I'm already crying as I type this, but that's your mom, right? ;) Today, eleven years ago, you came into this world with a bang! You were ready to show the world what you had in store for it. I can still remember sitting, watching your little feet kicking my bulging belly and smiling, imagining the days that those tiny legs would be doing plies in a tutu or kicking a soccer ball across the field. It seems so far away, but I can remember it like it was yesterday. I remember the nurses ooh-ing and aww-ing over all your hair. I remember them laying you on my chest all wrapped up with a tiny pink bow the nurses had already clipped in your hair. I remember the way you smelled. I remember the look on daddy's tear-stained face as he held his little girl for the first time. I remember looking into your eyes in awe, wondering how you could love something so fierce that you had never seen until now. I wanted to be the BEST mom ever. I wanted to protect you from everything and everyone and I wanted to give you all the secrets of life i had learned in my 24 years, so you wouldn't have to learn the hard way, like I did.
I've done pretty well, I think. Daddy & I worked so hard to make sure you were well behaved and well learned. You have grown up to be just who we prayed you would be. And now, as you leave childhood behind, a lot of new changes will come your way. Changes that are hurtful, or scary, or confusing, but also ones that are freeing, and exciting, and new! As good parents, our job is to let out a little bit more of the string that attaches you to us, and let you explore the world of tween. (Oh boy, Noah will be loading the ark here in a few if I don't stop this crying!) So today, on your eleventh birthday, I want to let you know eleven things that I feel are important for you to know, or be reminded of, or just to keep close until you need.
2. No one thing or person can be your everything. Sometimes we go through life searching for that one thing that makes us feel whole. Some people fill it with a person, some with alcohol, drugs, or food. But the truth is, God put everything we ever need in life inside of us the day he sent us down to earth. The moment that you were born on this day, eleven years ago, you came out with a full head of hair and a soul full of talent, intelligence, grace, will, desire, and strength that will get you through this life, you need only to unleash it. The only thing that can fill that aching void is finding YOU. It's there, I promise.
3. In a world of technology, remember to use your body! It seems that kids growing up in your generation can live solely on facebook, instagram, and texts. These things are fine in moderation, but don't forget to dance. Run and spin, walk and skip. Keep your temple well and alive. One thing I learned from Daddy's bout with cancer is that at any moment, your body could be ravened, taken, attacked. Keep it strong and healthy and you'll be better able to fight things that head your way. Keep fresh air flowing through the strong lungs that cried for the first time on this day, over a decade ago, and keep the sun on your smiling face. Never forget that having working legs and a good strong heart is a blessing that not all are privy to.
4. It's not always about you. (And it almost is NEVER about you). You are heading into a season in your life that tends to be hard for girls. There will be times when people say or do things that hurt your heart, and you have no idea why. Just remember that it's not always about you. When people feel hurt, scared, jealous, weak, they sometimes take it out on the wrong person. I have always struggled with this, and I continue to. You have my emotional genes, so I know there will be times that your heart aches even when your head knows there's no reason. People WILL hurt you. People WILL let you down. Just remember that perhaps God asked them to fight through something that we don't know about, and in turn, they try to feel better by taking it out on someone else. You are strong, you are brave, and you will get back up and stand again. Your family will always be here to help you through.
5. Be yourself. I love to see your screensaver say "Stay calm and LOVE EMMA!", because it shows me that you are confident enough in yourself to know you are who God made you. Keep it up! Wear footies even when everyone else laughs.Watch My Little Pony when you're too "old", play with your dolls even when all your friends have moved on to "cooler" things. Stay true to yourself. You are different, you are unique, you are YOU, and that's who we love! Don't let magazines, friends, or actresses make you feel that you should become someone you're not.
6. It's okay to go. You're looming closer to the launch pad of adolescence. I'm always telling you I want you to live with us forever, that I'll pull an RV to wherever you are and live on the curb outside your house, because I love the time we spend together. But the truth is, you need to go, and it's ok. It's important that you spread your little wings and fly. Watching the little birds on our porch leaving the nest, I always had ulcers when one would fall, not fly. I teared up for momma bird, as she watched her baby on the dangerous ground where he surely would be eaten in a matter of minutes by one of the cats next door. But momma bird chirped and chirped and sure enough, those fallen baby birds got up, flapped their little wings, and eventually flew up into the tree, where mom and dad were proudly waiting. I'm going to cry, and my heart is going to break, and I'll miss you like I'd miss breathing, but inside, know that I am proud, and excited for you, and I know that you will learn to be the woman God created you to be by being on your own. And don't ever be scared to ask for help or encouragement because we'll always be just a tree away, no matter how many times you fall.
