Oh, Haven!

February 24, 2018

“Oh, Haven.” I probably say that as much as I say, “brush your teeth,” “clean your room,” or “a little kindness goes a long way.”

I said it at bedtime after we suggested leaving Lucy, your stuffed puppy, in the van where you had left her after school. Your panicked response: “But she’s the only thing I love. She’ll be cold. What if somebody takes her?!!”

Meet Lucy

I whispered it under my breath during your forty minute shower the other night (in which you completely drained the the hot water tank) while I listened in to your imaginary dialogue with imaginary people and animals.

I uttered it in disbelief last week when you collapsed on the floor declaring, “I’m loooonely.”

I said it laughingly as I watched you–eyes sparkling and gestures flailing–weave a tall tale about a little girl whose fingers kept growing and growing so long that they could reach around the globe and tickle little boys in their sleep.

I said it with enjoyment when you assured me that you could wait in the car by yourself while I ran into CVS for lice killing shampoo. After all if someone tried to abduct you, you’d just tell them “I’ve got lice” and then shake your hair in their face.

I say it with frustration when you desperately cling to me, begging me to stay with you when I’ve signed you up for anything new (ballet, swim lessons, soccer, piano lessons)

First soccer goal

I say it when you’re cheeky. “Is that pumpkin-spiced eyeshadow?”

And when you’re dramatic: “Why, WHY do I have to be the best speller in the class?” (Said the morning of the spelling bee when you could eat nothing. Not even Lucky Charms could tempt you) or “I CAN’T go in there.” (ballet class) “You cannot make me. Last week I spinned the wrong way and everyone laughed at me.”

With her first place trophy.

I said it in surprise when I heard you trying to convince the boys (almost succeeding) that I have a secret habit of smoking during their reading and rest time.

And when you told another family from church that I only feed you one crumb at dinnertimes.

You’ve heard it often enough. Once, Dad and I simultaneously shrugged and said, “Oh, Haven.” To which you responded, copying our gestures and tone of voice perfectly, “What do you mean, ‘Oh, Haven’? I just don’t get ‘Oh Haven.’”

Now here we are on your 7th birthday, and still all I can think to say is “Oh, Haven.” That little phrase–befuddling as it may seem to you–captures all our delight and amusement and love and bewilderment and frustration as well as our hopes and our fears for you. In that moment, we’re asking, “How can we direct this personality? How do we help her? How do we reach her? What will become of all that imagination and sparkle? How will she learn to manage her big, big feelings? How can we teach her to reason through her fears?”

Every summer we vacation with family at Clearwater Beach. Your relationship with that beach could be a metaphor for your life. From your earliest days, you were fascinated by the ocean, but you also had a strong, over-powering fear of the water. So at first you contented yourself with digging in the sand up by the beach umbrellas, making only occasional trips to the water’s edge to fill up your bucket. After a while you dug in the sand where the tide would gently lap over your feet and ankles. In time we coaxed you into the water, promising to hold you the entire time. But that was exhausting so we incentivized you (Ice cream? Two scoops?) into donning a floatie and letting the waves toss you around a bit. It was great until a huge wave dumped several gallons of salty water on your head. It was in your eyes and nose and mouth. And. You. Were. Done. Summer after summer added experience to your knowledge. Water could drown you. Those waves could topple you. They could take your breath away, fill your nose and eyes with stinging, salty water, wash you up on shore several feet away from where you had started, or drag you out further than you wanted to go. And not only that, there were living things in the water. One of them even bit your brother.

Waiting for ice cream at our fav shop in CLB

Yes, those things are all true. You’re not the first to look out in wonder at the “glimmering and vast” sea, but then hear its “grating roar.”* The ocean is scary. Deadly even. But haven’t we always taken care of you? When you feel like you might get pulled under, aren’t daddy and I there to set your feet again on solid ground? Aren’t we there to pick you up, hold you, shelter you, and bring you once more to the safety of the shore?

But we’re also there to push you to be bold again after a while–promising to go with you, promising to protect you, but wanting you to try, asking you to jump, pleading with you to trust.

Just as your parents are undaunted by the waves in the shallows where we can easily keep you safe, so God is unmovable in the deepest waters. He can truly keep your feet from slipping. He can hold you tight through the towering walls of water that encircle and trap in their relentless rush to the shore. And he will push you out farther, asking for your trust in his proven faithfulness.

You cling to us with everything in you when we’ve pushed you to face your fears. And that’s okay. We’re teaching you to trust us, hoping that in time you’ll transfer that trust to the one who can walk through the water with you and will not let the rivers sweep over you. (Isaiah 43:2) He’s the one who gave you parents who love you. He is the “God who bleeds for you.”** And he can be trusted to sustain you through every fear and every sorrow that washes over you in this life.

He is the best parent, so much more worthy of your trust. Where we might be tempted to throw our hands up in frustration and say “Oh Haven,” he opens his arms wide and says “Come. Cast all your cares on me.” (I Peter 5:7)

Take our hands, Haven girl, and together we’ll go.

Happy birthday! You are so loved.

* from Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold

** See The God Who is There by D.A. Carson. P162

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  • Claudia Doran February 24, 2018 at 8:18 am

    Oh Charisse! Keep writing you are gifted.
    Happy Birthday to Haven too😉

  • Kate February 24, 2018 at 10:26 am

    Happy Birthday Sweet Haven! What a beauty of a little girl…inside and out. Also, I need to know the trick for raising spelling bee stars?!

    • Charisse Compton February 24, 2018 at 3:30 pm

      Thanks! It’s just the way they’re wired, I think. Reading helps too. Plus Asher was really motivated to win and the others just followed suit. Can’t be outdone by big brother…

  • Carole February 24, 2018 at 12:14 pm

    Your writings would make a great book, and “Oh Haven!” a great title:) Mom’s would love this book and be encouraged by it.

    • Charisse Compton February 24, 2018 at 3:21 pm

      Thanks, Carole!

  • Abi Doran February 24, 2018 at 8:37 pm

    I am eating up all of your writing! You have such a way with words. Happy Birthday, sweet Haven!

  • Elizabeth Daghfal March 18, 2018 at 4:21 pm

    A beautiful compilation of love and laughter for a precious daughter. Makes me wonder how often God says, “O Elizabeth” to me with just as much emotion.

    • Charisse Compton March 20, 2018 at 12:07 pm

      Yes. Thanks for reading, Elizabeth!