It's the eve of your first birthday--tomorrow you will have survived this world for one full year. Your parents are therefore superheroes. Today, a bunch of "your parents' friends" and your aunties and uncles gathered at your house to celebrate you. Well, really, it was just a good excuse for us to watch football, pop some tops, and eat cinnamon rolls and bacon together, because you won't even remember we were there. Which is why I'm writing you this letter, come to think of it. We also gathered because we really love your parents, and we really love you, and we wanted some cute pictures with you and thought it'd be fun to watch you smash screaming-blue frosted cake in your mouth and play with balloons. We were right--it was fun. Thanks for cooperating for 10% of the pictures. I know we were asking a lot of you, but you look really cute on our Instagram feeds.
Speaking of your mom, I'm really writing this to tell you a bit about she and I because I think our Friendship Story is important, and I've learned so much from all that's happened between us. I want to pass some of the things I've learned onto you. I hope that's alright. As I sat there on your parents' couch today and looked around at all the "people my age-ish" in the room, it suddenly occurred to me that WE ARE THE ADULTS. You're probably thinking: "well, duh," but you must understand that we were sixteen just yesterday, and now we're Moms and Dads and Wives and Husbands (and friends of people who are) who pay our own rents and drive our own cars to the grocery store to buy our own groceries. We even cook our own meals--and good heavens some of us are now cooking for our CHILDREN. We do things like "run to the store to grab ice" and smoke cigars on the back porch "after we put the kid (that's you) to bed." G-baby, what you've gotta understand is we're just kids ourselves. When I look around and notice all of us wearing "grown-up clothes" like Dad Shorts and Dad Shoes and Mom Shirts, I get super confused. I still like to "call the backseat" on road trips, and I keep being forced to reconcile with the fact that I am now The Driver of The Road Trips. This is madness. You realize your mom is grown-up enough to DRIVE YOU TO THE CLINIC to GET STITCHES, right? Those are Adult Tasks. We are Adulting, Graham, and I realize you think we know what we're doing, but we're really still trying to Figure Things Out, like we were at sixteen. We're not qualified for this "Driver of The Road Trips" title. And yet, here we are: making children and keeping them alive. Suffice it to say, we're learning Some Stuff, and I guess it's time we start passing some of that stuff on to you. So, here goes.
I need you to know that your mom and I haven't always been friends. In fact, today was the second time we've seen each other in person. Hear me out.
A few years ago, when your mom was still living in Haiti (and hadn't even thought of you yet), I was across the ocean here in Texas spending a lot of time with a boy your mom was dating at the time. The boy and I were really just friends and hung out in the same friend group, but because your mom was so far away, she saw things a little differently. In my defense, she wasn't hearing "the whole story," and in her defense, I was spending a lot of time with a person she really cared about, and I'm sure you can see how that would have made her pretty sad. I ended up doing some things unintentionally that really hurt your mom. She sent me a message expressing her pain and said she had no interest in being my friend.
Her message made me really sad, Graham, because from what I knew of your mom, she was someone whose friendship I really desired. Your Mojo was (still is) doing the exact work that I have wanted to do since I was just a little girl, and I had followed your mom and Mojo and Tito through their blogs and instagrams and Facebooks for a couple years. I genuinely wanted to spend time in their clinic--to learn from them and be under their tutelage. I had always imagined them to be the most incredible sort of people, and because we shared that midwifery-heart, I wanted to meet them. A few times, I had reached out to your mom on Facebook, expressing my heart and telling her I was in awe of the fact that I knew of people (them) who were doing the sort of things I think God has been asking me to do for as long as I can remember. I didn't even know people like them existed, until I did. But your mom is an introvert (I bet you're learning this), and I probably seemed rather...foreign and pushy to her. And rightly so. She was just living her normal life in Haiti--she didn't want to be spectated-at.
Anyway, when she sent me that message, I was sad for a lot of reasons. First, I knew she didn't have the whole truth. Second, I thought "well, now I'll never meet the Livesays because they'll all hate me" (they really love your mom and probably wouldn't want to spend a lot of time with someone who had hurt her like I did). Third, I figured your mom and I would never ever get to be friends.
I want to tell you something, G. I could have responded with a long explanation about why "things aren't really the way they seem!" and defended my position and proven to your mom that my actions were "just fine." That's what I wanted to do when I first read her message. But before replying, I thought about it all for a night. I went to sleep and chose to wait until the next day to write something back. Anytime someone sends you something that makes you get all hot and angry and sad and confused inside, read it a few times and then shut your computer or your phone. Come back to it once you've cooled down. Our knee-jerk reactions are usually pretty...jerky...and they're usually ALL ABOUT US. When we take some time before replying, it's easier to have compassion and try to see things from "the other side." So when I replied, G, I didn't try to defend myself. I said two very important words: I'm sorry. If you can master any response in all of life, master that one. Another important one is "you hurt me," because that gives another person the chance to say they're sorry to you.
I told her I was sorry. I also told her there was "more to the story" and that if she ever wanted to hear it, I'd tell her. But G, she was in a lot of pain. And because I knew that, I didn't shove "the more to the story" down her throat. Throat-shoving doesn't make anyone at all feel loved.
And then three years passed. For three years I read every one of your Mojo's blog posts and saw every single Instagram picture your Mojo and Tito and KJ posted. I was very, very careful to never "like" anything because I didn't want them to know I was still following them. I assumed they hated me and would block me if they found out. But I wanted to "keep up on their lives" because (I know this sounds silly) I really really cared about them. I prayed for them and asked other people to pray for them and their work.
