Dear Daughter

I bought my first bottle of eau de parfum yesterday. After sniffing more bottles than my olfactory receptors could handle, I decided on one. It’s woody and amber-y, and smells just like I’d want to be remembered. As I swiped my card to pay for my pricey 1oz. bottle of Sensuous Nude, I felt a little more woman. I softly chuckled, imagining spritzing myself with this fragrance, letting it dry as I lean over the sink to apply mascara to my lashes before deciding what to wear. There’s something so decidedly feminine, and sensual, and adult about the ritual of getting ready especially when it involves perfume. It made me think of my mom, and how much like her I’ve become.

And I thought of you – even though you don’t exist yet – and how I hope you get to meet my mom and marvel at one of God’s greatest masterpieces. And I hoped that you too would one day celebrate, and not mourn, the fact that you’ve become more like me with each passing year.

There are many characteristics of mine which I hope you never inherit. My mostly unhelpful ability to over-analyze and dissect any situation – real or imagined – to bits and pieces, or the giant pores on my nose and legs, or ┬ámy incredibly coarse, slow-growing hair. I hope you don’t become compulsively self-reliant or mildly pessimistic like I tend to be. Instead, I hope you get my fierce determination to live a story worth telling. I hope you enjoy food – the creating and eating, the complexities of flavor and texture. I hope you love to have people around your table, feasting on delicacies from your kitchen, sharing laughter and pain over steaming plates of mushroom risotto or pasta or bacon mac and cheese. I hope you celebrate your body in all its flaws and glories, treating it with dignity and respect, and not shying away from the admiration it was created to command. I hope you love to dance, both with company and alone. I hope you are sassy and opinionated and confident, as well as selfless, generous, and thoughtful. Good heavens, I hope you love a well-put together outfit or I’ll be biting my tongue for as long as we both live. I hope you inherit some creativity – whether music, or writing, or decorating. I hope you quickly find the thing that brings you the most joy and makes your Abba proud, and spend all your energy running towards it.

I hope you are strong and courageous, resilient and wise. I know that everyone is guaranteed a share of the world’s pain and turmoil, and while I will want to protect you from yours, I hope it molds you into a woman of character who is more empathic because she, too, has been broken. I hope that whether you are the life of the party or the quiet observer, you strive to be a safe place for others to retreat to, where people leave feeling loved, valued, and inspired. I hope that your words are marked with grace and kindness, building up and not tearing down. I hope you find the balance between intellect and faith, asking your own questions and finding your own way. I hope you learn that strength isn’t burying emotions for the sake of trudging onwards, rather it is giving yourself room to break because only then can healing occur. I hope you learn honesty, patience, and love. And above all, I hope you fall madly in love with Jesus because he makes everything else so much sweeter.

If entrusting my wishes and hopes to the care of the universe were enough, I’d stop here. But everything that is beautiful about me today was once a seed planted by my mother. Everything I’ve learned about life, love, and God I have learned from the woman who nursed me. So while I certainly hope you become an extraordinary world-changer, I’ll busy myself with embodying the above characteristics and becoming one first. These passionate, purposeful days of my youth are for you, darling. I will pursue greatness so you can become great also.

With all my love,

Gardens in the Desert

Every day of this brand new year, I’ve marveled at the person I’ve become in comparison to the person I was a year ago. The differences are outstanding. Remarkable. Almost unbelievable. 2012 was the hardest year of my life in terms of the challenges and pain it brought me, and the relationships it cost me. But the character it wrought, and the growth it brought are things that have marked me irrevocably. And I am wildly excited about this new year simply because I am such a new person.

I start my first semester of graduate school in twenty-three short days. I admit that I love school and acquiring knowledge, but I’m not counting down the days because I’m a nerd. I’m counting down because in twenty-three days, I’ll be one step closer to making the dream in my heart a reality.

I’m going to be a therapist. If accurately transcribing the smile on my face were an option, I’d do so.

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a teacher. Then, I fell in love with the idea of being a musician. Soon after, I was determined to run a successful event planning company. It took me twenty-three years to find the purpose hidden within the fabric of my story: I was born to work with women who’ve suffered trauma and abuse. Nothing breaks my heart more. Nothing makes me want to wield a sword more. I feel powerful and broken, helpless and capable. I am the most beautiful oxymoron.

Maybe it doesn’t come up in every single conversation I have, but I am the most passionate about helping people find their worth because I never knew mine. Only within the last year did I accept at a heart level that I am worth knowing, worth choosing, worth loving. Nothing strips you of your sense of worth like sexual abuse. Nothing makes you feel unheard, unwanted, unknown, unclean, and unloved like having your innocence stolen from you. I would know – mine was stolen at thirteen by a trusted family member. So even though I wasn’t sold into sex slavery, I know the damage just one encounter can have on your soul. I know how hard it becomes to trust anyone ever again, I know the feeling of being constantly on guard, I understand the temptation to appear hard and untouchable, I’m well acquainted with the lie that it was somehow your fault, and that you’ll never be good enough for a good man. I understand the difficulty of the path to healing, and the allure of the old chains when freedom seems unattainable.

But I’m also well acquainted with the unrelenting, infinite Love of a good God who sought me and brought me from darkness into marvelous light. One who taught me to breathe again, to feel again, to trust again, to live again. This journey didn’t happen in isolation; rather, it involved many people who showed me time and time again that I was worth choosing, knowing, and loving until the truth sunk into the depths of my soul and echoed loudly from within. I know how glorious it feels, having walked through the hardest months of your life with a therapist, to hear him say, “Your heart is healthy and beautiful and free.”

So that’s all I want to spend the rest of my life doing – partnering in this redemptive work, watching brokenness be transformed into beauty, and documenting the phenomenal stories I get to be a part of. To have found my purpose so young is a blessing I do not take for granted. To have the opportunity to begin pursuing it full-time without the constraints of a husband and kids or enormous student loans, I can’t even fathom.

I believe that beautiful things can arise from even the hardest earth. I believe that everyone’s story is worth telling. And I believe that no one is beyond repair. I’ll gladly give the rest of my life in the pursuit of creating and telling beautifully redemptive stories.

So while I think new year’s resolutions are laughable, I’m setting a goal for this year: to live an incredible life, because I serve an incredible God who has wrought an incredible work in my heart. 2013, here I come.