Dear girl who might not like me for the next 8 years:

Dear Lanie,

I refuse to believe that you can possibly be heading to junior high this year. I can believe even less that you turned 11 this week. (And not just because it means I will turn 31 in a few days!!) At any minute grandma, daddy, or the lady who you tolerated in the church nursery for about 15 minutes will call me and say that only I will do….my baby will need her mama.

At this age you seem to need me less.  If my instincts are at all accurate you will need me more over this next season. Differently. Against your will. Despite your attitude.

It’s a scary thought to desperately love someone who will soon push you away all while being developmentally appropriate.  Your feet are bigger than mine. You’ll be taller than me next week. Your world is growing bigger than me. You know things now that I don’t know you know.

But I loved you before you were even nestled under my heart. I waited to hear your heartbeat, feel you flop and twist inside me, and prayed and reminded God of all His promises over you with a longing I have never experienced again. I picked you up when you were few weeks old and as you quieted instantly in my arms, you redeemed the word mother for me. You slept inches from me till you were five. You held on to the railing on the first day of kindergarten with a tenacity that only rivals my own in silent protest of  leaving my side. You text me goodnight when we are apart. You fill my place when I am unable. And a few months ago when you were so sick, pain medication and even grandma could not begin to calm or soothe you the way I could…my words and fingers across your back lulling you like you were tiny again.

I will hold those thoughts these next few years and will come here and remind myself of all the things I wanted to teach you…when I am too mad at you to remember. When we have forgotten how much we like each other….

You are much, girl! You are smart, funny, and all together brilliant. Your muchiness makes you mine and more importantly it makes you…YOU! Anyone who can not take all of you, deserves little of you. Don’t make your self less for anyone.

Ask for what you want from people…but only after you have shown that you are worth it. When you pour yourself out for people and look for ways to bless them…yes will be an easy response to whatever you need. Give first.

You are a fighter. You were born early, in the wrong position and faster than anyone ever expected. You ripped the oxygen mask off in the delivery room. Don’t spend a minute un-learning that. You make me brave. Be brave, Alaina.

You are beautiful & beautiful is far better than pretty. Pretty is surface deep and can be wiped out with a kleenex and a bad hair day. Work at the kind of beauty that draws people to you and makes them want to stay. It can not be claimed for you by someone else’s flattery…it has to be felt by you. And owned by you.

You can do anything you want. You are smarter than most. You are loved more than many. And while that knowledge might spur you forward, it is also possible it will keep you from needing to prove anything. Don’t waste those gifts because you are confident of those things. Let your gifts and our love for you propel you to great things. You have it in you, baby. Let everyone see what I already know is true.

You feel things deeply. Feel them. Be moved…by joy, sadness, longing, need, and beauty. Even things that feel awful in the moment can stretch and make you better. Whole. And it will be awful…and feel like you will never feel anything else. But I promise if you embrace the place you are and find a way to channel it, beautiful things will come.

Forgive your mama. She is just a girl who grew up raising you and she knows nothing except how much she loves you. She has second-guessed, lost her temper, run out of patience, and been hypocritical. She has bribed you, hurt your feelings, asked too much of you and made mistakes. One day you will hold a baby of your own and you will understand for the first time how much she has loved you. And you’ll forgive her. Practice for that day, now. Pretty please. ♥

How you honor your body will fuel your soul.  The food you eat. The way you move. The clothes you express your style with. The way you let others touch you. The way you talk to yourself when you look in the mirror. The amount of rest you give yourself.  The places you go. They all…matter to your soul. Make that matter to you.

Dance, baby. Find your rhythm. Surround yourself with things that move you. Sing your own song. When you figure out the thing that makes your heart beat loudly…memorize that sound and settle for a life of nothing less. Keep it in your head and play it louder than the voices of your peers or even what your mama wants for you. Dance like it is the most beautiful song you have ever heard and that you want the entire world to know.

Laugh. A lot. When something is funny, when something is awkward, or when you are tempted to be embarrassed…choose to laugh. You have this amazing, contagious laugh that will make your life so much better if you let it out often. We take ourselves serious, Laina…but we also laugh. Laugh till your belly hurts. Laugh till you cry. Laugh till no sound comes out. It is the sweetest sound ever.



Hope in a Basket

I’ve developed a new obsession while living in Austin: farm fresh eggs and bread made from scratch. This obsession is fed by the near daily farmer’s markets that are at my beck and call. On Sunday we decided to take a break from church shopping (one whole week of it was exhausting) to go out to brunch and restock these now staples. Sunday means Hope Farmer’s Market.

One of my most treasured possessions is a basket woven out of grass & brought to me from Ghana. It has carried everything from a picnic, to dinner to a friend in need of comfort, or s’more fixings for a night on the beach. We call it the “ghana basket” but it’s purpose in my life reaches farther than what it carries. When I pack it with a feast, I reminded of how easy and full of resources my life is. I think of the women who craft these pieces of art as a means of survival…and how their idea of survival might not even qualify as such for me. I am reminded of how a faraway place, a people, a land across the ocean…can call to you so deeply that you are homesick for a place you have never been.  I am reminded that joy has little to do with quality of life or luxury and I am moved to reduce the things I collect and store if it means I can lessen their need at all.

With all four littles in tow clucking about all fresh things surrounding us that we could take home, we spot a tent at the very end. Before I can say it or even hope, there is a clamor of “GHANA BASKETS!” And they are right. The culture has become so familiar that in an import store they can spot a pattern, texture, or material and know…it is from the part of the world that a piece of our hearts reside. Ghana in Austin?

I believe their are people that are meant to be part of our story. I think you find each other in unlikely ways…ways that you can only credit the Divine. But lately…even my view of providence has been pushed out to include something I might have earlier referred to as mere irony.

As we approached the last tent of the market, we introduced ourselves and chatted as I picked a basket. We shared a little of our story about our love for Ghana and our fresh arrival in Austin. She told us hers. She shared her heart for the village her husband grew up in and their desire to bring life in the form of a water well back to it. I gave her my card and we made vague plans to get together soon. Her invitation to her home was the first of it’s kind in our new life…I could have you over for dinner. It was a sweet, sweet moment followed only by still sweeter.

After the exchange of a little more information, we made the kind of discovery that makes my heart do a little dance and reminded me I am exactly where I am supposed to be. She doesn’t live nearby…they live in the same apartment complex.

Ghana in Austin. ♥

oh to do…

I woke up this morning with a very distinct craving: Vacation.

The last year has been so much about pushing through and  the only focus has been getting to the other side. The school year over. The book finished. Our life moved.

And I am so tired. I do not want to shop for food. Or have hard conversations. Or fold laundry. Or look for library books.  Or try.

I want to go on vacation. And while some tropical oasis might hit the spot, I am madly in love with the city I just arrived in. I want to eat decadent food in places I am oblivious to. I want to listen to music and let the lyrics resonate with me in places I didn’t have the words to map.  I want to get lost in a story…inspired by the words of a better writer.  I want to get a massage. I want to lay on a blanket in the shade and waste an entire afternoon sharing good food and big dreams. I want to shop for clothes that fit so well it would be a shame not to take them home. I want to explore. I want to linger. I want to delight and relish…and recuperate.

I want to do all of the above without thought of time, money, or childcare. I want to do any of the above.

And then…I could be brave again; ready for this next adventure. I could trade exhaustion for excitement. I could be me.