To My Daughters on My Birthday

I wrote this yesterday… on my birthday and on International Women’s Day.  I’m posting it a day late, but it was my birthday and I can do what I want to.  Or something like that…

Dearest Girls,

You are the greatest gifts. With your impish grins and your wrinkled up noses. With your squeals and laughter and whirling-twirling love of singing songs barefoot in the living room. With your kisses and cuddles and tiny-arms-wrapped-tight-around-my-neck hugs. You are the greatest gifts I could imagine.

To be honest, to say I love you seems small… like it can only dance around the edges of what I feel. Have you ever watched a time-elapsed video of a flower blooming? That’s what mothering feels like to me – watching the slow unfurling in warp speed and hardly daring to blink for fear of missing some small piece of the transformation. There was a time (before I was one) when I underestimated motherhood… when I thought it would mostly be tedious and trying and a season to endure rather than celebrate. But now that I’m in the midst of it, and I see your lives taking shape, I can hardly believe what a gift I’ve been given.

And my favorite thing of all? You’re girls. Beautiful little women-to-be who I see growing in strength and dignity. Little girls who can roar like lions and be as fierce as tigers; who then scoop up their baby dolls and shush them to sleep. Little girls who already love well; whose hearts are full of compassion and tenderness and toughness and bravery.  (And I’d be lying if I didn’t add a good deal of mischievousness as well.) 

It’s Women’s Day. It’s my birthday. That the two are together has always meant something to me. As a little girl, I remember looking at the calendar as I eagerly counted down the days till my birthday and noticing year after year that the calendar said “International Women’s Day” in neat little letters across the bottom of the square that I had outlined with a pink highlighter and decorated with yellow stars. And I remember feeling a swell of happiness and pride deep inside and thinking, “YES! I was born on the day that celebrates being a woman!”

Because being a woman is worth celebrating, my dear daughters. It doesn’t mean we despise men or think we are better than the other gender. But we can celebrate all the beauty and life and love God poured out when he made Eve. Daughters, if I could have one birthday wish on this Women’s Day, I want more than anything for you to live into all that it means to be women.

And I want more than anything for you to be whole. For you to feel comfortable in your skin, with the birthmark on your thigh and your slightly crooked front teeth. With your ear that isn’t quite the same as everyone else’s and your delicate almond-shaped eyes. I want you to look into the mirror with gentle self-acceptance and see all the beauty.

And I want more than anything for you to be brave. For you to stand up and ask the question that no one else will utter and learn that to be respectful and gentle doesn’t always mean being quiet and docile. For you to be a voice for the voiceless and a friend of the friendless. I want you to know the sound of yourself in a quiet-but-full room and be able to say hard things in love even if your voice shakes as you do.

And I want more than anything for you to be kind. For you to always say hello to the kids who might look or act or sound a little different and for them to know they always have a place to sit by you in the cafeteria. For you to treat everyone you meet – from the woman who checks your groceries to the man who might not have a bed of his own – as they should be treated, as a son and daughter of the King. I want you to be the kind of women who leave Jesus in their wake and remind people that love wins.

And I want more than anything for you to be strong. For you to know that strength never means pushing others down but pulling them up. For you to know that gentleness and compassion are some of the hallmarks of strength, and that worlds change when we live strongly. I want you to embody that beautiful feminine combination of tenderness and confidence, trusting that God goes before you and fills you up so that you can pour out His love and mercy in this broken world.

And I want more than anything for you to know you are loved and precious and valuable. Not for how well you do in school or how perfectly you behave; not for how many friends like your posts or what career path you choose. No, your worth comes from the Father who made you, and is based solely on the fact that you are His daughter; the keeper of a divine spark… precious and worth far more than rubies. I love you. Your daddy loves you. And most importantly, I want you to walk in the knowledge that your Creator loves you.

At an ordinary stoplight on an ordinary day, Cora you shouted out, “I’m going to change the world!” And all I could think was, “AMEN, sister.” You are going to change the world, brave girl! You will change the world, because you are powerful and full of His light; you will bear His name with you wherever you go, and it will undoubtedly change worlds. You’ve both already changed mine.

So, my daughters… be women who love. Be courageous. Be brave. Be world-changers. Stand up for underdogs and don’t back down in the face of darkness. You are bearers of his light, and darkness has no place or power around you. Be gentle and tender and kind, with yourself and all whom God puts in your path. Remember that someday the most world-changing and powerful thing you’ll ever do might also seem like the smallest… like holding a baby close and whispering into her ear as she falls asleep that she is loved and precious and carries a bit of the divine. As women, we are an intoxicating mix of God’s power and his tenderness. His strength and his compassion. His bravery and his empathy. Live into that, daughters. And celebrate all that it means to be a woman.


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