Your father and I were having pancakes at IHOP. We had just left the ultrasound appointment at the brand new Southcrest Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma where we found out that you would be a girl. Our firstborn child would be a daughter. I had never been happier in my entire life. I had three different baby name books on my person that day. Always with the books, this lady. But as soon as I happened upon your sweet name in the C section of 10,001 Baby Names, I was a goner. My mind went straight to Claire Danes’ exquisite performance in Baz Luhrman’s Romeo & Juliet (to this day my favorite movie of all time—it’s brilliant. There’s a radiance about her in that film that I see in you now.) The book told me that Claire is a given name of Latin origin via French; the name can mean “clear” or “famous.” The word still means clear or transparent in modern French in its feminine form. There was also that peculiar order of nuns called the Poor Claires, whom I had been enamored of just recently. As I whispered the name under my breath, I felt mysteriously confident somehow that it was yours, that you would embody transparency in your very being, sweet Claire. I felt it somehow that you would be translucent almost, bright and clear and maybe even famous—because you would let the gorgeous, glorious light shine right through you, like a beautiful piece of glass. And so we named you Claire.
You always had a special connection to the divine, sweet girl. You’re just not ever gonna be able to get away from God, I hope you know! So don’t run like Jonah! Just stay close! It’s all Love anyway, nothing to run away from. Lean on in, even when it seems that you have mighty fine reasons to be a chicken. There are always going to be things to fear, but maybe that’s why He says “DO NOT FEAR (because I am with you!)” more than any other thing in the Book. You’ve got yourself a Jesus freak of a mama who sang and prayed over you like it was her paying job for a significant part of your childhood. I did NOT see it coming—how fiercely I would love you, how joyously I would long for you to know and love Jesus. And you did. It was honestly the most beautiful, organic thing and you just loved Him. From such a young age, you just loved him. You would be drawing or coloring and you’d get this far off look and say, “Mama, I just love Jesus so much. He is just everything.” You would just say things like that and my own faith and love for Jesus would just explode into something even bigger in that very moment.
Claire, you are such a precious, precious girl. When I look at you, the way I feel about you (still, even more now)—it makes me know for sure that God is a good God, not just some keeping-score kind of God. You have experienced some really weird things for a young woman. We have been through some hard stuff. But we made it. We’re still standing. We’re through the roughest parts now, I can feel it. And if I know God, He will not waste a single thing. He brings beauty from ashes, turns mourning into joy. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight, my daughter.
Even when you were an infant, the way that you would sing and dance with us as we worshipped all over the tatami mats and in the house of the Lord. Your little lungs were filled with praises from the time you were an infant! I remember reading those Scriptures about how God prepares praise in the hearts of infants and being so moved by your joy. You came OUT singing, girl. I’ve got the videos to prove it too! I don’t know why on earth I was singing such a sad song to a baby, but you particularly adored Patsy Cline’s song “Crazy” and cooed like absolute crazy through the whole dang song every time. It was practically a party trick! (That’s real country music, by the way, and I sang it real pretty once at the Tulsa State Fair when I was just about your age. Wearing hot pink, skintight Wrangler jeans and Justin cowgirl boots. Bless.)
And your voice. No one’s voice moves me like yours does, my darling. Every song you sing, I feel it through and through. You have a gift. You have many gifts. I know He will lead you and He is already showing off with you. But allow me to plead with you, mother to daughter, to put your trust all the way in Him. Nurture your connection with the divine. You need that holy space in your life, I promise. In that golden time with Jesus, you can bring anything at all to light and just bear your naked soul to Him and He will always, always come through for you Claire. I have walked through the valley of the shadow of death, my daughter, and I know it for sure—that everything you need, everything you will ever need, it’s in Him. Seek Him first, as early and often as you possibly can bring yourself to do! I know it’s hard. I fight it too, living in that place of surrender. It’s gut-wrenching sometimes being this vulnerable. But the sacrifices of God are a broken heart and a contrite spirit. These He never ever despises. Now haughtiness, on the other hand, haughtiness and certainty He will oppose. But come to Him as often as you can with all the broken things and all of your questions. He will put everything right somehow. He will give you the peace and joy and strength you need to get through. I don’t want you to be legalistic about it or to beat yourself up when you don’t or when you can’t. But just understand that if you’re willing to just admit you’re thirsty, Jesus has got exactly what you need every single time. Go to that watering hole often. He will meet you there.
Having a daughter is one of the most precious gifts of my life. I am connected to you in a way that is unlike any other connection I have with any other human being. It’s insane how we can read each other’s minds. It’s exhilarating to be across the room from you (but hearing the same music or the same sermon) and the zimzum between us is so loud that I feel like I can hear your thoughts and that you can hear mine. I only have that with a few other humans on the planet, and the force is STRONG with you, young Jedi. It’s hard to keep any secrets from each other, honestly. That must be super annoying for you sometimes. It’s such a crazy connection we share. It’s like nothing else.
You are turning sixteen today. I think you really have a shot at being absolutely anything you want to be, Claire. I can see some wicked awesome wings coming in, girl. Can you feel them? They are gonna be spectacular and oh, the places you’ll go. I think you are absolutely extraordinary. And I’m not the only one who sees it. I don’t want you to get a big head or anything, but I think you’ve got something really special happening. I know you feel like a weirdo. (Because you are.) But you’re the very best kind of weirdo. The kind that makes a mark on every human she will encounter.
I love you with every fiber of my being. Happy Sixteenth Birthday, sweet girl.