It’s been awhile since I’ve written in this space. Days turn into weeks and weeks roll into months and I can’t remember when I last told our stories.
When did I last capture my thoughts?
Blogging isn’t what it used to be. We aren’t gathering around our blogger sites anymore. We are no longer simply telling our stories, catching up, talking about the beautiful mundane. Still, there is something about writing it down. Recording it for history. Saying it now so we can remember it later. This space will always draw me back.
I see no better reason to dust off the keyboard and tear the cobwebs from the blog than celebrating the girl who changed my world, on this day, twelve years ago.
Chanelle is 12 years old today.
Today, I write for Chanelle.
Every year when I write on your birthday, I imagine you reading these words years down the road. Let’s be honest, you’ve made it clear that the blogs are entirely too long for you to read right now. (Though, somehow, you had no problem reading the Harry Potter series.) Still, I know the gifts wrapped with crinkling paper and shiny bows are much more enticing right now. Someday, though, I hope that you will find the greatest gifts cannot be wrapped–the greatest gifts are shared–whether in words or experiences.
As I sit down to write this, on the eve of your birthday, I envision you sitting in your dorm room at college. Perhaps you are looking for a distraction from the paper you are in the middle of writing or you can’t sleep because you feel a little bit sad or a little bit alone. Or maybe it’s even further down the road and a baby rests in the crook of your arm and you sit in the darkness willing your sweet one to sleep. Maybe you are sleep deprived and wondering–how will I ever get through this night. Maybe, in the darkness, you pull these words up because you need to remember how far you’ve come.
Whatever the case, I hope you will return to these October 24th words and remember how much you are loved–how much you are celebrated.
Chanelle, this twelfth year with you has been something else. I’m not sure there has been a year when I’ve seen so much growth in you. I look back at pictures from a year ago and I’m amazed at how much you’ve changed. How you’ve become less little girl, and more young lady.
Oh, but the outside changes don’t hold a candle to the changes we’ve seen on the inside. The way you’ve grown into yourself and have become so uniquely you.
Chanelle, as I consider this twelfth year, I see how much you’ve learned about yourself. And in learning about yourself, I see how much you’ve embraced who you are. And in that learning and in that embracing–you’ve given us a wonderful gift–you’ve helped us learn you.
And as we learn more about you, Chanelle, we delight in you more and more and more. And even as I write that, I marvel at the reality that the explosive love I felt for you that chilly October day 12 years ago has grown in ways I never knew possible.
Chanelle, you are our first girl, so when you were born, naturally I assumed you would be just like me. Daddy had his mini-me, it made sense that you would be just like me.
This year, more than any before, I’ve realized how different we really are. I am emotional, you are stable. I bask in questions and you delight in answers. My head floats above the clouds and your feet are planted firmly on the ground. I am often less than rational, you are quite practical. You can take your Harry Potter, and I’ll stick with Mr. Rogers.
Twelve years ago , in that hospital room, when I heard the words, it’s a girl!, I thought I wanted a mini-me. . .
But God gave me so much better. . .
He gave me you.
Chanelle, you have been one of my greatest teachers. You have taught me to embrace differences. To seek understanding. To see in a new way.
Yes, Chanelle, I have delighted in learning you and understanding you and watching you as you grow into your skin. And while, as you know, I grieve these quickly passing years, I also relish in them. What a gift it is to watch you grow. To see the way you give yourself to the things and the people you love.
Goodness, how I love the way you take such pleasure in plants. . .
Your tenderness with animals, living and stuffed. . .
Your appreciation of food.
Your quick and often sarcastic humor.
And the way you watch out for both of your siblings. . .
I can go on and on, Chanelle, (as we both know), but if you remember nothing else from this, I want you to remember this. . .
I am so proud to call you my daughter. I am so grateful that God gave us you. I have such confidence that you will pave your path and to follow it to the end. I believe, with everything in me, that when you set your mind to something, you will do it.
With that being said, I also know this. . . Chanelle, there will be times in your life when you will feel alone and sad. There will be times in your life when you will feel lost and unsure. There will be days when you wonder if you can go another step. There will be doubts and hurts and questions and pain and as much as I wish I could protect you from all of that, I know that I can’t.
When those times come, Chanelle, I want you to remember this: as long as there is breath in our lungs, we will be here for you. We love you with a depth and a breadth that you can’t understand right now, but I trust, someday you will. When the world seems big or scary or just plain too much, your dad and I will be a soft place to fall.
When you don’t believe in yourself, we always will.
When you doubt yourself, we will remind you who you are.
When you have questions, we may not have answers, but we will sit with you in the questions.
And more than anything, Chanelle, you are loved deeply and celebrated fully.
I love you, sweet girl.