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Birthdays have a way of coming around every year. In a few days, we’ll cook up your favorite meal, put candles on a cake and make you wait until the table is cleared before you can open your presents. This will be your ninth birthday, and I am in awe of how much change I see in you every day.

You’re not a little girl anymore.

A few months back, we put away the wooden step stool that we kept in your bathroom so you could reach the sink. It took me weeks to carry it out to the garage and up on a shelf, but in the end, there was no reason not to. I see your changes most in pictures. Long legs and long, blonde hair. Barely any signs of the little girl I saw in our family photos for years – although I still see her in the images I’ve captured in my mind. Your eyes show a kindness and a wisdom. You’ve found a smile to express your truest self. Seeing you now in pictures makes my heart go wild.

You’re a brown-eyed reader.

When you were a baby, I wished for your infant-grey eyes to turn brown. My side of the family is full of brown-eyed wonders, and to me, it was my way of letting the world know you were mine. You are in fact a brown-eyed beauty, and I am thankful. When you became an elementary school student, I wished for you to become a reader. It’s such a passion of mine. I knew all the worlds that would open up to you if you could but master this one skill, and it would be another way of letting everyone know you were mine. You are in fact a reader, and we received this confirmation the day your teacher told me you were doing great in school, except she often had to tell you to put your book down and pay attention in class.

You’re learning the meaning of the cross.

You read our Advent readings this year. What a fine job you did! On Christmas Eve, we read “The Tale of Three Trees.” Do you remember? In this beautifully-illustrated children’s book, three trees are chopped down, even though they had hoped to remain standing and pointing to God. The first tree became a feeding trough in a stable. What a disappointment, until it held the baby Jesus. The second tree became a boat. Not exactly what it had in mind, until it carried Jesus and his disciples to safety in the midst of a great storm. The final tree gave you pause. When you saw the picture of the cross, you knew the purpose of this tree, and you gave me a look of such wonder and sadness. You’re learning, this cross offers the most significant symbol of all.

I’m honored to be your mama and your friend. In the past year, you’ve shown greater interests in art and music, which shows you’re a creative soul, all the more letting the world know you’re mine. I don’t know how my heart can stand to keep watching you grow up and change. So much of parenting remains a mystery to me, but by the grace of God. All I know is I’m thankful for the journey.

Traci Rhoades

Traci Rhoades is a writer and Bible teacher. She lives in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area with her family and an ever-changing number of pets. Connect with her online at tracesoffaith.com or @tracesoffaith on twitter. She is the author of "Not All Who Wander (Spiritually) Are Lost."

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