Everyone has a story. And this morning as I was looking through some old pictures, my hand landed on this one and I found myself flooded with a million memories. This was Brownies, troop 264, Circa 1980 something. I know every one of the women in this picture, to this day, minus 2 or 3. (That’s me, there, on the second row with the purple sweatshirt.) There was something kind of magical about the town that I grew up in. It’s changed drastically, since 1980 something, as most towns have. Back then, though, the children that I knew in preschool were the ones with whom I walked my high school graduation stage. It wasn’t uncommon for us to know intimate details of each other’s lives, to know each other’s grandparents or cousins, or sibling’s life happenings, parents’ jobs and interests. It was a small town and it gathered our hearts in a way that, in today’s culture, would seem really unique. But to us, it was just normal.
This picture was from a weekend camping trip for Brownies and Girl Scouts that went terribly south. All I remember is that it was supposed to be a weekend of events and fun but what no one was prepared for was the cold snap. Weather that was so cold that it made us layer in every single piece of clothing we brought, and some of us left tents and slept in vehicles. (ahem. me.) I remember waking, in the night, and having to pee (desperately bad) but didn’t want to make the trek to the port-o-potties alone. So I dragged my two friends with me. They remember this. We didn’t make it to the port-o-potties with dry britches. The fear of the dark night and noises from the woods had us laughing nervously, and then hysterically. Those little girl bladders. It was childhood at her finest. I don’t remember the putting up of the tent or anything of real great seriousness. It would be years later that my mom (on the far right in the navy turtle neck, and her best friend, directly next to her in sunglasses) would tell us of the struggle of that weekend. They were nervous for the cold was so cold and they were responsible for so many lives – and no cell phones. No biggie. But still. The parents of all of these little girls were left in wonder and here were just a few adults stringing it all together (which, let’s be real. now being an adult myself, half of the time i feel like i’m just “playing” adult. so i imagine the amount of winging it that occurred on their behalf, and i snicker). All us little girls remember was that we had fun. We didn’t experience the sleep-deprivation, or the worry or the concern. I mean, do we look concerned?
I took a minute to really look at this picture this morning. I remember each of these girls well. We were different then (clearly), but there are parts of us that still exist in those little girls. Some of us were shy, dangerously introverted, super smart, sort-of smart, street smart, gifted singers, musicians, some loved reading, some hated it, loud laughers, snorters, bed wetters, sleep talkers, fast runners, slow pokers, tender-hearted, hard-hearted, obnoxious, careful, daring, scared… we were the lot of them. We embodied a wide range of what you would consider normal and abnormal. We were on the cusp of learning life and yet still free of life’s big hurts. Not a lot was different for any of us and yet everything would change. Our lives would be parted and some would stay together, and some would go great distances.
What I know about that group of girls and what the endurance of time has caused is this:
We are mothers.
Some birthed from our wombs and some from others’.
Adopted mothers and moms who have miscarried.
Some have family members who have rejected them publicly.
Many of us experienced the divorce of our parents.
Some of us had alcoholics for parents.
Some of us have lost a parent to disease or self-abuse.
Some have loved siblings who are homosexual.
Some birthed twins.
Some moved to the other side of the nation and found love in a new land.
One of us modeled for J. Crew.
One is a successful musician and her sound is both anointed and amazing.
Some have experienced abuse by husbands.
Some have experienced abuse by parents.
Some of us are yet to marry and are on our way to the altar.
Some of us are divorced.
One of us lost their firstborn and is learning to live again without her baby in her arms.
There’s more stories. Tons.
These women came from a map dot town. For a season our lives were weaved together and then seemingly unwound and new directions were set out and conquered. And defeated. And then new directions again. And then conquered. Or not. But still, each of these women formed a portion of my childhood that is indescribable. And the women who camped with us and took care of us that weekend, and so many other weekends, gave us a breathing room to just be little girls. Brave and free. Careless and foolish. Messy and silly. Independent and clingy. Loud and quiet. Us.
If I could be grown-up me and hold each of their little girl faces in my hands I would say this:
You are going to grow up. But not today. For today, just be exactly who you are. And remember this always, you are fearless on the face of this earth. Your voice and your lives matter. Do every single thing with intention and care and let no one ever tell you that you’re not good enough, or that you’re anything less than beautiful and radiant. Your laughter goes out into all creation and your prayers are heard and not forgotten. You will always be significant. And forgive me if I was ever mean or hurtful to you. Little girl me could be a stinker sometimes. But she loved you, too. And she loved that weekend of freezing cold and figuring it out together.
To all mothers, everywhere, may the heart of your youth remind you that you’re still highly valued and needed and cherished. For the mommas who long for one more hug, kiss and snuggle with anyone that you love and lost, I pray that the Holy Spirit himself would come to you in this very word and give you rest and peace and deep soul assurance that all is well. We camp on earth, first, unsure and not knowing how to navigate steadily. But one day we’ll camp in perfection and the weather will be glorious and the laughter will keep its stride in grandeur. Love and courage to you all. May you always keep walking towards the roar and never ever giving up on the call on your life.