May 17, 2009
Have you ever loved some one so much that just thinking of them makes your heart swell in a way that no physical act can express? You can kiss them all over, squeeze and hold them tight and still feel like there is all this emotion inside of you to show them.
I remember the first time I felt this indescribable love. I was 24 years old. The Man of my Dreams and I had been married for just a year and a half when our little angel surprised us by arriving a month early. There was one most beautiful baby in the world, and I had her! Just as I expected, she was the most incredible thing I had ever laid my eyes on. What I didn’t expect was this omnipotent, omni-present feeling that consumed me. It was so overwhelming that I felt guilty for it.
But I didn’t have to feel guilty for long. She wasn’t but a few weeks old and I was standing in the doorway of her nursery watching her Daddy hold her. He was talking to her, kissing on her, telling her how much he loved her, when he said it. He told her that he had never loved anything like he loved her. Whew! What a relief. It wasn’t just me! We were both crazy in love with our little Victoria Madison May.
And so it has been for nearly 13 years. Our baby girl will be a teenager on June 5. As a little girl, her vivid imagination was always entertaining. Despite my early boycott of Disney movies, she was about three when she decided regularly to break out in her version of “Just around the river bend” and transform herself into Pocohantas. Upon her direction, her Daddy became her brave John Smith. She also decided she wanted her thin, fine blonde hair to look like that of her Indian heroine – and consequently refused to let us cut it for years. (Let me be clear, it wasn’t pretty.)
Through the years, and with the help of some key teachers, coaches and family members, Madison has grown into an incredible young woman. She is all of those things you would expect a proud mom to say about her kid – so I will spare you. There aren’t enough words or time to write about how proud I am of her and how I love the young woman she is becoming. She’s not perfect, but she knows what she’s perfecting. Right now, I think that is about all I can ask for.
Last week, my now 5’6”, 95-pound baby, lined up at an Invitational Track meet here in Columbia. Although she had won the seventh grade mile race three weeks in a row, this meet combined seventh and eighth grade athletes. And not just any eighth grade athletes. Nicole and Bianca Mello are twin sisters and amazing athletes. They, like Madison, are following in their father’s footsteps; he is an elite triathlete. The Mello girls are both incredible swimmers and runners. Nicole holds the record at Madison’s middle school and on this beautiful afternoon, Madison lines up next to her with realistic expectations.
She knows she’s not there to beat the Mello girls. She’s there to beat herself. Her goal for the race was to break 6 minutes, which would be a Personal Record by 6 seconds. I was scared to death for her, worried that she would go out too fast and not leave anything for the end of the race. I was worried that running up next to the older girls would break her spirit and deflate her. I was terrified she wouldn’t meet her goal and taste disappointment.
I was worried. She was not. She jogged back and forth inside the track to warm up, looking as calm and confident as I had ever seen her look. They called the runners to the track, gave them instructions and told them to take their places. The gun went off and my heart pounded all the harder.
Her Daddy was at the 200 (half way around the track), telling her that she was right on pace for an 85 second quarter. As she came around to the grandstand, I couldn’t contain my pride. I was so proud of her fearless approach to achieving her goal. She stayed on pace through the second and third laps. With 200 to go in the race, the Mello girls were well out of reach, but an eighth grader was just ahead of Madison and she kept her eyes on the prize – getting under 6 minutes. She took off and I knew it was going to be close and she was going to have to give it all she had. As she passed in front of me, I yelled and willed her to the line as much as I possibly could.
My eyes filled with tears and I got goose bumps all over my body.
She had done it by fearlessly running her race.
As I look around me today, I see so many people paralyzed by fear. They fear losing their jobs, their spouse, the love (or approval) of their children or their own self-respect. What about public speaking, dying, and failing? Or being alone and not being able to make ends meet?
I see people try to motivate others with fear. And I see people respond – at least for a while. For most it’s only a temporary response, as the consequences that are feared eventually become more desirable than the state of constantly fearing the unknown.
I’ve always found it interesting that the Bible mentions fear 365 times; it’s a daily devotional waiting to be written. In all these verses, God makes it clear that the only thing worth fearing is him.
After the race, I asked Madison if she was scared as the race started. “No, I was just ready to do this thing.” Later I asked her if she feared anything. She pondered my question and eventually answered me with tears in her eyes, “I’m only scared of losing people that I love.”
Me too. You too – I bet.
Maybe my girl is strong and fearless because she hasn’t experienced enough heartache to know what she should fear. Maybe, and hopefully, she’s just going to be secure in who she is and understand she can only control so much of life.
If I could give her one gift as she turns into a teenager, it would be that the confidence she demonstrated on the track permeate every aspect of her life. I would gift her the ability to always run her race, to not get caught up in the competition, and to celebrate life with those who love her.
And then, we could all learn by her example.