My original intent was to post these thoughts on my daughter’s actual birthday (three days ago). However, what with middle school rock spray painting to accomplish, birthday party planning and an impromptu emergency room visit (another blog post, believe me) – it just didn’t get done.

SheBelievedDear Daughter,

I realize a lot of what I say will flow effortlessly out the other side of your head. And, I get that – I don’t remember most of what I say to myself half the time, either. However, in the rare case that a small bit of this stops midstream in your cerebellum somewhere – I shall write them down for you.

First off, the thought of you becoming a teenager excites and mortifies me in equal portions.

I’m excited because I see glimpses of the woman you will become and my heart beats wildly with pride. You have such compassion for the marginalized. Like on the first day of school, during the icebreaker activity, when you went up to talk to the kid everyone else avoided because there was something “wrong” with him. And that was YOUR first day of PUBLIC school EVER.

I’m mortified because the same qualities in you that make me so proud of you also make me worry for you. Your soft heart could make you vulnerable to those who might take advantage of your kindness. It may also leave you open to heartbreak more often than most people. But then, I believe once-broken things mend, they are often much stronger than before – so I won’t worry about that too much.

Always remember that everything is figureoutable. Some things may take longer to work through, and some things make bigger messes while figuring them out. But you don’t have to be in a hurry to find an answer, and there will always be a perfect sized towel for whatever you’re dealing with.

And this whole business about boys (I’m so glad we aren’t quite there yet!). A lot of boys are stupid and insensitive. But a lot of boys aren’t. Don’t waste your time on the former. Above all, don’t compromise your convictions for any boy – no matter how nice he seems.

You may not realize this (because you can’t actually see them), but you have wings. Throughout your life people may try and clip them or pluck some of your feathers off. Try not to let them. And although Dad and I might not always be there to catch you if you slip out of the sky for a bit – you know where the nest is should you need time to heal. Oh, and just so you know. Those wings aren’t fashioned with wax. So you can fly as high as your dreams will take you.

Finally, if for some reason you forget every previous syllable I’ve written, please remember this:

Your identity is not in how many “friends” follow you on Instagram, or even how many true friends you have in real life. Your identity is not a number on a scale, or whether you make the volleyball team. It’s not what college you attend when you graduate, or even if you go to college at all. Your identity is this – you are child of the one true God, created in His image for His purpose. And He loves you So. Freaking. Much. He even let His own Son die for you.

I know you know that. I know you’re His. He’s been in that huge heart of yours since you asked me about the graveyard picture on the Scooby Doo Go-Gurt package when you were six. I just don’t want you to forget that you belong to Him. Nothing you do – or don’t do – can ever change that.

So, Happy Thirteen, sweet girl. You are incredibly loved and valued. Don’t ever forget that.

All my love,