204 months – a gushing birthday letter to my 17 year old

Dear Mallory,

For 17 years we’ve been your parents. Man, we parents really lose it during the teen years, don’t we? We used to be super attentive and excited about your little pinky twitching. We used to laugh – even cheer – at your flatulence! How times have changed. We used to tell anyone within earshot about your latest developments, like when you FINALLY rolled over at 8 months (too many people heard about how you really liked to sit as a baby), how your first word was “watch” at 9 months (how did your little mouth wrap around such an obscure reference), how you got most of your other words all mixed up and backwards, like “phone-miker” instead of “microphone” or “beltseat” instead of “seatbelt,” many of which have found a permanent place in our familial vernacular.

We actually used to make appointments with our friends to show you off. Ha! They thought we were there to visit with them, but we just wanted to show them what you were up to. I don’t even know if they rolled their eyes at us because I was too busy looking at you.

We were nuts about you and everyone knew it.

Here’s the thing – we’re still nuts about you, so at what point did we stop celebrating your milestones?

Mallory at 204 months old

Think about it. Now, at 204 months, you’re  walking across full rooms without help. You’re walking to the bus stop,  you’re walking to school. You’re walking, walking all the time and we never mention it all. It’s got to be disappointing that we don’t notice all that walking you’re doing.

You don’t just say “watch” anymore, you say mouthfuls of words! You’re talking not only to people, but on devices too! You’re expressing emotion and voicing opinions. You’re using your words ! Why aren’t we celebrating this?

Let’s talk about how you no longer just sit and roll over. You play SPORTS. Your father and I hardly know what sports are.  Here you are tapping into these latent skills and excelling! You got 98% in P.E. last year.  How’s that even possible, are you an Olympian? You’re on the volleyball and badminton teams and you were on the BOYS BASEBALL TEAM last year. At 204 months, you are showing up your immobile kin and you’re showing up society. Barriers, inherited and societal, are to be overcome! Good for you, 204 month old!

What about the driving! We put a steering wheel in your hands and told you to press go with your right foot, and stop with your right foot again–no, that’s the gas, yes, that’s the brake–and you didn’t look back, except to check your mirrors. I watch you take it all so seriously and try not to inhale too quickly when you’re taking the corner wide. You’re DOING THIS. You’re transporting us to A & B [somewhat] safely. How do you exist?

Mallory Driver

Truthfully, you’re not even overly keen on driving, other than to recognize that it’s probably a helpful tool should you want to leave the city. But you love being in the city. You navigate the transit system like nobody I know. You don’t even stick to the subway lines, you’re on buses and streetcars, alighting and transferring left, right and centre. A week or so ago, you did more touring of Toronto in one day than I have done in my lifetime. You tell me it’s easy – you just need fare and the TTC app and the city is your oyster. But just because you make it look easy, doesn’t mean it is! Don’t negate the fearlessness and aptitude required to tame the Red Rocket like you do. You are a super hero.

Mallory in the city

If the goal of parenting is to move one’s children towards independence, we realistically stopped parenting you at month 40.

You have delighted us consistently over the last 204 months.

Mallory Sign 1

But I want to be clear about this. Our delight may look like it’s about what you do, but it’s actually about who you are.  All those cheers for your baby flatulence weren’t because we hoped you’d win Fastest Farter in the West, but because it showed us that you were healthy and functioning properly. We’d hardly care about that 98% in gym except it reveals something about your character and how you like to challenge yourself.

If our love were dependent on what you do, how would we handle that time you got 27% on a test or the way you have totally forgotten how to make your bed over the past couple of years. Even those things reveal something (as you explain that for all the sleeping you’re doing in this season of life, it makes almost zero sense to make a bed).

If I were to encapsulate who we see you becoming, who God intended you to be, what comes most to mind as your enter your 205th month and 18th year, I see you as an adventurer and lover of life. You are very willing to try new things and even seek out new experiences. Truly, and now is the time to say it, I credit you for making every single one of our moves – even the one to Ghana – a joy. To see the world through your eyes, to watch how you embrace the challenges, well, you help us all adjust and probably curbed a freakout or two.

At 204 months, you find yourself in yet another new home. While I’ve been tempted to grieve the change, you’re excited about living in a high-rise – a community of a couple thousand people in one building. You’ve already invited your friends over and went on a mission to find out where the heck the gym was and discovered that the penthouse floor is really just the same as our floor only at the top. You’re learning, learning, always learning. I want to celebrate that – that as long as you’re curious about the world around you, you will continue to grow and develop. New things every month – this is life you live and we celebrate.

I love how you love God, openly wrestling with deep questions without losing your trust in him. You teach me, young one! The way you love others, deeply, loyally and how you think big, important thoughts that the world needs to hear… how am I so privileged to sit at the table or on the couch or by your bed, your only audience, to hear from you? Sometimes I’m afraid to talk because it means you’ll stop. These are golden moments.

