May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.
Strength, dear daughters, comes in many forms. As you grow, I hope you will appreciate your strength. Never be ashamed of your physical strength – the strength that develops in your legs from the miles that you run or the hours that you dance. Embrace that strength and try not to take if for granted, but remember that strength is so much more than the physical. Strength is showing kindness even when it isn’t the popular thing to do. Strength is speaking up when necessary, but also knowing when speaking your mind is more hurtful than helpful. Strength is standing up for what you believe is right, but also admitting when you are wrong. Strength is recognizing that you need help sometimes and not being afraid to ask for it. Strength is trying. Strength is failing. Strength is trying again, even after you fail. Strength is getting back up after you fall. Strength is starting. Strength is finishing. Strength can be loud, but it can also be quiet. Strength is believing in yourself, even when others doubt. Strength is believing in others, even when they don’t believe in themselves.
I am a runner, since the age of 12, a runner. First, it was for sport and competition, but soon it became something more, so much more. And 3 decades later, it is still so much more. There is a peace that comes from running. While running, it is just me. Only my feet pounding, my legs pumping, my lungs breathing, my heart beating. I am the machine, the means by which I travel. I am these legs that carry me for miles. I am these lungs that heave the heavy breaths. I am this heart that beats, beats, beats...
I will kiss you good night and kiss you good bye, while I still can. I know the day will come when you ask me not to, especially in front of the school or in front of your friends. I will still sneak into your room to kiss your cheek while you sleep.
I will tuck you in tight and say bedtimes prayers, while I still can. I know the day will come when you will turn off your own light and say your own prayers. I will still pray to be the mother you need me to be.
I will give piggy back rides and carry you off to bed, while I still can. I know the day will come when you have grown too big or I have grown too weak. I will still want to then.
I will sit through sports practices and play catch in the back yard, while I still can. I know the day will come when you drive yourself to practice and no longer want to play ball with your mom. I will still be your biggest fan.
I will put candles in pancakes, cupcakes and donuts, while I still can. I know the day will come when you will think you are too old for birthday parties and birthday breakfasts. I will still celebrate the gift of being your mom.
I will tell you and show you, I love you, again and again and again, while I still can. I know the day will come when you will make a mistake you are reluctant to tell me about, but don’t worry, son. I will still…no matter what…I will still.
Just days ago, I stood on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. It is, arguably, one of the most amazing natural wonders on earth. Of course there are look out points and visitor centers, hoards of people and buses transporting them from point to point, but the canyon itself is naturally majestic. The depth, the colors, the rugged landscape, the wildlife, all left me breathless. I am 45 years old and this was my first glimpse of the canyon. I don’t recall when I first learned of it’s existence, but I do know that I have longed to see it for at least a few decades. When I finally passed the park gate and reached the visitor center parking lot, the promise of the view filled me with great anticipation. Well, it would still take me some time to actually reach the rim. The parking lot and visitor center complex is overwhelmingly large. There are clear signs directing you to the bathrooms (thank goodness, because I really had to go), the gift shop, (which I also needed to visit to gather a few souveniurs for my kids), but actually finding the rim was not as easy as I expected. I know it sounds ridiculous that I was right there, at the Visitor’s Center and could not find the Grand Canyon! Well, fortunately, I finally wound up on the right path and it did not disappoint. I felt like a kid in a candy store. I was breathless (and it wasn’t from the walk). The expanse before me was far greater than I could have imagined. I felt like falling to my knees and praising God. I resisted the falling to my knees part (I didn’t want the other canyon gazers to think I had collapsed and call an ambulance), but I did praise God, or at least tried to. The only words I could softly utter were, “Oh God, Thank you.” Nothing else would even come to mind. There were not words that could adequately express what I was seeing, feeling, experiencing. I just stopped and let the beauty and the joy penetrate my soul. The fatigue from the 4 1/2 hour drive and the hunger from skipping lunch to get there, evaporated. I felt great awe and great peace, but also great gratitude. Gratitude for the presence, the beauty and the opportunity. You see, I almost missed this.
For those who know me, this will come as no surprise, but I was late in arriving! An entire day late to be exact! I was booked on an early morning flight (mistake #1) on Saturday morning (mistake #2), but when my alarm went off at 4 a.m., I hit snooze (mistake # 3, 4, 5 and 6, yes, I hit snooze 4 times), despite getting out of bed 36 minutes later than planned, I decided that I had time to take a shower (mistake #7). I didn’t have time. When I approached the airport, my mind flashed back to another flight I was scheduled to take from this airport, one that I had missed. My departure time was still about 30 minutes away, but in my sleepy state, I failed to recall the fact that the ticket counter agent turned into gate agent 30 minutes prior to departure. To my disappointment, the United desk was dark and no one was present. The kiosk gave me a last glimmer of hope and I frantically tried to check in. As I heard the ticket agent turned gate agent announce boarding groups just on the other side of security, I saw the message, “You are unable to check in at this time.” I missed the flight. There was nothing I could do. I called United and sat to wait. My only option was to see if I could get on the next flight. Finally, the gate agent turned back into ticket agent and I told her my story. She typed away, searching for seats. She could get me to Chicago on the next flight, but Las Vegas was my final destination and the best she could do was put me on stand by. There was a high probability that I would sit at O’hare airport until the next morning. I decided to simply fly out the following day and I returned home. Despite my disappointment, I found myself excited. It was as if I had been given this gift of time to spend with my family that I did not expect to have. Here was a full Saturday with absolutely nothing scheduled or planned. No birthday parties, practices or appointments to run kids to. I found myself contemplating “Missed Flights.” I figured I could see this missed flight as a missed opportunity to spend a day at the Grand Canyon or as a new opportunity to spend a summer Saturday with my family. I decided on the latter and I am so glad that I did.
We spent the morning watching a movie, kids still in pajamas, and eating Krispy Kreme donuts for breakfast. I fixed my kids spaghetti for lunch (one of their favorite meals) and then we all headed out on the boat. I said “yes” to tubing with my 6 year old even though I really didn’t want to get into the water at first. I had so much fun bouncing along in the wake with my blue eyed baby girl bouncing and laughing next to me. I was transported back in time to my own childhood, tubing behind my dad’s boat with my brothers so many summers ago. These were great memories and I was now making them with my own children. I watched as my son reluctantly climbed onto the tube with his dad. He was a little scared, but he trusted me behind the wheel, knowing that I would not go faster than he wanted me to, would stop when he was ready and would not abandon him in the middle of the lake if he fell off! As I looked back at him, his smile told me that he had no regrets. He was happy to be riding that wake. I then convinced my oldest daughter, the most cautious of all three, to take a ride with me back to our cove. She was nervous at first, but soon we were laughing together, but fell off short of our dock and had to float/swim the rest of the way. There was a good deal of joking and joy. My heart was happy. After all of that time on the water, I was a bit tired (after all, I had been up since 4:36 a.m.). I contemplated heading in to the house to rest, but spotted our kayaks sitting on the shore. Kayaking has become an activity that my oldest daughter and I have come to enjoy together so I suggested a paddle and she said “yes.” So out we went, on our next adventure. There on the water, we talked and enjoyed the peacefulness the lake can provide, especially in a non-motorized vessel. Looking over at her, I noticed how much she has grown, but I also her youth and her innocence. I know there will come a time when spending an afternoon on the lake with her mom will not be high on her list of priorities, but until then, I will make sure that it is high on mine. It was truly a spectacular summer day, one I will not soon forget and one I hope is forever etched in the memory banks of my children as well. At the end of this spectacular day, I also felt the urge to fall to my knees and praise God, which is exactly what I did.