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Sixteen years ago, about this time actually, I was holding my newest baby girl, Kristine Michele.  I was exhausted but elated.  The nurses had, for some reason, taken a long time to get her washed up, measured, and so forth and so by the time they brought her to me in my room I was dying to get my arms around her.  She likes to tell the story, after seeing her birth on video, of how she cried and cried when she was first born but the moment they laid her on my chest she immediately stopped and just looked at me with her big brown eyes.  You can’t recreate or fully describe moments like that.  An instant bond was created with this new little one, who tried coming out with one hand extended above her head, as if to shake our hands and announce herself to the world.  When I was growing up I always thought I’d be a good mom to boys, since I was such a tomboy.  God knew better and blessed me with three girls instead and Kristine rounded out the family well.  She was a really happy baby, probably partly due to being third and her parents being much more relaxed this time around.  She was delighted to be entertained by her big sisters goofy antics and stories and was soon up and walking to follow them around.  They probably don’t know how much she has always looked up to them, how much she still does, and how much she loves them.

She talked earliest of the three, walked earliest of the three and was soon putting on shows, singing songs while doing little jigs, making us laugh, and giving us “bombs” (big hugs when she jumped up and put her legs and arms around us).  We realized early she was a leader when she was in preschool.  We’d go to pick her up and find her on the playground leading a line of other 3 and 4 year olds in some grand game of pretend, marching as pirates, galloping as cowboys and cowgirls, swooping as superheroes.  The other children seemed content to just do what she “suggested.”

In grade school, it became more and more evident that she definitely had a mind of her own.  Once after walking the girls to the bus stop, John went home and then turned around moments later to see Kristine right behind him in the house.   One day a few years later after being reprimanded by me at home, she climbed out her window and tried to run away down the street with a backpack of toys and no shoes on.  Her sisters chased her and dragged her back.  They laugh really hard whenever they talk about it now, picturing her determined little self storming down the road.   She had a few clashes with teachers but others saw her energy and determination as something that could be positive.  Don’t get me wrong, she could really be a toot sometimes.  She still can really be a toot sometimes and she knows it.

That determination also makes her a very loyal friend, one who loves quickly and deeply, one who is not afraid to speak up or stand up for someone or something she believes in.  If I was in a tussle with someone I’d definitely want her on my side.  She always seems primed to karate chop anyone who threatens to hurt someone she loves.

While we watched TV as a family, Krissy would often jump up during commercials and do a dance or a bunch of hand stands.  She still does that sometimes!  In fact a few weeks ago I found some coupons she made me years ago on a birthday and one of them was a for a free “commercial dance.”

I’ve been challenged by her faith and willingness to talk about it.  In fact, I got a call from the principal one day, “I have Kristine in my office,” he said as I grimaced.  “Her friend Sajeda is upset because Kristine told her that since she didn’t believe in Jesus she would go to hell.”  I know that her heart was so sad and worried to think her best friend, who was Muslim, wouldn’t go to heaven with her.  We talked with her and suggested a little softer tactic next time.  That same heart caused her to lead another one of her friends to accept Jesus one day on the church playground when she was in the fifth grade.

The last few years have been harder, as adolescence usually is.  I’ve blogged before about how our close relationship has gone through some strain and hurt.  Every now and then John and I caught a glimpse of the real Kristine through the harder shell she was wearing and it gave us hope.  Those stormy days of teen angst and high emotion aren’t over I’m sure, but we’ve seen some incredible results of God’s persistent, patient call on her heart and life and that gives us fuel to keep on sailing.   When you love someone you tend to cringe a bit when God chisels away at their rough edges, knowing it’s for good but painful for them.  I’ve done a fair share of watching and cringing lately but am seeing such beauty being revealed in my sweet, stubborn, passionate girl.

Krissy, some days I’d give anything to have you little again, when daddy and I were your heroes and you’d tell us 20 times a day that you loved us.  But watching you grow through your choices good or bad, watching you grow into your passion for music and worship, seeing that intense, devoted love for God rising to the surface again is heartwarming and so rewarding.  You’re one of a kind, irreplaceable, irresistible, sometimes exasperating but endearing, charming, hilarious and fun.  In fact you can be downright inspirational.  We’re so proud of you, sweet pea.  We love you.