As our oldest child was anticipating his 13th birthday, Jonesy and I made the decision to throw a party for each of our children that would be a celebration of who they are and an opportunity to bring in the adults in our children’s lives to bless them. We both had great mentors who poured into us and we recognized the significance of those adult relationships on developing us as people. I think it might be my favorite decision we have made as parents.

This weekend, we celebrated our fourth child’s thirteenth year. In attendance were her grandmothers, a few of her aunts, her sister, her cousins, and the women in her life she believed had great influence over her.  We gathered around tables decorated in the signature yellow Emma loves. The fragrance of white roses and yellow daisies mixed with the vanilla candles filling the air with the warmth that perfectly expressed the emotion of love the women who chatted around the tables brought in the room. The conversations from each table created the harmony of community that I know as Emma’s mother is essential to her successful upbringing. These women filling in the gap of my insufficiency as a mother. They will meet her in the places I can not, or will not be able to be.  I can think of no greater gift to me than for these women to love my child. And they love her so well.

As our brunch concludes,  it has been the tradition for me to share my thoughts about each of my girls, while with Noah and Jordon it is their father at the helm of the discussions. It is always an emotional time to get to publicly declare my love and appreciation for who my girls are and are becoming, while also acknowledging the impact that the women in the room have on our lives. After what always turns out to be me crying in excess, each woman takes her turn to read a pre-written letter or share a spontaneous blessing to the celebrated daughter. In these letters are encouragements and bits of wisdom, declarations of love and beautiful pieces of advice.  Each woman confirming Emma’s identity as a child of a Good God. Each encouraging her to be wise in her friendship choices. With each woman, the advice of experience presented to my daughter and all the young women in the room.

I love reminding my daughters that they are blessed in abundance with examples of strong women. In the room were women who exude strength, educated and successful. There were women who are making major impacts in the lives of their families through motherhood and marriage. Others who better their communities through their occupations. All of them using their lives to glorify God. Their very lives testifying to my daughters that they don’t have to choose between success, family and God. Instead, around my table, in my home, my girls were offered the living lesson of strength that is born in service and lives that get their meaning from something greater than self.

For seven years, we have parented teenagers. These years have been among the favorite of my parenting experience. Though the trials and worries carry a heavier weight and a greater significance through the second decade of our children’s lives, the joy of knowing their thought processes and seeing them bloom into the incredible people they are called to be balances any of the harder aspects of parenting teenagers. To know well and be known well by the people you love more completely than anyone else is such a gift. The teen years allow for that knowing, and I am grateful for this special time in their lives.

I believe with all my heart, these children are God’s. He has entrusted them to me but for a season and then placed me in a community of amazing women to encourage the journey and enrich our lives.

As we wrapped up the brunch in prayer, my heart could not help but cry out, “Thank you Lord. Thank you for this beautiful girl who has known much loss, but brings us much joy. Thank you for choosing me to be her mother. Thank you for the provision and grace that means her time as a teen can allow for imperfection and bad choices without those being the definition of who she is. Thank you for the community that surrounds my sweet daughter and her sisters. Thank you for the example of strong, successful women who live their lives for you and their families. Thank you for my Emma. My Molly. My Macy. My Jordon. My Noah. What gifts. May I be a worthy steward of such a gift. All this and Jesus too. What a mighty God.”

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