Dear Lily June,
In your mother’s ancient caveman days, we all used to sit around a glowing box called a television (which you may confuse now with a computer screen). And in the 1990’s, we had “pop-ups” known then as “commercials” which would sell products in primitive ways (instead of, as they likely do by the time you read this, companies projecting bar codes directly into your dreams).
One of the longest running ads was for an artifact known as a “battery,” an archaic little power source we’d cram into the backs of things (like our channel changers for the aforementioned vintage TVs). And one of the oldest sales mascots of your mother’s day was a bizarre, flamingo-colored bunny who would march around across the entire decade banging his drum to prove that nothing outlasted his battery.
The Energizer Bunny, Lily, would “keep going and going and going.” Clearly, he was an inspiration to your mother who keeps asking and asking and asking anyone (seriously! anyone!) who stumbles upon this blog to write you a letter for your upcoming first birthday on May 13. Below is the ninth of these I received, with my introduction to the fellow blogger who sent it.
I know I’ve talked several times about my mother (your Grandma Raelyn) telling me as a child, when I asked her if she believed in a divine creator that she believed “in the possibility…” So you could have knocked me over with a feather when she later told me, from a lifetime of reading books, that her favorite quotation of all time was as simple as four words coming from a series about a schoolteacher by author Miss Read:
“Fear not. Please God.”
There’s such an awe-inspiring certainty to those four simple words, whatever your take on spirituality and religion may come to be. I have always had a deep and abundant sense of admiration for (okay, I confess, jealousy of) those whose spiritual prescription, so to speak, allows them to see the world so clearly and cleanly. They look at life as if through the lens of God, and it sharpens their word view, making everything a little more meaningful and a little less blurry.
Though Amy of wordskeepmesane credits me in her letter with a gift for writing (aw, shucks, Amy–you humble me), I have not been granted so easily the gift of that vision, a gift she bears beautifully. I admit to you, Lily, that likely by the time you read this, I will still be struggling, stumbling around in the dark of my newly-fledged spirituality. Your life changed not just my own life’s what, but its how and why so completely, I want to believe in something so much larger than my selfish little self.
Amy doesn’t just think belief, she lives it. She serves her children both the bread she bakes, and the Bread of Life she sustains her soul on. And she is strong, both by kneading and by providing what her family needs. For that, Lily, I so admire her, even if we cannot meet at the exact same place because she is miles down a street I’ve only just come to the crossroads for. I can still, from where we stand in another state of the same country, smell what rises through her windows and carries across the breeze.
You may come someday, my darling daughter, to your own crossroads, and it’s important to me in the meantime that you meet as many people of as many faiths as you can, and when they speak, no matter what your heart holds, you listen. One thing you can always have faith in is that I will love you, no matter what you believe or know in your heart of hearts, in the place where your soul or your conscience whispers to you what is right and true. Meet Amy now, Lily. She has much to offer you.
Dear Lily June,
There’s so much I want to tell you. So much, in fact, that I haven’t been able to decide. Here’s where I’m tempted to apologize for taking things too seriously, but your mom and I have talked about trying to break that wicked habit. But seriously. How often does one get to pour out to another what has seemed important – vital – to that one’s self and process? You’re all fresh and brand new: how to whittle down, remain accessible, speak the truth, engage honestly while maintaining integrity enough to be heard? Much less entertain a little?
How can I offer to you what’s changed everything for me without sounding gaudy, disingenuous, or patronizing? I don’t know, but I’m going to try. (Your mom does it. See her for a full version of possessing The Gift.) How often do we have opportunity to unabashedly and with baggage-left-behind-us speak into a precious little life with nothing but love? Not very often. And I just love you to pieces: not in a creepy way but in an I-want-you-to-thrive-so-much kinda way and in a here-I’ve-been-invited-and-want-to-do-well-by-you kinda way.
I know you don’t know me, but I hope you believe me when I tell you that you’re beautiful and full of potential and scrumptious and lovable and quirky and exasperating and loaded with all sorts of aspects and contradictions and thoughts and feelings and needs. I know those things about you because I’m a person, too. (Isn’t this whole person business freakin’ remarkable?!)
I’m not an expert on this personness thing, of course, but isn’t that part of the beauty of it? No one has the corner on it! There’s all this wonderful mystery and complexity but also order and simplicity and beauty and pain all wrapped up together! No single person (this side of heaven) knows who another ought be, or what trimmings would be best for another’s person. Sometimes I think we’re not even qualified to know what’s best for our selves.
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to satisfy myself. And I’ve learned that the most fulfilling thing is really to pour yourself out in favor of someone else. What a crazy surprise that revelation’s been! A wonderful aspect – maybe the most wonderful aspect – of being a person is the grace opportunity. The how-much-love-will-I surrender-myself-to-in-favor-of-another thing. Your mom talks a lot about this and I know (you blessed little creature, you!) that this is important to your dad, too, but we get to choose how much or how little love we’re going to extend to those in our path at any given moment.
This is hard work, Lily June. In fact, I’ve found it to be downright impossible on my own, this business of being a person and then loving this person and then other persons. The words and actions we hand (or withhold from) each other trickle far and wide whether we want them to or not. Words (and actions) are important, Lily. May we never take them lightly. And may we increasingly act and speak (and write) in favor of love.
