Daughter spending 21st birthday studying abroad

Dear Child of mine,

I’m sorry we won’t be with you on your 21st birthday and celebrate together with family, but when you come back home to Johnson County in mid-July we shall celebrate indeed. Born July 3, you always have been the fireworks in our family — so it will be quite a change that this year won’t include a U.S. Independence Day celebration of fireworks and trip to Mrs. Curl with you.

I probably should have seen it coming when you were just a little girl, that you’d love the people nearest you and be comfortable traveling wherever the wind took you.

The signs were becoming quite visible even when you were barely 5 years old. Celebrating the last night after a great week of vacation Bible school, we met about 20 church friends to celebrate by getting frozen yogurt at Ritters.

In the midst of the standing crowd (all the seats were taken) talking and eating our yogurts, I abruptly noticed that you were not standing next to us, like your two older sisters. I did the “mom scan” around the area with my darting eyes a few seconds before your dad realized, he too, couldn’t locate you.

It was mere seconds when your dad and I made a heart-racing plan to “I’ll go left, you go right” and our friends began desperately scanning the area with their eyes. About that time, a gentle smiling woman seated on the concrete curved bench around a table among her family asked, “Is this who you’re looking for?”

There in the middle of her family of four sat our Phoebe grinning happily eating her custard cone. The mother and father were at opposite ends of the bench, and their two children were safely in the middle — and then there was blonde-headed Phoebe with her two lopsided pig-tails, happily content and comfortable seated in the perfect center of some random (but very hospitable) Johnson County family.

And then there was the time your heart for others shined brightly when you were 10 years old and we, as a family, had the opportunity to build a house in Juarez, Mexico, with Casas Por Cristo. You jumped into a large freshly dug, dry sewer pit because a little girl fell into the massive hole — I remember you consoling her in English, then calling out for your dad to come help both of you get out of the pit that was much deeper than your height and up-stretched arms.

I wonder if that was the moment that a seed was planted in your mind that you desired to be fluent in Spanish?

I was thinking about your name — as parents sometimes do when their children grow up too quickly and turn 21. You quickly learned the Bible verse Romans 16:1, mostly in answer to the often-asked question whether you were named after the character “Phoebe” in the television series “Friends,” that ran from 1994-2004.

Since you were born in 1996, and I was chasing your two older sisters around, I had no idea there was such a popular show on until people kept asking about your name. We still joke that your name fits you perfectly since Apostle Paul entrusted Phoebe with carrying his letter (words) to the Romans. You, daughter, have great communication skills — or as we put in when you were quite young: “Phoebe, you have lots of words!”

Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 16:1:

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea; that you receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and that you help her in whatever matter she may have need of you; for she herself has also been a helper of many, and of myself as well.

Like Paul’s Phoebe, may you, ‘PM’, continue to be dedicated to his service, dependable and trustworthy. Happy 21st birthday and have a great time finishing your two-month study abroad in Cuba. Give our love to your Havana family!



P.S. Dance some salsa for me and don’t forget to get your praise on at church on Sundays.