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It comes like this – a student academic report, downloadable from the parent portal at our school, and I can feel it. The clench of anxiety. I’ve done the school mum thing for two-and-a-half years, the fear lessens every year, but I’ll never forget the first semester. What will it say? What will the grades be? Then arguing with myself, he’s a tiny child, who cares what this says. But it is a hard fight.

A midwife pulls a baby out of you, and the first thing they do is give your child an Apgar score, these are points, like the baby is seconds old and already they can win or lose. Within the first hour of their lives, the babies are measured again. Their weight, length and head circumference go into a book. It becomes a baseline for their first few years. And for the vast majority of us, the numbers will be fine. Normal, the doctor will declare at every wellness check, and you, Mom and Dad, you will breathe out the air you did not know you held. Relief upon relief because at every appointment you’re wanting to know the answer to the question you ask daily: Is my baby going to be ok?

Month after month, year after year, our children are eyed up and down by medical professionals. Soon they attend kindergarten where the measurements change. Social skills, verbal ability, fine motor skills. Can he hop? Can she stack blocks? There will be playdates and Christmas dinners where your in-laws and friends will observe them and remark about so-and-so’s child who does it differently. School comes swiftly and now it’s about their ability to read and add and subtract and sit still and pay attention.

It’s time to open the file with their academic report. Your kid just finished half a year of prep or grade 1 or kindergarten. One report down, 23 more to go, each one more important than the next. It is an unrelenting snowball of measuring sticks. You’re not converting from the imperial system to metric. No, you are negotiating the numbers and letters used to define your child.

Because everything in you wants your child to measure up. Upward toward glorious destinies. No culture in the world celebrates children achieving less than their parents. Western, Eastern, Southern, Northern, you ask a parent anywhere. They want more for their kids. We want our kids to excel where we excelled. We want them to excel where we failed.

We don’t have much patience for failure. These days even mediocrity feels like a dirty word.  

And we are 2019 parents – we are better educated about what kids need and how they work. We’ve got our time-ins, choices, positive AND peaceful parenting. We have speech and occupational therapists who can correct deficiencies early. And when all of that fails, we have the Internet with its vast storehouse of folklore cum research. You could diagnose your child before you ever take him into a doctor’s office.

We are informed. We are motivated. Maybe we are also stressed? We hold in our hands a variety of rulers and thermostats. Ready to take the measurements. Ready to answer our most fragile of questions: Will this child be ok?

Because isn’t this our question behind every weight check and report card? Aren’t we just wanting someone else to tell us, In this big, bad, broken world, your precious child is going to be fine.

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Bad news, Mom and Dad. No one can tell you that.

You aren’t prepared for that teacher who only sees everything your son does wrong.

I promise somewhere there is a coach who does not believe your daughter is a future Olympic athlete.

No one is ready for that call from the principal’s office.

You don’t know when it is your turn to sit in a doctor’s office and receive the news that will tear your world to shreds.

Nothing can prepare us for the disappointments inherent in loving our children.

Here’s what we get to do instead.

When the world comes for us with its instruments and measurements, gently put them down.

Turn to your beloved child and bear witness.

Watch her struggle. Listen to his fears. Tell them they can do hard things. Do hard things with them. Pick them up and drive them home when they don’t.

Stand on the sidelines of their life and cheer.

Cheer for them when you see them triumph over the thorns in their flesh. Cheer for the things only you could see. Cheer when they get it right. Cheer when they get it wrong. You aren’t cheering because of their behavior. It’s your child, because it is him, it is her, they are yours, you get to cheer for them no matter what.

Ignore the sheet that tells you they need to be here or they have to get there. Train your mind, teach your heart to see just him. Just her. Just this child who is yours who will be measured everyday of their life by the rest of the world.

But not by you. No. There’s one place where they will know the measurements don’t exist. When they come home and they know it is all love.

Hi, I’m Devi, and I’m so glad you read this post today. I write about family and faith and every now and then, food. I post stories and images almost daily on Instagram – I’d love to get to know you better and chat, so say hi in the comments or send me a message.

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Dear Devi,

You’re turning 21 tomorrow, and because you’re a good girl who signed a school document, you won’t be going out for an initiation drink. It’s ok; I’m almost 31 and I still wonder why people get excited about their first legal drink.

