Sometimes I am scared for all the bad things that happen in the world.
When you were born I held you, already feeling anxious about how to protect your precious hearts from every hurt. But this is not what I hope for you anymore.
First of all, because it's not realistic.
But more importantly, because it's not to your benefit to be shielded from every trial.
So instead I'll pray for you to only face the challenges and heartaches that will build your character or teach you endurance, perseverance, and empathy. These areas are muscles that need to be broken down and rebuilt over the years.
And my sweet ones, you will need muscle in these areas if you are going to make it in life.
I want to teach you to be gracious with others. Do not look for opportunities to take offense. Instead be quick to give others the benefit of the doubt. You can be generous to people with more than just money.
I never want you to be afraid of the truth. You can believe in God without being afraid of science, archaeology, history, and your own doubts. Don't be afraid of listening to someone you don't agree with. Genuinely seek out the best and brightest of both sides of an argument. Don't cheat yourself or your intelligence by settling for something less than that.
Be happy for other people--even, especially--when they are getting the things you want. Things will come around for you. And then others will want to celebrate with you when it's your time. (Also, this means more time celebrating and less time moping around like Eeyore.)
On the flipside: mourn with those who mourn. Grieve with them. Share their sorrows and shoulder their burdens. This will also come back around. Because life is beautiful, and sometimes it's excruciating.
Work hard and with integrity. Your work reputation matters. Honor your bosses and your coworkers by working hard and with a good attitude. Do this for the ones who deserve it, and even the ones who don't. But always remember that your work is not your value. It is not your identity. It's not showing up to pay its respects at your funeral.
Everyone worships something. Good things can become idols. People will tell you to do whatever makes you the most happy. But I want to teach you that a life poured out for others is a life well-spent, and making personal happiness your number one goal is the fastest way to make sure you don't get it. "Happiness is not a goal, it is a by-product. Paradoxically, the one sure way not to be happy is deliberately to map out a way of life in which one would please oneself completely and exclusively." - Eleanor Roosevelt
A few more things:
I'm going to tell you "no" about things and set boundaries for you. You're going to wish I said yes to everything you want. You will know some parents who are doing that for their kids and you might wish they were yours. But I'll be patient and some day you'll see that sometimes saying no actually means "I love you." God is like this, too.
Every time you reduce a complicated political, religious, or moral issue into a snarky GIF, a baby kitten dies.
Don't put any human being up on a pedestal. Not sports stars, political figures, celebrities, pastors, charity workers, reality TV families. Not me or your dad. We are human. We will screw up and disappoint you. Don't be disillusioned. No one is without sin, not one. This is why we need a savior. This is why Abraham, David, Moses, Peter, and many other "heroes" of the faith have their biggest screw ups decades after they have been walking with God. You will always need grace, every single day of your precious little lives.
When you screw up in bigger ways, others may laugh at you or scorn you. There will be consequences. But I will be there. And I believe these moments are maybe more important even than your highest successes. This is how you will learn about grace and mercy and unconditional love. This is how you will learn most about God. Those who have been forgiven much, love much.
I believe Truth is a Person and I hope you grow to meet and trust and love him personally. But in the end it can only be your choice, not mine. It will involve the daily sacrifice of yourself, but so does every relationship worth anything at all. The best things are often the hardest things. I can promise you this is the best one of them all.
Seek after integrity. Be hopeful without being naïve and wise without being cynical. Be generous with your money, time, talents, and words of encouragement. "The willingness to share does not make one charitable; it makes one free." - Robert Brault
Finally, I hope you get my teeth and love of reading, and your dad's vision and math skills. If these get reversed, I'm so sorry, but you're screwed.
I love you. I'm for you. Let's laugh and dance a lot, be quick to hug and make up, and always show each other--and those all around us--a staggering amount of grace.