To my first-born.
My only daughter.
And a girl that’s the life of all parties.
And it’s bitter sweet for me.
I love watching you grow because it evidences God’s work in your life and the fruit of our labor these last ten years. You’re turning into a beautiful young lady, both inside and out, and I have so much optimism about your future. But with each year that passes, I’m reminded my time with you so near is passing too. And that makes me sad.
More now than ever before, the signs that you are growing up are real. And it’s not just that you’re growing like a weed. You are doing that. But there’s also big stuff happening in your heart and your mind that I’m seeing for the first time these days.
The other night, you came down from your room because you couldn’t sleep. You were crying. Because you had been laying in bed, worried that something bad might happen to one of us. “Not like an accident, bad,” you said. “Like something bad that someone does on purpose.”
You are aware that evil exists in the world. And that our family could fall victim to its hands.
It broke my heart.
Because your innocence is fading.
And yet at the same time, this is how life is supposed to go. That moment afforded us a wonderful opportunity to have meaningful conversation I know will serve as part of the foundation for our friendship down the road.
So I’ll go there with you.
Time and time again.
To help you process all the things you will discover about the ways of the world along the way. Please keep coming to me about them because I love talking with you.
With this new awareness you’re lugging around, there are so many opportunities for your dad and me to shape your heart. To show you how much Jesus loves you and to teach you how to share the love of Jesus with others. To introduce you to the brokenness in our world and the ways in which we can bring healing to others.
Like when I launched my Noonday Collection business last month, and it began a conversation with you about the oppression and poverty that plague women, children, and families around the world. We talked about how we can empower people simply by redirecting our consumer dollars to companies who are providing them with jobs.
What a joy it’s been to share that conversation with you these last few weeks.
And you’ll never know how my heart leaped when you asked if you could be “Guatemala” for Homecoming Week’s favorite destination day so you could wear some of the Noonday Collection pieces handmade in Guatemala by Angelica and tell your friends about it at school.
You have blossomed into a responsible, driven student who is approaching her school work with such maturity. I’m so pleased with how far you’ve come and how well you’re doing this year.
It’s these kinds of things that assure me God has big things in store for you. I can’t wait to see those things unfold, and I’m privileged to be a part of the journey. But in the meantime, there are three things I am praying for you on your eleventh birthday, now more than ever.
I pray that you will always remember where your value comes from. Sure, I want you to have friends and to feel accepted at school. But at the end of the day, if all that were stripped away, I want you to be able to cling to the knowledge of how much God loves you.
And I want you to believe it with all your heart.
Because people will come and go. Friends will drift in and out. But God will be with you wherever you go. And God sees you through a lens no one else does. And what He’s sees is so, so beautiful.
I pray that you will have grit. That your character will be firm. And that your spirit will be indomitable. Because I recently read a book that talked about the future of Christianity. And when I read that nearly three-quarters of American youths are leaving church between ages eighteen and twenty-two, and that by age twenty-nine, 80% of the churched population will become “disengaged,” it made me sick.
This isn’t good.
But this is the world you will be living in as an adult.
So I want you to have grit. Because being a Christian adult isn’t easy. In fact, it’s going to put you in a very small minority where you’ll feel you are constantly swimming upstream. You’re going to need grit, so I’m praying for it now.
And I pray that the fading of your innocence will not be a threat to the kindness of your heart. Because you are one of the kindest people I know. And I want you to stay that way.
I remember the days of my youth. And while many of them were wonderful, the years you are about to embark upon were some of the hardest for me. Because it was during those years that I discovered girls can be mean, myself included. And that life can be hard. And when we’re faced with these realities, we have a choice. We can choose kindness in the face of brokenness or we can choose to join the crowd.
My prayer for you is that you will choose kindness.
That you will continue to desire that everyone be included all the time, even if you sometimes get left out.
That your eyes and ears will be open to the needs of those around you and that you will have the courage to respond.
That God will raise up in you a holy passion that might set you on the course to a future where you will have the opportunity to impact the lives of countless others in the name of Jesus.
And that you will learn to stand up for what you believe is right in a way that honors God and honors others, even if their opinion is different from yours.
These are my prayers for you as you embark on your eleventh year of life in our family. I know the next year will be full of highs and lows. Ups and downs. And a lot of stuff in between. But through it all, know that you are loved. Know that your faith matters. And know that kindness is key.