The other day, I received a mid-day message from one of your teachers. “Oh my goodness, your child is SO SWEET.  And… uh… I think you know what child I’m talking about.”  I did.  It was you.  Because you Allison kids are all sweet and special and just the best CLEARLY.  But someone gets called out specifically for their sweetness?  5/5 of us would agree on who this would be: the only one in our crazy crew who happens to have different DNA.  I’m not saying there’s a gene for sweetness, but I’m also not NOT SAYING THAT EITHER.

But really.  You’re a joy these days.  You’re chatty and full of this effervescent joy that is just contagious.  You leap and cartwheel through life, rarely allowing both feet to touch the floor at the same time and “hitting the quan” so often that it’s become almost subconscious at this point.  The opportunity to get back into ballet this year has been God’s pure, unadulterated GRACE this year, and I cannot even tell you how happy it makes me to see you on stage dancing with your thicker-than-thieves group of school friends.  Because, Elizabeth- these friends…. this ballet program.  I hope you’ll remember all of this from here until forever. I hope you can put a stake in the sometimes-annoyingly orange Malawian dirt as if to say “God’s been faithful. He is faithful. And I sure as heck can believe he’s gonna be faithful in the future.”

This has also been the Year of Full House (thank you, Netflix), and you apparently will never ever tire of dreamy Uncle Jesse.  In fact, in an effort to salvage the little WiFi bandwidth we have available in our household/nation, our family presented you with a very VERY selfishly motivated gift this year when we gave you every Full House episode that ever was on DVD.  You wanna watch the Tanners?  Fine.  You take this disc, and I’ll take my WiFi back.  You got it, dude.

You’ve also become quite the voracious reader this year and have devoured every Babysitter’s Club book you could get your hands on.  Which basically means- between this and Full House and ADD your deep, abiding love for Top 40 pop music hits- you are reliving my entire childhood.   Except growing up in Africa and stuff.  Tiny variation.

Your adjustment to life in Malawi has been smooth and so easy.  You’re relatively unaffected by cultural differences here.  It’s a rare day that you complain about what you’re missing out on.  And, sweet goodness, do you love Malawian food.  Like, a lot.  Not long ago, we were at the salon getting your hair braided when the ladies there decided to break for lunch.  Per the most hospitable culture ever, they invited you to sit on the floor and eat their nsima with them which you did without a single ounce of hesitation.  Not only did you not hesitate, but I had to nudge you to tell you to slowww down on the nsima consumption as to leave some for the hungry employees’ lunches.  It was awesome.

As you’ve settled into culture here in Lilongwe, I’ve sat back and watched as you’ve worked through identity.  Because as a transracially adopted Congolese kid in an American family being raised in Malawi at an international school… it’s complicated.  Just know that we’re here for you, sweet girl, as you work through all of it.  But even more than I long for you to grow up to be a strong, black woman with deep pride in her Congolese roots—and man, do I long for this for you—more than ANYTHING, I pray that your greatest source of identity will be in Jesus.  Who he says you are and who He promises to be.  He’s not gonna fail you, baby girl.  His love for you is deep and pure and secure. 

Elizabeth, happy 9th birthday!  Don those sequins.  Pull out those 90s hits.  Dance and spin and twirl until you wanna puke up the shawarma and ice cream sundaes you’ve requested for your birthday dinner.  (TCKs are the legit best.)  It’s your day, girl.  Live it up.  We love you to Congo and America and Malawi and back.