It seems like only a few months ago that I held her in my arms for the first time. She wore the little cap that babies in the hospital nursery wear. Not long after that she was wearing gowns to sleep in and to twirl around in like a ballerina. Now, she's wearing a cap and gown of a different color and style as she walks across the stage to receive her high school diploma. Has this really happened? How can it be that this little one who once curled up in my lap as I rocked her to sleep, is now marching in with her classmates to the tune of the familiar graduation ceremony music?

Between the time when she wore a cap and gown as a little girl and now as a beautiful young woman we have shared many times of joy and times of sadness. We have laughed together, we have cried together. We have shared secrets. We have taken walks and ridden our bikes through neighborhoods and along the beach. She has learned to ride horses, play sports, drive a car, cheered for the home team, had her first date and many other dates since then. She has grown from a little girl who said she would never move away from home to a young lady who is eager to be in a dorm room and expand her level of independence.

Like Moms and Dads all over the country as we watch her today, her mother and I fight back the tears as we realize our hold on her is becoming less and less each day. It started with sleepovers, then she began taking trips with her friends without us, then there were shared meals with the family and friends, trips to the local breakfast place before school, banquets, chorus concerts, and ball games. Soon it will be foreign mission trips, college orientation, packing her things and decorating her dorm room.

There's a part of me that wants to cry out, "Stop! This cannot be happening! It's too soon. She's not ready. I'm not ready!" There's another part of me that loves to look at the beautiful young lady, thank God for whom she has become, and long to see what God has in store for her over the next phase of her life. There's still another part of me that just wants to take her in my arms again and comfort her when she's afraid, dry her tears when she cries, and reassure her that she will always be loved. There's yet another part of me that wishes I could freeze this moment in time and forever enjoy it, or, better yet, rewind the last eighteen years.

But, as John Ortberg reminds us, "Life does not have a rewind button." (From, "When It's Over It All Goes Back In the Box".) I cannot turn back the clock. She must grow. She must go. She must learn. She must earn her own way. She must experience life for herself and learn some of the hard lessons of life all on her own. There will be times she will cry and I will not be there to dry her tears. There will be days when she seeks the advice of another. There will be times when I will wonder if she has forgotten what we had? Will she remember how special our relationship is? There will be times when I'll miss her so much that my heart and my soul will ache. Maybe there will be times when she'll miss me too.

I accept the reality that today she wears a cap and gown, walks across the stage on graduation day, and is on her way to being a woman. Yet, in my mind and in my heart she will always be the sweetest little girl in the whole wide world and I pray that she remembers these words I sang to her:

She's the sweetest girl in the whole wide world.
There's not a doubt in my mind.
When I look at her and see her smile,
I'm so proud she's mine.

She's the sweetest girl in the whole wide world.
There's not a doubt in my mind.
When she looks at me and she makes me smile,
I thank the Lord she's mine.