We need to talk about a few things because this next decade is going to make your head spin, and it’s not just because 80s fashion comes back in style. Maybe I shouldn’t have told you that.

Speaking of style, eventually you let go of those bell bottoms and cargo pants, but it takes you a long, long time. Skinny jeans are your friend. Trust me. Or maybe don’t, but trust your sisters. They will always be honest with you. It’s time to get rid of the black in your closet and embrace colour. Learn to stand out. The shadows are full of people; you don’t need to stay there. Go somewhere else, you don’t need approval or affirmation, speak and write what is on your heart, the more you do it the more you will see that darkness is no place to live.

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Keep your hair long. Your friend, Amy, always told you to do that, and you can trust her. There aren’t a lot of trustworthy women out there, and you have certainly had your share of bad friends. Don’t trust everyone. Just because someone is nice or outgoing or popular doesn’t mean they will stay with you, listen to you and nurture your heart. It’s better to go through life without friends than with bad friends. Friendship takes time to cultivate; wait for the right ones so that you can grow together.

You often feel depressed at the lack of male interest in you, and I hate to tell you that it’s going to be several more years before you go out on your first date, six-and-a-half in fact. Yeah, I see you cringing at the thought of spending most of the Saturday evenings of your 20s alone, and I know that there will be tears – many – as you wonder if there is anyone out there who will ever love you.

Would you feel better if I told you that your first date will be in Geneva, Switzerland? (Europe. Yes. You make it over there.) So this date, it’s with a man who picks you up on a motorbike, and you go out for brunch and a walk and then he takes you sailing on Lake Geneva.

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Devi, it’s just the beginning.

Six weeks after that, you’ll start a relationship, five months after he tied the sails, sat down in the boat and started rambling about his feelings for you and five months after you spent 10 minutes detailing how much you loved being single, the two of you will start planning for your marriage because you will know that this is it. And nine months after the boat, he takes the day off work to surprise you in the apartment where you first met. There is a ring in his pocket. You say, Yes. To him. To a new place. To a new life. To everything.

Yes is a good word, by the way. You’re an expert at saying no, and it has protected you from many of life’s dangers, but spend your 20s learning to say yes to the good things, the trustworthy people, your faithful God. Say yes to those things and watch as your life blossoms. You will be shocked at the risks you take as you walk dangerous roads, exchange words with people you don’t know on airplanes and trains, write words of truth that others hate and learn to love and accept people into your life.

Loving people is the greatest risk you can ever take. It also brings the most wonderful rewards. 

So back to the other thing – this man who you thought would never show up and then does. You heard your whole life that marriage is hard and is supposed to make you holy not happy and of course it is, and you’re going to have plenty of hard seasons of life as a married couple. But this man is going to take your lifetime hoard of marriage sermons, books and advice from well-meaning people, and his life will throw those things out of the window.

His story was written by grace, and through him grace is going to re-write your story. He’s not the man you expected, his kindness will often infuriate you and the even, unhurried, gracious pace with which he lives his life will drive you nuts, but when you’re feeling a little nutty, stop. For a minute.

He builds a roof of patience, forgiveness and grace covering you. Look at the walls he puts around you of honour, respect and tenderness. And under your feet he sets a foundation of truth and peace that hold you steady as the two of you fight your battles.

Do not despise the house he builds. This man will be the single, greatest gift you have ever received in your life. So wait patiently for six-and-a-half more years. They will pass quickly .

You should know that you won’t be having a celebratory drink on your 31st birthday either, not because you can’t and not because you don’t like alcohol. Eventually, you will discover a great love for white wine and champagne. The no-drinking for your 31st has more to do with the baby inside of you, the second in two years.

Yes, babies, they happen to you. Can you believe it? I can’t either. And no, you are still not a baby person as much as you are crazy about yours. You are still more than happy to not hold or coo over anyone else’s and grimace on the inside when adoring mothers ask if you want to hold their baby.

