Dear Beautiful Cora,
Oh, my charming girl. You are so captivating with your strawberry blonde, bouncy ponytail, your sparkly blue eyes, and your adorable twirl-clap-stomp dance that you do to all the upbeat songs on the Frozen soundtrack. You just win people over with the way you wave and yell "hi!" to complete strangers (or sometimes offer them hugs and kisses) and the way your absolutely fawn over babies. You really are just too much to take in sometimes ... so much sparkle and energy and emotion.
Beauty and charm all bursting out of your little 20 month old self. I do pray that you always know you are lovely and that you always have the confidence to pursue others.
As you grow I hope to teach you all sorts of things, like to be sure and use moisturizer with sunscreen, how to braid your own hair (you can practice on mine), and how to file your fingernails. I'll teach you the importance of maintaining good eye contact and that girls should have firm handshakes, too. I'll tell you to ask people questions about themselves and encourage you to use that winning smile liberally.
However, my prayer is that these lessons are only peripheral. Even if you use sunscreen everyday of your life, your skin will one day become paper thin and wrinkled. Your sparkly eyes will dim and that flouncy, bouncy hair will become wiry and gray. Beauty is fleeting, Cora.
Even if you are masterful at capturing attention, making friends, or gathering a following; those interpersonal skills can be empty and lifeless. You may be able to win hearts, but if your heart hasn't first been won by the One who loves you best, it will be meaningless. Charm is deceitful, Cora.
When I imagine you as a woman and pray for true beauty, the kind that doesn't fade or manipulate, this is what I ask for:
I pray that your legs will be strong to carry you as you play. Whether kicking a soccer ball or dancing or running or pressing the pedals of a piano, play is such a beautiful expression of joy that I hope will stay with you even when your hair is gray. I want you to rejoice in what your legs allow you to do more than you worry about their shape. And if someday you cannot use your legs, I pray that you will show the world that playful joy is a condition of the heart, not a result of abilities.
I pray that your hands will be calloused and your nails not always polished. Perhaps your fingertips will be tough from pressing guitar strings or from digging in the ground, or stained with ink or paint from creating. Maybe your skin will sometimes be dry and rough from the hot water of service - dishes, laundry, cleaning - for others as well as your own family. A woman's hands can whisper a story about her, and I pray that yours speak of generosity and hard work and selflessness. And if someday you once again have to rely on the hands of another to serve and care for you; I pray that you will show the world that dependence is not shameful and that to gratefully receive the service of another is to give them a gift.
I pray that your stomach will swell with new life and that you will gratefully surrender your waist to welcome a new soul. I pray that you will laugh more than you cry about the changes; because of the beautiful absurdity of a temporary dwelling being used to usher in an eternal being. And if you are not able or choose not to birth biological children; I pray that you will show the world that the most important growth that happens in motherhood is the permanent swelling of the heart, and that God makes women mothers in many, many ways.
I pray that your lips will laugh and speak and sing in ways that only bring life to those around you. Full, perfectly shaped lips, painted in the perfect shade, are really just lovely vessels for poison if they only pour out gossip and complaints. Wear lipstick, if you will, but I hope you will care more about what comes out of your lips than what goes on them. And if you find that you always sing off-key or that you stutter or your words never come out quite right; I pray that you will show the world, like Moses, that leadership is not dependent upon smooth talk or charismatic word choice.
I pray that your eyes will be open and searching. I see girls sometimes with eyes that seem dead because they aren't looking for anything - they are just waiting to be looked at. I hope your eyes will always be searching for truth; looking for the lost, lonely, and hurting; soaking in the the beauty around you instead of wondering who is noticing your own. And if, one day, you can no longer see, I pray that you will show the world that the most breath-taking things in life are the unseen and invisible.
I pray that your ears will be discerning. In this age constant information it can be easy to become gluttonous; but I hope that you will choose wisely who you listen to and that you will be able to filter out lies. You will be told all sorts of false things about yourself and other people - please don't believe a word of it unless it lines up with what your Maker has said about you and other people. I hope you will choose to listen to that which is beautiful, inspiring, thought-provoking. And if your hearing fades and you find your world silent, I pray that you will show the world that you can still hear the voice of God, and I pray that the world will listen.
I pray that your mind will be abundantly rich with ideas, hopes, and prayers. I hope you will treat your mind like a crown - choosing to forge it from the gold of wisdom instead of settling for cheaper metals, adding jewels of knowledge, polishing it through frequent use. And if your mind never works as dazzlingly as you would like, or if one day it disintegrates altogether; I pray that you will show the world that God delights in the humble and that the way your brain works does not define who you are.
Finally, I pray that you will guard your heart, for regardless of how your outer person is seemingly succeeding or failing, your heart is what connects you to the Source of Life. When I was in college, I prayed Zephaniah 2:5 for myself all the time. Now I pray it for you. It says, "And I will be to her a wall of fire all around, declares the Lord, and I will be the glory in her midst." Let Him guard you, seek refuge in Him from those who would wound your heart. But don't close in on yourself ... let His glory reside in you and spill out of you. And when, one day, your heart ceases to beat; I pray that you will find yourself in the presence of Beauty personified and that you will be breathless as you see yourself transformed into His likeness.
I love you, little beauty.
I'm participating in a writing group that my friend, Matt,
put together for people who are looking to be encouraged to write more
frequently. This is the seventh of 8