Happy Birthday, my daughter, my delight, my lovely Livy-Loo! As you turn ten years old, I step back and consider the big picture of your life. Your first decade! And do you know what I think, when I look at your life? I think: “What a lovely life! What a lovely person!” There is so much to celebrate on an occasion such as this.
The word “lovely” really does sum things up quite well. “Charmingly or exquisitely beautiful; having a beauty that appeals to the heart or mind as well as to the eye, as a person or a face; delightful; highly pleasing; of a great moral or spiritual beauty.” You are all these things and so much more! You exude life and love in a way that’s truly unique. Truly lovely. I’m warmed by your radiant smile… I’m bowled over (sometimes literally!) by the way you show affection with such extravagance… I marvel at your attention to detail and aesthetics… I’m amazed by your graceful, gazelle-like movement (especially as your legs get longer and longer!)… I’m blessed by the way you brighten my world on so many levels… What a lovely life! What a lovely person! God has definitely used you as an instrument of love, grace, and beauty in my life — and I happen to believe that you are poised to take this to new levels in the years to come, as you transition from being a lovely little girl to being a lovely young woman.
Fathers often fear the maturation of their daughters, but I feel a surprisingly-strong sense of confidence in your future because of your kindness, your care, and your faith.
First of all, you show such great kindness, Olivia. Lovely kindness. Your instinct for empathy is remarkable: whether it’s directed towards a student in your class, an animal in the zoo, or a character in a story. You remain kind and considerate even when such kindness causes discomfort or difficulty for you — and that’s really saying something, considering the fact that adolescent girls can be so mean! I admire the way your heart reaches out especially to foreigners and smaller children, and I hope and pray that you can maintain this sensitivity for the rest of your life. With all our bright spots, however, come shadow sides. Our greatest strengths and weaknesses are often closely connected. In the case of your kindness, I worry sometimes that you become isolated and over-loaded by others’ burdens — like Martha in the story about Jesus visiting the home shared by her and her sister (Luke 10:38-42). If you ignore the potential dangers on the shadow side of your kindness, you could spend so much energy looking after others that you end up distracted, worried, and upset about about things to the point that you miss the opportunity to commune with Jesus in such situations. Keep your kindness, Olivia. Still I pray that you’ll remember the greatest act of kindness is to bring Jesus into those relationships and let Him take ultimate responsibility for everything that happens.
In addition to your kindness, Olivia, you take such great care with everything. Lovely care. It really is a parent’s delight to have a child with your sense of responsibility and organization. Every morning, you check the weather to make sure that you’re dressed appropriately for the day ahead. You straighten your room up before you head off to school for the day. You get your homework done on time. I love it that you’re so careful and conscientious with everything! My only encouragement to you with this strength is to cut yourself some slack sometimes and depend on God’s perfection instead of your own perfection. You’re still learning and growing and developing! And even when you’re fully grown, you’ll make mistakes. You’ll fall short, and when you do you’ll be tempted to beat yourself up. I get that way sometimes, too: frustrated by my inadequacies. Instead of trying to achieve perfection, though, I encourage you to embrace your imperfection and depend on God more than yourself. See Matthew 19:13-26: The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who accept their need for God’s blessing like little children, not to those with money, health, power, and perfection! God loves you — and I love you — just the way you are: with imperfections and occasional carelessness and all.
Best of all — even above and beyond the kindness and care — I’m thrilled to see that you demonstrate such great faith, Olivia. Lovely faith. I think it’s so wonderful to hear you talk to your Heavenly Father and create space for Him to speak back into your life. I think it’s great when you call me the “second-greatest Dad” in the world (after God). That faith will support you and sustain you through all the years of your life. Your relationship with God will give you the sense of identity and purpose that so many others desperately seek. In the year to come — finishing elementary school, growing into adolescence — I pray that you will “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). I pray that you’ll learn to hear His voice and carry on in the kindness, care, and faith that He’s developed within you.
Happy Birthday, Olivia. I love you so much. I love the person you are and the person you’re becoming. I’m so proud to call you my daughter and will forever be…