I put her to bed tonight for the last time as an 8 year old.
She still wants to me tuck her in;
I'm so glad for that.
We each pray, we sing a song, we cuddle and kiss goodnight.
She's nearly as tall as I am; her legs stretch out across mine.
She still loves it when I rub her face while I sing to her.
She says she can't sleep if I don't kiss her goodnight.
She never likes it when I leave.
I steal back in for one more kiss, just because I can.
The next time she opens her eyes, she'll be 9,
and just like that,
it's halfway over.
this job I've been given to raise her.
And all I can think as I sit in this chair
in this quiet house
is how very, very thankful
I am that God chose me to be her mama.
She's the most incredible human I think I've ever known.
She's not showy or loud or flamboyant.
She doesn't make a spectacle of herself.
But if you take the time to get close to her,
she shines so bright it will hurt your eyes.
I sat down here to make a list:
perhaps of all the things I've taught her in the first half
or maybe all the things I want to teach her in the second half
but the list that really makes me catch my breath right now
is the list of
all the things she has taught me.
so, in no particular order,
here are 9 things Lana taught me before her 9th birthday.
1. being brave isn't the same thing as not being scared.
She's so courageous, my daughter. It isn't that she's not afraid - it's just that she doesn't let the fear stop her. When the whistle blows at swim meets, she comes off the block like she's been doing it all her life; you'd never know she was nervous. When she tries out for the singing part in the musical, she gives it her all. She tries out for ALL the singing parts, and even when she doesn't get any of them, she still gives that musical all she's got from the chorus. When the gym is full of people she doesn't know for volleyball camp, she squares her shoulders and goes right in, determined to learn something new. When all her friends are in a different group, she smiles and makes new friends, never missing a beat. She'll tell me later how nervous she was, but in the moment, you would never know. She just goes for it.
2. bravery doesn't matter if you're not kind.
She has the most tender heart of anyone I know, and I can see in her how it is the perfect compliment to courage. If one is only brave, it can lead to pride and recklessness and arrogance. But, in her, I see bravery tempered with kindness....she thinks of others in almost everything she does. seeing others hurt makes her cry. she's a rescuer, a nurturer, a guardian.
And so she's kind and she's brave and it's so beautiful together.
3. playing Pollyanna's "Just Be Glad" game is always a good thing.
When she was 6, she read the Children's Illustrated Classic version of Pollyanna. She related so much to the book's optimistic main character, and taught us all to play the "Just Be Glad" game, which consists of us naming positive things in any situation. For example, if it started raining and you had to go inside, you might say "Just be glad it's not a hurricane," or "Just be glad we have a dry house to go in to." We do it often to the point of silliness. Like when I burned dinner once, and was so frustrated about it, she said "Well, just be glad you didn't burn the house down!" It's a good game, and a good life philosophy, and always cheers us up. Here's a recent example of how this attitude makes her an absolute joy: A few days ago, I took her shopping for shoes. (I had to buy her a 5 in women's sizes, by the way. good gracious.) We found several pairs on clearance, and I knew she needed a few new dresses for church, so we tried on several. She found 2 that she liked and that fit really well, and 1 that she was absolutely in love with. (All the girls know that magical feeling.) As we were leaving the dressing room, we noticed that one was missing a button and fraying at the neckline. It was her favorite...and, as we learned when we went back to the rack, the only one in her size. There were no more in the back, either. You could see the crestfallen look on her face....and then she took a deep breath, smiled, and said, "Well, I didn't expect to get ANY dresses, so there's no reason to be sad about that one! I have 2 others that are great!"
4. a family is made of up good forgivers.
She's the quickest forgiver I know. And I would know, because although I love that girl enough to die for her, I'm the one who has wronged her more than anyone else. She sees me at my best, and even more often, at my worst, and I have to say I'm sorry far more than I would like. And she just always forgives, and not only does she say with her words that she forgives, but she throws those arms around my neck and hugs me so tight and never brings it up again. And sometimes she whispers a reminder to me: Mama, it's ok, this is why we need Jesus. We should all forgive like that.
5. keep the main thing the main thing.
She's so smart. Her brain works fast and absorbs information quickly and she looks at things from unusual angles and she loves to learn. She's beautiful and sweet and talented and athletic. There are so many wonderful things about her. Keeping her room clean is not one of them. :) She makes her bed because I make her, and will clean out her piles of junk if I help her, but it's just not important to her. She always likes it after we've cleaned and organized, but if given the choice, she will always choose to be with the people she loves or doing things that she enjoys. I am a very task-oriented person, so sometimes this part of her drives me crazy, but the older she & I both get, the more I see the great wisdom in this. She's got a Mary heart.
6. take joy in simple pleasures.
One of the things Dan & I have both noticed about Lana is that, from a very early age, she has been easy to please. She is very content, and doesn't ask for or demand much at all. Honestly, she's the hardest person to shop for at Christmas because she just doesn't want anything. She's very grateful, even for the smallest things, which makes me want to give her the world....but it's just not necessary. She loves a good book in a cozy spot. Sitting in the sunshine and listening to the birds. Reading in a warm bath. Long walks. And I'm not just making a silly list....these are actual things that make her happy. Soft socks. Fresh cherries. Warm pancakes. She just loves life, every bit of it.
7. wake up early to enjoy the quiet.
She's always been an early riser. When I tell my friends she's usually awake by 6 a.m., maybe 7 a.m. during the summer, they groan for me. But it's no trouble, really, because she never wakes us up. She knows that the first number on her clock has to say 6 during the school year, or 7 during the summer and on weekends before she can turn her light on, so she waits until then, turns on her bedside lamp, and reads. For as long as we will let her. She reads novels and magazines and books her librarian recommends and the book of Matthew and a devotional journal and C.S. Lewis and anything she can get her hands on. And it makes her a happier person. If we come in to get her too early, or she happens to sleep a bit later, she's annoyed if she doesn't have time to sit in the quiet by herself. We might all be happier people if we started our morning out quietly and gently stretched out in bed, reading a book for a few minutes before the day starts.
8. don't look for others to blame.
When something goes wrong, it's sometimes very tempting to look for someone to blame. And rarely do we want to blame ourselves, or see where our own fault might be. Most adults know that we play the "blame game" far too often. Lana doesn't. She's quick to take responsibility, to try to make things right, or even when it's someone else's fault, to see where she might have done things differently. An example: Lana & Tucker are at a day camp this week at our church. Tucker was weepy about not being in Lana's class, so Lana gave him a small dolphin to keep in his pocket. It helped him be brave and go to his class - super thoughtful of her. Well....you guessed it....that afternoon, when he came home, his pockets were empty. Flo the dolphin had been lost somewhere at camp. You could see she was upset; it was a treasured possession. She kind of chewed her lips for a few minutes, took a deep breath, and said "It's ok, Tucker. That was a lot of responsibility for me to put on you. I know you didn't lose it on purpose."
9. mentally stay in your own lane.
Lana is a swimmer, quite good for her age. When she first started swimming competitively, about a year ago, she had a tendency to look around her at the other swimmers as she raced. After one meet in particular, we were watching the videos of her races, and she exclaimed, "I slow down every time I look over at someone else! I bet I could make my own time better if I just kept my eyes in my own lane."
Isn't that the truest thing you've heard? Isn't that the best advice of all for life? We all swim best when we mentally stay in our own lane. When we stop thinking about what others are doing and saying and how they are swimming....when we quit comparing ourselves to the others....when we quit trying to beat them to the finish....when we stay in our lane and do our best and race our own times and set our own PR's. Then, somehow, I bet we could cheer for the others a little louder, knowing that we are all doing our best and setting our own records.