Letters on His Eighteenth Birthday

“Brothers and sisters, we must always thank God for you.  This is only right because your faithfulness is growing by leaps and bounds, and the love that all of you have is for each other is increasing.”  2 Thessalonians 1:3 CEB



In a hurry to get out the door for early morning band practice, my son stumbled dropping his school folders, a book and a banana. Two letters came loose from the grip within the book he had been carrying. Letters that were part of gift he had received the day before on his eighteenth birthday. I was relieved to see him taking these letters with him to read. He told me he was going to read a couple a day until he made it through the stack.

What do you give an eighteen year old eager to spread his wings and fly?  My husband and I pondered this question over and over. We knew he wanted some recording equipment and poetry books, but we wanted something else with it. Something to encourage him.

A friend of mine for her daughter’s fourteenth birthday sent out a request from family and friends to write letters for daughter to encourage her to make good decisions and grow in wisdom. We snagged the idea of a letter writing campaign and ran with it. Out went an invitation saying…

“To those who have made a difference in Jonah’s life,

Thank you for the encouragement you have already given our son. We wanted to invite you to be part of a campaign to shower Jonah with letters of wisdom, encouragement and blessing as he crosses the threshold of his 18th birthday and formally begins to take the reins of adulthood.

We encourage words of wisdom in many types. For example, song lyrics, poetic verses, well wishes, life experiences, written prayers, specific advice, scripture… as much creativity as you want to pour into it. We recognize as parents, you have pieces of your life that have already poured into Jonah and hope that written words would further encourage him into positive decisions, blessings and the life God is calling him into.

Jonah has always been a lover of life, eager to take the next step, whatever that may include. He is motivated by his passions of music, making the world a better place and by seeing others grow. He sees hope and opportunity through those around him and usually has a good thing to say about those who are nearby. He inspires us as parents, and now we wish to inspire him to become all that he is meant to become. More than a dream chaser, we believe him to be a dream maker. Our prayer is that he will walk these steps from man cub into manhood with integrity, wisdom and perseverance.

We will not be opening the letters that come in the mail. Letters through e-mail will be printed and placed in envelopes. He will receive all letters together on December 1, 2015, his 18th birthday tied up in ribbon as a gift of encouragement.

Again, we are grateful to each of you for the difference you have already made in Jonah’s life.”

With invitations to the letter campaign sent, my husband and I wondered if the idea would work. About three days before his birthday we received the first letter from a previous youth director of my son’s.  After that about twenty letters in all arrived.

While waiting, came the realization that we too needed to write a letter. What does a mom say to her maturing son? I pondered the question over and over. Here I had asked other people to answer this question and I wasn’t really sure how to address it myself. I thought about when he was born and the emotions I had felt.  I thought about when he was going through puberty and I wanted to diminish him a few times.

Finally, I sat down to write. I asked him if I could share my letter on my blog. But I was still hesitant, even with his approval. Truthfully, it’s personal. But so is this blog. So… here is what I wrote…

“For my son on his 18th birthday,

In the wee morning you came. You cried a single cry and then looked around as if to say, “Hey world, I’m here.”

Your dad and I were clueless on what to do with a baby, so we prayed and did our best. That quickly became our pattern on raising you. Pray and do our best. People would tell me, though, when you were a baby I held you too often, but I still wouldn’t put you down. I held you tight because I loved you so much.

Someone once told me after you were born that my loving you was like how much my parents loved me and God loved me a hundred times that much. That made me smile. I had never thought about how much I was loved before. I was just floored by how much I could love you as you were nestled tightly in my arms.

Through the years we have both grown up a little bit at a time. I’ve taught you and you have taught me things in return. We’ve said words of encouragement and some words of discouragement. We’ve laughed and sometimes even cried (ok, I’ve cried more than you.)

