The following is a blog post I wrote 3 years ago on my niece's 15th birthday about the day she was born. Today she is 18 and I thought it seemed fitting to repost. This young woman has continued to amaze us in all ways and we're so lucky to have her leading this bunch of nieces and nephews with her wisdom, grace and confidence!
We all experience moments in life that define us – moments of clarity where we can say, “Ah, yes, this is who I am!” Fifteen years ago today was one of those moments for me.
It was a typical Friday in February. I drove from my apartment in Minneapolis out to Stillwater for my teaching job. Before going directly to work I stopped in at my parents house, which was only a couple blocks away my work. I had plans to go out of town that evening for the weekend, so wanted to stop in to drop off my itinerary to my parents.
When I entered the house my dad came around the corner with the most excited look on his face and announced that my sister-in-law and brother had just left for the hospital-they were having their first baby! In fact, this was the first grandchild to be born into our family.
My out of town plans were to attend a Christian retreat organized by a group from the University of Minnesota where I was attending for my final year of my undergraduate degree before I began my Master’s program. Many of my friends had attended this same type of retreat in years past and loved it. One of my good friends was in charge of planning the retreat. This friend’s explanation of the retreat had made me even more excited about going. He told me it would be life changing. I was at a place in my life of much uncertainty and the idea of attending something that was “life changing” appealed to me immensely. I had been looking forward to this retreat since I had first heard about it months prior. However, when I heard that my sister-in-law was in labor, I decided to change my mind about going on the retreat. I didn’t want to miss this birth!
I quickly called my friend and explained that I wasn’t going to be attending the retreat after all. My friend was upset. Feeling guilty I told him I would continue to think about my decision and call him back if I changed my mind, but that he should plan on me not coming. As I got off the phone I still knew what my final decision would be.
I remember the excitement teaching that day. I always enjoyed spending time with preschool aged children, but on this day it was even better. To know a new child was coming into our family felt amazing. I couldn’t wait to meet my new niece or nephew after work that day – surely the baby would be born by then.
Halfway through the morning class I got a call at work. Typically I wouldn’t take calls during my teaching hours, but my boss insisted since she knew my family was waiting on this news. She assumed it was my dad on the other end. When I picked up the phone I quickly realized it was not my dad, but it was my friend calling me to convince me that I needed to still go on the retreat. I explained to him that I had been thinking about it and I was certain of my decision. I will never forget his words, “You will regret this someday. The baby will look the same when you come back on Sunday. You don’t want to miss the retreat – I promise you that.”
My life was filled with much uncertainty, but one of the few things that I was certain about was the importance of family. I knew I wouldn’t regret staying home that weekend. I knew that being there with my family as the newest member was welcomed into the world was exactly where I needed to be.
Before I hung up the phone I apologized to my friend for disappointing him, but also explained that I knew I wasn’t making a mistake. I hung up knowing I may have lost a friend here, but perhaps he wasn’t as good of a friend as I had thought since he didn’t respect the decision I was making in this moment.
When my teaching day ended the baby was still not born. Much of our family went up to wait at the hospital after a quick bite to eat. It was hours before this little one came into the world – somewhere around 9pm. The look on my brother’s face when he came out to tell us that the baby had arrived was absolutely priceless. He quickly told us that it was a girl and her name was Elena Jane. He explained that they were all wiped out and that likely we wouldn’t get to hold her that night (his way of saying maybe it was time for us to leave). Within minutes we were all allowed to peak into the room and see as my brother held her up for us to see. She looked wonderful!
That night my parents had decided to fly my sister home for a quick weekend to be able to meet Elena. Our family rallied around together to celebrate, not only this new birth, but the beginning of this next chapter in our lives. Holding Elena the next morning and seeing the sparkle in my brother and sister-in-law’s eyes was amazing.
My niece, Elena Jane is 15 years old today. She’s a beautiful, amazing girl and she has brought so much light to our lives. Every year on this date I think back to my friend’s words, “You’re going to regret this decision.” And every year I’m more and more confident that I made the right decision. In fact, that weekend was life changing for me – even without the retreat. I knew with all certainty that life is worth celebrating those special moments of a birth of a baby, the transition into new chapters in ones life, and the sparkle in someone’s eyes. We all know where our hearts pull us and it was that day that I knew I needed to listen to my heart’s pull. Sometimes this might mean disappointing people, sometimes it might mean missing out on something else, but mostly it means you will live with no regrets. I was exactly where I was meant to be that weekend and I said to myself numerous times that weekend, “Ah yes, this is who I am!”