Fourteen years ago at this very moment I was just a couple of hours away from one of the most influential moments in my life. I was tossing and turning in a dark hospital room and getting ready to meet the little girl who would make me a mom for the first time. I was preparing to step into one of the most frightening and fulfilling roles I would ever undertake.
I had no idea what would await me on the other side of that experience. Like most first-time moms I expected to fall in love with my daughter. I expected to find her adorable and cute and sweet. I did not expect to flash forward 14 years and find myself looking at her in utter awe and amazement at what a breathtakingly amazing human she had become.
Let me tell you a little something about the girl who turns 14 tomorrow. She is strong and kind. She loves fiercely and fights hard when she sees injustice. She is smart and funny and exhausting and inspiring and every other complicated thing a teenage girl is supposed to be. And when I asked her what she wanted to do for her birthday weekend she had one immediate answer: “Serve the homeless in town.” I had imagined a shopping spree or a movie or a mother-daughter mani/pedi date. But no. Not Kai. And it just so happened that Loving Won by One, the ministry we serve with, had scheduled a trip this weekend so I promised her we would go. I am not exaggerating when I say that serving with my family is always a profound experience. We come away changed each time we walk back in the door from serving our friends in town. We learn about the needs of others. We learn about privilege. We learn to take the focus off of ourselves and look outward into our community.
But this week I especially learned something new along the way. Our second stop is always at the bridge where we see ladies and gentlemen with the most profoundly obvious needs. These are men and women who live under the bridge right beside the train tracks. This week we walked across to a spot to deliver hot meals to those who couldn’t get up from their beds to get plates. To say the places we see are rough would be an understatement. And in this particular situation we met an older woman living inside a wall of shopping carts filled to the brim with old clothes. She was laying on a mattress and box spring not even 3 feet from the busy street. When I tell you that the smell of urine was enough to knock you over when you got within a few feet of her I am not saying that to malign her or shame her or even to shock you. It was a fact. There was a powerful odor. The air was heavy with it. And as we were standing there gathering some hygiene kits and food for her Kai looked at me and said, “I think the Lord is telling me I need to pray for her.” To which I said, “Oh, no no no. Someone else will do that.”
But Kai was like a racehorse waiting for the starting bell. She was off in a flash. She walked over to the woman and asked her if she could pray with her and when the woman said that she would love that I watched her climb into the urine soaked bed wrap her arms around her and pray for her. Let me just tell you, I saw Jesus right there, friends. Meeting needs and unabashedly loving on others. There is nothing like the sight of your baby girl praying in bed with a homeless woman on the side of the road to really make you realize what is at stake in this whole parenting thing. Raising good humans is the name of the game. And I stood there with tears streaming down my face as I watched her embrace this woman’s humanity.
When she got finished she hugged her one more time and came with me to finish serving. I told her again she didn’t have to do that. That someone else would have stepped in and done it.
“I AM the someone, mom.”
I was undone. Because I realized she really is the someone. And so I am I. And so are you. This girl, this precious one who I swear just yesterday was learning to walk and talk, has taught me so much about what it means to be a good human. About following where the Holy Spirit leads. And about taking a flying leap right out of my comfort zone. I suppose that’s what she’s been doing since the first moment I laid eyes on her and realized that motherhood was so much bigger than a pretty pink nursery and frilly baby dresses.
Tomorrow she turns 14. And she is one year closer to going out into this world on her own. I used to think when she grew up my daughter would change the world. But this weekend I realized, she already has.