Our oldest girlie left the single digits this month. This tween, with her servant heart and beautiful smile, brings me so much joy. Below is the annual letter Bill wrote to her.
Our dear, loving Ariana,
I like birthdays, because they remind us in this big family to slow down a bit and focus on thanking God for one particular person. Today’s your day, Ariana Katriel. And it’s such a joy to slow down and take a look at the many ways we’ve seen the Father’s goodness in giving us you.
I know you’ve heard the story so many times, but your grand entry into the world was scary. Something was wrong. You and Mom were both hurting, the pain and brokenness threatening both of your lives. I didn’t really get it at the time, but it was a reminder that life is fragile. It was also a reminder that in a world plagued with sin, beautiful events like childbirths are now cursed and ugly and sometimes fatal. Yours could have gone that way. If you’d been born a hundred years ago, both of you would be in paradise already with Jesus and the rest of your brothers and sisters never would’ve become part of this family.
Why do I bring up such a horrible thing on a day of celebration? Because it didn’t go that way! Ten years ago today, we saw the grace of God the Father—the God who saves—when he reached down into our history and yanked you away from the grip of death. Honey, God saved you on the day of your first breath—pulling you out of the darkness and bringing you into the light. And I still rejoice, over and over and over, because you’re sitting here. And Mom’s sitting here. And this whole family is here because of the grace and mercy and kindness of our God, who gives us more than we could ever ask or imagine.
I also tell you this because I want you to have a bigger picture of God. You’re leaving childhood behind. I know you haven’t read all of the Narnia books yet, but one of the things Aslan tells Lucy is that it isn’t he himself who is bigger, just that “every year you grow, you will find me bigger”. I want that to be true for you, because the infinite creator of the universe can’t get any bigger, yet your understanding and awe of him can.
Darling, you have been given a sweet heart that is full of compassion and loves to jump up to serve. This is a gift from God, one that is being pruned by the Spirit and watered by the Word. I want to see more and more of his grace shining through you, as you fight to serve without praise, to love without recognition, to help without looking for attention. God has started that work in you and he will definitely bring it to completion.
And as you slowly race out of childhood into womanhood, you’re going to see the world differently. You’re going to know new hurts and experience new joys. You’ll find that some ways you’ve thought about life will have to be tossed out to make way for the new adventures you’ll find. Mom and I are thrilled to watch you do it. Neither be afraid of it nor try to make it happen too fast. Just as God is in control of shaping how tall you are and how much you grow each year, he’s king over this inside growth, too.
Personally, one of my favorite things about you is how much you want to be like your mom. Of course, I think she’s the most incredible woman ever, so it doesn’t surprise me that you want to be just like her. But I don’t just want you to be the cook and the adventurer and the knitter and the momma she is. I want you to also see the light of King Jesus shining through her as Momma reflects the glory of Jesus. I want that same glory to shine in you. That’ll come as you embrace growing up, taking responsibility, doing good when no one can see it, and finding joy in service without accolade. These are my prayers for you.
So, my dear, happy birthday. May you see the goodness of our God in new ways with a new year before you.
Love, Dad & Mom