Your Daddy and I have many secret conversations (we’ve cut down on the appointments with friends to brag about you) where we actually get giddy about how precious you are.. Our hearts burst or hurt in the rhythm of your own joy or pain. We see you becoming that girl, that young woman God made you to be.  This birthday, my only advice to you is to keep going!  You’re doing it, you’re WALKING!

And we’re celebrating!

Mallory Selfie

Happy Birthday, Mallory!

Love, Mommy

P.S. Have I mentioned how you can laugh at yourself.

Mallory 204 Months Old

Behind the scenes photo…

Mallory Behind the Scenes 1

Literally, “behind” the scenes.

Preparing for Ghana

Six times, I have prepared for a trip to Ghana.  I’ve anticipated each trip differently.  Sometimes I’ve been very excited about going, like that one time where we thought we’d sell everything to move there.  Other times I’ve worried about it because the responsibilities seemed great.  I can remember a particular tumultuous time in my family’s life and a trip to Ghana felt like the very wrong thing to do at the time. But the ticket had been booked and I had to go.  I remember bawling as I walked through customs.  The agents and officers were very concerned for me and I was whisked through every line with an accompanying pat on the back.  I highly recommend this tactic for ease of travel.

I’m now preparing for my “final trip,” as in the last time I will go to Ghana for the purpose of doing business.  If and when I go again, after this trip, it will be for the mission… although ONE DAY I will go just to spend time with my lovely friends there.  Just visiting with them seems like an exorbitant luxury.

This time, it’s not my business, it’s the business of the new owners of Big Village, the fair-trade business I started by accident when we moved back to Canada. I’m actually allowing myself to get excited about this trip!  I get to introduce them to this beautiful place, these welcoming people.  I get to tell them to ignore the Travel Report because there is no context given for the warmth and friendliness of the place that I’ve known for over six years now.

The new owners of Big Village have done some amazing things already with the business.  They’ve already gained a couple fantastic contracts and are making new partnerships all the time.  I spent some time with them the other day and got so excited about their plans and developments, I had to tell John-Mark all about it as soon as I got home.

“They are doing so, so, so well!” I said.

“Do you wish it was you?” he asked. Jerk.

“Not at all!”

What a great peace I have about it, to know that I could be so very happy for them and their success and not want even a smidge of it.

Not only that, but I had suspected God was pulling me deeper into ministry.  I didn’t know how to say that any other way.  I wrote about it when I sent out that final newsletter to my customers back in the fall.  I imagine that many didn’t understand because I couldn’t articulate exactly what that would look like, where it would be, or how that sentiment would pay the bills.  Mostly it was J-M asking me about that last one.

I prematurely told my friends, don’t worry, I’ll ease off on the use of “Ghana” a little now. I won’t add to the end of all your stories, “Well in Ghana…”  It is so annoying.  I know.  I can’t stop.

But then as J-M talked to me about the ongoing mission partnership with our church.  There is such a great forward momentum happening in Ghana, with new ministerial candidates approved, churches joining in and growing, the land purchase and construction for the women’s college… and yet not a lot of news getting out over here.  There is a lot of work to be done, as much as there is work in Ghana.

Well, hello! My passion is blabbing, either by mouth or by keyboard.  I already talk about Ghana ad nauseum.  I already know and love the people on both sides of the ocean who are committed to this project.   I can do this!

I’d stepped away from the Ghana project for a time – not in heart, but in task – because I needed to.  I was feeling a little burnt out by it all.  So I made up my mind after an intense debrief with good counsellors who said it was OK to let go.  Rob Corey stepped in just in time and had the exact skills and energy necessary to take this partnership to the place where it is now.

Since then – for 2+ years – I’ve been a big cheerleader, especially for J-M, who saw his job morph into the position of Pastor of Missions.  He now co-leads with Rob on the project and they have a great planning team.  But as I mentioned, it’s growing!  It’s growing in a way that needs full-time support.  I find myself with some time on my hands, a desire to spread the word, and the ability to do it.  With Rob and J-M at the helm and a great team besides.  All I need to do is write words?  All I need to do is tell people about it?  No brainer!

Now as I pack my bags for Ghana (that I’m getting really good at), I find myself again thinking of new possibilities, ways to communicate, pictures to take, questions to ask, stories to tell.  And still I feel the pull deeper.

We are currently developing a website (launching June 3) for the Ghana-Canada partnership, Arise Ghana.  (In the meantime, check it out on Facebook.)

One of my self-appointed tasks is to track down photos from old teams and projects to help us have a good memory of the project and how far we’ve come along.  This is also distracting me from packing because I discover pictures that move me to tears.  I see the friendships that have been formed on both sides.  I see the way people connect at a deep level because of the shared love of Jesus.  I see us ministering to each other.  I’m not saying that there hasn’t been bumps in the road, but there are many, many moments of celebration.

When I was going through the photos of our time living there, I was asking J-M which ones I should put on the public site?  He said only those that are ministry related.  That helps me not at all.

See, I think this counts…

Pastor Charles praying for the future Women’s Business College (2007).

…and so does this.

Mallory and Sophia find a unique way to cool off in the Ghanaian sun.