Milestones are fun. 
They mark significant moments in life,
often propelling us into something new. 
They indicate change is upon us. 
As an almost 4-month-old,
these major moments seem to come in droves,
ever pushing you towards the next big thing. 
Heck-merely staying awake long enough to eat seems like
a big one at first!
Then there is head control, and eye contact, and finding your toes. 
Sleeping through the night, taking a bottle, and
the first real smile breaking through. 
It seems there is something almost every day!  
As a 26 year old, these timeline markers are a bit more spaced out,
but they faithfully show up in each stage of life.
Losing your first tooth, going to middle school,
getting that long-awaited driver’s license, graduating from college,
marrying your love, becoming a parent. 
Or in this season of life for us,
moving back to America after 2.5 years as missionaries in Africa. 
These milestones continue through the years,
and they are all such special, powerful, meaningful moments. 
Moments that God specifically designed for you to experience. 
Moments that shape who you become.
Moments that bring with them change to the life you currently know. 

Witnessing these moments with my little girl has
broadened my understanding of our Heavenly Father
in beautiful ways. 
I love Lettie so much it oozes from me. 
She can do nothing that will make me yearn for her less. 
I long to hold her, to comfort her, to squeeze her cheeks.
If she cries (or screams at the top of her lungs!),
I want to be the one to help her pain relax into rest. 
And I will embrace her,
no matter what. 
I don’t care how dirty or sweet or sick or giggly or
sweaty or sleepy or young or old she is. 
I get such joy and purpose from holding her next to me. 

With one of the more recent milestones in her little life,
there has been a shift in the way we relate.
Now she can grasp.
She can touch something on purpose. 
And all of the sudden she is
not just in my arms because I lovingly put her there. 
Her fingers are curled around me, her little hands stroke my shoulder. 
It is in the moments when she holds me back that
I am moved into a state of bliss,
basking in the purity of love understood.

Don’t you know that God loves us in the same way? 
As so perfectly described in the Jesus Storybook Bible,
His love is a Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking,
Always and Forever Love. 
He will never cease to long for us, to comfort us, to squeeze us. 
He will continually help our pain relax into rest. 
He will hold us no matter what. 
These things are His very joy and purpose. 
But what more does it do for a pure and holy relationship
with our Lord when we hold Him back? 
When we reach for him.
When we curl our fingers around His
that have been stroking us all along. 
This is a huge milestone,
propelling us not only into something new, but something better. 
In an instant, the relationship changes from
a Father loving His child in the best of ways,
to a child holding on to a love she knows is hers.

In the beginning, I often found myself rescuing Lettie Anne from a
despair into which she had already sunk. 
Her tears would flow.
Her breath would struggle to catch up.
Her body would tense in the most rigid of ways. 
It could take long stretches of time and gentle whispers of assurance
before she would realize she was being held.
I loved her the entire time,
but how my heart ached for her until she would peacefully unwind. 
Until she would recognize the love that securely wrapped her up. 
Oh, Lord, how often have I pained you in the same way? 
I am but an infant, blindly struggling alone
while You ache for me to know Your love that is right beside me. 
May I begin learning to grasp.  
May I reach for You, relax into You,
look into Your eyes and know they see me. 
May I not simply find myself in Your arms, but place myself in them. 
May I not just be chosen by You, but may I choose You. 

Yesterday was a day when change threatened me. 
I had Bible study with a group of sisters who
bless my soul deep down. 
Sisters I’m leaving in Africa.
I left the gym and let the mountains outside take my breath away. 
Mountains I’m leaving in Africa. 
I ran into the grocery and felt how normal that was-
you know, the normal of “your” grocery store. 
The normal I’m leaving in Africa. 
Then, I came home to a house that is emptying by the day.
 Things sold, new tenants coming to view it, bags getting packed. 
The home where my marriage grew and my child first slept,
the home I’m leaving in Africa.  
I reflected about moving to Nashville,
a place I’ve never lived. 
I thought about how many hours I will still be
from my parents and siblings and nephews. 
I considered the grocery store and the aisles I'll have to wander. 
I thought about having to use GPS again and again and again. 
I thought about going back to work and leaving Lettie Anne behind. 

Change is upon me.  
A milestone is about to hit.   

And we are excited!
It will be new and full and adventurous. 
It will stretch us and grow us and propel us forward. 
It will be the start of a much-needed, God-ordained season.
But in the same way Lettie gets a little off-kilter
before she masters something new-
whiny, frustrated, sleepless, clingy-
so I felt myself wandering down a similar road. 

With emotions churning through me,
I laid down on the floor beside my napping little girl
and I cherished the way she is growing and learning. 
I didn’t dwell on the tough days leading up to
her newfound giggle,
the voice she offers the world,
her delight with her stuffed giraffe. 
Rather, I treasured her growing into herself and
becoming my beautiful, strong, confident daughter.  
I pondered how she and I will continue to relate as
she becomes more and more aware of my love for her. 
Then I remembered how I felt when she
first took her little hand and grabbed onto my shoulder. 
Her cries were calmed almost instantly. 
She knew who I was. 
She found her balance. 
Her eyes looked at me with a trust that said,
“I know I’m okay if I stay put right here on your arm.”
She held me and we moved through life together. 
I carried her into bigger and better spaces.  
We began discovering the world and learning together. 
Each day she becomes someone
more capable, more joyful, more understanding. 

Oh, Lord, how this is my prayer! 
Walk with me through milestones that
threaten my normal until they catapult me into
a better me and a bigger world. 
Train me to grasp onto You before I reach the pit of despair. 
Teach me that Your love is
Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever,
but that it is more fully experienced when I
plop down into it
instead of making You fight to show me.  

God is good, all the time. 
As we make this next big leap onto US soil in April
for the first time as a family of 3,
my prayer is that we will hold onto His goodness in new ways and
cling to it with a refreshed understanding of His love.