New friends, resolutions, and simply okay.

FullSizeRender 2All student names in this post have been changed in order to protect their safety and identity.

 

Sara & Milad

After a too-short Christmas break, I came back hitting the ground running on a Monday morning. My first students of the week are an Iraqi couple named Sara and Milad. Usually, any hard feelings I have toward Monday mornings dissipate once I step in this couple’s home. They have become friends to me, and I’m so eager for the day when we can share more in-depth conversations.

I still remember our first class together. I told the couple we would only be meeting once a week, and their faces dropped. “Only Monday?” they asked. I explained that many people want English class, but there’s only a little money to pay good teachers. So yes, only Monday. They were disappointed, but still thankful for any chance to practice with a native speaker.

We began our lesson, and stopped halfway through to take our short break. As usual, Sara left the room to prepare a small breakfast in the kitchen. While Milad and I waited in the living room, he shared how badly his head and eyes continued to hurt.

“The air here is no good. Allergies,” he explained. I nodded my head in total understanding.

“Many people have allergies here. I’m sorry you do too,” I told him. He showed me the medicine he has been using, and I recommended some others, saddened by his eagerness to continue coming to class despite how badly his head hurt.

I wondered if the stress of resettling here in Tennessee caused him to feel sick also. There’s a lot of stress in moving, but especially in moving to another country with 4 children. There are bills to pay. Jobs to work. Roads to learn. Schools to enroll in. A language to learn. A new culture to adapt to. That gives me a headache just thinking about it.

I showed him the word “stress” on Google Translate, and he said, “Yes! Stress!” I suggested he get more sleep and encouraged him not to worry, knowing that would be easier said than done.

We were quiet for a moment. The TV on the other side of the room was muted, but I watched the video and studied the Arabic scrolling across the screen. Other than kids’ shows to keep the toddler entertained during class, I had never seen anything other than Iraqi news played on that TV.

“What’s happening?” I asked, motioning to the TV. I ask this every week, curious to see how Milad will fight to explain it in my language. He always tries, but some stories are easier to describe than others. This week, he couldn’t communicate it well enough. I’m not surprised—it looked pretty messy.

He was able to share with me about the war. He told me that everyone is fighting, and it’s not good. I asked him about his country specifically, and he reached for his pencil and paper to draw a picture for me. This is the second Iraqi person to do this for me. The Kurdish (or Iraqi) people I know take a great deal of pride in their heritage.

He drew an oval, calling it Kurdistan. His country. He explained that there was war and fighting, and everyone got a piece of his country. On top of the large oval representing Kurdistan, he drew 4 smaller ovals. He pointed to each one, “Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria,” he said. His family was from the Kurdish region in northern Iraq. I understood that Kurdistan is no longer a nation, but an ethnic group of people displaced across a region because their nationality—at some point in history—was changed.

Even though I’ve seen this map drawn out a few times, it still makes me pause every time. Even though I’ve attempted to read about the history several times, it still makes my head spin.

They used to have clear-cut lines to prove they were a people standing together as a nation. And at some point, that all changed. Those lines were erased as others where they would go. Now they’re a group of people carrying the name of the heritage proudly, no matter where they live. My students are Iraqi. But they were Kurdish first.

I’m hopeful that one day Milad and I can have a more in-depth conversation about this. I have many questions to ask him. But there was no time, as Sara arrived at the table with hot coffee and a spread of wonderful snacks—lemon cake, chocolate cake, vanilla wafers, and Doritos.

 

The Sisters

There are 4 adult sisters who live at an apartment complex down the road. Three of them live together with their aunt, grandmother, and father. The other one lives at another unit with her husband and 5 children. The two sisters with the higher-level English skills, Charity and Farhia, are the ones that come to class regularly, although I desperately wish the other two would come too. One must work during our class hours, and I think the other one gets overwhelmed easily at her lack of skill. Even so, I know the names of all of them and try to never miss an opportunity to encourage them, whether or not they come to class.

