Our sweet daughter, Juniper Rose, turns 1 year old tomorrow.
Be still my heart.
I have gotten more and more emotional as this week has gone by, and whenever someone asks me about it, I can't help but well up with tears.
I wish that I could put into words how she has transformed our lives and our hearts, and maybe you yourself can see that within us - but I want to write this out, and show how even her name embodies her character and the transformation that she has brought to our lives.
I think its funny, and just how God planned, that Juniper was the only name that John Zachary and I agreed on. We did not find out the gender of our baby, so we had to make a list of names for each, and Juniper was always our girl name. And up even until the day she was born, we had not agreed on or chosen a name for a boy.
We had both separately heard the name Juniper before - even before we got married - and decided that we would want to name a child of ours that some day. Not even knowing that the child would be OURS!
And I just love this little story about how her middle name came about -
- I had told John Zachary that I thought the middle name, Rose, would sound pretty with Juniper, and he did not agree, but I persisted, and the conversation didn't really come up much again. But one night at a bonfire, the daughter of a friend of mine asked us who our baby was going to be. We said that we didn't know and asked her what she thought, and she shouted, "A GIRL!" and we asked her what our girl's name would be, and she shouted, "ROSIE!"
We left the bonfire that night and Zach leaned over and said, "Well I guess its settled, Juniper Rose it is - if we have a girl." -
So on the day that our baby joined us in this world, John Zachary announced that it was a girl. The nurse asked, "What's her name, mama?" and I looked at Zach and confidently said, "Her name is Juniper Rose."
It wasn't until after she was born, and maybe two or three months into her life that I really started thinking about her name and what it meant to me.
I think one of the most difficult things that we have been through was bringing our daughter into this world, not because of childbirth, but because we hadn't planned for her.
My pregnancy came as a surprise to us, and we weren't quite sure how to feel. We had been married for 8 months and had already gone through lots of challenges and did not feel like we were anywhere close to settled in a place to live, community, or even with each other.
And even up until when we brought her into this world, we were not prepared, we weren't sure what to feel, and I wasn't sure who or what our baby would be like.
It took me about 3 months to really fall in love with our sweet Junie - and I know that sounds sad, and not something that people normally say, but I do think it is something that happens often, its just not talked about.
So going through a rough start with her in our life, I felt more than ever that I needed to cling to God and that I needed His strength when I felt like I didn't have any left in me, I needed His love when I didn't know how to give any, I needed his grace when I didn't know how to share that with my new family.
There is a song called, The Garden, by Kari Jobe, that came out right around the time that I got pregnant with Junie. That song specifically tugged on my heart, and brought me to tears each time that I heard it. I would play it on repeat all day and just cry. And these lyrics brought hope into my heart and a deep sense that God was doing something beautiful in my life:
"Now I see redemption, growing in the trees.
The death and resurrection, in every single seed."
When you plant a seed into the ground, the seed needs to die in order to become something new, it needs to become something totally different - the sprout of a tree or a flower. And when you buy seeds from the store, we pick up the packet that has beautiful blooming flowers in the picture on the outside, and these teeny tiny little seeds on the inside of the packet - we see the potential of the seeds when we look at the beautiful picture on the outside. When planted, the death of the seed springs forth new life as the seed turns into its fullest potential, the redemption of its life, a beautiful, growing tree.
When I was pregnant, this visual gave me hope and encouragement for my life, that through this new seed in our life - resurrection, new life and redemption comes.
Now that our daughter is here with us, this song takes on a whole new meaning since her name, Juniper, is the name of a tree.
Not only have I seen redemption in my heart through her life, but I have come to know more fully what the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ means for our lives. When I look at my sweet girl's face, I see God. I see the love that God has for His children, such a deep love that He sent His only Son to live among us, die for us, and rise again so that we can have access to The Father through Him, through His Spirit, and through His Word. I praise God that He has shown me His deep love for me when I look at Juniper's face. He has given me, a redeemed life, and my daughter, a new life, a precious gift that He has allowed me and Zach to parent on this Earth.
Not only is Juniper a tree, but an evergreen. An evergreen is classified as a plant that retrains its green leaves throughout the year.
Now, maybe this wouldn't matter so much if we lived somewhere where it is warm all year round, but since we live in central Indiana where we get all four seasons, this takes a newer meaning.
Of course everyone loves the fall because the leaves change. And then we dread winter because the leaves on the trees fall and it looks so dreary and barren outside. But the evergreen, they are persistent, they are unwavering, they can withstand the temperature and climate changes and their leaves hold and bear their vibrant green. They are resilient.
These are characteristics that I can already see in my Juniper Rose. And I pray that throughout her life that she would continue to be persistent in her walk with Jesus, unwavering in her love for Him, the world, and everyone around her, and that she would be resilient when she encounters hardship in her life - I know that she has already encouraged me to do so in my own life.
Because the Juniper tree is an evergreen and always keeps is green leaves, the Latin Juniperus, means "bearing youth."
This is my favorite meaning of the name Juniper, because now more than ever, as an almost one year old, our Juniper exudes joy and youth. She is playful, interactive, joyful, laughable, and silly - just as you would expect any child. And it is through these characteristics of her that I can see why God urges us to have childlike faith.
Juniper exudes ingenuous childlike delight. And I absolutely love that about her.
She reminds me to be youthful, to take delight in the things that we are given, and to let the overflow of joy that God has put in my heart spread to others.
My, what a year it has been.
And I thank God for every seen detail and everything He has done in-between.