My Izzi isn’t like most five-year-olds.
She is pensive and cautious, generally insistent on following the rules. She prefers order and structure and struggles to fall asleep if her bedroom isn’t tidy. At least weekly, she begs me to let her “organize” something –bathroom drawers, the spice cabinet in the kitchen, her sister’s bookbag. Breaking out the duster or the vacuum is guaranteed to bring a huge smile to her face.
In many ways, Izzi is more “adult” than our children legally-considered adults. She rarely plays with toys; she’d rather be in the kitchen cooking or sewing an owl-shaped coin purse. She prefers the company of grownups or babies and is a nurturer to both.
Nearly everyday she asks if I’ll “always be Lymed,” and once she announced she sometimes likes that I’m sick because it means she gets to take care of me. She loves to wash my hair and is the gluten-dairy-sugar police, monitoring every bite of food I put into my body.
She’s deeply empathetic, sobbing loudly during movies, even weeping during Chopped Junior when the next child is inevitably sent home. Yet, she speaks matter-of-factly about death without so much as a tear in her eye. She grasps that we all die, some way to early, and some little girls are left to grow up without their mommies. She’s the first to remind her siblings life isn’t fair, usually following that statement up with her favorite saying, “Suck it up, buttercup.”
But as un-childlike as my little girl is, she has this joy about her that is unparalleled. There are moments I catch myself staring at her in complete awe of her beauty and simple goodness. I realize I’m partial, but she’s just so darn happy. You can’t be near Izzi without some of her joy and wonder seeping into you.
Often, this bliss comes from one of her unexpected, poignant one-liners. Words that leap from her beautiful lips right into my heart, taking my breath away.
Like yesterday, when we snuggled in my bed, giggling and trying to prolong the morning, discussing our to-do list for the day. She was, of course, thrilled to have a busy day of cleaning, baking, and crafting ahead of her. After a few quiet seconds, she made a declaration.
“I sure do have a pretty life.”
I thought of all the ups and downs over the last year, the struggles, the pain, the events I missed, the tears I cried. Yet, even in the midst of the ugliness, my baby is still able to recognize that her life is pretty. What a lesson to us all.
Thank God she has this childlike quality of seeing the beauty and magic in life, even when we are a little bit broken. As adults, we must make conscious choices daily in which colors we want to focus on in our lives. It’s easy to be consumed by the darkness, but Izzi serves as my reminder to concentrate on the light.
My Christmas wish for you is a little of my Izzi’s joy, her way of looking at the world. Her life isn’t perfect, yet she recognizes that it’s still quite pretty. She can color the most vibrant pictures, using the black, gray and brown crayons to accentuate the rest of her rainbow. Broken crayons are no hinderance to her, just like my brokenness makes her life no less beautiful. We can still color, and that is what God wants us to do.
In fact, when I feel like my world has fallen apart, Izzi reminds me that perhaps God is using our struggles to make it all fall into place. She makes it impossible to stay down; for her and the rest of my family, I must keep fighting and finding the good.
Sure, there are moments. I went to a staff Christmas party last week and while it was heartwarming to visit with my friends and colleagues, it was also difficult. As they complained about new policies and disrespectful students, I felt my heart rate increasing and my breathing becoming labored. I realized, later, I envied them. I miss teaching terribly, and I want the normalcy that my colleagues are taking for granted.
Two weeks ago the flu sent me to the ER and on bedrest for a week. I was forced to cancel plans with friends, which just kills me to do. I sat on my couch for hours during the day while my husband went to work and my kids went to school, and I wished for the energy to decorate our home for Christmas.
Life isn’t always pretty. There are dark times. There are scary, insecure times when I’m not sure where my life is going, certainly not the direction I had planned. But when I let go and trust God, I feel like it will be okay. Maybe not right now. Maybe I’ll never go back to teaching full-time. Maybe I’ll never be completely healed. I don’t know.
But with every fiber of my being, I have faith that we will be okay.
Izzi’s smile gives me strength, and her words remind me that fresh or broken, dark colors or light, we sure do have a pretty life.
I hope that you, too, are able to find hope and beauty in your world this Christmas.
After all, it is a wonderful life, and God is good.
Keep coloring, my friends.