Dear Beautiful Dolly,
Today I watched you.
I basked in your quick eager smile, megawatts lighting up the room.
I observed you selflessly sacrifice something you wanted, in order to make your brother happy.
I heard your infectious giggle, following conspiratorial whispers with your playmate as you strategized a surprise.
I saw you pretending to be a mommy, patting your baby’s back and comforting your dolly’s cry with an innate capacity for nurture.
I chuckled as you shrewdly bargained your brother for a better deal when he was trying to talk you out of something. Or was he trying to talk you into something? Either way, you knew what you wanted and you stood your ground and he finally accepted that he wasn’t going to make you budge.
You are all tomboy and all girlie-girl. Jumping mud puddles and climbing trees in your tiara and tutu. I adore your dichotomy and depth.
Already you have experienced loss and grief I would have given my life from which to protect you if that had been an option.
You are a survivor.
You are tenacious.
You are beautiful.
As you grow, our warped and bitter world is going to do its damnedest to pound those qualities out of you. Our world says you are worth nothing more than your body, or how you flaunt it. Our world gives lip service to the message that you can achieve anything, but then will slaughter you with criticism and condemnation for attempting.
You can succumb to those mixed messages.
Or you can reject them as the nonsense they are.
I see your strengths already.
In fleeting moments of clarity, I glimpse fragmented visions of the woman you are destined to become. A woman with heart. A woman of vision. A woman of profound resilience and strength.
I see your weaknesses too. The tendencies you will have to fight to overcome. The pitfalls you must learn to navigate and withstand.
As I look ahead on your path to womanhood, I often doubt my own ability to guide you wisely. I ponder how best to help you cherish all facets of the beauty, character, and identity God has gifted to you. I pray for wisdom to channel your strengths and strengthen your weaknesses. For insight to help you develop all your dimensions.
So many women in our world are uni-dimensional.
They are pretty, but nothing more.
They are brainy, but little else.
They are earthy but uncomfortable in any other environment.
That is not my dream for you, to be boxed into a single aspect of your many gifts and qualities. Because I know firsthand from my own journey into maturity, there is great value in being comfortably multi-dimensional.
When I pray for your future, I ask God to guide you into a womanhood that is rich and diverse, rejecting the limitations our narrow-minded world may seek to impose.
I pray that you will grow roots. That you will be down-to-earth and grounded. Perfectly at home mucking out stalls in the barnyard, destroying your manicure in the therapeutic soil of a garden, hiking the backwoods of a mountain forest in Nature’s healing isolation. Happy with yourself when you’re wearing old sweats with new holes and no makeup, and spending your days changing diapers or chasing muddy toddlers across freshly-mopped kitchen floors.
I pray you will find poise. Confidence in whatever roles of leadership to which you may be called. That you will be utterly at ease directing negotiations in the boardroom, especially after earning all these years of practice pushing back against your brother’s arguments. A leader of women and men, using your gift of empathy to develop the potential of others.
I pray you will embrace your beauty. That you will be at peace with the body and face God gave you. Equally comfortable in an exquisite ballgown, as you are the barnyard and the board room. That you will reject the world’s temptation to compare your physical appearance to plastic examples of beauty found on screens and in magazines. To remember while vanity is to be shunned, being beautiful is nothing to be ashamed of. To never lose awareness that your greatest beauty shines out from a kind heart, even while your face is stunning on its own.
Darling dolly, this week you are five years old.
I’ve always thought five is the perfect age…
Old enough to do many things for yourself, young enough to allow others to do the big things for you, not yet old enough to wish for more than the present day. When Jesus talked about the innocence of being like a little child — I’ve always thought he must be talking about someone who was five.
And so, these are my prayers for you. As you grow beyond idyllic innocence and into fuller knowledge of the cruelty of the world, may that knowledge never crush you. May you become a warrior for the well-being of others. May you embrace wholeness in your feminine identity.
May you lead wisely.
May you love well.
May you live with one face to the world.
And folded up in that prayer is a plea for myself and the other influential women in your life — may we model living and breathing examples of this mindset for you.
Happy birthday, daughter.