Eighteen

I pull the China plates from the hutch, setting the table pretty. Our girl is turning eighteen and everyone is coming home to celebrate. Decadent brownies are cooling on the kitchen island as I boil tricolored pasta for party salad–drizzling olive oil and sprinkling parmesan liberally over this cooked rotini, orbiting the salt and pepper shakers around the bowl an extra time or two for good measure, before tossing in sliced black olives and quartered cherry tomatoes.

Eighteen?

I am suddenly undone by the goodness of God, blessing me with a daughter to mother, a daughter to love, and now a daughter to release. God’s gifts are in the ordinary, the extraordinary, and alas– in these rushing winds of change.

Jan Karon said it well: Bottom line, wasn’t life itself a special occasion?

Yes.

***

The story of our Lauren.

It is spring of my senior year of high school and I am perched cross-legged on Megan’s floor, where six or more of us sit scattered–painting nails, braiding hair, thumbing through Seventeen magazine, under the pretense of finishing homework. We are in that lovely margin of life, sunshiney days where nearly every moment seems easy-breezy-possible.

Spring has arrived in New England, all majestic and viridian, prompting Megan to fling open her bedroom window. She has also grabbed a bag of extra-salty chips and two jars of salsa from her mother’s pantry. We sip lime-water with our crunchy snack, planning a beach day next month, before graduation. It feels deliciously grown-up, this sliver of time before final exams.

Girls, says Nikki after a bit, covering her mouth so full of chips, We are going to be college freshmen in four months!

We squeal and cheer, clinking glasses.

Hey, she continues. Let’s go around and say how many children, boys or girls, we wish to have after marrying our Prince Charming. When we are old we will remember this day.

So we do: two girls–three girls–three girls and one boy– one of each–just one daughter--and then it is my turn.

Definitely a bunch of sons and one daughter. In that order.

Really, Kristin? says Megan.

Wow, says Wendy, eyebrows raised.

I had no idea, says Suzy.

Neither did I, until now! I grin, and we laugh.

***

Thirteen years later my husband and I sit in the doctor’s office, waiting to be called back for a sonogram. Jon has just taken a business call, and he stands, a silhouette against the waiting room window, phone to ear and hand-talking while I remain seated, picturing our three little boys currently at home with a sitter. They light up our world.

We chose not to find out gender during my first three pregnancies, and it was fun to be surprised. Our third son, Marcus, is the only one I had imagined to be a girl, and that was due to my unusually debilitating queasiness.

Women perpetually apologize to me as I shop the aisles of the grocery store with our trio —three beautiful stair steps.

What handsome sons! But three boys? They cluck. You poor woman! They will eat you out of house and home. You need a girl!

Not at all, I laugh, correcting them and striving to stay friendly, while actually thinking: Skedaddle ladies, my boys can hear you.

Instead I say, They are my treasures–gifts from God.

This usually brings the dialogue to a screeching halt, as they pretend to smile and turn away. But these are the truest words of my life–I adore being the mother to these three. Every single slice of it.

***

A nurse calls us back, and Jon returns to my side and squeezes my hand. We imagine that we are having another boy. I have been incredibly ill on the daily.

The technician squirts the cold gel over my midsection, and asks if we want to know the gender.

Yes, I say.

She makes small talk, asking about our other children, her mouth forming a perfect O after we tell her we have three little boys.

She pushes the wand firmly over my belly, peeks at the screen, and laughs.

This isn’t going to take long! I already know.

Definitely a boy, just like we thought.

She turns to me. I am sorry, Kristin.

Instinctively, I bristle. Grocery store, take two, I think.

Don’t be sorry, I say. I love having sons!

She grins, shaking her head. No. it isn’t that. I am sorry that you will have to buy all new baby clothes. You are having a girl! Congratulations!

***

Our Lauren Olivia is born the following February and is stunning in every way. Jon holds her high as she sleeps swaddled. He is King Mufasa I think, holding a bundle of pink before the entire world. His face is glowing as he gently lowers her back down for her brothers to kiss.

They are strutting, these four fellows of mine, guarding the roost–protecting our girl. The birth might have felt the same, but everything now sparkles differently– a daughter for us, a sister for our sons, and the first granddaughter for both family trees.

My high school wish flashes through my mind, and I am astonished to recognize that God had given me a desire that he had already planned to fulfill. It feels special and rare. Our mother-daughter dance has begun.

Jon and the boys head home before nightfall, as I am wheeled to my room. I gently lower Lauren into the nursery cart, swaddled close by my side. She is beautiful.

Famished and thirsty, I wash down a sandwich with endless glasses of iced water. I soon push my tray away, and turn gingerly to my side, keeping one hand on Lauren. I doze off.

