Birthday Post

Dear Will (2023)

My son Will turns twelve today. Here is a letter to him: 

Dear Will, 

I suppose these letters all start the same, with me acknowledging how fast another year has gone by. While this won’t make sense until you are older, time seems to go faster when you are older. I used to think that was just because I was getting older and had more things to do. Now, however, I see that the real reason is value — the things and experiences I value tend to go by faster and faster. 

Your childhood is almost gone. I suspect that you probably do not think of yourself in terms of being a “child,” and that is fair. But this time in your life is unique. It is a time filled with adventure and possibility. As the oldest, you might be tempted to hurry into more responsibility, your teenage years, and even adulthood. Give yourself permission to be a kid. Play with your sister, and take part in your brother’s fun games. You will have to work at this more when you are a 41 like me, so don’t lose sight of it now. And remind your dad to make time for laser tag or Nerf wars with the three of you from time to time!  

While you are incredibly gifted with golf and baseball, I want to remind you that my love is not predicated on your sports performance. You can strike out 100 times in a row, hit 100 home runs, or shoot an incredibly low score (though you should chill out on beating Dad anytime soon — though secretly, I’m rooting for that day to happen!). 

None of this impacts my love for you. I will tell you this a thousand more times over the next ten years, so I apologize in advance. I want you to do your best, be a great teammate, and be a good sport. Your performance is not, and never will, impact my love for you. 

To this end, I want to challenge you on something I have struggled with all my life: “self-talk.” What I mean by that is how I talk about myself in my head. For example, I used to say horrible things to myself when I shot 90 or worse in competitive high school golf. For example: 

“You suck.” 

“You will never be as good as your dad was.” 

“You are a failure.” 

Get the idea? 

My dad (your grandfather) never pressured me to be as good as he was at golf. Yet, I often believed the lie that my lack of national golf success was a failure in his eyes. Again, that was NOT on him, but it was a lie generated by my self-talk. 

As I close, what I have learned more than anything from you this year is how to be resilient. I admire your ability to stay consistent emotionally, regardless of the circumstances. I think this is a quality you inherited from your mother. If things go wrong on the baseball field, you are not flustered. You just keep going on. This has inspired me as a leader this year because things have not always been easy with the economy we are in. That probably does not make sense to you now, but know you have reminded me to keep going back to the “pitching mound” every day in a business sense. 

I am incredibly proud to be your dad. Your future is filled with possibilities. I pray that you continue to read God’s word and receive your identity in Jesus. This is a thought I was reminded of in church recently, so it bears repeating: You cannot find your identity. You can only receive it.  I must confess that on too many days, I have chased finding it. But it was never meant to be found. 

Jesus is your perfect Father. I am your very imperfect father. Being a Christian is recognizing that you cannot save yourself. While achievements are great, and progress is part of being a member of a productive society, no amount of achievement works in the end. There is always a gap, always a hole.

Therefore, I pray that you receive your identity as you enter your teen years. 

You have nothing to prove to your earthly father. 

You have nothing to prove to your Heavenly Father. 

You are accepted, and you are loved. 

Praise the Lord. 



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Dear Sadie (2023)

My daughter turns seven today. Here is a letter to her. 

Dear Sadie,  

There is a movie I have written about on my blog before called “About Time” — someday in the future, I will watch it with you. At the end of the movie, there’s a moment where the father transports himself back to a time he spent with his young son on the beach. His son runs into the waves, plays, and laughs; it’s a perfect moment that the dad wants to remember about his son’s childhood. 

There will come a time when I will think back to this year and remember you at this age. I will remember you dancing in our kitchen. I will remember your bright pink outfits. I will remember hearing you singing “Let It Go” in the shower. And I will certainly remember the warmth of you cuddling up next to me as we watched one of the lousy shows the boys picked for us to watch on TV. 

There will come a time when I hope you begin to know how meaningful these moments have been to me. When I think of how uniquely special all three of you are, I can’t help but think of how unique your gentleness is — it has touched a deep part of me this year. Jesus talked about the faith of a child, and it is clear that his gentleness has been entrusted to you as a gift. Your gentleness is heavenly. So, share sparingly. 

There will come a time when I have advice to offer in this letter, but not today. Today, keep twirling. Keep singing. Keep dancing. And when the harder times and lessons come, I advise you to fall back into these childhood habits. After all, you’ve taught me that it is better not to take life, or yourself, too seriously. 

We actually are better off dancing. 

To that end, there will also come a day when I look back and dream I could see my dancing seven-year-old one more time. 

With all the love in the world, 


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Dear Will (2022)

In commemoration of Will’s 11th birthday on August 16, 2022. 

Dear Will, 

There is a picture from the day you were born that I have often thought about this spring. We’re in the hospital room, and I am holding you with my back to the TV. There’s a Chicago Cubs game on. I think back to that moment and remember imagining the moments that would come…moments like taking you to your first baseball game, Little League, and watching you play ball. This spring, I watched you develop into a leader on your baseball team. You hit, defended, and were the player your coach counted on to pitch when the game was on the line. I think my heart raced at about 150 beats per minute when that happened, but you stayed calm. This amazed me. 

