A few days ago you turned 13...more than a child, not quite anything else. Tonight you walked out of your room looking like that...and I almost cried. It's funny, this age. You've never been a teenager and I've never raised one so we're both new at this, and both struggling in our own ways. But, I promise that if you give me a chance, I will give this everything I've got. And, while I am certain I will fail from time to time...I hope you always know that every time I embarrass you or make tough decisions that upset you...I'm trying and you can bet that if those moments are hard for you, they are even harder for me. You have your life ahead of you. You are kind and loving and give everything to those you care about. You call us out when we judge or act poorly, moments that cause me both embarrassment and pride. You keep me humble and make me want to be better. I love your enthusiasm and passion for life and the friends you hold dear. Your ability to encourage and guide is admirable and your friends are lucky to have you in their corner. The fight in you, while not always pointed in the right direction, will help you persevere when life challenges you. Be quick to find joy, slow to criticize. There is almost always something good, you may just have to look hard to find it. Find something you care about and make it your passion. Treat others as you want to be treated and always remember to have courage and to be kind. I can guarantee the next few years will have moments that are just plain hard. You have so much to figure out and your emotions will be all over the place and no matter how hard you try to do and be the right thing...crappy things will happen. Give yourself, and others, grace. Often things aren't what the first seem, and there is always more than one side to every story. Seek truth and others will trust you. Character outlasts popularity and the popular choice is often not the best one. Follow your heart, but don't forget to think. And, no matter what, when, where or why...this is the most important part...no matter what...I will always be here. I will fight for you...sometimes with you...but always for you. I will learn with you and give you everything I can. I will always be on the side, cheering you on and helping you pick up the pieces when things fall apart. I know I seem old, like maybe I've never been there and can't possibly understand, but I assure you...I have and I do and sometimes life just sucks. But, more often, it doesn't and those are the moments we live for. I am so proud of the young lady you're becoming and while I can't believe 13 years have passed since I first held you in my arms, I look forward to watching you become whoever it is God is shaping you to be. So, happy birthday, my girl. I pray the awkwardness of 13, the unknown of this weird age, the emotional roller coaster of the next few years is more amazing than difficult. I love you more than you could ever imagine...even in the moments you wish I would go away and just be normal or like everyone else's mom. Trust me, there is no normal and I will never go away. But, I will love you. Always.