I’ve been compelled for a while to write letters to those who have influenced and help shape my life. I have a folder on my computer called “If I Died Tomorrow…” I realize how short life can be and that it can be gone in an instant. I’ve contemplated sending some people their letters, but have yet to do so. I’ve written some to my children individually, but today I decided to write one to both of them of a few tidbits and lessons I hope they hold with them even if something were to happen to me. This is it…
Oh my sweet, sweet babies. Okay, okay, you’re not babies, but you will always be “my babies” in my heart. You once were so tiny and so helpless, but now you do things that amaze me and take me by surprise. You are the loves of my life and the greatest joy I have ever known is being your Mom. I cannot express in words how much love my heart feels for you. My heart smiles because of you both. I know you have this incredible competition with each other, and while I don’t want to stifle your competitive nature, I do wish it wasn’t with each other, especially not in terms of me and my love for you. I cannot explain how it is that a mother can love her children so immensely and so equally; it is something that God has been able to gift us with. I do love that you are competitive, though, and want you to keep that fire in your hearts always.
Never settle for less, always try to be your best, but remember that there will almost always be someone better than you and almost always be someone not as good as you. So, don’t get bitter or jealous when someone is more successful. Use that as a standard to keep aiming for and then surpass. Don’t be hard on yourself either. If you do your best then be proud! The person you should compete with the hardest is yourself. Always try a little more, and never forget that it is never too late to make things better!
Also, never gloat over anyone who hasn’t done as well as you. Be humble. Humility will get you so much farther in life than arrogance in success ever could. Encourage and lift those up who may not be on your level. They need it and we are called to help those around us who are in need. We all are in need at some points in our lives, and I pray that there are people around you who will be there to help you in any way you might need. Don’t be afraid to accept or even ask for help. It takes a greater amount of strength to do that than to decline and try to do it all on your own. Pride is never useful and this goes back to being humble. I cannot stress it enough. If you are prideful life has a way of knocking your ego down to where it belongs. And let me tell you, it’s not fun; it’s better to start from a place of humility.
Choose good people to be in your life. You can have many friends, and I hope that you do, but your inner circle should always remain small. Trust is a big deal and not everyone who is a friend deserves the trust to be considered part of your inner circle. Friends will betray you. You will do the same at some point. Ask for forgiveness. Learn from it. And forgive others. Just because you forgive someone doesn’t mean they still need to be in your life, at least not on the same level as they were. You have to decide that for yourself in each situation, but don’t let your heart dictate this without first consulting your head. And do not let anyone misuse or abuse you on any level! Some things can be forgiven and forgotten or at least worked through. Some things cannot. If someone hits you or abuses you once, I promise it will happen again and they should be cut out of your life completely!
Do not ever misuse or abuse anyone else either! I pray that I have instilled this in you. Treat others with respect and even if they use hurtful words, do not use physical means to respond – ever! Now, if someone hits you? You defend yourself! Never start a fight – always finish it. But don’t let rage overtake you. Do what you need to do to stop it and get out of there. Go for help. Stick up for those who cannot stick up for themselves.
You don’t have to get involved in every issue that is going on in the world or around you; you have to decide which injustices you need to get involved in for yourselves, but do stand against some injustice that breaks your heart. And kids, always defend each other! I know you love each other. I know you often do this. Sometimes I wish you did it more. But there is so much love there and a bond that no one else in this world can claim. You two need to hold on to each other in the tough times and be strong for each other when the other is having a hard time. Encourage each other. Love each other. Never turn your back on each other. Even when one of you is wrong, stand firm together.
And stand firm in your faith. The only one who loves you more than I do is the Lord. You can never do anything to make either one of us stop loving you. You’ve both been through so much in your young lives and could easily allow bitterness, anger, or fear take over and control how you think and act. Always try to remember all the good in your life. It may seem like there isn’t much good, but if you look hard enough you’ll find blessings. This is the one time I say to compare yourselves with others. Yes, you have been through more than probably most, but there still are many who have it worse, and many, many more around the world. Find perspective. This will help you find some blessings.
When you think about your circumstances remember that God has you in His hands. My love and your Dad’s love for you surrounds you always. There are still good things left in this harsh world; you’re both proof of that! Don’t build up walls too high that no one can get through, but always guard your heart. Do not be quick to give it away. Once it’s broken (and it will break) give yourself time to heal. The scars will remind you that you are capable of love and able to love again. I already know how much you can both love. You two show me all the time. I pray that I have shown you enough love to make you secure and confident in life. If I haven’t, then please know I am sorry.
You are both so loyal. I love that about you. Loyalty is important. Continue to be loyal. Brave. Be brave, too. The world can be dark and scary, but you can do it afraid. That is being brave. Bravery isn’t doing something once you’re not scared, it’s being scared and doing it anyway. Live life and enjoy the beauty of it. Realize that you’ll never be completely satisfied in this life. That’s a good thing because this life isn’t where it ends. This is only a dot in eternity. You will make mistakes. You will get things wrong. You will intentionally and unintentionally make bad choices. It’s okay. We all do. This is a fallen world and no one gets it right. It’s all about being better and asking for forgiveness, which has already been given to you. Forgiveness was yours before you were born, you need only to accept it.
