For a long while Nine has been in my heart and mind to write. Contemplating after the Fourth of July holiday what I was going to prepare for my July contribution to Ishshah’s Story, I was in our office one workday with a chunk of white space on my calendar. Just like that I knew it was time and I began to write.
The following Her Journey story is definitely personal. Yet I believe it evokes remembrance of time, place, emotion and awareness identifiable with many. For those of us whose memory is no longer sharp as a tack, sometimes word pictures serve up a helping of sight, sound, smell, touch, words, thoughts, ideas, perceptions, attitudes…
Often though it’s not until years later that we realize the weight and significance of our early, formative years and their part in shaping who we have become, how we perceive, what we think, how and why we react and respond as we do.
It’s in confluence as described in Nine that the foundation of ‘me’ as we know ‘me’ is built within us. Added to the innateness of who God created us to be, there can’t help but be some awakening to the confusing reality of life as good and sometimes not so good.
Early childhood development experts and psychologists have written reams on the subject. Good stuff. There is room and place for education and understanding. There is also room and place for a heart education and understanding what was etched into it at a tender age. To enter into the kingdom of God (royalty realm where He reigns) requires the receiving, accepting heart of a child. (Luke 18:17)
You are never too big to let your heart come back home. If you think you are, may I gently remind you … you were once Nine.
It’s long been said that age is just a state of mind. If that’s accurate, then I moved to a new state at the age of nine. Though I lived in the house I grew up in from nine months old to age 19 when I married, I was nine when awareness, awkwardness, and anxiousness merged at the confluence of my girlish heart.
It’s taken a long time to learn to flow freely since that relocation. But a wellspring’s ultimately gotta do what it was designed to do. God sees to that as He watches over and keeps a tender heart of nine.
Years later as I began to look at my life and listen to what it had to tell me, a light bulb went on. Holy Spirit and I played ‘connect the dots’ with regard to several significant things that took place, all of them in my ninth year. It was a banner year of sorts – if you take into consideration both the shiny front side of the banner and the not so nice back side.
My age nine life list looked like this (on sticky notes no less):
– Plagued by epilepsy with grand mal seizures resulting from a bout of the German hard measles when I was almost five years old, I was miraculously healed at the age of … you guessed it, nine. That’s a story in itself but a list is about bullet points not autobiographies! Except to say I am now 59 and if there’s an epilepsy-free Jubilee, then this is my banner year of five decades without another seizure. Ever. That’s my Abba.
– The love of singing burrowed deep into me as I sat, too young to participate, and listened to the adult choir practices at church. Choir leader Marjie had a gift (along with the cutest tiny size 5 high heels). I soaked up the music and ministry to my nine-year-old heart and soul. Harmony moved in and never left.
– I was nine for 2/3 of my fourth-grade school year. Now we’re talking convergence. Our backyard neighbor was my teacher and she recognized the voice in me that loved to sing. More than that, she reinforced the music within by speaking one on one to me about it. A heart can glow, you know.
– While a heart might be glowing on the inside, the ugly duckling years have a way of showing up and waddling across your young girl face and form without much finesse. Unless you’re Jessica G. I didn’t have the ‘cute’ gene. Come to think of it, I didn’t get the ‘popular’ gene either. Jessica G got both.
What I got was a love for reading and weak eyes. The school day arrived when we each had to stand at the masking tape line just so, cover one eye with a palm and read the chart posted next to the chalkboard. Shuffle feet, switch palm to the other eye, and repeat. (I bet you know where this is going). A teacher’s note to my mother, an appointment with the optometrist and a pair of glasses later, I could see! I could also see myself in the mirror and I looked stupid – in the opinion of my nine year old eyes. And, I was convinced, in the eyes of most everyone else too. Kids can be mean, you know.
– Then there was the infamous wardrobe of a child born in the late 50’s. We won’t talk about the pedal pushers and home hair perms. By the time you add cat’s eye sparkly eyeglass frames to the mix…well, just don’t. Nine was the perfect age to determine this whole ‘beauty on the inside’ thing was a crock. One’s self-image could sure use a dose of that inner beauty oozing out one’s pores where you could actually see it. Self-talk can be pretty harsh, you know.
– Somewhere during nine, serious awareness knocked on the door and anxiousness took up residence. I gained some knowledge that awakened my nine year old understanding. That’s when I internalized that a marriage in trouble wreaks havoc with a child’s emotional stability. The uncertainty of what I had been sure of before in my pre-nine year old naïvete was setting off internal reaction. I became aware of that which before I had not understood; I just knew it impacted our home’s atmosphere and I was a sensitive child sponging it up. I became a voracious reader which led to loving words, becoming a great speller, a good proofreader and an escape artist. A scared young heart finds a way to escape, you know.
One question flew its banner through my mind, “What’s wrong with us that you don’t love us?” until it got grounded, folded up and pigeonholed in my heart. Hearts learn early and well how to compartmentalize, you know.
What frustrated syncopation a nine year old heart can enter into.
On one hand the infant, toddler and early elementary years were giving way to budding girlhood. It was a year of discovering more about me. Beginning to identify what I really liked such as music, reading and writing, while it only took a look in the mirror to confirm the outer wrappings of me needed some serious improvement! Like a new wardrobe, a different hairstyle and preferably good eyesight. (Some things don’t change much in fifty years…)
On the other hand I was discovering – to the beat of my anxious heart – that nine was a year older and a year wiser than eight. What I did not yet know of life, though, would come to fill volumes.
Five decades later I can testify that the precious receiving of the Holy Spirit at the age of nine is the place of heart to which my unfolding life journey returned me. Hearts can come home, you know.
Home is where I first knew that I knew I love Jesus and agreed so with the evangelist during a prayer line at the altar as he laid gentle hands on my head. It was at the church with the choir and the cute high heels. The place Holy Spirit came to indwell me and the infirmity of epilepsy was ushered out.
What began at nine years old continues to be developed through a process in which the God of all grace has invested Himself:
And after you have suffered a little while,
the God of all grace [Who imparts all blessing and favor],
Who has called you to His [own] eternal glory in Christ Jesus,
will Himself complete and make you what you ought to be,
establish and ground you securely, and strengthen, and settle you.
I Peter 5:19 (AMPC)
What marvelous promises for one’s heart to come home to.
Dear heart friend – Life is circuitous in nature. Though the path may seem more like wandering around than winding upward, more insignificant than important – the truth is that I Am has never forgotten the true you are.
However old you were when He began His good work in you – nine, nineteen, thirty-nine, sixty-nine, or any age – let your heart come full circle. He is ever available to complete who you are and more. Establish you. Ground you. Strengthen you. Settle you. Forever and ever, Amen.
~ Nancy, once nine