To My Sweet 16 Baby Girl

In some ways, I can’t believe this day has arrived. In other ways, it has been a long time coming. You have been growing and changing and forming and challenging and pushing and loving and doing all sorts of other -ings as you are becoming the grownup you are meant to be. And I’ve loved nearly every minute of it. Well, at least a solid 80% of it. ūüôā

A few years after having your brother, I remember thinking how much I wanted my second child to be a girl. I am not suggesting that your brother was a disappointment though I know that is how you would like to interpret it. I always figured I would have two kids and I unapologetically wanted one boy and one girl. Since my boy was already present and accounted for, I longed for a girl. With a 50/50 chance of that happening, I decided to wait until I was ready for whatever gender the baby turned out to be. That took about two additional years.

Finally the time arrived where I felt ready for child number two, any child. I was feeling pretty nonchalant even about getting pregnant. “If it happens, it happens” I remember thinking, and actually meaning it. Consequently, thanks to the flu and a few other factors, I didn’t realize I was pregnant until 11 weeks along. ¬†What a gift to learn of your presence just as the fun part of the pregnancy was beginning. No longer was I suffering from morning sickness or fatigue, which I had mistaken for ongoing flu symptoms. I was carrying my second child.

I felt pretty relaxed about the pregnancy. I was also keenly aware of each milestone. I had taken those milestones for granted when I was pregnant with your brother. Six years later and having witnessed the loss others had experienced, I was more aware of what could go wrong. This didn’t make me nervous. It made me grateful. Each milestone felt like a gift. At¬†the¬†ultrasound appointment, the tech checked off¬†her list. Everything about you was looking good, healthy and on track. I was thrilled. She then looked at me and asked, “Do you want to know the baby’s gender?” “Yes” I said as I held my breath. I knew that I really would be happy with whatever your¬†gender was because I had learned you were¬†healthy and well. “It’s a girl” she said. And I began to cry. “Are you sure?” I asked in disbelief. “Yes” she said.

When you arrived, on your due date no less, the doctor announced,¬†“It’s a girl.” “Are you sure?” I asked, with tears filling my eyes. “Yes” she said. You were cleaned, wrapped, and placed in my arms. I know I loved you from the moment I learned of you. But that love was sealed the moment I saw you. My sweet little girl had arrived.

And now here we are 16 years later.

Liv & me

We’re both older and maybe¬†a bit wiser. And I can’t imagine life without you. I’m not sure why my longing for a daughter was so strong. Maybe it wasn’t ¬†just for a baby girl, but it was for YOU my heart longed. I have treasured the time I have had with you. I look forward to your transition into adulthood, needing me less as a parent and hopefully enjoying me more as a companion. You make me laugh and cry. You have turned some of my hair grey. But they provide some nice highlights in my darkening blonde hair so I don’t mind. Thank you for being you. And happy sweet 16!

Love,

Mom

Dear Coasting Christians

I realize there are many reasons you stay on the periphery of your faith community. You are burned out but don’t want to stop going completely. You try to be hopeful that maybe someday church will be relevant again. You keep your toe in the water where you are, while you periodically dip your toe into other pools nearby just in case the next one is a bit more to your liking. You stay because of your friends. You stay because you are members. You stay because that place has been part of your identity for so long that you decide it is better to be on its periphery than not there at all.

I understand these reasons because I have been where you are. I reached the point in my community of faith where it no longer stirred me or challenged me or inspired me, but I stayed anyway.

Eventually I did realize the need to move on. Staying, but only on the periphery, was giving me a false sense of engagement. While I might show up, I risked nothing. I offered little. I expected even less. I wasn’t really part of a faith community. I was merely pretending to be. And so I left and went to seminary because I knew what had led me to my church’s periphery is what I needed to better understand. My interest in God and faith hadn’t diminished. But the church¬†where I attended, and many that were just like it, were increasingly unable¬†to adequately and appropriately facilitate an exploration worthy of the 21st century.

The reason I write to you today is¬†to let you know how much you are needed. There are many of us attempting to bring the church beyond it’s defined walls. It is in this space that so many wander. Paradox, honesty, complexity and wholeness dwell here in this space. But the space is not an easy one to navigate. It requires commitment and courage, companionship and endurance. We need you not because you have the answers but because you believe in the work to be done. You know that while faith can be difficult, it is also rewarding.¬†We need you to be willing to be challenged and encouraged so that others who are just beginning to learn the value of community can be accompanied on this journey of faith. We need those of you who already believe in a God of grace to be bearers of that grace. We need you so that¬†the church doesn’t merely¬†survive but thrives. We need you. I need you.

And I think you need us too. I think your soul is tired of the periphery and hungers to reengage in a way that matters, that makes this world better, and you better too in the process.

Find a¬†church – a community that will both love you and challenge you. Pick a place where you will give generously and maybe even sacrificially. We are meant to be in community with one another, and¬†we need a community that will intentionally connect us with God too. It isn’t the savvy services, polished leaders or right programming that feed our souls. It is being¬†known and loved, and doing the knowing and the loving of others. And once you find it, go for it.

With love,

Jen