But now, this is what the Lord says—He who created you, Jacob, He who formed you, Israel:   ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are Mine… Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you…’.”

(Isaiah 43:1, 4a — NIV, emphasis added)

Dear Lila Grace,

Here we are, precious Girl–at the end of another year. For me, that’s fifty-two revolutions around the sun, and for you, a little more than one. But what a beautiful trip it’s been!

I want to tell you some things–share them now before you get bigger. Because we both know how quickly that will happen. You seem eager to grow, and it makes you giggle when I ask, “How big is Lila?” With hands stretched high, you show me, grinning ear to ear, and I say, “Soooooo big!” It’s our little game.

We used to do this with your daddy–the one who loves you most, second only to your momma, though I’d venture to say it’s a close tie. You make your daddy smile like no one ever has, and that makes Mora and Papaw nearly cry. You’ve changed his life, that’s for sure–that young man who used to say he wasn’t sure he’d ever have children. But you came unexpectedly, and the world’s a better, more beautiful place.

I’ll never forget when we first learned of you, how we were a bit worried given the circumstances and the short notice. Still, we quickly came to love you, even before you made your appearance, which was only one day shy of Mora’s birthday–September 12, 2020.

When you arrived we’d hardly known of you several weeks, just as the heat of summer had grown cooler, crisping the leaves, making morning air, when met with Selah Farm pond, rise fog from water, so mysterious and majestic.

Your momma pushed hard in her efforts to present you to the world, but you, already with a mind of your own, were breech, and so they took you by C-section. I know that scared Momma. Daddy too. But you were fine, and your first cry announced to those of us waiting your exclamation, “Ready or not, I’m here!”

And again, though we’d barely had time to believe the news of your impending birth, we were ready. After all, our hearts had been waiting for you for… a lifetime. At least mine had.

You see, Lila Grace, little girls dream about the day their babies will be born, and big girls? Well, they dream about grand babies. Whereas I’d imagine as a little one of seven or eight what my children would look like, as a woman of thirty-seven or thirty-eight, I imagined what my children’s children would look like. Will they be boys? Girls? Or several of each perhaps? I’d try to picture my growing family tree.

When your daddy told us that he would be there for you, promising “No matter what,” we knew, even given the unique circumstances. Because, just like his mom and dad–your Mora and Papaw–he understands the beauty of adoption, and it mattered not that your life began before he’d entered the picture. You were there and so was he, and that was enough. Yes, that was love.

I must be honest. Papaw and I were concerned for reasons you’ll one day better understand. But what we never questioned–not once!–was the worth of your life, yet unborn, in your momma’s womb. From the moment of your conception, you were precious, chosen, and loved, and I hope this world never tells you otherwise (though I fear it will, simply because it can be cruel and harsh, this place we now call home).

We’re here to fight for you, sweet Lila–

  • To remind you when you wonder.
  • To point you to truth.
  • To shine light when the way is dark.

And the way will be dark sometimes. Lies will abound, and undoubtedly, they will cause you to question whose you are. Such is true for each of us–this wondering–though you may sometimes feel like you’re the only one. When you look at your big brother Drake, the boy you adore, you may wonder. When you look at your little sister Emory, the baby who perks your curiosity, makes you smile, you may wonder.

I pray you’ll never allow the wondering to weave its way into your heart, make you question your worth, ponder your place in this world. Remember again–we all believe in the beauty of adoption. Why, Papaw and Mora wouldn’t have children–Auntie Allie, Uncle Jake or Daddy–and therefore, we’d not have the immeasurable joy of knowing you or your sister and brother if it wasn’t for this gracious gift from God.

And it was His idea, first and foremost, and that’s a good thing to keep tucked in your heart. He sent His Son Jesus, the One we just celebrated–that wee Baby in the manger, with Whom you love to play, along with His momma and daddy in the Nativity set that was Mora’s when she was little. Oh how I love to watch you! He came to this world to make things right. He, too, was adopted by Joseph, don’t forget! It was this humble carpenter who likely demonstrated for Jesus what it meant to be an earthly father while trusting in a heavenly One.

And because of what Jesus did–by dying on the cross, defeating sin and death, and rising again–we’ve been given the opportunity to be God’s sons and daughters through adoption too. As it’s written–

“But when the set time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship” (Gal. 4:4, 5 NIV).

So you see, Lila Grace, we’ve all been adopted–Mora, Papaw, your momma and Daddy too. You’re never alone, no matter what anyone might tell you. Knowing Who we belong to–resting secure in that truth–well, that’s a gift, and your daddy appreciates this as much as anyone.

I look forward to another spin around the sun, twelve more months with you. There will be changes, no doubt. You’ll know more words by this time next year. Will have more teeth. Wear bigger clothes. And you’ll have made more memories.

But above all, more than anything, I pray you’ll know even deeper in your little girl heart that the words we sing when we sing Jesus Loves Me are true. They’re more true than just about anything else you’ll ever hear. In fact, these words, simple though they may seem, speak the truth of Isaiah 43 better than any song I know. Little ones do belong to Him, and each–whether red, yellow, black or white–is precious in His sight. Hold on to this truth, dear Lila

I was surprised (though only for a second) to learn that your name means You are Mine as well as Lilac Tree, which is one of Mora’s favorites, its flowers among the most fragrant. It’s no wonder that, as a little lady myself, I used to inhale deeply the scent of its blossoms, sense God’s goodness in its sweetness. I can almost imagine He whispered way back then–Just wait, my Child. There are even more beautiful things in store, and it’s Me who planted within your heart the love for lilacs. One will blossom beauty from the Family Tree that is growing even now as part of My perfect plan for you. When you question My ways, grow weary in the waiting, trust Me. My plans are to offer you a hope. A future. They’re beyond what you can even imagine!

Soon, when colder air turns warm again and spring bursts forth life that will carry us in to summer, I’ll share with you the sweet scent of the lilacs that grow on the tree by Stevens Creek. You’ll smile when I dramatically inhale, then imitate me, I hope–locking the fragrance in your memory, that olfactory miracle that, too, is a gift from God.

And when I’m long gone, having made my way to my eternal Home, I pray each time you smell lilac you’ll remember me. And perhaps, just for old time’s sake, you’ll say to yourself, “How much did Mora love me?” Then, with arms stretched high, high to the heavens, you’ll reply, “Sooooo big!”

Indeed, that’s true. We love you so, so big, Lila Grace. But even more, You are God’s, precious in His sight. His love is the biggest. Yes, the Bible tells us so!

Do you have a letter to write at the close of 2021? A letter of gratitude? A letter of forgiveness? There’s power in quieting down to listen, then writing words to another that, with God’s help, might make a difference. Don’t delay. There’s only hours left. Then 2021 will be gone… forever!

Dear Jesus, thank you for our sweet Lila Grace–who’s offered us our first personal experience of loving a little girl right from birth (healing something that was left with the absence of Devon Mara-Leigh). It’s no surprise that Lilac also means first emotions of love. Just as lilacs were the first flowers I fell in love with–their scent etched in my memeory for as far back as I can remember–Lila is our first baby girl, apart from precious nieces (and Allie was nearly 3!), and the love we feel for her spills over in both laughter and tears. Thank you for this Gift, dear Jesus! May you bless her in 2022 and beyond!