We Are Five, We Are Free

My daughter Noelle turned five yesterday. My oldest baby is five.

As I removed the classic, waxy number five candle from it’s packaging, while children gathered around plates of cupcakes, it struck me hard.

She. Is. Five.

We are five. Five years of mothering and daughtering together.


Five years of stories, kitties, curly hair and a bouncy brown eyed daughter playing upon my every imaginable emotion.

As I looked down at that candle in my palm I fought the urge to stop the party, scoop her up and never let go.

How can she be five? Telling jokes? Heading to kindergarten? Starting to make her way in the world?

Where has it all gone and for the love of mercy if I cry this much at preschool graduation, how on earth am I going to weather further milestones? I think I’ll have to bring a therapist and an oxygen mask to her high school graduation, and college? Forgetaboutit.


This weekend has been a time of celebrations, streamers, kitty masks and cupcakes.

But it has also been one of reflection for me, of inner processing and renewed resolve.

There is something that happened inside me over the last five years, this season of raising a daughter while grieving my broken, painful relationship with my own mother.

And this weekend it all came into focus for me: I have been mothering my daughter out of fear.

Fear that she will grow to hate me, fear that I will hurt her more than help her, fear that she shares all my worst flaws and that the world will hand her more than her fair share of pain and steal her joy.


Noelle and I are cut of the same cloth temperament-wise. We are extroverted, busy, bright and distractible. It’s more personality type than a diagnosis, more learning-style than disability, but here we are.

This shared temperament didn’t serve me well as a child, maybe it was my peers or the adults who had influence over my life, but I grew up a sad, lonely little girl.

I spent years of my life believing that although they said God didn’t make junk, that I was the exception to that rule.

I fought to fit in and generally failed, I grew up feeling rejected and small.

The past five years with Noelle have been spent worried that history would repeat itself, that she would feel rejected by the world and that our relationship would somehow be strained and broken.

That my life was somehow starting over again, through hers.

I don’t know if you project your worst fears and past issues on your children’s lives , but I do. It’s far more inward than outward, but I worry and wonder if all the worst things of my life are guaranteed to play out in theirs.

I worry, then I do everything in my power to give them a foothold for better.

Did I ever tell you why we named her Noelle? 

It’s because Christmas was a revolution, the baby in the manger came to offer a fresh start, a new thing, a rhythm of grace and love open to all.

Given the broken, painful homes we came from, we wanted something new, a fresh start, a revolution.

So we named her Noelle, the beginning of our revolution.

Yet these past five years haven’t felt too revolutionary, how could they when I’ve spent them mothering in fear?

This weekend as she bounced through the celebration of her life God showed me something new, something beautiful, something intrinsically true.


She is Noelle, she is His creation and she is exactly who he had in mind for her to be.

She will be loved, if not by all than by many, for she embodies his joy and creativity in her approach to life.

He will sustain her through the inevitable brokenness, just as he did me.

She is my beautiful daughter and the energy we share will flow through her to bring about good works, to bring grace to pain.

I need not fear her or what we share, rather I shall join in (finally) in celebrating what I have spent too long worrying about and projecting upon.

This is my daughter, sent to me by a wise and wonderful God on purpose, with purpose for the benefit of so many.

She is holding up to her name, she is healing brokenness through God’s work in her life.

And she has started with her Mother.


Do you project your worries on to the life of your children? How has God set you free from that?

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Letters to my Mother {Day 7} Meet Caedmon

Dear Mom,

This is the part I really should have led with, a intro to your grandson.  Every day you would ask me to email a picture of Noelle to you at work.  It was one of those things that truly still brought you Joy.

You were a phenomenal Grandma, never doubt it for a second.

You knew I was pregnant for a son before you died, I remember you emailed me that I’d love having a son.  You were 117% percent right, I love him in a special, deep confusing way I could never properly explain.

His name is Caedmon David, after an Old English Monk / Poet and after Dad of course.

 This is how he looked brand new in the hospital.

His birth went wonderfully smooth, he came out kicking and screaming and didn’t stop until he was bundled up and warm.

He nursed like a champion was a happy little guy, so long as he was warm and fed.

He has the biggest blue eyes and the blondest hair, some days he looks like his Uncle Brian but most days… he just looks like Caedmon.