The sisters’ grandmother lives with them. I don’t know how old she is—maybe I’ll ask during class tomorrow. At any rate, she’s very, very, very, very old. Deep wrinkles cover her skin, and although she usually wears a hijab, I’ve seen her on days when it’s taken off and revealing wiry, aged hair. I’ve never seen her eyes before. They’re always closed. I’ve also never seen her standing or walking on her feet.

I see the old woman at every class. When it’s warm outside, the grandmother is sitting under the tree in her wheelchair. Sometimes the aunt is sitting with her. The aunt’s face will brighten, “Hello, Teacher!” she’ll shout, waving from across the lawn.

It’s winter now though, and the grandmother is always on a pallet in the dining room. In place of the wooden table most would expect to see, there is a thick pile of pillows and blankets. And when the grandmother isn’t in the wheelchair, she’s on the pallet. Oftentimes she’s sleeping. But other times, she’s awake. I can’t tell by her eyes, but I can hear her the sounds she makes. They’re pained moans and a strained voice. I’ve never seen the aunt sitting because she is always caring for the grandmother.

Sometimes when the grandmother is having a hard time, Charity or Farhia will stand up to help move the aunt move her to a more comfortable position. Other times they giggle at her from across the room. I’ve never been able to understand the situation the grandmother is in, but I gather it’s not good. But maybe it’s not so bad—especially on the days when Charity or Farhia chuckle.

Almost every time one of these spells happen, I’ll ask one of the sisters, “Is she okay?”

“Not okay, teacher. She’s very sick. No good,” the say.

And I never know what else to say, so I usually just say, “I’m sorry.”

 

 

Abana

One of the spunkiest middle school students I teach is a Tanzanian girl named Abana. Her English is great, and she’s unafraid to ask questions.

“Miss, do you live in an apartment or a house?” she asked I drove the mini bus carrying her and 13 classmates home.

“Apartment,” I said.

“Really? Do you live in an apartment because it’s cheap and you don’t have enough money to live in a house?” she implored.

“Yes. That’s exactly it,” I stated.

“Oh. Okay,” she said, turning to another conversation.

In her language, “okay” feels more sincere. Meaningful. I’m never offended when I hear a person of her language simply say “okay.” It feels like enough, which is interesting since it feels like the most common, overused word in the English language.

One day at the end of class, our class had been granted the highly esteemed “YouTube Time” as we waited for the bus to pick us up. I walked past the dozen screens in my room, and mostly saw African songs and dances playing. As I glanced at Abana’s computer, I stopped.

She was listening to the song “Testify” by Needtobreathe.

I knelt down beside her. I wanted to instantly believe she was a Christian, but I didn’t want to jump to conclusions. In work like this, you can never jump to conclusions. I told her I liked that song, and when she didn’t believe that I knew it, I sang the words. She smiled, probably unsure how to respond. I asked her why she liked this song.

“I’m a Christian. Why shouldn’t I like this song?” she said so boldly and quickly. I admired her faith immediately.

“Oh, Abana. Wanna know something? I am too. That means we’re sisters,” I told her.

She smiled, and told me to prove it. She started a new search for another song. Typing capital G, she was offended by the lowercase g’s in the search bar.

“Why are these little? God is a big G,” she mumbled. I chuckled, but she didn’t notice.

She played “The Creed” by Hillsong. I told her I knew the song, and prayed I could remember the lyrics. I sang the words to her as she covered the screen.

Smiling, but still not satisfied, she searched for “Who Am I?” by Casting Crowns. I told her I enjoyed that song too. She covered the screen once more, and I used my hands as blinders around my eyes. I sang the song.

She smiled, and simply said, “Okay.”

 

 

The Big Class

The largest class I teach meets in a classroom at an apartment complex. Our Christmas break was the longest I’ve gone without seeing them. It was a long, yet much-needed 3.5 week break for us.