People will question why you believe in Jesus, and any “god” at all. You won’t really need them to make you question it though because we all do at some point or another. That’s okay. It’s good to question it. Search your heart and do your own research. I pray that I can give you a foundation of why and that the Lord will put strong Christ-followers in your lives to point you in the right direction and pray for you along the way. But for the record, a good starting point is that if a man can predict and pull off his own death and resurrection then maybe we should listen to the rest of what he has to say, don’t you think? Share what you believe with others, but don’t force it on them. Meet people where they are.
If you ever find yourself in a situation where you know it isn’t right or you don’t feel comfortable, be strong enough to walk away. Say NO. And on that note – if anyone ever hints at saying no to you about anything then respect it! Don’t push someone into something they aren’t comfortable with. Don’t give in to peer pressure. Do Not stay somewhere that you think may lead to trouble even if everyone else is, even if you want to participate because it seems fun. It is always better to err on the side of caution. It is always better to leave. Because fun is temporary, but consequences are far lasting. Take a stand. Someone else may want to say something, but maybe they are too afraid. They need that nudge, they need you to take a stand. You may lose friends and if you do? Well, then they weren’t the type of friends you needed in the first place. You will find new friends, promise. As you get older your circle of friends will change anyway. But things can go from bad to worse very quickly. It’s easy to get caught up in something and do things that you wouldn’t normally do. I will love you no matter what, but please, take action. Walk away even if you are walking alone. Go early because you never know when things will escalate and you won’t be able to get out of a situation.
Forgive yourself. Don’t let guilt consume you. It can take years away from your life. Guilt is useless. You don’t need to punish yourself over and over and over again.
If you ever find yourself in a bad situation with someone who is trying to bring you to another location: FIGHT like hell! It will be the fight of your life, and you may lose it, but NEVER go anywhere with a stranger (or even someone you know depending on the circumstances and what your gut feeling is telling you). If they tell you to go with them and they won’t hurt you or threaten you in any other way, do NOT listen! They will do worse things to you in another location than what will happen right there, and you will still die. End the fight right there. Do all that you can to fight and get away as quickly as possible, but never, ever surrender!
Listen to your gut feelings. Even if you second guess yourself or think that it’s a silly feeling and there is no logical reason to feel that way: listen to it anyway! We were blessed with intuition for a reason and you should never question it. It could save your life. You may never know if it did or not, but don’t change it. You are both pretty good judges of character, go with it. If you offend someone? Don’t worry about it. They will get over it. If they don’t then there is probably something wrong with them and you need to steer clear of them anyway.
Always tell the truth. It may cause you more trouble at first (in the real world, but here at home, it gets you a little less trouble when you fess up right away), but it will inevitably earn you respect and people will trust you. Respect and trust are vital to living to your full potential, and both are hard to come by these days. This will set you apart from the world around you in a very important way. Now, listen carefully about this. Not everyone wants to hear the truth even if they ask. Tell it anyway, but it’s not only important what you say, but how you say it. Be tactful. It’s something I’m still working on. Truth is always better received if the teller does so in a kind way. Sometimes you don’t need tact. Sometimes people need a cold dose of reality. This is one of those things you will have to determine on a case by case basis, but never compromise your integrity by lying. The truth eventually comes out anyway. Sometimes it takes years, but lies will eat at you and ruin your reputation.
Use the dictionary and thesaurus. If you don’t know what a word means well enough to explain it to someone else then look up the definition. Expand your vocabulary. Go to college. Get a degree. Find something that you are passionate about and pursue it.
Find someone you love and get married, but don’t only marry for love. Love is more than an emotion and any marriage based solely on love will fail. You will have to choose love over and over throughout your marriage. I believe in intentional dating. I did it the wrong way enough to know this is the best way. Make sure you have similar goals, interests, and most importantly – faith! Realize that you are not going to be the half to someone’s whole, nor are you going to complete each other. You need to be a whole person marrying another whole person who decide together to make a covenant with the Lord and each other.
The grass isn’t going to be greener on the other side once another storm hits you over there – and it will! I promise. Find someone who will weather the storms on your side with you. Be that person for them. Don’t live together before you get married. Secular statistics show that your chance of divorce is so much greater if you do. The whole “try before you buy” thing only leads to heartache and baggage. You don’t have to rush life. It’s not meant to be fast-forwarded. The time will pass either way and your choices help to determine if it passes with ease or strife. And yes, my dear children, all good things truly are worth waiting for. That includes sex. There are so many reasons not to have sex before marriage and “because it feels good, you only live once, but we’re in love” are the dumbest reasons and come nowhere close to outweighing the benefits of waiting… Just trust me on that one, okay? 😉
I love you both with all my heart. You are my life. I love you. I cannot say it enough. You cannot hear it enough. You are the greatest blessings I could have ever been given during my time on this earth. Your father counted you both as his greatest accomplishment (his second was serving his country – our country). Don’t forget that he loves you, too. No matter where we are you are loved. I know you love us, too. You showed it enough. I can only pray that I’ve done the same.