Monthly Archives: February 2011

Girl Talk

I’m about to have one of the best weekends of my life.  I’m off to Chicago tomorrow with my sister, mom, and nieces Lilly and Molly for an all-girls weekend visiting the American Girl store for Molly’s fifth birthday.  People say that “time goes by fast” but there are moments that seem almost scary that they have arrived so quickly, especially, as I’ve found, after having a child.  I remember Sara announcing to me that she was pregnant with Lilly.  I can close my eyes and not only picture every detail of the room down to the feel of the carpet, but I can also remember instantly falling in love with a child that hadn’t even been born. It took only one second for my sister to share the news, and literally my priorities shifted forever: from that moment on, I would give my life if it meant protecting the life of Lilly. And now Molly, Jack, and Nolan. (see previous post about interchangeable children)

I can’t believe that I’m going to get in the car tomorrow with my five and six year old nieces.  It stuns me.  And yet, it feels so beautiful and good to reminisce about all of the sparkle those girls have added to my life.  I’m completely in love with them.  I still consider them to be miracles, true gifts from the all-creative God.  I believe they were created so perfectly, even with their bed head, attitudes, and sister-fights.  From the beginning of their very existence in this world, I have been drawn to their sensitive spirits and wanted nothing more than to help make their lives better.

Enter American Girl.

I grew up with Barbies being my sole passion and focus, but I also had my fair share of baby dolls.  Sara was busy climbing trees and building forts, but I am a girl’s girl through-and-through.  Exemplified by my tendencies to shop for my nieces or even daughters of my friends, I long to have a daughter.  I love the rough-and-tumbleness of Jackson, and I have come to realize that having a boy makes me a more fun person.  I have found dimensions to myself that could only be carved out by the tender mother/son bond.  But I still would love to do ballet, practice piano, teach french braiding, play school, diaper baby dolls, paint nails with shimmery polish, and pretend to be princesses living far, far away with a daughter of my very own.  I celebrate girliness because it’s so innocent, precious, tender, and pure.  And, at it’s best, it’s a miniature projection of the desires of our hearts coming to fruition in motherhood.

Lillian has been a care taker from the moment she was born.  She has a servant’s heart and a sensitive spirit, both qualities given to her by God with specific purpose.  She is a helper, and she is naturally prone to putting herself second.  Even third.  Others are important to her, and she relies on approval for self-confidence.  I worry about her sensitivity because I want to encourage her to believe in herself as much as I believe in her.  I love her warmth, her open heart, her loving spirit, and her natural generosity.

Molly is naturally more strong-willed (although I think Jackson has her beat). But she also has moments where she, too, is the salt of the the earth.  On her best days, she loves sharing.  If kids are her own age, she will lead and take charge a bit, but, as a second child, she’s also a natural observer.  She’s considerate and passionate.  She’s also the kid to crack a joke just to get a reaction.  Or cross her toe just beyond a boundary to gain attention.  She’s a tester, but can also delight in obedience.  I’m thrilled to be celebrating five years of Molly Jane Gilding who, to me, still looks like this:

It’s hard to believe we’ve actually gotten here:

It is my privilege to spend my weekend with my nieces, two pieces of my heart.  I can’t wait to spend time building into the lives of these little people who I love as my own alongside the amazing sister who gave them to me.   They are my little pieces of Heaven.

Happy Birthday, Molly Jane. I love you as if you were my own.

Interchangable Children and an Unchanging God

My friend Becki once told me that after having children, you want to look at couples who (intentionally) don’t have children and ask with a scoff, “What are you doing???”  This may sound a bit harsh, which it is, but I’m finding that there’s definitely truth to it.