I do not know when you will read these words, so let me clarify my thoughts before going forward. As I told you this spring, I want you to know that I could care less about the results of your athletic progress. These days, there’s too much emphasis on performance, especially when it comes to child athletics. Let me state clearly that my love for you is not conditional. I do not care how well you play golf, baseball, or any other chosen sport. I love you regardless. 


My favorite moment of this past baseball season was when you gave up a home run. You had never given up an inside-the-park home run before. The opposing player hit a long pop fly that your right fielder probably should have caught — but instead, the ball dropped and rolled to the fence. It was an instant home run! You brushed it off, shook your head, and had a facial expression that said, “oh well.” 

If you can take that attitude with you whenever life hits an inside-the-park home run on you, it will be incredible to witness the places you will go. I care far more about your mindset and character than your performance. To that end, you amaze me even more! 


There is always an example of your kindness to behold. Just this morning, for example, you made your brother breakfast. You were not asked to — you simply did it because you wanted it to be ready for him when he came downstairs. The friendship you two share is also something to behold. My prayer is that friendship only deepens in the years to come. Never lose that friendship. Cling to it. It will be a steadying force in the years to come. 

Meanwhile, your gentleness to Sadie is instructive to me. Mom and I can tell that you are growing up faster than we would like, yet you are willing to go to Sadie’s level to connect with her. It is humbling to watch you be so kind and loving. It reminds me to similarly meet people where they are, appearances be damned. 

As you can tell, the last few years have been hard in many respects. And being your dad has been such a gift to me. That would always have been the case, but in the chaos of the last few years I think I appreciate it more than I would have otherwise. The joy I feel watching a game with you, seeing you before I leave for work, and especially watching you play, is indescribable. It settles my feet on otherwise shaky ground. I hope you read these words years from now and realize the gift your childhood was for me, your dad. They brought light to an otherwise dark time. They gave me life. 

And playing catch with you takes me back to 1980-something when I did not have a care in the world. It was, and is, freeing in a way that nothing else is.  

I love you, son. 

I will always love you. 


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Dear Sadie (2022)

A few years ago, I started posting a letter to my late grandfather on his birthday. I’ve found it to be a great way to remember and honor him — but I’ll admit that I wish I could tell him the things I write in my letter or that he could at least read it himself. It is this feeling of longing that drove me to start writing and posting birthday letters to my three kids. I plan on writing this blog for years to come, so my hope is that they will be able to come here and read them over time. 

Why am I sharing these letters in such a public way? Because I hope they will have value to you as a reader. As you read these, I invite you to remember what you love about those closest to you. If you are a parent, consider writing your kids their own birthday letter. The letter-writing process will help you remember what you love about them. And let that love overflow to how you lead other human beings. You cannot give what you do not possess. So let the power of remembering (I’ll talk more on this next week) increase your love and positively impact your leadership.  

Here is my letter to Sadie… 

Dear Sadie, 

Joy entered my world on August 2, 2016. Let me be clear that joy existed before this day. In fact, as we often talk about at home, true Joy can only be found in Jesus. I know this sounds dumbfounding to those who do not know Jesus, but there is no better love. Indescribable love gives birth to the truest Joy on the planet, for it is worth everything.   

But your arrival was an added dimension to the joy I had previously known. Like the first sights of faith, an entirely new world was opened up to me. Suddenly, I could see new colors — often pink and purple! And wow, those colors are beautiful! It was, and is, amazing. Since then, each day spans the spectrum of the rainbow.  

As you turn six, I already see characteristics developing that will shape the adult person you will become. You are determined. I call you “Momma Jean” as you dole out demands to your two older brothers. They comply out of love and because you are someone they want to follow. They want to follow you because the only human love I have seen matched is from your mom, my wife! There are moments when I see your love in action and gasp, realizing this is what your mom must have been like at your age. It is like I can see into the past with more clarity now. All because you are amazing, just like your mom. 

One thing of note before I go forward: You are amazing simply because you exist. You have a God-purchased amazing identity. This is not contingent on what you do or don’t do. If your eyes see this down the road when life is hard — and life always gets hard — realize that your identity is amazing because of Whose you are, not because of what you do. The same for me. The same for mom. The same for everyone. 

If there is anything better than a “Sadie hug” on this side of heaven, I have not found it. Those hugs are the most life-giving hugs on the planet. They change something deep inside my soul, offering reassurance that things can be good again. And they often lead to you calling for “family hugs.” The boys roll their eyes and typically flee the room, but it is their loss. I will take hugs from your mom and you every single day! 

I will end with remembering our family room dances, always initiated by you. Twirling you, hearing your infectious laughter, and seeing that smile only mom can rival, are the things that make life precious. I find myself wishing these moments would never end.  

My love for you only grows and grows. 

While I excitedly anticipate the adult you will inevitably become, something tells me that I will one day mentally go back to this time right now. A time when you are a little girl with an outstretched hand, twirling, dancing, and falling into my embrace. 

There is nothing better. There will never be anything better. 

I love you. Happy 6th birthday, my special little girl.


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