If you ever ask me what my favorite word is in Finnish, it's this:


It means lovely, delightful, amongst other things. It finds its way to kind mother's lips, on to cartons of yogurt, into accolades on facebook.

The first time I ever heard these delightful 5 letters was in excitement at marvelous news. Coming from a woman quite lovely herself. The way she said it was melodic. I've since fallen in love with this little word so much I've contemplated tattooing it on skin.

When I first arrived in Finland, the words and streets and signs were all foreign. The insecurities I carried as a mother however were not. They came with me across the sea, and they found new ways to express themselves. I spent months  CONVINCED I was angering a local every day. Convinced I was doing something wrong. What did they think of us loud americans? My child so unruly.  What did they think of me? They must think we don't belong here.

My daughter's first Finnish word, the one she heard me say the most? "Anteeksi,"

"Sorry. "

But as time passes, things grew normal. I grew less neurotic and less apologetic. When I wasn't surrounded by the american culture, the daily insecurities I dieted on so regularly before became sparse. Since I didn't have a cohort to compare myself to, it was (while lonely) quite freeing. I was a collective of one. One mother sorting her way through. While mothers where around me, they weren't my same species. Or at least it felt that way. See, they knew what they were doing. They knew what it meant to be a Mother. A Finn. I was still sorting out the first, let alone the second.

But, as time went on, I was fortunate to see a fog lift. I saw my mothering grow lovelier by the day.

One day, my daughter walked in to the bathroom. A familiar tale for every mother. She looked up at my naked body, post shower and pointed to my postpartum belly. She exclaimed "oh mom! it's just so squishy."

I had actually anticipated this conversation. I had anticipated the day when my insecurities would be at the crossroads of my hopes. Her eyes, without condemnation. Just observation. I thought to myself "It starts here. It begins here." I said three words.

"isn't it lovely?"

I explained to wide open eyes how wonderful this body of mine was. I told her how strong I was. I told her how amazing God did with building me. i showed her my scars, and the feats that came with them. I spoke words that sounded so foreign. Speaking them made me nearly weep.

A few months later, that same girl was complaining to me about how tired she was. I looked over and commented, in effort to just keep her going, "My! your legs! How strong are they?! Look at how far they carry you!" Here in Helsinki, the public transportation is wonderful, but we still walk a fair amount. And by four, my child easily walks a mile or more a day.

She groaned at me. Complained a bit more, but we arrived at the tram.

A week later, we were on the same hill.

 I see her huffing, but she is quiet. I listen and I hear a muster. "Look. how strong. How. Far. They. Carry."

Oh, my girl.

I used to be afraid of the day when I would have to face my insecurities. I used to feel paralyzed at the point when I would have to walk in a confidence that I didn't feel. Voice truth that felt like lies. Would I be a fake? Would she see the doubt and the grief and the anxiety I fight?

I've spent the past two years reading and writing a different script. I have the luxury of living a life where my brain is often with its own thoughts since I am surrounded by a language I still know so little of. In the mix of my upbringing, my hopes, and my current culture I have learned to speak a language of my own.

It is a language of loyalty to this people, for their kindness, for their wisdom. It's filled with words from mothers whom I now call friends. It is a language of fighting for truth and banning words that condemn. It is a language of grace.

 There will always be those who want to speak a different script, and my girl observes and asks me questions about it, but she and I will speak this language. Over and over. She will learn that others need these words desperately too.

This language, it matters. Language is so critical in culture. Change the language, you change the culture. Change the culture, you change the hearts. My! how my own heart has changed. The way she will see herself and others, the way she will understand, in light of scars and brokenness, what beauty. Oh! that she will see.

This language we're learning, it communicates one thing:

the ihana. the lovely.

1 comment :

  1. Such a beautiful post Brittany! You inspire me to write better, and seek more personal insight.