You’re my youngest daughter and you turn thirteen today. Our baby is a teenager. And while you’re tall and beautiful, smart and funny, using makeup now and wearing Beatles T-shirts, I still see you most of the time as my tiny little bear. You know that’s true. Are you really thirteen? Is that even possible?

I love everything about you, Carley. I love everything about what you have become over the past thirteen years and what you are becoming right before our eyes. I love it that you love Raiders of the Lost Ark and It’s a Wonderful Life. I love that you love Aerosmith and hate Justin Bieber. You think it’s cool to have an electric guitar in your room and a circle whale on your bed. I love that. You appreciate good humor. Nothing gets by you or goes over your head. I love your sarcasm and your puns and that funny little thing you do with your eyes and your mouth to note a moment of irony. It reminds me so much of your Uncle Keith. You look just like him when you do that. I love how you finish my sentences while I’m preaching. And I love how you refuse to go to bed until I’ve properly scratched your back during the “night-night hug.”

I love that you’re the life of the party with your silly friends. I love that you’re the organizer, the planner, the instigator. I love that you love being with them so much of the time. You’re a great friend, Carley. You worry about your friends and you’re sensitive to their feelings. You’re caring and giving. I love that.

I love that you’re so smart and supremely talented. Your drawings never cease to take my breath away. Like yesterday when I watched you sketching out those models so you could encourage your mom in her fashion design class. It blows me away how effortlessly you do the coolest things.

I love that you’re always in the mood to chase and be chased around the house, that you are always a threat to jump on my back from anywhere on our property, and that your punch packs a pretty good wallop. What I used to call your “tiny fists of fury” are now formidable weapons to be feared. I love the way that keeps me on my toes.

I love listening to you pray, Carley. I love the way you talk to our God. So conversational. So matter of fact. So grateful and reverent. So focused on him and on others, not yourself. I learn about your heart by listening to you pray at night. And I love what that reveals to me about what God’s Holy Spirit is doing with you. You are a child of God. You belong to him. And he’s using you in wonderful ways to reflect his glory and reveal himself to others. I love that.

Honestly, there’s a part of me that doesn’t like seeing you grow up. You’re my last one. I look at pictures of you from ten and eleven years ago — even five and six years ago! — and I miss that little tiny bear. I sometimes wish you were still waddling around with that nasty polka dotted blanket, shrieking to get your way, refusing to be left alone, delighting in Veggie Tales, and endangering life and limb with all that climbing. But the bigger part of me thrills in watching you become this beautiful woman of God. I’m beside myself with anticipation over what our Lord is going to do with you, how he’s going to use you to bless his people and advance his Kingdom. He’s given you so many wonderful abilities and gifts. He’s blessed you, Carley. And he’s doing something really special and eternal, something huge and everlasting in you. I love that.

Happy Birthday, Bear. I love you.