Our third child, Maura Esther Gowin, just turned eight. Yeah—no more booster seats! (We let Aidan get rid of his too since he is also probably 8 and is as big as her, but he had to wait a day after her birthday so that she was still before him. :)) She is a bright smile in our home and is full of life! Her Bible name came from Esther in the Bible, but it was actually the Veggie Tales version that especially caught my attention. (Michael never lets me live that down.) At the end of the video, the narrator says, “And Esther, she showed more courage than 10 kings and saved her people. Now, she wasn’t born for greatness, she didn’t go to school for it. She just learned that sometimes God has plans so big that only He can see them. All she had to do was believe. She was just a regular kid, just like you.” (I just popped the video in to quote this correctly and I still cry every time I hear it!) I went through the Beth Moore “Esther” study during our adoption and I love Esther’s story so much! She was just a simple kid—in fact, the only one listed in the Bible whose parents both died—and yet God did what He is so good at: He used an ordinary person to do extraordinary things to show His glory and redemption in the world!
Similarly, Maura’s Irish name means Mary. Here is a quote from my favorite Christmas song of all times, “Be Born In Me” by Francesca Battistelli. Mary is laying her heart out when she realizes she is to be the mother of the Lord Jesus: “I am not brave, I’ll never be. The only thing my heart can offer is a vacancy. I’m just a girl, nothing more. But I am willing; I am yours.” Isn’t that what we all say to our God? And isn’t that all he truly asks of us? (It is also meaningful to us that Maura’s step-grandmother Marian, which also means Mary, passed away during my pregnancy with Maura. She was a godly woman and a light in my dad’s life.)
I’ve always said that Maura was my passionate child. She is passionate in her offerings of love and kindness, and she is passionate in her frustrations! She still wants to curl up in my lap each night and have me rock her for a few minutes before bed. We used to say she was “squishy” because she loves to snuggle so much. People often say that she looks the most like me, and I guess that must be true because we won a look-alike contest at the fair one year, an accomplishment of which she is very proud! She is often noting things that are alike between us. One morning as we were sitting on the couch reading a story, Maura noticed my tummy roll hanging over my pj’s and proudly exclaimed, “Look Mom! We both have the same chubby tummy!”
Do you remember the little nursery rhyme that went something like this: “There was a little girl who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead. And when she was good, she was very very good, but when she was bad she was horrid!” Well, that is the rhyme I used on her first birthday invitation. I knew from the day she was born that she would have some fire in her! (That fire is the reason she was always the first to go anywhere near Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, 4th of July sparklers, and locust shells—even though the other two were years older than her!) She can still throw a pretty good temper tantrum! But of all the kids, she is also the first one to come back later, without prompting, and apologize for the way that she acted. I know that God put that fire in her, and He will use it to fight for justice for the lonely and “the least of these.”
Maura does very well in school and gets along with everyone. She says she doesn’t have a best friend because they are all her friends. When we show up at a school function, we hear cries of “Maura! Maura! Come sit here!” And yet she is often telling me about how she was helping another quiet schoolmate with something, or about how sad she is that some of her friends don’t know Jesus and how she tries to share Him with them. Her second grade teacher regularly seats her by the trouble-makers because the teacher knows she can trust Maura to keep the rules and be a good example, and also that she will treat all the children as her friends.
Maura always knows the rules. It is very important to her that everyone understands and follows them. That is what is right and fair and that is how her brain functions. (This is another area where she is like me—that is why I have a degree in math. Math has rules and if you follow them, you will always come to the same conclusion. And justice is a hot topic with me!) Years ago, an adult friend of ours saw our big 3 interact for about 5 minutes and then described them to a T! He said that Erin was the rule-maker (first-born), Liam the rule-breaker (middle kid and boy), and Maura was the rule-enforcer! So true! Now, does she always follow the rules? Of course not! But the rules are so important to her that she used to cry and cry when her daddy wanted to drop her off in the mornings at the side door of the school with the other two kids. She knew the rule was that her age was supposed to go into the front door and even when we had permission from the principal to do so, she still was horrified at the thought of breaking that rule and getting into trouble.
Although there is some sibling rivalry, she is the one that best gets along with Aidan. They are often playing all kinds of games together and there is lots of laughter. Because they are both extroverts, and because she doesn’t care as much about winning as the others do, she is able to let a lot more of Aidan’s control issues go. At the beginning, there were more issues between them because she was trying to “help” him with learning the rules, but it came across as being bossy, which she does have the tendency of doing. When we confronted her on how much this was happening, she cried and cried because she was truly trying to do what I had asked of her (in order to keep him safe out in the snow and neighborhood, etc) and didn’t know how else to follow my instructions!
Maura is a great big sister to Eva and is always good at making little ones feel included. A few weeks ago her 4 year old cousin Evan was visiting, and while all the other big kids were out playing ball, we found Maura and Evan just laying in the back yard chatting together. It was so sweet! (Pic below) She talks of adopting in the future as well. I don’t know what else she might do—I could see her doing medical missions or something. But I am confident of this: God wants to use this ordinary girl from an ordinary and imperfect family for extraordinary things!