Praying for you sweetheart. Know that we are so proud of you. It seems like just yesterday we were helping your mom and dad protect you from the difficulties of the world. Today you take the next step in protecting us. God bless you and keep you.
I sit here remembering the second time we were together. (The first time doesn't count because you were on your best behavior brought on by whatever threats your mom and dad came up with that day). You were so angry. Angry at me for coming into "Uncle German's" life and in your eight year old eyes, that was usurping your place. You could not begin to understand that Uncle German had already made it clear that you and your brother and sister were of utmost importance to him, and I must like you. You could not fathom how I could have started to love you long before I ever met you. You only saw me as an interloper and took every opportunity to lash out at me. Perhaps it was all my fault in your mind--after all you wouldn't have been moving from your home if Uncle German hadn't married me, moved to Birmingham and transferred your daddy to come work for him. At any rate, on this second meeting, you were not happy about going places at all. We were there to help your mom and dad paint the house to get it ready to sell. There in your little girl shoes, you stamped your feet and made it clear that going places was not what you wanted to do.
Who would have thought that it was just the beginning of the places you would go?
Fast forward four years. We were all going places again. This time to England. This move you were happy to make. In fact, you and your brother conspired to come earlier than your mom and sister. This time, instead of the bad guy, I got to be the solution. I could be at the hotel with you between school and your dad finishing work. You looked so grown up in your public school uniform! You hated the "practical" black shoes you were forced to wear with the uniform, but the rest was a grand adventure. You were so excited to make new friends, see new things, and spread your wings.
Spread your wings you did. In fact it was just a short time and you were going places again. This time, wearing rugby shoes, back to America for university. I kept thinking of that eight year old I met, but I was faced with a soon-to-be eighteen year old. You had grown into such a self-assured and beautiful young woman. I was proud that you now not only considered me "Aunt" but also friend. I could not love you more if there were a blood relationship. As I prayed for your university education, I marveled at the young woman God had destined for you to become.
Today, I sit her thinking of the new places you are going. You have traded your trendy boots for more durable options. You have just spent your first week in ROTC Leadership Training. I shouldn't be surprised that you chose the military as an option for your future since your grandpa, mother and father all faithfully served. But there is a part of me that quivers and quakes at your decision. Not that you can't cut it--my rugby playing, no-holds-barred, tell-it-like-you-see-it, sweet niece--I know you can cut it. But it is the places you could go with this decision that give me pause. I know that you will serve where ever you are sent and do a wonderful job at it. I pray that those places are out of harms way. I pray that your heart and your mind are protected from the things that you are likely to see in the coming years. I know the One who holds the places where you are going; don't ever lose sight of Him.
How easy it was to let you go some places. How hard it is now! Praying for you!
The picture is courtesy of www.morguefile.com and the photographer is "kakisky".