I think, too, of the last time she heard us sing happy birthday. She was five. My sweet girl died in a fire that destroyed our home almost ten years ago. (read that story here)
Ten years. I’ve struggled with this day every single year. How do you celebrate someone’s birthday who is no longer alive? Who no longer breathes and moves and grows? How do you sing happy birthday with no one to blow out the candles?
For the past several years, my oldest daughter, Kelsey, marked Emma’s day by bringing home a rose and 2 chocolate cupcakes. Emma loved anything chocolate. But this year, this year is different. Kelsey’s married now and lives in Connecticut with her husband. For the first time since Emma’s birth, I’m on my own.
Today, however, I don’t choose despair. I’ve come too far. (read a letter I wrote to myself at 33 below) This time I choose hope. I choose to celebrate the growth and health and healing I’ve experienced over the past ten years. I choose to move through the sadness, not thinking about what I’m missing but focus on what I have. I have a daughter who loved me deeply. I have a daughter who squeezed every ounce of her love through her hugs, enough to last a lifetime of being apart. No, I don’t get to see her now, to watch her grow, but I will see here again one day. And we’ll never be apart again.
What made Emma so special? It’s not that she was perfect. She did earn the nickname “Stinkerpot”. It’s love. Love defined her. Love oozed from her every pore. Emma loved well, and she loved me. She loved her sister, her family, her pets, those she knew. Emma loved unconditionally and with great joy. How do I know this? Because she told me. All. the. time. Feel free to read more about her here
Today I decide to celebrate Emma’s life by writing a letter to fifteen people to tell them how much they are loved. Just like Emma did. Correction: today I celebrate Emma’s life by having written 14 letters and sending them off in the mail.
You, sweet one reading this, you are number fifteen.
Today I want you to know that you are loved. Not because of anything you have done or haven’t done. Not because of what you believe or don’t believe. Not because of anything you say, or don’t say. You, just you, are deeply and lavishly loved. Flaws and struggles and insecurities and confidence and hopes and dreams. All of you. The extra pounds. The wrinkles. The current color of your hair as well as the hidden one. Right now, in this moment, and the next one, and the next one…all the way through eternity…you are loved.
“For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” Zephaniah 3:17 (NLT)
I think we forget this, those of us who are moms or dads or caregivers or simply through the busyness of life. We forget we’re loved as we face difficult marriages and painful life circumstances. We pour so much out for everyone else that we forget to pour love back in. We’re quick to tell others how much they are loved, but we forget to tell ourselves. Other people’s words scream louder than God’s truth. Our own criticisms and critiques, lies from the evil one whisper that somehow Scripture isn’t true for us, it’s only for other people. We begin to question not only if we’re loved, but if we’re lovable.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
God loved you before the creation of the world. He loved you before you took your first breath. He loves you in the middle of the good seasons of your life, and in the middle of your muck. He loves you when you feel close to him, and when he feels so very far away. His love has no limits, it knows no bounds. God’s love is faithful and never-ending. No. matter. what.
Scripture clearly states that there is nothing that can separate you from His love. Nothing.
“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow, not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.” Romans 8:38 (NLT)
So in the coming days and weeks, months and years, it is my prayer you would be reminded of the depth of God’s love for you every single day. When doubt creeps in, I pray you have the courage to stare it in the face, to look at yourself in the mirror, and declare…you. are. loved. When feelings threaten to overwhelm you, swamp you, and sway you away from believing what is true, I pray God places people in your life to proclaim over you, dear one, you. are. loved. And in those nights when darkness closes in, and uncertainty steals in your heart, I pray you hear God whispering deep in your soul…you…are…loved.
For you to think about...
Who needs to hear they are loved? Consider writing your own love letter. Maybe to yourself. Maybe to someone you believe needs to hear this truth.