As we got back into class, I showed them the weather forecast for the weekend. I showed them the snowflake on my screen, and they were eager to know what time the winter weather was predicted to come that weekend.

“I want to see snow,” Lwin smiled. I hadn’t thought about it, but yeah. I guess most of them have probably never seen snow before. And boy, even though I knew much wasn’t predicted to fall, I was so excited for them. Whether it was 10 inches or half an inch, they would be equally grateful. That’s the beautiful thing about them.

We meet twice a week, and I took both days as an opportunity to learn about a cultural aspect of America: New Year’s Resolutions. Not only did they learn some great vocabulary and another funny thing about the way we celebrate holidays, it also gave us a chance to think about what resolutions look like for not only ourselves, but other people too.

For homework, I challenged them to write resolutions for their spouse, their best friend, their teacher, and the president.

This is what they shared:

 

  • Your Teacher
    • She is going to giveing us lesons.
    • She will teach us today.
    • She’s going to explain a leson. (Yes to all of that.)
    • She’s going to help other people.
    • She’s going to travel to another country. (I’m praying about that!)
    • She is going to sleep early. (Oh, I really really really hope so.)
    • My teacher will teach me clearly.
    • She is going to make us perfect in English. (crying)
    • She will give us good knowledge. (still crying)
    • She teacher has virtue in the life of every student. (STILL CRYING)
  • The President of the United States
    • He’s going to visite TN.
    • He going to stop war in the world.
    • He will be nice to other people. (Praying for that.)
    • He is going to donate.
    • He is going to make peace in the world.
    • He will be the good lawyer. (I think we wanted to use a different word here??)
    • He is going to stop war.
    • He will develop USA country.
    • He’s going to make America great again. (LOL)

 

I teach the most hopeful, gracious, forgiving students in the whole world. I don’t think they would dare think an evil thought about me or the president, despite our flaws and imperfections. They literally love America and the people here.

I just pray they never watch the news to hear the highlight reels of the President’s conferences or learn what Twitter is.

 

 

Chesa, Ming, and Nyan

The hardest part of middle school ministry? Making friends.

My first week on the job has been difficult, and the kids are really testing my patience. When our last day of the program for the week neared, I was ready to rest. Thankfully, we were able let the kids burn a lot of energy off outside. Although tossing balls and running looked like fun, I noticed a girl by herself on the side. I walked to her, and began talking. I was surprised by how easy she responded and how she asked me questions too.

It was like she wanted to have a conversation too. A middle schooler who wants to be my friend? An old married lady? It was a God moment.

We talked for several minutes as we watched her friends toss a ball in the distance. I was enjoying the quiet conversation as we talked about our 9-year old sisters, talked about school and college, talked about English classes. Her friends barreled to us just a few minutes later, and I began repeating their names over and over: Chesa, Ming, and Nyan.

We all talked and laughed together. Nyan began to braid my hair and Chesa wrapped her arm around mine. I showed them a picture of the scarves, hair bows, and necklace some of my Burmese students gave me a while back. In unison, all three girls gasped.

They began talking excitedly and we looked at pictures online. They told me about the Zomi festival, and told me exactly how to wear the gifts I had been given. They told me about the food at the upcoming festival and the dances the people do. I asked them if I was allowed to come, and they told me yes without hesitation. I continued asking them questions about their culture, just because I could tell they were really enjoying teaching me.

Later that evening, they went out of their way to find me and give me a hug. And just like that, I had 3 new friends.

 

 

 

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a story written in the light of the sun


Like all good mornings marking the goodness of autumn, today began with a flannel and a cup of coffee.

I carried these things with me as I led an early meeting with a team of heart-moving, world changers. We lifted complaints, sought resolutions, and wrote dates in our calendars. We laughed when one of the guys carried an Oreo ice cream cake to our circle of chairs, and exchanged good hugs when an old friend came to visit and introduce her place as a sort of “team parent.”

