And, if the stories are true, once she started talking, she never really stopped. With the other three members of her household being pretty quiet folks, I guess she figured somebody had to provide the entertainment.
I'll never forget the night I worked up the courage to tell her the story of "my life before her brother." I was visiting her parents' home, and we lay across her grandmother Mom-Mom's bed talking for hours. She listened--without judgment...with grace--to my "broken road" history and how I had finally surrendered to the growing love I felt for her big brother.
Since that night, we've shared each other's weddings, the deaths of parents, the blending of families, the births of five babies, the blues of post-partum, the fun of vacations, the growing-pains of hard times, the joy of celebrations and, more recently, the challenges of the middle-years--weight and wrinkles, insomnia and cellulite, hormones and hot flashes.
Now...we find ourselves sharing the amazing, beautiful, challenging growing-up of those five babies--four into teenagers and a soon-to-be-double-digited Asa. Before we know it, they will be adults...grown-up LaBelles and Bowdles...who will leave us to go follow their own dreams...discover their own loves...hear their own Divine call...create their own memories.
Together, we have shared words that have made us laugh and spoken words that have made us cry. We have hugged; we have glared. We have argued; we have made up.
We have stayed.
At times, we have taken two steps forward and three steps back....But, it has gotten us to where we are. And where we are is a good place, a very good place.
For her birthday, I found a card that contained these words, "For we are God's workmanship." The original language is even more beautiful--we are God's work of art, God's masterpiece, God's poem.
As I thought about the meaning of that word, masterpiece, I realized that, in many ways, it reflects the 25-year history of the two Karen Bowdles. You see, masterpieces--whether music or art or literature--contain highs and lows, darks and lights, falls and redemptions, rifts and reconciliations.
I know the years ahead will hold even more laughter, more tears, more weddings and blendings, more fights and make-ups, more brights and blues, more births and deaths.
We will be stretched and tried. We will be blessed and broken. We will fall and get up again. We will learn. We will grow. We will pray. We sill sing "Happy Birthday" very loudly and VERY BADLY.
Because...we have learned the bountiful, grace-bringing blessing of staying.
So, "Happy Birthday to you"--the original, never-to-be-duplicated Karen Lee Bowdle LaBelle. As I wrote in your card, "Roses are red, the 40s are snotty. But that's OK, 'cause we're both still hotties!" (At least when we squint our eyes in a semi-dark room that contains no mirrors.)
And...here's a birthday surprise for you--a typically-wonderfully-random note written many years ago by your mom to you and Shawn and Punky (a dog whose ears never quit growing) and me and Kev:
Dear Ones, Thank you for the love you gave me. I basked in that love for two weeks. My blinds are a wonder. Asking Dad about painting the inside of the house. He said he would engage the painter later. We will wait for the border until after the painting. Spring is on us. Whiteflowers have raised up in the yard. The grey mockingbird flew to my window sill again. I miss Punky coming in to wake me. I don't miss her "p" accidents. My jonquils are still yellow. Love, Mom
For we are God’s masterpiece.
He has created us anew in Christ Jesus,
so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago....
You are members of God’s family.
Together, we are his house,
built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets.
And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself.
We see it taking shape day after day—
a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it,
a temple in which God is quite at home....
In light of all this, here's what I want you to do....
I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—
on the road God called you to travel....
And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—
not in fits and starts, but steadily,
pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love,
alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.
You were all called to travel on the same road
and in the same direction,
so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly.
You have one Master, one faith, one baptism,
one God and Father of all, who rules over all,
works through all, and is present in all.
Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness.
But that doesn't mean
you should all look and speak and act the same.
Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift.
(Ephesians 2:10, 19-21; 4:1-7, NLT and The Message)