Recently, Olivia's dear friend Sarah ran across a picture of the two of them and Sarah's brother Benjamin. As our families analyzed the picture, we suspected that it was taken at a birthday celebration many years ago - possibly Olivia's fifth birthday. They were so little and adorable!
Now this amazing young lady is no longer little and adorable. Instead, she is a beautiful, accomplished, dedicated, hard-working young woman. Oh, and those two precious friends from all those years ago? They are still her closest and dearest friends to this day. There is little Olivia loves more than interacting with Sarah and Benjamin and their two younger sisters, Olivia and Katherine - with her own siblings joining in the laughter as well.
I've always been proud of my delightful firstborn. She sees the world so differently than I do, with her creative mind and her ready response of laughter. Sometimes that has caused us to not completely understand one another. But she has become so mature and open about expressing herself, and I love how that allows us to communicate and engage with one another.
Over the past year, though, her self-motivation and determination have completely floored me. She has learned how to see long-term benefit and work hard toward it. Nothing proved that more than her hard work in school this year! Olivia's junior year was her most challenging thus far, with subjects like chemistry and Algebra 2that aren't natural fits for her. But, she knows, beyond all doubt, that she wants to attend college at Ouachita Baptist University, and she also knows that she will need a hefty supply of scholarships to accomplish that. So, she was determined that chemistry would not mar her 4.0!
I cannot even begin to put into words how hard Olivia worked this year to achieve that goal. She fought and clawed her way through chemistry and Algebra 2, not only earning those A's but also truly grasping the material before her. Even though other subjects, like art history, were more in her wheelhouse, she still made sure to complete them with excellence. She also has taken it upon herself to start early on scholarship searches and applications, and made sure she was well-prepared to retake the ACT this year.
Meanwhile, Olivia has discovered a love for jewelry making, and her creative mind is evident in the fun designs she has created. She loves to research, explore, and study new techniques and styles, then make them her own. Although she enjoys creating designs for herself and Angela and as gifts for various people, she hopes to soon explore avenues for selling some of her creations.
Then, there's her creativity in writing. Wow! The novel isn't yet complete, simply because she has so many ideas floating around in her head! She's constantly exploring new story lines. But, her essays for school are just as engaging as her stories. She amazes me with her talent and her way with words.
Poetry is yet another avenue of writing that she has been honing over the past year. Nearly every Monday, Olivia publishes a new poem on her blog. Her way with words explodes into vivid expression through her poetry, and I'm constantly amazed by how beautifully she expresses thoughts and feelings that many of the rest of us struggle to find an outlet for. She says what we want to say in a way that makes us feel so deeply.
The last new delight of the past year has been choir. We discovered Arkansas Youth Chorale back in February, and Olivia was immediately welcomed into the group with incredible warmth. She started making much-needed friends and had the opportunity to grow and train her voice and choir skills. She's looking forward to one more year with AYC before heading off to college next fall.
She's also excited about growing her tech and crew skills! She gets some experience at church on Sunday and Wednesday nights, but she'll get to hone it all more in an advanced tech training class at PraiseWorks this summer and then, hopefully, as a crew member for a homeschool drama group during the school year.
The fun side of Olivia still keeps Bunny nearby, even though he doesn't leave her bedroom very often. She loves fantasy and dragons and anything that is bold and bright - except her clothes! She prefers those to be neutral and calm, directing attention instead to the boldness and brightness of the world around her.
I just can't say enough how proud I am of Olivia. It's such a privilege to watch her blossom and grow in every way - and I haven't even talked about the spiritual growth I've seen in her! Wow!
Olivia, you are a treasure. Thank you for sharing your heart, smile, and talent with us. We love you! Happy birthday!