Just at the meeting’s end, we introduced one last bullet point from our agenda: life stories. Two of us were chosen to boldly speak up about all the dirt and glory in our life– both now and then.

I listened to the girl on my right share her life with us. She told us about the old boyfriend, and the first knee surgery, and her fears, her hopes. And, being in the seat of vulnerability, she told us: it all fit together in the hands of a mighty God. She didn’t stammer or stutter. She spoke calmly and with grace as our eyes followed her words. I sat, somewhat nervously, fingering the red ribbon marking the page in my notebook.

On the page beneath my nearly-sweating hands stood an outline of my life. From the place I was born into, to the doubts and guilt that began to define my life in the 8th grade, I held nothing back in outlining the dark, gritty places of my life. Although in the silence of my room my messy outline seemed to be a good idea, suddenly in this circle I didn’t want to be so vulnerable. I continued counting the lines on the red ribbon beneath my fingers.

Silently, I knew I couldn’t miss it. Even as I tried to use the red ribbon as a cover-sheet, I couldn’t hide it. Under the second Roman numeral glared the names of the boys that had acted as seasons of my life, bringing me closer to who I couldn’t be and the life I didn’t want.

But– right when the ink looked blacker than midnight on this outline of my life– there came the change. Crammed in messy ink beneath the third Roman numeral began a new chapter, standing as a bold bullet point that noted the day my world shifted; it was the day my night turned into a morning.

My friend finished her story, and my heart filled with adoration as I thought about the bold way she could retell her story and simply know: I love God. Following her lead, I inhaled and looked around at the very different faces watching me within the circle of chairs. I did what I hadn’t planned and I closed my notebook. I closed the sloppy scribbles I had inked on the too-small lines of the page, and I promised instead to make the Roman numerals and bullet points come to life with my words. I spoke. I timed myself for 5 minutes and made another glance of the world-changers that sat around me, as I inhaled and spoke.

:: :: ::

Afterwards I helped fold the metal chairs and milled around the lobby for too long. I drove with the window down as crappy music blared out of my speakers. I prayed that my stuttering car wouldn’t stop and praised that the traffic kept moving. When I showed up to class just a couple of hours later, I listened for nearly an hour as a man told me all the reasons why I should use my language and beliefs in a classroom on the other side of the ocean in a country I probably couldn’t find on a map. He recounted faces and moments in time that had impacted him, and asked me to join in on this mission too.

Up until this point, I had focused on the screen and voice at the front of the room. I don’t know why, but something made me want to listen. But at the end, I sat chipping away the dark gray nail polish on my fingernails. As dark flecks fell on my desk, walls built of brick and mortar shook in my heart.

The presentation ended with the quote of an overseas student who had given her life to the cause of Christianity. Her white words stayed on the black screen for too long–

“It was like midnight until the window was opened and it was like sunshine came in my heart.”

I scanned the words, reading each one more slowly than before. In my head, I thought of the darkness of the night sky. The ways I’m too scared to stand under it for too long. The ways it haunts me. And then I thought of the way the morning broke– I remembered the first ray of sun that began to peak over the trees. I remembered the first morning that I awoke and knew, “This is the first day of my life,” and vowed to always live in the beautiful dawn. Tears gathered at the brim of my eyes and I blinked them away, never letting my gaze leave the screen.

“What a beautiful thought,” was all I could mutter. What a beautiful thought.

:: :: ::

Today I saw Grace in the power of a story. As I listened to my own story for the umpteenth time, heard a friend’s for the first time, and read one sentence written by a stranger I’ll probably never meet, I didn’t just hear beautiful words. I didn’t just hear beautiful, well-crafted words that moved me to another place.

I heard stories of a wonderful Sun shining in a dark places. I saw the way the rays shone in unexplainable ways, and I pictured what He might have looked like with a watering can as He sought to make His beloved grow, grow, grow into a work of nothing less than immense transformation. 