So here I am with this rare and precious opportunity to speak into your life – a life. A precious, marvelous, sacred life. And I get to do it from a distance; unsullied by our personalities or baggage or judgments or victories or failings. I don’t pretend to know how this works, but in this moment here with you, I’m enjoying the rare privilege of loving you and wanting nothing but the best for you. It feels big. It feels full and big and rich and right. It seems wildly important. It’s not often that we get to speak candidly with another and not have to answer for it. So I desperately hope I won’t waste it. I hope what I have to tell you will reach you in a place where you can receive it. That it’ll matter to your thriving and living and that then you’ll further pay all that thriving forward into the world.
Because, Lily, as tempting as it may be to go your own way and live for yourself, the world is wildly bereft of folks who care about others with any level of consistency and/or authenticity. I hope you’ll be one of those rare ones who walks and lives whole and out of a place of abundance. I hope you’ll be one who adds to the beauty in your own remarkable only-as-you-can-uniquely-add way. I don’t want you to be a person who wastes time on the wrong things, or listens to the wrong cues or who has to spend so much time unraveling all that’s gone wrong that you have no sense whatever of who you are and what’s right and what you may add. I want you to be what I want my own daughters (and myself and your mom and your dad and all the others out there who are awake to love and who haven’t turned their backs on it) to be.
It’s been said that “the glory of God is man fully alive.” There’s something to that, though I don’t think that God’s glory is dependent on our puny state (I think the glory of God is
the glory of God), but the fact that we happen to be people does make us responsible for our portion. And that fully alive thing does sound awfully good. And I’m pretty sure it includes and depends on our not just hoarding all the good gifts we find for ourselves, but being fully alive means spending all at our disposal on the other persons around us. Being fully alive means being a good sharer, Lily. Y’know, like God is such a wonderful sharer that it would be an awful shame were we to forsake all His good gifts.In other words, there’s glory, Lily June. I’ve done a lot of looking, and I’ve only found it in God and by extension, in love that pours into others and that often demands a surrender and sacrifice of the notion of the right to our own way.
So speaking of good gifts, I’d like to talk to you about bread.
I spend a lot of time with food. Our family (hubby, kids, and I) spend a lot of time at home so a lot of food passes through our kitchen and this family’s collective (and individual) body. Over the years and in an attempt to rise to the proverbial occasion, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about food, preparing food, reading about what others think about and how others prepare food, et cetera, et cetera. I’ve learned a few things that I’ll share with you here (and I promise that it has to do with that love thing I mentioned earlier, so hang in there, and we’ll [hopefully] come back around in a minute or so).
- …wonderful, fun, fascinating, as varied and multifaceted as anything else I can think of on earth.
- …better when lovingly, thoughtfully prepared.
- …more fun when shared (usually. There is the occasional, blissful alone-moment with a culinary favorite when it’s just you and the food and all the magic of a favorite flavor all to yourself.)
- …not to be vilified, labeled, or undermined based on a particular quality. Food is to be received with thanksgiving. Whatever the latest food fad or evil, it will undoubtedly be replaced in a year or two with something else.
- The healthiest approach to food is to savor, enjoy, cook it yourself – if only once in a while – and try, try, try new flavors. You never know when you’ll find a new favorite. You have to eat. You might as well enjoy it!
- And lastly, food is dead.
That’s right, Lily June. We are a species that is most suited (thankfully, so says me) in our evolutionary process to cooked, dead food. It nourishes us, but we have to keep ingesting and eliminating to maintain that nourishment. It powers our bodies, and this is important because our bodies can do some really fun and wonderful things. So make sure to eat your veggies, Lily June. (I find most of them to be especially delicious when roasted in the oven with olive oil, salt, and pepper.) Eat everything, though, to keep your engine working nicely.
Your body needs nourishment, Lily, for sure. But so does your soul. It needs “vegetables” too, but it also needs a wide variety of other fun and delicious things. It needs empty calorie marshmallows and warm comforting soup and chewy, dense, crusty breads and junky chips and a decadent, carefully prepared, quality steak, and it needs potatoes. It needs garlicky guacamole and juicy refreshing grapefruit, toasted cheese sandwiches or sometimes just a dry cracker. In other words, it needs good ideas, good stories, and good music to nourish it: a great big wonderful variety.
Finding thinkers and artists who care about caring and who love through their crafting: these are the nourishing ones, Lily June. Seek them out. Treasure them. Savor those good things and take them into yourself that you’ll overflow them back out flavored with your own spice mixed in, your own look and spin in the presentation.
The thing is, Lily June – and I’m almost done, but this is the most important thing I have to tell you yet, so please bear with me a few moments longer – people have put so much out into the world that sometimes it’s hard to discern where or what the good is. Life is all around us, beauty is on every side, and it is waiting to be noticed. If you’re ever uncertain or feel a little lost along the way, there’s One who promises to come and help. He’s brought me life on every side and most especially in the places where I thought there wasn’t any hope. There’s always hope, Lily June, and don’t you forget it, precious girl.
I don’t want to give it all away because part of the fun is finding the truth about things yourself, but I will give you a hint if you’re willing to look for the perfect -and I mean that quite literally – embodiment of love. Look in the book of Philippians, chapter 4 verses 4-8:
“Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers [and sweet Lily June and wise Alyssa and everyone one else too] whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”
There’s help for us. See all the beauty around you, Lily? Feel that warmth when your Mummy or Daddy smile at you? Those things are real and alive and given by the very best nourisher of all. In fact, some call Him the Bread of Life because He nourishes more than our bodies. He nourishes all our parts as a living, breathing help and never stops if we’ll have Him. I hope you’ll have Him, Lily, and all the good besides.
Amy of wordskeepmesane
- By asenat29 – https://www.flickr.com/photos/72153088@N08/6510934443, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org