A Letter To My Daughter On Her 13th Birthday

My girl,

Today you turn 13.

13 years ago I saw your face for the first time, and every day since, you have been my delight.

I always wanted a daughter. When I was pregnant we went in for an ultrasound to find out your gender. The night before, I had cried and prayed, “It's OK if it’s another boy, God. I will love my second boy as much as I love my first. It’s OK…” So the next day when I laid on the table, breathlessly waiting, and then heard the ultrasound technician say these five words, “Looks like it’s a girl,” I didn’t say a word, but tears dripped out of my eyes, silently spilling joy down my cheeks. Your dad squeezed my hand because he knew you were the desire of my heart. My daughter.

You were the baby who slept in my bed with your back against my belly, like spoons. For years we called it “Favorite Snuggle,” until you got to be almost as tall as I am and you wouldn’t fit under my chin.

You were the toddler who raised her arms towards me and said, “Hold you,” when you wanted to be picked up, since I always phrased it, “Do you want me to hold you?” You sucked your thumb and squeezed my thumb with your other hand because it soothed you. You quoted nursery rhymes at two years old and melted all our hearts.

You were the little girl who had tea parties with her stuffed animals, serving fruit snacks and juice. You let me put bows in your hair, you took dance classes, and you did EZ Bake Oven with me.

You were the big girl who stopped sitting on my lap, who accidentally swallowed her first loose tooth because you were too afraid to pull it out, the girl who learned to ride a bike and who became a little artist.

Now you are the middle-school girl who wears mascara, who prefers YouTube and texting, who has opened up to me about friends and boys and anxieties. Your independence grows, your artistic skills grow, and my heart grows in response to everything you are becoming.

You are a beautiful young lady, and in the same breath that I feel so proud of you, I also miss my baby Ivy, my two-year-old Ivy, my six-year old Ivy, and all the other Ivys you have been.

I wish I could slow it down and keep you here with me longer. Wait a minute, my love. Don’t grow up so fast, my darling.

You will officially be 13 in one hour and twenty minutes, at 10:31 PM. The best things I can give you in these upcoming teen years are my constant love, my encouragement, my prayers, and my advice. So I’m pouring out my advice to you tonight, my precious one.

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Be kind. This starts by seeing every other person as valuable simply because human beings are created by God and He loves them dearly. All of them.

Start with that, and then remember the Golden Rule: Do to others as you would have them do to you. You don’t have to be friends with everyone and you don’t have to excuse bad behavior, but you do need to be respectful and look for ways to build others up and to be a blessing.

And if you see someone who is left out, lonely or being picked on, step in. Stand up for them. Extend kindness. I’d hope others would do that for you if it was ever needed.

Being kind to others will fill your own heart with joy. It’s a gift to others and a gift to yourself.

Be lovely. My dad often said to me, “Many women are pretty, but it is more important to be lovely. Lovely comes from within.” I’ve never forgotten his words.

And let’s talk about modesty. If the most captivating thing about you is your heart, that will be shown off by the things you say and do, so you don’t need to expose your body to get admiration. Just be lovely, care for your appearance, and know that the right people will see your true beauty.

“Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”

Proverbs 31:30

Don’t try to impress others. If you do, you’ll waste so much energy and time, and you often won’t even know what others think anyway. It’s a guessing game. And you’ll often fail to impress, which can be devastating if that was your goal. Then even when you have successfully impressed people with your charm, your looks, your talents, or your possessions… the thrill is fleeting. It fades and you’ll be chasing it again, striving and worrying and trying to capture their attention. I wish I had learned this lesson sooner in life. I wore myself out seeking my significance from the opinions of others, when really I had God’s love and acceptance all along. Now I know I can settle into His love and rest without worrying all the time about what others think of me.

If you make it your goal to please God, the right people will admire you just because you reflect Him.

Be you.

Reflect Him.

Don’t try so hard.

I should put that on a t-shirt. :)

Be wise. Seek God. Think before you speak. Think before you act. When you make mistakes, learn from them. Choose friends who help you be the person God wants you to be. Be an influencer instead of letting yourself be poorly influenced by others.

A few years ago I prayed that God would help me choose a verse for you to live by. This is what He brought to my mind: “She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.”

Proverbs 31:26

This is who you are.