Your mom and I have a lot of "path-crossing" connections, and one time a year or so after our email exchange, she was in Texas for a visit and we nearly bumped shoulders in the library. I remember my palms got all sweaty and I prayed she wouldn't recognize me. Another time, I saw my friend playing guitar on stage under this bridge where they hold church services on Sundays. I asked my mom (who was in town visiting) to pull up on the curb so I could run out and give him a hug. I ran to the stage to find your Mojo and mom and Aunt Liddie and Uncle Isaac talking to my guitar-friend. I sprinted back to my mom's car and told her "Paige is in town, mom!" and asked her to leave QUICKLY. I don't know why I was so afraid of your mom, G. I think it's because I thought she had so much disgust for me, and so I was afraid to meet that (presumed) disgust head-on.
There was another time when I was sitting on The Suspension Bridge reading for class. It was another Sunday. Low and behold, your Mojo and Tito and Aunties and Uncles went running by me. I remember watching them go and praying they wouldn't know who I was. I'm not really sure why I thought they'd know me from Adam, but I did. I felt like the girl with the Scarlet Letter.
I read the post your Mojo wrote about the night your Mom told her she was pregnant with you. Seven months later, I read your Mojo's post about your birth story. It would probably gross you out, but I thought it was the coolest thing EVER. Us midwife-brain people are weird.
So, I kept tabs on your life, little G, and no one even knew. I just wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to love on you and give you kisses, and I wanted to give your mom a hug and be her real friend. But because of our history, I reconciled with the fact that I'd be a Far Away Observer forever.
But then I had a different thought. It was a thought that said: "sweet Jordan--maybe there's a different way...a better way. Maybe this public disagreement doesn't have to be your final line in the sand. Maybe this can actually be used for Good. Could something so obviously disagreement-oriented be made into a platform for...friendship?" God usually gives thoughts like that, G. Whenever my first thought is to make myself The One Who Comes Out On Top, God gives me a second thought, which usually looks a lot more like Figuring Out A Way To Lift The Other Person To The Top. Listen to that second thought. I don't always, but when I do, things turn out Best.
So, I sent your mom a private message. This is what it said:
I'm going to reply to that comment--but before I do, I need you to know that for all this time I have believed you have bitterness against me, still. I don't know if you even remember sending me the Facebook messages you did (3 years ago?), but I was really taken aback and hurt by them, mostly because I really admired and cared about your family (from afar), and it made me sad that I did something (however unintentionally amd unknowingly) that hurt you enough that you needed to send me such harsh words. For all this time I've felt there was never really any resolution/forgiveness in that situation, and so I've assumed you still "don't like me." I've seen you get married and have Graham and have faithfully kept up with your Mama's blog and someday, when I'm no longer a dirt poor student, I plan to help financially support Heartline. It has a special place in my heart because that clinic (one like it) is what I've dreamed of doing since I was a little girl (I'm now almost done with nursing school).
I realize I'm not in your "circle" and most likely never will be because our paths simply haven't crossed in that way, but it would do my heart good to know, honestly, where I stand with you. That may sound juvenile, but it's my heart.
Anyway, thanks again for commenting on that post. Hope to hear from you.
So, I told her I was sorry. She said she forgave me. She said she was sorry, too.
That's it. That's all it took. A couple "I'm Sorry"s and a couple "I forgive you"s. And then we figured out we live less than an hour apart, so I came and met you for the first time a couple weekends later. Here, look!
I met your uncle Andrew and honorary Auntie Cassie last night--and Britt and Chris and Rupert, too. They're all such wonderful people, and they love you so much. Your uncle Andrew made us all try some of his MRE, and he taught your dad how to clean his gun with shaving cream. He really loves you, you know. I loved watching him pick you up above his head and "wrestle" with you. You've got good men in your life--they'll teach you to be a tender warrior. Listen to their words. Pay attention to the way they love you and their wives and your cousins. Chris and Andrew and your Dad and your Tito and your uncles Isaac and Noah are God's men. And they'll teach you to love Jesus and love people, which are the two most important things anyone could ever teach you.
G, forgiveness is real. I know you read about it in the Bible and you hear about it in Sunday school and from your parents and your Mojo and Tito, but I'm here to tell you one more time. The reconciliation of Christ is a real live thing. It actually works. Relationships don't have to stay broken and estranged forever. "I'm sorry" and "I forgive you" can go a really, really long way.
But those are big, brave words. It takes a lot of courage to say them. I want you to know that Jesus will ALWAYS give you that courage. He really will. You'll have to take the first step, and it will feel a lot scary and BIG and like you're stepping off a cliff into the great unknown. But then you'll find His hand. And you'll hear His words. And He'll help you figure out how to navigate those scary waters. This I promise you.
Fear is powerful. It keeps us chained and keeps would-be relationships at bay. It can cause a person to spend three years tip-toeing around another person, all the while desperately wanting friendship. But you know what, G? Fear really isn't all that Big and Scary. It just likes to make itself seem like it is. Big Scary things are usually like that. They're actually quite small and miserly, and they know they are--which is why they have to try so hard to make us think they're SO BIG AND BAD. Courage is so bright. When you expose the Big Scary things to the light, you find that all of a sudden you can see them for what they really are--crumbs. The Light is always bigger, brighter, and more powerful. The Light always, always wins. But we've got to do the hard work of dragging all the Big Scary Stuff out into it, first.
And we're really glad you decided to join us.