"There is no better friend than a sister, and there is no better sister than you".

Too often, I find myself rolling my eyes at her, or storming away because she said something just for the sake of pissing me off, or punching her in the arm because she slapped me in the face. But far more often, I find myself laughing so hard I cry, spewing a drink out of my nose when she says something unbelievable, or sharing a funny tweet with her and silently giggling as I hear her snort next to me when she reads it. My sister and I share an incredible bond, and while it drives my parents up a wall, I would not give her up if the world depended on it.

My sister is my saving grace. Truly. The only memory I have of my life without her in it is the day she was born. I remember being so excited because I was getting a mini-me, a real life baby doll that I could feed and dress up and play with. And while there were far more dirty diapers than I expected ("I did not sign up for this, Mom"), I could not have asked for a more perfect baby sister, and I would have never guessed that this wrinkly, smelly, whiny baby would grow to be my beautiful, kind, caring, sassy, best friend for life.

We always joked that we are twins, separated by four years. We look exactly alike, and sometimes I swear that we share the same brain. But while I claim that she is my mini-me, she is so incredibly herself, and every time she does something that proves she's getting older and becoming a woman, I can't help but stare at her in awe.

As my little sister, she has faced a lot of criticism and comparison coming into the high school that I recently graduated from. The first two weeks of her freshman year consisted of "So and so asked if I was related to you" or "So and so told me that she loved having you in class" and all kinds of things like that. As the older sister, it really sucked to hear this, because as much as you want to pave the way to make things easier for her when she gets to that point, you can't help but wonder if you actually made it harder due to the comparison she's bound to face.

It's even harder when you get a glimpse of how she sees herself; when she doesn't think she's good enough, strong enough, talented enough; when she can't see how truly astounding she is. There have been a zillion times that I have wanted to grab her and shake her like a Polaroid picture until she understands how much I freaking love her. How worthy she is. How very talented and inspiring and funny she is. How much I adore her and her spunky self.

It's hard for me to even write this because I feel like I can't adequately express how much she means to mean. How I wouldn't be half of the person that I am today if it weren't for her. How even though I am the older sister and I'm supposed to teach her and lead her and show her the ropes, she teaches me so much about life and myself every single day. She makes me kinder, stronger, and just an overall better person. I would be lost without her because she is my best friend.

She is the very thing that comes to mind when I think of ways that God has blessed my life. When someone asks me to show them proof that God is real and active in my life, I point to her. If she were stuck on the train tracks with no way to get off, I would stop that train with my bare hands before it could touch her. If anyone in this world hurts her precious heart, they better be prepared to face the wrath of this older sister.

Kayla, thank you for being you and so unapologetically so. Thank you for showing me kindness and mercy and forgiveness when I am being so very mean to you. For never giving up on me and for always being there when it feels like my world is crashing down. For being the best friend I've ever had, and ever will have.

I hope you know how much I love you. Truly. You are my favorite person on this planet and there is not a single thing on this earth that I wouldn't do to see you smile. Please don't ever forget your worth. Do not let anyone decide who you are going to become or what you are going to accomplish. Don't let anyone compare you to anyone but yourself. We may be sisters, but you are you, and that is something you should always be proud of.

Seeing you grow up makes me so emotional but so proud that it feels like my heart is going to burst. It's hard knowing that you won't be by my side forever. You're gonna graduate and go to college and be the best damn doctor there ever was. You're gonna meet the man of your dreams and marry him and start a family. MiKayla Renae, you are going to be the most incredible mother.

I envy your kindness. I envy your heart of gold. I envy your joyful spirit. You are so incredible, and I STILL can't find the words to express what I am feeling. But I love you more than there are stars in the sky, more than there are seeds in watermelon, and more than there are calories in our favorite frappuccinos.

I can't comprehend my life without you, and I won't even occupy that thought because a world without my girl in it isn't a world worth living in. We're going to be forever best friends, and I can't tell you how lucky and honored I am to be your older sister. It has been the greatest pleasure of my life to see you grow and become YOU. You gave me the greatest gift of all: getting to be your sister.

I love you.