This week has been a sad one. I know a lot of people who are hurting.
Ever since I found out I was going to be a mom, I've looked at things with a new perspective. I know that perspective will change even more when I get to meet my little guy. I'm looking forward to that because I think this new perspective is for the better. I think it's good to remember what's really important in life. And I think it's good to teach our children what's important in life. So I decided to write a letter to Joshua, the littlest Eleveld-to-be. I will read it to him and print it out and put it in his room. He will get sick of looking at it but it's important and I want him to remember it.
As you grow up and go out into this big world, I want you to remember some things. These things won't guarantee you a perfect life or keep you from feeling sad or angry. I wish that they could but that isn't how it works. Sorry, kid. But these things will - hopefully - help you keep the right perspective, focus, and priorities as you grow up and become your own person.
1) Remember that your dad and I love you. A lot. We might get mad at you and we might ground you and we might not buy you every single thing you want. But we love you. We will love you forever. Grammy and Grandpa and Papa and Nana love you, too. Your aunts and uncles and cousins and great-aunts and great-uncles and great-grandparents and your great-GREAT-grandmother love you with all of their hearts.
2) More importantly, remember that God loves you. He created you for a specific purpose. You may feel like you don't have any talents or gifts when you grow up. But that isn't true. Grammy used to tell me that I could be ANYTHING - and she believed it. I believe you, Joshua, can be ANYTHING. I really do. Just keep Christ as the center of your life and He will lead you to great and wonderful things.
3) Nothing is as bad as it seems. I know it's hard when you're sad or confused. I know people will betray you and I already want to beat those people up (and you're not even born yet... oh, dear). I know no one's life is perfect all the time. But listen to me when I tell you this: I have been there. I get it. I know it's hard. But, as the saying goes, this, too, shall pass. It might take an hour or a day or a month or a year or a decade. But everything will work out.
4) Don't start fights for yourself. It isn't worth it. It won't solve anything. But if you're fighting for someone else, stand up and be brave. Defend the little guy and the boy who seems weird and the girl who gets teased for her looks. Speak the truth and don't be afraid to do the right thing. If you're anything like your dad, I know you will learn this and take it to heart very quickly :) It's scary to stand alone. But I believe that if you stand up for what's right, you won't be standing alone for long.
5) Love with your whole heart. Trust the people who love you. Make fewer friends if it means they are that much closer to you. Sometimes that can open you up to heartbreak. But it also opens you up to love and friendship and joy.
6) Don't beat yourself up over mistakes. What's done is done. But don't forget them - learn from them. Use them to shape the person you want to be.
7) Be respectful. Offer to help a busy mom who has three kids and seven bags of groceries. If someone tells you a story that you think is boring, listen anyway. And really listen - don't just pretend. If you're over 18 and visiting someone's house, their rules still apply. And thank the soldiers you see in the airport. They are fighting especially for you.
8) When you say you'll do something, do it. When you say you'll be somewhere, be there. I guarantee that as soon as you agree to seeing a movie with a friend over the weekend, a party will come up for the same time and you'll really want to go to that instead. You're better than that. Go to the movie. And if you offer to pray for someone, pray for them. Don't forget. It's important.
9) Volunteer a lot. It's good to remember that there are people around you suffering. It's even better to do something about it. Donate your clothes, toys, time and prayers to those less fortunate. Serve lunch at a homeless shelter. Help build a house for a family in need. You can make a huge difference in someone's life in just a few hours.
10) Forgive completely. It's hard to forgive; I know that. But it's harder not to. We forgive because God forgave us, and if your dad and I have done our jobs, you'll know where to find that verse in the Bible :) People will mess up. Dad, me, your friends, your teachers - all of us. Forgive them, even if they don't say they're sorry. And ask for forgiveness, even when it's hard. Even when it's not your fault. We all need to be forgiven, and thanks to Jesus, we can be forgiven forever. Remember that when you're angry with someone.
11) Remember that you never know what someone else going through. Grammy and Grandpa used to tell me that all the time, and it drove. me. insane. But now that I'm older, I'm starting to get it. Sometimes people are mean. But sometimes they're mean because they're hurting. The bully on the playground might be bullied at home. Stand your ground, but always do so in love. It may be you one day who is hurting and who needs a friend like you to help.
12) Above everything else, love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength. I put this last not because it's the least important, but because if you remember nothing else, I want you to remember this. Love God. Serve God. Read your Bible and pray every day. I know that getting up early to do your quiet time is hard. I know that the Bible can be confusing, especially when you're young. You're lucky because your dad is a walking Bible encyclopedia, thanks to Papa and Nana. So ask him questions. Ask your pastor questions. Ask your friends questions. Make it your goal to walk with God as closely as you can.
That's all the wisdom I have for now. I love you a million times over. I can't wait to see your little face.