Happy Birthday beautiful girl! Four years ago today you made me a mama, and the magnitude of that responsibility still brings me to my knees. Anne Voskamp reminds me that motherhood is a hallowed place, a sacred vocation and a humbling privilege. I am partnering with your father and Our Father to sculpt a soul, and there is no manual for making sure we get that right.
And as you know all too well, that means I get it wrong a lot of times. You’re the firstborn in our family, which means we practice the most on you. We guess at the best way to love you, correct you, motivate you and console you. And sometimes those guesses are spot on. And sometimes those guesses are terribly off, and we all pay the price for those missteps. But you have the most forgiving heart. You don’t hold our inexperience against us, and we get second chances every day. We are learning to love you, and one another, day by day. It’s a lifelong process I think, and I promise to never stop learning, to never give up on getting it right.
When you were 9 months old, I wrote you this letter. I love you as much today as I did then, and the magic of your eyes has only intensified. Sometimes I just stare in awe at your perfect little face, and I honestly just can’t believe that you are mine. And I want to wrap you up and put you in a box so that nothing bad ever happens to you, to maintain that innocence and sweetness forever. I want to protect you from ever being hurt, from ever feeling sad, from ever seeing pain. We read a book together a lot called Blueberry Girl, and there is a line in it that always chokes me up:
Words can be worrisome, people complex, motives and manners unclear. Grant her the wisdom to choose her path right, free from unkindness and fear.
But part of my desire to freeze time is selfish. In this time, in this place, you need me. You want ME to comfort a skinned knee or a bruised heart. It’s my arms that make you feel safe, and my love that makes you feel valued. You promise Daddy and I that you will live with us forever, even after you go to kindergarten. And most days, I really wish you would.
But that’s not the point of parenting, right? From the moment you were conceived, I was preparing little-by-little to let you go. First, you grew your own body and life support. I helped you grow bigger and stronger until you were ready breathe this earth’s air on your own. Then, with each day, and month, and year, you have grown more independent and able to care for yourself. When you were about 6 months old your Daddy asked me when you would start talking and ask to help make dinner. Three plus years later, you talk all the time, and you love to help prepare food for yourself.
Each minute of every day, we are doing our best to get you ready to face the world without us. Psalm 127:4 says, “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.” You are an arrow, and will shoot out into the world with passion and hope and joy. You have so much to offer this world, and it is humbling to think of my responsibility in helping you find your way. I want you, more than anything, to always feel confident in who you are, and how you were made, and what you are worth. The way your Daddy and I love you is only the teeniest fraction of the way your Creator loves you. You are His greatest delight, and there is nowhere you will go that He won’t be with you.
But right now, when the walls of our house are your only world, I want you to know how much you are loved. How deeply, how desperately, how wildly. You are my little ball of fire, and your determination teaches me more about grace than a thousand Bible studies. The other night when I asked you to bring me your plate, you handed it to me and sighed, saying, “Why do I have to do everything around here?”
Oh, little one, if only you knew. That most everything your Daddy and I do is for you and your brothers. Trying our best to create a life for our family that instills strength, values authenticity, and teaches kindness. If only I could somehow explain how my heart beats in time with yours, and how I long to hold you when you’re sleeping, so that I’ll never forget the miracle of your childhood.
And yet, all too frequently, I send you a different message. You have a front-row seat to the very worst parts of me. You get the impatience, short-temper, harsh words and lack of grace. Isn’t it funny how we expose our most ugly selves to the people we love the absolute most? And it’s strangers that get all our gentleness, patience and smiles. Maybe it’s because we know our loved ones are forever people, but honestly, it makes me sad. I heard it described once that it’s because we rub up against one another in our raw places. We spend so much time together that it’s inevitable, this rubbing of raw hearts, emotions, souls. And raw on raw is painful. But there is a beauty is that too.
To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us. -Timothy Keller
Oh, heart of my heart, girl of my dreams, joy of my world – THAT is my wish for you on your fourth birthday, and every birthday thereafter…that you may be fully known and fully loved all the days of your life. Not only by the God who made you, but by those who surround you, especially your family. May I always strive to truly know YOU, and forever remind you of my unwavering love.
Happiest of days Emilja Rae…I love you so much my heart could burst.
****Would you please consider donating to help a little boy who has no mama to wish him happy birthday…no mama who knows the smell of his hair or the magic of his eyes. No Daddy to fully know and fully love him, to guide him into manhood with grace and gentleness. You can either buy an AWESOME t-shirt here, or donate directly to his fund here. (Link available at the bottom — phone — and side — computer — of my blog as well).****