A couple of years ago I wrote a post on what I hope my sons learn about beauty, and as I was putting together and decorating our daughter's room, it occurred to me that there are some things I hope she learns about beauty as well, things about being a woman that are special and unique, things that I hope to teach her with my words and with my life, and these are those things...
As I clean and fold and sort little girl clothes, I see all these tiny outfits in attractive colors with sweet accessories and words embroidered on them like, "Pretty as a Princess," or "Cutest Girl Ever," or "Most Beautiful," or "Adorable," and I am certain I will think all those things about you (and I hope others do as well). But I hope you will grow to know that words like pretty and beautiful and attractive are not wholly defined by the things that can be seen with the eyes. Your clothes, your accessories, your hair, your shoes, even your face and your body are not the sum total of your beauty. I hope that you will learn there is an even greater beauty to be sought in this world, a beauty that is cultivated inside your heart, an imperishable beauty that won't fade over time but only grows more and more lovely as you tend to it through the years. Your dad and I pray God will open your heart to this beauty and that you will see that you are far more precious than jewels, far more attractive than a small waist and wrinkle-free skin, far more beautiful than the very small (but hard) standards our culture has set for you. I know that you will be a beautiful little girl, but I hope that your heart will be even more beautiful - kind and gracious, loving and compassionate, gentle and wise, loyal and trustworthy, generous and good. These are the things that are truly attractive and have eternal value.
We chose your name, Emory, one, because we thought it sounded pretty, but also because of its meaning: Industrious, brave, powerful, leader. I love the image of strength and bravery in the package of a tiny infant girl. And I hope you come to know that you were designed by a Creator who looks at you and desires to see you grow into who He created you to be, a woman, a female, worthy of honor and respect, strong and skilled, given special and unique roles that a man could not and should not fulfill. There are a lot of confusing and conflicting messages this world will send you about being a woman. Some will try to make you feel inferior. Some will give you false reasons to feel superior. My hope is that you will confidently know that your physical ability, your emotions, your sexuality, your intellect, your reproductive capacities, your gender, your whole being was designed with purpose and intentionality. Don't accept the lies about your identity that come from this fallen world. You are not a victim or easy prey; you are not less than; you are wonderfully created as a woman, clothed with strength and dignity as you were designed in God's image, and your womanhood is a celebration and reflection of so many beautiful aspects of His character. Find your identity in Him because He delights and rejoices in your femininity.
If you turn out to be anything like your mother, you'll want to be in control of things. I'm hoping you get a smaller dose of it since you're the third child (unlike your firstborn brother), but even if control is not something you struggle with and grapple for, you are entering into a world, a culture, that is going to encourage you to seek autonomy, to be your own authority, to answer to no one, to throw off restraints and make your own rules, control your own future. Maybe that doesn't sound so bad and it's even a little tempting (especially when you want to do things like eat ice cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinner), but we as your parents and your authority are here to help you with the things you don't know yet (like ice cream for every meal will make you puke) and to guide you down a path that will be for your good. But one day when you know more than we do and you are no longer under our direct leadership and authority, we want you to know that there is a God who loves and cares even more deeply for you than your parents ever could, and His wisdom and His way and His plan may hinder your perceived autonomy or your ability to do whatever you want with your life but choosing and surrendering to Him will be infinitely better and bring infinitely more contentment and beauty than any path you could make for yourself. My hope is that you will know the Savior in such a way that when you are confronted with the fearful uncertainties and anxieties of the future, your response will be filled with laughter and joy and peace because you know the One who holds that future, and you know you have no need to be afraid.
Emory Isabel, my daughter... I don't know you yet. I don't know your personality, what you will look like, who you will favor, what you will prefer, whether you'll be docile or strong-willed, but I do know that when I think of you and my hopes for your life, my prayer is that you will be a woman who fears the Lord and loves Him more than anything in this world. Because then I know you will know beauty and not merely know it for yourself but be able to reveal it to everyone around you. And this world needs more of that kind of beauty.