Today, February 11, 2009, is our daughter Lily’s 13th birthday. And here we are, thousands of miles away, longing to celebrate with her and let her know how special she is. Sure, we had a party and cake and presents before we left. But there is something about your actual birthday that begs recognition. And so, since we won’t be sitting at the dinner table in our home in Virginia with our birthday girl tonight, we will continue the Straka birthday tradition here on our blog.
I would like to focus on one of my favorite birthday traditions in our home: to go around the dinner table and ask each family member to say something about what is special to them about the birthday girl/boy. I love hearing the words of affirmation that are offered at each celebration; truly they are more important to me than any gift in a box or package.
So to you, our special Lily, I would say these things: I am glad you are my daughter. You are precious and a gift from God. In the 4 years and 3 months that you have been part of our family you have blossomed, grown, changed, and developed an inward beauty that has been a joy to behold. You have learned a new language, become part of a family, and found God. You have given your heart to Jesus, and you will never be the same. Your quiet strength, your heart of service, and your desire to do what is right are all things in which I marvel and rejoice. I love how you show up in the kitchen to help at dinner time, how you give Aimee and Noelle baths and play “teacher” with them in your room, and how you offered to share your room with Luke when we bring him home.
Lily, you have developed a strong work ethic that was not part of your life when you first joined our family. You have excelled in school this year through your own hard work and determination; I love that you care about doing your best. I love that you talk to me about things that go on in school, and I don’t just mean schoolwork. Seventh grade can be hard in so many ways. I love that you want to be kind and good and honest in your peer relationships, even in such a broken world in which we live, and even if it is hard to find someone else who wants to behave the same way.
Thank you for the notes you sometimes write to me. I save every single one. Your words are more precious than gold to me.
And thank you for being willing to trust me, even with your heart. I know it took a long time. There were a lot of reasons that trust has been hard for you. I admire your bravery and your willingness to take this leap of faith. I will do my best to be worthy of your trust.
Lily Grace Taohong Straka, I love you. Happy 13th birthday.