Keep your word. Do what you said you would do, whether you feel like it or not. Build a reputation of being dependable instead of flaky.

Don’t be afraid to fail. The only way to experience new things is to just do them. You may fail. You may look foolish. But you’ll sit around feeling sad and bored if you never take any risks. Have courage! It’s worth it.

Don’t gossip. You’ll regret all the unkind things you say about others, even about people you don’t like. You’ll regret sharing things about others that are private and that would embarrass them. And gossip makes you look bad. I remind myself of this saying, “What Suzy says about Sarah says more about Suzy than it does about Sarah.”

Be kind to others, even if they aren’t there to see it.

Work hard. Life is hard, honey. Anything worth having takes effort. Relationships. Homework. Chores. A job. Self-discipline in eating right and sleeping enough and getting outside enough. All of it takes effort, but all of it is worth it.

Of course, God’s love is free, but even with that we have to work at humbling ourselves to admit we need it. Then we have to put effort into understanding His love and living in it.

All of it takes effort, but all of it is worth it. Work hard. You’ll make God proud. You’ll be a blessing to your family, your teachers, your bosses, your friends. Work hard. There is no other way that is worth a second glance.

Don’t complain. Everybody’s path is hard. Life has challenges, frustrations, aches & pains, and heartbreaks. Don’t whine about it. Sadness is OK. Anger is OK. Opening up and venting to someone you trust is very much OK. Asking for advice is OK. But don’t live in bitterness and don’t be a complainer. If you say, “Poor me,” to anyone who will listen, before long you won’t have anyone willing to listen anymore. When life stinks, keep your chin up and just keep going. Remember that God says weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning. And remember that God promises to use all things for good for those who are truly following after Him.

Be a friend. Sometimes people wonder how to make friends, and the answer is to be a friend. Listen to others. Show kindness. Be helpful. Be loyal. Keep confidences. Friendships will blossom wherever you go if you know how to be a friend.

Friendships can be for a season. You’ve had a lot of friends in your short life, and I’ve seen you grow close to and then apart from several of them. And that’s OK. Things change. Our paths change. Our interests change. We grow. Not all friends will “fit” forever.

Be thankful for the time you have with each of your dear ones, and then let them go if the time comes.

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”

-Anais Nin

I’ve had so many friendships change over the years. Some friendships may last a lifetime and some just a couple of years. I’ve learned to be careful about whom I call a Best Friend, and I’ve learned not to expect “Forever.” Who knows what tomorrow will bring? I pray that you will always have at least one sweet friend to walk by your side in whatever season you’re in.

Be kind to your brother. Remember that friends can be for a season, but your brother is your brother forever. Don’t take him for granted.

Spend time with him. Be less rude. Laugh more. It’s a lucky adult who can say he or she is actually friends with his or her sibling. Don’t miss out on your friend Isaiah. He’s so funny. He’s smart. He wants to spend time with you. Get off your phone and enjoy him while you can. I suspect you’ll miss out on so much if you continue to take him for granted.

You can do better at this, sweetheart.

Don’t use drugs or alcohol. I’ve never used drugs, I’ve never smoked anything, ever, and I never drank alcohol until I was 23 years old and it was Dad’s and my first wedding anniversary in Las Vegas. I’m really proud of making wise choices like these. I’m sure I avoided so much foolishness.

Drugs and underage drinking are stupid.

My dear, you are not stupid. Don’t do it.

Be careful. I say this to you every time you walk to the park. You know what it means. Keep your eyes peeled for anyone suspicious. Avoid them. Don’t go into situations that are unsafe.

This summer you and I both read the book Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson, about a girl who got raped. She was at a party where she and other teenagers were drinking alcohol. While it was NOT her fault she was assaulted, she could have avoided an unwise situation. We can never keep ourselves 100% safe from evil people or bad events, but at least you can avoid paths and people that you know might lead to no good.

What do you want to be when you grow up? Isn’t this the question everyone asks?? I’m 43 and I’m still trying to answer that question myself! God has recently shown me that the better question is, “WHO do you want to be?”

I want to be kind. I want to be trustworthy. I want to be honest. I want to be hard-working. I want to be a follower of Jesus. I want to be a champion for people. I want to be an encourager.

