Dear Abbie, Alex and Avery,
I remember each time I found out I was pregnant and the day each of you were born. Three girls born within four years meant that I would have a little one to rock for quite a while. I thought you would be little forever. But forever actually lasted as long as it took me to type the last three sentences. *sigh* This time last year, Abbie, you graduated from high school and became the first child to leave home for college. I cried for months. Alex, this time next year, you will be graduating from high school and heading off to college. I'm getting teary eyed just thinking about it. Three years from now will be a double whammy. Avery, you will graduate from high school/leave for college, and Abbie, you will graduate from college and begin your teaching career. Avery, how does online college sound?
Recently, I was thinking about the next few years, and I thought about the things I want you to know. Some are serious, some are simple, but all of them, I feel, are equally important.
- Love the Lord with all your heart.
This one may seem like a given, especially since you have been raised in church, but it is something you have to do for yourselves. You were all young when Grandma passed away in 2004. You may not have many memories of her, but she was a strong godly woman with an amazing relationship with the Lord. She was a godly example to all who knew her, especially your daddy. After she passed away, Dad struggled in his faith. Was his faith genuine or was it based on Grandma’s faith? After much soul searching, his faith became stronger as did his relationship with God. I don’t want you girls to love God because we tell you to. I want you to love God because it is a natural response to a relationship with Him that only you can have.
- Judge success by God’s standards, not the world’s.
Success. What is it? We are constantly bombarded with the world’s idea of success. A nice home, a great car, lots of money, etc. All of those things are nice, right? But what does God’s Word tell us about success? I think when we live our lives focused on God and his will we will succeed. His desires will become our desires. The things that matter to Him will matter to us.
- Ask and give forgiveness.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean that what happened is ok, but rather it’s an acknowledgment of a wrong that has been done. When you were little, I didn’t allow you to just say “sorry." You had to say, “I’m sorry for …” Why? Because you needed to take ownership of the wrong you had committed. As a mom, I’ve had to learn to ask forgiveness from you. That’s been a hard lesson to learn. I grew up in a home where forgiveness wasn’t sought, nor was it given very often. I hope that you will forgive and ask for forgiveness often. We have too many people in this world that don’t own up to doing wrong.
- Stand strong and be strong.
The world tells us that strong women can do anything they put their minds to, can be anyone they want to be, and can say anything they want to say. Dad and I have encouraged each of you to pursue your dreams, to try new things and to speak your mind. But none of that matters if you are not living life to the best of your ability. I love this definition of a strong woman: “A strong woman is someone who is walking in her God-given identity, unaffected by the world’s image of the feminine role or the religious pressure to conform to some reduced version of herself.” - Kris Vallotton from Fashioned to Reign. Stand up for yourself. Stand strong in what the Creator says about you and who you are.
- Believe in yourself.
Believing in yourself is empowering. Think back to a time when you knew you could do something and you accomplished it. Avery: the first 3 point shot you ever made. Alex: submitting a piece to an art show and getting an acceptance letter. Abbie: that mid-term that you crammed for all night and aced. How did you feel? Amazing, right? That’s what believing in yourself feels like. You gain confidence. You sense your purpose. You can conquer the world. And don’t worry if you fail. Look at it as an opportunity to learn.
- Be where you are.
The first six months that we lived in Louisiana, we weren’t really there. Our hearts were back in Alabama with our family and friends. As often as possible, we would “go home” for the weekend. We had to learn to be “at home” in Louisiana. It was hard making new friends and finding a new church, but looking back at the moment we decided to be where we were, we began to experience new and wonderful things. Whether you are working a job that gets you through school, or you are in a place temporarily, don’t miss out on the opportunities God has for you there. When we stop looking too far into the future or missing the past, we will learn to enjoy the present moment. Eight years later, I can say that Alabama no longer feels like home. Home is wherever I am with you and Dad.
- Don’t worry, be happy.
Cliché, I know, but it’s a good mantra to have. Worrying is a time waster. It can cause stress and wrinkles. But most importantly, it takes away our trust in God. One of my favorite passages is Matthew 6:26-27: "If the God of the universe will take care of the birds, He will take care of you." I’m not saying that I don’t worry because I do, but I also trust that God is going to provide (because He ALWAYS has in the past). He’s got your back. You can trust Him to take care of you.
- Just do today.
When you have a bad day, remember it’s only 24 hours long. You just have to get through the next few hours before you get a new start. Bad days will come, but that’s all they are. A day. Twenty-four hours. And when you’re having a bad day, just call your mama. I’ll be happy to listen as you vent and remind you of how awesome you are.
- Open your home and your heart.
Have a servant’s heart. Invite people over. Feed them. Laugh with them. Cry with them. Share life’s joys and heartaches with them. It doesn’t matter if you eat pizza off of paper plates or steaks off of fine china. Take the time to invest in those around you. Find a way to serve the ones God has put in your life. It may be as simple as listening to a friend share what they are going through or cooking a meal for a family in need. It’s easy to serve the ones we care about, but I challenge you to find ways to serve outside of your comfort zone. The quantity of time spent with someone is never too little when it’s done in love.
- Never doubt that you are loved.
When each of you was a baby, we dedicated you to the Lord. As much as we love you, our love does not compare to the love your heavenly Father has for you. When you feel unlovable, know that you are loved. When you make mistakes, know that you are loved. We may not always agree with the decisions you make, but we will always love you. You are loved. You always have been, and you always will be.
- Nurture relationships.
You have us. You have your friends. One day, a long time from now, you may have husbands and a family of your own. Relationships are hard work. A good relationship requires communication, trust, and a little give and take. Always keep the lines of communication open. Learn when to speak and when to keep quiet. Be trustworthy and bestow trust. Nurture those good relationships, and recognize what harmful ones look like. And remember, Dad says you can’t date until you're 30.
- Do what you love, love what you do.
Pursue your dreams. Follow your heart. Do whatever the cool t-shirts tell you to do. Just don’t earn a degree because you think that’s what Dad and I want for you. God has placed within each of you a talent, a gift, a passion to do something special. Find it. Grow it. Live it. Life is too short to be stuck in a job that you hate, not living life to the fullest. Take time to find out what your best life might look like. If it lines up with the calling you feel God has on your life, then pursue it!
And last but not least…
- Laugh, cry, and sing really loud often.
Laugh until you have to cross your legs. Make that ugly cry face. Sing along to the car radio. Yes, people may stare at you for any or all of the above but not the people who love you. Dad and I, and your sisters, we are your people. I hope you find others to embrace the crazy and become your people. Welcome them into your inner circle.
I hope that you don’t see this as a to-do list but attainable things that might make life a little more enjoyable. Things, I hope, that I have modeled for you. Dad and I love you. Our desire has always been to raise you to be godly women. Girls, we may not be able to give you everything you want, but hopefully we have given you the things you need: LOVE. ENCOURAGEMENT. SECURITY. Home will always be a soft place to land. I’m blessed to be your Mama.
Embrace life to the fullest,