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Storyteller. Grace Dweller.

I’m Jennifer — wife of an Iowa farmer, mom to two girls, new book author. I believe in you, because I believe in Jesus. You matter to Him, and you matter to me. more »

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Tuesday 12th May 2015

#TellHisStory: A Love Letter for A Second-Born Child

Dear Daughter,

I loved you instantly, of course.

It was the second time in my life that a delivery-room nurse had placed a wrinkled newborn girl in my arms.

When my lips brushed across your cheek, I knew it would be a cinch to love you as much as I loved your big sister. But I knew I’d need to love you differently.

I was smitten. And I was terrified—not of what you’d be like, but what I’d be like as your mother. What if I made comparisons? And what if my sloppy parenting ruined you for life?

Sure, I loved you instantly. But what if I didn’t love you right?

My dog-eared pregnancy books didn’t yield answers. The right answers would need to be lived, over the rugged terrain of years.

Your older sister was the echo of my soul, my own mini-me. Mothering her has always felt like parenting an updated version of myself. But you, dear daughter? You were a mystery. Discipline techniques that worked on your sister would throw you into a red-faced toddler rage. You zigged when I zagged. You wanted to color outside the lines—and on the walls. We now know your inner artist was simply trying to find a way to bust loose.

My worst fear? That I would accidentally bust up what God created, while trying to recreate you in my own image.

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Your sister is the classic firstborn—high-achieving, organized and responsible. She has a color-coordinated closet, shiny trophies, and clever stories to keep us entertained at the supper table.

I knew enough about birth order to know that you might grow up feeling like you were living in someone’s shadow. And your big sister has always cast a very big shadow.

Everybody talked about what a “perfect baby” your sister was. She was happy and precocious and whip-smart. You’re ten years old now, and you found out a long time ago that your thirteen-year-old sister is the life of the party and the top of the Honor Roll.

Your sister holds microphones confidently, in front of big audiences, sharing about our family’s love for Haiti. You sit beside me watching her, and we hold hands. I squeeze your hand, and press my forehead against yours, because I want you to know that I am as proud of you as I am of her. Your love for Haiti is no less fiery than hers. You have been on the same trips, and you do some amazing things, too. You simply don’t feel as comfortable telling a big crowd of people about it. But I’ve never once saw you jealous about all of that.

At night, by the light of your lamp, I pray with you. I tell God out loud how proud I am of you — and how awesome you are. (I don’t typically speak for God, but I think it’s safe to say that He agrees with me.)

Daughter, have I told you lately how talented and beautiful and smart and funny and compassionate you are?

For heaven’s sake, what’s not to love? You wear lobsters on your shirt, and you teach me to make Emoji cookies. Kid, you crack me up.

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{Above: Do you spy the Poo Emoji Cookies?}

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You are your very own YOU. God forbid, that I would put you in a box neatly drawn by your birth-order, some personality-test, some expectation that you’re extraverted, or introverted, or whatever-verted. You are, simply, you. Beautiful, one-of-a-kind you.

You don’t belong in a box with tight boundaries. You belong to a God of boundless grace.

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You can trust God with your story, because He is the one who wrote it. You don’t have to live up to someone else’s expectations — including what your own mother might mistakenly project on you.

May God forgive me, if I ever cause you to operate out of fear. May you only operate out of your enough-ness.

Dear child, I watch with deep admiration how you are blooming into your own brand of awesome. I watch and I learn from you.

Every spring, I see how you run for the lilacs when they begin to bloom. You always press your whole self into the scent of spring.

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I envy you in those moments, how you lose yourself in a scrubby old bush in our backyard. I used to do that, when I was your age. So in a way, you remind me of me — the me I want to be again, the me that gets so blasted lost in the inglorious nature of “maturity.”

Keep up with your you-ness, dear child. It’s beautiful. Color outside the lines. Pray your quiet prayers. Remember: You’ve got a shadow that’s pretty incredible. Keep rejecting fear. Don’t stop trusting God with your story. Stay spontaneous. Don’t let maturity rob you of your zippiness. Wear lobsters on your shirt forever-and-ever-amen. Remember you’re preapproved. And keep reminding me, too, okay?

And always, always — dear girl — run for the lilacs.

I love you.

Mom

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#TellHisStory

Hey Tell His Story crew! It’s always a joy to gather here every week. The linkup goes lives each Tuesday at 4 p.m. (CT). If you would use the badge on your blog, found here, that would be great. And if you would visit at least one other blogger in the link-up and encourage them with a comment, that would be beautiful! Be sure to check the sidebar later. I’ll be featuring one of you over there! Rachel Lamfers is our latest featured writer. She writes, “Sometimes, we are the ones who need to be comforted, and other times, we are the ones who are able to comfort others.” (To be considered as our featured writer, be sure to use our badge or a link to my blog from your post. 🙂 )

xo Jennifer


  • Read this right before I went in to tuck my girl (second born!) into bed and pray for her, like every night. I loved your story, Jennifer, because your kids are similar to mine. My son is a mini “me” in masculine form, the classic parent-pleasing child. And my second born daughter? I still remember her standing on the table at age 2 daring me to come spank her! But she’s a BEAUTY!

    • Oh my word. I can’t stop smiling at the image of your 2 year old daring you to spank her. LOL!

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  • Nancy Ruegg

    Such a poignant tribute to your daughter, Jennifer! How wise to put in writing your undying love and admiration for her, just before she embarks on the tumultuous teen years. I can see her pulling this letter out of her treasure box on those days when trouble trumps joy. What a precious gift!