At one time, I struggled to pen the words beneath the pale moon in the midnight sky. But one day– when the sun was shining at the right angle and the trees were the perfect shade of autumn– I walked to that window. I fingered the dirty, off-white cords that hung down. And I pulled. And as I pulled, the blinds rose higher, higher, and higher until they nearly met the ceiling. And immediately, I felt the warm October sun blaze through the window as I saw the hues of olive greens and deep blues. The light filled the room and replaced the shadows with a bright, golden light. In silence, I closed my eyes and I knew I had never seen the sun before this moment.

My overseas sister words filled my head once more. It was like midnight until the window was opened and it was like sunshine came in my heart–

And now I know: today my story is written in the sunshine.

More than the waters.

 



We walked upstream, splashing over 100 rocks with every step. I watched as we stirred the clear water, causing clouds of dirt to rise to the surface. As we continued in the creek, stopping at a deeper hole for a dunk under water and dodging cow patty after cow patty, I had a place in mind that I wanted to go. I would ask them occasionally, “Are we going or stopping?” and each time they’d reply, “Keep going.”

After we passed the bend in the creek and kept left at the fork, I knew we were nearing the memory I envisioned. I remembered the way awe had felt in my heart and on my lips that day a year ago, and I knew I had to get these girls there. This time, I didn’t ask. I just decided we were going to keep walking.

We continued, and I worried we had missed it. “Surely not. Surely it’s impossible to miss something so beautiful, right?” I thought to myself, as if I hadn’t already passed at least 100 beautiful things during our walk. Finally, we neared a fallen log in the creek. I recognized the way the sun broke the shade and onto the water just on the other side, and I said to the girls, “We need to climb.”

Jumping onto dry rocks and pushing leafy limbs to the side, we passed the log. “Keep looking to the left. It has to be on the left.” Finally, as our eyes moved from the creek bed we walked on to the trees above us, we came to it. We met the clearing of the trees that revealed a bright green, towering pasture. The sun gave a shimmer to the waters around us, and we looked up towards the hill on our left. Through a narrow clearing in the trees, we could see the rolling pasture just beside us, and the blue sky that loomed over it. Living in a world of blues and greens, I immediately heard the girls bring a voice to the awe I been hiding in my heart.

As we stood watching the motionless, unchanging hill, one of the girls said, “I don’t think anyone could look at this and not believe that God made it.” And when the mother cow just up ahead continued moo-ing, and we squealed and giggled as the baby calf galloped across the pasture, I knew then that my previous memory of this place was not enough. I knew this was the kind of moment that deserved to be remembered. On the lines of a page stacked on the shelves of my library-heart, this moment rested.

:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The next day I came to the bank of the same creek. As I read page after page about the promises of a God who loves me as much as the people in the book, I stopped. Closing the cover, I looked up at the gray sky overhead. I listened to the moving spring on my left and the trickling creek on my right. I sat and listened. And every ounce of pride I had– the same pride that claimed relentlessly the quiet doesn’t bother me– was broken. Shattering in the grass all around me, I thought, “How can You do this?

How can a God– the same one who mightily led His people to a place of restoration and security in the pages beside me– bring me here? He could throw fire on every tree and piece of dirt lining the bank. He could part every cloud in the sky and make the sun relentlessly beam down on me. He could stop the very movement of the waters, and move the same pasture I had seen only the day before. He could do anything with all He had created–

but instead, he called me here.

He called me to a place of peace when the very fibers of my heart began to strain under pressure. He called me to a place of silence after I had joked about hearing the sound of my own voice. He called me to be still after a week of pouring this big life He had given me into 60 junior high students. This God who could do anything or nothing at all had wanted me in this place.

Would you believe me if I told you this was hard for me? It’s hard for me to even reach my dirt-ridden hands out to this idea of being cared for out of choice. Passion-filled, desire-driven choice. Because here’s the thing: the spring doesn’t argue with Him. The spring doesn’t stop giving life to those who meet it. And the creek? She doesn’t stop moving. She doesn’t come to a place of complacency, but instead fearlessly moves. With the rippling of a gentle current, she does everything she was created to do without a doubt. She’s confident, she’s graceful, and she’s nothing less than what God told her to be when He spoke movement into her.

