We spend an afternoon at the table passing sheets of sticky letters, photographs, pens. Before I turn my attention to helping Riley through homework, before cooking, before folding the towels, Zoe and I sit together tasting gratitude like honey on our tongues. I press down a bit of light-catching foam and wonder why it feels frivolous and indulgent, why our giving thanks feels like something made for a holiday. Why, I can’t help but wonder, does it feel like creativity and thought training are nice things to do, but folding the towels, doing the homework, cooking the dinner—those are the musts.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:16-18).
I see the words written clear, right into the deepest part of me, right next to another admonishment: Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life (Philippians 2: 14-16), and another: Brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things (Philippians 4:8). And still more, more life written, more Word breathing.
14., I write, and the ink curls, a promise: You will shine like the stars.
She sips coffee just like I do, though hers is mostly cream. We doodle and write and giggle and remember, and she watches me count gifts up and down and sideways in my journal. ”Oooh, I like that,” she says. ”I think I’m going to steal that—copy you—if you don’t mind.”
“Of course,” I say, laying down my pen, stopping to offer her my eyes. ”I’m happy that you would want to.”
I can’t help but think of all the other parts of me she copies, the way she consumes me for womanhood, for friendship, for sistering and loving and breathing; the way she models even the way I wear my scarves. She opens her mouth and I hear my own voice, and the recognition drives me to my knees, because already she looks at photographs and critiques her own figure, her smile, her style, the silly posture in which she has been frozen. Already she compares and rejects bits of herself aloud, as though self-destruction is a harmless drama. When I tell her that she is beautiful, she says, “No, I’m not,” and I’m struck by the stark contrast with her sister, whose pure-heart allows, even insists upon, agreement. I say the same thing to Riley at least once a day–You are absolutely beautiful, kissing her on the cheek, and she smiles at me and says, “Yes. Yes, I am.” And every day, she teaches me by being okay–better than okay–with herself.
It’s taken years, but I am finally starting to learn that the mantras we repeat carry on, that our words wrap right around our bones, that our thoughts seep into our living like poison. It takes intention to reverse that disease. For the sake of our children, our honest and vibrant expressions of thanks, our joy, our building words must be spoken, and not just for thirty days in November or an afternoon spent peeling sticky letters from our fingertips.
“Oh Mom, I love this, I love this, I love this,” Zoe says, and her face is all light. She shines like the stars. “This is awesome!”
15. my thighs… I love my thighs
It’s a rebellion, those words written, and I shift to make sure my daughter sees. She shines, and it makes me want to start a Revolution right here in this house, a Force of women who sit around tables and spend hours speaking of blessings and loves and what God created wonderfully well (Psalm 139:14); women who believe it’s okay to love our bodies and even better to build each other; women who spend time talking of things that benefit those who listen (Ephesians 4:29); women who find it more real to speak of victory than defeat; women who sow to please the Spirit instead of the flesh (Galatians 6:8), women for whom giving thanks is a must, even when life hurts and the list is long, and dinner waits.
Yes, daughter-of-mine, copy this. Copy this planting, this time, this truth:
He came that we might have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10). He came for a bold and redeemed living, a better way, an inheritance that never spoils or fades (1 Peter 1:4). He came for light and victory, for lasting fruit, for resurrection.
And only because of Him, we can be more than the beautiful we are, more than stunning.
We can shine like the stars.
Right here, right now, it becomes a must.