As far as a job goes, sometimes you might have a job you love. Sometimes you might have a job you hate. Sometimes you might have a job that’s somewhere in between. But whatever job you have, “…work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord and not for men…” Colossians 3:23

I know you’ll have to make decisions about your future in the next several years, so as you try to figure out your path, always ask God. Take one day at a time, and do whatever He asks you to, even if it surprises you or doesn’t make sense. He always knows what He’s doing!

Don’t settle for the wrong man. Wait for a hero. There’s no perfect boyfriend and no perfect man. But there might come a man who is perfect for YOU, and if you want to recognize him, you need to know what you’re looking for. Don’t put too much importance on the wrong things like looks, charm, humor or money. There’s nothing wrong with those things, but they should be in the bonuses category.

Wait for a hero. A real hero is a man who honors you and protects you. He is honest. He is dependable. He’s kind, not just to you but to everyone. He’s hard-working. He listens to you. He values your friendship. He trusts you with things he holds in his heart. He is grateful to have you because he recognizes that you are a priceless treasure.

In addition to these things, because you desire to follow Jesus, you need a man who is also committed to Jesus. God is the only One who changes hearts, and you want a man who will let God shape his character for the rest of his life. And you need someone who is going the same direction you are. When you envision the life God has for you, does this man add to that or take away from it?

I assure you, it is better to be on your own than to settle for the wrong man.

If it takes a long time to find him, be patient. It could be that marriage is not God’s plan for you. Or it could be that God wants you and him to be older. Just wait.

Don’t settle.

If your hero is out there, God will bring him into your life. Don’t give your heart to the wrong man.

“…your heart is a treasure…offer it only to a man who is worthy and ready to handle it well.”

-Stasi Eldredge

Choose purity. These days people think it’s old-fashioned to wait until you’re married to be sexually active, but God’s Word is not old-fashioned. What He says is true and relevant for all time, and He says to save yourself for marriage. You will never regret waiting, honey, but there is a world of regret and potential consequences if you don’t wait. Be wise. Be pure. Give the gift of yourself to one man only: your husband. Peace and joy will unfold in you if you honor God this way.

And finally, here is my best advice to you: Jesus. Always, forever, simply Jesus. You will not find true joy and fulfillment in this life apart from Him, my love. I know that you believe that He is God’s Son and that He died for you and rose again. But that is just where the journey begins. There is so much more in store for you as you walk with Him daily.

For the rest of your days, here is your task: look to Him to tell You who you are, how valuable and lovely and unique and important you are. It’s a constant battle to tune out all the other voices in the world that tell you that you aren’t good enough. God does not make mistakes. He made you, Ivy Grace, to look exactly as you do. He made you to enjoy the things you do. He made you to be good at the things you’re good at, and to be less good at other things.

He did not create you with His expert hand and then intend for you to try to morph yourself into someone you’re not. He doesn’t want you constantly comparing yourself to others. Comparison steals your joy.

Be at peace with yourself, sweetheart. God loves you. As you are. Forever.

Beyond that, He wants to be your Friend. Tell Him all of it. Your joys, your fears, your anger, your questions. He hangs on every word. You are His baby girl, and He will never tire of your conversation.

He also wants to be your Lord. If you believe He really loves you that much, then in response to the sunshine of that love, obey Him. He wants the very best for you, and for everyone you meet. Do what He says. When He tells you No, whether in His word or when you are listening for His voice in your heart, then obey. He has good reasons for saying No. You may not always understand, but He is trustworthy. Let Him lead you, my girl. He knows the way, and you’ll be in for a grand adventure.

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So my daughter, my brand-new teenager, I pray your upcoming years will be blessed. I pray you will learn to trust Jesus more as years go by. I pray you will grow in grace and wisdom. I pray you will make your own way in the world as you sprout wings to fly away from home. I pray your life will be rich with friendship, laughter, romance, love and success. But I also pray your life will be rich with hardships, mistakes, pain and brokenness. These are treasures too. They bring strength, they grow character and they humble us so that we rely on God to carry us through.

In this life your heart will be broken many times over, my love. But through all the cracks in your heart, God can make lovely, hearty daisies grow. Keep your spirit sweet and not bitter. Our God makes beauty from ashes.

Here’s to you, little one (who’s not so little anymore). I love you to the moon and back.


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