Here you are stepping from man cub into manhood. Six feet tall filled with dreams, curious about life and sometimes a bit radical in thought. Eager to jump when you want to jump, fly when you want to fly, go on adventures and seek treasures from afar. There are some of things I want you to know, though. So here goes…

  1. Seek God. Don’t let the communication with Christ stop, just because I’m not reminding you to pray or go to church. Develop your own relationship. He is Peace. He is Strength. He is Wisdom. He is Salvation. Trust Him with your life, your plans, your future and your money.
  2. Being kind is not a weakness. It is a bold strength that few are brave enough to extend.
  3. When troubles come, fellowship with others helps lesson pain. People are a blessing. You need them and they need you. You don’t have to face life alone. That being said, there will be times you will need to take time to be still. Those times teach you, shape you and strengthen you. Rest in Jesus. Breathe in peace.
  4. Your Dad and I will be here for you, but unfortunately not forever. Death is part of life. I know that sounds morose and dark. My point is, don’t take anyone for granted. Live life in such a way that those you love are blessings; then when it comes time to say good bye to people you love, you will have the courage to do so recognizing the love they had for you will live on in you.
  5. I love you. I will always love you. There will be times we disappoint each other, but I will always love you. I will also always be your mother.

Although, I know you will be cutting apron strings and wading into your own decisions, I ask that you respect the rules of our home and understand that as you make your own decisions you alone are accountable for them. When Dad and I give you advice, please consider it, knowing that if we didn’t care we wouldn’t speak up. Plus, sometimes we see things or have experienced things that could help you. We have no desire to reign over you. Our desire is for you to take the wings you have grown and begin to fly.

When you were baptized, we asked Uncle Keith to sing the song “Let Mercy Lead” by Rich Mullins. The words were and are our prayer for your life.

Let Mercy Lead
(Rich Mullins)

[Jonah] you’re young
But [Jonah] you’re growing fast
Me and your mom
And all the love we have
We can only take you so far
As far as we can
But you’ll need something more to guide your heart
As you grow into a man

Let mercy lead
Let love be the strength in your legs
And in every footprint that you leave
There’ll be a drop of grace
If we can reach
Beyond the wisdom of this age
Into the foolishness of God
That foolishness will save
Those who believe
Although their foolish hearts may break
hey will find peace
And I’ll meet you in that place
Where mercy leads

[Jonah] the day
[Jonah] the day will come
You’ll run the race
That takes us way beyond
All our trials and all our failures
And all the good we dream of
But you can’t see yet where it is you’re heading
But one day you’ll see the face of love

Let mercy lead
Let love be the strength in your legs
And in every footprint that you leave
There’ll be a drop of grace If we can reach
Beyond the wisdom of this age
Into the foolishness of God
That foolishness will save
Those who believe
Although their foolish hearts may break
They will find peace
And I’ll meet you in that place
Let mercy lead

Let mercy lead
Let mercy lead
Let love be the strength in your legs
And in every footprint that you leave
There’ll be a drop of grace If we can reach
Beyond the wisdom of this age
Into the foolishness of God
That foolishness will save

When you were two or three (I know, I love to tell this story of you), we were playing outside at the end of a hot day. The stars had just begun to shine in the summer sky. You had been playing in your turtle sandbox with your Tonka trucks so the sand stuck to your sweet little sweaty face.  You looked up at the stars and began to jump up trying to grab at them with your little hands determined to take ahold. It wasn’t time for you to grab onto those stars.  Now is your time. Go reach for your stars! I love you, Son!



As I went in to say goodnight to my son last night,  he sat on his bed reading another letter.  He looked up and said, “Good birthday present, Mom.  I love you.” I was grateful for his appreciation. I was more grateful for him.

He received what his dad and I wanted for him.  The gift of encouragement.

The letters were a blessing to him, but writing the letter helped me, also.  Writing the letter helped me to see him for who he is now.  A man starting on his way.  My role as a Mom is changing, but I am fortunate to always be his mother.



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