You view life through a lens:

A camera.
A computer.
A pair of glasses.
A teenage girl.

Your perspective differs from mine much most of the time.

This continues to surprise me.

For years, I braced myself; certain you would know the same pains and struggles as me:


This is not your lens.

The girl I see is a far-cry from who I was at the same age.

You are strong where I was weak.
You are an advocate where I was afraid.
You are defiant where I was demure.
You name injustice where I was its victim.

This continues to surprise me.
You continue to surprise me.

Who will you become? Who are you today, on your 15th birthday?

A girl who takes photographs that rival professionals’;
who knows what she wants vocationally and moves even now toward that end.
A girl who spends countless hours in social-media worlds;
making friends, having conversations, being curious, and blurring boundaries.
A girl who fights against social norms, “popular” imagery, peer pressure, and “everybody’s doing it.”
A girl who leaves the room when a Victoria’s Secret ad comes on: irritated and enraged.
A girl who feels her insecurities, her issues and her uniqueness.
A girl who carries the stories and pains of others – always on their behalf.
A girl who is surrounded by friends who enjoy her, respect her, love her.

You have always been miracle to me, Emma Joy.
From the moment I disbelievingly discovered I was pregnant
to the first second you were placed in my arms – and so many that have followed.

It’s true: we have moments, seconds, and days if not weeks
that feel far less like miracle, far more like madness.
It’s also true that in the midst, your lens remains clear, focused, trained.

Determined (even defiant). Tender. Compassionate. Full of hope and desire. You.
That you is a lens that has forever changed my perspective, my life, my view of everything.

May it always be so.

May your lens always enable crystal-clear focus on who you most truly are.
May your lens always invite perspective, vision, and an eye for all you will yet do and be.
May your lens always reveal the beauty and strength I see when I look at you.
May your lens always and ever be only your own.

Happy 15th Birthday, Emma Joy.

I love you.