Dear Rylee Jeanne,
How did this day sneak right up on me the way it did? I still remember all those weeks sitting next to your incubator in the hospital after you were born and staring at your sweet tiny face for hours. I remember waiting days to even hold you in my arms and I thought if I didn’t get to do it soon I might just not live another day. So great was my longing to wrap you up in my arms. Your presence and personality and poise have literally shaped this family. You are the most tremendous oldest sister this not-so-small family could ever have asked for. Every one of your siblings is blessed that you came first. Your creative and energetic ways make you such an enjoyable playmate. Your ability to direct people and quietly bring order out of chaos, it’s such a unique and wonderful gift.
You are 13 going on wonderful. I recently crossed path with a former youth pastor of mine. As I expressed emotion over entering this new era, of parenting teenagers, he had a good bit of sage advice for me. But first he inquired “I need to know…is she the hellion you were at 13?”. To which I easily replied, “Um, no…not even close!”. Your life and love and character don’t hold a candle to how I behaved myself at 13. While I do feel the changes on the horizon, I am keenly aware that you are amazing. I have the same longing in my heart for you as I did the week you were born. I know well enough to know you still need to be wrapped up, held up by the love that only a mama can give. Even if there is some adolescent attitude that comes my way.
You quietly absorb and asses the happenings around you. You are intuitive and aware of more than I’d even imagine. This is a beautiful quality and as you get older you will continue to learn to do this in ways that allow your heart to still function and stay whole despite being highly tuned in to all that is going on. Your mama is still learning. Learning to love wildly and freely without expectation. Learning to be brave. In many ways I feel like we are learning together and I see something new forming and though I don’t know yet quite how to proceed or just what it looks like…it is a wonderful mystery we are headed into. I told you this week I’d read this incredible verse in Collosians, that the mystery of the ages had now been revealed and that guess what the mystery was? This mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Col 1:27). You are an image bearer of Christ. You have something of Him to reflect to the world you live in. And that right there is a most beautiful hope.
I do see one thing clear. You need your dad. Front and center. He has a new role to fill in your life in this season. You adore him. Not that that is new, since it isn’t. But something is different. As I watched him hold your hand and ice skate with you this afternoon, a wave of feelings poured over me. Gratitude that he is who he is. That he is present and available for you. That he loves Jesus above all else and aims to lead and love our family the best he can. That I get to share him with you. Grateful that you have the same gift I did as a young girl (and still enjoy today)…a dad who loves God, loves my mom and loves me well.
Let me let you in on a secret. Your dad and I don’t know what we’re doing all the time. We haven’t done this before, you are our first teenager and all we know is what we know. And there’s a lot we don’t know. A wise and respected older friend in our life told us once…during a period of very tumultuous marital struggle for us: “Aside from a heritage of genuine faith, the best gift you can ever give your kids is parents who love each other well.” She went on to explain the impact that has on the life of a child. You’ve heard us yelling in the yard over the pigs and the mud and “why did we ever say yes to this…”. You’ve seen me cry in the laundry room because I hadn’t been a receiver of grace when I was desperate for it. You’ve seen me cut your dad down with disrespectful words and a too-quick-mouth. You see us kissing in the kitchen or in the pantry and you watch the continual ebb and flow that marriage is. You miss almost zero of what takes place here. We aren’t modeling perfection for you. We are however modeling real life and mess and grace. And you won’t grow up and leave our home thinking life is always peachy and smells like roses. You’ll know it stings and hurts and smells like manure sometimes (literally AND figuratively). But God is present in our pain and in our mess and imperfection and He gives glimpses of glory all along the journey. Your dad and I are committed to Jesus, to one another, to this family, to you and your siblings and to being Love-bearers to the people on our path in any way we are able.
Whatever these years ahead hold, we will be right here. Living out our love one day at a time. We are so proud of who you are and the way you live, think, speak and love. These are great years ahead…don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. They may be a bit of a mystery to us yet, but we are in this together!