Today is Emma's birthday. It’s her day, my youngest daughter. Fifteen on the 15th. Her golden birthday. Driver’s permit. Freshman year of high school. A full-fledged teen. My thoughts slip back to her birth, two weeks early but full of life. Beautiful. Dark eyes that seemed to peer to the depths of my soul. Emma completed our blended family that day, belonging to each of us. 

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?

Despair is one choice. Deep sadness or worse, disregard, to simply pretend the day doesn’t matter. Doesn’t exist. But it does matter. Emma did exist. Yes, she died, but this day I choose to celebrate the reality that she lived. And she lived well. Fully. Completely. With great joy in every step. Love followed her wherever she went.

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.



Barbara Brown
01/15/2015 8:52am

Kim, I was very moved by this letter that you wrote. You have come a long way and am so glad that you have found peace with in yourself. The way you put your feelings into words is something very special. I enjoy all the things you write. Your Emma is very proud of you and will always be with you. Thanks for showing how we can love a person who is not with us any more. Keep writing because God has given you a special gift.

01/15/2015 9:13am

Kim, I love to read your writing. You were so right at the She Speaks conference when you said we have so much in common. You bless my heart when I read your words! I have said a prayer for you today! These are the words I think of you when I think of you...brave, strong, determined and kind. May the Lord fill you with great love today and always!

Shirley Turner
01/15/2015 10:57am

God's love shone through Emma every day of her short life and now, through you! As the "mother of the mother" I couldn't be more thankful for the way you've chosen to continue to trust God. And, even more than that, to tell others the best news anyone could hear...YOU ARE LOVED!

01/15/2015 11:25am

❤️ love you, your heart, and your words. Thank you for blessing me with them.

Melinda Lancaster
01/15/2015 11:26am

Seems you've written everyone who will receive it a "love letter", Kim.

What a wonderful way to celebrate your sweet Emma.

Dee Dee Estes
01/15/2015 12:23pm

Love the way you encourage others toward God's abundant love. Celebrating Emma today and while I wish I had the chance to know her in this life I feel as though I do because you generously share her with us and I look forward to an eternity watching you reunited with her. Be blessed today precious sister in Christ!


Kim, I am so very sorry for the loss of your precious daughter. I know what it's like to lose a child, though I was never able to hold mine in my arms. The Lord has been faithfully holding me through the journey of the miscarriage of our very first child for the past six months. It's been an excruciatingly painful journey, but each step of the way, He has reminded me that I am not alone. He is with me and there are others who have lost their children that He has faithfully helped navigate through the rest of their purpose-filled days. Your story and letter have touched me today and I just wanted to remind you that you are not alone either. I'm praying that the hope of Jesus will continue to be renewed in your heart and that you will be refreshed to know that the truths of 2 Corinthians 1:3-11 are ringing through by your willingness to be authentic with your readers and to encourage those who are hurting too that they can share in the same comfort you have received time and time again. Blessings to you, sister. "3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort."

01/15/2015 1:28pm

What a beautiful tribute. Ten years is hard, each year is hard. We lost my younger brother almost 12 years ago. I know that there is really nothing that can be said so all I will say is Thank you for sharing this and Emma with us.

01/15/2015 2:33pm

Such sensitivity you embroidered into your story. Your details and how your mama heart hurt(s). Your decision to celebrate is the one Heather has made, thus the little party we had yesterday as Olivia was dressed in a party dress and we sang Happy Birthday to her. One week old. And her daddy held her for it was also his birthday. Thirty-five years ago I sat and held him. The choice to celebrate is the hard choice, the impossible choice, if it were not for God. Many trips I make to Heather and Nathan's I make singing to God. He doesn't care if the words get all muddled with the sobs.

01/15/2015 3:18pm

Thank you. Thank you for loving and caring and trusting and moving and living and being. Thank you. I cannot begin to imagine the depth of pain you have suffered. Precious Emma. My heart is broken at your loss and healed by your hope. I cling to that hope as well. Thank you.

Terry May Bliler
01/15/2015 10:10pm

Beautifully written by a beautiful soul. I look forward to meeting your sweet girl. 💜🌹

Debbie Sutton
01/16/2015 9:44am

We are so blessed again and again by the way you choose to share your hurt and God's joy. That mix is not comprehensible. Prayers for you and Kelsey!

Martha Szczesny
01/16/2015 10:42am

What a beautiful healing process! I'm so very thankful you've entered my life to be able to share in this . You are truly an inspiration to me. Love and many blessings to you. martha

Laurie Sanders
01/16/2015 12:24pm

Hi Kim--
I celebrate Emma's life with you every year. I have her name on my perpetual calendar....keyword being perpetual....ongoing. Thank you for continuing to minister to so many through your own pain and loss. Your loving message was much needed and penetrated my heart.

01/16/2015 2:28pm

Thank you for this and sharing a couple hours with Michelle & I on this precious day. I love you (yep... I said it) and I'm thankful to God for you. 💜

01/18/2015 12:54pm

thank you

01/19/2015 12:42pm

Heaven is rejoicing and the beauty and hope you shared, my sweet sister! Lovely! A special tribute for you sweet Emma! HUGS!!!!

05/23/2015 8:49pm

Wow, this is so powerful. Thank-you for the encouragement and being vulnerable.


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