    • Oh dear. The tumultuous teen years are close at hand, aren’t they? GAH!

  • Awww….you brought me to tears…again! So precious, Jennifer. Thank you for sharing your heart. 🙂 Much love to you and your dear girls.

    • It’s my pleasure. Thanks for reading, Cheryl!

  • Lois Flowers

    Oh, Jennifer! This brought tears to my eyes as I read it. I also have two girls, 13 and 10, and like yours, they are as different as different could be. Our younger daughter has blossomed right before our eyes in so many ways this year, and it has been a joy to watch! I’m so grateful for daughters who (despite me and all my childhood hangups) are comfortable in their own skin and aren’t afraid to be who God made them to be. Thank you for sharing this lovely post!

  • Kamea Hope

    So beautiful, Jennifer. The love you have for your daughter is so evident. I understand the fear of making mistakes in our parenting, and causing harm to these precious treasures. I often pray that God will protect my children from my shortcomings. I have 7 little miracles (some not so little anymore) and they are each unique in so many ways. What a wonderfully creative God we serve.
    May your precious daughter be secure in who God uniquely created her to be, and grow to love, honor and follow Him all the days of her life ~ Kamea

    • Bless you, Kamea. You’re so kind.

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  • Anita

    Oh, my word. I cried. Our daughters sound an awful lot alike–I have a firstborn mini-me and a second born artist. What a beautiful letter. With such incredible love and encouragement, your daughters will come out just fine–there may be bumps in the road, but you’re doing the right thing now!

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  • Mary

    This letter is so touching and so full of all the love you feel for your daughter. I remember feeling some of the same things when my second son was born. I think God gave us second children so different from the first to remember to rely on Him and also to grow our versatility. It is the most wonderful adventure around, isn’t it? Thank you for real and honest each and every week.

    • It is my joy to share in this space, and it brings me joy to have you on the journey. So grateful for you, Mary.

  • Loved As If

    “Wear lobsters on your shirt forever-and-ever-amen.”

    Yes.

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  • Kristi Woods

    What daughter wouldn’t love to receive a sweet note like this one? Wow! Jennifer, this is beautiful. your daughter sounds to be an absolutely beautiful young lady. The writing on the walls? Our daughter, the sweet pea between two brothers, was also into wall artistry. I nod my head in understanding. Today, as a teen, she writes colorful fiction and creates astounding cartoon-like drawings. Praising God and praying for both our second-borns.

    • Oh, I love that. Isn’t it amazing to see the grown-up people that these tinies become? Truly astounding. I keep discovering new parts of my girls’ personality — an everyday treasure hut!

  • Thank you for sharing this beautiful letter to your daughter. We’re on the same track with letters to daughters this month. Thanks so much for hosting the link-up, as always. May He continue to fill your cup to overflowing!

  • KristinHillTaylor

    Oh, do I ever get this. My first-born girl is a mini-me, yes, even through adoption. And my second-born boy has an energy that I don’t always understand. I remind myself to love him in a way that is nothing like how I love my girl but equally fierce. This kind of love is a great mystery of motherhood, but I’m so grateful God makes is possible.

  • Love the pictures, especially the last one. What perfect advice: “You are your very own you. Be that person.” Amen, sister. This is a beautiful love letter, Jennifer, one that I’m sure your daughter will treasure for a lifetime.

  • What a gift to your daughter! I have four boys, so I don’t have the mini-me thing AT ALL, but I do understand the experience of identifying more with one child than another. It has always fascinated me that same-gender children from the same gene pool can manage to be so different.

  • Veronica

    What a beautiful tribute to your youngest daughter. “You are, simply, you. Beautiful, one-of-a-kind you.” Amazing mama.

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  • Great reminder to embrace our kiddos as they are. Thank you Jennifer!

  • Oh, Jennifer! What a gift for her to read and receive this. You are such an amazing mom, speaking humble truth into the lives of your girls!

  • Tara Ulrich

    What a beautiful letter to your daughter. I love that we are all different. God wants us to embrace our uniqueness. We are all “fearfully and wonderfully made.”

  • Sounds to me like you are an awesome mother to both your girls, Jennifer. It’s definitely not easy having to figure out how to parent each child differently, but looks like you’ve figured it out.

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  • What a gift this daughter is to you…and you to her. So so beautiful, Jennifer. My mama heart swells with you over the pride of raising a beautiful, vibrant, brave piece of your heart, and the daughter in me also gives thanks because maybe these are words my little girl self needs to hear, too. xoxo

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  • There just aren’t words…so beautiful. I’m an only child and wasn’t raised by a believing mom. She is a great mom, but how I crave these words and although I hear them from Our Fathers heart, a letter like this could have been transforming at a tender age when I battled to find my place in the world. You’ve inspired me as a mama…thank you!

  • I love your “spicy” girl, just from your description of her.

  • Susan Burfoot Mead

    Jennifer, You always press your whole self into the scent of spring. I LOVE that…and her. And you for sharing such beautiful encouragement. Thank you. Count me in for linking up with you. Now, to get that badge…

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Dear God, Thank YOU. Here's where I guide my gratitude this Thanksgiving Day -- straight to YOU. Without You, I would have to direct all of my thankfulness to fate or the universe or thin air or my "lucky stars." But it's You. It's all because of You. … ift.tt/2zyTE5h pic.twitter.com/bWjoMVLmcd