Nine years ago today, we were given a miracle when you were born. We didn’t know if you would be a girl or a boy but we secretly longed for the former. God had graciously given us another miracle 3 1/2 years before. That miracle was a BOY. Our firstborn. Boys are amazing. Man, oh man, he was and is a blessing to us. All the boyness in our house was soooooo fresh and distinctive. We love some boy life. In fact, 2 1/2 years after you were born, God gave us another boy miracle. We cannot express how we love our boys. They never cease to amaze us. But, on that Sunday in March, wedged in the middle between those 2 boys, God gave us a GIRL miracle. We have never been the same. From the moment we saw you, we were stunned. We were stunned because we thought you would be another boy which would have been perfect had God ordained it. But mainly, we were stunned because you, little girl, were stunning. Some people say all babies look the same at birth and maybe there’s a bit of truth to that… But, femininity was evident upon first glance at that sweet face of yours. I’ll never put my finger on it exactly, but you were immediately different. You were a girl. You were altogether a contrast from the miracle we had been given before. Not better, not more than, not greater…for EVERY life is a jaw-dropping miracle. But you were a girl miracle. Sometimes, I still feel my heart flutter at the thought of how gracious God was that day.

Every day of your life, you have been a teacher to me. Every year you have lived you have given me deeper, richer perspective. You are so like me in many ways. As your mama and the one held responsible for the passing on of certain genes, I have had to tell you I am so sorry for some of the traits I have passed on to you. They prove to be a challenge to you as they have always been to me. Some genetics need not be carried on to the next generation. Can I get an “AMEN”? I digress. You see, when I look at you, I see me. However, I also see someone entirely different than me, at the same time. That is fascinating. People tell you all the time how you look like me. I think they mean it in a complimentary fashion but I certainly know that you won’t always take it as a compliment. And honestly, you should sometimes take it as a charge to develop our differences. I get that. Yes, you carry some of the same genes, but sister, you blow me away with how uniquely you are created. In some ways, you are so far from your mama’s template that I don’t know how we are related! When I see your confidence in trying new things, your aggressiveness in sports, your deeply competitive nature, your diligence to work exhaustively at everything you do… I cannot understand where in the world you came from in those moments. You did not get that from yo mama. It’s a gift from God…and your Daddy.:) But,  when I walk in your room at night to see you journaling about your day by the lamplight, when I hear you singing your little heart out to every memorized lyric of every song you know or when your temper rages toward those brothers of yours…. then, I remember. You really are my girl.

God knew you before He created the world, but 9 years ago we met you. For 9 years we have known you and loved you. This is the halfway mark, if you will. The middle of the journey. The 50 yard line. Now, we will always and forever be your mama and daddy. We will be as close as you desire us to be. Always. But while we pray you always honor and desire our company, we know that our job is to raise you to fly on your own. Our head knows the reality of our job…but, our heart prefers that you stay put. Your Daddy and I sometimes cringe at the inevidability of the next 9 years. They excite you and create an “I cannot wait to be grown” mentality in you. We are grateful (sometimes) for that inner desire for independence that literally grows every day in you. (Often faster than we would like.) But from where we sit in the parents seat, these next 9 years push us to release our grip on you one reluctant finger at a time. They push us to give back an account to the Lord of a finished work done in our home. These years require a letting go and trusting God with you that makes us uncomfortable, if we are honest. Up to this point, most of what we have said to you has been unmatched by the world. But we know, this is coming to a close. Over the next 9 years, believe it or not, we may become the dumbest, most embarrassing, most out of touch people you know. We know that is coming and so we ache a little as you grow. I think God understands our hearts. He had a child too. It’s painful to slowly cut the strings. Thankfully, in His grace and provision, I tend to think that’s why He allows it to be a slow process. Feels like a snails pace for you….Feels like lightning speed for us.

When you were 1, you got excited about sippy cups of apple juice and starting to take your 1st steps. At 5, princesses and costumes were your jam. Today you are  NINE. This year your excitement revolves around Carrie Underwood returning your fan mail and finding out that you and Thomas Rhett share a birthday.(!!!!) Through every year, I sit back and savor the innocence and simplicity of your little girl years. Naivety is but a season. I can honestly say, I think I have savored as much as I possibly can about this season. While I know these precious days are coming to a close, I am beyond grateful that I am the one who has been the witness of all the life and growth they have held. I loved and cherished every season with you thus far.

On the brink of some new stages in life, I know things are changing in you. I’m watching them happen and it’s a train I can’t stop. Things you didn’t notice, you now notice. Things that didn’t make you cry, now make you cry. The opinions that didn’t matter to you, are starting to matter. The winds of change are blowing. I was a young girl too, long ago. I remember those winds in my own life. For a variety of reasons, the world feels unstable during this upcoming stage of life. I just have a few things that I want to remind you of as you keep on growing (even though I keep telling you to stop). I know my voice may not always be your favorite sound over the next few years. But, I will do my darnedest to make it the most stable voice you are hearing audibly each day. I will not be perfect. But I will try, with all that I am, to be consistent. Things will shift all around you from friendships to hormones. But, can I offer you 3 things that will never change? These things that will not move. As your mama standing with you at the halfway mark, I will try to tell you these things as much as I can whether you want to hear them or not. So here we go…….

