“But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead” – Philippians 3:13
After weeks on end of so much gray, color finally started to come back. The snow has melted; temperatures are cold but not freezing, and flashes of green wink at me from in between the brown blades of old grass, like Addie flashing me a smile and calling me to come out to play for awhile.
Today I joined her: we rode bikes and drew with sidewalk chalk and drank in the sun even as a cold breeze reminded us it isn’t quite springtime yet. For a moment I was a little girl again, wind tickling my cheeks while I plucked a handful of sour grass and pretended to be Anne Shirley making a flower crown for Princess Cordelia, her imaginary persona that embodied everything Anne wished she herself was: beautiful, important, and loved.
Anne Shirley didn’t have the luxury of parents to invest in her tender heart. Addie does, but I catch myself wondering if she doubts she is the remarkable girl we know her to be. She asks us all the time: am I beautiful? Important? Loved? She asks it in her own way, of course, and we do our best to answer her in a way she understands. Still, I wonder how much of it is sinking in.
Anne Shirley is the sort of person I wished I was: brave, unabashedly imaginative, and loyal all at once, and in my growing up years I looked up to Anne Shirley as the embodiment of so many things I hoped to become. Of course, she was an awkward, orphaned little girl who feels the sting of injustice at a very early age, but the painful past that marks her as different turns her into I wanted to be: self-confident and outspoken and brave. She stirs the pot and soils her already unpopular name by getting herself into many troublesome situations, and goodness does she have a temper–especially when Gilbert Blythe calls her Carrots. Yikes. But beneath all that trouble is a tender, upright heart.
I was more like Diana Barry, though: Anne’s soft spoken, sensible, rule-following best friend whose life is governed by the rules of propriety. I wanted to be more like adventurous Anne, but alas, I was far more like demure Diana who craves adventure while comfortably wrapped up in the warm confines of convention. Anne is courageous; Diana is scrupulous. No wonder the two became such great friends: bravery without good sense can easily turn reckless, and what good is wisdom without action? Courage and scruples go hand in hand.
Addie is like Diana too: she errs on the side of too safe, just like I did, and it bothers both of us. It bothers her because she misses out on so much of life and it bothers me because it hurts her. She quietly confesses this in the shadows of her darkened room as she snuggles into the safety of her bed. “I don’t know why it’s so hard for me,” she admits, talking about how difficult it is to be brave. I tell her this: it’s not brave if you’re not scared, which means that she really is brave, in the truest sense. And I let her in on the secret that even people for whom bravery seems easy struggle with stuff too, that trying our best is what counts, and making mistakes in the process is how we learn best. I also tell her all about how Anne Shirley, the brave little girl in one of my favorite books who famously asks, “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” I tell her it’s a question that acknowledges mistakes happen, and also infuses hope into the days to come. I tell her that it reminds me of a verse in Philippians where the brave apostle Paul talks forgetting what has happened in the past and pressing on toward what’s next. We talk about breaking free of the prison mistakes put us in and moving on from them unencumbered.
It is heavy stuff for an 8 year old; heavy stuff for me too. Being able to move on from mistakes is a life skill that I have not mastered yet, but I’m working on it. As it turns out I may have spent childhood being more like Diana, but in adulthood I am finding I am more like Anne than I thought: short-tempered, easily frustrated, overly dramatic. It is the Diana in Addie that makes me see it: she is soft-spoken, uncertain, a little afraid to draw unwanted attention to herself, and it pushes all my buttons, making me a little bit crazy. I find myself losing my temper with Addie because I see the young, insecure girl I used to be staring back at me with soft green eyes, and instead of being patient with her, I get frustrated that she has to sift through the same internal turmoil that I did.
A flared up temper is a flame that spreads fast, and before we know it, I find myself stubbornly fighting with her instead of fighting for her. Tears fall and doors close. In the silence, I remember Addie is tenderly trying to figure out whether what we say is true: that she is beautiful, important, and loved, and my temper is teaching all the wrong things. Admitting I failed this time around, seeking forgiveness, and leaving the mistake behind me does not come naturally to me. I am more apt to wrap the mistakes around my wrist like a bracelets, and their clanging reminds me of all the times I failed to be the person I really want to be, or to invest in the person I really want Addie to become. I am tempted to worry about what comes next and have to remind myself that Jesus said, “[…] don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 6:34). So I pry off those bracelets and fling them behind me, choosing to throw worry away and focus all my energy toward what comes next. I accept the gift of grace and remind myself to extend that gift to Addie, too. She has so many tomorrows left, and I don’t want her to start any one of them thinking there’s a mistake waiting to greet her there.
I soften as the sun sets. Addie does too. And we whisper apologies along with our hopes for the day waiting on the other side of slumber, thankful that it waits there unsullied by our poor choices and harsh words. We learn together that admitting we were wrong and choosing to try again takes guts and integrity, and the two together are a powerful combination. We agree to leave the wrongs behind us and move toward the promise of a fresh day with courage and scruples, both, and we are better for it.
As it turns out, we are both a little bit more like Anne than perhaps we thought. My girl and I, we have Diana’s good sense, it’s true. But we also have Anne’s gumption. Mistakes will happen, but why worry about them today? And Addie certainly has Anne’s imagination, and I know one day I will look up out of my writing window and see her lazing away a sunny afternoon peering up at the sky, writing stories in her mind about each cloud as they quietly drift by.
Roasted Carrot and Ginger Soup
Joey is a sucker for all things ginger, and has a particular weak spot for carrot-ginger soup. (If it’s on the menu, he will order it.) As it turns out, Addie has a soft spot for this soup too: her face lit up at the first spoonful, and she smiled as if she had just scooped up sunshine. Addie and I have had our difficult moments lately, but this soup reminds me a new season full of fresh starts waiting there for us. Plus, it’s an easy, colorful way to infuse a little color into the dreary dinner hours of winter, when spring seems like an impossible dream.
- 2 pounds large carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
- 1 ounce peeled/diced ginger
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 6 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)
- a few glugs of olive oil, canola oil, or refined coconut oil
- salt and pepper
First, set the oven to 425 degrees. Next, spread the carrots onto a sheet pan, drizzle them with a few glugs of oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and pop them into the hot oven. Roast them for about 20 minutes, or until fork tender and golden.
Meanwhile, set a large sauce pan over medium heat. Saute the onions in about 2 tablespoons of oil (olive, canola or coconut oil will do); cook them until soft but not browned. Add the ginger, sea salt, and broth. Simmer until the ginger is soft. Add the roasted carrots to the pot. Using an immersion blender, puree until the soup is smooth. (Or, if you don’t have an immersion blender, pour the broth/onion/ginger mixture into a high speed blender, add the roasted carrots, and puree until smooth.)