I’ve been waiting a long time to be your aunt. I remember the day your mom and dad told me you were coming as vividly as if it had happened yesterday, but I can track the waiting back further than that. To when they were nineteen and I knew they weren’t going to shake each other and that someday they would be parents together. Six years later, here we are!
Sweet girl, welcome to the world! I could not be more excited to be your family!
The thing is, though, I’m not your family. Not technically. We don’t share blood ties or a genetic link or the same last name. I hope you’ll come to find as your grow up that these things don’t matter. Not really. Because what we do share is more important. We love and are loved by the same people.
And you’ll come to find that as much as these people can test your nerves and drive you crazy that they’re good people. They’re exactly the kind of people that take friends and make them family; they’re exactly the kind of people that take family and make them friends.
And because they’re this kind of people, I ended up at the hospital tonight with your Nana and Grandpa, and your Uncle Matt and Aunt Jesse, and your mom and dad, even though we don’t share blood ties or a genetic link or the same last name.
I really love that about them; because I really loved being at the hospital on the day you were born.
Sweet girl, you are so wildly loved already. You are so fiercely adored just because you are. And I’m praying you continue to know this truth as you grow up. Because when you become an adult and the world starts to feel even just a little bit unsafe, it’s going to be easy to buy into the lies that your value comes from the size of your waist or the complexion of your skin, or the grades you have, or the trophies you win, or the nice things people say about you. Do your aunt a favor, okay? Ignore those lies and the people that tell them to you. Own the truth that you are wildly loved, fiercely adored just because you are.
While you’re at it, be smart about the kind of friends you make. Consider a person’s character and the way they are in the world when you’re getting to know someone. Connect to the people who genuinely love Jesus and walk with God humbly. Surround yourself with people who keep you laughing. Live into the relationships with people who show up for you when you need them, and make sure that you’re showing up for them too. Ask each other for what you need, and push each other to be vulnerable. I promise you that’s the only way you’re going to make the kind of friends who become family. And I also promise you that you won’t survive without those kinds of friends. Trust me on this.
Sweet girl, don’t be in a rush to grow up. Enjoy your childhood. It’s a blessed time of innocence, when all wounds can be healed with just a kiss from mom or dad. So, pedal your bike too fast, and climb trees, and jump off curbs. Play with the kids and your neighborhood, but don’t take your ball and go home. Splash in puddles, and catch snowflakes on your tongue. Have water gun fights, and wrestle with your dad on the living room floor. Bake cookies and dance around the kitchen with your mom. Just pretend, use your imagination. The times for these things will pass you by far too quickly. Life will become serious far too fast. So, be a kid for as long as you can be.
And when life inevitably does become serious, when you experience your first broken heart or loss of a loved one or things just don’t turn out quite the way you had planned, call on those friends who love you like Jesus and the family who’s been there for you since the day of your birth. We’ll sit with you quietly or talk until you’re out of words, and we’ll remind you that you are wildly loved.
Have I said that enough? Have I told you enough times on the very first day of your life that you have been, and are, and will continue to be wildly loved until you take your last breath?
Living in this world is sometimes happy and sometimes sad, and it’s often predictable only in its unpredictability. So, let it surprise you. Take some risks. Sometimes the best places we end up are the ones we didn’t plan on. Like, at a hospital on a Sunday night celebrating the arrival of a niece who isn’t your blood but is your family.
And sweet niece, I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else. I am and always will be here for you.
With all my love, in the wildest of forms,