Suddenly the hospital alarms are screeching, and my first thought is my baby. She is sleeping, despite the noise. There has been a recent string of abductions across the nation, women masquerading as nurses, confidently walking out of hospital doors into broad daylight, cradling babies they have stolen.

I look again at our daughter, and in my post-labor fatigue I double check her face to make sure that this baby is my baby. And she undeniably is, looking so much like her big brothers.

Three nurses burst through the door. We’re sorry, but we need to take your daughter. Now.

What? I am frantic. Are these really nurses or abductors? I cannot think clearly.

You and your daughter have a blood incompatibility and she is in danger of debilitating jaundice. The bloodwork just came back from the lab. This is serious.

I weep.

***

We survive the weeks of our baby girl being under the sunlamp, tiny sunglasses shielding her eyes. I am not permitted to hold her apart from feedings, even as she cries, until the bilirubin levels drop. I somehow believe that this phototherapy will never end.

A grumpy visiting nurse drops by our home each morning–all gloom and doom. Her sour mood feeds my hormonal crying jags that overflow in the depths of night. I tearfully explain to my husband that our dear bundle of pink might not bond with me as her brothers did, given that I cannot hold her.

He reassures and calms me.

Lauren is determined from the get-go–less than a week old and already flipping herself over from her tummy to her back as she cries hard, disliking the phototherapy.

This too shall pass, I mentally repeat over and over again, as I sing lullabies to our baby over her bassinette.

***

It does pass, and suddenly Lauren is four, and our family of six is playing in the park. We have races: brothers versus brothers, Dad versus Mom, and then Lauren wants to race her Daddy.

They line up to my Ready…Set…Go and they are off. It is one of my husband’s favorite memories. As they run, he stays by her side, pretending. He is one stride ahead, and she glances his way, pigtails bouncing. Recognizing that he is ahead she turns up the heat, small arms pumping, and hollers with determination: Oh no you don’t! pulling ahead for the win.

This little blue-eyed wisp, as lovely as can be, is no shrinking violet. Our girly-girl has grit and backbone. I love her for it.

***

My dear daughter, I wanted to buy you an Easy-Bake oven, and a Home Depot shed to decorate as a playhouse. I wished to travel on mother-daughter getaways and take that dream trip to tour Prince Edward Island–the place of our favorite Anne of Green Gables. Finances and time and life itself did not permit us these things.

But guess what?

God gave us something richer, better than my wishes.

He gave us time. Strings of days then weeks turned months and years. I did not know it then but I see this golden treasure now. Every day is a special occasion.

We read books and played outside, cooked in your play kitchen and then again with real pots and pans. We played stuffed animals and Calico Critters, squared off in double solitaire, Bananagrams, Dutch Blitz, Words with Friends, and Yahtzee. We practiced makeup strategies and pedicures. We read our Bibles side-by-side and memorized verses together, washing the Word over our souls, before scrubbing the floors and sinks and counters of home. We endured mean girls and unkind women, held difficult discussions and built delightful friendships laced with unstoppable laughter. We have adored our many pets and mourned over some, too. Our show is our show only, just the two of us. And those memes you text me? I have saved them all.

Remember this, my daughter, relationships of substance cannot thrive in the cracks; in the in-between. They take time and intentionality plus more time, and more time, and even more time. As you leave your chrysalis, spreading your vibrant butterfly wings, abide in God. Offer him your time with wild abandon–remaining tethered to Scripture and prayer, bowing low before him in continued repentance. There are no shortcuts.

This is the secret to everlasting joy, come what may.

I see you now reading and highlighting God’s Word, your thick study Bible a mystery and even a mockery to some. Never mind these people, but pray for them as they will give an account for such cruelty. God is keeping close watch over you, permitting hard things for his perfect purpose. He is always working and he is always good, even in the midst of suffering.

Two verses I give you on this, your eighteenth birthday:

2 Chronicles 16:9 – For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.

1 Peter 5:8-10 – Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

While I began the story of you with my own memories from age eighteen, remember that your story truly began before the foundations of the world. You have been chosen, redeemed, and are kept by God forever.

Our Maker does all things well, and I thank him for the gift of you.

13 thoughts on “Eighteen

  1. Yes! God surely gave you something “richer, better than your wishes.” You and Lauren are blest beyond anything that can be measured.
    I a waaaaay over 18, but I am loving your advice to her – thinking it would be a wonder for us all to live out the “secret to everlasting joy come what may.”
    Happy Birthday Lauren!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am so privileged to know the beautiful 18 year old girl you’re writing about!!!!! God bless you and Lauren and HAPPIEST BIRTHDAY to your amazing and beautiful daughter. We miss you both.

    Like

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