You're 18 today...
I'm not sure how I thought today was so far away, it's always seemed to be off in the distance somewhere.
Maybe because I'm not ready for you to be grown.
Everyone says time goes fast, but dear God, it really does.
And nothing has really prepared me to see you fly.
When I look at your beautiful face, I still see this face sometimes.
It's always in my mind's eye - the precious, sweet smelling bundle of you curled up so tight into my chest.
I can still feel the weight of you in my arms, your tiny hand holding my finger and your eyes locked onto mine.
I've never loved someone so fiercely in my life.
Your Dad and I had no idea how much you would change our lives; would expand our knowledge of love and life and faith and grace in abundance.
But you have.
You are the best thing we ever did.
You made us a family.
Not just because of your presence, but because of YOU.
We've watched you grow, and in truth, we've grown alongside you.
In trying to make your world a better place, you've taught us that it already is - because you're in it.
We had a life before you joined us here, but honestly, it's hard to remember those years.
We were missing you.
I wish for today that you could truly see yourself through our eyes, through the eyes of all who know and love you.
Whatever words I write here will never be able to tell the story of how you make everything better in the world.
But I will try...
In short, you are JOY personified.
You carry light and breath and warmth with you wherever you go.
And yes, you make everything fun.
You are the light in the center of the room that draws everyone in, knowing they will be loved and warmed and accepted.
Your compassionate heart and fierce loyalty set you apart from the crowd and you've never, ever known a stranger.
Em, you have a passion for life and a desire to make the world around you joyful and grace-filled.
You are kind and caring and strong and funny and wise and have a sense of justice that simply floors me at times.
You have a way of seeing the truth in someone's eyes and a heart big enough and wide enough to embrace them in their pain or distress or lostness and give them a place of peace.
Your friends feel safe with you.
Loved by you.
No judgment from you, just safe.
Even those who don't share your faith or value system know that they can trust you, can count on you, feel at home with you.
Because Em, you know who you are and you know WHO you belong to and you are firm in your convictions and you don't back down when you are challenged.
There's not enough of that in this world and you have it in spades.
And you have the respect and love of your peers for it.
Never change that my sweet girl.
When I think about these 18 years, the memories flood my heart and it's just overwhelming, this love I feel for you.
You know, I've been winging it all these years.
You didn't come with that handbook everyone talks about so your Dad and I have been kinda making it up as we went along.
But we watched you, and learned you and loved you every day.
And we prayed for you.
We still do.
Because it's how we can love you best.
To pray to the God who loves you more than anyone else ever can or will be able to.
To pray that you love Him with all your heart.
To pray that He gives you direction and purpose and meaning and ability and a heart that longs to serve Him with whatever you choose to do in life.
We pray for your friendships, that they will be strong and lasting and real.
We pray for the man who will eventually be your husband.
That he will love Jesus more than anything and that he will love you with every fiber of his being and that he will always be true to you. (Find someone like your Dad - if he's 1/2 the man your Father is, you'll have a keeper.)
Emma my love, today is your day.
Embrace this moment as you do all others in your life - with passion, with courage and with JOY.
You are our greatest joy and most precious treasure.
And I love you baby girl.
I simply love you.