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Dear Kiera,

I started writing this birthday post in my usual fashion – as a post about you, rather than a post to you. There is so much to say about this year. So much joy, disappointment, hurt, happiness, lessons learned and much more. But, the truth is that you know what these things are. I don’t think you’re going to forget this year and all that has gone into it. And, while I love that we can read back on these posts and remember events and moments in detail, today I want to focus on what this year has meant. At least, for me, as I have observed you.

If I had to label each year with the focus on your passions, this one would be the year of Musical Theatre. Although, I do chuckle at that rather anomoly-like remark. Hasn’t every year been varying degrees of love for musical theatre, increasing in frenzy these past 4 years in particular?! Indeed, if I had to label this or any other year with any theme, I doubt they’d differ much from year to year. Your passions are deep, all-consuming. Your determination, drive, desires, depth of feeling and thought have not diminished in all the years I have known you. They’ve only strengthened and grown. Shifted and changed to accommodate the experiences of life and the maturity of age.

And this is what I want to focus on this year.

This year you’ve suffered some deep hurts. You’ve had to learn lessons where the choices were anger and bitterness or grace and kindness – lessons, as a wise older friend told you, that most of us only learn as adults, if at all. And I’ve watched you grapple with your own conflicting emotions. I’ve seen you angry, betrayed, hurt and deeply disappointed. I’ve seen you rise above these feelings – choosing to love, choosing to serve, choosing to show grace undeserved and choosing gratitude. The disappointments you’ve experienced this year will not be the last of all disappointments. There will be many more in future. But, with each and every disappointment comes another opportunity to practice being godly. To choose the high road. To choose to stretch out your hand in grace, even when your feelings may not be there. To imitate the wonderful example of Corrie Ten Boom who did exactly that when faced with her prison guard those many years later. Knowing that at the end of the day our lives are not really about our own passions or our own desires, but rather about the wonderful, amazing, incredible good news of what Jesus did – the ultimate grace – makes these lessons all the more valuable.

Rising above your hurts and choosing to put your head down and work hard, making the most of opportunities you have been given, or seeking out new or different opportunities has been another one of those things that is a strength. It’s been one of those tricky strengths. So good in so many ways, and so admirable. I’ve often found myself running to catch up with your vision, not quite sure I think you’re being realistic, only to find you already there and proving that while they may not be realistic today, they may well be tomorrow and, quite often, quite realistic right now today, thank you very much ! 🙂 But, with this determination has come other hard lessons to learn. With resources available not always being ones that match our pockets or family, it’s been hard for you to see some possibilities fall away. Sometimes, you’ve struggled with how to express your disappointment. It’s not been easy. But, and I’m not sure I tell you this enough, if ever, but: it blows me away each and every time I hear your sweet words of gratitude. Yesterday was one of those days – you said, “Thanks for doing this for me, Mom. I know you don’t have to and I really appreciate it.” Sometimes these words are learned and taken to heart; sometimes it’s your heart that I learn. Each time I’m touched.

This “being a teenager” thing has brought with it that tug-of-war between independence and dependence. That tussle between wanting what’s ahead and being frustrated with having to be content with the now. You’ve had tastes of awesome fun independence – your stint on the My Fair Lady cast being particularly exciting in this regard – and yet, there’s still the “no, you can’t watch, read, go, do, see, be …” that you hear from us, your parents, that often stirs up that desire just to be older, already, man! Sometimes that comes out in overconfident tones that sometimes sound unkind, brash or conceited. It’s such a struggle to temper the bigness of teenage emotion, thoughts and confidence and you’re experiencing that more than ever. And, boy, have you taken on the argumentative teenager mantle like it was tailor-made for you! It’s quite something to be the person to cause Dad and I to stare at each other dumbfounded and say, “is this what we were like as teens?” Finally, we understand what our parents complained about! We joke, yes, but we also admire your ability to process after the argument. Hearing you advise your little sister that in retrospect you realise that oftentimes you were wrong or unwise, and it helps to listen to us – well, that’s music to our ears! Seeing you take on board the big and small corrections, even if only much later, is so encouraging to us. But, the truth is that, more often than we’d like (!), it’s mom or dad who is in the wrong, and it’s something so very special to experience your forgiveness and kindness and continued love for us, despite our own fallenness.

Kiera, there is so much to say, but these things are what have stood out for me the most this year. Yes, you’ve done a lot of fun things. You’ve excelled in dance, drama and singing. You’ve had opportunities to work with incredible people. You’ve rocked your subjects in school this year, aceing even the dreaded high school science curriculum. You’ve achieved much. BUT, these things mean nothing in the greater context of who we are in this world. I’m so very grateful that you continue to look to Jesus and that He is your rock. I pray that He will always be your rock and that you will seek, more deeply as you grow older, to serve Him, including in the way you love those around you.

We love you sooo much.

Happy birthday, dear sweet Kiera.

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