It is hard for me to remember anymore what life was like without you.

I remember deeply longing for you; well, for a child. I remember the grief, the darkness, the sadness, the numbing reality of infertility. I remember the disbelief at the pink line on each of the 7 or 8 home pregnancy tests I took. I remember the slow and cautious hope that grew within me as you did. I remember your birth. I remember holding you for the first time and weeping with joy. Indeed, you have lived into your name already: Emma Joy.

Now that I see even this paragraph I’m tempted to go back and edit my beginning sentence. There is much that I remember about life without you – all of which I’d go through again if I knew that the transition point of that past into the eleven years since would be you.

Eleven years. Amazing. So much has happened. You have grown into a girl who is nearly a teen, who shows glimmers of the woman she will become. You have brought me and many much joy.

In these past twelve months I’ve been struck by so many things about you. Time, space, and my exhaustion level at the end of this day will keep me from listing them all; but I can spend a few minutes and a few paragraphs typing down what I reflect on most – all of which fill me with such joy.

You are amazingly smart – not just academically, but in common sense, and also in humor. I am stunned by how funny you are and not just in a goofy way (though that is delightful to see when it emerges) – in a sophisticated, cunning, witty way. That is not to say I’m not also stunned by your intellect. Seeing you learn in a realm that appreciates, affirms, and accelerates your gifted brain is a joyful experience every day. I can only imagine what you will do, who you will impact, the worlds you will change, who you will be. What a joy you are – and offer.

As we’ve walked through this past season of much change I’ve watched you balance your own heartache with levels of awareness, sensitivity, compassion, and candidness that belie your age. I’ve watched you care for me and your sister. You’ve listened deeply and well. You’ve assimilated new information and emotions into your heart and mind, sifting and sorting through your own experiences and feelings, holding much and bravely, honestly expressing much. Though that process has and continues to be painful in many ways, it is also such a beautiful and profound picture of who you truly are: a young girl, soon-to-be-teen, nearly young woman who knows herself well, can stand her own ground, and still both experience and bring joy.

You are something, Emma. The amazement I felt at knowing you were even a flicker of possibility in my wildest dreams has not lessened for a moment. You continue to exceed my loftiest dreams and move me into realms of hope – and joy – I’ve never known before.

My deepest prayer for you is that you will come to know how much you offer and that others in your life will have the capacity to offer you the same; that relationships will not be one way but that the very strength, presence, and joy you offer will be returned to you. You deserve that, Emma. I will do all I can to give that to you – with the same level of care and nurture I offered before you ever emerged on the scene. It’s the least I can do. You are joy for me. And I know even more of such in being, offering and showing joy to you.

It is not hard for me to remember what life was like without you. Though I knew much joy it wasn’t you. I love you, sweet girl: Emma Joy.

Happy Birthday.