You are three today. Some day, years and years hence, you may wonder what you were like at age three, and this is what I will tell you.
You are happy. You have a nearly insatiable thirst for life, and you bring fun wherever you go. You run faster and harder, you jump higher, you splash more, you dive into your imaginative play more than almost any two-now-three-year-old I know. You feel deeply, which means your highs are very high, and your lows are very low. I think this will be a struggle for you throughout life. When the leggings that you want to wear are dirty, it takes you an hour to recover. When you are told that you aren't allowed to do something, or that something you have done has been counterproductive, you are devastated. But, you recover, and your goodnight "ugga mugga" hugs, your hollers of "good night" echoing after me as I go up the stairs every night, when we end the day on a good note, is one of the best parts of my day. When your lows are more than just dirty pants or the wrong cup, I pray that you will always be able to hold onto knowing that joy could be waiting just around the corner. Dear one, this isn't just from your mom, but it's a promise from God worth holding onto: weeping endures for the night, but joy comes in the morning.
You are unique. And a little bit crazy. And it's fantastic. You have a unique sense of style, and it's clear to everyone who sees you that you have been dressing yourself for a year now. You love to wear leggings ("tights") with a skirt or dress over them, you sometimes have your shirt backwards, and you almost always have your shoes on the wrong feet. But, you have picked them out and put them on yourself. You play with the crowd if it suits you, or you play by yourself if you prefer. Please, stay unique. God made you special and all of your tastes and desires and preferences, they are all custom-designed gifts from God. If this makes you feel a little bit lonely or weird at times, lean into it. You will come out on the other side of the weirdness stronger and happier for having known and embraced who God made you to be.
You are determined. You drive me crazy sometimes with your insistence that you can - and will - do something by yourself. Sometimes this determination ends in tears, but, increasingly, it ends with success. You do zippers, you do your carseat buckcle, you dress yourself and brush your own teeth, you use knives to cut grapes and butter your own toast, and when you have a two year old of your own (now three!), you will realize what an accomplishment this is. Stay determined. Life is hard, it just is. Whether you are curing cancer, climbing mountains or just facing the daily grind of another dirty diaper, another pile of laundry, and another dinner to make, or another thing gone wrong with your car or your job, part of living in a fallen world is just setting your gaze ahead and doing what needs to be done with excellence and determination. Overcome your disappointment, overcome your weariness, harness your determination, and you will be a fierce woman who always makes your mother proud.
You are nuturing. I sometimes can't believe what a servant heart you have when it comes to taking care of those you love. The other day, Grampy biked to our house and you brought him not one, but two, cups of ice water. Not a day goes by when you aren't getting water or vitamins or a blanket for one of your siblings. From the day you met your sister, you have loved her deeply with a beautiful sisterly love that brings tears to my eyes as I write. One of the highlights of my year was when you met Elese and couldn't stop nuzzling her and saying over and over, "It's my baby sister." Some day, you will realize that our current culture doesn't celebrate nurturing women as much as God does. He created you to love and to nurture, and doing so doesn't make you weak but incredibly strong. "Greater love has no one than this, that she lays down her life for her friends and family." You will have the chance to show this self-sacrificial to people around you throughout your whole life. As you grow more and more, may you also grow in learning this truth: "a life of sacrificial love is one of liberty."
You are beautiful. Your eyes alone can light up a whole room, not to mention how you smile with your whole face. I will tell you now and for your whole life that you are beautiful, and sometimes you will doubt me. You will tell me that I'm just saying that because I'm your mom, that I have to say nice things like that. But I really do believe it. You will be even more beautiful as you grow in grace, in gentleness, in confidence of being who God created you to be. He didn't make a mistake in crafting your eyes or your hair or your face or your body. He numbers the hairs on your head, and he also adores your smile. The culture around us has a standard of beauty that you may or may not end up fitting; that doesn't mean you can't be beautiful in your own special way, which will make you shine even more brightly than those who will try so hard to fit in. You can count on me to always be someone who is committed to helping you feel and be beautiful on both the inside and the outside. I hope you will trust me and let me be on your side in this regard.
You are loved. Of all the things I could tell you about yourself, this is the most important. When battles rage inside of you and outside of you, I pray - oh, I pray - that you will be rooted and grounded in love. The love that we as your parents shower on you is but a shadow of the love that Jesus has for you, but it's a start, and it's a model. We love you when you are happy and when you are mad and when you are obedient and when you have deliberately disobeyed and disappointed us. Our love for you doesn't depend on how you look or how you behave. You are ours, and we love you and delight in you. When you look at pictures, when you relive memories, when you think about life when it gets tough, may it always be through the lens, first of all, of knowing that you are deeply loved. We love you, but more importantly, God loves you with his everlasting love. Your life will have ups and downs, but you will always be better off for having known and remembered that your primary identity, your security and your hope comes not from within yourself but from a love that is given to you freely, abundantly, eternally, and unchangeably. You are loved, little one, more than you will probably ever know, and I pray every day that it is this Love that will guide your life, give you hope, and give you both roots and wings.
Happy Birthday, Lili, now and always,