7. You have a strong voice - let it be heard! You are SO smart, Emma. You have ideas and thoughts that are beyond your years, and you shouldn't be scared to let them be known. Your opinions are important, and they should be heard, just be sure they are in a respectful manner. When you're wrong, admit it. When you're sorry, say it. When you're thankful, let them know, and when you feel wronged, let the wrong know it. Never be afraid to disagree, whether it be with an adult, a child, or peer. But you have to remember to LISTEN to others as well. They'll have beliefs that are completely different than yours, and that's okay. Don't negate that. Something was put inside them that led them to believe what they do, and it's okay to agree to disagree. It's OKAY to have different beliefs and thoughts than your parents, friends, and family. If they can't accept you for that, they don't belong in your inner circle no matter WHO they are. Let YOUR light shine!
8. You're safe. I often felt that I wasn't safe to talk about things going on in my life. I sometimes felt even ashamed that life at school wasn't "perfect". I NEVER want you to feel this way. You can tell daddy and I ANYTHING. We may not always be happy about a situation, we may be angry or sad, but we will work through it TOGETHER, as a team. There is nothing in this life that would ever make us not love you. We are here for you forever. God didn't make us to do life alone, he gave us relationships to help bear the burdens that we face, and you can come to us with any problem, big or small, happy or sad, embarrassing or not. We will never judge you based on mistakes. We ALL make them.
9. Boys are hard. Looking back on my own life, I realize that the boys that I dated helped me find your daddy. I can remember good traits from some, bad traits from others, that shaped the kind of man I wanted to marry when the time was right. I wanted a man that would make a good father. I wanted a man that would never lie about even small things. I wanted a man that loved me for what was inside, not just looks. I didn't want to be treated like a 50's housewife, I didn't want to be flawless in a man's eyes, and I didn't want an unfaithful man. The things you learn from dating boys are important because they let you learn about yourself, and who you are, and who you want to be, and who you want to share that with. I learned that I am NOT a dinner-on-the-table-by-the-time-he-gets-home wife. I am not a wife that relies completely on her husband for all things outside the house. I am whiney. I am hard headed. I am emotional, but fierce. I am a protector. Daddy was able to love me for me, through all my good and bad traits, and he was, and still is - everything I wanted and more. Is he perfect? No. And no one will ever be. There are always little things that will drive you crazy, and you'll have them, too. But a marriage is always a work in progress. I've always told you that the marriage doesn't end at "happily ever after". You have to work hard for those three words, and it's not always easy, and it never ends. You will learn things through boys about yourself that may be completely different or opposite from me, and that is PERFECTLY okay! You need to learn who YOU are before you can learn who HE needs to be.
10. You are so loved. Your little brother loves you with a love so fierce it hurts me to think of the day that you close him out of your life (Go away, Elsa!). He looks at you like a flower looks at the sunshine. Every decision he makes has your thoughts in it. Every picture he draws is for you, and every sacred treat or event in his life is always shared with you, even kept aside until you are around to receive it. Daddy & I love you more than you will ever know, because a love like this cannot be put into words or hugs or songs. If there is one thing in this world that you will always have an abundance of, it is love.
11. You are special. Most of the people in this world head back to heaven never knowing why they were here anyway. They live their lives wondering if they were meant for so much more, or if they should be embracing a path that they're not. But you?
You are special.
I learned of your purpose here the day your brother passed away. You are my rock. My strength. My life source. It's funny, when you think about it. A parent is always the one that a child fully relies on to be fed and clothed and raised, and yet, 11 years ago today, i had no idea that the tiny little baby i held to my chest while daddy cut your cord was going to be the one saving ME.
The day Eli died was gut wrenching. It was dark, it was confusing, it was the worst kind of hurt. The kind that I hope you will NEVER feel in your lifetime. The kind that rips your soul into a million bleeding pieces that keep hurting and hurting and swirling in a body like a tornado or razor blades cutting away at everything you are over and over and there's no way to stop it. Not even death could come quick enough to ease that kind of pain. I could easily have stopped living that day. Easy. I could have stayed in my bed all day forever. I could have gone on cursing God with every hurting cell in my body all the while begging Him to take me home every day and every night.
But I didn't.
Because of YOU.
You made me get out of bed every morning. You made me cook and eat. You made me smile. You made me laugh. I LIVED for YOU every day, and slowly your love and life began to heal wounds that were so deep they were never even seen before. Slowly, with your faith and stories of the brother that you never knew began to fill the darkness that was my soul, and I began to see the blessings in the pain, and the happiness in the sorrow, and this tiny little girl, who had to bury her brother at only 3 years old, showed me how to live again. How to breathe in and out again. How to embrace the faith and strength I had locked deep within. YOU! Tiny little you.
And it was then that I knew that God had sent you to me. He knew that I may not be able to pass that test with who I had, so he sent an enormous strength, all wrapped up in 9 pounds and 22 inches of Emma, for me to hold onto when I was drowning in life.
You are the reason that I know how strong i am. The reason that I knew when daddy was diagnosed that we could get through it together. The reason that evan is so confident and strong. The reason daddy fights for this family. The reason I live. You ARE strength. God sent you here because you have a gift so powerful that it saves lives! You are a gift to the world!
You are an angel, Emma.
You are special.
Happy 11th Birthday, sweet Emma.
We love you.