He could love this creek and spring more than me. He could look on these obeying, serving waters with more pride and awe than He looks on me. As I thought about this– I mean, as I downright arm wrestled this thought in my heart– I remembered the lilies of the field clothed in all their splendor and the birds of the air, and that resounding question, “Are you not much more valuable than they?” With all the dirt under my fingernails, the sweat on my brow, and the stubbornness in my heart, I let him win. I looked at those pieces of pride all around me, and I said over and over: He still loves me more than the graceful waters. He loves me more than the waters.

:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The camp director I work for gave the staff a mid-week / mid-summer pep talk the other day. He told us to not get so caught up in sweeping that we forget to look up in awe at the fireworks just overhead. I went back to cabin and made bold the words in my journal, “Make a memory every day.” I started writing down all the big and small things I didn’t want to leave forgotten during the week. When it came to the part about meeting with God at the creek, I paused–

I left those shattered pieces of my pride beside the creek that day. I’m sure I’ll try and go back for a piece or two at some point, but for that day, it was enough to see them shimmer on the ground and know I did not need them. For that day, it was enough to know His promises. To know of His mighty strength and His infinite, unsurpassable love for my broken bones and me. It was enough to want to know that more and more everyday–

And underneath the bold words “Things I don’t want to forget,” I scribbled on the next empty line in my notebook: “The moment God promised He loves me more than the waters.

When you turned 37.

When we were younger, my mom would host incredible parties. Because my brother’s birthday is 2 days before Halloween, mom would go all out to celebrate both with cake and costumes. She’d hang lights and streamers. Make punch. Dress up, which sometimes meant a graying wig and fake blood streaming down her face and other times meant cat ears and drawn-on whiskers. She’d Blare “The Monster Dance.” One year she even ordered a bounce house. She’d go all out. And this past year, she made trophies out of decorated skeletons and had a costume contest. Seriously. Growing up, I always viewed these parties as another yearly tradition. Another thing to dress up for. Another time to visit with everyone we know. Now that I’m older and understand better what it looks like to plan and pay for get-togethers, I’m not sure how she did it. I’ve thought to myself often, “whoa, that’s a big deal,” and wondered how she was able to pull it off.

 

She would also come eat with us at lunch. In elementary school if our parents visited for lunch, we were allowed to leave the stinky and loud rectangle tables, and sit on the other side of the room at the round tables instead. And, we could invite one friend. Once when mom came, she brought my aunt too. I couldn’t decide which friend to bring, so my mom said, “well, your aunt is here too so that means you can invite two friends.” We kept going on with this—pushing the rules and so forth— until I had 4 or 5 friends at the table with me. I remember the looks the lunch monitors gave us, as if they wanted to tell us we weren’t allowed to have more than one friend at the round table. I also remember how cool I felt that my mom had allowed me to invite all of my closest friends.

 

By the time I got in middle school, I spent every day of my summers reading books. I’d finish one every two days, or sometimes two in one day. When I said I loved reading, I meant it. Without a shadow of doubt. And these days when I’m home, I glance at the same worn-out, paperbacks on my own shelf—the same ones my mother held when she was younger than me. And I ask her, “Hey, whatcha reading tonight?” And sometimes I’m even tempted to shake my head when she says, “Look at the books I got this week!” And above all, I’m amazed to know a person who is so genuinely invested in good stories and hard experiences and beautiful words. Honestly? In a lot of ways, I’m scared of those things. When my mother says she loves them, it makes her brave and courageous to me.

