Oh Mary Grace. You’re ten. WHAT. Last week, you informed me that “double the digits means double the fun,” and if that’s even halfway true, I’m bracing myself now. Because the past decade has been a TRIP with you, my girl. And double THAT?? Game on.

This past year has been a doozy for you. As a kid who likes to have a firm, controlled grip on life (solidarity, girl, solidarity), our move to Malawi sent you for a bit of a tailspin. AND STILL. I have seen you get up and keep going. Even when it’s hard. Even when you’re tired of having your azungu skin pinched or your blonde hair touched. Even when you’d do literally anything for a stroll through Target (oh my gosh yes). You’ve been brave. You’ve been strong. And you’ve been honest about your feelings when you’ve felt none of those things. Good gracious, MG, am I proud of you.

That honesty thing is one of the the things I love the most about you. (And sometimes one of the things that makes us concurrently cringe the most.) But truly. To be so secure in who you are and in what you believe is a gift. You’re straightforward, confident, and steady in your beliefs. Just a few weeks ago, you came home incensed about a rule that you deemed unfair at school. You paced. You spoke your mind at the rate of a million miles an hour. You planned to arrange a meeting with the school headmistress to discuss said rule. In your mind, justice and rightness WOULD PREVAIL so help you God. Incidentally, the meeting with the headmistress was not necessary after all, as you convinced your teacher the next day to find a workaround to your very lofty problem. (Namely, your permission to swing sticks around on the playground as wands. I don’t know. I’M STAYING OUT OF IT.) You returned home quite pleased that day with the fact that “justice” had prevailed, your “case” had been won, and your voice had been heard. Loud and clear. Emphasis on the loud.

I pray that this boldness never, ever dies out. Be humble. Be teachable. Remember that no one person can be right all the time. But keep using that voice of yours. Don’t let anyone silence you. Don’t let anyone try to extinguish that fiery spirit because it’s those spirits that get stuff done in this world. And there’s a lot of good to be done.

Speaking of passion. Other loves in your life this year: Harry Potter, Minecraft, ninjas, field hockey, and Indian cuisine. This obsession with Indian food has been a new phenomenon ever since we landed in Malawi, but the amount of tikka masala and naan you manage to stuff into that tiny body of yours never ceases to confound me. You also love a good glass bottled Fanta, as any TCK living in Africa should. And you really, really love your siblings which makes my heart swell with more joy than I sometimes know how to handle. You three are the absolute best together.

Your favorite color is black. Your favorite movies are “violent movies like Pirates of the Caribbean” (your words, not mine). Your favorite subjects are art and math. You would live in running shorts and flip flops if you could. And, a decade later, your beloved baby doll “Deluga” remains your most prized possession.

Mary Grace, being your mom is such a crazy fun adventure. Now, please note. “Such a fun adventure” does not necessarily mean that I always know what the heck I’m doing. I DON’T. But I do know how to point you to Jesus, and so that’s what I’m gonna keep doing. In all of your plans and schemes and daring feats in life… in all of your grand ideas and pursuits of justice and rightness… just keep your eyes on Him. Keep running hard. Keep speaking up. You’re going to do great things, sweet girl, I just know it.

Happy 10th birthday, Mary Grace! Here’s to a new decade with new adventures, new causes to take to the headmistress, and lots and lots more tikka masala. I love you so so much.