My Dear Andelise,
We attended a baby shower recently and I found myself surprisingly shocked at how far we have come from that season of life. You, my baby, are now four-years-old. The days of bottles and diapers are long gone. While sleepless nights appeared endless in the first years of your life, they are now seldom and with good reason. Any toddler features your body once carried are replaced with those of a lengthy, thin, energetic preschooler. I watch in amazement at how much you have grown.
It was with great excitement that you started preschool three mornings a week this year. Having escorted your sister there for her time at Our Savior Lutheran, you had no hesitancies about attending with your friends. What once was labeled your sisters’ school has now become your own. With no fear, you introduced yourself to your teachers. “I’m Ande” and “My name is Andelise Randall” were their first encounters with you as I realized you are so different from either of your sisters. You often ask to walk to and from school. While I love that you welcome a ride in the jogger so I can get a run in on the way to school, there is a strange feeling in pushing an empty stroller back home. Soon the days where we take a stroller along with us will be only a memory, too.
These moments leave me smiling and crying all at the same time. It’s not that I long for what is in the past. I am grateful every day that you and your sisters are growing and maturing the way you should be. What a blessing it is to have three healthy little girls that are little by little being prepared to go out in the world. You will make a difference for God. In so many ways, you already do.
As I write this letter, your birthday is well past. With the start of school and family gatherings, holidays and birthdays of other family members, too, it’s been difficult to find time to sit and meditate on the year that has gone by. I don’t want to allow life to steal these memories from me, though. It is important that each year I say what is on my heart. Tomorrow together on earth is not a promise.
Just the other day you stated, “When people get old, they die. I’m not old so I won’t die.” I informed you that death is unfair and has no bias when it comes to age. I assured you that “When we die, we will be with Jesus just like Papa and Grandpa are with Jesus now.”
I could see the wheels turning in your head as you got confused. It’s hard for me to remember sometimes that the only Papa you know is your Great Papa Grimaldi. I quickly clarified, “I’m not talking about Great Papa. I’m talking about my daddy and Daddy’s daddy.”
Still unable to really work out the details of this in your 4-year-old mind, the conversation continued. “Wait. Who is your dad?” I worked to explain once again the reality that nags at my heartstrings when I look at you. “You didn’t know my daddy. He died when you were in my belly.”
A smile cracked on your mouth as you began to laugh. “Wait! I was in your belly? What? Did you eat me?”
“No. I didn’t eat you. But you were in my belly.”
Your laughter continued. “What? You ate me and then pooped me out?”
“No. I didn’t eat you… but yeah… kind of.” I shook my head at your reasoning with a smile.
“Only horses poop babies out!” you exclaimed as you went on to talk about what you apparently witnessed in a movie.
I smiled at how easily conversations occur with a child so young. It won’t always be this easy to have conversations with you. There may come a day where you don’t even want to talk to me. I remember vividly when your Papa (who you never met; my daddy) brought me over to my mom (your Grams) and told me to talk to her. “One day, she will be your best friend.” He tried to make me understand. I thought he was crazy and didn’t appreciate his advice in the moment one bit. Now, I realize those who have lived longer than I have often have wisdom worth listening to.
I pray you will realize this at an early age. We never know everything. There is always someone’s advice we can benefit from. Not all advice will be worthy of our time but God gave us instructions about respecting those older than us for a reason. I pray you will learn early on that God gave you two ears so you can listen more than you speak.
You are only beginning your journey into the world with preschool this year. Yet, as I prepare for your oldest sister to enter junior high, I realize that the advice of all of those ahead of me is as true as ever. Time goes by too quickly. I won’t lie to you. I love having a couple hours to myself a few mornings each week. It is a huge relief not to have to wipe your behind anymore. And every night when I lay my head on my pillow, there is such peace in being able to expect uninterrupted sleep. But I’ll also admit that it will be hard when you no longer mispronounce words in the way only little ones can get away with. There is sadness in knowing the time will come when my kisses can’t make it all better. And all too soon, you will understand all the details of how a baby grows inside of her mother and we may even find ourselves crying about it. But, oh, how I pray and desire for you to still talk to me. I want to hear your thoughts and desires. I want to know when you mess up and I want mine to be a hand you can reach out for to pull you back up again.
I sometimes let frustration get the best of me. More often than I’d like, my anger goes unconcealed. And sadly, I’m going to screw you up. I fail at loving you perfectly because I am imperfect. But I want to do right by you. There is no greater desire in my heart than to see God’s best for you. I pray you will seek out His plan for your life and desire Him whole-heartedly. It’s not always easy but let me assure you, it is best. Family will fail you. Friends will betray you. Boys will break your heart. No matter what happens with these imperfect relationships here on this earth, please know that Jesus loves you perfectly. So much so that He gave up the perfection of Heaven to suffer on this earth… for you.
For today, you are only four. Instead of focusing on what needs to be accomplished, I will do my best to find joy in your crazy antics. When I am frustrated that I have to clean up a pile of sofa pillows once again because you wanted to build a fort or play gymnastics in the house, I will choose to recall the advice from many that these days go by all too quickly. When scraps of paper you have cut out as your masterpiece litter my floor reminding me of my lousy housekeeping skills, maybe I can embrace that soon I will long for days where our problems were just cleaning a messy house due to play. As you greet the day so early it leaves no time for quiet, I’ll try to fast forward to how it will feel when the house will be all too quiet. At this early age, you are excited to live life. You love relationships and activity. There is never a dull moment with you in our lives. You won’t allow it.
I found myself praying for God to change you the other day. I think because I see parts of myself in you and I don’t like those things about me. Quickly, I changed my prayer. I don’t want God to change you. He made you passionate. He made your personality exactly the way He wants you to be. I just asked Him to use you for Him. Every bit of passion, every concern for detail, every excitement and desire for fun… I pray I will one day be able to see how that makes a powerful difference in this world for Him. I love you, Ande Randy. Thanks for the joy you bring to our lives.
P.S. I love the way you sing songs about Jesus. You make them up but that is what makes them so special. I pray you give Him your heart and your desires always.