This morning I woke up and heard feet padding into my room. I knew they were yours, because they sound so much different than your brothers. “Happy Birthday,” I said, in a soft, sweet voice. The look on your face made me think you’d forgotten entirely that today was your big day. But no, you said you remembered. And then of course you crawled into bed and we snuggled for at least a half hour. Ian and Beatrice just kept on sleeping, which I think God planned as a gift for both of us.
Immy, you are the best snuggler in the entire world. Yes, your sister is gaining on your territory, but you don’t really see that yet, and plus you’ve got four years of crawling into laps and twirling my hair already piled up in our memories. On weekend mornings when your dad and I are still in bed, you know to go straight to his side of the bed curl up under the covers next to him. Being a snuggler himself, your dad is in heaven. He knows even now to soak it up because it will eventually end, as you get older and more grown up.
Your dad and I went on a bike ride last weekend and we spent most of the time talking about you. Who are you? How can we love you? How can we shepherd you? Are we doing that? Are you getting lost in your brother’s shadow? What will the next years be like, when you hit grade school and then adolescence? Will you, God forbid, be snuggling with someone else? We want God to help us see you–that was the grand conclusion to our conversation.
But, to be inconsistent, let’s talk about your brother for a moment. No one can forget him. You two have an interesting and sometimes intense dynamic. Well, let’s just say his end of the dynamic is intense, yours is free-flowing, unruffled, and flexible–for the most part. As the years pass, these attributes of yours will drive Ian INSANE. I almost don’t want to say it, but I will–revel in it! It’s good for him. Just don’t get too proud. We all have our own struggles, and this could easily be one of yours.
It’s not all bad with Ian. You have a special way of lightening him up with your silliness. You lighten us all up. I know I’ve said it before, but you’re just so goofy. That hasn’t changed in the last year. You still get the potty talk going at the dinner table, which we try to promptly shut down. You let your brother chase you around the circle that is the fireplace and laugh and laugh. Sometimes, though, all the sudden, you get a determination about the chase and actually want to win. And you pass him. You’re gettin’ fast girl. And Ian’s mad!
Speaking of speed, you are riding your bike amazingly. You spent a lot of time on the skut this last year, cruising along. Now, I send you off with your brother down the street, knowing you can fully ride your big girl bike on your own. You are very good about watching for cars. Ian always has your back, too. And I do love that you still need me for at least one thing–clipping your helmet on before you run out the door. You don’t even want me to pull the hair out of your eyes when I do it.
Besides bike skills, you are a great dancer. You never turn down an opportunity to cut the rug with Ian when he turns Pandora on in the living room. In fact, when we’re at church on Sundays you’ve gotten in the habit of sneaking out of the pew and dancing in the aisle. And we sit in the front, so everyone can see you. We have shooed you back next to us, keeping you confined between Dad and me. I was concerned you would be a distraction to others who are trying to worship. But recently I’ve been thinking that maybe we should just leave you be. Maybe you’re a picture that people need to see on Sundays. You’ll break all us frozen chosen out of our frigidness! My heart is happy thinking about that.
Joy, Imogen. You are a joy.
You are also a wonderful helper. You daily remind me that what I’m doing is not about a checklist, but about learning and being together. You are like your dad in this way. I am learning from you, but I must admit, I struggle because my agenda is so stupidly important to me. Still, you know nothing about that, so you pull the step stool up, ready to bake bread or stir the oatmeal. Whenever Grandma T is scheduled to stay and I clean the bathroom in preparation, you are right in there persistent with a “Can I help, Mommy?” Yes, Imogen. You can spray the entire bottle of cleaner onto the mirror. This is learning life. And you’re getting the mirror VERY clean.