You will fall. Yes ma’am. You will. You are a sinful soul. I know that is a bit of a punch to your perfectionistic gut… but, if your mama won’t be honest with you, then no one will. Over the coming years, you are going to mess up. There will be times when you want to do right, but the allure of this world will pull you to the wrong. There will be times when your prideful self will trip you up and make you think you are more than you are. (That is where your Mama gets tripped up frequently.) You will forget who God made you to be and you will actually forget Him altogether. You really will. You will believe what others say about you over what God says and you will choose them over Him. You will choose yourself over Him. Sometimes you will unknowingly sin. Other times you will willfully, knowingly walk into sin. You just will. You are not the only one to feel this way. Even the Apostle Paul (along with all of humanity) said in Romans 7 that the good he wants to do, he often doesn’t. And the bad he doesn’t want to do, he often does. We are just flat out sinful, my girl. We are pretty darn rotten down in our core. Now, don’t you feel better?!? You have such an encouraging and uplifting mom…                                                                                                             Why am I telling you those things? Because they are true and I will always tell you the truth. We love you no less even knowing how you will fall. Your Creator loves you no less knowing how you will fall… In fact, because He knew, He made a way. At this point in your journey, you have experienced salvation. You have chosen Jesus and your Dad and I are already seeing the fruit of that in your life. The fruit of His spirit in you is a specific prayer we’ve prayed since your birth. Seeing it grow is our greatest joy of being your parents. Let me remind you that because you have you have chosen Jesus, this 2nd thing is true of you.

You can never fall too far. Scripture and the Holy Spirit will always tell you this, but your Mama will tell you, too. She’ll tell you because she is living it out, too…just a few years ahead. There will never be a day that you are beyond His grace. Never, sister. The world around you will crumble at times. Sometimes by your own hands from the mess that you, yourself have made. Your God will never crumble. He will never move. He will never not forgive you. He will never not pursue your wandering self. He will go as far as it takes to rescue you. In fact, He already did before you ever sinned. Romans 5:8 tells us that “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” While we were STILL sinning, He had already rescued us. Because you have chosen Jesus, you have hope that will sustain you on the deepest day of defeat you will ever experience. As Corrie ten Boom once said, “There is no pit so deep that His love is not deeper still.” Girl, TODAY on this 9th birthday of yours, I am asking God to pour that truth all over your life. That He will “lift you out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire and set your feet on a rock and give you a firm place to stand.”(Psalm 40:2) You will never, ever, not in your entire life, be outside of His love and mercy towards you. You are His. You will never not be His. Because of this, you do not live life for you. Which is why this 3rd thing is true of you.

You are not your own. Sounds a tad restrictive, right? The world around you will say, Hey girl, YOU DO YOU. You be your own boss and your own kind of beautiful. You go on and make your own way. You blaze your own trail. You are your own person and you can do whatever in the world you put your mind to. I can say all those things to you… and on some level they are true! You have been uniquely gifted and crafted. You need to be yourself. The perfect Creator has designed you and His artistry and creativity has surprised us every day of your life, from Day 1. Be so thankful He created you… your parents would have totally messed you up. So yes, I can say all those motivational things to you, but, they are ONLY true under the rule of Jesus over your life. You are not your own, dear girl. You were bought at a very high price. You and all your giftings serve a high purpose. They serve only to honor your Creator. They serve only  to point others to Him. You, apart from your God, are nothing.(John 15:5) He is your glory and your salvation. You walk in that. One of the first verses I ever remember you learning was Ephesians 2:10. I pray its tucks itself deep within you as you live it out through the seasons of your life. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for you to do.” Another translation reads like this, ” God creates each of us in Christ Jesus to join Him in the good work that He does, the good work He has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.” Oh, my girl, walk in the path of doing the next right thing in front of you. It may be simple and mundane. It may seem insignificant. But a life of doing the next right thing in front of you, will one day, sweet girl, create a beautifully faithful life. You don’t have to go far to find that this is true. Just sit with your grandmothers for a bit. Walk the way of your God. His righteousness will protect, guide and solidify your steps. The fact that we are not our own is not restrictive. Quite the opposite. It is freedom. It opens up a world of abundant living that Jesus came to give you. You are not your own. Be grateful for that…I promise you, you would mess it all up.

One last thing I want to say to you… Just this week, God gave me some extra grace as I approached your birthday. I ran into to my sweet 3rd grade teacher. She was one of my all- time favorite teachers. I am so grateful that I frequently get to visit with her now that I am adult. I was telling her how my baby girl is finishing up her own 3rd grade year. I told her how I couldn’t believe that you were about to be NINE…halfway to leaving our home. I felt such a safety with her and she sensed my struggle with this sentiment. She could tell that I was focusing too much on this fact. You know what she did? She leaned in close to me, looked in my eyes with those wise, old teacher eyes of hers, and with her familiar, calming voice said, “Oh, my Mysti. You are focusing on the wrong thing. You have to change what your looking at. You have to see each day for what it is, in the moment. When the time comes, God will have prepared your heart for what is next and it will be good. You will grow with her in every season.” My eyes stung with a tear but I remembered immediately how gracious God is to remind us of His faithfulness in the sweetest of ways. He will never not provide… for you or for me, sweet girl. He is our sure thing, mine and yours. We will hold on to Him together. Every step of this journey. Halfway there… I am proud of both of us.