Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Child-Sized Me

Lately I have been thinking about how I was as a little girl; sometimes the things I remember surprise me. As adults we often leave meaningful and special parts of ourselves behind in our childhoods as we grow in our own self-importance. My first name, Julie, means youthful and I desire to remain youthful. I am not being unrealistic; I know I am growing old like everyone else and have to embrace the natural losses coming with age. But in these vintage years I find myself wanting to be more fully myself, and for me that means embracing some of the forgotten parts of the younger me.

I am absolutely relieved to leave behind some things – those things harmful to me, things Jesus has touched and healed. But even in my chaotic childhood home the little girl me had something the grown-up me has hidden from others, and sometimes from myself. When I remember the books I read and loved I begin to find her there out of doors dreaming up all kinds of beautiful stories. Isn’t it incredible how much life I had to live before I was brave enough to write and share my stories, wanderings and discoveries with others? Writing is a gift the child in me loved and shared. I was braver then.

I lived in my own imaginative world where trees and animals were my friends. Being out in the woods was the best therapy a hurt, lonely, little me could find. There in the trees or in wide open spaces I appreciated the miracles of nature. Beauty fed my soul and gave hope for stories with happy endings. In my grown-up world I have come to accept there are not always happy endings here on the earth, but I have also discovered treasures in the difficulties – the good gifts only a perfect, loving Father could give. And I suppose when I look back at the child-sized me, it was in the midst of dark days I first noticed, without realizing what I was experiencing, the seeds planted there producing hope and more.

It was there in the dark places God wove a hopeful, determined spirit as I delighted in the changes of the seasons; studied bugs, leaves, flowers and trees; asked questions; read books; pretended I was a mommy, an Avon lady or an astronaut; jotted down phrases and thoughts and listened to the elderly folks in my life. As of late I am reminded more and more of the little girl me and I seek to embrace those parts of myself hidden in life’s brokenness and busyness.

As I go back in my mind to the days of the little girl, here are some of the things I find to be true about her and true about me when I choose to embrace the truth about who God made me.

  • absolutely fascinated by nature – restored by being out in the woods, on a mountain or by the ocean
  • delights in making things, creating beauty
  • loves word play (not word games) by reading or turning a phrase – creating word pictures and rhyming words
  • observant and sensitive
  • loves flowers and bright colors
  • hopeful and imaginative
  • surprisingly bold for an introverted child playing the role of caretaker/pleaser
  • sentimental, and with this comes a place in my heart for valuing the good in the people I grew up around and with
  • love for and appreciation of the elderly
  • a free spirit – able to wonder, play and dream for hours without any other type of entertainment
  • loves learning without the need to be an expert, but purely for the joy of learning
  • feisty and determined – helps me keep moving forward when things get tough
  • love for animals particularly horses, puppies and kittens
  • traveled the world through books – fascinated by geography, folk tales and wild animals and their habitats

Connecting with these parts of myself are reminders of how curious I am and why I was willing to capture a slimy banana slug and take it home to share with my girls, or put a caterpillar in a jar to watch the metamorphosis from chrysalis to butterfly. Some things I have remembered about the little girl me has opened up places of creativity long forgotten. In growing up and leaving behind important parts of the child me, I found myself taking on others’ beliefs about the good in life and forgetting the delight I took as a child in these gifts.

When my girls were young we got a kitten. The adults in my childhood family did not like cats, and eventually I was convinced I didn’t like cats either. But after we got Sassy for our girls I began to remember how much I loved furry, purring kittens. I remembered the times I managed to get a kitten for myself as a little girl in spite of the adults’ inability to appreciate that a cat could be a pet and weren’t just for mousing. Recently spending more time with elderly people reminded me of how blessed I was to grow up with so many elderly people in my life. I learned to appreciate and value the elderly. Accepting my desire to learn doesn’t mean I have to be an expert but to let myself embrace learning for the surprise and wonder it keeps alive in me.

Your turn. Think back to the child you left behind. Are you surprised by anything? What are the things you do today that remind you of your younger self? Is there any freedom, openness or creativity you remember and long to embrace and live out in your life again? In case you find yourself a little put off by the idea, I am not talking about childishness but child-like qualities that are true of you and compliment the adult you. What influenced you toward good? What delighted you? What made you curious? How can you incorporate more of this in your life today?

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