The Labor of Growth

Growing up requires a great deal of effort and labor.

When he was my first, I saw it. Before there were more … when it might have gone undetected,
I saw it.

We would go to a playgroup and all the children would share and play together,
and James would be “over there.”
I remember the day I first noticed. He was around two years old …
twenty plus full years ago.
The group of ten or so children were swinging and playing on the jungle gym …
that tow head blazing in the sun.
Those pudgy legs were adorned with navy shorts.
He was holding a red “shobel” in that chunky right hand,
squatting so that fanny almost touched the dirt …
while he watched the other children
from a distance.

My oldest … the man/child
and my youngest … the Joy Bucket
have always been this way …
with the social flutter-by butterfly girl, Glory, sandwiched right betwixt …
flitting from place to place … always looking for a hug,
always wanting to be
surrounded by, immersed within, touching people.

We head to the mountains at New Year’s. We are in a cabin filled with people … six portions of families …  a little boy, a tween, multiple teens, many young adults, several adults

and she sits in the corner with her game.
But, she misses nary a word. She soaks it all in … but …. she keeps a safe distance.

And though, we share many traits, I can only know her so well … because, in fact, she is just beginning to forge her way … blazing the trail as she travels an ancient path towards adulthood, a footpath  completely foreign for her … rocky and uneven, misty at dawn, ominous at dark with forks around every other bend … a labor to travel.

I watch Della love on her and know that Joy will be asked questions that make her think. I want her to be challenged … to think.  Della will quiz and question and listen and it will be good and rich and dense conversation …. fleeting as it may appear, there is worth.

And along our jaunt through the conifers and deciduous on a hard-packed path,  Joy comes to me to say, “I love Miss Della.” Me, too, my child. I don’t ask about their conversation. The parts I need to know will be revealed later. But, I am grateful for time investment and put one foot in front of the other pleased.

She is attending an arts based school that is filled with students from all socio-economic, cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds. Children there are rich and broke, honest and deceptive, Christian and Atheist. They are leaders and followers, grounded and wandering, thinkers and minions.

And she is making her way.

And she is original … unique … distinct.
I can identify.
The life of my blood
courses through her veins.
If all look up, I must look down, under and inside.
It is how I am wired. I want to see
another perspective.
I’ve always been “different.”
When I was a child, my daddy used to ask, “Why do you have to be different?”
I never had an answer for him.
Then I wondered if that was a bad thing.
Today, I know it is good.
Today, I know my answer to that question.
“I don’t “have” to be, I just am.”

She wears the hat of a skateboarder.
She told me some time ago that she wanted to learn to skateboard
because there aren’t many girls that do it. She wants to be different, too.
I don’ think this is something that I have taught her. It just is.

She dreams vivid dreams and must rise with the sun to tell the whole story
from end to end.

She paints her visions into the physical world.

 She hears songs and writes out lyrics.

She plays tunes that bounce inside her head.

There is music all over our home ….

instruments that she wants to master … tunes that she wants to play.

Her room is full of costumes … glasses …. jewelry …. accessories.

She is all over the place
and I understand.

I live scattered wide.
I want …
I N.E.E.D to
write, paint, photograph, cook, serve, bike, paddle, run, camp, create, sew, embroider, read, knit, crochet, stamp, blog, make jewelry, scrapbook, photoshop, latch hook, minister, study, massage, play guitar, violin and dulcimer. I have worn dresses, ground my own wheat for bread, homeschooled my children and grown my hair long. Today, I am a single mom who wants a tattoo, to learn how to shoot a gun and to bike ride across Georgia. I have hair as short as my boyfriend, am working to be able to do 25 pushups and have a (slightly) gauged ear. I am as comfortable in the woods without a bathroom or shower holding a home brew as I am downtown at a schmoozy hotel with a glass of champagne … need I go on?

So, she is struggling. She is pushing the boundaries and trying to establish them for herself.
She is testing and feeling and searching.

She has written on Facebook that she is an Atheist.
My daughter
“does not believe in God.”

I learned a long time ago
to never be surprised
by anyone’s words or actions …
including my own children.

Why should she believe in God?
*quizzically wrinkles brow* Because her mom believes?
Is that reason enough?
She tells me
she prays and does not hear Him.
She asks and does not receive.

I understand. I have prayed those prayers.
I have gone un-answered.
I have prayed. I have begged. I have pleaded.
And I have believed.
I had faith He would answer me.

Was I mistaken … to have had faith? … to have believed?
I think not.
We are a fallen, broken, messy group of people. We struggle. We wrestle. We flounder.
And we must figure out where we stand. We must decide how we believe.
We must work out our own salvation. (Philippians 2:12)
The God of the entire Universe
certainly is not required to answer my personal prayer
… no matter how right and noble and and just and good it is …
simply because I prayed it.
Nor does He need to answer hers.

She has made friends with other students who are exploring religions of the world. She brought home a Buddha a few weeks ago … a stolen Buddha, none-the-less! He sat on her bedside table for a few days before I asked about him. She said she took him from a friend. I know she’s looking for a reaction. And I offered none … at least not the shocked, offended kind.  She said, “I know you think he’s evil.” I laughed and said, “No, I don’t. What do you know about him? I would say that he was a peace loving man who was moral and wanted to do right. He was not evil. You should do some studying and find out what he believed.” I do not want her to take the word of others … not even mine!  She must own her ideas … in time. It takes time … and work.

Not so long after our Buddha discussion, I mentioned a physical/spiritual parallel in conversation. She said, “There you go again, talking about God. I really don’t want to hear that all the time.” I do not raise my voice or get irritated often, but set her straight quickly with a firm tone. “Let me tell you something; God is as much a part of me as life and breath. You cannot separate the two of us … He flows through me like the blood in my veins. I will respect who you are as an individual and you must do the same for me. I will not be quiet because you do not want to hear what I have to say.”  *deep breath*

I know He is there. He is watching her and listening to her. He knows who she is and who she is becoming. He loves her unconditionally and wants to answer her prayers. But, for now, she must search. She must test and push and decide.

She is intricate. She is difficult. She is prickly.
And she is wonderful, intelligent and inquisitive,
beautiful, talented and spunky,
creative, bright and different.
She is these things because she is made in His image.

Like her brother, she has a personal bubble that is a little larger and a little thicker than many.
Like her brother, she is questioning and listening and watching.
Like me, she is creative and has a different perspective on the world around her.
While there are struggles, I look forward to the future and all that it has to hold.
This girl, she is searching. The process is a difficult one for a mama’s heart to watch,
but it is a must for every strengthening, maturing soul.
And so, she sings and writes,
she pushes and she wonders
and I praise and pray, watch and wait …
for growth … is labor.

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