He’s as stubborn as he is adorable and parenting him is fielding 20 tantrums a day.  He likes things just so, right now.  He loves to “help” me cook and he’s a

Caedmon today, with a haul of “nilla wafers in hand.

little type A, which comes in very handy at “pick up clean up time.”

I think he gets this from his Grandpa V.  I remember how much Dad hated the concept of the “junk drawer” which really wasn’t fair.  Everyone needs one.

Caedmon has a major sweet tooth and at Noelle’s 3rd birthday party he learned the word cupcake just so he could beg for a second, and then a third treat.  We were all so impressed by his efforts he got 3 or 4 cupcakes by the time the party was over.

He gets his way with people a lot like that.  His sweet preschool teacher tells me that even she struggles to correct and discipline him, he’s just that cute and flirty.

He’s been able to work his blue eyes and blonde brows since 6 weeks old, no kidding.  This guy will be a heartbreaker unless properly trained.

I wish that you could have met him, I don’t think that he would have saved you or changed anything, but to have a few photos of him laying in his grandma’s arms would be so lovely.

Anyway, I have no idea how much you know or see, somedays I hope it’s a lot and then when I see take in all the brokenness here I hope that you’re oblivious.

But I thought, no matter what you’d like to meet your grandson.

Love you, Miss You,


Letters to my Mother {Day 5} Life in the Losing

 Dear Mom,

You haunt me in the fall, you know.  When I encounter the trees on the verge of explosive color, I feel you there.

You’re with me when I crave apple crisp, and when I break down and make it.

I caught you in the curve of Caedmon’s nose a few days back as the kids crunched leaves underfoot and threatened to tumble into the creek that runs through the park.

I feel you so often on the corners of my minds eye, your spirit calling me to remember and reevaluate.

You’re gregarious now, joyous, often laughing and calling my attention to the fullness of life, rarely the darkness of death.

I ache for you, this free woman I rarely saw on earth.

Mom, can we make a dream date, somewhere on a grassy hill surrounded in fall vividness?  Could you scoop me up like you used to do and rub my hair?

Just another chance to be someone’s baby, your baby.

I want to hear you gasp, almost orgasmically over the color of the oak trees along Baldwin street.  Something about fall spoke to you and struck a spirit chord.

It rubbed off because my soul comes alive in this season, one of apples and golden hues and death.

So much life in death, so much beauty to behold in the loosing, the falling, the closing up shop as we mark another year in the books.

I love you, I miss you.


31 Letters to my Mother {Day 4} Dawn Memories

 Dear Mom,

Mornings around our house were always somewhat predictable, at least when I was in high school.

You were always up first, on the couch in your flannel nightgown with your big brown bible in your lap and a cup of coffee at hand. I always respected you for this, it’s a practice I still struggle with.

It may be because Noelle and Caedmon get up so crazy early that I’d have to get up in the 5AM hour to beat them awake.  PS I really need to write you about him since you were gone before his arrival.

Anyhow, I always thought that your diligence to morning quiet time was something that made you a good Christian woman, that it was some sort of badge you could show off at church.

Then I grew up and realized that you weren’t starting your day like this to be impressive.  You were doing what you needed to do to survive.  You met with God to gain the courage and strength to fuel another day.

Another day of 3 kids, another day with depression, another day at a job that made you so anxious.

I remember a few years back, after dad died, you told me that you didn’t believe in the phrase “God won’t give you more than you could handle.”  You felt that God had given you more than you could handle and you were drowning in it.  It was one of the rare moments that I saw you cry.

I remember being appalled at the time, worrying about your soul and those blasphemous words.

Then I got older still and realized that that phrase isn’t in the bible, anywhere. You were right and I now see those cliche words as dangerous to our faith, I’d like to erase them from global vocabulary and memory.

If only, right?

I will never be able to fully suss out the jumbled mess of what led you to do what you did, to take your life.  The cords of mind, body and soul are tangled with more knots than any of us can unravel.

We were all a little glad for you when you left and in case you were wondering, no one harbors a single doubt that God welcomed you home tenderly.

I wish you were still here though.  I wish we could have slain the monsters inside you. I may always live with these “what if’s” rattling around inside me.

But I will never forget or cease to draw strength from the memory of you in those flowery, flannel nighties, brown bible in lap and coffee at hand.

I inherited that bible you know, it’s on the top shelf of my closet, unopened.  Waiting for the day when I’m ready to unzip the cover and know you deeper through the highlighted words and scribbled notes.

I love you, I miss you,