To Cor, on the Occasion of His 12th Birthday

Dear Cor,

I’m thinking about this last year, the twelfth year of your life. And it’s strange how many of my strongest and strangest memories cluster around our family time in the American Southwest this summer. It makes me smile to remember the way that we brushed off the dusk to dive into the chilly waters of the Blue Hole of Santa Rosa, New Mexico. I think of our time with Linda at Arizona’s Slide Rock State Park. I have such warm memories (Get it?!? Warm memories?!?) of hiking through 100-degree heat to watch the sun set from Delicate Arch in Utah.

In so many of these memories, I recognize the ways that you’re showing increasing strength, courage, and poise.

There’s a readiness to embrace adventure that’s growing within you. You don’t complain as much, when you’re hot or tired. You find ways to persevere — and even find joy — in the face of adversity. And you’re just physically bigger, faster, and stronger.

I’m proud of you, Cor. You’re progressing beautifully through the closing stages of boyhood, into adolescence and manhood. I look forward to seeing what the years ahead will hold for you.

I know that growing up can seem like it takes “forever” sometimes. It’s exciting to think about getting your own smartphone. It’s appealing to think about getting taller and more muscular for soccer and basketball. You’re getting ready to join adult society and make your mark on the world — and that’s a good thing.

But I don’t want us to miss the moments that you get to experience in the “here” and “now.” As a twelve-year-old.

I love you deeply, Cor. I’m so happy to call you my son.

Let’s just take a moment to celebrate what you’ve already accomplished and what you are accomplishing. You’ve completed a year of Middle School. You’re establishing yourself as one of the strongest legs on your soccer team. You play the trombone with strength and skill. And it’s just a delight to be with you. Your emotional intelligence — your willingness to share your own emotions and enter into the emotional world of others — continues to be one of the most amazing, powerful things about you.

As you head into this last year before officially entering your teenage years, I pray that you’ll keep growing in gentleness, even as your strength increases. I pray that you’ll develop greater perseverance, even as the challenges of life become more intense. I’m eager to see you grow and change, but I don’t want you to lose sight of your most essential personal qualities. The biblical wisdom of Galatians 6:1-10 has been on my mind a lot recently, and it seems like some good exhortation for you, too.

Galatians 6:4 says, “Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else.” Middle school can be brutal. I think it can be especially difficult to manage the social dynamics — where the comparison game can feel inevitable. Cor, you are a wonderful person, made in the image of God. Don’t compare yourself to Elliot, or Olivia, or Ryan, or Carter, or Diego, or whomever else might feel foremost in your mind at any given moment. As long as you stay true to yourself and God’s work in you, I feel confident that you’re going to be just fine.

Galatians 6:9 says, “Let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” This was a verse that your mother and I started praying for our family when we got married: years before you were born. But it seems totally applicable to you, at this phase in your life, as well.

This bit about perseverance reminds me of that time towards the end of the summer, when you took that swimming test so you could swim out to that silly island at Nelson Ledges Quarry Park. You were totally strong enough and skilled enough. You had everything you needed to pass that test and be on your way. But you needed to practice perseverance and fight through the frustrations of what was being asked of you. You needed to channel your emotions towards the goal of completing the test and moving on to greater adventures.

Life is kind of like that. We need to keep doing what is good. We can’t give up. I know you have what it takes to get to the other side. And I’m excited that we get to do it together.

I love you, Cor. Happy Birthday!


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