Dear One, you are already a girl after my own heart. It is so fun to see how, already, you want to wear necklaces and jewelry. You love shoes, and ask every morning for a bow in your hair. Although you’re only two, you watch me carefully and know how to use a flatiron. This sparkle-loving Mama couldn’t be prouder.

I also love it when you pull on your well-worn sneakers or muddy boots because there is just far too much playing to be done to trip over pretty sandals. When you tumble headfirst through the windows of your playhouse, rather than going simply through the door. How you love cars and tractors and planes and puppies. I’m glad that you don’t fully know what is expected of you yet.

My friends and I, we’re trying to make this world more kind to our daughters. I pray that through some of our small efforts, you will have opportunities beyond what I imagined, although I’ve been so fortunate to be empowered to be who I was meant to be. We want you to know, in the words of one daddy to daughters, that “there aren’t boy things and girl things to do, there are only things to do.” Our world sets up stereotypes without number. Ideas of what is appropriate for women, what is appropriate for men. What we need to squash down, and what we should allow. What we should look like and what our roles should be. I know that I’ve bought into far more of them than I realize. Not just for girls, but for boys too.

These stereotypes, they can serve as prisons for we humans, created not in a cultural image, but in the very image of God. We were not created to live in boxes, child, but for gardens of opportunity, with jobs to do and things to care for. To love justice and mercy, pursue truth, choose compassion and live outside religious rules. It’s funny, but for some reason, women who live outside stereotypes seem to confound those around them, even as they shine brightly beyond their boundaries. It’s okay and good to live outside these boxes, my dear. It may sometimes be lonely, but when you meet another person who can’t exist within these hard lines, you will find a true friend. I know this well, with your Daddy as the best companion in this journey that I could imagine.

What I want you to know, Child, is that I want you to be exactly who you were created to be. I want you to be who you are. There is almost a desperation in my heart to show you that you will be most fully alive and vibrant when you are living out your unique self. Recognize the stereotypes, and then figure out where you fit amongst or outside them. Discover your gifts, your passions, your strengths, your experiences, and live from them, confidently, joyfully, without blame or excuse. Know what things you are called to do, not what you’re told you should do – and do them, despite what you might be told. You’ll give a great gift when you encourage others to do the same, and show them that it is possible. Living in this way will change stereotypes for your own children.

There is nothing wrong with loving sparkle and shine, not at all. Each uniquely created star does it, every single night. It’s just who you are. In whatever you do, child, bring that sparkle.