Friday, October 17, 2008

Christina's Sweet 16 Letter

Shuffling through stuff on my office PC, I found this letter I wrote to Christina on her 16th birthday. This December, she will be 20 already, but still it is sweet to remember life when she was 16, so, here's the letter:
Christmas Morning 2003
Dear Christina,
Sixteen years ago this morning I woke up in strange surroundings all alone. I was in a hospital not far from here. And that morning the nurses brought me a large red Christmas stocking, with an infant inside. She had on a tiny red Santa cap with a white pomp-pomp on the top; she had a head full of silky black hair and perfect little lips. And she was the best Christmas present ever.

We called her Christina.

My life had never been the same since. Although there were sacrifices to stay home with you, I never regretted a thing. I count all the things I could have been, could have done, could have had, as rubbish compared to the joy of being able to be home and raise you, care for you, love you and enjoy you. You have been a treasure and it has been a great privilege, a gift from God Himself, to be your mom.

But now, you are a young woman and the time has come for you to fly away like the beautiful butterfly you have morphed into. I am impressed by your great wisdom, your tenderhearted love for your sister and your friends, your faith. I am awed by how you care for yourself; how you can do things I can't do, like your running in track, your life guarding, your sweet way with small children, your fashion sense, your maturity shown in counseling your friends. The freedom that I give you, I do with confidence that you want to do the right things and that you have the strength of character to influence your friends to do the right things, instead of going along with what they want to do. It is with confidence that I watch you walk into your future because I am certain of your commitment to Christ, and that He has great plans for your life.

One thing to remember is the two-sided truth revealed to us in God's word:
  • "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13) and
  • "...without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).

When God is encouraging us to do something, we can trust Him to meet us at our point of weakness and help us overcome all the obstacles that come our way. As we obey Him, He is faithful to help us do what we cannot. Everyone is afraid at times, but no matter how you may feel on the inside; remember that courage is not about not feeling fear. It is about doing what you need to do in spite of the fear. Courage is not only important for men. Women need to be courageous too. Jesus said, "In the world you will have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but take courage; be confident, certain and undaunted! For I have overcome the world! " (John 16:33)

On the other hand, we need to remember that all our strength comes from God, from "abiding in" Him through prayer, Bible study, Christian fellowship and service. We need to love Him and follow Him in with boundless enthusiasm. As we need air and water and food, we need Him. As we need a map and directions when we are lost in the dark, we need Him. And the best part is, He is always there, just a prayer away. Jesus said, "I am with you always, even to the end of the world." (Matthew 28:20). He has always kept that promise for me.

Because you have always wanted to do the right thing, since you were very small, I have not had to punish you very much. Unfortunately, I have found in my life, wanting to do the right thing is not enough. Because we are breathing, we will continue in this life to do the wrong thing. And when we do the wrong things, the Holy Spirit convicts us. But don't feel bad when God is convicting you; it means He loves you. "My child, don't ignore it when the Lord disciplines you and don’t be discouraged when He corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes those He accepts as His children." (Hebrews 12:5-6) I know the Holy Spirit continues to convict you in your heart when you are doing the wrong thing. Don't ignore Him, embrace Him and ask for forgiveness. "If we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us of every wrong." (1 John 1:9) Our relationship with God, and with others, deepens as we practice the discipline of confession. It is a hard thing to do, but it is so worthwhile.

The other thing to remember is success in life cannot be measured by how much you have, own or do. "But godliness with contentment is great wealth. After all, we didn't bring anything with us when we came into this world, and we certainly can't carry anything with us when we die. So if you have enough food and clothing, let us be content." (1Timothy 6:6-7) Success is not about how many people know your name, or think you are great. Success is measured by making a difference in the lives of people. We cannot take any thing with us when we die, but we can take other people. Jesus said, "You know that in this world, kings are tyrants and officials lord it over the people beneath them. But among you it should be quite different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must become your slave. For even I, the Son of Man, came here not to be served but to serve others, and to give My life as a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:25-28) I expect you to have great success in life. Don't let anyone tell you that there is any other way to succeed but God's way.

Christina, I love you. These next few years will be difficult for our relationship as we navigate the waters of your new independence and my taking a step back in managing your life. It is a dance we will need to learn together and we will be stepping on each other’s toes. It is a happy and exciting time, and a sad and scary time for us. But please know that I have confidence in you and in God who loves and cares for you.

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