 

When I had gotten tangled up with messy decisions that led to a bad, boo-hoo break up with my first boyfriend, my mom is the one who came in my room, closed the door, scolded me, cried, and ultimately, loved me. I’ll never forget that conversation. I couldn’t even look her in the eyes, because I knew that I had scared her. She was absolutely terrified for me, and loved me enough to say so. I can’t say that conversation and the days that followed were scrapbook moments. I can say they showed me what it looks like to love someone with the kind of fierce hope that doesn’t stay put, but chooses awkward talks and tear-filled eyes without skipping a beat.

 

There was also that time we took a weekend girls’ trip to Georgia. I remember how badly momma wanted to see the sunrise on the beach, so on our final morning, we set our alarms for, like, 4:45, packed the car for the day, and made the 45 minute drive to the beach. We weren’t even halfway there and we realized we were surrounded by rain on all sides. Determined to outrun mother nature, we drove in the opposite direction for an hour and a half. When we got to the beach, it was still raining and the light had already made its way across the sky. We sat in the car for an hour before deciding to just head back to the hotel. I remember momma kept saying, “I’m sorry,” as if she could have influenced the rain to fall a different way. And I remember just being thankful to enjoy a rainy day adventure with her.

 

Even a few weeks ago, mom and my sister, Lilly, signed Valentine’s cards and delivered them to the people in the retirement home. On Valentine’s day the pair travelled all over town to deliver baskets of cupcakes and chocolate to some of our friends and family. “Me and momma are playing Secret Cupid!” Lilly exclaimed. As I recounted momma’s Valentine’s Day plans to my friends, I laughed, “Who in the world is she?

 

:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

 

I know how to ramble in some conversations because of the way I’ve heard her talk to strangers as if she’s known them forever. I know what it looks like to make an effort for those around me because I’ve seen my mother go to great lengths to put others before her own needs. I know what it feels like to drive under the open sky with the convertible-top down because my mom has been willing to get her hair a little messy and play the music a little louder. I know it is possible to do things, like eat a bowl of cereal, while reading a book. And, I know what it feels like to paint a dream in your mind, and to hear a voice beside you telling you, “Go, go, baby, go.

 

I know these things because my mother—like no one else I’ve ever known—has embraced her unique role in this life. God Himself dreamt up this idea of life, and made just a speck of it happen through my mother. And during my wiser moments, I stand and think, “Wow, how cool it is that my mother has played so many cool parts in my story. How cool is she.

 

So mom–

 

Because I also know that I was born a month before your 17th birthday, and you have loved me relentlessly and continuously since, I know that today is your day. Today is the day when every balloon should float in the sky and every piece of confetti should fall from our hands as we dance, dance, dance for you—

 

Because at the end of this day—as I scramble to post this before you go to sleep— you are still the most lovely, compassionate person on this continent. You have illustrated a sacrificial life, and used all the right colors and shapes to make it beautiful. And I’ve never told you, but I’m so thankful it’s the only thing I know. I’m so, so thankful it’s the only thing I know.

 

I know life is moving in crazy directions for us these days—I think in some ways it’s fair to say you’ve grown up, and I’m still getting there—but there are still days when I’m in my dorm room and I ache to just say hello to you. I’ll think forward to my next visit with you, and I’ll say to myself, “I just cannot wait to hug my momma.” That sounds silly even from 25 miles away, but I’m happy to have spent this day with you under one roof. I wish we could throw a party for you the same way you’ve thrown parties for us, but I hope this little letter will do. Even though some of the streamers weren’t hung and we didn’t hide under the table waiting for cue to jump out, “Surprise!”, I hope these words will make you think back on those memories and smile. I hope these words make you want to look forward to the work that is happening in your life today and tomorrow.

 

Whatever happens this year, wherever you walk, whatever books you read, whoever you speak to, I am praying this is your best year yet. With all that my feeble words can express, I am praying that the things you do will be the things you love. I am praying that the Creator of life itself will come to you every day, and reassure you that His work is continuing in you, and that you will go for that. Whatever it is, I hope you go for it this year.

 

I’m one of your number one fans forever, and I’ll never stop being inspired by you. Happy birthday, mom.

 

Love always,

Bri