You can also be a bit of a drama queen, to be honest. You strike a pose like a true supermodel. How do little girls already know how to do that? Do they come out of the womb with that skill? You like to overdramatize many minor slips and stumbles (you’re also a bit clumsy). You care quite a bit about whether we are sympathetic to your plight. One time I was clearly not paying attention to you and you practically grabbed my face and said “MOMMY, DO YOU EVEN CARE THAT I’M HURT?!?” What an injustice! But, we do our best to give you kisses and rub the pain away, without aiding and abetting what’s inconsistent with reality.
Over the last year, we’ve discovered that you have quite a love for animals and are really very good with them. We call you the animal whisperer. Sometimes you wander off in the house somewhere and if I haven’t heard from you in a while I know you have crawled up on our bed and are laying next to Lizzie. You gently pet her and she lays there, mostly comfortable with your presence. She will walk up to you and rub her body against your legs, which makes you smile. Imogen, you may have even entered into Lizzie’s circle of trust which is VERY small. Consider this a lifetime achievement.
You’ve also come to love our neighbor dog, Sunny. Sunny’s owner, an elderly gentleman named Herb, religiously walks his very energetic dog at least twice a day, right past our house. When we first met Sunny she would jump and get excitable whenever any of us would approach her. Now, whenever Sunny sees you she sits down and holds perfectly still and uses all her might to calm herself. She won’t act that way for anyone else. She has learned that you have such a gentle way with her and that you give the best pets! You almost always run out to meet her if you see her through the window.
You still have a magic act that has carried over since you were practically walking. It’s called disappearing, and you’re still very good at it. At school, the playground, Costco. We look away and poof, you’re gone. At least you’re able to recognize Costco employees by their name tags and will happily approach one to tell them you can’t find your mom. You aren’t scared, you just figure it’s about time to show back up again. This is why I regularly try to have that talk with you where I crouch down in your face and say as seriously as I can, “Imogen, if someone approaches you with candy or tells you they have puppies they want to show you, DO NOT go with them. RUN TO MOMMY!” You nod and say yes, Mama. But I still worry. You’re easygoing and personable and innocent. You’re brother, on the other hand, would give any stranger the stink eye and yell at them to stop talking to him. You are both so very different.
So I pray for you, that you would stay soft and welcoming, but also be protected.
I suppose I should say that you aren’t entirely innocent. In fact, over the last year we’ve had many conversations about the difference between truth and lies. Could it even be that the other day you looked me straight in the face (in tears, in fact) and lied to me? And it was so convincing that I believed you. I’m trying to tell myself, even still, that you didn’t remember things correctly or you were confused.
Nope, you are deviant, Immy, in your own way. May the Lord help us help you. Us Haggards may be a lot of things, and we may even deceive ourselves at times, but we want to walk in the light and tell the truth. Your dad and I fumble through trying to explain to you how important this is. That the Truth sets us free, and that lies bind us. This is hard for a four-year-old to understand, I know. Lying seems like a good way to avoid or defer consequences. I am with you, it’s very tempting!
You need Jesus, Imogen. You need Him when you feel goofy or your dancing the aisles of church. You’ll definitely need Him when your brother gets in your face and tries to control you. Then there will be times when Beatrice will steal snuggles away from you, or as a teenager some boy will want snuggles from you– you’ll need Jesus then, too.. He will be arms around you, He will remind you of your innocence and yet also teach you wisdom and shrewdness. He is your Truth, Imogen. There is no one, nothing else, that is as true and real as God.
May the Lord captivate you and show you how truly captivating you are. May He be the sweetness and the hugs and the deep-down knowing that you are loved to the utmost depths. May He be the Person you find when you run off, and not just in some store, but down some sad or scary or rebellious path (which you will, because we all do, in our own ways).
Whatever happens in your life, Jesus is writing a good story for you, Imogen. And we are enjoying being a part of it! May He bless you and keep you, my beautiful doe-eyed girl. May He make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you, and give you peace.
You love it when I give you that blessing at bedtime, I hope you still love it when you’re old enough to read this.
Here’s Imogen’s fourth year in pictures, in chronological order.