My first child, a daughter, was born five weeks early on March 28, 2011. During my pregnancy, I wrote her a few letters as I processed my own preparation to become a mother. They are part of the spiritual journey I have walked over these past months, and so I share them here in that light.
Written February 4, 2011
This week I got the oil changed in my car. I know you don’t know what that means yet, but the important thing is that it will be at least three months before it happens again. And your father and I are not ready to give you the keys to a car, so we’ll fill you in on the rest of the details when the time comes. When I got in the car afterward, I looked up at the sticker that tells me the next time I’m due for an oil change, and it said “May 1, 2011.” May 1. The day you’re due to make your grand entrance into the world. And I realized that something as simple as an oil change might not be so simple anymore.
In the last couple of weeks you’ve been moving around and growing inside me, forcing my stomach to bulge in ways it has never done before. I am more aware of you at odd times of the day and night, like about thirty minutes before I’d like to get up in the morning when you start stretching and squirming. I’ve told your Daddy that you seem to want to make sure I’m aware that you think it’s time to start the day. Sometimes you’re really calm, and I wonder if you’re asleep. Sometimes you can’t seem to get comfortable, and I wonder if you’ll ever be still.
Each time I feel you move, I usually reach down and hold my stomach, hoping you’ll move again, and I’ll feel it even more intensely with my hand on top of you. It’s all I know of you right now – the ways you move and how unpredictable you seem. And I wonder how that will translate into your life outside of my body. I wonder what you’ll be like, even more than I wonder what you’ll look like. I think it’s the part of this mysterious process that has me most often speechless. Who will you be? A little bit of your father and a little bit of your mother, I know that much. But I’ve lived long enough now to know that what will make you your own girl is that you will be a product of your days too. Stuff will happen to you and around you from the very beginning, and I know your responses to it will shape you in so many ways.
Sometimes I worry about that, and sometimes I get excited about it. Most of all, I think it’s just something I know is beyond my control. The last several years have made me less idealistic about life in general. You’ll come to know that your mother is a consummate realist, but the cynicism that often accompanies such a stance has dissipated in recent years, only to be replaced by a deeper trust that the hard stuff of life is where God shapes us into who He created us to be. Don’t misunderstand me – I don’t long for the hard stuff. But I find that I throw up my hands in frustration at my circumstances a little less often these days, knowing that when the rubber meets the road, I meet my Maker.
And I guess that’s changed the way I look at becoming a mother. I would love nothing more than to be able to shield you from the messiness of life, but I know that means I would be keeping you from the richness of redemption. As I imagine the events of your life, I know that there will be unexpected joys and sorrows, and so I don’t pray that things will go smoothly for you. I pray that God would give you the ability to trust Him and hide yourself in Him when they don’t.
Not too many weeks after we discovered you were coming, your Daddy mentioned that he wanted to pick out a passage of Scripture to pray specifically for you. He told me some of the passages he had considered and begun to pray. As I began to think about doing the same thing, I came across Psalm 71, and I knew it was the right one for me to choose. I suspect it is not a typical passage to pray for your unborn daughter, but it is the prayer that I pray over your whole life, the days you’ve already lived and all of the ones that will follow until you breathe your last.
It is a prayer that you would know the faithfulness of God, though your own faith will undoubtedly be tested. It is a plea that you would know the redemption of God because you need to be rescued, and there will be seasons in your life from which only He can bring good. It is my hope for you that, though you will inevitably face hardship, you would know the intimacy of walking that road with Jesus. That your mouth would praise Him and that your heart would love Him for all of your days, though life will tempt you to do otherwise. This is my hope and prayer for you.
I love you,
In you, O Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame. Rescue me and deliver me in your righteousness; turn your ear to me and save me.
Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. Deliver me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of evil and cruel men.
For you have been my hope, O Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth. From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb. I will ever praise you. I have become like a portent to many, but you are my strong refuge. My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long.
Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone. For my enemies speak against me; those who wait to kill me conspire together. They say, “God has forsaken him; pursue him and seize him, for no one will rescue him.” Be not far from me, O God; come quickly, O my God, to help me. May my accusers perish in shame; may those who want to harm me be covered with scorn and disgrace.
But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteousness, of your salvation all day long, though I know not its measure. I will come and proclaim our mighty acts, O Sovereign Lord; I will proclaim your righteousness, yours alone.
Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.
Your righteousness reaches to the skies, O God, you who have done great things. Who, O God, is like you? Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once again.
I will praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, O my God; I will sing praise to you with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel. My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you – I, whom you have redeemed. My tongue will tell of your righteous acts all day long, for those who wanted to harm me have been put to shame and confusion.