Our middle child once said to me, “I’d love to hang out for a day with my baby self!” We all start life so fresh, so real and so honest, don’t we? There is something so attractive about that! Who wouldn’t want to hang out with their baby self to get a glimpse of the person they were before all of the layering on began?
Consider yourself warned, I have included pictures of my kids’ baby selves hoping to help you see your own baby self with fresh eyes (and also because I think they are the cutest kids on the planet!).
Maybe a day with our baby selves would help us push the restart button every now and then so we could get reacquainted with the person God so intentionally created as a unique reflection of Himself?
I suspect that we would treat that little person kindly and delight in their unbridled joy and openness to life and their ability to be no one other than themselves.
For my 50th birthday (spoiler alert- I am not young and uber cool) my Mom made me a card featuring my five year old baby self. There she was – hair in a pixie of blonde curls, slightly knock kneed, large brown eyes sporting a red and gray plaid jumper with red knee socks and black Mary Janes! To die for! Who would not want to spend a day with me?!
As I look at sweet little Annie a few key memories flood back about life in the red brick bungalow numbered 524 St Paul Street, Denver CO.
I remember running around on our front lawn one rainy afternoon thoroughly enjoying being wet and barefoot when I stepped in a fresh pile of dog poo. I remember it going through all of my toes. The unbridled terror and panic that ensued still make my stomach lurch a little.
Picture a small wet child screaming like a banshee and spastically shaking her foot until she becomes so hysterical she falls on the sidewalk and rips her knee open. Yep- wet, teary, bloody and poopy all rolled into a five year old gone mad. I still have the scar on my knee.
I remember being the boss of my best friend and neighbor, Myra Newby. I loved Myra Newby. She was steady, loyal and always willing to indulge my developing leadership skills. I always called her Myra Newby. I can’t remember what she called me. It was either Boss or Bossy.
I remember us being a unit. We were the only girls surrounded by five brothers between us. The story goes that I was on the phone with Myra Newby talking her ear off (giving her marching orders) when I accidentally dropped the phone. Once again there was a bit of panic as I quickly picked up the phone to see if she was still alive and breathing. I had, after all, dropped her on her head on the wood floor. I loved Myra Newby. (I’d like to think I was a caring leader in the making.)
I remember the first day of kindergarten. When the teacher was taking role and there was one girl who was apparently not bright enough to respond to her name. “Elizabeth Richardson. Elizabeth Richardson?” “This girl is stupid!” my little self was thinking. “Elizabeth Richardson?” “Elizabeth …Richardson …wait, I think I am Elizabeth Richardson!” Elizabeth Ann Richardson was the name my parents had given me! Annie was what they called me for the five years I had been on the planet. I beseech you, dear friends, who are giving birth to and raising children, name them what you’ll call them!
Then there was the visiting angel. I was sitting in my closet playing with dolls when a large peaceful presence appeared. (I know, strange to be in the closet. Maybe the only place to hide from my two brothers I shared a room with?) It seemed perfectly natural to me to have a large beautiful kind being filling the closet.
Oh, to have that fresh openness to the moment when heaven touches down and meets us right where we are.
The angel gave me a message to give to my young parents who unbeknownst to me were in the midst of some big career decisions for my Dad. He was a fresh seminary grad contemplating a move from the tiny Baptist church where he was working to one of the first versions of a mega church in Denver. He would be working for a man named Charles Blair.
Imagine your little five year old with a head full of unkempt curls emerging from her closet where she has just had an encounter with an angelic being. With a naked doll in her hands she tells you that she has a message for you! WHAAAAAT?
“Jesus says it’s ok for you to go to work for Pastor Blair.” That was it. I had dolls that needed dressing.
My sweet five year old self, she was cute as a button, prone to panic when poop happened, often feeling her way between bossy and leadership and very comfortable in the presence of angels. She was all the raw material of my now 55-year-old self.
When I think of sweet little Annie, I can only have the kindest of thoughts about her.
I find myself wanting to cheer her on knowing that there will be so many twists and turns in her story, places where she will step in some really big poop and freak out and get scars on her heart instead of her knee. Some scars will come from her naiveté and inexperience and some from her own rebelliousness. Either way, I know how much they will hurt and I can only extend grace to her.
I pray for Myra Newby that she somehow managed to go through the rest of her life without my direction. God bless her. Figuring out the fine line between magical powers/the art of persuasion (later refined into leadership) and being bossy would be just one sweet Annie’s many areas of character development. She would have to learn over and over that bossy generally talks with out listening and ends up with someone being dropped on his or her head. But I have to love sweet Annie’s heart of care and compassion right there in the mix.
As for the little Annie that judged Elizabeth Richardson during role call, she would be her own worst critic for much of her life judging herself as less than smart and oh so bossy. This breaks my heart because it is so far from the truth about how God felt about her.
I just want to scoop her up in my arms and tell her to be kind to herself, that we are all in process and doing the best we can. I want to tell her not to give up on herself because God will never leave her or forsake her. He will be faithful to see His good work through to completion!
Lastly, I am challenged by sweet Annie’s ease with the presence of the divine and her openness to being a messenger in the midst of her very important daily duties (Dolls needed to be dressed, people!) She makes me curious about how thin the veil might really be and desirous of having my everyday life interrupted by holy moments.
Thank you, sweet little Annie for reminding me of the open, delightful, passionate, spunky creature God created me to be.
Thank you for reminding me that I need to be kind in the way I think of and speak to myself.
Thank you for reminding me I am fearfully and wonderfully made and that all of the twists and turns and poop and scars of the journey have in the end been used by Him to shape a lovely 55 year old Annie.
I thank you, High God- you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration- what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing to something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day. Psalm 139: 13-16 MSG
I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. Jeremiah 31:3 NIV
Each of us is wild, beautiful and perfectly in process when God is working with a purpose in our hearts. “The Shack”
Give yourself the gift of pouring a cup or a glass and writing a letter to your fresh five year old self. Start it with “Dear Sweet ______,” I promise you’ll discover some things that will help you be the best version of yourself this year.