Thirteen years and two days ago, I spent Father's Day 2003 celebrating Daddy. He was a pre-father already, since you were so close to being born. We went to a movie with his dad and mom. I remember sitting with my hugely pregnant belly, thinking this would be the "last time" Daddy and I would get a chance to go out on our own for a long, LONG time. And even though we weren't technically parents yet, our "last time" out was a classic parenting move: we went to see an ANIMATED movie. The title?
This morning, I woke you - my sweet teenager (!) - singing Happy Birthday To You. We ate a slow breakfast, and then headed out to treat you to a birthday movie date. The title?
For me, this was a perfect illustration of life with you the past year. Age 12 was beautifully sweet and tender, and overflowed with full circle moments.
There is one moment that is crystal clear in my memory because it is - to date - the most holy, most sacred parenting moment I've experienced.
Just a few weeks before you turned 12, you started showing signs of a struggle within your soul. I immediately knew what was happening, because it is the same struggle I started around the same time in my childhood (and I'm still in that same combat thirty years later). This struggle has been ongoing all year and hasn't ended yet. It has been the deepest ache you've faced in your life so far, and watching you flounder and fly has been one of the hardest things for me, too.
Because I've been where you are now and I've experienced what you're experiencing, I've had to be more vulnerable and authentic with you than I ever anticipated. This is what led me to that holy/sacred moment I mentioned above.
You were broken, laying in our LoveSac and crying over this struggle. Even though you'd been struggling for months, it was the first time you opened up and put words to how this pain was making you feel. It was the first time *I* had put words to what I felt at your age, too. I looked in your eyes as the tears spilled down your cheeks, and told you the words I desperately wished I had heard at age 12:
You are lovely. You are wanted. You are safe.
I told you if I had heard those words (repeated often) as a twelve year old, it would have changed my struggles. It would have healed some of my pain.
That's when YOU turned to ME and said with wet cheeks, "Mom, you are lovely. You are wanted. You are safe." The tenderness in your eyes made my breath catch in my throat, and something broken inside me started to come back together.
Thirty years after my 12-year-old self most needed to hear it, I realized a new chapter had begun in my relationship with you. This chapter is where we both lead and both follow, and end up walking side-by-side, together.
Somewhere along the way, we learned to lock arms with each other and fight the struggle together. I don't think it's anything we did alone; it's a God-given binding of our hearts. Oh, Katie! You are healing me, teaching me, inspiring me, and convicting me with your innocence, commitment, and faith.
I am in love with the young lady you've become, and it floors me every time I hear an echo of the future woman you'll be.
I couldn't be more proud to have a daughter like you in my life. You astound me with your depth of soul, compassionate heart, and the way you observe the world yet choose to go your own way. You encourage me with your faith, and I've enjoyed watching you learn your own rhythm of dancing with Jesus.
While I would love for your future to be filled with a successful career and financial gain and a healthy marriage and the proverbial two-story house with a white picket fence (and my grandkids! Ha, ha...), that's not the focus of my most recent prayers for you. For years now, since I recommitted my life to Christ, my desire for your life has been crystallized into one thought: my biggest hope for your future is that you will grow into a committed Christ follower. The rest is simply icing on the cake.
This past year, I felt vibrations and saw your faith unfold in a way that put the first bits of flesh on the hope I've been holding for your deep relationship with Jesus.
Your blooming has been breath-taking, and the roots God is growing in you have inspired me. You are a darling, beautiful, spectacular, magnificent, lovely-wanted-and-safe girl. And now, I can add TEENAGER to that list. (!)
Happy birthday, sweet Katie. I love you!