To my baby girl, the day you turn one…

To my baby girl, the day you turn one,

Oh, my sweet JoJo, how do I write a letter to fully express the ways this year with you has changed our entire family…our entire world? The day you were born, nothing could ever rotate or propel forward the same again. You stopped time for me, for a mere moment, but it happened and I’ve felt as though I’m living a moment behind ever since.

The number of prayers that reached heaven in your name are far too great to number. God must have thought highly of me to loan you to these waiting arms, although there are plenty of days that I don’t comprehend it. The first six months of your life, I couldn’t truly process that you were here for good. I was so grateful for generous friends and hand-me-downs because if it weren’t for them, you would have been naked. It’s hard to buy clothes in the next size for a baby you aren’t sure is going to stay. That sounds awful when I say it out loud, but that’s what grief after a seemingly endless season of loss will do to a spirit. But, it DID end, we made it through and you fought your fight. And what a fight! You are the strongest little wisp I know. A child who’s experienced nothing of a life free from weekly violations, pokes and prods, yet waits with open arms and a smile as if to prove forgiveness when it’s all over…THAT’S an earthly show of grace!

Oh, how I praise God for His grace! Whatever is ailing your tiny body hasn’t stopped you from making big leaps. You crawl as lightning fast as your brother did. You chatter as brilliantly as your sister. And you’ve managed a sense of humor all your own! I often wonder if you knew your brothers and sisters in heaven and if they sent you here with instructions…”now give mom a hard time about getting you dressed. Be sure to REALLY enjoy bathtime. Make it hard for them to get anything done because they just want to hold you all day.” Or are all those little quirks your own? Do you know that you are my last draft and you are giving me all the really great story lines? Because you DO! Processing the milestones you’ve reached as “lasts,” instead of firsts has, at times, seemed a bit on the pessimistic side. But, I hope that in recognizing them, I’ve been able to soak in your littleness just a bit more thoughtfully than I would have otherwise.

When I was pregnant with you and we thought you were gone, I remember praying so hard that my guts literally ached. I prayed that if God would just get you earthside safely, then we would do anything that was necessary to save your life. I didn’t realize how much you’d be saving mine. You’ve occupied a space that wasn’t empty, necessarily. It was just filled with ghosts. It was sad and churning and often very bitter. But you don’t sit on that seat in my heart anymore. You’ve been replaced by precious memories of the happy news of each of your siblings, who despite being born into heaven, will always be my babies. No, dear one, you occupy the sweet spot, the part of my heart that has learned to trust God. The part that has learned patience…the really, really hard way, but that has seen the fruit from the waiting. You sit on the part of my heart that knows you and your brother and sister are the best things Papa and I have going in our lives, but that you aren’t really ours. You belong to the one true King and for that I can praise mightily. For he has chosen me…little old sinful, arrogant, selfish, hot-headed ME to get to be YOUR mama for as long as you’ll stay. It’s a job I’ll gladly keep doing because, Miss Josephine- jelly bean, prettiest girl I’ve ever seen….I love you to the sun and the moon and the stars and back again a hundred million times. So very fresh, so very full of light, so much joy…you’re my Jovi girl. Happy birthday.

Love, Mama

To my daughter, on your seventh birthday…

To my daughter, on your seventh birthday,

This year is nearly a blur for me and

I know for you, it couldn’t go fast enough. There’s something about the age of seven, suspended between toddler and tween; little, but not so little anymore. Those eight teeth you’ve lost betray your baby fine wispy hair and let the world in on our little secret…you’ve grown, when I expressly forbade it. Your sense of humor, often awkward and reticent, but absolutely precious, keeps me guessing in which direction you’ll pounce next. You process concepts that seem far too big for your tender heart and I see little snips of innocence dissolve as realities of certain sin and hurts sink in. That part of growing up is the hardest for a mama soul to witness. But, just as I must accept your vulnerable heart and your burgeoning wisdom, I must also accept the dear friend you are becoming to those around you. I am the center of your world no more. As excruciating as this revelation is to my ego, it is so beautiful to be front row at the show of your grace, generosity and caring nature. You are a good friend, baby girl. Never underestimate the power of your smile and a kind word. The world is better for both. You experienced true heartbreak for the first time this year and I believe it has created in you a tender spot for those who are less acknowledged than you are.

I’m proud; proud of your gentle way with your baby sister and how you’ve just assumed the new norm of sharing your birthday without many a grumble; proud of your eagerness in school, proud of your desire to learn God’s word, proud of how you give new ventures your very last drop of enthusiasm, proud of how you try with all the TRY you’ve got to have patience with your brother, proud of how you teach and model for him how to be a generally cool kid, proud of how when it comes down to it, you stay true to yourself. I’m proud of how you’ve handled this year of doctor appointments and hospital stays for your siblings and more nights away from mama than you’ve had the rest of your life combine with absolute grace. You’ve never blamed anyone and even in your sadness, you’ve still managed to be a comforter. That’s a huge undertaking for a little kid. But then again, I suppose you aren’t so little anymore.

You are truly my sunshine. When I was pregnant with your sister and we discussed what it meant to be a “rainbow baby,” you started to cry and asked me, “but if this baby is a rainbow baby and Griffin is a rainbow baby, what does that make me? Am I nothing?” Oh, my dearest, sweetest- souled girl…you, YOU are my sunshine girl. You gave me the name “mama” and forever and always YOU will be my number one. So, today, the day that you flip the calendar page to lucky number 7, know that you have me in your corner. You have my prayers, my support, my tears and my hugs, whenever, wherever and for however long you need them. I love you to the sun and the moon and the stars and back again a hundred million times. Always intentional. Always pure in action. Always determined, yet sweet…always my Charlie girl. Happy birthday.

Love, Mama