It is entirely possible that I will begin every single birthday letter to you with an astonishment over how quickly you are growing up. Let's just go ahead and expect it, ok? Because there is simply no way for me to wrap my head around the fact that you are turning FIVE years old today. I watched you grow from tiny infant, past pudgy baby, into mischievous toddler. And now you are decidedly every-little-bit-a-GIRL.
I have been staring at this picture of you for the last five minutes at least, marveling at how in love with you I am; while also wondering what in the world I can tell you today that will encompass all that you are and all that I hope for you.
Gosh baby, but you are beautiful and precious. I am captivated at this image of you laying in the grass surrounded by fallen blossoms, your little nose crinkled and arms thrown wide with joy and abandon. The moment lasted seconds, unplanned, and I didnt have time to focus or frame properly, or do anything but capture you exactly as you are. Which, in my unbiased opinion, is perfection.
It is frightening to think of you beginning the process of REALLY-growing-up. Like being in Kindergarten, and insisting on walking yourself to your Sunday school class, and asking really hard questions that I dont know all the answers to.
I imagine a little seedling, nurtured from a tiny seed, planted in fertile potting soil and carefully watered and kept safely on our kitchen windowsill. Where you can see out into the wide world, gazing up at blue skies and branches bobbing with the wind, without fear of rainstorms or hail or scorching heat or drought.
But the time comes when beautiful little leaves, green and perfect, need roots that dig deeper to sustain their growth. And so we find a place for the seedling to be planted, tilling the soil and fertilizing with stinky-stuff-that-smells-like-fish-poop (actually I think it is actually fish-poop), we put in a complicated-sprinkler-system and do our best to create an environment that will foster growth and protect our little seedling. But when it comes right down to it, when we loosen intricate tiny roots, shaking out soil, pulling from the pot and planting in the ground, all we can REALLY do is pray. Because even as I am tempted to keep my precious little seedling safe inside, I know that deeper roots and brighter sun, and even a few rainstorms, will produce a far-greater fruit.
And so as you begin the process, my sweet lovey, of going out into the big-wide-world, I will do my best to trust the Creator and sustainer of your life. Even as we water and irrigate and till soil and prune and do everything in our power to give you the greatest chance at abundant life. Even then, we will also unfurl our fingers from around you and trust the one who knows when you need to weather a few storms. Who knows that today you need sunshine, but tomorrow maybe you need rain.
Because I know that time will continue this astonishing and inexorable march onwards. You will keep growing up. And I pray that your roots will grow deep and strong enough to allow you to blossom into a young woman of great and abiding faith and love. I pray that you will remember the fruit you were made to bear. That you wont strain to be a rasberry bush when God made you to make blueberries (weird analogy, I know baby, bear with momma).
I look at you and I see all these gifts and talents and glorious little pieces that make up who you are. Your shy smile, your careful notice of those around you, your generous spirit, and even the stubborn jut your chin can get sometimes. Not a single slice of you has been crafted accidentally. You were made to bear great fruit, to give something beautiful to the world around you. And I pray every single day that as you round the corner of your fifth year (and your tenth year and even your fiftieth year), that you will find beauty and goodness in exactly who God made you to be. That you will share that beauty generously and fearlessly. Recognizing that vulnerability and generosity can open you to hurt, and being generous and vulnerable anyways.
Explore and ask questions, even when I seem flustered by their sheer number. Keep learning and fighting for justice, and loving those around you oh-so-well . You have a whole host of big brothers who will be ready to fight for you, and I pray that you (just as you already do) will show them another way of forgiveness and the powerful gift of love without condition.
I pray, above all else, that when I fail and disappoint you (because I surely will), and when I cant be with you as you begin to walk the journey of girl-hood and growing-up, you will remember and fall into the grace of a Jesus who never disappoints and will never leave you.
That as you grasp hard the great-grace that promises dawn after night and joy after sorrow, you will find help to weather the storms, withstand the rain, and bear up under the relentless sun. That you will grasp along with that grace, your own beauty, and the understanding that you are both loved and free.
Keep dancing and spinning and laying among the flowers. Know wonder and amazement at the world and its beauty all around you. Because yes, you are beginning this process of growing up, but I'm gonna need you to take things slow (for my sake, you understand). To keep hugging me tightly and whispering I love you in my ear. To give me butterfly kisses on my cheek when we lay in bed at night, and paint letters with your finger on my back, giggling when I get it wrong every-single-time. To keep doing ballet in the living room, and calling your big brother ZACKY! and running around in dizzying circles with Caden trailing behind you.
Happy fifth birthday my precious little girly. I love every single bit of you.
ps - If you wanted, however, to slow down a little with all-the-growing-up, I wouldn't complain.