My daughter Emma turned ten years old on November 23 and I am finally posting her birthday letter. (It’s been a little busy around here.)
I remember with such clarity the day she was born and all the wonder and amazement it was when she finally made her way into my arms – how her piercing eyes, and calm spirit transformed my life and world. I am forever thankful for Emma’s way. She is tender and kind, incredibly loving, and maintains a small and rich set of friends. She’s the sort of girl who keeps her thoughts to herself until she knows you’re worthy of hearing them — but once she opens up, she’s your friend forever.
Being a young girl is a mighty task. Here are ten things I want you to know:
1. Kindness goes a long way in this world.
A kind word, a gentle response can change an entire relationship, can turn a conflict around, and can help difficult circumstances. When words fail you, when you’re stumped by a situation, remember – no one needs you to have all the answers… but everyone could use a kind word. I have realized in the past two years, in particular, how much I value kind people. Practice kindness.
2. Spend time alone.
We live in such a fast paced, always moving culture. People can be in contact with other people twenty-four hours a day through Facebook, and Twitter, and their phones and texting, and all the other ways. Take time to be unplugged and alone. Being comfortable with yourself, finding the value in you, being your own best friend – will take you far in this world.
3. Adversity and hardship are part of every good story.
This is pretty much my new mantra. I say it all the time. And I mean it. Moms and dads have the task of raising children in this culture, in this age. Parents struggle with the constant tension of how much to let our children go through and what to remove from them. Sometimes I wonder if I’ve asked too much from you, but then you turn a corner and come into your own in such a lovely way. Resilience, strength of character, nobility, and tenacity – mostly grow up into a person’s character during hard and difficult seasons. And your dad and I want you to be resilient, we want you to learn to persevere in hard times, so we don’t always rescue you out of hard things … sometimes we coach you through them and pray for strength.
4. Be a leader, not a follower.
And by being a leader – I mean – go where you know you need to go, even if it’s in the opposite direction of some of your friends. Good leaders aren’t usually worried if others are going to come along – they simply forge ahead and make a way for others to follow behind. You don’t have to lead everyone, just go where you need to go even if you’re the only one and you’ll go right.
5. You have time – Enjoy life’s seasons.
Take your time. Each season is important and vital in order to fully move into the next one.
6. Kindness matters, but you can’t be everyone’s best friend and not everyone is going to like you.
When you discover someone doesn’t like you or you’ve offended someone – sometimes it’s good to try and make it right, to apologize, or to ask forgiveness. But sometimes you need to let people think whatever they want to and lovingly go on your way. It’s usually more about them than you.
7. Don’t settle out of fear. Fear is paralyzing.
Sometimes we think we should accept something or do something because it’s as good as we can get. And we’re afraid we won’t get another offer. God is always up to something and God can create things out of nothing … so be thoughtful not to settle. Be wise.
8. Don’t settle, but also don’t despise small beginnings.
However, it’s not settling to understand that you don’t start at the top. We start at the bottom and work our way up. It may not be the dream opportunity you’ve been longing for – but it might be a step in the right direction and you’d be wise to take it. I’ve gotten to do many wonderful things because I learned to accept that you start small and grow from there. And I’ve said no to a few wonderful opportunities because it wasn’t as big as I thought I deserved. That was foolish.
9. Always know your way home.
By now, after ten years, you’ve probably realized that faith is important to me. I learned many years ago, that my way home was on my knees. In prayer. I can be anywhere on this planet, in the most beautiful landscape or in a garbage dump, going through any circumstance – and find my way back to God. So can you. However, it’s something you must discover, and claim for yourself.
10. We love you very much. We love the essence of who you are.
We love a whole lot about what you do, and we are proud of you — but mostly we love you because you’re our daughter. And we are forever grateful, from the deepest place inside of us that you are our child. Be Blessed. May this year be full and rich and good.