To My Grown Daughter | On Your First Birthday

(Actually, 7 days after your first birthday. Let that be a big exhale for you, darling daughter. You can have the best laid plans, but you can only do what you can, and in reality, it's ok to write a letter to your daughter 7 days after she turns one, instead of on the day.)

I don't know where you are on this day, but I know where I am today, and I think it might release a little something in you that will allow you to live a little fuller and freer in your skin and your life, being reminded of who you really are.

Today I am 32, and most days feel like a game of tug-o-war; being pulled this way and that, between my dreams and life's demands. Majority of it's demands are good, and come from the mouths of the people I love the most. Hazel, while it feels exhausting and often times too much, it's all really good stuff--the stuff that makes up a life. It is beautiful and holy and completely ordinary. What's more, it is intricately laced with the love of God. If you find yourself in a moment of emptiness, feeling as if you are giving to those you love from a source already depleted, know that you are walking on holy ground--the very ground your mama walked before you. Drop to your knees and receive from the One who's supply is abundant. Sometimes you'll need Him just to get to the next moment in life, and other times you'll find yourself going far too long without looking to Him to be filled; if that is the case, don't walk back to him--run. Hard and fast. Because I promise you, all those other things pale in comparison to what He longs to give you and allowing Him into the every day "mundane" of life is the very thing that turns the mundane into a life of adventure and magic and whimsy.

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One thing we have learned about you in your first year of life is that you have these magical eyes. They radiate love. They draw others in. And I like to think they reflect, even a fraction of, the joy found in the eyes of the Father. I pray your eyes stay magical and that they develop the ability to see the love, joy and whimsy in others, and that in your growth you develop the strength and courage to call those things out in others--to be a voice of truth in their lives that tells them who they are and to Whom they belong.

I've discovered recently that the change happening in my heart, the one that is making my heart more like Christ's and less like my flesh, is a bit disjointed from my lips. The thoughts in my head rarely come out of my lips the same; something I am asking Papa to grow and change in me. I pray you will grow to be a woman who speaks eloquent words full of grace, truth and conviction. That you would reflect the heart of God with the way you speak to others, and with the way you speak to yourself.

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I'm sure you've known for quite some time now about the one who strives to keep you small. The one who tells you your voice is insignificant and that your reach is limited. He's the one who clouds your eyes, silences your lips, and deflates your heart. I'm learning today that life is made up not of falling in defeat to the enemy's arrows of deceit, but of falling to my knees before my strong and mighty God, expectant that He will lift me up to stand tall as the woman He fashioned me to be--the woman I am on this very day--who is far more than she believes, withholding greater strength, love and joy.

Beautiful girl, I think this is what makes life so holy. The continual choosing of God, of your original design, of mercy and love and acceptance of others. It's this beautiful, dramatic dance, and He invites us in every day. As I watch you waddle across the floor, I envision you walking confidently into the arena that He has prepared for you. As I hear you babble and tell us what is on your mind, with such confidence and joy in your eyes, I envision you commanding a crowd of eager men and women, proclaiming the love and mercy of Jesus Christ. As you wrestle and fight for what is yours, and keep your eyes on your limitations, waiting for your chance to take new ground, I pray you will carry that same tenacity into the land He has prepared for your adult years. That you would see greater freedom for your family and run hard towards it at the first opportunity. That you would see the places where the enemy has laid strongholds and that you would fight your way in and break them with confidence.

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Hazel, your life is one of my greatest joys. Papa has used your life as an invitation for me to take new ground, to settle a little deeper into my own promised land, and to proclaim greater freedom over your life and over the ways you grow and the realities you take as your own. On this day, I am proclaiming the words of Timothy when he says that God has not given us a spirit of fear but of POWER and LOVE and of SOUND-MIND. This is my promised land, and it's yours too.

Darling daughter, I am fighting my fiercest fight so that you can live free. I promise you that I will never stop fighting for my own freedom from sin and bondage and generational sin so that your life can be filled with all of the joy and whimsy and purpose that He set out for it to. Life won't be "perfect" by the world's standards, but in the holiness we find His perfection, and in my experience that's immeasurably better.

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I love you, Hazel. I pray that every single day of your life you know that. But even more than that, I pray that every single day of your life you know that He loves you. He loves you with a fierce and wild and strong and merciful love. I pray that His love will continue to cover over every single moment my love has fallen short. I pray that you will take for yourself your own determination to love those in your life with even greater tenacity and determination than I did--that the generational bonds would not only be broken but reversed and made to reflect the character and love of God in an even greater way with each generation that comes after us.

If, when you read this or any day thereafter, you find me living a defeated life, I give you permission to remind me of these very words. I implore you to challenge me with the Truth of God's word and my very own testimony--and yours. Don't ever feel that you cannot tell your mama a thing or two about life. Ask your dad--I've always said I wanted us to be teachable by our kids. So if my attitude says otherwise, hit me with my own words. I pray I raise you to be a woman who does not back down out of fear of ruffling feathers. (This one might be a lesson later in life, as I need to figure it out myself first before I can teach you.) It's ok to ruffle feathers when it will bring a person face to face with the Truth.

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I could go on and on about all of the things I hope and pray for you. What's incredible is that my hopes and dreams pale in comparison to your Papa's. He loves you, my sweet girl. It will be my greatest joy to watch you discover that with each passing year, and I cannot wait to see the woman that you are when you read these words.

I love you, my darling daughter.

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Lord, she is wild and strong and so full of love. Let me never take an ounce of that away from her, but let me be a source that You use to feed the woman inside of her that You so delicately and purposefully designed. Lord, may she have lips of conviction--lips that cannot help but speak what she knows is true and right and lovely. And with each word may she demonstrate the kindness and grace found in the One who made her. Lord, let her grow to not only appreciate but to understand the very purpose of her physical being--that she is a vessel that houses Your very Spirit, and with that she has been given the invitation to join You in the miraculous and adventurous life written for her. Lord, let her love with abandon and a complete unawareness of what it feels like to need to be loved by someone else first. Let her just love. Love and love and love and know that the love she receives from You is the real stuff of life. Lord, let her teach. Let her teach the future generations, her generation and mine, especially. I know that she will have so much to teach us women in those days, and I pray in advance for Spirits eager to hear Your heart for us daughters. Mostly Lord, I pray she will know every single day of her life that her life has incredible purpose, and never for one second has it ever been or will it ever be "just another life." You set out for her to be here, and You made a way for her to come. With that let her live a life of bold and unwavering purpose. Let it be because of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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And a few more photos because they are too good not to share: (Photos by ((the INCREDIBLY talented)) Renee Johannesen--@photographybyrenee