Dear Kayleigh: a father's thoughts as his daughter turns 16

This weekend my oldest daughter Kayleigh turns 16. I still remember the moment she was born. I cried as much as she did as I witnessed our incredible gift enter the world. It is a moment that cannot be described. It can only experienced. I can hardly believe she is now turning 16.  As I reflect on the past 16 years God has given me with Kayleigh, here are a few thoughts that I have for her this weekend.

1. You are beautiful. 

My daughter Kayleigh is beautiful inside and out. Like any teenage girl, she battles her own insecurities with the unfounded pressures our society places on young people to look, think, and act a certain way. In reality, she is one of the most beautiful 16-year-olds I have ever seen. 

Even more importantly, she is beautiful on the inside.  Kayleigh has an incredible heart for God.  Her inward beauty dwarfs her outward appearance.  She seeks after Jesus. She is a leader. She loves to serve. She worships passionately. She listens to the voice of God. She hungers for God's truth.  She cares about people. She is a good friend. She makes wise decisions. She is pure.

She is a beautiful girl.

2. You are strong.

Kayleigh has always been a daddy's girl. We have always been very close.  A few years ago my actions damaged our relationship in a deep way.  It is one of my gravest regrets.  In many ways, Kayleigh's image of me was scarred. My actions could have permanently broken her. But God used her season of hurt to make her a stronger person. She has not only survived but she has thrived.

3. You are way too much like me. 

Kayleigh and I have almost the exact same personality in many ways. We react. We need time to think through things. We want to be right. We argue vehemently our points even when we are wrong. People can take us the wrong way. We love to read and we are both decent writers. At times I wish Kayleigh was not so much like me. But most of the time I just smile and shake my head and know she is stuck with the good, bad, and ugly of being like her dad.

4. You have a world of potential. 

I am excited to watch Kayleigh's life unfold. She has more potential than she even realizes.

5. I am not ready for you to grow up. 

Part of being a parent is facing the tension of between protecting your children and allowing them to spread their wings and fly.  I am not ready for Kayleigh to get behind the wheel of a car and drive without any adult supervision. But that is the reality I must face as a parent.  I am not ready for Kayleigh to graduate from high school in a couple of years and go to college. But that is the reality I must face as a parent. I am not ready for Kayleigh to become less dependent on her parents and more dependent upon her own decision making. But that is the reality I must face as a parent.

Watching your children grow up is a blessing and a curse. I'm not sure you are ever ready for them to grow up but that's the reality we face as parents. In the end, it makes me pray harder and trust God more.

6. You have a Father who loves you even more than I love you. 

Although it is difficult yet rewarding to watch Kayleigh grow up, I know that she has a Heavenly Father who loves her even more than I love her.  Her inward beauty is a reflection of His grace. Her strength comes from the fact that His strength is made perfect in her weaknesses.  Although her natural human tendencies reflect her earthly father, her heart reflects her Heavenly Father - the same Father who created her with so much potential.  And it is this same Heavenly Father who will love, heal, redeem, protect, pursue, and forgive her as she grows up as a fallen yet forgiven young lady who makes her earthly father proud to be her daddy.

Happy 16th Kayleigh. I love you.

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