Happy Birthday! You happen to be entering your teens just as the 21st Century is leaving its teens behind (with that one stubborn vestige of COVID-Nineteen hanging on for old time’s sake). What a time to be coming of age! COVID-19 has impacted almost everything this year — including your birthday. You don’t have to go to school today, even though it’s a Wednesday in early September. We don’t have the option to go to a ballpark or arena for your party, like we’ve done so many other times. Even with a switch to a paintball party next weekend, we have to keep the guest list down to a minimum. All the same, COVID can’t keep us from celebrating your life. Your 13th Birthday, even! This is really and truly a happy occasion, getting to witness the turning of another year in your life.
You’ve grown so much in the last year.
You’ve been growing physically and athletically. Recently, it’s been strengthening your upper body for climbing trees and inventing obstacles for parkour. But you’ve also been working on your three-point shooting in basketball. And you’ve become a leader for your middle school soccer team, helping to anchor that strong defensive line (I love watching and listening to you do your thing in the backfield). You’ve become a surprisingly strong runner, too. I’m pretty sure you would have been a beast in Track & Field back in the Spring, if there would have been a Track & Field season. But even on a more personal level, you set a challenging pace for the two of us in the Frosty Frolic 5K last December. I thought I’d be able to hold my edge on you in that department for a few more years, but I’m not so sure any more. I don’t mind that, though. I love to see you growing so strong and fast and agile.
You’ve also been growing academically. Honestly, we were worried about you back in March and April, when everything shut down because of the Coronavirus. It’s hard for almost everyone to stay focused on schoolwork when it’s completely online (at least I can speak from my own experience with online work training modules that I’ve completed in recent months). It’s just so easy to get distracted in that virtual environment. But I think the switch to online learning was especially challenging for you because you’re such an active, social person who thrives in an environment with more stimulation and support. Still, you learned how to learn. You figured out systems for keeping track of what needed to get done, and you worked your way through your online projects with patience and perseverance (at least most of the time!). I love it that you’re focused on getting all “A”s and “B”s on your report card this year. You can do it! I believe in you! I’ll love you no matter what your grades are. But I do hope you’ll be able to keep doing your best in the classroom, even in this weird COVID / Two-Days-a-Week / Cohort A-B-C school year.
In addition to your athletic and academic growth, I think it’s amazing to see the ways that you’ve been growing administratively. A big part of your school success in the Spring was getting more organized (thanks to Mom!). Your new room seems to be working out great as a new opportunity to keep things tidy and systematized. And I think it’s significant that you learned to save money this year, as well. It used to be that you’d try to spend every dime that came into your possession as quickly as possible — but this year, you learned to save and to work odd jobs for extra money. And as a result, you were able to purchase your very own Nintendo Switch! That’s a pretty big step, and I think you’ve learned a lot in the process.
All of these are good skills for adulthood. I’m really proud of the way you’re growing up, Cor. The “baby of the family” is no longer a baby. But that’s a good thing. A healthy thing. You’ve got what it takes to be a man.
I think I’ll always look fondly back on our time together in New England this summer. I loved camping and hiking in the High Peaks region of the Adirondack mountains. It was so epic to climb together to the top of the highest point in the state of New York. When we jumped into that cold water of that pool in Phelps Brook, after about fifteen miles on the trail, it felt so refreshing! And it was so lovely to drive together through the Green Mountains of Vermont, scrounging around for lunch until we ended up at the Pizza Palace in Bellows Falls. We made the most of our time at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, too. Such an epic experience! I just enjoyed being with you. I appreciated your appetite for adventure and your readiness to rest.
I hope you’ll always remember that time with fondness, too. And I hope you’ll remember the marks of maturity that we talked about on that trip.
As you continue to transition from childhood, through adolescence, into adulthood, I pray that you will continue to Reject Passivity. Don’t be that guy who just fills his days with video games and YouTube compilations (though, of course, there is a time and a place for video games and YouTube compilations!). Stay active. Stay social. Stay aware of others and keep engaging with the world around you. I encourage you to take initiative and serve others — instead of sitting back on your heels, waiting for others to serve you. I’m happy to know that you’re already doing this, to a certain extent. I just pray that you will continue to grow into full maturity, in Christ.
I also encourage you to Embrace Responsibility. We all deal with insecurity on a regular basis. But you are kind. You are smart. You are important. I look forward to seeing you embrace more and more responsibility in this world because I know that you can handle it. You don’t have to go it alone or play “hero ball.” Your family is here for you. Your friends are here for you. And, most importantly, God is here for you. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Still, you’ve got a role to play in this world — and I look forward to seeing you embrace that.
I’m praying for you, Cor, that you will be emboldened to Lead Courageously. I love to see the way that you’ve stepped into some leadership roles for your soccer team this year. It shows guts. It shows strength of character. And I hope that your confidence will continue to grow, even as you encounter obstacles. I think it’s so beautiful that you wrote “Be Strong and Courageous” on your soccer cleats for this year. I’m totally praying that for you these days. “Be Strong and courageous,” Cor. “Do not be terrified. Do not be discouraged. For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Finally, Cor, I just want to remind you to Keep your Eye on Eternal Things. Life is not about the accumulation of possessions or prestige or power. We’ve got our eyes on a bigger prize, right? I know it will get confusing at times, through adolescence. Dating relationships and sports rivalries and post-graduation options will each feel like the biggest thing from time to time. But they’re all insignificant in the grander scheme of things. What matters most is loving God and loving the people around you. I’ve seen a spark of that love in you, Cor, and I pray that you’ll fan it into flame in the months and years to come.
I’m so proud of you, Cor. I love you so much.