Gracie was doing a bit of a "fashion show" tonight for her daddy with the new school clothes Gramme had bought for her. There were a couple of things I wanted his "approval" on; things I wasn't sure were appropriate. In this one particular outfit with her hair pulled back into a ponytail from swimming earlier in the day, she looked so old! I told Chris, "She looks like she's 7!" (She's not quite 5.) He agreed.
I held out my arms for her to run to me for a hug. I hugged her and pulled out the ponytail holder. With her hair down, she looked much more like my little Gracie.
Fact is, she is getting older. As one of my best friends jokingly said the other day when I referred to her as 4 1/2...."Jacinda, she's not 4 1/2, she's almost 5!".....6 more "next days" to be exact. (Next days is how we count down to things around our house.) Not to be too graphic, but I can remember the exact moment my water broke with Gracie. I remember so much about when she was just born, and now she's almost 5 and going to Kindergarten in less than a month.
Don't get me wrong, I'm excited about this new chapter in her life. Yes, I'm sad that she's growing up, but I'm excited as well. This is a part of having children; letting them "go" so that they can choose the path for their own lives.
Again, don't get me wrong. I'm not cuttin' her loose to get a job and help support the family, but I'm looking forward to seeing how she interacts with her classmates & her teacher and us as her family as she begins this next phase of her life. I think I've gone through just about every emotion possible concerning Gracie going to Kindergarten and where she'll go to Kindergarten.....fear, doubt, anxiety, panic, happiness, pride, joy, excitement, peace.....and I know those emotions will continue throughout her life. It's been a roller coaster of a ride. I've got friends doing public school, friends doing private school, and friends who will homeschool! Each has their own reasons for their decision and that's okay that we're all different.
I think about how my parents let me go to ACU all the way from Atlanta and I marvel at the idea that they trusted the Lord enough to send me that far away. My friend, Tracy (Goodwin) Brown, & I traveled many a mile on I-20 going back & forth (it's 1000 miles!) This was before the age of everyone having cell phones and our parents would make us stop every 3 hours to call them. Imagine our impatience with them! However, now I question why they didn't make us call every hour.....or even let us go alone at all! I still remember the ticket Tracy got in Shreveport, LA & I still remember the time it was pouring rain and the semi next to me made me so nervous that I accidentally got off the interstate in Jackson, MS. I tried so hard to find my way back on without Tracy waking up, but the blinker woke her up. I think she was a little irritated because, to be honest, I had kind of gotten us lost!
I remember my Senior year of high school going to visit Harding & ACU. My parents & 7 out of my 8 aunts & uncles had gone to Harding. All my life, I just assumed that I'd go there. My brother was attending Lipscomb at the time and I didn't really want to go there and be Josh's little sister. I wanted to be more of my own person. (My brother & I are much closer now that we're married and both have little girls for which I'm grateful.)
Anyway, I know my parents took me to ACU to talk me out of it. Dad had pretty much said I wasn't going there. It was too far away and too expensive. (Like Harding & Lipscomb weren't???) We visited both Harding & ACU on that trip, and I think my parents fell more in love with ACU than even I did! My recruiter, Ben Stevens, did a great job of selling the school to my parents! We had people from my high school & church who were already there and loved it,Traci (Dunn) Brown & Renee (Bradford) Preston. Not to mention our youth intern from a couple of summers before who also attended there. Long story a little shorter, I ended up going to ACU. I remember planning to apply to Harding, but I got my acceptance from ACU and that was that! My best friend from high school was also going and that helped, along with the 6 or 7 other people from my graduating class. Amazing really that that many of us from Atlanta would go all the way to Abilene for college. Some people still look at me and shake their heads as to why I would go so far away from my family.
Point is, my parents trusted God to let me go that far. They had raised me in a Christian family and were praying for me to get a good education and hopefully find a Christian husband while doing it (which I did!) I'm grateful for the sacrifices my parents made for me in order that I could attend a wonderful Christian school while growing up, GACS, and then ACU for college. It set a foundation for me that I've built on throughout my life. They raised me praying for me to live a Christian life, find a Christian mate, and raise a family of my own. Now, I don't know the specifics of their prayers, but I imagine I'm not far off the mark. I know for a fact that they prayed for me because my dad told me just about everytime I talked to him on the phone or he wrote a letter (which he did almost every week my first 3 years at ACU). Him telling me that made a big impact on me. To be honest, I'm not too sure he doesn't still say it. I'll have to pay better attention the next time I'm on the phone with him!
As I said in a previous post, we have decided on public school for Gracie, and we're sending her with what I hope is a solid Christian foundation. We would hope for that whatever decision we had made. It warms my heart when we're in the car and she asks to sing one of the songs from her "Sunday School Songs" or "Toddler Bible Songs" cds. She was asking me today what it meant when the song said, "not my sister or my brother or my mother" (but it's me O Lord standing in the need of prayer). I tried to give her an answer that made sense and told her that it means she can pray anytime, anywhere even if Mommy or Daddy aren't praying; that God is always there & ready to listen to her. I don't know if that's the right answer, but I think it made sense to her. Even though sometimes I falter with the answers, I love it when she questions songs & Bible stories, etc. It means that her little mind is listening & her heart is wanting to know.
It seems like lately, God has blessed me with situations that seem to say, "She's gonna be okay." Whether it's a question she asks or how she responds to a situation or something sweet she says to me, I know she has a good foundation. I will be praying that we continue to give her the tools & the good examples & the teachings as well as the slack on our parental rope to let her take chances, make mistakes, learn from those mistakes, set good examples for others, know who to go to when she needs help, and always stay faithful to God!
I'm thankful for my good friends who live here whose children Gracie has played with since she was 9 months old. These women have been my good Christian friends for so long and their children are Gracie's best friends. Even though 1 of them will be in private school this year, 1 will be homeschooled this year or next, and 1 hasn't made a decision as to next year yet, I know that these friends will remain special to each other. I'm not so naive (sp?) as to think that everything will stay the same between them, but it doesn't mean things can't still be good and even get better!
These friends of mine & I have talked about special bracelets we hope to give our daughters when they're older (maybe when they're baptized, maybe when they reach a certain age???) that will remind them of our love for them and remind them of how they should act, but also remind that even if they screw up, we're available to be called and to help them. I'm thankful for these friends. They will help me to accountable for how I raise my child and I will do the same for them. It doesn't mean we all have to agree on everything, but we do agree on our love for Christ and our love for our children and our desire to have our children love Christ as well!
Most of this post is just me thinking aloud. It all started with looking at Gracie and realizing how old she looks and feeling a little sentimental about it. As much as part of me would like to "freeze her" in this age forever, I so look forward to seeing what kind of young lady she's going to grow into. I hope & pray that she will forever be a believer in Jesus and that she will someday make her own personal decision to follow Him. Isn't that what we all desire for our children?