September 6, 2011. I cried almost the whole day long. Really. Maybe I was hormonal or it was a full moon or it was the first time I’d ever been the mother of a seventeen-year-old girl. Maybe d) all of the above. In any case, by the time I went to the bus stop at the end of the school day I had eyes that stung from all those tears gone rolling down my face. A friend came to the window of my minivan and I rolled it down and had to apologize for my swollen appearance. For the waver in my voice. For being a mom so unsure.

January 6, 2015. My second daughter, my Kennedy, turns that same seventeen. As I sit behind the screen typing the words you read it is late on the 5th of January. Confidently I put these words in print, feeling sure of where I’ve been and where I am and where I am headed.

redhead teen girl

I don’t sense the stockpiling of tears for tomorrow. I remember that when Torri’s seventeenth came to pass I felt sorry. There was this bully of a ticking clock in my head back then. As the second hand inched forward it grew louder and louder and louder still. Just one year left, it taunted. Your time is short. You’re not going to make it. 

When I was a girl I sat on the stairs with my childhood best friend and mapped my life: There would be four children. I would be a lawyer. We would feel no pain and shed no tears. Our clothes would be recognizable by the brand.

Fast forward: There are four children. I mother and I write. I feel pain and we shed tears. Our clothes pile up in the laundry room.

Along came my second child–a daughter–and I don’t know what I had pictured in my head but whatever it was she isn’t it. She is a girl all her own.

With my first I knew precisely what to worry about and as it turned out my hunches were spot. on. This second is full of surprises. She is the zig to my zag. The here to my there.

redhead teen girl

I walk into her room and I sit and–truly I tell you–I am puzzled by where she gets this creativity. This streak all her own. She has an eye for design that I can only covet–a quirky sense of style that leaves me with a cocked head and a questioning smile.

She inherited my love for PJ’s.

She is beauty: Her hair like fire and skin like snow. She is intelligence: Grades I wished to have and books I never read. She is strong: On her ring finger she wears an assurance I could never muster. She is a dreamer: hopes pinned up like declarations in her closet and on her bulletin boards.

I don’t doubt she’ll get where she is going.

redhead teen girl

Everyone says how exactly she looks like me and I see it, too. There is a fear beneath it all, though: that she’ll grow and she’ll go and she won’t look back. A face, after all, is only skin deep.

A birthday wish for my second born child–for the girl I dreamed of, hoped for, and treasure still: May you always know where you are going and from whence you came. May you never doubt what lies in your wake. May your dreams–like magnolias–open to the sun and bloom tenfold. May storms find you and pass you over, strengthening your will. May you seek and find. May you love and lose, but just enough to prove value. May you root yourself so securely in the One True God that you never come untethered. May you make mistakes that you can learn from, and promises you can keep. May you never lose sight of your worth. May you always feel at home. May you know for yourself the One who satisfies every hunger, who quenches every thirst. May happiness find you–but more importantly–may the truth of who you are settle so deeply in your soul that you never wander. May you always know how deeply and how truly you are loved.

Happy birthday, dear one. And many more.


redhead teen girl

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  1. Happy birthday sweet Kennedy! I’m a little late with your birthday card _ but I didn’t forget. It is in the mail. Love and kisses.

  2. So beautiful are your words that describe the girl that is celebrating today

  3. Happy birthday to your beautiful girl, and congratulations, Mama! You have given your children light, love, roots and wings, and they will soar to the dreams you have always imagined for them!

  4. Happy Birthday Kennedy!!! You hit the nail on the head…she is a wonderful, beautiful, respectful, funloving young lady!!

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