Recently I had a night where I ran for my life for six hours. I’d wake up in a panic and realize I was dreaming.
It’s not the first time I’ve had a death-escaping dream. Typically I’m a soldier in a battle situation – think Black Hawk Down, or Saving Private Ryan. I have no idea why this is my reoccurring theme. I guess I’m just lucky.
By 6 am when Henry gently shook me awake, I was on my third consecutive dream that I remember. I have a feeling I had more since I felt like I’d been hit by a truck. In truth, I had just been killed by a venomous snake that had latched to my neck (at the ZOO), only to fall back to sleep to have my government agency employer tell me I was about to be erased from the program. This dream I had TWICE. My brain wanted one more chance to solve the problem.
This dream upset me more than the snake. At least the snake didn’t have anything against me personally and didn’t give me time to think about it. My employer was giving me 24-hours to get my affairs in order or perhaps the chance to run, but with three small children and a husband at home, I knew running wasn’t an option. After watching enough movies I know the agency always finds you.
I was resigned to spend my last 24 hours the best way I could and show up for my execution the next morning.
The debate I had with myself (in my dream and later when I woke up) is: do I spend every last moment with my children, or do I sit down to write and video everything I won’t be able to tell them over the next 15 years of their growing up? And, what exactly do I want to tell them? They’re so young! Maturing takes time to grow on the vine, and the vine was about to be snipped.
It was this series of dreams that motivated me to write my children a personal letter, just in case. Here’s the one to my first-born.
You made me a mother. You are incredibly special. Before you, I thought I knew what love was. It’s hard to describe the love a parent has for a child. It’s nothing like anything else I’ve experienced. It made me love my mother more and your daddy more. It made my heart so big I felt like it would explode.
I’ve enjoyed watching you grow into a young lady. You often surprise me with the depth of your questions and the level of your curiosity.
You are the typical first born. You love to be in charge. If you can learn to motivate people by leading them sacrificially and by example, you will move mountains. You know how to organize, plan, and execute a plan, even at age 8. You are an incredibly hard worker, digging deep when the task is hard, never complaining. Just getting it done. You will make a great leader.
You are extremely generous. Your heart breaks when you see hurting people – whether you know them or not. If it’s someone we know, you are quick to suggest a card or a task we can complete to make their burden lighter. If it’s a group you hear about, such as babies overseas who need food, or children in foreign countries who need clothes, you are adamant that we sent them what they need.
From the time you were in kindergarten, you have brought home beautiful drawings. I’m often surprised by the maturity in them, asking if you did them yourself. You have a real raw talent with a pencil and paper. You should pursue creativity always, no matter what profession you choose.
Speaking of creativity, your soul speaks through music. From the time you could stand, you’ve been dancing and singing. I remember you could hum the alphabet song by the time you were 12 months old and sing Jingle Bells by the time you were 14 months – in tune. The other day you made up a song on the piano that I actually enjoy listening to. Not a typical kid’s song, plucked out randomly on the keys, but a melody line that is fun, with repetition and dimension. Keep at it. Music has the power to bring you out of the depths of despair and take you to the feet of God.
With all of your talents, one thing I worry may cripple you is your demand for perfection. You are so hard on yourself… so, so hard. You are a smart girl, with friends who like you, yet you often lament that you’re struggling in school (although your teachers tell me you’re not) and that no one likes you. I pray that as you mature, you will come to realize that sometimes good enough is good enough. Yes, we want to do our best and put our best foot forward, but sometimes we have to accept that we can’t do everything perfectly, especially the first or second time. Being able to do something well means putting in the time it takes to make it second nature. There are few things we can devote this much time to. Choose wisely the things you want to expect yourself to do well, and do everything else just for fun.
A second thing I see you struggle with is your sensitivity. This characteristic allows you to see the needs of others, but it also hinders your relationships. I pray you can learn to not take things so personally. This self-focus will trip you up faster than a wrinkle in a rug. I pray you begin to understand that most people who hurt you aren’t out to get you. Their actions have very little to do with you and most likely everything to do with how their day is going, or their own insecurities and fears. Figuring this out in life will save you much heartache and self-loathing.
Natalie, there are so many things a mother teaches her children, but the greatest thing we teach is how much you are loved by God. Your heart is there. You thirst after the Word and desire to know God more. I pray you come to understand that there’s nothing you can do to make God love you more and nothing you can do to make him love you less. He doesn’t love you for anything you can do. He loves you because you are YOU. Same for me. I can’t imagine having a different first born. I love you simply because you are mine. And you are special.