A letter to my daughter as she turns 4!

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Last night we went on a little date together, nothing too extravagant-just a hair cut for you before your school pictures on Thursday and also to Hobby Lobby to get some things for Aunt Rachel’s upcoming bridal shower. We also picked up a present for your first “just kids” birthday party. As I looked at you in the rearview mirror it struck me pretty hard how big you are now. It seemed like not that long ago that I was driving with just you in the car with me, except you were in your infant car seat and I was talking to you as we drove, not expecting you to answer me back. Last night it was just the two of us but this time we were having conversations about hair colors and weddings and heaven and whether or not it will hurt when we die. (Weddings are a pretty common topic for you these days. You spend a lot of your time planning and rehearsing your own wedding, usually with poor Braxton as a stand in groom. You even spent hours a few months ago coloring “lace” and cutting little snips and taping together a construction paper dress and then asked for a streamer of paper towels and had me clip it your head as a veil. When we went a couple weeks ago so I could try on bridesmaid dresses you found your wedding dress. It was the biggest, poofiest, blingy-est, pinkest prom dress there. You asked me to buy it and when I let you down easy you requested that when it was time for you to get married that we go back to get it. You even double and triple checked that I would take you back at the appropriate time before you settled down for bed that night.) 
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As I looked in the rearview mirror I saw the most beautiful girl I have ever seen, not just because of how grown up you looked running your fingers through your newly cut hair, but because you are just such a sweet natured, tender hearted, little girl who is quickly becoming not so little. Leave it to a mother to want their child to grow up meeting (or exceeding) all the milestones, yet mourn their growth at the same time. Sometimes there are moments where I just want to push the pause button and keep you this way forever. Last night was one of those times.  In those moments I try to capture a mental picture of you and file it away to “look at” later. I try to remember not just how you look but how you are, and how the moment feels. There is still so much innocence and uncompromised parts of you. I treasure those bits of you. I love to see you as you truly are. You are so in tune with other people. From what they are doing, what they are wearing, what they are feeling, to what they need or want and what you can do for them- you see and internalize it all. Your kindness, sensitivity and generosity are mind blowingly mature beyond your years. God made you with such a heart for others. I am pleased and proud as I watch you ask questions about the girl you bought presents for at Christmas for Operation Christmas Child. You often ask me if the little girl is happy, or what she is doing right now, or if she has a house or a car or a TV now, or if she knows about Jesus dying on the cross to take her punishment. The other day you asked if you would see “my little girl” in heaven. I often find myself in awe of you and my heart is melted as I see the purest pieces of you untouched by the world and expectations. You are remarkable. You are so special. You are special to me because of the place you will always have in my heart just for you. You will forever be the one who made me a Mommy. But you are also special because of the wonderful girl God made you to be.  I am so blown away by who you are and who you are becoming and I am humbled that I get to be your Mommy. I consider myself blessed to even know you. Sometimes I look at you and am in shock that standing in front of me is the little girl I carried in my belly for nine months, the little girl I looked at for the first time knowing my dreams were fulfilled, and the little girl who I watched learn to sit and walk and talk. You are incredible and I love you beyond words, my sweet angel. I treasure the connection we have and I pray that I cultivate our relationship in the years to come and prove myself worthy to be your Mommy and your friend.
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(our birth minute picture at Strong Museum)
(I wrote this for your birthday, but our computer was broken so I could not actually publish it to the blog until now.)
Hayleigh Grace,
Oh, how I love you! My heart swells with love for you, my first baby. Can you really be 4 years old already?!?

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I feel like it has raced by, especially when I look at Royce who resembles you in so many ways. I think to myself, “wasn’t it just Hayleigh who I was doing ______ with? or dressing in this outfit?” “Wasn’t I just watching Hayleigh sleep with the same little smirk on her peaceful face?” It is hard to believe you are four and by the time you read this however much older. Yet at the same time I have the strange sensation that I have been connected to you in some way all my life. I have a hard time really remembering life before you were here with us. Yes, my head can struggle and remember but inside me is so accustomed to you and my life with you that my heart can’t go back. It is hard to explain. It is more dramatic than just a life change. There is something to be said for connecting with a person at your hearts. You are a living, breathing piece of me. You are, in many ways, my favorite part of me.

