Dear Emmy,

You’ve changed from the baby girl to the big girl right in front of me. You don’t ever stop-always moving, always finding, always making messes that make me crazy. I wonder what I might write about-what’s changed or where we’re going. The big picture eludes me. But I do see your little tan feet and how pretty you look with your hair back-with whispy pieces brushing your cheek and a curly ponytail behind.

Your biggest brown eyes and the cutest mole underneath one of them. It looks like a speck of the wonder tumbled out and landed right there. ¬†Your pretty, full lips and how you purse them together when you’re thinking of what to say. Your cheeks that are thinning and your small chin that fits right in the cup of my hand. I hold it when I want to capture a moment; slow down the seconds that make you older.

I have a confession to make. I fear that I would have been a very different parent if you hadn’t been born with special needs. I think laziness would have been the daily temptation, sitting back watching life go by in a state of fatigue or surrender. Four babies can wear a Mama out and I think you’d be getting away with an awful lot of trouble. Raising yourself with a little help from your siblings while I dreamed about what was next for yours truly. Or maybe I would be focused on the kid-race of early achievement, signing you all up for this and that, running you all here and there. At the very least, I’d be checking off the boxes of stages and moving right along with little pause for gratitude.

But our story is different. It’s more exciting. Having you has kept me from falling asleep, Em. I have no choice but to stay in this and not give up. It’s not in the cards. I feel like we got to the final lap and learned there were miles more to go. So I’ve had to dig deeper, mining endurance and willingness from a well deep down and asking again for help from God, whose been walking this path with us all along. It can be an exhausting journey but that’s the best kind of journey I think. When I’ve worn myself tired for the good purpose of sacrificial love that manifests in tiny hallelujahs along the way.

You keep me awake, Em.

Awake to summer sun which has always looked good on you. Awake to the time that’s slower in summer…the time we have together that’s not hurried for once; to snuggle-wrestle on the couch with your brother, to have your sister walk you to your seat on the bus in her jammies, to beg your daddy for popcorn late and long after dinner when you should be in bed.

Awake to your curious mind, trying to stay one step ahead of you-but giving you just enough space to take some risks, so I don’t stifle the adventure of childhood. Awake to what you need and what the next season might bring. Awake to your questions, your songs and your stumbles, your affections, your tears and your touch.

Awake to a thousand good mornings of new days and new hopes for you. For all of us.

I love you, Emmy.

Now and Always,