Today marks the 9th year in which I have written a blog post on your birthday – celebrating you, honoring you, loving you.

I wonder if they’re more for me, than you: each year’s addition an expression of my need and desire to somehow capture and
hold onto parts of you that seem increasingly fleeting. I don’t know the answer. What I do know is that year-after-year I want you to hear my heart, to know and believe what I know and believe about you.

This year, in yet another attempt to see you for all of who you are, I’ve drawn upon words previously written to prove my point:

Look how amazing you are! 

At 9
You have struggled with your own emotions – the things that hurt, that seem unfair, that don’t make sense. You have raged, wept, sat quietly, and thought things through, often without resolution, without available answers, without any fix. And still you have laughed, played, danced, sang, created, and loved. I love that about you.

As I have walked through this past year’s days with you, Abby, I have been amazed at your tenacity, your demand for the good, your endless hope, your tender heart, your stamina, your strength, your loyalty, your sense of humor, your laughter, your singing, your love. I love all these things about you.

At 10
You have had a hard year, sweet girl AND you are brave and incredible in the midst. You have cried and screamed many times, just like at your birth AND you have just as quickly and spontaneously burst into laughter or invited those around you to the same. You are full of life, Abby – all of it…not just the restrained, what-you-think others-want-to-see kind of life. Though I know that is painful for you, at times, I wish I had learned to do such by the age of 10 vs. 30+ years later. You are stunning and I continue to learn from you – every day.

At 11
In your grieving and writing, your celebrating and singing, your gooffiness and intensity, I see the woman you are becoming. You are a rare gift, Abby – full of life, passion, energy, intellect, and always strength. As of yet, you still don’t know and believe all this about yourself, but it will come. It can’t not. It’s too clear, too predominant, too “you” to be ignored – even by you!

At 12
You are wizened, courageous, and deeply intuitive. You accurately read the hearts of others in a split-second and then set out to do everything you can to bring healing and hope. You reveal a strength that you don’t yet trust, but that cannot be quenched…Though smoldering at times, you can’t not blaze. Perhaps most profound is that you know none of these things about herself. You struggle to maintain a fragile ego. You ache when misunderstood. Your heart bruises at the smallest of wounds. You are a puzzle, confusing, hardly perfect, and brave. Your self-perception does not oft’ include the objective and affirming eyes of those captured by your gaze; rather it is informed and shaped by the subjective and critical eyes of a near-teen, combined with a culture that continues to assert that you’re not good enough, pretty enough, thin enough, rich enough, loved enough. It’s easy for the blaze to flicker under such conditions.

At 13
You have captured all of me. Gorgeous from the day you were born. Strong in ways you don’t see, don’t believe, don’t yet understand. Tender in ways that pierce your own heart and compel you to compassion beyond bounds. Gorgeous in relationship. Strong in intellect, humor, love. Tender in actions, generosity, empathy.

At 14
You are girl and woman simultaneously, in an ever-shifting orbit of emotions and passions and desires and hopes. Though deeply compassionate and longing for the happiness of those in your world, you speak your mind – boldly, unapologetically, and calmly. You hardly ever raise your voice, but under a relatively calm exterior, a fore smolders. Sparks fly, often.

At 15
You are brilliant, beautiful, and have the kindest, most tender heart in all the world. You can size up a situation in a second, know exactly what’s going on underneath the surface, and slice your way through agendas and drama like nobody’s business. You might not always name or say what you see, but there’s no question you understand. You have a gazillion friends who all think you are fabulous, even though you don’t always believe this is so. You are completely lovely, even though you don’t always believe this is so. You are wicked funny. You are talented. You can sing and sing and sing. And you are a bit of a perfectionist! Falling short is not an option. (Given that I know something about this, I also know the dark side of this trait…) You finish your homework, get great grades, and excel at pretty much anything you put your mind to. And when you’re not busy with other things, you watch endless episodes of favorite shows – The Vampire Diaries (which I don’t really like, other than the soundtrack), Grey’s Anatomy (which is probably not the best choice for a near-15 year-old, but I can hardly tear myself away either, so….), and the two of us together, Sherlock, Dr. Who, and of course Downton Abbey. Microwave popcorn, chips and salsa, and Top Ramen seem to sustain you and you can bake a mean batch of chocolate chip cookies without the recipe.

At 16
I have never loved you more than I do this day. Every part of you – seen and unseen. Every emotion – expressed and hidden. Every sadness – revealed and withheld. Every joy – known and secreted away. Every hope – yours to hold, mine to marvel.

At 17
And now, this year, what more am I to add, offer, or say? As I look at this brief and incomplete history, I realize that much more of your childhood is behind you than ahead; that much more of our time together (at least as we’ve known it thus far) is behind us than ahead. My heart nearly breaks at this awareness.

This year, as has always been true, your strength amazes me, your courage undoes me, and my hope on your behalf remains as undaunted as it was on the day you were born – my every cell willing you into strength and sound and life. This, truly, is all I want for you any and every year, every day, every hour, every second: strength and sound and life.

May you, in even the slightest glimpses and sidelong glances, come to see yourself as I do and in such recognize the gift you are to this world…and certainly to me.

Happy Birthday, Abby. I love you.