappointed in your inability to show patience to these little ones.
The lies were loud - but I am thankful for all of the precious people of God who shouted the Truth so much louder and the God who empowered us to keep going even when everything in you and everything in me wondered what God was doing with the five of us.
I know I made a lot of mistakes...I pray almost as much as I breathe that I am far more aware of each one than you will ever be. I pray you remember that you are loved in this home. As you sleep in the next room, I utter that cry from the depths of my soul for what seems like the millionth time --- that you will know and rely on the love God has for you. We will let you down, but He won’t.
You are sleeping in the next room, curled up with your Build-a-Bear. I remember the day we got that bear for you about a year ago. You chose for that bear to laugh every time you squeezed its paw, and right then I dared to ask God if the next season of your life could be one filled with laughter.
We have seen laughter and tears and the heights and the depths since then, haven’t we? We have been refined in this crucible called foster care, and He has given us great joy in the midst of the great work He is doing. I can think of nothing that fills my heart more than when you wink back at me using both eyes, or when Heather gives me a smooch because “You need some Lick Gloss, mommy!” or when Ty gives me hugs and snugs—all simple evidences of God’s best. That’s why it can cause pain when people don’t fully comprehend how much I love you. Some people ask me when I am going to have “real” kids and your daddy laughs when I say that if those people were to pinch you, they would indeed learn incredibly quickly that you are, in fact, very real. God has called us to help people understand that foster care and adoption was not a “back up plan” for our family, but rather His highest good and first choice for us and it just might be the same way for some of them.
Tabbitha, do you know that you challenge me to greater holiness, even at four? Your presence has revealed my greatest selfishness and has brought me to the throne of grace more in the last 15 months than in all my years combined. You have my deep, deep gratitude for that great gift. You make me more like Jesus, and that is the highest compliment I can give another human being. You make me better. You make me more like the person God created me to be. I am less without you.
I love you so fiercely. The thought of some grown ups in black robes who have never met you and me but will make decisions about our future together can cause my fear to overwhelm my faith at times. I want to believe, but I am sometimes still afraid. Mercifully, I am often reminded that it’s not faith that casts out fear, but pure, true love from God and for neighbor. It’s love, received from Him and shared with each other, that makes the scaredy cat scamper right out of us. Love has made us brave, hasn’t it?
His love has shown me that I have everything I need to be the mommy you need me to be. His love has held us together and given us courage to keep figuring it out.
And those grown ups in the black robes?
The other day I heard that song again. It spoke of the truth to which I cling: Jesus commands our destiny, baby girl. Not those strangers that have never met us, but the God who fashioned us and delighted to give you to me.
You must know that I long for the day that the law calls you mine, but I am so aware that we have a Counselor and an Advocate who says you already are.
Well, this letter might possibly be a little long for four-year-old you, but Papaw Biggs told you from the beginning that your mommy has a strong tendency to be quite windy, so you can’t say you weren’t warned. But it’s getting late and Ty will be up again soon, so I think I will just sneak into your room, kiss your soft cheek and rock you for a moment. While I do that, I will thank Jesus again for the chance to watch you grow into the mighty woman of God you say you will be every night. I will also thank Him that He is using you to make me into one too.
And just in case someone gets mommy’s story mixed up and starts to tell you how lucky you are, you just remember that you did all the rescuing.
All my forever love,
A.K.A Pickle Pants