Over a thousand miles, an uncertain schedule, and a limited monthly budget are keeping me from witnessing this major moment in my squirmy little niece's life, but I'll be keeping her in my thoughts and prayers all this week and for the rest of my life. The last time I saw her was four months ago—or in her perspective, half a lifetime ago. I stood on a screened-in porch, propping her on my hip and watching her wide, blue eyes stare out at the lake where my family was vacationing.
I tried to guess how much she had figured out . . . if she understood yet that the breeze cooling her face was the same force that made the leaves shudder. If she knew water when she saw it, or if she had to touch it first. I later balanced her on my lap, her powerful little legs pushing down to stand, while the ladies of my mother's generation swapped stories about my cousins, my brothers, and me. I heard about when and how we learned to walk, what made us fussy, the funny things we said when we started experimenting with language. It was hard to imagine that I was ever the same as this tiny baby, with an entirely unknown life stretching out before her and a million things to learn before she's even two. But I was.
Which can only mean that Rylie will one day be like me. She'll have developed a host of fears and dreams. She will have accumulated a lifetime of memories and will have to balance different relationships in different aspects of her life. She'll search for understanding, ache for guidance, hope for love. She'll need God.
And, constant as always, there God will be, standing beside her just as he will have been through her college finals, her high school crush, her obligatory junior high humiliation. Just as He will on Saturday night when the pastor trickles holy water on her forehead and asks the congregation to support her in her spiritual growth. Then a roomful of people with enough fears, dreams, and baggage to know what faith is worth will answer in unison, "We will, with the help of God."
Me, too, Rylie. I will, with the help of God.
Raise the little girls.
Be the first to teach them beauty,
that they may honor
the light in themselves
over the faces in magazines.
Be the first to teach them affection,
that they may seek companionship
without setlling for attention.
Be the first to teach them courage,
that they may speak boldly,
without need for aggression.
Be the first to teach them independence,
that they may know themselves
without the influence of others.
Be the first to teach them
Your perfect love,
that they may share their lives,
their talents, and their wisdom
without sacrificing themselves.
Raise inspiring women.