To my bright-burning girl on your 8th birthday.


Eight and half years ago your Daddy and I stared at a tiny black and white screen with furrowed brows and tense white knuckles. You were there, bouncing around and being a bit shy.

When we finally met you months later  you were the tiniest bit of a thing. Your legs, always crossed, were so teensy that we worried they would crumble. Your tiny little head was covered in brown fuzz. You were lost in the bassinet.

From the very get-go we were told you’d be small.

And you are. Shortest in your grade. Shortest on your basketball team. Shortest in the league. Your feet barely grew a shoe size this year.

You are small.

But you are fierce. Strong. Stubborn. Persistent. Lovely.

I wanted a little girl to hold and dress up. I wanted to braid hair and giggle and pinch rosy cheeks. I got all those things.

But I got more.

I’m more than thankful for your brothers but you are the one who brought me low so that I was just a loamy bit of dirt for God to do the rebuilding. We have fought for each other, you and I. And I’m so glad for the fight. So glad to know that we found a way.

Because even when we are obstinate and battle ready, I can always look at your bright, bright eyes and love them. Always. They are like saucers full of spilled out coffee and your eyebrows dance so wonderfully there above them. And then there is the chirrupy bird-like way you tell me about your life. It is grace personified.

I hope so much that you learn to love well. That you won’t settle for the kind of love that is what you get out of it: approval, acceptance, identity, temporary happiness. It’s the kind that always leaves lingering loneliness.

I hope you know that you are fearful in the way you have been woven together. Every small stitch and over-under in you is characterized by the Hand that weaves all things. And I pray that out of that wonder, you will be able to love fiercely. I hope it’s the kind of sacrificial love that is an everyday, hard, rough, raw and beautiful kind of love. I hope you love to the pain.

I hope and pray that your bright eyes will be honed to seek out the hurting and the lost, that you will move into others with the same kind of persistence that even now you use so well. Oh how I dream that you will never let insecurity hold you hostage, that instead you will walk in the loveliness of knowing Who made you so very well. I know you will encounter seasons that will try to rob you of this lovely way of knowing yourself.  I pray and whisper it over you, this way you were pieced together in the most intentional way, and I ask for belief.

One of my greatest joys is to find little slips of paper pieced together, marker drawn cards, special cuttings and other projects that spill out of your swirling brain. Sometimes you will doubt these gifts, this way of leaning in to your calling. You will feel too small or too young or too different or too similar. Believe strong, little one. This gift of making beauty from your heart is part of God’s story for you.

In this world we connect boys and competitiveness. But it’s there, too, for girls in silent ways and it almost always ends in not-good-enoughs and be-betters. This competition–this comparison–it is the bold and angry kind of thief that smashes through your life even in the bright hours of a beautiful day with your joy in one hand and a sucker punch to the gut in the other. It robs and it bullies and it pushes into the kind of packs that hide and dull the wonderful way you were made. But Grace? It is the bolted gate. Lean in heavily, little one.

And you will fail. You will fail and fumble and feel wobbly on your life legs. I pray that you make mistakes knowing this: failure is not a commentary on who you are. It is not to be feared. Failure is a beginning and you are worth it. You are worth giant dreams and huge falls because I AM has made you and He has called you good. I pray that you won’t fear conflict, either. Conflict is not an end. It is an opportunity to work out how to love and love well. You are worth conflict, too.

And all these things push me to my knees often. In the kitchen over a pot of sweating onions. In the morning when I catch the first cold breath of day. At night when my eyes are limp with the heaviness of life in a day. I pray for you and for your brothers that somehow God will use the mess in me. How I lose my temper. How I do cry over spilled milk. How I say no because I’m too tired to clean up the mess tonight. How I have to cup your childhood-full face in my hands and apologize over and over. I fumble and falter and He makes new and I pray that you see how there is a beautiful banner over me. It’s the banner of grace, of lifted burdens, of new wineskin and hope.

Also? I really hope you learn to laugh like your daddy.

6 thoughts on “To my bright-burning girl on your 8th birthday.

  1. Ellen, this post to your daughter on her birthday… whew! I honestly have to say I didn’t read it all because I don’t want to cry right now. Being 7 1/2 mths pregnant I’m an emotional wreck and so half of the post was all I could do. I read those lines and had my 5 yo daughter in mind who also has coffee-colored eyes and who I’ve fought for despite ourselves. I am overwhelmed with thankfulness to the Lord for my daughter who is me made over and is clearly God’s tool to force me to examine myself. Hard but worth it. We are creating and shaping other followers of Christ and it is daunting and exhilarating all at once. As always, thanks for sharing. Kim

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