Josh and I are fortunate to have relatives who love Jack as if he is their own.  In fact, I think Sara and Jesse would prefer that he was theirs!  Let me back up…

Sara came to Holland on Thursday night sans children for the Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith concert as part of their…wait for it…”2 Friends Tour”. (Couldn’t they have TRIED to come up with a better title?)  It’s not easy for my sister to offload her three children, and visiting each other without our kids usually is unthinkable because our children want to see each other more than we do!  But this concert was a BIG deal.  I honestly can’t think of a more important ‘celebrity’ influence on our lives growing up than Amy Grant.  We lived and breathed her music.  We memorized every single song, wore every t-shirt, and make up dances to most of her hits.  Even when God felt far away, Amy swaddled us, bringing us closer to Him.  Particularly for Sara, this is a rare and beautiful thing.  When Sara was auditioning for Interlochen Arts Academy her senior year of high school, she told the prestigious and operatic panel that she preferred the musical style of Amy Grant over all others.  Amy not only was a part of our childhood, she was a foundational part.  We have video tapes of us rearranging the furniture in the living room to make room for our dancing stage, performing to the songs that brought Scripture to life.  And being able to attend the concert twenty years after we first fell in love with her felt like the Circle of Life had been completed.  We swayed to “El Shaddai”, sang our guts out to “Baby, Baby” and cried during the final duet with another huge Christian influence, Michael W. Smith, “Friends are Friends Forever”.  Amy and ‘Smitty’ both talked candidly about aging, and if I had been closer to them, I probably would’ve cried if I had seen the lines on their faces, knowing that compared to the third-grade version of myself, I’ve aged quite a bit too.

After the concert, my sister and I took advantage of the fact that we were kid-free and out at 11 pm: we went to Village Inn for nachos.  After talking about the concert and sifting through the flooding memories, we started to talk about our kids.  I’ve mentioned before that our children are interchangeable.  By that I mean we love each other’s kids as much as our own.  We long to be with each other’s kids more than anyone else.  Sara even said to me as she’s sipping a Mellow Yellow, “Bec, I want to take Jackson home with me for the week.“  The week ahead on both of our calendars was full; it’s February and we’re in the thick of school, homework, preschool open houses, work, grocery runs, MOPS, and every other commitment that makes family life busy.  It’s not a week for swapping kids.  Not to mention, my mom was coming to Holland for the week to give us their car, so she’d be a bit disappointed if her grandson was MIA.  But, my sister would do ANYTHING to have Jackson to herself.  She loves being in charge of his meals, baths, and diaper changes. And I must say, I love having my nieces ALL my myself too, so I understand where she is coming from.  I love making their breakfasts, putting pony tails in their hair, and helping them brush their teeth.  I think it’s because when we swap kids, we’re able to take care of them and demonstrate our love more directly and tangibly.  It’s one of the most beautiful realities in my life right now.

We compromised. Jackson was buckled into Nolan’s car seat and whisked away for just the weekend.  It turned out that my parents were both at my sister’s for the weekend (Mom would later continue to Holland), and Jackson got to spend the weekend with his entire family.  He barely knew Josh and I weren’t there.  When Jack is with his cousins, he is in Heaven. (Coincidentally, I’m reading a book on that very subject, and I’m very sure that Jack will find Lilly and Molly very quickly upon his arrival in Heaven.  I probably get a clear picture of his eternity when they’re all in a pretzel-like hug. But more on that later.)  He had the best time sleeping in his Buzz sleeping bag and chasing his cousins for 2.5 days.

Josh and I were refreshingly kid-free, but that refreshment expires pretty quickly when you only have one child.  We started to miss him pretty fiercely and pretty quickly.  Which brings me to Becki’s opening thought: If you don’t have kids, WHAT do you do?  I realized more than ever that I prefer a messy kitchen over an orderly one because that means I have a little man to cook for.  I’d rather have little footprints on my linoleum than clean streaks.

I’m so in love with my family, and what a better time to realize it more deeply than Valentine’s Day weekend.  I’m so in love with God, as Amy Grant describes as unchanging and constant when she belts “El Shaddai”, for giving me glimpses of Heaven in this life in the form of a family hug-a-thon.  I love putting a Valentine’s card in Josh’s lunch and kissing him before his morning commute to Grand Rapids.  And I’m so grateful that all of this love is merely the shadow of the Real Thing.

Happy Valentine’s Day.