A Letter to My Son on His 13th Birthday

*With a house full of people gathered for Gavin’s Rite of Passage Blessing Party, I shared my letter to him just after we sang a couple worship songs (Gavin had chosen) around the piano.  Then his father read his letter to him and prayed a blessing over him.  We then presented a gift to Gavin, a leather corded cross necklace with the word ‘Radical’ stamped on the metal cross.  Then family and friends shared things that they see in Gavin and other words of encouragement.  All was recorded so it will be included in a keepsake book for him.  Our pastor then prayed a blessing over Gavin then we concluded with even more feasting and celebration!  Here is my letter:


How clearly I remember the sweet smell of your velvety newborn skin, your chubby 2 yr old hand in mine,  and here you are, almost my height and far beyond me in your knowledge of technology and science!

What a treasure God has placed in our hands. What an indescribable gift it has been to be your mom. Joy unspeakable.


Your fierce love of God has not faltered. May it only increase in you. Your natural confidence, the way you can make anyone laugh and become anyone’s friend – these are gifts God has placed in you to touch the world.

You were 3 and I found you down the aisle from me chatting with an older gentleman about the weather in your very adult way, bringing a large grin to his face. Old or young, you have a gift of connecting with people.

Don’t forget- it is through your hands and words that God wants to embrace the lost and wounded.

I pray that you will know the presence of God full well and live in it. Then joy will be your language and His intense, never-stopping love your drug. His love that runs hard after you, that will hunt you down.

Know this. His love is the most powerful and satisfying drug of all.

I pray that God will right now give you a deeper revelation of His love for you and that it will wash you to your innermost being.

When you regularly ingest the love He has for you, you will look for nothing else to satisfy. Not food or drink or friends or fame or money. You will know and feel that you already have far more than you need and it will overflow into the lives around you.


May God deepen your love for others. I pray that you will be one who truly sees people, that you will go out of your way to help, to speak words that heal into others.

May His love be the driving force in your life and be the one thing everyone will experience while in your presence.

His love already shines in your eyes. Times when I have begun to doubt the depth of God’s love for me I often see it there. Right there in those kind green eyes of yours. A bright life-giving spark that goes right to my core. Just as it is in your sister’s heartfelt embraces and your brother’s laugh.


I have failed at this parenting gig multiple times. Thank you for being quick to forgive, for regularly patting me on the back and surprising me with a shoulder massage, for your thoughtful ways.

How I cherish our walks and bike rides we’ve taken together. Thank you for sharing your heart with me, your concerns and loves. I pray that our relationship only grows deeper as it evolves with time. Through your teen years may there be even more laughter, more games played together, more campouts and hikes that awaken our souls.

God, help me to wake up to the gift of the here and now – these 13 years have flown by and I desperately don’t want to waste a second more. I pray that I won’t live another day with my to do list at the forefront of my mind, ignoring the precious souls right in front of me.

Remind me daily to connect with them, to sometimes leave dishes in the sink for a walk with my firstborn in the woods. To ignore the ringing phone and play Stratego with him. To share hearts and tears and belly laughter over a plate of cookies and let the emails wait. To truly listen. Help me to abandon all that is pulling at me and run wild with them in a game of hide and seek before I wake up and realize it’s too late.

Gavin, continue to expect me (from time to time) to just stare at you, as I soak up the gift of you. Expect that I will continue to squeeze you and not let go, and to share the things with you I feel so passionate about.

Thank you – for accepting that we do things differently in our family. Thank you for not being bitter, but respectful and supportive of the guidelines God has given us. You are aware that the amount of time we spend in front of the glare of screens is but a tiny fraction of the time others do. And we are incredibly thankful that you see the reasons we choose other activities over screens, as well as over hyper scheduling our lives.


We want you to live a life that is balanced well and focused on what is important. We love how you already see it is a life that is rich.  As Ann Voskamp said in regards to all the books her family had read, “I will never regret every page we chose over screens.”

Live with eyes wide open and allow your soul to be touched by the little things. Because there really are no little things. Painted sunsets, the flight of a hawk, the roar of a jet, an embrace from your brother, the twinkle in the eyes of an old man. They are His messages of love to you. I pray that you will never miss them.


“The sum of how you see the ordinary is what makes an extraordinary life,” Ann Voskamp says. I have no doubt.

Rebel against low expectations of the teen years. Your teen years are not a time for irresponsibility, but a time of training. A time of strengthening your self control and deepening your character. A time to be stretched so you will grow. A time to practice being alert to the voice of God and responding.


Take this seriously. “What you will become later in life largely depends on what you become now.” This quote from the book you are reading now, “Do Hard Things,” is a fact.

These years will be the foundation for the rest of your life.


The habits you develop now will be carried into the future. Guard your thoughts especially. Be aware of the enemy’s traps. Nothing is worth opening a door and letting evil take root.

Remember who you are in Christ. He has already approved of you. You have nothing to prove to anyone.

I pray that transforming your worries into prayers will be your unforced rhythm.

I pray, and always will, that God will be what you crave most and His voice will be what you are tuned into.

Never doubt that God is for you, that He is calling you to be a world changer.

God has placed strength within you and you have stood for what is right when it was hard. Continue to do so.


May you be bold, and radical enough to never let the culture define how you will live. Because God will be leading you down a different path – yes often even different from what is the Christian norm. Stay alert to His voice. He is the only One you need to please. His leading and love is your greatest gift.

Don’t allow your mistakes to get you down. As long as you’re on this side of heaven you will make them. You can be so hard on yourself, like your mama.  Embrace His mercy and move on.  Swim in His grace.

Romans 12:1-2

‘So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.’

and 12:3b

‘Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.’


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