Dear boys, As I watch you today, building K'Nex with your Daddy, I want you to know something. Hear me loud and clear on this.
There are so many ways that I hope you will be just like him. I know you will each be a very different individual and your Daddy and I are so excited to see you grow into the unique men, the unique creations of God, that your Heavenly Father has already so perfectly planned for you to become. I believe Psalm 119:16 with all of my heart. I know that all of the days of your life were ordained by God before those very first days that I held each of you in my arms. You are already such different personalities with such different strengths and talents. It is so much fun to see you grow! ...and it is so very tiring to correct your not-so-terrific shenanigans, but hey. We all fail and one of my jobs as your Momma is to teach you to fail...um...a bit less often throughout the day as you did when you were four. I won't name names. We were all four once upon a time, right? So, yes! You will be someone who does great things. I don't know what that will be or what it will look like, but I can feel it in my very core. You are passionate little boys (which I think perhaps is a trait you've gotten from your Mommy...that can be a good thing...or not so much) and you all show HUGE characteristics of world-changers with those helpful, loving, compassionate hearts of yours! So, I will try to help you to direct that passion you seem to have inherited from me in the most positive directions!
Now, let's talk about your Daddy's traits because there is MUCH that I want you to learn from Him. Boys, your Daddy is still human but he is a good, good, good human through and through. I want you to be YOU but for the sake of your wives, your children, the communities that God places in your life, I want you to be JUST like Daddy in these ways:
1) Your dad says this thing a lot: "See a need, meet a need." He says that and he lives that. Boys, LIVE. THAT. If God has blessed you in some way: financially, spiritually, a giftedness, perhaps in a material way, or maybe in an attribute of your personality, I want you to use it to the glory of God. We are not blessed to keep our blessings tightly to ourselves, and your Dad knows this truth. Live with your arms and heart wide open, ready to meet needs that you see.
2) Offer grace. Your daddy has taught me so much about forgiveness and has lived out grace. If you don't know it now, you will know it soon: I talk too much. I say everything a bit too quickly. Some of those things are wonderful things to say and some...some thoughts should be kept to myself. My heart needs work just like everyone else's and my mouth is quick to show the ever-changing conditions of my heart. So, when your wife makes mistakes (and she will) show grace and forgiveness. Let's not pretend that you are perfect. (Try that for a second and I will tell you tales of your toddlerhood trips with me to the grocery store that will humble you rather quickly. That goes for all three of you, fine gentlemen. I've learned all about forgiveness in aisle four and you've learned to apologize quickly and to hand out flattery before you return to your seat in the minivan. Well played, by the way.) When your wife makes mistakes, remember that you make mistakes too. Love her in a way that leads her to thankfulness in her heart. Marriage, sweet boys, isn't exactly about your unconditional happiness anyway. Not at all. Your wife will not be enough to fulfill your happiness every moment of your life. Humans are imperfect. You were created to seek peace and joy in God, first, boys. Seek Him because marriage is about the Holiness of God. When you forgive the unforgivable in your wife, when you teach her about grace and unconditional love, what are you really doing? You are glorifying God. You are honoring marriage vows to love in bad times. Be like your daddy in that way.
3) I want you to teach your children about courage the way your Daddy teaches you. This one time, the oldest of you was learning lessons in fire safety at school. Your little heart had a lot of hard questions about the "what ifs?" I couldn't answer some of those things, but your Dad had the most perfect and most genuine words. He said, "No matter what, I will rescue you in a fire. That is what Daddies do." When I am really mad at your dad, because (he's great but he messes up too...and sometimes I'm just cranky)...in those moments, I remember those very words that your Daddy said. He is courageous for you. He would give his very life to save yours. (...and those sorts of thoughts break my heart, so I am hyper about safety in our home.) But, the words your Daddy told you,...THAT, my sons, is the very Gospel-definition of manhood. Be THAT man that loves so big that he would be courageous in a fire for his children. That is who your Daddy is teaching you to become.
4) Love BIG and put your time where it matters. Boys, you will soon realize that your Daddy is a quality-time person. We already see that quality in the oldest two-thirds of you, as well. (We're also fairly confident that little brother enjoys our family time.) So, perhaps you will all be able to hit this particular quality out of the ballpark. It's like this and it is a simple thing that makes a big impact: if you love someone, give them your TIME. This morning, your Daddy had a million choices of how to spend this icy snow day. He is a busy person, with many responsibilities, but he chose to spend his morning with you. You built many things with the K'Nex, and frankly, I don't think I have quite enough patience to endure so much building and creating...not hours and hours, at least. Your Daddy loved every minute and so did you! You built a dinosaur, a plane, and a ginormous hot-air balloon. Biggest brother: You even built me a large snowflake (without a pattern) to hang above our Advent calendar. This quality time spent together isn't really out of the ordinary for the four of you. Your daddy reads to you, sometimes ten books at a time. (I'm not even exaggerating...ten books.) He suggests family activities, outings, and game nights. Middle child, you love "family dinner games" and your Daddy embraces those dinner games with you every single day, even when, "Would you rather be an astronaut or a flipper-whipper" makes absolutely no sense at all, he still answers you. "Hmmmm...I think I would like to be a flipper-whipper," he says and your face lights up because you think a flipper-whipper sounds like a very noble livelihood, yourself. The same can be said for the time your Dad spends with me. He isn't beyond taking me to the downtown shops in our little community just to see Christmas trees in November. He takes me on dates to places that speak to my heart, even when he could care less about certain concerts or hobbies. Because boys, hear me on this: time is what the people you love need and want the most from you. Your dad knows this. Don't ever be above taking your wife to look at Christmas trees just to see her smile. I recently overheard your daddy tell my brother, in reference to an outing at my favorite downtown shop, "She just needs these kinds of times." Boys, if Christmas trees are special to your wife, then make time for such things. She will notice. If dinner games matter to your precious middle child, make dinner games a priority in your home. Love big and spend your time accordingly. Those are the moments that leave a forever impact on the hearts you cherish.
I could continue. This list could become even longer to encompass so many important qualities that I have learned, from your Dad, about Biblical manhood. Perhaps, I will make a larger list just for you when you go to college or maybe your wedding day will serve as the best time for those sentiments. For today, I need to write down these truths that I know in my heart, because one day, your heart will need to know these truths as well. All three of you are cherished gifts from God, or as I often tell you, "You are a treasure." You are. And raising you comes with a responsibility to, not only enjoy your childhood, but to nurture and train you into three men: three husbands, three fathers, three world-changers, three leaders, three peace-makers, three helpful members of society, three kind hearts, and three followers of Jesus. That is my biggest assignment...as far as I know thus far.
And boys, you will learn so much about becoming men who glorify God by following your Dad's footsteps. Please be the individual creation of God that your days have been planned for you and you alone to be! In doing that, I hope your idea of what is manly will be largely shaped by watching your Daddy love us and most importantly, by seeing him follow Jesus. Take notes. I will be cheering all four of you on! This love letter was written for you, boys, in the midst of another day right in the middle of our life that I often call, "our frat house." Love you a bushel and a peck, guys! Forever and ever, I will love you.
You can read more stories by Courtney at her blog, <a href="http://www.courtneystanford.com">Let Every Heart</a> at courtneystanford.com!