But your baby, your Small One, conceived unexpectedly, born after a completely natural labor and birth (and yes, you get your birth fantasy with the first one, and it was as amazing as you thought it would be). This baby, you can’t hold him enough. You never want to put him down. You cry into his neck, you weep at the sight of him, he snuggles into you and every part of your heart shatters, and you bawl from the mind-boggling, body-breaking, unending exhaustion of it all.

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You paid lip service to becoming a stay-at-home-mom; even though it wasn’t something you truly wanted for your life, you still said you would do it because you knew it was the right thing to say to your crowd. Always the good girl. Well, you will have your first two children in a completely different place, one where it’s not the right thing to stay at home, where people will wonder if you do anything or if you’re just overprivileged, and ironically this will be the place where you stop paying lip service to this life and embrace it instead. Not as the greatest thing you could do with your life or your time because that is a ridiculous idea.

Sometimes you know that what you do with who you are cannot be explained and you become secure enough to know it does not need to be justified or applauded. Sometimes we do something with our lives just because we know it is right. And that is enough. 

Dear girl, what else can I say about this decade? Only perhaps that even after four continents, deep friendships, living a lot of life, falling in love, staying in love, diapers and cuddles, you are still left wanting so much more. So hold on to this truth – there is more to come.

A good work is beginning in you, and the One who started it all will keep you going until the end. He will finish what he started.

Take care,
almost-31-year-old Devi

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February 4, 2009 is not a date I often forget. Four years ago yesterday, I boarded an EasyJet flight in London’s Stanstead Airport in the middle of the largest snow storm London faced in 18 years. The plane was bound for Geneva, Switzerland. Of all the flights I’ve taken in my almost 31 years of living, this was undoubtedly the flight that changed the direction of my life.

I almost didn’t take it. 

The original flight was for February 3, but I missed it because of the icy roads, and I do remember walking through crowds of people sleeping on the floors of the airport, the snaking queues at the information counters full of people who needed new tickets, and I remember mentally calculating the contents of my Australian bank account, wondering if I could afford another ticket, knowing that it was going to be very, very tight.

I stood at the EasyJet counter and asked; the next flight for Geneva would leave in 17 hours and would cost me – if memory serves – 70 British pounds. I went for a wander around the airport to think, to pray; there was no way I was making this decision unless I was certain.

Here’s what I wrote in my journal that morning:

I had wanted to go back to Melbourne with this testimony – “Not a flight missed, not a bag lost, God is good!!!” – and today I missed my first flight.

The last 24 hours, I’m not sure how I could have made it without Jesus. The weather turned ugly, we couldn’t drive out to the airport this morning. Stansted was closed yesterday – I hoped today as well. I was wrong. Not only was it open, my flight left pretty much on time.

I go back and forth in all honesty. Here was a perfect opportunity to go somewhere else – Paris to see Jess, Belfast to see Aoife, etc. I prayed, read James 1 – trials make me steadfast, God gives his wisdom, do not have doubt. And there is God’s voice again – Go to Geneva.

So here I am, about to spend 17 hours in an airport to go to a place where as of now I have no place to stay, I know no one, and I am down to my last few Australian hundred dollars.

Jesus, I believe you are with me. You will not and have not and have NEVER in my life left me or forsaken me. You are sovereign and know all things, this day, the last 24 hours are not, were not, outside of your knowledge or comprehension. You knew it all. And you are bringing me to a spacious place, you are bringing me to your will.

The short story is that I went to Geneva, had a difficult, exhilarating, daring and normal two weeks where I met a wonderful group of people including a man who would feed me spaghetti, and three months later take me on my first real date, pray for me, hold my hand at the airport, write daily emails and one year later ask me to be his wife. I said yes, and after getting married – a year-and-a-half after February 4, 2009 – Geneva has been our home ever since.

I write this down today, as I did last year and as I probably will year after year after year because I never want to forget: Following Jesus is worth it. It is worth it when he leads us into pain, it is worth it when it means that we suffer, it is worth it when he leads us to the man we marry, it is worth it when he brings us people to love, it is worth it when he breaks our heart. When we listen to Jesus’ voice, do what he says and do it for him, it is all worth it. 

I say this to you today in whatever circumstances you face, even as I say it to myself and pray that this year this truth would be etched even deeper in my heart – You will never regret saying yes to Jesus.