An Open Letter to my Daughter on her 10th Birthday

My dearest girl,

Today you are double digits. Two numbers instead of one. It is an important birthday – you have now been alive for a decade. And since the day you were born, my love for you has been deeper than our climb down into the Grand Canyon, bigger than the skyscrapers in Chicago. My love for you is like that bicycle ride when you and I were pushing against that 13 mph wind: my love doesn’t give up. It won’t stop. And it will constantly keep pushing you to live the best version of yourself.

I will never stop loving you.

Not when you break a dish, or disobey, or roll your eyes. I will always love you enough to teach you, discipline you, guide you. I will pull you into my arms and tell you how proud I am of you – even when you aren’t proud of yourself. These words are for YOU. I have been thinking about them for weeks, knowing I wanted you to have these words. Keep them somewhere safe, so you can find them in your scared moments as a reminder. I will never stop loving you. So on this tenth birthday, I have ten things I want you to remember. I dug them deep out of my heart and want you to bury them deep in yours.

1. Get dirty.

As you get older, you’re going to love doing your hair, your make-up (when you’re finally allowed), your nails. But I don’t want you to forget how fun it is to jump in a pile of leaves or play mud volleyball.

Girly girls who sit on the sidelines just watch everyone have fun.

I want you to experience EVERY SINGLE opportunity. If a boy is going to like you, he should like you at your worst, not just at your best. So get dirty. And don’t be afraid to laugh while you do it.

2. Don’t be strong.

Society likes to tell us we have to be able to do things on our own. I want you to be your own person and become an individual, but I don’t want you to do it yourself.

Your dad and I, grandparents, and other adults want to help you – pour into you. Let us. The only strength you need to have is God’s strength in you.

3. Cover your body.

It’s hard when what’s in style is short shorts and skinny jeans. But your body is so special. God created you different than anyone else in this world.

You are beautiful.

And NO ONE deserves to see that body until they are willing to put a ring on your finger. So let’s not give anyone any previews. God treasures you, so I want you to treasure yourself. You can be stylish without uncovering that gift.

4. Choose your “five”.

I have always told you that you can’t please everyone – you only need to please God. But there are usually around five people in our lives who we REALLY care what they think.

Choose those five people.

Then, when someone says something hurtful, you think to yourself, “Are they in my five?” If they aren’t, don’t worry about it. Because what they said either isn’t true, or doesn’t matter. If they ARE in your five, it’s time to grow, learn and stretch – to become a better version of yourself. Listen to what they say. Don’t be hurt by it, let it make you better.

5. Play hard.

Don’t ever stop playing. I’m almost 40 and I still play. But don’t just play – really play hard.

Throw yourself in the moment.

Laugh until your belly hurts.

Dive under the water.

Cover yourself in snow.

Say yes every time you can. Try new things. Dance like there’s no tomorrow and sing at the top of your lungs. Build castles in your mind, draw new lands, act out your biggest ideas. Do a snow angel in shorts and a t-shirt. Play hard even when no one else wants to come out and play.

6. Don’t flop on the floor.

There are a lot of hard things when you’re 10. Math is hard. Soccer is hard. Friends are hard. Getting told no is hard. Obeying is hard. Sometimes things are hard.

But I don’t ever want you to give up.

Remember that part earlier about not having to be strong? We are here to help you. When you’re tempted to give up, take a deep, long breath. Step away from it for a minute. Ask for help. Do something nice for someone else to take your mind off of it. But don’t drop your shoulders and flop on the floor. That doesn’t help!! Set your mind to it and try again. Erase the math problem, think in a different way, and do it again. Run some laps. Make a new friend. Say, “Okay, Mom” and do the job, even if you don’t like it. Keep talking to me, sweet girl.

7. Be last.

Everyone wants to be first. First in line, first prize, first to turn in their homework. And sometimes it’s great to get honored that way. But Jesus said whoever wants to be great in His kingdom should be last.

So when you’re at school and everyone is running to be first in the lunch line or at the drinking fountain, let others go before you. If someone is handing out snacks in the classroom, give your snack to someone else and wait to get yours. SLOW DOWN when you’re working on your homework and make sure you do your best work – don’t worry about being the first to turn it in. Think of others and put them before you. Because I already see SO MUCH of Jesus in you, I know you want to be more like him. And being last, being a servant, being kind…that is like Jesus.

8. Stop rocking in that chair.

Mommy wasted a lot of time worrying when she was 10. She worried about being sick, or doing badly on a piano recital, or not finishing her homework. Instead of focusing on the positive, she sometimes worried about the negative.

There’s this saying that worrying is like a rocking chair. You can rock all you want, but it won’t get you anywhere. Jesus said almost the same thing – but in different words. When you feel worried, pray. Talk to God about it. Tell Him everything you’re feeling. Then trust. Trust that He will take care of it. Do your part, but let Him be in charge.

9. Use your weapons.

When you feel like giving up, feel discouraged, or even when you are happy, ALWAYS use your weapons. You’ve got the Bible – and it is the best weapon of all. There are so many things you can learn from all the stories in the Bible. People who have gone through the SAME THINGS you are! And the stories show you the same thing over and over again: Jesus wins.

You are going to learn a lot through your struggles and difficult times. And I wish I could tell you that it’s going to be super easy. It isn’t. It’s going to be super tough. But you’ve got weapons – the Bible, prayer, a church community – that will get you though those times. Both Mom and Dad can tell you that those weapons have saved us over and over and over. That means you have to practice using those weapons – often. Every day. You can’t get good at soccer if you never practice. So pick up your sword and read it. Talk to God. Keep going to church. Use those weapons.

10. Be like the trees.

When you walk home from school, look at the trees. See them reaching up to heaven? Did you notice? Adults don’t do a good job of noticing those things. Practice noticing them now and maybe you’ll remember to notice when you grow up. Be like those trees and raise your hands in worship. Practice now and maybe you won’t worry what others think when you are older.

Unleash your worship in ways that tell the world who your God is.

You have been given many gifts from God. Use them. Don’t be ashamed of them. The trees aren’t ashamed to lift their branches. They aren’t even ashamed when their branches are bare and naked. They still reach high to Jesus. You will feel vulnerable sometimes, like no one cares, like people are against you, like everyone can see your faults. Be like the trees and worship. Because no one matters more in this world than Jesus.

You are so excited to grow up. And I love watching you grow. You are so beautiful and full of life. Sometimes I just watch you as you stand at the sink, doing your dishes chore, singing at the top of your lungs – and my heart just hurts inside my chest. Because I know someday you’ll be doing those dishes at a different sink – and it won’t be mine.

You will get there, baby. I know you are just chomping at the bit to grow up. But there is so much life in EVERY moment and I don’t want you to miss ANY OF IT!

So just take it a day, an hour, a minute at a time.

Let me hold your hand like I always want to in the car, and let’s just stop and appreciate that little moment.

Your hand has grown so much since it grabbed my finger when you were born. But no matter how big you get, I will always be your mom.

And I will always love you… …more than my job, more than my books, more than my writing.

I will always love you… …more than my house, my church, my school.

I will always love you… …more than my anger, my sadness, my disappointment.

There is NOTHING you can do to lose my love for you. I choose you. But more importantly, He chooses you. And because of that, you can daily choose joy, living life each day as the BEST. DAY. EVER.

Love, Mom