Linnea has always been a gift. Christmas 2006 the most requested present that I heard from my children was a baby (or a puppy). All four of our kids, ages 4 to 10 were longing for a baby (or a puppy). I finally told them, “Look, you guys are going to have to pray for a baby (or a puppy) because Momma and Daddy can’t make up their minds about either of those things!” So they did. Two days after Christmas I was pregnant.
Linnea was one of those wonderful babies who love to be snuggled as much as you love to snuggle them. I knew that was a gift as I’d already had a couple babies who seemed to think there were better things to do and more important things to find out about. Though we had been saving her name for many years hoping for an opportunity to use it and I loved it very much, most of the time she was simply Baby. She was adored from the beginning by all and if she was ever fussy or annoying to her siblings I would just say, “Remember, you prayed for her!”
We were pleasantly surprised ten months later to find ourselves pregnant again. I guess it is a side effect of having such a lovely, easy-going baby that you aren’t particularly careful not to repeat the process. This time the Big Kids were aged five to eleven and had a great time planning and learning about the new baby’s development. Just as with Linnea, all my prenatal appointments were done at home by midwives who encouraged the siblings to help with Momma’s blood pressure and listening for Baby, etc. As the months passed, I kept saying, “We have to stop calling Linnea Baby, there’s a new baby coming!” But somehow we couldn’t break the habit.
Jeremiah was born as beautiful and robust as his siblings and we were all thrilled. He now had five instant friends and there was never a shortage of arms to hold him. Nothing prepared us for saying goodbye to him three and a half months later. My suddenly empty arms ached as much as my heart. Those dark days were lightened by the comfort of many. Our church family and friends surrounded us and held us up; truly the arms and feet of Jesus.
Linnea was only a few days short of her second birthday when she lost her little brother. It was baffling, I’m certain. She talked about him all the time and her chatter gave us all permission to speak his name. He would never become a taboo topic and we would never stop wrestling with missing him so much.
Because I liked to be up before my kids and after they went to bed, I usually took naps in those days. For many years the whole house would have a Quiet Time in the afternoon when you were expected to rest and read if you didn’t sleep. But that year my number three and four kids were attending public school and numbers one and two didn’t think they needed an afternoon rest anymore. So that left Linnea and I. She had a regular daily nap and was always very good about settling down and sleeping. But every time she saw me stretched out in my recliner – whether or not she had already napped – she would join me.
It became a daily pattern. I’d be stretched out in my chair with an eye mask on and would hear her footsteps on the stairs. She would quietly come in to the living room and stop as soon as she saw me. Then she’d turn around, run back upstairs for Bobo (her teddy bear) and run back. She’d carefully climb up in my lap and snuggle in for more rest. Her little body curled against mine was a balm for my soul. Our shared warmth comforted each other.
Linnea has an infectious smile and laugh. And she loves to make others laugh. More than one person who has gotten to know her has suggested she may grow up to be a comic! Her cheerful heart has truly been good for me like medicine!
Linnea is a sweet servant to those she loves. She will join in any work that needs to be done quickly and cheerfully and often offers to do the chores of her siblings. Sometimes I have to tell her to not help her brother so he can learn to clean his own room!
She also thinks deeply. Her questions challenge me in the best possible ways. At her young age we have already talked at length about life and death. Probably because most of her life has been spent with a sibling in Heaven, she is fascinated by it. And she never lets anyone forget that she has four brothers.
She has been a joy to teach. She is fascinated with animals and loves to read. While math doesn’t come easy, she is tenacious and has adopted the phrase, “I am becoming good at math!”
The question is, “Are these the reasons that I love Linnea?” She thinks so. No matter how many times I have assured her of my never-ending, never-changing Love, she is sure that it is a fragile thing that can be destroyed; or something that she can make grow through her good behavior.
While each of my children is incredibly precious to me, the timing of the gift of Linnea has been perfect. When I was in need of daily comfort she was the physical manifestation of God’s sweet love for me. Today she is teaching me (through her own struggle) that just as she cannot do anything to make me stop loving her or make me love her more, God’s love is infinitely more perfect than my momma love.
I want to be Good. I want to be Nice. Honestly, I want to be Perfect. But even if any of these were possible (and they aren’t on any kind of consistent basis), that would not affect God’s love for me. He demonstrated this Amazing Love by choosing to send His Only Son to live and die on my behalf in order that I might understand His Love a bit and so that I can spend Eternity with Him. In the meantime He has given me His Spirit to comfort and guide me through the mountains and valleys of my days and years.
Just as she cannot do anything to make me stop loving her or make me love her more, God’s love is infinitely more perfect than my momma love.
Linnea and I are learning together to trust and lean on God’s amazing love that has nothing to do with how sweet we are. I do believe that just as I am thrilled when my daughter does something wonderful, God is pleased when I use the gifts He gave me to do the work He gives me. And, just as my love for that girl does not waver a bit even when my patience wears thin and I have to acknowledge that she isn’t perfect, God’s love for me doesn’t waver either! There is nothing I can do to make Him love me more and there is nothing I can do to make Him love me less. It’s a truth I cling to.
We are also learning that we are perfect. Perfectly made, perfectly situated and perfectly equipped for all that God has planned for us.