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As you grow I am seeing more and more of myself in you. I see how I must have been before I was changed by the desire to fit in or please people or hide parts of myself that other people didn’t understand or appreciate. I see me before I became more cynical or fearful or tired. And through watching you, and loving you with so much might, I have come to love and value myself a bit more. When I see the innocent, tender-hearted, silly, imaginative, happy, sensitive, excitable, smart, selfless, people pleasing, sometimes nervous and self-conscious little girl you are, something happens inside me.  With all my being I want to just wrap that little girl up in the most loving, protective hug and I want to somehow through that embrace pass onto you the things I lacked-the things I sometimes still lack. Oh, how I long to embrace the little girl you are now, and me as the little girl I was then, and just whisper truth to them in a way they could really understand-in a way that penetrates to our souls and becomes part of who we are.

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I would whisper to us “you are beautiful, imperfections and all.  You don’t need to hide or change who you are because other people do things differently. It doesn’t mean they are better or worse than you.” I would tell us not to constantly compare ourselves to others or use other people as the measure of who we are. I would tell us not to be afraid to be who we are. I guess first don’t be afraid (or too caught up in who other people are) to learn who you are. I would tell us “who you are is wonderful and beautiful, inside and out. I know it sounds so cliché, but there is nothing cliché about you. You are marvelously unique. Please don’t cause yourself pain by being uncomfortable with who you are or by thinking you are “less than” or not enough. It is not worth it, little girl.”

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In so many ways you are enough . And in so many ways you will never be enough. That is the truth. You are enough because God made you and God loves you. Let that really sink in. Yet you are not enough on your own so the God of the universe arranged His own death because He loves you enough to die for you so you could spend eternity with Him. When you feel like you aren't enough, or you don't have what it takes, run to God and His word and let Him fill you up until you recognize that  He is enough- more than enough.

I would whisper to those little girls “you could never recognize your true worth apart from God. He created the marvel of you, after all. So when you are tying to decide who you are and who you aren’t, when you are trying to find your way, turn to Him for answers and realize He loves you and that is enough. It makes you enough.”

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I would tell us that we are full of so much worth. I would tell us with time comes wisdom and perspective. As I hugged us I would tell those little girls to be secure enough to love themselves so they could be free enough to not be self-absorbed, but rather others centered. God made you with such a heart for others, Hayleigh Girl. I see myself struggle to care for other properly because I get so caught up in questioning, or judging, or loathing, or protecting myself. Oh, how I wish I could infuse those little girls with security and significance in Christ, and confidence in who they were made to be so that they could be free to love others the way God created them to. There are so many opportunities to be made or missed. I pray you make the most of the opportunities God gives you.

In so many ways you resemble me as a girl, Hayleigh. I look at you and am overwhelmed by the amount of beauty one person can possess. I could tell you all day how lovely and wonderful you are, because there are countless ways. I see you struggle and succeed in many of the same ways I did-and still do. Because of that I have a feisty, protective love for you. I can’t fight for the little girl I used to be, but I will fight for you. Part of that fight entails fighting and winning the battle to love and accept myself more than I do now. I know I am far from who I should be, but because we both deserve it, I am fighting that battle. With God’s help we will win. I am choosing to acknowledge my strengths instead of dwelling on and accentuating my weaknesses. I will try to improve them with the awareness that there is a bit of beauty in being tarnished. I would not be who I am without my blemishes and although sins remain a struggle, I am coming to accept my other weaknesses. I am choosing to allow them to point me to Christ instead of allowing them to pull me back inside myself. It pains me to think that you will probably struggle as I do and did. I would love to carry you through life and pick out the barbs and fend off the lies, but I can’t. I can’t protect you from yourself. And I also know that through struggle comes strength, and that victory is sweet. The best I can do is model for you a quiet confidence and security and a generous, selfless love for others. In so many ways the essence of who you are inspires me to do this.

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You have given me so much in these four short years. You have made me a Mommy, fulfilling my calling and filling a void I felt for years but didn’t know what would heal it. And now- as I watch you grow and develop, as I see myself as a girl, as I love you with wreckless abandon- you have given me the gift of loving myself a bit more. I think one of the best birthday and life gifts I could give you is to teach you to love yourself and I can’t think of a better way to do that than to fight and struggle to love and accept how God has made me. I love you enough to struggle with this for your sake, so that hopefully you can see mirrored in me the great love that God has for us both. I choose to do that for both of these little girls: the one in front of me today and the one who still lives inside me.
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I love you more than I could ever explain, Mama. Happy Happy birthday, my love.


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