This year’s celebration of Valentine’s Day was uniquely spectacular as I received far more than the most lavish flower arrangement, expensive gift, or special culinary creation. Our family embraced an exceptional bundle of love: a new granddaughter! A perfect baby girl, the first child of our son and daughter-in-law, arrived safely into the world on Valentine’s eve, and this GrandMarnie is over the moon.

Little Sloane, the tiniest angel to grace our family, joins her two male cousins (ages five and eight) who proclaimed her “adorable.” Starting shortly after the birth, her almost 102-year-old great grandmother pestered us fiercely until we were able to take her to see the baby. What a tender juxtaposition to see a two-and-a-half-day-old cradled carefully by a 102-year-old. The wet weather and daunting steps into their house were no match for her determination to hold this great granddaughter.

As I watched the exchange (and moved in to provide some additional arm support), I thought of the legacy of strong women that precedes baby Sloane. Her great grandmother has ardently navigated over a century of life and is still blazing away. Formidable grandmothers on both sides (one a GrandMarnie!) and two amazing aunts who are siblings of the young parents complete Sloane’s immediate sphere. Other influential women circle her and her mom with support and guidance, along with a host of flurrying great aunts and cousins.

Sloane’s mom, our daughter-in-law, is gifted and accomplished and all in with life. I’ve prayed for her for over a decade, though I initially didn’t know her name. I begged God to bring the right woman into our son’s life, one who would influence him spiritually and support him as he wrestled with God. I prayed for her a sweet spirit, yet the strength to hold fast in the storms of life. From the first day I met her and saw her interact with his grandmother and nephews, an age span at that time of almost 95 years, I knew she was the one.

This beloved new child is equally ringed by strong men starting with her daddy, who tenaciously fought his share of demons through his childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood. I cry tears of gratitude for the man our son has become and tears of pain for the path he journeyed to stand swaying with his tiny daughter, his eyes wide and his heart open. I thank God for the broken road that brought him safely here, not just to this birth but to this life.

Sloane is also blessed by doting grandfathers who are sure she hung the moon. The first time I met her maternal grandad my eyes misted to watch his affectionate interaction with my now-daughter-in-law. Beneath the semi-gruff, strong exterior, I saw that warmth again as he held his grandchild for the first time. Her paternal GrandDavid, my husband, has a servant heart that would do anything in the world for her, her parents, or our daughter’s family.

None of this story is unique, of course. All loving families who welcome a child are filled with joy, awe, and gratitude. But this is our family’s precious baby, and I’m flooded with hopes and dreams for her. I feel such tenderness that a little girl has entered my life as I’ve been thinking lately about my role as daughter as well as mom and grandmother. This birth is another link in the redemptive chain that has graced our family.

This child is privileged to be born in a developed country to parents who are well equipped to care for her. At the same time, she comes into a broken and fragmented world, which is a scary prospect for her future. Realistically, I know that life will break her heart, break her at various points, as it does all of us. I hope she will embrace the generous souls that surround her and lean on those with whom she shares the journey. I pray that her family is always full of nurture, and that I can be part of the loving arms that sustain her. I ask God to shower her with the passionate presence and fierce devotion of a loving heavenly father and mother.

Beautiful Sloane is welcomed to a special house as well as to a home. Our son and his wife have deep roots to this house where I sit in her nursery. They bought it before they married and spent the next 15 months painstakingly renovating every square inch. Our daughter-in-law’s parents grew up in this neighborhood – her mom down this street, in fact – so the area has been home to this new mother’s heart long before she was even born. My father, Poppa Doc, preached throughout my childhood for a large church that anchored the area, so I grew up riding through these streets to visit shut-ins or to have Sunday lunch with some gracious host family. Today the neighborhood is fresh with new life, just like the promise that fills this house.

Doc would be so proud of our son’s purchase of an old house in a neighborhood rich with history. A renovation like this takes vision, perseverance and commitment, and many moderns lack all three. I love the way this young couple was undaunted by everything “wrong” with the house. Instead, they saw its possibilities. Its future. Their future. Now their child’s future.

In the still center of the night as I watch my granddaughter sleeping peacefully, I see it too: a special future for a special child. Welcome to the world, little Sloane!

Marnie C. Ferree