simple can be so grand
I find her note on my desk. It’s just a yellow sticky note written in ballpoint, but the print is her own. I can almost see her hand gripping the pen.
That’s it, a small, blinding-bright effort to encourage, inspired by some of Ann Voskamp’s ideas for living given I’ve slapped up on our refrigerator door with a few magnets. It’s a letter but a sentence long, and yet so full.
For instance, I can hear her giggle as she writes the Jones, like the sound is somehow trapped beneath the ink strokes. The letters tilt, jaunty. This has been her way of naming me for at least the better part of a year–more, even. It’s her version of a nickname, a happy bit of humor to affectionately call me by something other, a habit of hers that always makes me laugh. There’ll be no keeping up with the Joneses for me because I already am Jones, but it’s only worth envying because it means I’m her mom. Riley is rigidly correct about so many things, brought to tears by the idea that she might have, by some mistake, been displeasing. That she would nickname me at all captures oceans of comfortable, bleary-eyed, you-are-safe-for me love.
And then that sentence, just the one: Thank you for taking care of me, Adam, and Zoe. She’s etched the “t” three times darker than the rest of the letters; her pen probably chose just then to run dry. But it’s made a cross right in the center of my mothering, as though she can see that this whole thing runs deeper for me than dishes and laundry and food. That one simple sentence with it’s continuing tense says, you have, you do, and I trust that you will take care of me. She lists my babies in birth order like they’ll always be—three opulent chronological gifts. And aren’t those two words some of the most beautiful of all? Thank you, just the plainest arrangement of letters and that “T” another crossbeam, conveying I see you; I see what you do; and yes, it matters. The enemy of us all loves to make us think he can breathe on us and make us invisible, that we have to spend our lives proving we’re really significant. Amazing that the solid Truth can be contained in the smallest bits of encouragement–the truth that we’re all significant enough for a Cross, that He is the God who sees us (Genesis 16:13). I’m in the desert of an afternoon, and here He comes, wrapped up in a simple note stuck to the middle of my desk. Her gratitude acknowledges me and every single thing I’ve done all day, like an exhale.
It makes me smile, the way she’s signed it: love your daughter not love, your daughter, and oh, I do. Riley struggled with relationships for so long, and now she never fails to make a formal thing of them. It’s a serious thing at the end, the notation of who she is in relation to me. When she talks to Kevin about me, she always says your wife, as though maybe we might forget the preciousness of the connection. Sometimes I wonder if we’ve all dropped those words from our salutations–Love, your friend; Love, your daughter–because we have allowed the grandness of their meaning to become a formality. She’s right to treasure her relationships, to write that word daughter like the title it really is.
I pick up the note, gently fingering one up-turned edge, and it’s glory rushing in, chasing shadows. Riley spoke her first full sentence at 5 years old–“I want to go outside.” I still remember gripping the door handle too hard because I thought maybe I might fall down. I had pulled words from her for years, an effort over which we both shed many tears. And now, she’s more eloquent with just a few words than I am with hundreds, so purehearted is the love she conveys.
Jesus once said, “When you pray, don’t talk on and on like people do who don’t know God. They think God likes to hear long prayers (Matthew 6:7 CEV).” Riley’s note reminds me of the wealth of this truth. Prayer doesn’t have to be verbose to be effective; it doesn’t even have to be articulate. It doesn’t take many words to offer love. I imagine that my plain love smacked up in God’s eye view is enough, just Abba–which really means Daddy–uttered in my own voice, or maybe now something still more affectionate, a happily familiar name, enough to be offered with a grin: my rest. Thank you for taking care of me and mine–that “t” three times drawn by my earnest heart in the shape of the Cross. Love–oh, such love, your daughter–this last bit spoken in absolute awe, the lavish title He bought for me, and dare I use a new name He’s given? Beloved, Redeemed, All-new.
“Do you like my note?” Riley asks from the doorway, leaning in, the long brassy braid falling off of her shoulder.
I look up and smile, taking her in. “Oh, I do. It’s perfect.”